One of my goals for this year is provide more opportunities for authentic student leadership, specifically in the tech support and training that we do with students and teachers. We have a very engaged and supportive learning community here at YIS, and in addition to our fantastic student councils at each division, we have a great opportunity to add more student leadership in an area where students are often the expert: technology.
Facilitating a Student Tech Team
Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve always facilitated some sort of middle school student tech team. In some schools it’s been a hang-out time for students who enjoy spending more time with technology, in others it’s been more like an extra class where we have actual lessons, in other schools it’s turned into a movie making club or some other form of creative use of technology. In each school, of course, the dynamics of the community and the group of students have had an impact on how we spend our time.
Over the last two years at YIS, I’ve facilitated our Middle School Student Tech Team, and each year I’ve learned a ton from my students. My biggest take-away has been how much they want to share their expertise with others.
In my first year at YIS, the MS STT was a voluntary club, held after-school once a week. Because we had a majority of students in grade 6, who were learning about blogging in MYP Technology, we developed a STT blog. We used that space to share resources we found online, and to create a personalized one-on-one tech support for teachers during lunch or after school. Although we had some success with the teacher training, the after-school timing made it more difficult to stay focused and productive. Also, because the club was voluntary, we didn’t really have a true Middle School team (students were mostly from grade 6).
So, with the implementation of our Connected Learning Community last year, we have included a student representative (similar to a student council model) from every homeroom to create our MS STT. Having this equal representation from each homeroom has had a positive impact on the growth, the reputation and the skills set of our team.
Sometime in the middle of last school year, we realized one of the best ways for our team to share their knowledge was through tutorial videos. Each month, at our middle school assembly, the MS STT had at least one tutorial video to share. Of course, we had the blog from the year before, so that became the repository for all of our tutorial videos.
In fact, the MS STT became so good at creating tutorial videos, that they created the entire CLC Essentials for Students site with all of the training videos for our CLC Orientation this school year. This was a huge improvement to the way we introduced the laptops in our first year of the CLC, because now students can work at their own pace through a selection of student-created tutorials, and we had our MS STT lead the sessions at the beginning of the school year.
Now that we’re in our second year of the CLC, with a more established STT role in the school, thanks to their leadership in previous years, we’re ready to build in even more student leadership. During our first meeting this school year, I asked our team (of 17 students in grades 6 – 8) what they would like to do this school year, focusing on being more active leaders among the teachers, students and parents.
Here’s what we have planned:
The STT tutorials are popular with students and teachers, and having them all centrally located on our STT blog makes them easy to access. Our goal this year is to continue to help students become more efficient and effective with their technology use, prioritizing tasks and skills that we weren’t able to highlight last year when so many features of having a laptop were new to everyone.
So far this year:
- Idan (grade 6) has created a tutorial on using Google Calendar to record homework,
- Brian (grade 8) is working on one to show how to use Activity Manager effectively so that you can maximize the processing power of your laptop, and
- Aiden (grade 6) is creating one for organizing and managing files in Google Drive.
Teach the Teachers
Our STT is really excited to start leading more training with teachers. They want to run sessions that will help teachers understand why they use technology the way they do, and to help teachers become more efficient and effective with what they do on their laptops.
So far this year, we’ve had students featured at our first SpeedGeeking event of the year:
- Michael (grade 8) presented on Facebook privacy settings and how to use FB for academic purposes
- Keigo (grade 8) and Joseph (grade 6) shared an intro to iMovie
Based on their success, they will be offering after school hands-on sessions to any teachers or students that are interested in learning more.
In addition to featuring students at our SpeedGeeking sessions, they’ve also come up with a number of hands-on sessions to run during lunch times and after school:
- Ashley (grade 6), Charlotte (grade 7) and Jack (grade 7) are working on a blogging session,
- Keigo (grade 8), Brian (grade 8) and Joseph (grade 6) are working on a QuickTime and iMovie session,
- Idan (grade 6) and Loretta (grade 6) are working on a Making the Most of Your Mac session, and
- Idan (grade 6), Keigo (grade 8) and Brian (grade 8) are developing a session on Minecraft.
All of these will be offered to students and teachers, starting after our October break.
In addition to these group sessions, we’re also going to continue the one-on-one teacher support through a simple survey linked on our STT blog. Teachers can request a specific STT member, or topic, and a specific time to be trained. We keep track of all the training we’ve completed using a shared Google Spreadsheet.
We are very fortunate to have a 2-day orientation at the beginning of each school year. For the past two years, this has been primarily focused on introducing our Connected Learning Community. Next year will be our third year, so we would like to see more of a focus on team building and getting to know each other.
To support this more collaborative and social environment, we will have the STT lead the majority of our CLC-focused sessions. We have a team working on an a YIS Orientation iOS app, another team will work on developing age-appropriate activities, and another team updated and expanding the CLC Essentials for Students.
We have a very active and engaged parent community. A number of parents who regularly attend our Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings have requested one-on-one tech support. The first time I was asked, I thought maybe our superstar YIS-graduate tech support staffer, Kanna, could help. But then a few weeks ago, I was asked again, and thought it would be great to have a list of students willing to help, along with their specialties.
It was no surprise to me that when I shared this idea with the STT, they jumped at the chance! We’re just in the early stages of planning, but we’d like to have a central list of STT members (and others, if they’re interested, perhaps CAS students?) who would be willing to tutor parents in technology, along with a short bio, photo and their list of specialty areas.
Learning New Skills
Our whole team wants to learn more about technology. As we learn, we will teach each other. One of the teams is really excited about learning how to create an game for iOS devices (any experts out there? We’d love some help).
I’m really excited to see where this team will go! They have already organized themselves into sub-teams with leaders in each group who are responsible for reporting back to me on their progress. Each student is able focus on an area of personal interest or growth to add to our growing list of responsibilities. Already I’ve been impressed by the time and effort they have put in to each task – by our second week, the group had already asked for two meetings a week! Now we meet on Wednesday and Friday during lunch. I’ve also heard from other colleagues that whenever there is a tech problem in class, the STT members “swarm” in to help. It’s taken a few years to get this kind of energy about student tech leadership going, and we’re just going to keep on growing!
Do you have a student tech team at your school? What do they do? I would also love to see if we can collaborate with other student tech teams around the world – perhaps some Skyping to share tips? Or even starting some collaborative resources if we have similar school communities and needs? Interested?
- Student tech team filming & reviewing a laptop responsibility video on the fly with an iPhone by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- So proud of our MS Student Tech Team members for leading teacher training today! by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- MS Student Tech Team members teaching teachers during SpeedGeeking by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr