Who Are Your Tech-Sperts?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

With school starting back in many places, teachers are thinking about what they are going to do in the coming year and who their students will be. It is also a good time to think about how you and your students are going to use technology effectively in the classroom.

One question to consider is how you will identify the the “tech-sperts” in your classes. In many classes the real tech-sperts are the students. I don’t know if Kriscia Cabral (Digital Organization Tips and Tricks) coined this phrase, but it certainly fits, and these tech-sperts are a resource that teachers shouldn’t ignore. In Jim’s article, Zen and the Art of IT, he looks at some of the IT knowledge and skills that teachers need. However, Cabral thinks teachers should give over some of the responsibility to students.

First, recognizing that everyone has something to offer removes the burden from the teacher of having to know everything about technology, a field which can change from one day to the next. In her classes Cabral’s students help one another with devices, apps, websites, or whatever other types of technology they need assistance with. Utilizing students’ expertise has several advantages for the teacher and the students, and she asserts that the greater benefits are for the students.

Because different students are knowledgeable about different aspects of technology, everyone has a chance to be the tech-spert about something. This ability to help and support one another builds confidence in individual students as well as a collaborative environment among all students in the class.

What experiences have you had with using your students’ knowledge and expertise about technology as a classroom resource?

2 Responses

  1. My Tech-Sperts are people who mentor me from several different groups. ESRI furnished a wonderful professional development and it is available for many if they choose to using this link.

    There are groups within this initiative that furnish resources to teachers.

    The National Geographic was the most influential resource for me. There was a summer institute, that changed my life and ways of thinking. There are so many divisions and resources. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/teaching-resources/

    NASA was at the level of space science education. I involved in NASA programs, and became a Challenger Fellow. The NEA appointed me a Christa McAuliffe Educator. I was exposed to Dr. Chris Dede, and to Seymour Papert and gradually I was at the center of the new educational ideas.

    Dr. Wendell Mohling involved me in science and the George Lucas Educational Foundation allowed me to be involved in think tanks where I was able to discern that sometimes the voice of the teacher was needed when important decisions were made.

    Larry Irving taught me to talk and share with urban groups and he still mentors on Facebook.

    If I really get frustrated there is Vint Cerf . He helps me put things in perspective. A good set of mentors. I think..

    There was a whole team of people in broadening engagement and supercomputing, but they lost faith in the process. So my newest is the Center for Cyberlearning. I am not funded but I learn using their resources on line. http://circlcenter.org/.

    So the first step is to have knowledge, and then to share the knowledge with the students and parents. If the teacher has all of the knowledge, it is boring. Giving students and parents a preview or partnership in the new learning process enables learning , interest and innovation.

    NASA I will admit that the students sometimes knew more physics than I did, but through the project based learning, we learned and tailored it to the learning landscape that we needed.

    In teaching geography, I was challenged to learn and then to let students take charge of their knowledge with online initiatives for food, acid rain, garbage and other project based initiatives. The students always , always expanded the learning map. ESRI community mapping was also something very new to me which captured immediately the attention of the students. Often the chilren did not want to go home and would sneak back into the school to work just a little more on their project.
    In a collaborative initiative, the students had more time than I did and there were ramification initiatives that I rarely had the time to focus on and so they became the experts..The Smithsonian extended our knowledge with pixellation and teaching us the children and I hydroponics, astronomy, and astrophysics. There was an exhibit that showed the beginnings of hydroponics ( Salads in Space) and fish farming( Tilapia) and visualization. Clearly I had never had this in teacher college. So the collective knowledge of the students and the resources furnished by NASA and the Smithsonian our fount of knowledge. Earth science, geography, ..the Jason project provided the curriculum but the parents and kids and I tailored it to the classroom.

  2. The National Science Foundation was so supportive of our efforts , and at the time it was a primary resource in our community. I could put on my metro shoes and get there to get posters , to take students , and to participate in projects. When we did solar energy experiments, sadly the administration of the school did not see how that would work for learning science, but parents and students and I found out how to float solar balloons , cook , and to do SunRayce. Proudly one of my students who loved that work is a part of the Google project on Solar Energy. The kids and parents and I loved the experience and we thrived on it.

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