BURLEY • High school senior Hayden Allred today will meet with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in Boise to explain a learning process he developed called LAIR — Learn, Apply, Imagine, Reflect — in hopes of having it implemented statewide.
When Luna made a comment on his Facebook page about getting laptops to every Idaho student, Hayden posted a comment. Within an hour, the student said, Luna replied that he liked what the senior had to say and wanted to meet with him.
“Looking back, this is how I’ve done all of my learning without realizing it,” said Hayden, 17. “Technology is more than a computer lab or an iPod cart; it’s the actual language and curriculum of the age.”
The Burley High student already has met with Cassia County School District officials to discuss his ideas.
They were so impressed that he was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Idaho Instructional Innovation Conference (I3C) in Blackfoot.
There, Hayden shared his ideas to better implement technology in the classroom, deeming it a driving force rather than a supplemental tool.
“I’ve always done a lot with computers and technology, and I wanted to come up with something to help bring technology into education,” he said. “We started coming up with things, and I figured out my own philosophy about how to learn through technology and how to apply it.
“I got paid to speak for an hour about technology!”
Hayden also has had speaking engagements with the Kimberly School District, the Cassia County Administrators Meeting, Heyburn Elementary and Burley High School.
“That was the intimidating one — speaking in front of my own teachers,” he said.
Hayden’s the first to admit he’s not a normal kid.
At age 9, he started a duct-tape wallet business and sold hundreds of custom wallets.
At 12, having become interested in computer programming and animation, he began reading computer code textbooks for fun and taught himself how to code programs.
“Technology has always been important to me,” Hayden said. “I started programming in sixth grade, and it was always just simple projects. Then I found out I could do video games with it, so I started looking into Xbox Live’s Indie Games, and it was an awesome platform. I started making games for the (Xbox) Marketplace, and I had better sales than I imagined. If I couldn’t find it on the Xbox and I wanted to play with my friends, I’d just make it.”
Toward the end of eighth grade, he won a first-place prize in the Idaho Meth Project’s Paint the State contest. In ninth grade, Hayden took part in Business Professionals of America and won first place in Digital Media Production. He then went to Washington, D.C., and placed 13th nationally.
In 2012, he said, he directed and filmed the Burley High Homecoming Lip Dub project on YouTube.com, getting more than 10,000 views.
Hayden said he helps other students and teachers with video editing, audio recordings, computer troubleshooting and coding in addition to his own studies and extracurricular activities.
Hayden recently started making board and card games to help other students learn math, writing and even programming.
“I’ve always liked making games, and now I can actually help people with it,” he said.
“It’s all part of this LAIR idea. It’s about getting technology into schools, which they’re doing already, but it’s in a different sense. It’s about giving people the actual tools instead of just giving them the thing to run the tools.”
Hayden said his initial goal was to get programming into everybody’s hands. Now he’s looking for long-term changes.
“Technology isn’t going away, and it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives,” he said. “I can’t go anywhere without my phone now, and it wasn’t like that just a few years ago. Things are changing so fast that you can’t just dust your old textbooks off. We’re used to multi-tasking. We’re used to using things on our phone. For some of us, it’s hard to pay attention because we just can’t learn from a book anymore. Technology needs to be in students’ hands in the right way so we can use these tools to progress.
“There’s no application of what we’re learning,” he noted. “I spent a whole year in chemistry, and I never understood the periodic table. I started working on this game and in two weeks, I had a complete understanding of how everything works. If I would have done that earlier in the year, chemistry would have been so much easier for me. People don’t learn how they did 10 or 15 years ago.”
Hayden has some big ideas to improve education systems, but he tries to keep himself grounded.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without a good support system. My parents have been amazing, and my teachers have always been great. I know I’m not a normal kid.”