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Empowered learner. Digital citizen. Knowledge constructor. Creative communicator. Our district has a program that helps students develop the skills they’ll need for work and citizenship.
It’s called CLICK – for Collaborate-Learn-Instruct-Create-Know – and it’s a website of student-created technology tips, designed to bridge gaps in digital literacy.
Not all of today’s students are the stereotypical “digital natives” who intuitively know their way around computers, apps and websites. Many don’t have a lot of technology – or technology role models – at home, and they struggle with seemingly simple tech functions like logging into programs, managing files and sharing online documents.
On top of that, students often don’t admit they lack the digital skills that their teachers assume they have, so they remain silent, and the digital divide widens.
Students teaching students
How do those students learn basic technology skills that many of us now take for granted? Teachers’ agendas are already jam-packed with curricular content, and even the most organized and experienced educators often don’t have the time to teach digital skills – or may not feel comfortable with their own tech abilities.
That’s why we came up with a way to connect students who do have digital skills with those who do not, by encouraging tech-savvy students to create videos offering technology tips.
Students create brief explainer videos, graphics or other presentations, which are captioned and then uploaded to the CLICK website.
And it’s not only students who learn from the site. Anyone can access the site, and many adults who have explored CLICK for the first time say they, too, could probably learn something from the students’ tips.
The CLICK website has been in development for about a year and contains about 60 technology tips. CLICK’s youngest contributor was a first-grader who made a short Chatterpix video about how to safely carry a Chromebook.
A fourth grader contributed a screencast about using Google Voice Typing, and ended with a testimonial about how much Google Voice had helped him with his dyslexia.
A group of middle schoolers created a presentation on “rules of texting.”
And there is a series of tips on the 3D modeling program Sketchup, produced by high school sophomores.
Students take charge of website
At first, content creation relied on teachers and librarians who had either helped students create content or who used content submission to CLICK as part of a unit test or assignment.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest barrier to gathering content was time. While many educators had expressed a great deal of appreciation and support for the program, a project that does not directly correlate to their already rigorous job requirements was a tough sell.
That's why we made a shift that helped us reach our goal of giving students more ownership of CLICK. Enter Andrew and Caden, two students who attend our project-based learning high school, where each senior selects a project to work on all year. The principal of the school recommended them, and these young men have adopted CLICK as their capstone project.
Andrew and Caden are now actively involved with CLICK, working to improve the site and market it directly to their peers.
They created a CLICK Twitter account, which now has over 400 followers. And they’ve embarked on a rebranding effort, improving the quality of the graphics and creating a professional style guide. They plan to use their own social media networks to promote the site and encourage other students to submit content directly to them.
Sharing their ideas with educators
During the summer, Caden and Andrew presented about their interest and involvement in CLICK at a professional development event attended by over 350 teachers, who were impressed by their poise and their vision.
The students encouraged teachers to contact them if they have a need for specific types of content and promised to find someone who would create those tutorials. They have plans to create tutorial series, much like Khan Academy.
The goal is for CLICK to become completely student-led and student-driven, growing organically by word of mouth among students and amplifying many student voices.
Students are self-taught and self-motivated
The students are also working to hand-code a new searchable website. Andrew has been coding the new site, with the help of his older brother who is studying computer science in college. Andrew said he’s applying the coding skills he learned while participating on a school robotics team and he's learning as he goes.
When he and his brother get stumped, they reach out to other coders. “We search for answers to our problems on the internet,” he said. “The online developer communities and documentation are probably the best resources.”
Caden reports that he has always been interested in technology, particularly animation, robotics and, more recently, coding. He is in charge of marketing for the school robotics team. It was Caden’s idea to award service hours for CLICK content production, and he wrote an announcement about that opportunity for the school’s newsletter.
Tutorials in languages other than English will also be accepted and encouraged, providing students who are new to the country – and their family members – with opportunities to learn tech skills, too.
“I love the concept of CLICK and I am so excited to be contributing to it, allowing it to grow and become more prominent, especially in our district,” Caden said. “I hope that my contributions help achieve our goal: Giving anyone who has an idea an anchor to turn it into reality, all by their own hands.”
Andrew added, “I’m excited to be working on CLICK. I hope it helps teachers and students get their foot in the door with less confusion and frustration. I hope it will be helpful to many.”
Now there’s some student voice.
Addressing the ISTE Standards for Students
Students who create the content for CLICK meet many of the indicators of the ISTE Standards for Students. For example, contributors are:
Empowered learners who leverage technology to take an active role in their learning and who understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations.
Digital citizens who engage in positive, safe, ethical and legal behavior.
Knowledge constructors who produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
Innovative designers who select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process.
Computational thinkers who break problems into component parts.
Creative communicators who communicate clearly and express themselves for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
Global collaborators who use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
Nancy Watson is a district-level instructional technology specialist in Plano, Texas. Caden and Andrew are seniors at Plano ISD's Academy High School. Nancy serves as co-chair of ISTE's Digital Citizenship PLN and is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Innovator. CLICK is her Innovator project.