It’s no secret that students often know how to utilize technology better than their teachers. This truth can be looked at as a blessing or a curse. In Beverly Hills Unified School District, we see this as a blessing and an opportunity. So, for the past 2 years we have been trying to harness the power of tech-savvy students in order to propel technology use to new heights in our classrooms.
Finding Our Purpose and Getting Started
Our student technology leader program that we have officially branded the “Techsperts”, was born out of the need for more “hands on deck” and has taken on a powerful life of it’s own. When we began our program, we wanted to help our teachers feel more confident using technology in their classrooms and we knew that required more support for teachers when technology-related problems arose. We felt like we needed an army to accomplish what we wanted to do but we realized that we already had one; our students! In order to rally the troops, we created a flyer advertising that we needed student technology leaders who were going to “help their teachers and classmates to better use technology”; a vague statement that thankfully brought in over 25 kids!
Becoming Everyday Leaders
We let this first group of students know that this program was going to grow organically and that we needed their help to shape it. To be honest, the IT specialist and I did think that we would deploy this group of students to help fix issues and maintain hardware around the school. This proved to be a difficult task and a scheduling nightmare. However, we were pleasantly surprised when our Techsperts began to take it upon themselves to come to the aid of their teachers and classmates. They were eager to share what technical difficulties and triumphs they were experiencing in their classes and they were equally eager to share how they helped in some way — without really being given direction to do so. We soon realized that these students didn’t need a schedule to be helpful in the school. They had taken the understanding that they were going to “help their teachers and classmates to better use technology” and they ran with it!
We found that our student technology leaders had an immense amount of knowledge about technology in many forms. It was obvious it would not be appropriate to prepare lessons that taught them how to use certain apps and programs. Instead, we decided to work on projects that would help the school and allow for them to learn from one another. We began making a website, creating a checkout system for devices, and creating a YouTube channel with tech tips, just to name a few. Soon, we began getting requests to help with school wide events and special projects.
Harnessing Their Power
I have realized that my job is not to teach the Techsperts about technology or to coordinate them to help around the school. My job is to “harness their power” to help our school community and I’ve realized that empowering them to be responsible, thoughtful leaders is one of the best ways that I can do this. Armed with the understanding that they are seen as leaders, the TechSperts have impacted our school culture by creating the understanding that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner, especially when it comes to technology.
Tips for Getting Started
Ask promising students directly. I have found that asking students directly if they would like to be involved is a great way to recruit technology leaders. When students know that you see leadership qualities in them, they are more likely to want to participate and they are likely to embark on the journey with pride and confidence.
Gain teacher support. Let the other teachers at your school know of your plans as well as your hopes and dreams for your student technology leaders. Ask them which students are already proving to be technology leaders in their classes. Invite teachers to brainstorm how they can see the technology leaders helping throughout the school.
Find your purpose. In order for student technology leaders to make an impact at your school, they need to be addressing genuine needs that exist. Your greatest source of information will be your students who can give you a big picture understanding of patterns and trends with technology successes and challenges in your school. Ask the students and the teachers how technology use could be improved and begin formulating a plan.
Amanda Magalhães is a 5th grade teacher at Hawthorne School in Beverly Hills School District.
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