Setting: School office, mid-morning
JENNY: [sitting at her desk, exasperated; an iPad is propped up in front of her] No! Not another one... Hey Kathryn, did you ever get this message before? “The application quit unexpectedly. The problem may have been caused by the AutoSelfHealing plug-in.”
KATHRYN: Self-healing what?
JENNY: Seriously, I’m getting so fed up with this tablet. Just give me my old computer back.
Setting: School office, mid-morning
KATHRYN: How did your meeting with Brittany go this morning?
JENNY: Wonderful. She showed me a couple new apps I can use to easily cut half an hour off the time it takes me to run my daily tasks. How was the meeting with Brett?
KATHRYN: Really helpful, as usual. He was able to answer every question on that laundry list I’ve been creating since last week. I love this tech-buddy program! I really think this whole thing would have been a nightmare without it.
...Wish you were there instead?
The buddy system is not a groundbreaking idea. But technology buddies? Now we’re talking 21st century.
Here are three tech-buddy programs to consider implementing in your district. You may be surprised how beneficial (and fun!) they can be.
1) The Colleague Program
In every district, there are the people who just “get” technology. They are always on the cutting edge. They’re the people everyone runs to when they have tech-based questions. Then there are those individuals who hesitate to adopt technology and, when they do, struggle to make it work for them. They fall short of maximizing its benefits.
In a colleague tech-buddy program, technology-literate faculty members are paired with peers who could benefit from assistance. The partnership could be one-to-one, but typically there are far fewer individuals savvy enough to be classified as “experienced buddies.” Pairing one of these mentors with a few mentees can be a beneficial ratio. By having a small group, there are increased opportunities for members to learn from each other.
Ideally, a district should provide a short amount of scheduled time for the buddy teams to meet. During these sessions, experienced buddies can answer questions, troubleshoot technical problems, and offer suggestions for additional ways mentees can use technology to educate students or to make their own lives easier. Outside of these meetings, having an “on-call” mentor to help with technical problems that come up in the classroom or office can eliminate a lot of headaches and tech-triggered stress.
2) The Student Program
Many of us are already familiar with student buddy systems. Fifth graders read books to kindergarteners. Seniors answer the questions of freshmen and give them a tour of campus. Schools have been using this partner-based method for years—because it works. Why not apply it to something new?
In a student tech-buddy program, tech-expert students partner with students who are slower at adopting technology. As was the case for the colleague program, having a group of students on a buddy team (as opposed to a one-on-one approach) can be highly beneficial, especially because roles may be reversed from time to time – the same students are not necessarily the most competent at using all of the school’s technology.
When adopting new technology, a school should consider asking students who are typically tech-savvy to attend a workshop to master the new device or program. Then these students can confidently serve as well-equipped mentors for their peers.
The student tech-buddy program not only helps students become more efficient, capable users of technology, it also gives them a chance to get to know peers they may not have otherwise met, especially when groups are composed of students from multiple grade levels.
3) The Community Program
“The older you get, the wiser you become” doesn’t always apply to mastery of technology. It’s not a hard rule, but every new generation is more deeply immersed in tech-based tasks than the one that came before. We may all be eager to learn, but we don’t want to burden others by asking for assistance on matters that seem almost trivial to them.
In a tech-buddy community program, students serve as the tech-savvy buddies for adults from the community. Even very young students can participate in this program. Many teachers will tell you they are surprised just how tech-competent some of the young ones are!
This program is beneficial in a number of ways. It gives adults in the community a chance to master technology in an environment where their many questions are welcomed. Students can learn a lot from interacting with people from another generation and may build friendships with their buddies. Students also get the chance to develop their skills as teachers. Finally, publicizing this community engagement program can be excellent public relations for your school.
In a tech-buddy program, everyone wins. People who struggle with technology have a mentor. Technology-proficient individuals have the opportunity to share their knowledge, and we all know that the best way to improve your knowledge base on a topic is to teach it. Frustration is reduced, efficiency goes up, and friendships are formed. Most importantly, technology becomes a more reliable tool to help your staff, your students, and your community achieve a new kind of success.
If you have implemented a tech buddy program in your school or district, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
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