With classrooms becoming increasingly technology-enabled – with states pursuing 1-to-1 computer or tablet initiatives, open educational resources, and online or blended learning initiatives, to name a few – questions of state and local implementation capacity abound. Beyond the technical capacity questions (how will we get statewide broadband access? How will schools connect to that broadband? What security assurances will be needed?) there are also strategic concerns, such as how to train teachers to use the technology in the classroom and how to staff each school with an IT department that can provide rapid response support to teachers. State, district, and local decision-makers begin calculating the price tag of teacher training, re-training, and ongoing IT support, and often find these prohibitively costly.
Perhaps with a little creativity, they needn’t be. When seeking technology gurus for training and support, we naturally think of the computer science majors and tech whiz types who build careers with their intimate knowledge of ICT. They are, indeed, expensive. Yet there is another demographic of fellow humans who understand technology often as deeply and perhaps even more innately: our students. As suggested by Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the Maine Department of Education, students can help teachers learn how to use technology. Students can support teachers when devices fail. Students are free, and more importantly, by tapping into students’ technological prowess, schools validate them as key contributors in a student-centered learning environment. Through structured arrangements, also can challenge and extend students ICT capabilities beyond what they already possess.
Below we list several ways in which schools might leverage and grow students’ technological abilities:
IT elective: students enroll to learn ICT and also serve as the on-call center for any IT service calls across the school. Over the course of the year the teacher (an IT professional) will teach students how to handle an increasing number of issues. Students will learn ICT through instruction and “tinkering”
“IT Kids” team: similar to IT elective but a smaller team of students who enroll by demonstrating their competency. Can be a school-wide application process or a reward for high achievers on an assessment. Can be given “shifts” to be on-call for IT issues and serve as teachers assistants in classrooms that rely heavily upon ICT.
Student-lead professional development for teachers: involve students in both designing and providing professional development to increase teachers and school leaders’ technological abilities. This may focus on the technical sided of ICT use (software and hardware) but can also include demonstration of student-designed sample lesson plans and pedagogies that integrate ICT in more effective ways.
Student-lead community outreach events: similar to PD model for teachers, students help design and deliver events intended to help increase parents ability to use ICT to better support and advocate for their students. Also can be viewed as a service to communities to help all members advance in their careers and make daily lives more efficient.