Students as Educational Technology Leaders

The ones who are doing all the work are doing all the learning.”

– Alice Keeler, educational technology expert


It has long been my teaching philosophy that students learn deeply and are motivated and engaged when they are excited and owning their learning experiences. To take ownership of their learning, students must be given choices, and they should have a voice in how they learn. I often show students a TEDx video by Logan LaPlante called “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy.” This video shows a young boy who describes his school experiences that have given him happiness with a depth of knowledge that counters guru-level skills. After viewing the segment, students always respond with something like, “I wish my education was like that!”

When I went to Google Teacher Academy to become a Google Certified Teacher, I was asked to implement a plan to improve education. My plan involved having students become Google aficionados and teach teachers on how to best reach their learners. I had already begun this process in an unofficial way when I was the Director of Instructional Innovation at Holy Names High School, an all-girls private high school in Oakland. A handful of eager young women became known as the Digital Divas. We travelled across the San Francisco Bay Area, pushing into classrooms and presenting at professional educator conferences, spreading our different ways of technology integration across the curriculum.

When I moved to the Lafayette School District in October 2014 as the Technology Integration Coach, I knew it would be the perfect place to have middle school students as professional development presenters. Our educational tech club at Stanley Middle School became known as the @SMSWiredCats (a play on the mascot of Wildcats). We began looking at Google Sites and other Google Apps and discovered different ways to utilize this tool in middle school classrooms. The students, Jackson, Maddie, and Vivian, all worked through their winter break to create different sites they wanted to see in their own classrooms.

At the same time, I was running another technology club at St. Philip Neri Catholic School in Alameda, California. In order to be accepted into the after-school club, the middle school participants were asked to submit a one-minute video explaining how they envisioned technology tools being used in the classroom. The club was formed through selecting the best videos, and the @SavvySpartans were born. Students researched YouTube, Minecraft, Google Docs, and Screencasting in the middle school classroom.

Both groups of students joined me at the Google Apps for Education Summit in Napa Valley. On January 10, 2015, the @SMSWiredCats presented a one-hour session on Google Sites in the Middle School Classroom. They were also the first middle school students to do a Google Demo Slam, a highly competitive three-minute demonstration of their choice of tools. Their Demo Slam was on the app IFTTT (If This, Then That), and the students did this in front of approximately 500 educators. The Demo Slam by the @SMSWiredCats can be found here. The next day, the @SavvySpartans presented a session on Minecraft and Google Docs and a session on Screencasting and YouTube Channels. In all of the sessions, the students offered hands-on help to teachers on creating their own sites, screencasts, and YouTube channels, as well as using MinecraftEDU. Teachers who attended the sessions were wildly impressed with the students’ abilities to present and teach.

On February 7, 2015, the student presenters from both schools will unite to form a 2.5 hour hands-on workshop at the East Bay CUE Cool Tools event at Berkeley Adult School. Approximately 200 teachers and administrators from Bay Area school attend this event to learn how to integrate student-centered use of technology to improve learning. The students have also been invited to present at future events, and we’ll post those as soon as the event details are released.

When students do the work, they’re doing the learning. Can you imagine the brilliant things that happen when they are given the power of teaching?

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