Chrome Squad- Elementary Edition (Part 3) Where to Begin With Students and Staff?

 

 Chrome Squad Selection Done, Now What?

As with any new initiative, there are many pieces to gather and then there’s finding the best working solution for each of those pieces. I knew I was on to something with this “Chrome Squad” idea when I saw the excitement on my students’ faces but overwhelmed expressions from the adults I worked with. The kids are fearless and totally unaware of the “Behind the Scenes” work that is necessary to get a new initiative up and running. I knew putting the fragmented pieces together would be a lot of work, but I also knew that it would be worth it! Now that the Chrome Squad selection was complete, I had to take care of a few other specific pieces: communication with my principal and staff, parents, students and then begin thinking about exactly what we needed to do in those first few meetings.

First, I needed to follow up with my principal and fellow teachers. I needed their support and for them to have a full understanding of my intentions since they were typically the ones fielding some of those awkward parent questions, like “Why isn’t this offered to my kid too?”. I also wanted a chance to make my purpose very clear. I not only wanted my staff to know that my purpose was to teach a small group of kids at first to use technology in purposeful ways, but I also wanted my students to develop an outward focus to help others with what they learn so that our Chrome Squad could continue to grow.

My principal had many other questions and concerns that often times we teachers are not aware of.

How would I select my Chromies? Student selection this year was easy, they were all my students from last year, so I knew which kids had the basic character traits I was looking for. I explained to my principal that next year I would ask teachers to help me by submitting recommendations after they are made aware of our goals and behaviors I was looking for. (In my last post, I listed those specific goals and character traits.)

How would I communicate with parents and kids?  I used my Gmail Contact list to communicate with parents. I was very careful to give the parents all the initial details necessary about our purpose, expectations and our schedule but I also let the parents know that I really wanted to push the content responsibility to the kids. I highly encouraged parents to help me hold my Little Chromies accountable for the content I put on Edmodo. Edmodo was the Learning Management System we were using. I ended up using Edmodo to post Chromie content to begin with because my kids already knew how to navigate through Edmodo since we used it in our classroom last year. Our building was just getting used to Google Classroom so we would transition to that later in the year as our learning management system.

Where to meet and scheduling? Initially, I had the kids meet me once a week, on Tuesdays in one of our two computer labs during their scheduled lunch and recess time. This block of time worked out best since no one reserved the labs during this time anyway and academic schedules would not be interrupted. We would clean off the tables and eat while we worked. Later on in the year, we met after school as well.

What tech resources would be used? My students either brought their own Chromebook or used one of the Chromebooks in the computer lab. We would use Google tools and basic keyboarding programs to get started.

The First Two Weeks- Goals & Skills to Build Upon

The basic plan for the first two weeks was to go over our “6 Chromie Goals” and to put together two lists, one list was a compilation of skills for us to work on as a group and the second list was of skills we noticed our friends needed help with. First, we went over expectations for our Chrome Squad and our “6 Chromie Goals” since we would refer to them frequently to justify our path and decisions to follow.

Goals and Focus

  1. Be kind, respectful and PRESENT (Be aware of what is going on around you!).  People First. Devices Second.
  1. Help others to learn more about using technology in meaningful ways.
  1. Have a “Growth Mindset” *Book by Carol Dweck
  1. Be diligent but understand when others have trouble.
  1. Be problem solvers and creators.
  1. Be awesome! 🙂

Secondly, since our main focus was to learn for ourselves so we could best teach others, we created one list of skills the Chromies wanted to work on for themselves and a second list of what peers were having difficulty with during the beginning of the year, which according to our observations, was a rather short and obvious list. It was mostly logging into devices and keyboarding skills.

