Working through new things for the student and the teacher

Our first official meeting at Southwest Regional library took place last week. Although we had a meeting before, this was the first one where we actually did a Leaders UNITE activity. We started with our The Newest App activity, to give people an idea of how the club works, and the kinds of things people would have to do. And today, we were faced with a new situation: the person participating in the activity was not really into technology. This was the first time this had happened to me: no matter the age group, I had never had someone unfamiliar with apps in our club. This particular student loved to read, but was not really into technology: she did not use her computer much and did not have a smartphone. Usually, the premise of the activity assumes the participants’ general knowledge of apps or some sorts of interactive websites. And to make matters more complicated, this students was the only one participating in this activity.

My first thought when this happened was to do a different activity. “Should I change the activity to make it something she relates to more? After all, the purpose of Leaders UNITE is to make leadership fun by integrating things that everyone enjoys, so if she doesn’t like/know apps, she probably won’t enjoy this.” However, my first instinct, and the one I chose to go with, told me to still do the activity. I knew that one purpose of this activity was to create an app that interested the person participating. So I decided to work off of this. I asked the student what she was interested in. She loved books, Kindle, and YouTube. I knew that if we dug hard enough, we could create an app or website that someone like her would even be interested in.

Since this student was the only one participating and it was her first day, I served as a bit more than just the sounding board for the activity. I made it my own personal mission as well to try to help her create an app that she would like. I asked her more details about her interests: What she liked about Kindle, how she could make this more applicable to the broader audience, what other features she wished book websites had, and more. Through this, we were able to come up with a website that had some features of a Kindle, but included even more. The app had a separate area for Children’s Books, a price matching system, location services, a book club/discussion forum, and audio books for children. This creative product even had a creative name: LiveBooks, with a logo that included a tree and the app’s features whooshing out of the tree.

As I conducted my reflection with the student after the activity, I felt super proud of her. She noted that although she felt frustrated at points while creating the app, her end product was something even she would turn on her computer for. I was also proud of myself. I was happy that I stuck to my instincts and kept doing this activity with the student. I was proud at myself for getting to know the student on a more personal level, and using this to actually help her create an app that she would be interested in. I was also happy that I was able to push boundaries and make connections that seemed like a big leap, but in the end really helped to tie the whole app idea together. I was proud to have stuck to my instinct, and I enjoyed taking on this inquisitive approach as the club leader.

At the end of our reflection, I asked the student why she though I stuck with this activity even after I found out the student was not interested in apps/technology. I told her that there were a few reasons. First, I wanted to challenge her. I wanted her to take on the role of adapting to a new situation, since that often happens in leadership or working in a team. Although Leaders UNITE aims to incorporate leadership in comfortable settings, it is still important to take these small steps outside of our comfort zone in the club to help prepare people to do so in real situations. Second, I actually thought she might bring a unique perspective to this activity. Sometimes when I do this activity, some students make an app exactly like something that already exists. But the goal of the app (aside from teamwork and public speaking) is to think outside the box, synthesize information, and create something new. I knew that someone who was not familiar with apps might be able to make something completely outside the box, or something that could be interesting to someone who is not too interested in the mainstream apps. And because of this, she was indeed able to think outside the box and create something completely different than any other student had before in the club.

All in all, this was a very interesting session on both ends, and I look forward to seeing how this student progresses over the school year!

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