Technology Implementation Through Student Leadership
Education, and specifically education technology, is changing quickly. How we learn, what we learn, and even why we learn is evolving continually, and such rapid change brings challenges, such as:
How do we ensure acceptance, maintenance, and appropriate use of technology in the classroom for both students and teachers?
While technology has great potential to benefit learning, overcoming the learning curve of technology is often a challenge when there are standards to keep up with, testing to prepare for, and content to cover. Hence, districts often invest in Chromebooks, iPads, or Interactive White Boards, but without an intentionally designed culture to accept this new technology, it will often sit idle, its’ potential viewed as a nuisance.
Technology adoption is a cultural issue more than a generational or demographic challenge.
It is clear that our students are entering a world of technology and need to be prepared for it, so how do we ensure effective implementation (or reimplementation) of technology into the classroom?
We believe and have seen that when districts empower students with the problems they need solved, creative problem solving from an end-user perspective creates effective and lasting change.
Therefore, how do we empower students to ensure technology adoption? Our national student leadership program, SLED, has had chapters take on this challenge many times and tackle it from a variety of approaches, so we have summarized their best practices below.
How to Create Student Led Technology Adoption:
Identify a Committed Student Group
This can be an existing club or organization (such as a leadership team, tech club, or business group) or a new organization that you allow students to apply to join. There isn’t one ideal type of student - in fact - a diversity of student backgrounds and perspectives is ideal, and in most cases the culture your school/district sets for the team will be much more significant for the team’s effectiveness than who is on the team.
In many cases, students have been trained to listen and follow, to trust and obey that what is being done is what’s best. Of course, to maintain structure, order, and safety, we don’t want students usurping authority, but we can teach them to respectfully challenge the status quo. Students are the largest stakeholders in education, and yet so often they have the smallest voice in it. Make it clear to your student organization that they are the leaders of today, not tomorrow, and it is their responsibility to take ownership of the problems they see because they have the freedom and support from you to take action and create positive change. Be clear that this is an honor and a challenge, but the results are tangible, and the journey will be led by the students and supported (with good feedback on ideas, not directions to follow) by faculty, not the other way around.
Collaboratively Cast Vision with Students, Teachers, and Administrators
An open and honest discussion about where we want to go as a school/district, and what’s holding us back from being there is essential to bring clarity to not only what needs to change, but also to the fact that everyone is on the same team in wanting what is best for students to learn most effectively.
Challenge Students to Present AND Implement Solutions
It may seem like providing 3 options for students to choose from is more efficient, but the nature of multiple choice limits both creativity and buy-in, both of which are essential for innovation and execution. Challenge the students to take what they have discussed about where they are and where they want to be, and let them create a roadmap for how to get there. Implementation plans that we have seen our SLED chapters execute effectively include:
After requesting training from the IT department, students host a daily or weekly designated time for students/teachers to bring their technology and questions to SLED students to problem solve together
Students make a series of simple, short, and similarly structured videos that walk teachers and students through the regular operation of their specific school’s hardware and software. Videos are publicly available on a YouTube channel that is linked on the school website.
Students host weekly before or after school workshops with Q&A on how to use aspects of their school’s technology, accepting recommendations from students/teachers on future topics to address.
Emphasize to students that an important part of the organization is sustainability, so challenge them to figure out how to ensure their progress continues to advance after they leave.
Ask Students What Other Problems Need to Be Solved and Repeat Steps 3-5