Thursday, July 2, 2015

Successfully Implementing an Elementary Tech Club: Looking Back to Move Forward

A couple of years ago I (Tiffany) had a dream to start a tech club in our building.  At that time, our technology was fairly limited compared to what we have now, and it didn’t seem like a smart venture.  That was my excuse.

So last year in Atlanta for ISTE 2014, I spoke to another teacher who had successfully gotten one off the ground. I sure wish I remembered her name so I could thank her, but I sadly do not. Perhaps it was a combination of something she said with the mountain high you get when attending a conference like ISTE, but I came back to school last fall with a resolve.  To get a tech club up and running at Scottsburg Elementary. 

These ladies did a great job representing our Ninjas back home!
One year later, I am heading home after a whirlwind week of learning and sharing in Philly for ISTE 2015.  Only this time I took members of our tech club with me to share in a student showcase.  Wow.  It still feels totally surreal all that happened this week for both Brittany and myself.  Between our separate student showcases and our two posters presented together…I am mentally and physically exhausted in the very best of ways.  

I would love to say that the past year was perfect and that everything we did in club was awesome and amazing.  I really can’t, but if anyone ever says they are 100% perfect…they are either lying or…lying.  Anything worth doing is always hard work of course, and starting a tech club was just that.  It was a lot of hard work, some failures and flops, and stressful at times.  More than that though were the highlights.  The smiles and laughter, the successes, the progress, and the fun.  

So for anyone out there who may be considering a leap this fall and starting their own tech club, I leave for you the top ten things I learned this past year.  I also encourage you to visit our club website where you can find resources, project samples, and more.  I beg you to steal from me, learn from my mistakes, and otherwise use our club as a springboard for your own!  You won’t regret it!

Not all projects and/or ideas are going to work.  Relax.  Failure is a wonderful opportunity to teach and learn from the process together.  You'll make it better next time!

Plan A may not always work so be sure to have a Plan B, C, and sometimes D!  Inclement weather, project deadlines, scheduling conflicts all abound within the school year.  Make sure your parents know that schedules are always open to change!

Whatever rules and procedures you implement for your club, make sure you stay consistent with enforcing them.  Start club on time; end on time.  Period. 

Tech club members need to know that their academic life is of utmost importance.  Be vigilant in checking grades and behavior referrals.  Enlist the help of classroom teachers and administration.  Club should be something worthy of working their hardest. 

Spend time at the beginning of the year assessing your club members' strengths and weaknesses.  This gives you a starting point.  Each year you should find a greater knowledge base.  Then reflect.  What went well? What didn't?  What other opportunities can you take advantage of next year?

Whenever you can connect students with real-world experiences...DO!  Guest speakers, Skype sessions, field trips, etc. are all great ways to make the learning authentic and relevant. 

Use the power of digital tools like Remind and social media to keep your parents informed.  Any letters and formal communication can be sent via paper or LMS.  The key is to utilize as many avenues as possible and use them frequently.

People love to help and donate when they feel appreciated.  Whether you are asking for their time or for items like refreshments, be sure to thank them!

Tech club tends to draw students who may not always find a niche elsewhere.  Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with each club member throughout the year.  Interest surveys may be helpful so you can direct them to tech ventures they will appreciate. 

There's absolutely zero point in starting a club if the goal doesn't include having fun.  Play games, laugh together, share successes, and keep the atmosphere relaxed.  They've worked hard all day.  Club should be a time to have fun exploring and growing as learners together!

Questions? Comments?  Need more info?  Connect with me via Twitter, email, or comments below. 

Be sure to check out our Tech Ninja Weebly by clicking the image to the right!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED your poster session at ISTE! Your kiddos did a great job of sharing what they learned and did as Tech Ninjas! :)