Growing up, I loved to tinker. I was always that kid with my head in the tech books at school and every night when I was home, I was pulling apart some type of technology to fiddle with.
When I was 14, my father gave me his old computer. A very tall Gateway machine and it was my job to “fix it.” It was through that machine that I learned to take apart a machine piece by piece. I swapped out hard drives, upgraded CR-ROM's and put more video cards in it than I should have. That computer was my little piece of heaven. Ironically, looking back, that computer was the start of a career that would not happen for a few decades.
My story is not one that could have happened alone. It took someone giving me an opportunity to learn more about something that I was interested in and providing a hands-on “can’t break this if you tried” approach which gave me the opportunity to test drive everything to as many lengths as possible so I could build the Frankenstein computer of my dreams.
In today's post, we are going to help you and your school district provide students with the same opportunities and responsibilities that I had growing up. One of the best ways to do this is through the creation of a Student Tech Team, a group of students who, when guided by a mentor, have the potential to support both their fellow students AND teachers in making sure that digital technology in the classroom is up and running as it needs to be and most importantly, where it should be.
What are Student Tech Teams?
In today's world of ever-changing technology and revolving door of cables and computer parts, it is increasingly difficult for an IT staff to be everywhere or for an Instructional Coach to be on call 24/7 for minor inventory issues. For this reason, it is a great idea to install a Student Tech Team in your building.
Student Tech Teams not only can be designed to help relieve the stress and duties of both the Coaching and IT staff, but also help students learn about responsibility, budgeting, entrepreneurship, and marketing.
How to Get Started Creating a Student Tech Team?
The process of creating your own Student Tech Team is not difficult at all. If your district has a vision for what you are seeking additional support for, you can create a program that fits the needs of both students, teachers, and the community.
Step 1: Select a Student Tech Team Mentor
When it comes to creating a student tech team, your advisor needs to be not only excited to work on technology but is also able to serve as a mentor to young minds. Often, the Student Tech Team Mentor (STTM) is a teacher who also has a desire to learn themselves and has no problem going the extra mile to set up learning opportunities for students with district IT staff and community members so that students have an opportunity to learn from all areas of technology subjects.
It is also important that the STTM be able to set up learning situations and stand back as students both succeed and fail in the process. Therefore, it is important to think of your STTM as a mentor and not an advisor.
Step 2: Secure Administrative Support
The creation of a Student Tech Team, on the surface, does not need to be a heavily budgeted program. Teaching students how to fix iPad screens, onboard new students, and providing some simple digital learning supports are some examples of how a STT can be deployed at the beginning of the program.
Once your STT, however, gets more experience and comfortable being in a support role, there are a few items that might be needed to make the program useful to the school building and exciting for the students. This is where administrative support comes into play.
The goal of any STT is to provide students with the opportunity to gain leadership experience. By working with administration, STT’s can be deployed in a variety of ways throughout the school day and school year to help them learn how to come together as a unit, form a team, and lead the digital learning experiences happening in the classroom.
A second and equally important goal for any STT is to learn about the technologies that are being used in and around the classrooms. This requires a time commitment to the program that only a building administrator can grant. Ultimately, your student tech team might be able to serve the school community during lunch periods, recess, after school, and if the situation presents itself, after school hours at community functions.
Step 3: Recruit Outstanding and Creative Students
Are you interested in creating a Student Tech Team? Why not make it a big deal? When recruiting, create posters that fill the hallway, video commercials for the school social media channel, and put announcements in every teacher's mailbox.
The beauty of a STT is that there is no single type of student that stands out and all students have an equal opportunity to join, participate, and become a school leader.
Let the application also be a fun way for students to highlight their creativity and passions about educational technology and digital learning. You might find students who love to code, love building in Minecraft, or even enjoy fixing hardware.
Providing Experiences and Opportunities for Student Tech Teams
One of the first things that you want to do once you have your initial group of students is to start brainstorming how they might be helpful and useful within the school community. This conversation should be completely open-ended and led by the students. Students should all take turns speaking, listening, and writing down what was said in the meeting. This will help the group begin to form a team.
Once several short-term and long-term projects are identified, the STTM should plan to create learning opportunities for students to learn more about popular applications that are being used in the classroom and how to do simple IT requests that do not require too much background knowledge. This is a terrific opportunity for students to start working with your IT department on supporting common Tech Tickets.
Students Teaching Students
One of my favorite ways to support students and build a community is by inviting students to share about what they love the most about technology. Perhaps one of your students is interested in Minecraft. This is a fantastic opportunity for them to take 10 minutes and showcase something they built to the group. By having students highlight their passions to each other it helps them become comfortable standing in front of others and begins their leadership journey within the STT and the school community.
Teachers Teaching Students
Another way for STT’s to learn how to work together is by role playing. One wonderful way to do this is by asking a fellow teacher to come in and provide a situation from which the STT needs to decide how to trouble shoot.
Administrator Teaching Students
Are you looking to kick your student's motivation up a notch? Invite your principal or Tech Director into a meeting where they would give the students a “mission” to complete and help them through the process of creating a project or program to meet the needs of their building or department.
Community Teaching Students
One of the best ways for students to begin learning about how technology is used is by providing real world situations that require both long-term and short-term planning.
Suggestions for supporting STT development:
- Allow students to participate in “app approval” meetings
- Create a situation for students to instruct other students about their favorite applications
- Provide student to teacher training and interactions during lunch time
What are the Benefits of Student Tech Teams
The creation of a Student Tech Team supports not just the students but the entire community and quite possibly could have long-lasting effects on all that are involved.
Benefit #1: Maturity and Leadership
As mentioned above, the biggest benefit for creating STT’s is the ability to have students work with and learn from each other. It is quite possible that the students who join the STT are the ones who are not often found in group activities such as Band/Orchestra and Athletics (although, this is completely generalizing)
Benefit #2: Digital Learning / Digital Citizenship / Digital Responsibility
The ability for students to learn and grow as individuals and a team is the one thing that every STT strives for, but it is not the reason students join in the first place. Students join the STT program looking to learn more about technology and how to build something awesome. There is no greater opportunity to teach digital learning and digital citizenship skills than through the teamwork provided by the STT and the STTM.
Benefit #3: A Decreased dependency on Coaches and IT staff for certain items and activities.
By bringing in a STT to support new technologies, especially at scale, it frees up the need to expend a large number of Techs to a situation. One Tech can simply train the STT to support a task such as Chromebook setup or password resets and a job can get completed much more efficiently.
Learn More about Student Tech Teams Today!
If you are looking to create a Student Tech Team in your school, I would love to hear about it. Everything in this blog post has been inspired by the work of several educators across the country and several amazing educational technology companies who have made a promise to support STT’s through guidance, mentorship, and funding.
- IT Best Practices Toolkits: Student Tech Teams
- ACER Repair Certification for Students
- WPS Caregivers Tech Academy
- Burlington High School Help Desk
Many (many) years ago when I was given my first computer, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was cold, clunky, and outdated. Over the course of a few years, I had so much fun learning about it and tinkering my way through all the upgrades.
Looking back, I wish that I had a Student Tech Team to work with on projects like this and a mentor to help point me in the right direction.
By creating a Student Tech Team in your school, it provides an opportunity to engage students in a variety of ways that other programs are not able to.
Leadership skills, presentation skills, and teamwork building skills are all essential parts of growing up and growing into what we now call “College and Career Ready”.
I hope that you and your district consider starting your own Student Tech Team this year!
Until next time, keep up the great work in your classrooms, and continue sharing your passions, with your students.