Anytime Anywhere Learning
More information »

Students as Agents of Change
Author: Sylvia Martinez, GENYES | September 9th, 2009

By Sylvia Martinez, President
Generation YES

In most schools, laptop initiatives start with a vision of improving student achievement, supporting 21st century education, and providing new opportunities for student-centered learning. However, when implementing a laptop program a large percentage of time, planning and consideration often surrounds the purchasing decision. It's important to remember that these aforementioned changes cannot be purchased. Strong leadership, vision, and - as I will discuss here - student participation, are key to any successful laptop initiative.

In order to assure that any school-related change, be it technological or otherwise, runs smoothly and effectively, people need to feel that they have a sense of control and choice in the efforts. However, students are rarely asked to participate in these changes, and worse, are often seen as the objects of change themselves. Including students in the rollout of your laptop program will provide them with a sense of mission and purpose. By allowing them to participate and voice their opinions about changes taking place in their school, their passion and attitude toward the laptops will have a profound effect on their peers, parents, and community at large. Reinforcing the belief that their voice and their actions are important, necessary, and valued creates students who will go beyond a class assignment and become empowered, global citizens of the 21st century.

In our most recent GenYES whitepaper, we discuss how students can be agents of change in any laptop initiative, and outline ways this can be achieved. In this article, I'll share a selection of these practical tips on including students in every aspect of your laptop initiative.

Students - The Forgotten Stakeholder

Implementing a laptop initiative often involves months, sometimes even years, of planning and is usually steered by stakeholder groups consisting mostly of teachers, administrators and parents. But students are 92% of any school population. This is an often overlooked yet crucial stakeholder group. Including students on planning committees creates a larger sense of ownership of the program once it becomes a reality. Ongoing student input and support of laptops provides valuable, knowledgeable resources, additional team members, and student point of view.

Student Contribution

There are two basic ways students can participate and contribute to the planning and implementation of a laptop program:

Committees: Students can participate in technology planning committees, school site councils, technology security committees, or peer review committees. Adults often claim that including students in planning is risky, citing privacy concerns, lack of maturity, or difficult logistics. However, adults often forget that accommodations are made for them when they are included in such planning committees: adults may or may not know anything about technology; they have schedules to work around, and may not have been in an actual classroom for years if not decades.

Having students participate in committee work is not only a wonderful learning opportunity for the student but creates a direct path for student feedback and point of view that is extremely beneficial to teachers and other adults. Adult guidance is key to making this student participation successful, since otherwise students may find the meetings long and tedious. A great way to prepare students for such meetings is through role-play. Meet with students regularly prior to and after meetings to discuss progress and get their feedback.

Day-to-Day Activities related to Laptop Support: Include students in various roles supporting laptop use. This can include basic technology support, instructional support, or helping new users learn about their laptops. Student help can make the logistics of implementing your program run more smoothly and may also ease new users' anxieties. Assemble a student tech team before you begin your program in order to train them on the hardware and software, as well as to familiarize them with new policies. Once the laptop initiative becomes a reality, you will have an enthusiastic, trustworthy student team raring to go.

Tips for students participating in day-to-day laptop support:

1) Start with a smaller group and give them limited, well-defined tasks. Take the time to get to know the students and establish two-way trust.

2) Reward their hard work with recognition, of course, but also more responsibility and trust. Find ways to challenge students intellectually and creatively.

3) Anticipate strong student opinions. Instead to being afraid of this, encourage students to share their ideas. Students who are ardent users of technology will often have very strong opinions about certain issues such as hardware, software, or operating systems. Include these students in discussions and decision making. While they may at first appear to be nuisances, they can truly be your strongest allies!

4) Create a student-centered team. As students show capability, allow them to take on leadership tasks including mentoring new students and planning.

For more tips, ideas, and case studies of real schools where students support laptops, see the full GenYES whitepaper.

Sylvia Martinez, President of Generation Yes, is a veteran of interactive entertainment and educational software industries. She has been a featured speaker at national education technology conferences in areas ranging from the use of the Internet in schools, Web 2.0 technologies, student leadership, project-based and inquiry-based learning with technology and gender issues in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) education. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter: smartinez

Related Communities
This article is not related to any community.

« Return | Top

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License