Finding Your Techxperts
Observation through Sandpit Time. Sandpit time is where a new tool is introduced and we just play (dabble) around with it seeing what we can find out in a set period of time. With middle school students, this is usually between 10-15mins – I’d let younger students explore the tool for at least 15-20mins. At the end of our “sandpit” time we share what we discovered. Sometimes we do this “whole class” other times we set up speed-geeking tables and move around the class learning from each other. This really depends on how much time we have. After doing this, I can easily see who has picked up how to do things relatively quickly with a particular tool. I’ll approach those students who caught my eye and ask if they’d like to be the “techxpert” for that tool.
Specific Training. You’ll begin to find that you have students that always stand out during sandpit time. As the year goes on, this makes it harder to have a variety of techxperts and I like to empower all students to be leaders or experts in a digital classroom. To do this, I will ask a small group (usually 3-4 students) to be a techxpert for a particular tool or task. I use this strategy more when I need techxperts for a particular skill rather than knowledge about a tool. (But it does work for both reasons). I will specifically teach this small group to become experts in a particular skill that we will be using a lot. For example, I always teach a small group how to insert an image into a blog post (because we do that all the time when we’re blogging). I always have techxperts that know how to do particular things in iMovie or glogster because we’re always using iMovie or glogster in our project work. (You can insert what ever software/online tools you use here). A bonus discovery using the specific training method is that some students that normally wouldn’t volunteer, but did the training because I asked them to, really shone as techxperts and consequently being a techxpert made a huge difference to their own confidence!
Both of these strategies do take time, so I always allow for it. The pay-off for spending time at the start doing either of these strategies really does make a huge difference to the way your classroom works when using the devices.
How Does Everyone Know Who The Techxperts Are?
The charts worked well especially for any substitute teachers that may be in class for the day. (In NZ we call subs, relief teachers.) The charts are recycled each year which is a bonus! This is the third year I’ve used these particular charts – as you can see, I started off using the term expert and later changed it to techxperts earlier this year.