This is a guest post, authored by my friend and colleague, Cody Holt from Royse City ISD in Royse City, Texas. After 11 years as a high school Language Arts teacher, Cody made the transition to the world of instructional technology and his toughest challenge ever–teaching teachers. As a Digital Learning Specialist for Royse City ISD, Cody gets the privilege to help teachers navigate instruction in a digital age; specifically, how to incorporate digital tools to positively impact learning. Cody is also the Director of C4L Operations and the Chrome Squad Internship (C4L is our district 1-1 initiative). When not neck deep in Chromebooks Cody spends his time with his wonderful wife Jennifer and their three amazing kids: Kollyn, Reese, and Tucker.
Did you miss Part 1 in this series: Great Leadership is Key to 1-1 Success?
In the previous installment of this series, I extolled the leadership of my district and how they were pivotal in the creation of the Chrome Squad. (See Part 1: Great Leadership is Key to 1-1). Having the right leaders creates the bedrock to build a solid program. It is on that foundation that I started building the Chrome Squad. So at long last here is their part of the story. Be sure to check out the Connected 4 Learning website that these students created to support teachers and students on their campus.
What is the Chrome Squad?
This time last year I was hired as the Digital Learning Specialist for Royse City High School. (Don’t worry I am going to talk about the Chrome Squad; promise). I would have to manage an inventory of 1500+ Chromebooks, student and teacher GAFE accounts, ongoing and regular teacher training (small group, large group, and individual), and help the student body with any and all issues they may have with their Chromebooks and/or GAFE and Windows accounts. Oh, I also got the “privilege” to handle all the paperwork for acceptable use policies, user agreements, and other extraneous paperwork. They did tell me I could use students to help–that was nice. (On a side note, I found out later they originally planned on hiring three people for my position).
Enter the Chrome Squad…(Cue intense walk-in theme music)
I quickly decided to take up Zach and Stuart’s offer to use students. I needed students to not only help, but effectively take over the management of the Chromebooks, and teacher/student support so I could focus on working with teachers to integrate technology in an effective manner. So it was decided the Chrome Squad would be a hand selected group of high school students that works as a team to manage every aspect of Connected 4 Learning. They would be elite customer service and technology ninjas. I shall dub them Teenage Mutant Ninja Chromies. Who knows, it might catch on…
Selecting Students for the Chrome Squad
I have researched how other schools set up their student programs. Some retrofit existing programs/classes like computer maintenance. Some created after school positions via the technology department. The common denominator was the kids were selected because of technological prowess. I decided to go a different route. My program was going to be a legitimate internship with a focus on customer service and business skills. It was also going to be student focused. That meant I would be playing the part of the manager, and the students would handle all the operational details. Feel free to freak out now if you wish; I gave it 50/50 odds it would blow up in my face.
If it was going to work, I would need to hand select the interns. (Like a real internship, go figure). I decided not to start with applications, but with teacher nominations. I asked teachers to nominate students that demonstrated:
- Consistent, quality work
- Respect for peers and respected by others
- Teachability and ability to learn quickly
I recommended but did not require, tech savvy because I can teach the tech skills; the others not so much. I also only took nominees that were current Freshmen-Juniors. I did this because I want the students to have a year on campus. Of the nearly 1600 students at the high school, I received 60ish nominations. I then created a committee of teachers to vet each of the nominees. If anyone on the committee question the nominees on any of the characteristics above I took them off the list. This brought the list down to around 30. I then interviewed each nominee (this year, year two, the Chrome Squad helped with interviews) and selected the top 21 nominees. I got the best all around students in the school. In our first meeting after being selected, they dubbed themselves the Chrome Squad and created their moniker.
What Does the Chrome Squad Do?
The Chromies are the front line of tech support for both the students and the teachers of RCHS. This requires that they are versed in Windows, peripheral troubleshooting, Chromebooks, Chrome OS, GAFE, basic computer networking, blogging, social media, video production, inventory management, and customer service. I was talking with a 30-year education veteran about all I would be asking from the Chrome Squad, and he thought I was out of my mind. In his words, “There is no way they can do all that.” The truth is I’m probably a little crazy, but I’ve seen crazier so why not put the bar on the highest rung I can reach and see if my kids can reach it too.
With a bar set that high, I needed to spend some time setting the team up for success. The Chrome Squad met with me over several days in August, and we spent time talking about expectations, team building, and training. I pushed heavily for great customer service and responsibility. They were taught to think of the Connected 4 Learning Lounge (their base of operation) as their home and everyone who entered as a guest. It didn’t matter if the Chrome Squad had all the technical answers if their guests didn’t leave with a smile on their face and desire to come back next time they needed help. Once I successfully beat a dead horse in regards to customer service we switched to GAFE, Chromebooks, troubleshooting, and the rest. The Chrome Squad also trained on how to create blogs and videos, edit a website, and all the other procedures of running this size of operation. The goal was to have them so well trained that they could operate day-to-day without me because there would be days I wouldn’t be there. They also unboxed, tagged, and enrolled 1500 Chromebooks in 4 days. When it came time to hand out Chromebooks to the student body, the Chrome Squad was on hand to check out Chromebooks, reset passwords, and give students a tour of their new device. They showed themselves capable of reaching the bar I set and then they decided to move it even higher.
Evolution of the Team
As the year began the Chrome Squad focused on everyone doing the same job: helping teachers with technical issues, repairing broken Chromebooks, resetting passwords for students, and writing whatever blog or making whatever video I assigned to them. We were focused on building up the content on our website, so our teachers and students had resources readily available as well as providing prompt and quality face-to-face support. Then around Thanksgiving, as things slowed a little, I decided to give the interns a week of “20% Time.” I didn’t hand out assignments. Instead, I let them work on any project they wanted as long as it benefited C4L and they didn’t overlook their standard duties.
Students Developed the Following Ideas:
- Build a charging station for students to charge their Chromebooks
- Create an online system for course registration
- Create a public relations team to publicize Chrome Squad and C4L resources
- Create a teacher badge system to reward and challenge teachers to integrate technology
- Tech Tips posters, table tents, announcements, and commercials
- A student-run store that sales electronics and accessories for Chromebooks
- A Google Classroom for the campus that provides a back channel for asking questions and posting tips and tricks
The ideas they came up with were huge and had far-reaching effects. That is when I had the idea to form departments around these great ideas. The Chrome Squad members decided on the department they wanted to work, and I set department leads to help organize the flow of information. The teams now create 3-week and 6-week goals to keep themselves accountable, and I check in on them each week during our “Staff Meetings.” Here is the crazy thing–the members of each team often don’t see each other on a daily basis. They have to communicate and work together digitally. It’s like magic.
We are now preparing for year two for the program, and I let the Chrome Squad help me with the interviews, and the team is going to be really strong next year despite losing nearly half the team to graduation. This summer we are going to revamp the website and create an all new inventory system that streamlines our back end process. We are going to be awesome, and I can exhale now that I am confident it isn’t going to blow up in my face.
Well, I only have two more promise left to fulfill in this series of posts: What would I change and where can you get help creating your own group of interns? Check the next and final installment to get the answers you seek…hopefully. Part 3 – Build Your Own Student Tech Team
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