Digital Lead Learner Jane Hirst shines with the EdTech Student Crew
Caption: Meet Jane Hirst. In a
four-part weekly series to celebrate Ed Tech, Grand Erie is featuring
dynamic Digital Lead Learners to share their stories and to see the
impact on student learning.
The EdTech Student Crew component of the Grand Erie District School
Board’s Educational Technology Initiative (Ed Tech) is proving to be a
major confidence builder for students at Walter Gretzky Elementary
School in Brantford.
Ed Tech introduces computer technology and programs throughout the board, and EdTech Student Crew is geared to young people who demonstrate a special interest and are eager to support teachers and fellow students in their schools.
EdTech Student Crew functions much like an extra-curricular club, offering students an opportunity to augment the computer-related skills they learn in the classroom with actual hands-on activities which culminate in their providing assistance to fellow students and teachers needing help with everything from tablets to projectors and Office 365 tools.
Jane Hirst, one of Grand Erie’s Digital Lead Learners, teaches a split Grade 4-5 class and has spearheaded the initiative at her school with a view to inspiring students to become technology leaders.
“It’s an opportunity to go above and beyond what other students would normally choose to do,” Hirst says.
The board offers up-front training so students can learn about computer hardware and software systems inside-out.
“They know they'll be sharing that information with other people, so they want to be confident they know the software so that if anybody asks a question they can answer it,” Hirst says.
“We’ve trained them that if they recognize an actual problem with a digital device, that they’ll know when to recommend to a teacher that something needs to go to (the board’s IT department) for repair. Otherwise they just explain to the teacher or student what it is that they need to do so that they can do it themselves.”
Training for students is organized in several ways. Students are encouraged to complete online training via BrightSpace (D2L), a virtual learning environment offered through the Ontario education ministry, in order to learn the theory and earn badges.
Then, during face-to-face events, students participate in a variety of learning opportunities. These include Tech Quest events, where the students visit a series of stations to gain hands-on experience solving actual technology problems, earning passport stickers and a certificate for their efforts.
“They told me what to do and then I did it myself,” says Raveena Shahi, a Grade 5 student, explaining that she learned to download Microsoft Speak so it would function within Word. “We also had to hook up a tablet to a projector, putting all the cables and adaptors in the right places.”
The face-to-face learning sessions gave Raveena the know-how to go into other classrooms, upon request, to help resolve technical glitches. “I enjoy doing this because I get more self-confident,” she explains. “I learn more things than from just regular classes.”
Damon Nixon, a Grade 6 student, says he liked learning and teaching others at the same time.
“It's kind of cool because teachers are always correcting your work, and now you get to teach them something,” Damon says, relishing the moment he helped one teacher put animation and voice-overs onto slides for a PowerPoint presentation using Office Mix, a new tool from Microsoft’s Office 365 suite.
“Knowing how to teach other people is a big thing to know for later on in life because you learn how to interact with people this way,” Damon adds.
Muskan Jassal, a grade 5 student, spent last summer trying out a new Office 365 application called Forms, which Microsoft released just before school ended in June to support the creation of online surveys and quizzes.
“I was making stuff with it, and now I know how to use it. I even taught my cousins how to use it,” Muskan says.
Jane Hirst says she’s totally impressed with the level of maturity and responsibility participating students are demonstrating.
“I hadn’t even had a chance to look at Forms myself so I didn’t know anything about it except that it was available,” Hirst says. “The fact that they’re keeping up to date with current trends and checking to see what new programs are coming out means I can trust them to go off and help someone make decisions.”
Ultimately, EdTech Student Crew recognizes the kinds of skills that will be expected of young people in the coming years. “It gives students more ability to collaborate,” Hirst says.“They need to be able to go out into the workplace, work with others and brainstorm and problem-solve.”