The integration of technology into daily student learning at SVC has accelerated significantly over the past few years. From the starting point of developing a 1:1 program (where every student has his/her own device to use) to incorporating technology across all subject areas in a myriad of ways, emphasis has been placed on training our students to be proficient users of technology and responsible digital citizens.
But with this expansion has come an increased need for technical support. What happens when a Chromebook screen breaks? How do you support an entire school with hundreds of students as it introduces a new software platform? How do you seamlessly launch a new state-of-the-art STEM lab?
Ashley Fitch, Director of Information Technology, has an interesting answer: Develop student tech teams! “I believe that students learn best when they work kinesthetically and have opportunities for hands-on experiences in fields they are interested in,” said Mrs. Fitch.
Mrs. Fitch’s perspective on this may have been born out of what she learned during college. She attended California State University, Fullerton, where she earned a B.S. in Child and Adolescent Development and a Clear Multiple Subject Credential SB 2042, K – 8. During that time, she was part of a prestigious cohort which followed a specialized track, focusing on integrating technology into education. “I was trained to incorporate technology into everything — every single lesson plan I prepared had some form of technology associated with it.”
Beyond her formal training, Mrs. Fitch’s thinking was likely influenced by her own experiences growing up. “Once I hit Junior High, I created just about everything on the computer. I wrote children’s books on the computer. I organized all of my school binders with color-coded labels that I made on a computer. I worked on my school’s yearbook, designing spreads on a computer. I learned quickly that almost anything could be done on a computer. And usually, it could be done better and more efficiently that way.”
The addition of student tech teams — both at the Junior High and High School levels — has been met with great enthusiasm. As the 2018-19 school year kicked off, nine students at each level had signed on to this totally voluntary capacity. In general, students work in partnership with at least one peer. A schedule has been developed where student teams man a physical “help desk.” In Junior High, for instance, the tech team (known as Cookie Super Squad) is stationed in the JH hallway both at break and lunch.
The teams receive formal training. Each member is going through a fairly rigorous process of becoming “Google certified.” This involves completing online training in various Google platforms, doing practice exercises (both in the classroom and at the student help desks), and then passing a Google-administered test in order to receive certification. Moving forward, they will also have opportunities to become certified with Microsoft (earning Microsoft College credit) and Apple. Because students, like everyone else, learn at different speeds, the certification processes are self-paced.
While the focus of these students’ work is clearly centered around technology, Mrs. Fitch is excited that they are also learning customer service skills as they man the tech desks. “These interpersonal skills will serve them well, long after they leave our school.”
She also feels strongly that this initiative should be student-driven. Learning is maximized when students have a sense of ownership and recognize that their contribution is making a real difference.
Some of the hands-on things our student tech teams are troubleshooting are:
Fixing hardware, including replacing Chromebook screens, batteries, SSD drives (which involves deconstructing the entire computer), keyboards, and trackpads
Assisting peers with software — helping with Google accounts, logins, and answering questions about various platforms like Google Classroom, Docs, Sheets, etc.
In addition to the in-person help desk assistance, a website has been set up where students can make requests of the tech teams. Members of the High School team are responsible for monitoring these website requests and assigning their fulfillment to team members.
Mrs. Fitch is passionate about technology and its use in education. But more than that, she is passionate about our students. She continues to explore ways to expand our offerings and bring innovative, cutting-edge opportunities to our school. She regularly attends conferences and training such as CUE and Google Summit.
Her heart and her vision for technology at SVC can best be summed up by what she frequently tells her students: “The Cloud’s the limit! Whatever you can dream up, let’s make it happen!”