Josh Watkins, Prosper High School’s Instructional Technology Specialist, has created a student technology course to meet the technology needs of everyone on the campus. Keep reading to find out more!
What is Talon Tech?
Talon Tech is the Prosper High School student technology team which is comprised of juniors and seniors. They are dedicated to helping the students and teachers of Prosper ISD with technology challenges as they promote the advancement of learning using a variety of technology tools. Josh Watkins, Prosper High School’s Instructional Technology Specialist, runs the program along with the support of PHS Library Media Specialists, Dianna Weber and Jenna Hutt.
Prosper ISD is a Google for Education Reference District that utilizes the Classroom Cart Model of technology integration with Chromebooks. Prosper High School received their carts of Chromebooks for every core classroom in August 2017. Before the creation of Talon Tech, one Instructional Technology Specialist was responsible for serving over 3,000 students and almost 200 teachers.
The planning for the Talon Tech program started in the Spring of 2017. It was originally modeled after Royse City ISD’s Chrome Squad. Josh and Dianna reached out to Cody Holt, Royse City ISD’s Innovative Learning Specialist, for advice on starting a similar program in Prosper ISD. Student selection began in May 2017 and the first group of students were enrolled for the Fall Semester 2017. The goal of the program is for students to complete meaningful tasks while furthering their own personal growth and serving the Prosper High School community of learners.
Josh and Dianna worked with the PHS’s CTE Director to create the course. Talon Tech is under the CTE umbrella and works like an internship. The course is open to juniors and seniors only. There is at least one student assigned to Talon Tech for each period of the day. The course receives a Principles of IT credit for the first year. Students need to be invited by Mr. Watkins to continue in the program for a second year. Students do not receive credit for the second year.
Cody Holt suggested that the first step be to consider the type of students that you want involved in the program. Talon Tech is set up around five core principles: integrity, respect for others, teachability, self-control and the ability to consistently produce quality work. For the program to function like an internship, they must have those qualities before entering the program. For this reason, the program uses a teacher recommendation form instead of an application process. Technology skill and/or knowledge is not a factor in the selection process.
The next step in the process is a teacher panel. Ten to fifteen teachers from different subjects, grade levels, and different physical locations in the building are selected to discuss all nominated students. These teachers are asked one question, “Does the student possess each of the 5 core principles?”. Students that get a unanimous “yes” from all teachers move on to the next round of selection.
Students that make it through the teacher panel must then be approval by all members of the high school administration team. Each administrator must decide if the student possesses all 5 of the core principles. Again, students must get a unanimous “yes” from all administrators to enter the program.
The students that make it through all three levels of the approval process are then invited to a Talon Tech informational meeting. Students first become aware of their nomination into the program when they receive the meeting invitation. During the meeting students are introduced to the vision and goals of the program.
The last step before entering the program is an interview with Mr. Watkins, the PHS Librarians, a member of the administration team, and the current Talon Tech Seniors. The interview is designed to get to know the students and how they collaborate with others as well as their ability to think on their feet. Students are often asked to describe a time in which collaborating with others did not go well and how they handled it. This helps the committee understand their ability to problem solve in stressful situations.
The number of students accepted into the program is dependent upon the space available. It will vary year to year.
Welcome to Talon Tech
Communication and collaboration are important skills for the students to learn right away. Students are taught how to actively listen and respond to peers and teachers in a professional manner. Talon Tech has a dedicated phone line in which teachers use to request help. Students are responsible for answering the phone and responding to voicemails. Professionalism in all interactions, including in person, on the phone and digitally, is a non-negotiable.
Students are taught what kinds of tasks are their responsibility and which tasks need to be completed by Mr. Watkins. Talon Tech works on lesson design and tool training while any tasks that include student information or work must be completed by Mr. Watkins in order to protect student privacy. Talon Tech students are the front line when it comes to troubleshooting an issue. They have learned how to fix many of the common problems that happen during the school day such as projector issues and turning on or logging on to devices. Before going into a teacher’s classroom, students conference with Mr. Watkins about the problem and possible ways to fix it. They can ask Mr. Watkins for assistance in the classroom at any time. Talon Tech also works on repairing campus devices such as replacing screens and keyboards or re-imaging the devices.
To highlight individual strengths, Talon Tech students choose a focus group when entering the program: Badges/PD, Blog, Website/Clicksheets, Promo/Video, and Maintenance. The students then design how they will function as a collaborative group. Communication can be difficult at first so Mr. Watkins works closely with each group at the beginning of the year to foster effective communication and problem solving. The groups function outside of the class periods because students on the same team are not necessarily in the same class period. They work on parts of a project independently of each other while still collaborating towards a common goal.
Benefits for Students and Teachers
Talon Tech students become campus leaders both with technology integration and professional learning. One of Talon Tech’s responsibilities is to help fellow students with technology related issues which develops peer to peer relationships. Students learn to listen and think critically on their feet as they go into classroom to help teachers. Talon Tech also provides professional learning opportunities for teachers. These sessions help teachers learn new skills as they listen to student perspectives on how to implement the technology in an engaging way. This develops the students presenting skills and increase their confidence with public speaking.
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