Monday, July 23, 2012


Since I can't answer Sarah's question in 140 characters, I'm going to use today's blog post to tell her a little bit about our SMS Tech Club

also called the Spar Techs.

(made during a club meeting using Graffiti Generator)

This will be the 3rd year for the tech club. As we have operated up to now, any middle schooler could show up at 7:30 Tuesday morning (we did skip a few if I wasn't going to be around or if there was no school day on the Monday before). 

With only a half-hour to complete a project of some sort, students had to be able to follow directions from the web site and fortunately, if there were newbies, the tech club vets were very willing to get them going. I sometimes did try to use a large screen monitor or LCD projector to demonstrate, but that really didn't work very well. Our middle school media center is basically just an oversized classroom with some shelving, a circulation desk and very little seating, so it was hard for them all to see the screen no matter where they sat. But mostly, they were just happy to try to figure out themselves and ask questions.

I tried to do projects for which they would have an artifact that could be posted back to our web site so they could share with other students, teachers and parents. Sometimes they shared to my dropbox. Other times we passed around flash drives and sometimes it was a matter of grabbing some code to embed. I usually did the posting of projects by the end of the day, but I admit, it didn't get done 100% of the time.

I used KB Konnected's Livebinders and the ICTMagic wiki for many of the sites we used, but we also used Google Apps, Google Maps and Google SketchUp. QR code and smart phone app projects were introduced last year as well (the time-lapse video apps were awesome).

When I first started, the group was predominantly male, but last year, the girl/boy ratio was pretty even. Attendance ran from 10 - 22 kids. Even if I announced the activity in advance, it didn't really seem to make a difference. It just depended on the weather and competing morning practices (like jazz band).

What worked? They loved all the games, although I did try to limit them. They would have played Sugar, Sugar continuously each week if I hadn't prodded them to try the new tools. Just as much as I might be amazed by what they do know, just as often I was surprised by what they didn't know or had forgotten. For example, the "screen shot" shortcut is something we use constantly (and used in elementary school too), but there was always someone who needed a refresher. Same for using server drop boxes and signing in to Google Docs. 

What didn't work? Projects that required more than one session didn't work well because the continuity wasn't there for all the attendees. I could easily spend the first 10 minutes or more just getting newbies registered and oriented. I was very keen on them making videos for National School Library Month, but it was my passion, not theirs. Only one person actually finished (although there were some good ideas floating around).

Although we managed to do lots of little projects, I felt disappointed at the end of the year that we didn't  ever really get to stop to talk as a group and plan for a meaningful, long term undertaking. I've been talking to the district's technology specialist about using the tech team members as tech helpers in the classroom and I'm looking at using Edmodo and their badge system for getting them up to speed. I think that might be the proper protocol for long-term learning.

I did look forward to my Tuesday mornings, which were a lot of fun. I'll continue to sponsor the club this year, but I might be making some changes - to be determined!

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