Involving Relevant Stakeholders in Useful Ways

Tech ScoutsStakeholders Who Care About School Technology

There are many school community members with a stake in supporting and guiding school technology. Even though each may care about and be able to help with or be served by aspects of a developing plan, their involvement must be shepherded by the technology planning team of teachers and staff. It is important to identify what the opportunity for their involvement is, and what steps are necessary to support and manage that involvement, before creating and publicizing for that opportunity.

Once your school has Internet access, external stakeholders can become much more active members of your school learning community. The list below is by no means exhaustive in either groups or their interests, but can provide a framework for considering who needs to be involved when.

A caveat: while it is most convenient to bring on new stakeholders as you become ready, they need to be ready too - plan in advance for who will be involved how and when, and make sure a "public relations" plan is ready to educate everyone about what you're up to and when and how they can participate. Outside influences can be very supportive in money and time, when well-facilitated; they can also be huge obstacles when scorned.

Students: Computers become their daily work tools, and bring the world of their media experience into the classroom  Teachers: As teachers, as learners, as collaborators and as administrators, the availability of computing changes the way they work. 
Parents: Computers at home lead to computers at school. No computers at home mean computers at school are even more important.  Community-Based Organizations: Libraries, Recreation Centers, Boy Scouts, the Lions Club - all these have interests in community networking. 
Vendors: Hardware, software and connectivity vendors will offer sweet deals to reach the "captive audience" of educational markets.  Colleges and Universities: University faculty and students can support schools as tutors, mentors and facilitators if there's connectivity. 
District, State and Federal Educational Organizations: Sources of grants, support and standards related to educational technology.  The Rest of the Community: Computer labs can be open 12 hours a day. If everyone pays taxes, everyone should enjoy access if possible. 

Let The Students Lead Sometimes

Tech Scouts are student clubs and courses that empower students to  learn enough about technology to provide technical support services to their shool and community outreach to other schools through the Internet. The ethos of "service learning" and the requirement of schools to provide workforce preparation skills sets the scene for Tech Scouts projects.  In developing their various service teams, tech scouts must to learn to think like entrepeneurs as they chose what services to offer and how.

Tech Scouts was first created for Central Park East Secondary School in Harlem, where student teams performed the following services:

Student Management: Students in this team arrange times and conditions to meet whatever needs are logged on the school bulletin bard, keeping a posted record of completed work. These requests range from hardware and software installation and troubleshooting to website production and software training.  Composting: Students clean, sort, and prepare older machines for testing, assembling complete systems with bundled software. Deployment of these machines was determined in consultation with the Technology Committee when necessary. 
Cyber-Librarians: Gaining expertise in advanced search methods and analysis of source authority, this team is on call to search the Web for information in support of specific curricula, create annotated index pages to these resources, make these available to classrooms, and support the transfer of their skills to students and faculty.  Outreach Group: Seeking ways to connect and share expertise with other schools and groups, this group provides technical support and "mentoring" students and teachers in other classes and schools. The Outreach Team may also work towards organizing an interschool Cyberfair, if interest and support from other schools in the network exists. 
Webmasters: This group develops the website which included a full description of the first semester of the Tech Scouts course. It eventually contained a full array of key documents about the course, LiveWire (an online student magazine), and other student project work. 

For a full description of this model, visit

However you organize your students and supervise student tech teams, it's important to have a student face on the online and offline work of your school. Their enthusiasm and vision is infectious to community organizations that are eager to contribute money and time to their educational opportunity.

Another caveat: it is important to establish and settle schoolwide acceptable use policy issues before your students start advertising their own sense of appropriatness to a community which likely will contain some parents eager to justify their own fears.  Consider well what students are likely to find online and how to respond or prepare for those discoveries. Acceptable use policies can be short posted messages or long signed contracts - it depends on the nature of your community. Keep coming back to these issues as you develop your school technology vision.

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