How do we maximise the skills of our technologically minded students to support the learning of staff and other students?
How do we give students a voice in the running of the tech department?
How do we make school more relevant and engaging for tech minded students?
In a number of schools I have worked with, student technology leaders have been identified, trained and enabled as mentors for staff, parents and students.
I’ve seen ACE (Assistant Computer Experts) teams in 2 primary schools recently. In both cases, students expressed interest in being on the ACE Team. In one school the application process was well embedded, for ACE and other leadership roles, and mirrored a job application process. In the second school, students made an iMovie application, explaining their technology skills or interest and how they’d like to work with others to support their technology growth.
Staff assessed the applications or expressions of interest, identifying technologically savvy students who also had the social/emotional maturity to effectively mentor others. In the second school, there were about 25 applicants from upper primary classes. All 25 were invited to attend some meetings and to submit ‘assignments’/tasks demonstrating their skills. ACE members were finally selected, based on their submissions, their reliability and their iMovie applications.
Some things to consider:
- Group identity can be enhanced with a logo, team badges etc.
- Newsletter articles (ideally written by the ACE Team) provide information to the community about roles, responsibilities and progress.
- The ACE Team might also be called upon to produce tutorials on tech issues to support other students and teachers. One school has a great tech blog and the ACE Team are making video tutorials to support student access to Google Drive, Edmodo and Blogger as well as supporting special events such as A Day of Code.
- Mentoring skills can be taught and are as important as tech skills.
- Having ACE Team members arrange a booking system that incorporates skill descriptions enables the staff to book appropriate support as they tackle new topics in their classrooms - for themselves or as tutors for their classes.
- ACE team members can attend staff training, as participants or to offer support to teachers. One of the schools is supporting the ACE Team to run staff training in the near future.
- In one school, ACE team members attended parent technology and digital citizenship training sessions. They supported parents to access files and programs, debugged problems and explained how tech was happening in their classrooms.
- When year levels presented their learning in Expos/Presentations, ACE Team members supported the tech use, helping younger students to access files, make and use QR codes and showing parents how to engage with the apps, programs and presentations on offer.
- The ACE team are ideally positioned to keep the tech staff up to date on challenges students are facing, attempts to disrupt or break in to the tech systems and other important insights into the engagement of students with tech.
- Celebrating ACE successes and debriefing issues as they arose helped both schools’ Teams to continuously improve and to understand the important role they played in their respective schools.
Reflecting on the effectiveness of ACE Teams, we saw a major hurdle being the time students needed to spend away from their own classroom learning, in order to take up ACE roles. The Upper Primary teachers with ACE team members in their classes did not all necessarily appreciate the value ACE participation had for the school and more importantly for the ACE members themselves.
Many teachers worried about missed classroom ‘work’ and how they should assess the out of class learning experiences. One school addressed these concerns more effectively than the other; using self assessment rubrics (co-constructed with the ACE Team members themselves) the ACE Team reflected on their learning, their effectiveness and their development needs. They wrote reflections and had plans for future learning and development. Increasing teachers’ understanding of the importance of out of class learning, reducing the teachers’ need to ‘control’ the learning and giving ACE Team members responsibility for tracking and reporting on their own learning are all factors in enabling student leadership and learning beyond the classroom to function effectively.