Spartan Tech Squad

Throughout my eleven years in the classroom, I have never been only a math teacher.  I have been a classroom aid, substitute teacher, and proctor.  I have taught science, AVID, and Latin. (Yes, I really did teach Latin.)  I have had a lot of adventures in education and this year I have the opportunity to start a new adventure: Spartan Tech Squad.  This is an adventure that I am very excited to begin because I love sharing my passion for technology.

I have always loved technology.  I was that nerdy kid that played video games, fixed computers, built websites, and loved Photoshop.  The fact that I get to teach students about technology is a dream come true.  I’m excited but…nervous.  I have a long road ahead on developing this program.  Fortunately, I am not alone.  My co-teacher, Julie Gallaway (@mrs_gallaway) and I are teaching this class together.  Even more helpful, my school site has purchased the Mouse Create curriculum which has given us guidance on what we want to do during the upcoming year.

As a team, Julie and I have narrowed our student and curriculum focus into three areas:

  • Google Apps Training
  • Mouse Create Curriculum
  • 20Time Projects

While planning, Julie and I have noticed that these three focus areas tie together very well.  Our students are on Chromebooks so, the more they learn about Chromebooks, the more it will support them as they go through the Mouse Create curriculum and/or develop their 20Time projects.  Within the Mouse Create curriculum, there is a course on “Design with a Purpose” which will support students as they discover problems and solutions within their 20Time projects.  All three areas of focus are constantly working together to support the other in a variety of ways.

Here are some of our thoughts and goals for these three areas over the next year:

Mouse Create Curriculum (Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday)

In the early development of our Spartan Tech Squad, our assistant principal introduced us to the Mouse Create.  I’ll admit, I tend to be a bit cautious of curriculum that you have to purchase.  I guess I have always struggled with finding curriculum for Math that I really love, so I create it myself.

This is the moment where I say…I was wrong.  Mouse Create is amazing.  Although we are only a week into using this program, I have been extremely impressed with the curriculum and the support that has been offered by their team.  Julie and I have both undergone training, created our student and staff accounts, and have begun introducing our students to the Mouse Create website where students can learn about “the potential of technology – to solve real word problems and make meaningful change.”

Currently, our students have been going through the Tech Team and Web Literacy courses.  However, next week, Julie and I are planning on allowing our students to explore the Mouse Create website and submit an “interest form” on the courses.  Our goal is to narrow it down to two courses and place students into groups based on their interest.  For instance, if half of the class is interested in the “Coding” project, I may begin working with this group of students over the next few months on coding.  If the other half of the class is interested in “IT Admin”, then Julie may take the other half and begin working with them on this project.  Overall, we are hoping to create an environment of student voice and choice so they will be fully engaged in their learning experience.

Next week, our students will complete the “Interest Form” and will have the option of choosing among the following topics:

  • Circuitry and Electronics
  • Coding
  • Green Tech
  • IT Admin
  • IT Essentials
  • Intro to Design
  • Serious Games
  • Sewable Tech
  • Tech Team

Within each of these courses, there are 8+ projects for students to complete.  The majority of these projects are hands-on and require students to complete evidence checks.  In addition to this, students can also earn badges based on the courses and projects they have completed.  Although we are in the very early stages of using the Mouse Create program, I am extremely excited to see how it develops over the next year.

Google Apps Training (Wednesdays)

Our school site is 1-1 Chromebooks.  Every student has a Chromebook and is allowed to take that Chromebook home at the end of each day.  This means that our students are using Google Apps on a daily basis.  One of our goals is to go through the Google Educator Level 1 course over the upcoming semester with our students.  This is our achievable goal.  One of our dream goals is to have students take the Google Educator Level 1 exam to become a Google Certified Educator.  Our school site is low-income, therefore, this goal is “in process” since we are not sure that we have the funds to cover the tests for our 70 students or if our students would even be allowed to take this exam.

Our purpose with this training is to give our students the skills to become a “tech team” for our school site.  We want our students to 1.)  support teachers with using Google Apps in their classrooms and 2.) support students with using Google Apps for learning.  Although it is still in the early development, some of our ideas include:

  • Create a help desk and ticket system of student/staff questions in which the tech team can respond.
  • Offer a technology training by students at staff meetings.
  • Host technology lunches for students and teachers to learn new tools and tricks for Google Apps.
  • Host a parent tech breakfast to introduce parents to the tools that their students are using.

Again, all of this is in the very early development but I am excited about where it could lead and the leadership skills it will provide our students.

20Time Projects (Fridays)

I have always wanted to do a true 20Time Project where students are able to spend one day a week working on a project of their choice that will solve a real world problem.  Although I have done 20Time projects in Math and AVID, it is often difficult to designate 20% (one day a week) of our time because there are so many standards that must be covered.

With Spartan Tech Squad, there is much more flexibility to complete a 20Time project.  Currently, I have read 20Time by Kevin Brookhouser and Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie.  Both of these books have been helpful in narrowing our focus for the 20Time projects.  In addition to this, Mouse Create offers 16 projects in the “Design with a Purpose” course on their website and these projects align with the 20Time vision we have for our students.

At the moment, our focus is to have students:

  1. Discover their passion and/or interest in technology.
  2. Discover a problem that exists.
  3. Find a solution to the problem.
  4. Develop and implement the solution to the problem that incorporates their passion and/or interest.

There are a lot of smaller and purposeful steps within these four areas but this is our broad plan over the next year.  Our students will spend time developing essential questions and creating a project calendar to track their progress.  They will keep a blog that shares about their progress in developing their project and allows other students to offer feedback.  Overall, our hope is that we structure it in a way that makes it achievable for students while offering them that freedom and flexibility to explore and create.

Over the next year, I will be sharing our experience with our Spartan Tech Squad class and I would love to hear from any teachers who are teaching a “Tech Squad” class at their school site.  Teacher collaboration is vital for success and it can extend beyond the boundaries of our schools, so I hope to hear from other teachers that are actively developing curriculum for technology, 20Time, or Google Apps courses.

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