In the weeks to follow, we took some time to review for ourselves, a few necessary basic skills, like logging into Edmodo, Digital Citizenship, Keyboarding & personalizing their Chrome browser for more efficient academic use. I posted the directions and links to videos that I wanted the kids to use for this assignment on our Chrome Squad Edmodo page so they could work on them at home and parents could see what we were doing. My ebook- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad coming out in June will have more specific charts, links and lists of resources, stating exactly what I found and used in my own teaching to be developmentally appropriate for our elementary students.

In my next post, I will share our next steps- setting up the procedures for “Chromie Acts of Kindness” earning Badges & Gems, revisit group & personal goals.

 

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Chrome Squad – Elementary Edition (Part 2) Selecting Your Team

What is a Chrome Squad?

Just to give you the big idea here, in my building, you will see random students called “Chromies” proudly wearing a colorful Chrome Squad name badge with sparkling gems showing their “Acts of Chromie Kindness” that are earned when helping others to increase their tech skills in any capacity.

So, what if each of us had a trained “Chromie” in our classrooms to support us using our new Chromebooks? In this post, I am excited to share with you, my new ebook resource coming out in June 2017, Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad that may help you get started with your own “Elementary Chrome Squad” and provide content that is appropriate when introducing Google to our younger students. I feel very strongly that our primary students need to see early on that tech can be a fun learning tool before they can only see it as a toy.

Among all of the wonderful Google resources out there, it has been a challenge to find primary material that is relevant and scaffolded correctly so that our elementary kids have a solid foundation to build on. We cannot teach kids to use Google Docs to write a story when they do not know what a paragraph is and are still learning to write a sentence. In my own journey, I have tried to not only learn how to use G Suite for myself but to have my “Primary Teacher Lenses” out in the process so I can transpose what I learn for myself into relevant material for my students.

Selecting My First Elementary Chrome Squad Team

For me, selecting our 3rd-grade team this first year was fairly easy. I hand-picked them myself and began with a small group of 10 kids from my own 2nd-grade classroom from our previous school year. I already knew these students very well and had developed a trusting rapport with their parents. My Chromies needed to show certain traits that I later wove into our goals listed below: Respectful, Trustworthy, a reasonable amount of Self-Control (Remember, these are 6-9-year-olds) and a higher level of technological prowess than typical peers.  Next year, we will go through a more formal process with more classroom teacher input through a nomination process.

I believe that when beginning a program that has the potential to benefit and affect so many others, it is important to begin with your “Why?”. I felt that spending 25 years with K-3 children in a public school setting gave me a unique perspective for my “Why?”. With my experience, I understood what we were expecting our 21st Century students to learn and seeing that gap widen between expectations and what the kids were actually learning, I had to ask myself, “Why is this happening and what can I do about it?” “What if I skipped over the training of our beloved, overwhelmed teachers and focused on training a small group of kids to support classrooms instead?” If we wait until all of our teachers are trained to use our Edtech resources, we will be wasting so much time and besides, are any of us truly experts when technology is always changing and evolving? Our time is better spent learning alongside our students, modeling our growth mindset.

So, why am I doing this?

The answer was three-fold:

1. To help expedite the Edtech learning process for my fellow teachers and our students.

2. To give students an opportunity to work hard as a team to develop life-long Edtech skills.

3. To teach students to have an “Outreach Mindset” by reaching out to others with the valuable skills they learn.

With these three leading goals in mind, I needed to put together specific goals that were clear and kid-friendly. Together, we recited these 6 goals every time we met those first few weeks together.

Goals and Focus:

  1. Have a growth mindset.
  2. Help others to learn more about using technology in meaningful ways.
  3. Be respectful and respected.  We are all learners!
  4. Be diligent but understand when others have trouble
  5. Be problem solvers and creators
  6. Be awesome! 🙂

*Any printables you see in my posts like badges, suggested emails, or templates will be available in my upcoming ebook in June. 🙂

In my next post, I will share how we got started, soliciting administrator’s support, informing classroom teachers about our purpose so they knew how to help me with upcoming referrals and communicating with parents. Hint- Learning Management System!

 

 

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