Little Organization – Big Aspirations

From materials and writings by Rachel Heggen, Discovery Middle School Instructional Technology Coach

Their mission statement is “Increasing 21st Century Skills and Technology Skills for Success.” Their group credo is “Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be an Example and Have Fun!”

Who are they? Middle school students with big aspirations! Discovery Middle School (DMS) is in the second year of operating a pilot program called Tech Leaders Initiative, a student-run organization of more than 60 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students who have an interest in technology and personal learning devices (PLDs), along with an interest in learning more about technology careers and the responsibilities associated with using technology in educational and business settings. Click this link to view a video of the group’s activities from semester one.

Students apply to be a DMS Tech Leader for the school year, with the understanding that their academics come first. The students also commit to follow Fargo Public Schools Responsible Use Policy in regards to PLDs and their use of technology and the internet. With the support of Discovery administrators and teachers, the Tech Leaders meet during the DMS advisory period built into the school day, so the organization is able to gather as a whole group three or four times each month. An advisor helps to facilitate regular meetings for the student group. Each month, students sign up for meeting jobs, such as the meeting leader, secretary, apps/program teacher, and other roles, to gain experience in a running a business meeting and being a leader. The DMS Tech Leaders Initiative is advised by Rachel Heggen, DMS Technology Coach, with the assistance of DMS Network Manager Ben Ochs.

Sixth grade Tech Leaders learn about laptop components from Joe Throw, Fargo Public Schools IT Help Desk Technician.

Discovery operates this program to teach students to be leaders and role models regarding the use of technology. The initiative was created to teach students technology skills and how to use technology tools to assist their peers and teachers in the classroom setting. Students are using 21st Century Skills – Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity – inside and outside of the educational realm.

Guest speakers have visited DMS Tech Leaders Initiative meetings to inform and teach new technology and leadership skills to the students. Due to the generosity of Bell State Banks and an additional grant from the FPS Development Foundation, the students have been able to attend field trips to area businesses to receive firsthand exposure to the technology industry and potential technology careers.

Students are also learning about new and emerging technology for educational applications, such as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, VR apps, and green screen technology. The goal is for the Tech Leaders to eventually assist teachers in implementing this new technology into their classrooms and curriculum.

Eighth grade Tech Leaders create PLD tutorial videos for other Discovery students to use.

With an eye towards mission expansion and community service, the Tech Leader Initiative also has a goal to provide technology assistance to others outside of education, such as assisting the residents of a senior living community through training with technology tools and assisting residents with general technology questions.

Six years ago, former DMS Network Manager Joe Throw started a student group called Computer Caretakers, and the current Tech Leader Initiative has evolved from that startup group. There were computer caretakers in all three middle schools at one point, each advised by the middle school network managers. The Discovery Tech Leaders Initiative has done an outstanding job of creating an organizational structure and an operating model that has produced great success. This “little” technology group has turned into a big reality that is having a great impact, not only on the group members themselves, but also on their entire school!