Saturday, May 3, 2008

5 Innovative Ideas for Student Teams that Support 21st Century Teaching & Learning

I have been helping technology-rich schools develop student support teams designed to improve a school's capacity to integrate technology into teaching and learning for about three years. Yesterday, I was at the annual MOUSE Educators Conference which inspired me to realize even more innovative ways school’s student support teams can benefit students, teachers, and entire schools in creating and maintaining a successful 21st Century environment. MOUSE is an organization that creates technology-based opportunities that motivate students to succeed in today’s information society.

These support teams are great for students because they begin developing a passion and expertise in using and teaching technology skills which they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Students also learn about professionalism and customer service. Many Faculty advisers have students fill out applications or submit resumes for a coveted Squad position and participate in an interview. Students are given guidance and advice on how to do apply and interview using curriculum that includes videos and activities from MOUSE. These students are given special shirts at many schools and become the esteemed supermen and women of the school able to heroically fix technical issues in a single bound. But the teams are much more than just that. These student support teams provide students with a sense of belonging. In many cases, just like sports teams, members must also maintain an expected school record for classes, attendance, and behavior. After doing working with students support teams for several years I was thrilled to discover five new and innovative ideas schools can implement with their student support teams.

Social Networks

It appears MOUSE is ready to jump on the Social Network bandwagon. At the conference they had participants engage in an activity called MOUSESPACE (ala MySpace). Participants drew a possible social network for their MOUSE Squads (which I recommend are groups within one space) where squads can interact with other teams. Each Squad creates a page where they describe their squad and post a picture, provide contact info, indicate the numbers of boys/girls, identify strengths and challenges, and provide tags indicating “Stuff my squad loves” and “Values my squad” shares. I thought it was such a good idea I spoke to the program director Ted Bongiovanni about getting the ball rolling and setting up a space for the faculty advisors of student support teams right now and he gave me the thumbs up to start a group at The Innovative Educators Social Network. I encourage you to join The Student Support Team Group.

Explore Engaging Educational Games

At the MOUSE conference Karen Sideman of Games4Change and Parsons School of Design led a discussion of gaming and learning. She explained how good gaming environments make for good learning environments, and how educators can capitalize on game-play to access content and concepts from throughout the curricular landscape. While I agree this is a wonderful and meaningful direction in education, it is often difficult to incorporate in the curriculum, especially when students and teachers have not had an opportunity to test this out. What a great idea for a student support team! These team members and their faculty advisors can be the pioneers making the connections about how these games can be valuable, test them out and share the successes and connections so they may eventually be incorporated into the school day. Read more ideas about how to Infuse Life into Your Lessons with Digital Gaming in my blog entry 5 Easy Ways for Innovative Educators to Engage Students Until The End of The School Year.

Recycle Computers for Use with Your Student Support Teams

During the MOUSE spotlight a presenter shared a great idea for recycled computers! Work with companies to put together packages for student support teams to allow them to get down and dirty with equipment in ways that they are not allowed with warranted devices. They are taking computer parts and putting them in packages and a curriculum has been written to accompany this. The activities are designed to provide students with an opportunity to touch and feel the internal components of a computer. They also learn to identify characteristics and features of the devices. The “Computer in a Box” Kit is a safe way for students to experience the insides of the system unit in a safe environment. Visit the Computer in a Box Lesson to find out how to do this with your squad. Visit Lessons for Student Support Teams for more lessons written by NYC Faculty Advisers.

Create Online Tutorials
What a great idea!!! At the MOUSE Conference Dan Beeby, Associate Director of Services for Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching and Learning showed participants how to create how to's that help. What a great idea to have students create online tutorials to answer all the common things they are asked to assist with and the faculty advisor can collect these in one place (wiki, website, blog). You can find out how to create screencasts here. For samples of ScreenCasts to share with your iSquad as a model for their work or aid to their work check out

Have a Film Crew

During the MOUSE spotlight presenters shared that some MOUSE squads attend every event to capture photos and video of what occurs throughout the year. This is captured for many uses including posting instantly after events. Capturing for the end of the year celebration slide show collection. Capturing for the year book and more. The student support team members are further celebrated because they are the one’s often distributing the coveted Yearbooks or CDs. Some schools are using these for fund raisers too.

If you have tried any of these ideas or have additional ideas, please share by commenting on this post.

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