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.