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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tech-xperts - Kids Teaching Kids!

While attending the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain, I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing group of students from Saltash.Net Community School in the United Kingdom. The talented young people, under the guidance of their teacher, Scott Wieprecht, formed a group called the Offperts. They create tutorials, blogs, and discussions about using Microsoft Office 365 in education and have become known around the world! 

If they could do it, why couldn't kids in schools everywhere become the tech experts? It took no time at all to convince a couple of other teachers in my building to give it a try. Although our classrooms are filled with technology, there are teachers who avoid including technology projects in their classrooms because they aren't comfortable with tech.

I vividly remember the day I was trying to show my class how to create an avatar on our class Xbox 360 Kinect. (That's a subject for another blog post.) I was struggling as they sat quietly watching. Suddenly it occurred to me to simply ask, "Do any of you know how to do this?" Hands shot in the air... I quickly turned the lesson over to a couple of second grade students... stood back and breathed a sigh of relief as the vision turned into reality with the kids teaching each other. They didn't need me!

So in the spring of 2014, we implemented the Tech-xperts at our school, modeled after the Offperts. The idea for our school was to have a team of students, 2nd - 5th grade, who would be available to assist teachers in classroom technology projects. The Tech-xpert team would teach other students how to use the technology tools. The classroom teacher need only come up with the assignment and ask for help. We had 10 students join our team that year, growing to 16 in the 2014-2015 school year. Here are the steps we took to put the program in place:

  • We introduced the program at a staff meeting by showing the Offperts Youtube video, and explaining how the idea could be adapted to our school. We explained the procedure that follows.
  • Next we created a script to invite students to join the group. It asked interested kids to create an application using current programs (we were just beginning to use Google Drive in our district), demonstrating their knowledge and skill with the tools. They were to show and tell why they should be considered for the team. We reminded them that they would be attending after school meetings and missing times in their own classrooms so they needed to consider their other commitments and willingness to keep current with their school work to free themselves for training others. We asked that the applications be created on their own time, not during school and gave them two weeks to electronically submit an application.
  • The script was emailed to each classroom teacher. We asked that they read the script to their students.
  • The applications were received, evaluated, and our team selected!
  • We began with a couple of after school meetings to talk about how the process would work and to allow time for the kids to work on their teaching skills.
  • Each member was asked to teach the team one skill or lesson. 
  • We spent time simply exploring, sharing, and learning from one another in a computer lab. 
  • Once everyone was comfortable, we put out another email to all classroom teachers listing suggestions for projects and offering our help. They were to email the supervisor teachers with their requested lesson and time.
  • When requests were received, the classroom teachers of the Tech-xperts team members received an email with the lesson times asking for students who would be available. It is important to have plenty of team members as there are times when the tech kids could not miss their own classes. We had plenty of students, however, to always provide 2-3 tech trainers when requested.
  • Careful communication was the key and the kids began helping implement the use of technology in classrooms throughout the school!

The Tech-xperts have been successful in many ways. The kids chose to continue meeting over the summer to share ideas and learn from each other. The teachers who invited them into their classes were delighted with the results! This past year, the team was invited to the local BLM office to teach employees about Google Drive. There is talk of venturing out to other community groups in the coming year! 

Lack of technology training, knowledge, or simple comfort should not keep technology out of classrooms. There are undoubtedly tech experts sitting in every classroom! Let the kids teach and take charge of their learning! Even the teacher may learn something new!

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