Feb 17 2017

Student-Run Tech Initiatives Can Empower and Ready Them for the Future

Students at a California middle school have become the teachers when it comes to technology.

When Creekside Middle School in Patterson, Calif. rolled out over 1,000 Google Chromebooks in the fall of 2015, teachers received many professional development sessions to learn how to better implement technology in the classroom.

After seeing the effects of the training, students began asking if they too could attend PD to sharpen their skills. Their former principal, Kerry McWilliams, said yes, but only if the students themselves conducted it for their peers.

Such was the genesis of Tech Boost, a biannual conference where student experts teach other students how to code, create videos, design web pages and apps. It began last spring with students presenting 90-minute lessons to their peers as teachers listened in, The Modesto Bee reports.

“It’s about tapping into the student talent that is already there,” says Creekside Principal Cathy Aumoeualogo. “The teachers and administrators just had to plan how to fit it into the semester.”

For Creekside educators Jeff Greenhalgh and Nolan Cluff — both of whom assist Tech Boost as teacher leaders — having the students teach their peers about how to use new technology was extremely beneficial: They could spend more time focusing on subject matter and not use valuable class time simply teaching how to use a tool.

But, more than anything, Tech Boost has been a great way for the students to become empowered about learning and their futures.

“When you believe in kids and they know it, it’s amazing what you can do,” McWilliams told the Bee. “The Tech Boost was also a boost of confidence for our kids, to go through the practice and prep and be able to do a presentation.”

When Students Run Tech Programs They Get Skills for the Future

School districts like Burlington (Mass.) Public Schools have leveraged students to assist with successful deployment of one-to-one programs. In an article on the ISTE website, Jennifer Scheffer, Burlington’s technology specialist, writes about how students who run their help desk receive a course credit, and some lessons in customer service and IT work.

“Student geniuses, as we call them, receive the ultimate real-world learning experience while earning credit for an academic course,” writes Scheffer. “At the same time, they offer vital assistance to the district’s IT department, which supports six schools and manages more than 4,000 devices districtwide.”

With these real-world tech skills and the confidence to use them, Scheffer writes that these students graduate school as empowered technology leaders, confident that their voices have been heard.

“Giving students a voice and acknowledging their contribution can make a real impact on that young person’s life,” writes Winston Sakurai, principal of Hanalani Upper School in Hawaii, in a blog post from the National Principal’s Conference. “By creating authentic opportunities for students to showcase their talents, they will grow in boundless ways that we would never think possible.”

In just a year of Tech Boost, Aumoeualogo says the students at Creekside have really come into their own as tech leaders and presenters, and she expects even more improvement as it continues, something the students themselves are striving for.

“I really enjoy presenting to the other students,” says Francesca Juan, a seventh-grader and Tech Boost student leader. “I feel like it really helped me improve and advance in both the technology and presenting.”