>Royse City ISD continued from page 31
uted more than 1,500 machines in the first year, and school officials knew one person wouldn’t be able to run the program and deal with the glitches that were certain to arise as students and teachers became familiar with the devices. “It was such a big initiative,” Royse City ISD Superintendent Kevin Worthy says. “We thought, ‘What a great idea to get student interns to run the program.’”
For the first year, during the 2015-2016 school year, 21 students were selected to serve as student interns. Digital learning specialist Cody Holt, who heads up the program, put many decisions in their hands. One of the first decisions the students made was to call themselves the Chrome Squad. Members became known as “Chromies.” Holt says this initial step was important in gaining student ownership of the program, because “names give us identity.”
The Chromies also assisted in deciding which Chromebook model would be ordered for the school and what training resources Chromies would offer for teachers and students. The Chrome Squad also decided to expand its tech support to include Windows and Mac operating systems, projectors and smartphones. “We handle just about all of it,” Holt says. The 1:1 initiative — called Connected 4 Learning, or C4L — is headquartered in the high school’s C4L lounge, where Chromies can be found throughout the day. During every period, at least two Chromies are stationed in the lounge, where they work on various facets of the program and are ready to lend a hand. How do other students regard Chromies? “They see us as the go-to people for any tech problem they might be having,” Crumrine says. “That’s why we’re here.”
A solid start The Chrome Squad was integral in getting the 1:1 program up and running at the high school. Now, they spent most of their time ensuring that students and teachers continue to learn and use new technology without anxiety or worry. “One reason we don’t try something new is the fear that we’re going to fail,” Holt says. “Now teachers say, ‘I’m not scared to try because if I need help, I know where I can go. I don’t have to call and put in a ticket with a technology desk and wait.” Students also appreciate the speedy help. “They can walk into the C4L lounge and, in under 15 minutes, pretty much get any problem solved,” Holt says. The program also helps Chromies develop a broad range of technical and people skills. “One of the things we’re super excited about is the opportunity for our students to have future-ready skills,” Worthy says. “We want all of our students to be future ready, whether they’re heading to college or into the workforce.” Indeed, the program encourages Chromies to consider careers in technology or jobs in other fields that require technology proficiency. “They’re seeing that technology trickles into everything,” Holt says.
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A role model for others When Royse City ISD leaders first explored the idea of training student interns to help run their 1:1 initiative, they found only one school in the country with a similar program. Now, due to the success of the Chrome Squad and the C4L initiative, leaders from other districts are visiting Royse City High School to see the program in action. Royse City ISD offers this advice to their peers in public education: Pick the right kids for the job. One key to success has been choosing students whose main focus is helping others. After all, technical skills can “We thought, be taught. The Chrome Squad looks for kids who ‘What a great idea are respected among stuto get student dents, teachers and staff members. Also, a teacher interns to run the must recommend a student for the squad. The program.’” recommended student — Superintendent then gets vetted by other teachers. “If a single Kevin Worthy negative thing about that student comes up, they’re taken off the list,” Holt says. “We go from about 100 nominations to about 30 students.” This year, Chrome Squad members and Holt interviewed students from a shortl ist and chose eight to join the squad. Focus on customer service. On their first day, new Chromies receive a lesson on how to provide excellent customer service. “Customer service is a big part of the Chrome Squad — the way they treat teachers and other students,” Worthy says. “We believe soft skills play a big role in being future ready.” Seek innovative ideas. “I have experience running businesses, and I said, ‘I’m going to run this like a business,’” Holt says. Like a boss with employees, Holt encourages squad members to take initiative, pitch ideas and develop projects. This year, squad members suggested that Chromies divide into eight teams, including a blogging team, a social media team, an inventory team and a team that recognizes teachers for innovative use of technology in teaching. The creation of teams has allowed students to specialize and focus. However, there’s flexibility, so students can jump in and help on a different team if necessary, Holt says. “The ownership I give kids makes a big difference in what they have the power to do,” he says. With one successful year completed and another underway, Royse City High School is looking forward to continued success in the years to come. “With any program, you look to evaluate each year to determine how you can improve,” Worthy says. “We were so happy with the success of year one, and year two is even better.” Allie Johnson is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Popular Science, Salon.com and FOX Business.