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Algonquin High School Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) Team

Key Features of Algonquin's SWAT Team

  • Researches new technologies;
  • Provides tutorials on how to use various classroom technologies; and
  • Offers course credit for providing instructional technology support

As shrinking school budgets compete with the desire to use the highest quality instructional materials, finding ways to support and keep educational tools up-to-date can be challenging. Software and devices, while valuable and often easily accessible, can be difficult to implement without sufficient and costly support. In Massachusetts, several districts are meeting this challenge head-on by creating student technical support teams, who work with teachers and peers to troubleshoot technological issues in the classroom. These teams also help to teachers, and students, to integrate the use of technology into the classroom. Student tech support teams improve the quality of resources available in schools and provide real-world experience for participating students. One school in Massachusetts that has created a program for students as instructional technology support specialists is Algonquin Regional High School.

Algonquin Regional High School's Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT.) team is lead by Instructional Technology Teacher, Julie Doyle. Julie serves as the SWAT. Team Advisor and recruits and trains students to serve as ambassadors for new and exciting technology in the classroom. SWAT. Team members independently research technologies that may be useful in their school, and with Doyle's guidance plan to help teachers and students implement these software applications. Ultimately, after the students gained enough experience in developing training materials, Ms. Doyle allowed the students to take ownership and manage the training based on the guidelines they have established.

By reaching out to guidance counselors, and identifiable students with a penchant for technology, Doyle found team members who not only understood technology but were able to explain its applications to their peers and teachers. She explains, "a crucial part of making it successful would be to handpick the students you know will do a nice job… [our team members] are extremely knowledgeable but also very approachable." Doyle's emphasis on communication skills as well as technological skills ensures that the SWAT. team complements teachers' work and is well received by the student body.

SWAT.'s approach provides valuable advantages for teachers, who receive the support they need to implement new technology in their lessons, and for students, who were comfortable asking their peers for help. Teachers who rely on the team are reporting an increased confidence in their ability to use technology in the classroom, without any fear of needing to troubleshoot as they have been tutored competently by SWAT. Aimee Selby, a chemistry teacher who has seen the SWAT. team's work firsthand, points out that team members "can not only help us but can help their peers who are more receptive to a peer of theirs than they would be necessarily to a teacher."

The team's work is also rewarding for the students who work on it, who appreciate that the skills they learn are useful beyond technical applications. Michelle Tremblay, one of the first SWAT. team members, recounts the importance of "patience and persistence," while her teammate Henry Liu enjoys problem solving and "the gratification of using my skills to help others." The students' participation on the team is reflected on their transcript as a course, and they receive a Pass/Fail grade based on their work.

As the students are providing technical support, the high school doesn't need to hire support staff to meet the needs of the faculty and student body. The team's work also fosters student and teacher engagement, encouraging teachers to think creatively about technology and get student feedback in how effective it is supporting their academics. Students and faculty are looking forward to the program's continuation, and expect that it will grow as an integral part of the school.

While each school's has various needs, Algonquin's SWAT. team provides an exciting model of the benefits of a student support team. Enthusiasm from the team, teachers, and students reflects a program that draws on students' strengths and contributes positively to the school community, by enabling students to take professional responsibilities and leadership roles. After dedicating her time to creating and supporting the team, Julie Doyle articulates the feelings of the school as a whole when she says, "I can't say enough positive things about my experience with the SWAT team. I would highly recommend giving it a try."

Student Henry Liu talks with Mrs. Haberman at the SWAT news studio
Student Henry Liu talks with Mrs. Haberman at the SWAT news studio.

Student Michelle Tremblay helps out fellow students with an iPad lesson
Student Michelle Tremblay helps out fellow students with an iPad lesson.

To contact the SWAT team:
Julie Doyle
Instructional Technology Teacher
Algonquin Regional High School

Last Updated: November 13, 2015
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