It doesn't matter if you build a “Geek Squad” of K-5th graders, a middle school full of “Cyber Kids” or a high school-led “Virtual Help Desk,” any flourishing student tech assistant program will share common attributes.(See below)
1. Recruit and promote- Seek out students who seem interested in how technology works or who value helping others. Invite them to join personally or ask for teacher nominations. Post an application on your school registration form. Tend a table at Back To School Night encouraging students to complete an online application or post a QR code. Muster your troop by searching through the technology clubs e.g. robotics, coding, etc.
2. Provide a value-added program- Both the student assistants and the people they support need to benefit. Through hands-on experience and practice, students can gain valuable technical skills and workforce experience for years to come. Members of the team should walk away with problem solving abilities as well as technical and personal skills which are sought after by future employers.
3. Empower the student- Invite students on the ground level of developing the team. Listen to and encompass their ideas and insights. Build boundaries and expectations of the team together.
4. Provide various training opportunities- Uphold a variety of scaffolded training options that the students can choose from such as, hands-on practice, videos, visuals, infographics, flow maps, step-by-step directions. Encourage other students to teach a training session or to create resources and videos. Often our students are our best teaching resources.
5. Keep it basic- Start with clear, concise tasks. e.g. Provide a video and written instructions explaining how to reset a Chromebook. Let them practice. Access their understanding and celebrate their success (virtual badge, certification chart, etc.) Then, mobilize your troops. Allow students to train and move forward as they gain experience, expertise and confidence.
Helpful Tools and Ideas From Teachers:
Elementary-Christy Yacano, DTL at Sierra has a “Geek Squad” composed of 1-2 students per class, K-5th. Students are sometimes recommended, but all students can apply via a Google form. The Geek Squad meets monthly, has lunch together, and trains. Their main focus is to assist their classmates, teacher and substitute teacher with technology issues. They also help orient new students to Sierra. New student checklist (Yacano,2020) Other supports they offer include: troubleshooting interactive boards, AV equipment, connections, and Chromebooks The skills the students gain and share, can easily be transferred to learning and leadership opportunities in the future.
Middle School- Karrie Zanetti, DTL at Deer Creek Middle School empowers her 6th, 7th and 8th graders differently. She invests time upfront to develop step-by-step resources and video tutorials equipping all students, families and staff to troubleshoot technical issues independently. Deer Creek launches a Tech Help Page, (Zanetti, 2021) on their library website full of ideas which includes: video tutorials, flowcharts, Infographics and checklists to provide a self-service IT pitstop . Karrie also provides next steps and avenues if further assistance is needed.
High School- Leah Linblom @Arvada West HS and Jim Bartuska @Chatfield HS both teach and certify Cyber Crew high school students (see video above) upon completion of a credited technology class. They recruit students who seem “techy”, love learning, and/or enjoy helping others. They offer industry certifications upon completion of each of the courses they provide. (Instructor Agreement and Instructions, Lindbolm,2020)
The big event that CyberCats and CyberChargers look forward to attending each year is Jeffcon.net This is a tech conference designed for students interested in “all things technology.” All Jeffco high school students are welcome to attend. Jeffco.net launches in late January, 2022. Be on the lookout!
Students of all ages can be valuable members of a technology assistant team. Every program looks different and each student obtains real-life skills and experiences that carry over into nearly every other avenue of their life.
Image- Four Boys and Wires- Edsurge.com Beyond the Genius Bar: Cultivating Leadership With a Student-Led Tech Team. 2016
Image- Students in line with device- tophat.com How Does Technology Impact Student Learning? Vawn Himmelsbach. 2019.
Image- Students gathered around a laptop- The Edvocate, 2016
Tynan, Dan. School Focus K-12. Schools Tap Students to Provide Enough IT Support. October, 2017.
Our students are not like us. They have never lived in a world where almost everyone has a device in their hands almost all of the time. They are digital natives, but that does not mean they inherently know how to use a device in a healthy and productive manner. It is a collective responsibility to teach digital citizenship. It cannot be left to parents or the digital teacher librarian. Just like we are all trying to help students live in a social society properly, we all have to collectively show them how to navigate the digital world too.
you are off to a good start
Fear not! It is not something that has to be added to curriculum as a burden. As a teacher, you are probably already teaching some aspects of digital citizenship. For example, classes involving research and writing typically include how to evaluate a website’s credibility and writing proper citations. Any time students need to search the internet, direct and explicit instruction on the credibility and reliability of information, as well as research tips, are helpful to steer students toward useful information while disregarding inaccurate or unnecessary information. This is organically digital citizenship. But we also need to be intentional.
Did you know our district has monthly topics? Take some time to familiarize yourself with these topics so that you can support the systemic message in Jeffco.
It is our collective responsibility to teach digital citizenship. These skills are essential to ensure students' safety and protection. While kids today may have no problem navigating the web, they're less likely to know how to vet sources, understand the sensitivity of the information they're sharing and take in the gravity of conversations they're having online. It's up to us and families to reinforce these concepts. There are several distinct resources available. JEFFCO EDTECH WEBSITE
More resources in Seesaw, Actively Learn, Newsela, Google Classroom and Common Sense Media are coming for Jeffco teachers in August. For now, please start thinking about how you can have everyday conversations with students knowing you make a difference daily.
It is hard to believe that it is already May! As we wrap up the 2020-2021 school year, students, teachers and parents are looking forward to summer vacation. Many of us have spent way too much time looking at screens this school year and are hoping to power down and enjoy some unplugged time. We all are hoping to find activities to do this summer without a screen and that will help students stay on track and not be part of the “summer slide.” This slide may affect students of all ages. Studies show that students who read during the summer gain an average of 1 month of reading proficiency. Students who don’t read lose an average of 2-3 months of proficiency and over time, those lost months add up to years. By high school, 2/3 of the reading achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss during the elementary years. One way students can avoid the slide is to participate in the Jefferson County Public Library Summer Challenge.
This year's library summer challenge is titled “Wild Ideas.” Registration opened on May 1st and the challenge runs from June 1st to July 31st. The Summer Challenge has many different ways to engage students. The activities are categorized by Read, Explore and Connect. As students complete activities, they are eligible for prizes. This is a great way to motivate students and to keep students learning while school is not in session. Just for signing up, students can either receive a sticker or a PopTart, yes I said Pop Tarts! Other prizes include an Elitch Gardens pass, iPads and of course books. Learn more about prizes and sponsors here.
Participating in the challenge can also provide schools with some much needed funds. The school with the highest number of finishers wins $800. This will help schools purchase books in a time when budgets are low and Digital Teacher Librarians are trying to recoup the loss of books from COVID circumstances. Last year's winners all used their money to build their collections and resources. Tobye Ertelt, DTL from Oberon Middle School, purchased some new graphic novels, fiction and nonfiction books as well as some ebooks. Heather Kramer, DTL from Devinny, Elementary School, purchased more PebbleGo modules so that students, both remote and face to face, had access to this amazing resource. Wheat Ridge High School’s DTL, Debbie Livingston, spruced up her fiction section to entice high school students to check out more books.
Finally, participants earn points which go towards Jeffco Eats, a program that provides food to Jeffco residents. For every 1 million points we earn as a group, Jeffco Eats will get $100, up to a maximum of $500.
As the countdown to vacation is on, please encourage your students to sign up for the Summer Challenge at Jefferson County Public Library. If you have any questions ask your Digital Teacher Librarian.