Friday, December 12, 2008

Starting a Student Support Team in Your School

If we want students to succeed in a global economy, we need to provide them with access to technology in the schools, but until the past year, this was nearly impossible due to the prohibitive cost of laptops. Now that low cost laptops have hit the market (see Low-Cost Laptop Cheat Sheet; Get Small for Fall), the idea of ubiquitous computing in education can become a reality with truly remarkable results in classrooms like the one written about in X's & O's for the OLPC XO - A View from the Classroom.

However, while more and more schools are able to purchase devices, they are now struggling with models to put in place to support the hundreds of devices being used by students and staff. As history has shown, dumping devices into a school without a well thought-out model for instructional and hardware support is a recipe for disaster. Schools that want to have success using laptops must have a well-thought out plan which includes the development of Student Support Teams to create and maintain a successful 21st Century environment. These support teams are made up of students who will provide instructional and hardware support around 21st Century tools, skills, and hardware. They are great for students because they help them to begin developing a passion and expertise in using and teaching technology skills which they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. They are great for schools, because it allows them to utilize their best resource to support instruction…their students.

While schools realize the importance of the development of such teams, they often struggle with where to begin in launching such a team. As part of my role as the manager for professional development services for the Office of Instructional Technology as the NYC DOE, I have been helping technology-rich schools develop Student Support Teams called iSquads designed to improve a school's capacity to integrate technology into teaching and learning for a few years. Here are some ideas to get started.

Come Up with a Plan
Download the iSquad Student Tech Support Team.doc to begin developing your vision for your iSquad. To see what some other schools plan to do visit iSquad Fact Sheets.

Develop a Common Definition of What A Student Support Team Is At Your School
Student support teams vary from school to school. What will your Student Support Team be? How will you develop a common language in your school to share with students, staff, and parents. Once the definition is set be sure to use it in all flyers, correspondence, posters and other materials. You can see how some schools are defining their Student Support Teams at What is an iSquad?

Designate a Student Support Team Adviser(s)
Your school should designate a Student Support Team Adviser fully responsible for the implementation of the program. This will include recruiting students, determining the schedule for meetings, teaching students, ordering shirts and/or lanyards for team members and more.

Determine When Teams Will Meet
Think about when your Student Support Teams will meet. Does this program occur during or outside of school hours? Here are some options that schools are implementing:

Before or After School Program: Teams meet before or after school 1 – 3 days a week.

--Schools allocate funding to compensate the Student Support Team Leader.

Lunchtime Program: Teams meet during lunch 1 - 5 days a week.

--The Student Support Team Leader has a schedule where student’s lunch periods are working period for the Team Leader and the Team Leader has a lunch break before or after the students.

Saturday Program: Teams meet on Saturdays for a select number of hours.

--Often teams meet on select Saturdays across the year and special field trips (i.e. Sony Wonder Museum) are scheduled.

--Schools allocate funding to compensate the Student Support Team Leader.

Cluster / Special / Talent Program: Teams meet during the week as a scheduled class.
-Because this program emphasizes career development, leadership, and 21st Century Skill development, many schools have incorporated a Student Support Team class as an elective in their school program.

Establish a Trouble Shooting Ticketing System
Put a ticketing system in place that allows school members to report issues anytime from anywhere that can be accessed by the Student Support Team Advisor and Student Support Team members. Google forms is a terrific and free tool for this and all data is time stamped and populated directly into a spreadsheet. See this Sample Ticket Report form for ideas of what you may use at your school.

Determine Services Your Student Support Team Will Provide
There are numerous types of services your Student Support Team can provide. Ensure you have clearly laid out what this will consist of at your school. The answer to this question should be derived through conversations with staff and teachers. You may also choose to start simple and grow in the services you provide over time. You can see the type of services schools are providing at the discussion “What are the three services you want to focus on for having iSquads provide at your school?

Think About Your iSquad’s Goals and Benefits?
Schools should have a clear and distinct awareness of the goals and benefits of having an iSquad. Think about what your goals and benefits are. You can visit iSquad Goals and Benefits to take a look into goals and benefits realized by other schools with Student Support Teams.

Join the iSquad / MOUSE Squad Social Network
Join the conversation with dozens of other schools using Student Support Teams at the iSquad / MOUSE Squad group in the Innovative Educator social network. There you can write to others who have set up squads in their schools, pose questions, read other’s questions and answers, and discover what successes and challenges have been encountered in other schools. You’ll need to join this network to access several of the documents mentioned here.

Join the iSquad Discussion forum

Find out about topics such as:

-iSquad Plans at Other Schools

-iSquad Ideas and Successes

-iSquad Challenges and Trouble Shooting

Access a Bank of Lessons
Faculty advisors have created a bank of iSquad Lesson to implement with Student Support Teams. These are hands-on lessons that take place in 45 minute periods and address a variety of topics from customer service to connecting laptops to the internet, to setting up a SmartBoard and using the help menus in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. To gain access to this private space you must request membership and indicate the reason you are interested in joining.

Professional Development
See if professional development is offered in your area to help schools set up a Student Support Team. At the NYC DOE schools can search and search for “Student Support Team” in the “Instructional Technology” Department.

Visit Other Schools with Student Support Teams
Find out who already is running Student Support Teams in your area and set up a visit to one or two of these schools. At the school you can speak with the person running the program and ask to sit in on a meeting with the Student Support Team. You should have questions prepared in advance to ask them. You may want to bring a couple students with you on the visit. At the NYC DOE some ways you can find out who has Student Support Teams is to ask your Borough Instructional Technology Specialists which schools in your area have attended iSquad professional development. They can find this information in the online registration system. NYC DOE schools can also write to to find out which schools have purchased official MOUSE Squads. Schools who sign up for MOUSE have added support from an outside organization in setting up squads.

Become a MOUSE School
MOUSE creates technology-based opportunities that motivate students to succeed in today’s information society. A MOUSE Squad is a student-driven technical support help desk program that addresses the technology needs of elementary, middle and high schools. MOUSE Squad supports 21st century skills development for over 1,600 students that participate in the program, while simultaneously providing critically needed, on-site technology support services for over 113,000 students and 8,000 teachers and administrators. These schools saved over $3 million in technology support costs. For more information please it might be helpful to review the iSquad membership_packet_0809.pdf for the 08/09 school year. The cost of participating is approximately $1175 for new schools with a $675 yearly renewal.

Attend the MOUSE Educators Conference
This yearly conference provides inspiration around innovative ways school’s Student Support Teams can benefit students, teachers, and entire schools in creating and maintaining a successful 21st Century environment. You can read about some ideas I took from the conference at 5 Innovative Ideas for Student Teams that Support 21st Century Teaching & Learning.

Good luck in getting started with a Student Support Team at your school. As you launch your Student Support Team remember you can reach out to the iSquad/MOUSE Squad group, discussion forums, and your borough instructional technology specialists for support.


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  1. You give a lot of structures to help us get this off the ground. Good timing since my principal just asked me to coordinate computer classes for parents taught by middle school students.

    I think the structure and vehicle of an iSquad will be a good way to get that going--and now I won't have to recreate the wheel.

    Thorough documentation--you must believe in this!

  2. Mike Luongo, PS 145December 10, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    I have just begun creating a student support team. So far, it has only 2 members, and will continue to grow. Just this past Tuesday, a fifth grader taught a 3rd grade class how to utilize Google Earth while I prepared a powerpoint with a DOE representative from the Office of Equity. This was a true example of empowering students. My principal walked in and said to him, "Eric, I am so proud of you!" Her support really makes a difference.