The Online, Global, Student Community
Student’s Name: Aditya Vinodh Arjun
Activity Name: SideTracked
Total number of Hours: 200 (Current - Subject to change)
Start Date: January 2, 2021
End Date: Ongoing
SideTracked is an initiative that I started individually and invited my fellow students to be a part of. It was always my dream to live in a world in which no child or student is restricted in his ability to learn new interests or passions to explore the world effectively. During my journey as a learner, I have hit countless roadblocks as I was stuck with a problem which I did not have the knowledge or skills to fix. It is very likely that friends, family members, or even teachers at school do not have any experience in the field that you want to learn and explore, and this prevents students from getting inspired, as they instead get demotivated from trying their best.
This is why I came up with an idea to build an online platform or website which will be fully interactive and responsive, so that students of any age group or locality, can signup and be a part of a community that is greater than themselves. Students have the ability to read articles written by other students, and also have an option to create an “Interest Group” (like a channel on YouTube), and post rich articles under that group so that content is easily organized according to author, topic, and chronological order, while still maintaining any creativity that student will like to portray in their writing.
Students have the ability to showcase their artwork through images and videos, they can create tutorials for programming, they can give their thoughts and opinions about the latest news, they can curate a list of helpful resources to kick-start another student’s journey, and so much more is possible.
I built this project using the skills I learn over multiple free online courses on web programming as it was an area of my interest. My deep passion for computer science exists because of the magic I can make if I use it effectively to help other people around me. I have the power to instantly reach the entire population of the world if I wanted to. That is what inspired me to work on this project. This was the first time I worked on a project this large.
This is a project that is extremely personal for me, and was never meant to be a one-time thing. I consider this a CAS Project, experience or activity, but it was certainly not the reason I started this. It was a very complex project with a lot of moving parts. There was a lot of technical details and limitations that I had to overcome on my own without anyone’s help which was sometimes demotivating. I slowly pushed myself and continued to work on it regardless of how much time it took. When I began the project, I immediately reached out to a few of my friends and asked them if they could join and be a part of the community as they would share their knowledge and interests on the platform. Around 5 or 6 of my friends said they were interested and joined. During that time, I had just began developing the website, so I was coordinating with them to write, review and store the articles for future use when the website was actually ready for production. But as soon as school started and the workload increased, everyone backed out except one. The website was ready, but I had nobody to help me out and populate it with the content. I was quite dejected, even today as I am writing this reflection, but I continued anyways with my interest group on technology called “Tech Democratized”, and my sister’s and friends on nature.
It was very hard to coordinate with everyone and communicate effectively as I had not met any of my classmates for over a year due to the pandemic. All the operations took place online, and I had to make sure I balanced the frequency of my checks to ensure everyone continued their work, however did not feel too pressured.
But reflecting on this project and experience after it has been completed, I am proud of the end-product. I had to challenge myself and come out of my comfort zone to interact and communicate with others in my network to successfully launch this website. I think I have successfully demonstrated myself as being a risk-taker, especially in very uncertain times where it was difficult to set my priorities, being an effective communicator, and approaching decisions with a more open-minded approach to gather productive feedback and suggestions from friends and other users on this platform.
Identify your own strengths and develop areas for personal growth.
From the early days and the brainstorming of the initial ideas, I have been quite aware of my weaknesses and strengths. In terms of weaknesses, I accepted the fact that my current state of socialization and communication was not going to suffice, and I had to challenge myself and improve on that frontier in order to develop personally, as well as succeed in terms of this project.
On the other hand, I had the knowledge and skills required to understand how different things worked on a technical level, different consequences of considering different approaches, and the ability to analyse and reason out different decisions. I also felt that I was able to understand and relate to people I was communicating with even though the communication itself was not perfect. I was confident that if I effectively utilitzed my technical skills and approached people with the right mindset, I will be able to grow as better human being part of a larger society.
I feel that I was able to identify these strength and weaknesses and establish improvement in these areas over the few months as this activity progressed.
Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process.
I think I was able to indentify and accept multiple technical and personal challenges while embarking on this journey. A few examples include the requirement of additional technical skills to develop and create a website to support the online platform that I was aspiring for, and the networking skills that I did not have and have never tried to demonstrate in the past.
On completion of the MVP of this project, I think I was able to begin my journey in acquiring these skills as they were of vital importance to the functioning if this project. This was important in order to connect with people of different interests and skills to utilize their knowledge and experience to contribute to the community I am trying to create.
Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience.
My project began with the identification of an area of my society that has a problem that I can attempt to solve in an efficient manner. This CAS experience or activity was chosen specifically to address issues in my society and make a meaningful contribution. Once I finalized on the exact objectives, I brainstormed the requirements and skills I needed in order to complete it. Over the next few days, I was researching, gathering information, and learning the components required to execute my plan. Then, the actual work of bringing the platform to life began, as I desgined, developed and tested the website. This took around 2 months and included regular checks. Finally, it was time to spread awareness, onboard interested students, and reflect on my unique learning experience.
Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences.
I think I have demonstrated my commitment towards this effort on multiple occasions throughout this journey, as it was never meant to be a CAS experience during initial stages. There were multiple times when I had too much work, and this was no where near other important work that had significantly higher priority. However, I took time, spaced out my schedule, and gradually began to approach my target as I remembered the final goal. It was definitely rewarding to finally see the end-product, especially considering the hard-work I had put in.
Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively.
This activity would not be possible without the collaboration with many other students and my friends in order to get collective, productive feedback and suggestions, and also build this community and benefit from each others. Collaboration was also vital in building and curating content for the platform.
On the other hand, connecting with others, and actually taking the time to listen and understand their perspective, gives me a whole new perspective, as I understand the background that everyone comes from, and it helps me improve better as a human being, and also for interest of this platform.
Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance.
My core values and idealogy behind this entire project is to provide equal quality of resources and education to any aspiring student or learner, regardless of financial capability, geographic location, race, etc. This mostly ties with the fourth Sustainable Development Goal(s) set by the United Nations (UN)
Goal 4 Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
By creating a platform where all students are free to aqcuire the skills and knowledge required for them to start their own journey along a path headed toward something they are deeply passionate about, or by sharing their experience and tips with the rest of the community, I am trying to create a helpful, safe, learning environment to reimagine the traditional methods of learning and exploration.
Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions.
The most significant aspect of this project is the use and integration with technology. This allowed me to instantly widen my reach to almost the entire world (7.8 billion people), or atleast people with an internet connection. Every time I worked on a new feature, I was trying to figure out the technical details to enable my app to work, and I understood for the first time, the exact way that the technology works. I got a better picture of what data is usually handled, how to secure the user’s data, how to store and manage it, how, and how often to update the user on changes, etc. These were questions I never stopped to think before, but was a fundamental concept that I had to think and make careful decisions.
On the other hand, the use of technology and creation of a platform similar to social media, was itself an ethical decision. The design and functionality of the website was fully dedicated for young minds to safely and freely explore the platform without any hesitation or fear of misuse.