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UWCSEA Student Techsperts Teach the Teachers: Nurturing more than technology skills

Alison Forrow, Digital Literacy Coach, Dover Campus
18 May 2017

'Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.' Harold S. Geneen

Imagine walking into a Primary School classroom and finding no teacher leading the class. Instead, a student is introducing an activity and guiding their peers through a number of steps. They confidently give instructions and answer any questions. Strange? Well, not really, because these students are experts in the use of technology. They are UWCSEA’s Techsperts.

So who are the Techsperts and what role do they play in classes? They are a group of very enthusiastic, tech-minded students who are keen to learn new skills and, importantly, to share these with their peers and teachers. How does a student become a Techspert? Students from Grade 2 to Grade 5 are invited to join the team by the Digital Literacy Coaches in the Primary School, and commit to attending a weekly session during a lunchtime for the year. In these sessions, they sometimes they create instructional presentations or video tutorials to share with their class; at other times they learn a new tech skill. All of these activities can be then shared with their peers.

Over the weekend of 20 and 21 May I was presenting at the reThinking Literacy conference held on UWCSEA’s Dover Campus. The conference brought together Literacy teachers from many different countries to share ideas and learn new skills across a range of Literacies. I presented for 30 minutes about our Techsperts and how they have supported Junior School staff when integrating digital tools within Writing Workshop lessons. While I was chatting with the attendees it struck me how similar the two groups are. Both are choosing to spend their time increasing their knowledge and then sharing it out to others.

Now I have a confession to make. While I had planned a presentation for the snapshot session, I didn’t speak for the full 30 minutes. Instead, I cheated by introducing the conference delegates to some of our Techsperts. The result? I witnessed students aged between 8 and 10 years old confidently sharing their experiences with adults they had just met. The students spoke about the positives of learning new digital skills and how this has impacted their work, and that of their classmates and teachers. They shared personal stories of struggling with a new concept, tool or situation and how this gave them experience of failure followed by success. They gave examples of when they learnt skills of perseverance and empathy for others, and what it is like to be in front of a class teaching.

Techsperts initially was about having more ‘heads in the room’. A support system for teachers, if you will, so that they could focus on the specific content of lessons without the digital tool being a barrier. In reality it has turned into a group of closely bonded students who feel valued by their teachers and peers. They have seized an opportunity to step up and become leaders by demonstrating a wide array of skills, some related to technology and others regarding social interaction, presenting to an audience or being organised. All of these skills will be advantageous in their future school life and beyond in their careers. The passion these students have for their role is wonderful to see and even better is how it is contagious it is, spreading to teachers and students across grades.

When debriefing with the students after the conference workshop they were deservedly excited and proud of themselves for the great job they had done. The visiting teachers were impressed by our student Techsperts, their level of interaction and the quality and thoughtfulness of their comments. The students wanted to know when the next conference is scheduled for and if they could come to that one too! I am proud of them and would willingly bring them to speak at future conferences. I know that the Primary School staff value the contributions made by their Techsperts, I know the Techsperts enjoy supporting others and I know that our integration of technology is stronger for having them.

'Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.' Robin S. Sharma