When I set out to be an educator 20 years ago I never expected to be leading a student technology leadership class. My education studies in the late 90’s included Computer Information Systems and English, two areas that my college advisor told me would “never go together.” I find it incredibly humorous looking back and am so thankful for my strong-willed personality. That strong-will is part of the reason for the entire existence of my S.W.A.T (Students Who Advocate Technology) Team.
Much of my educational philosophy is that everyone is a leader. It does not matter who is standing at the front of a room, everyone has what it takes to lead themselves and thus lead others. I used this same philosophy as I taught English, Business Computers, Programming, Web Design, Multimedia, Broadcasting and Yearbook. This philosophy challenges the old classroom dynamic where teachers were holders of information and students would wait for permission to learn.
Many of the strategies I now use with my tech leaders are adaptations from my own experiences in the classroom. After several years as an Instructional Technology Specialist and taking a short hiatus from conference-going due to my son’s long term illness, I dove head first into every conference, seminar, and book I could find. I learned so much and networked with so many educators who I greatly admire. During that time, I sat in on several conference sessions with Cody Holt, Royse City ISD. I went to hear Cody and his students over and over again and even made visits to their high school several times finding what worked for them and what I would tweak for us.
In the Spring of 2016, with the help and mentoring of Cody Holt, I set out to create a similar program in our district for our students. I knew we needed to empower our students to be the leaders they were meant to be and even though I was “just” an ITS, I knew I had the power to step up and lead them.
Top Five Things I Did Before Presenting the Program
- Wrote out a Topic, Audience, Purpose document with TEKS.
- Spoke with our PEIMS director on how to code students for the class.
- Wrote out a draft of the Student Contract/Handbook and Interview Questions.
- Asked my Library Media Specialist to help “co-teach.” (@debzemanLMS)
- Thought of every question administrators might have, with an already thought out solution!
During our first and second year as a team, we learned a lot along the way and continue to tweak our program and self-reflect along with students’ help to make the experience better each year. Though, the focus for our program is always hands-on learning, real experiences and leadership with technology sprinkled along the way.
Here are some of the highlights that make our program unique:
- Students are vetted and interviewed in front of a panel (teachers, administrators, other team members)
- Students are in charge of device deployment and turn-in process (with help from district technology department)
- Students run different departments: Web Design http://bit.ly/CelinaSWAT, Graphic Design, Video Production YouTube, Help Desk, and Social Media ( Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat)
- Students run student-led conferences every two weeks and grade themselves using Leader Evaluation
- Students are expected to be Google Level 1 Educator Certified by December.
- Students are involved in a teen leadership program created by John Maxwell called YouthMax meeting for a working lunch once a week for nine weeks.
- Students “adopt” teachers in the Adopt-A-Teacher Program checking in on them, teaming up to help with projects, troubleshooting or just to encourage them.
- Students run the Customer Service Desk helping students, teachers, or administrators troubleshoot issues with their device or G Suite. (Helpdesk)
- Students show progress through “checkpoints” using tools like Flipgrid or Trello.
- They participate in chats, hangouts and podcasts. A recent example is the #studentsCANlead chat on Twitter. They have also led presentations on their own at the local opportUNITY conference and TCEA.
To anyone wanting to implement a #StudentsCanLead program in their school or district, I encourage them to reach out to those already doing it! This has hands-down been the most rewarding experience I have had in my 20 years in education! Seeing students learn together, lead themselves and empower everyone around them is a life changing experience!
Tisha Poncio, Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow her on Twitter! @txtechchick
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