Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Experiences Starting a School Technology Club

I'm linking up with one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Trio for this week's post.  Its been a while, but I'm hoping to get back to blogging over my summer break.
Whitehouse Tech Club Members  Photo credit:Karen Gerhardinger The Mirror

This year I had a group of students that inspired me to do something that I had been thinking about for a long time.  For years I have wanted to start a technology club so I could show kids some of the cool things they could do to be creative with technology.  In November last year, I gained permission from my principal and superintendent to start the Whitehouse Technology Club, an after school club for 3rd and 4th graders.  I'd like to share with you some of the things we did in our club in the hopes that it might help others who are looking to start something like this at your school.  Being that this was my first year doing this, I learned a lot and I hope that sharing this experience can be worthwhile for someone.

I started by developing a proposal for my principal and district superintendent about the intent of the club.  Both administrators were very supportive and allowed me to use district space (my classroom) and computers/iPads for use in the club.  The goals of the club were to create and collaborate using technology. I wanted the focus of the club to be about kids making things together using technology rather than simply being consumers of tech.  Many of the students were initially drawn to the idea of playing games (like Minecraft) with their friends, but I tried to make it clear that we would be doing much more than that.

To join the club, students had to complete and return a parent permission slip and also create and share a google presentation with me explaining why they wanted to be in the club.  To keep submissions low, I only gave one week to return the permission slip and prepare the slideshow.  Since I was doing this club on a volunteer basis, I was initially planning on holding a meeting once a month for one hour after school.  I was expecting maybe 15-20 applications.  When all 50 of the permission slips were picked up in the office, I knew I had greatly underestimated the demand for the club.  When I collected the forms before Thanksgiving break, I was stunned to find 56 completed permission slips. 

This presented a problem for me.  Obviously, this was far too many students to teach in just one group.  As a result, I decided that rather than exclude students or "choose" the best presentations that I would split the students into a 3rd grade and a 4th grade group and instead hold meetings twice a month.

December Tech Club  Meeting
Project: All About Me Poster

So what did we do in our tech club?  Our first meeting was a get to know meeting.  I used the first few minutes to introduce myself and to lay out the expectations for the group - be kind, listen/follow directions, and be picked up on time.  Then I demonstrated for the students how to use google drawing to make an "All About Me" style poster.  I used the google add-on Doctupus (I'll try to blog on this great tool at some time later) to share a template file for all the students.  Then I created a demo poster for myself while showing the students how to use all of the tools. 

Students created these step by step along with me and then finished them at home to share for the next meeting. You can see all of the posters they made here.


Since adding images was a important element of this project, part of this demo included showing students how to do a better google search for images.

Video:  How to do a better google image search

I also created a video tutorial to show students some things I didn't have time to show them during our first meeting, like adding backgrounds and "call outs."

Video: How to add a background
Video: how to Add a "call out"
After doing these videos, I realized that creating how-to videos was a great way of showing students how to do something without taking valuable meeting time.  It was also much less time-consuming than answering student questions via a lengthy e-mail.  So, as students posed questions, I'd create a "quick" how-to video to show them the steps.  I put quick in quotes because sometimes a simple 5 minute video would actually take 30 or 40 minutes to prepare, record and post.  

Here's my advice on making how to videos:
  • Do a dry run, but video it just in case you nail it in the first try. 
  • I hardly ever got them right the first time.  Expect to do 2 or 3 "takes" unless you aren't that picky about mistakes or make less mistakes than me.  
  • If most of the video was good, sometimes it was easier for me to do a quick video edit or to add some clarification text at the bottom rather than redoing the entire video.
  • Take a few notes or make an outline as a reminder of what you want to say so you can cover everything in the most logical way.
  • Keep the videos short (3-5 minutes).  Rather than trying to cover 3 or 4 different skills, break them into 3 or 4 videos.  You'll have less mistakes, and it will be easier for your students to find exactly what they need help doing.
  • I use the Mac app Screen Record Pro, but there are a lot of free options out there.  Just google search "free screen record application" and you'll get lots of choices.  
  • If you don't want to post and share videos using Youtube, you can simply add the video to your Google Drive and share with all of the members of the group that way.
Creating videos was a great way to share information with the club members.  As I accumulated more and more of these, I created a whole page of "How to" videos on our Tech Club Website.  This year, I hope these will be an easy resource for the new tech club members.
Sometimes the students would do something really cool that I had not tried or did not know how to do, and I would ask them to make a how to video to share with the club.  They loved this!  

Sorry, I couldn't link this video, but its on the WTC page if you want to check it out.
I finished the first meeting by talking with the parents and students as they arrived to pick up their kids to let them know my expectations for the group and what we had learned that day.  We  also talked about that month's optional at home projects.  We would share progress on these projects at the next meeting.

Our December project: 
  • Finish "All About Me" poster using google drawing
Optional December projects:


  1. Shane,
    WOW! I loved reading about your tech club! Seems like your kiddos learned some valuable information! I can't wait to read more about them. Glad I found your blog!
    Spellbound in Second

  2. This is AMAZING! thx so much for sharing!!!! I am going to copy!!

  3. Feel free! Good luck starting your own club! I'm sure you and your students will love it.