by Bridget Crooks
Expert Educator Columnist, New Zealand
I am a great believer in collaboration and co-construction.
As a teacher I am only one part of the education equation.
So, when our school was undertaking the change to WiFi and byod, it seemed axiomatic that we should share some of the leadership with the students.
It took a bit of searching to find out what form this would take – but we settled on a team of student experts – who would bridge the gap between the staff and the student body.
I was looking for a group of I.T Ninjas. Students who were users of technology, students who were able to work with others and students who were keen to give something back to the school.
These students would be part of the communication in regards to the technical direction of the school – the student voice that is so important in 21st century education.
The Application Process and Selection
I started the process six months before the roll out of the WiFi and byod programme. I had isolated that I only wanted senior students at first, we would recruit and train younger students as the process became better established. It was important to me that applications should be imbedded in 21st century skills – application forms were available online and application was via email.
I was hoping for a gender split, and was interested in all technologically interested students. Yes, coding in html5 and css was a useful skill – but I was just as interested in the social media expert and the gaming master.
Strategic Planning and Branding
Because the group was established before the major work with WiFi and byod, we were able to plan their responsibilities and manage expectations. The group was also involved in discussions that had bearing on their experiences in the classroom. They are the users of our network and their ownership in it is vital.
The branding of the group was led by the students. They wanted an identity that summed up what they could do. We went through some iterations. My favourite being a play on the 1980’s television show ‘The A Team’. I was unfortunately out voted!
As a group we co-constructed what we would ask the Ninjas to do.
It became apparent that the biggest part of their job would be when the new network went live, but they also wanted responsibilities before this roll over.
The students’ first job was as technical expert and support to the busy year level Deans. This was effective in two ways. It gave the Ninja’s credibility and visibility, while easing a pain point in the lives of our busy teachers.
The Ninjas are the test group for all new developments at our school. This is a privilege, but with this comes a responsibility to disseminate information and knowledge.
The Ninjas’ are available every lunchtime and interval in their Dojo. This is where they assist students, and staff in all manners of technical issues. From having difficulty with the WiFi network, to choosing the correct printer to use; from using a scanner to even sending an email. It is important to note that the Ninja’s do not offer hardware support!
The Ninjas’ run lunchtime tutorials for students. This includes use of Microsoft Office and O365; OneDrive and specialised software such as the Adobe suite of products (including Photoshop and Dreamweaver). They have been working alongside students as they learn coding. This year they are also planning to look at building computers from the ground up.
The Ninja’s are available for one-to-one support for students and teachers. They have helped with sending emails, working scanners and various other concerns and issues.
Our student technical team has been running for six months now. As a group they are finding their feet and managing the time commitments with their schooling and other interests.
They are rapidly becoming a valued resource in the school – and their job will be continuously evolving. Their insight is valuable and vital in the smooth running of our school network. They suggest ideas and solutions; envisage problems and highlight concerns that adults would have missed.
They are the users – so who better to advise and advocate?
And their Ninja tip of the week?
Adding your timetable to your mobile device – it even sends you notifications for when your different classes are going to start.