Archive for July 2014

ISTE Macro: Genius Bars, Student SWAT Teams and Student-Led Tech

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(img: Flickr/BerkeleyLab)

One of the great advantages of being at a large-scale conference like ISTE is seeing which ideas have begun to generate critical mass of action. This is one trend that I observed across multiple poster sessions, discussions and presentations.

A recurring theme of our device program is the desire to teach students the “intentional and mindful” use of technology– using the right tools at the right time for the right task. This goal cuts across multiple disciplines and silos of information: technology usage and operation concepts, digital citizenship, information literacy, study skills and time management, and school policies are all wrapped up in the idea of intentional and mindful use. As with many issues of technology, a central question is where the responsibility for this body of knowledge lies. While device programs push technology in schools from isolated computer labs to integrated classroom use, there is still a need to support teachers and students with expertise and resources, especially when 1:1 and BYOD programs shift the use of technology from programmatic and sequential to “just-in-time.”

While we want to avoid the Digital Native oversimplification of “The students know this stuff already,” they have experience using devices and software across disciplines and scenarios that can directly benefit other students. In addition, there is incredible instruction and learning that can happen through students examining technology usage in a rigorous manner and becoming “coaches” for technology use. Many schools have grown rigorous and robust student-led technology programs to support teachers and students throughout the campus on a range of technology concepts. These are some of the programs that I saw at ISTE this year (and a couple of others that I’ve since stumbled across).

In addition, Jennifer Carey has written a post about a DIY Genius Bar presentation that she attended at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in February, and Burlington High School shared their program via the ISED mailing list this year.

While these programs differ in scope slightly (mainly in the amount of tech “service” they provide, e.g. hardware repair), they all offer some common threads: in addition to reactive service, they produce proactive media for their school and community about the tools and systems that the school offers. Many include digital citizenship education as part of that outreach. Some are during the day, while some operate during “non-instructional” time: lunch, open periods and before/after school. All work in collaboration with on-campus professional IT or Ed Tech staff, and they all publish their work online.

These programs channel the expertise, interest and leadership of students to the entire school community through the use of digital media. Students involved in these programs get experience in media production and communication, as well as experience with a higher level of technology usage than normal classroom applications might provide through repair/service experience, in-depth software usage, and coaching.

If you have other examples of Student Help Desks, SWAT Teams or Genius Bars, please share them in the comments below. I’ll add examples from the comments into the post as they appear.