chrome squad

Cade Baridon and Skyler Suydam are members of the Chrome Squad at Royse City High School. The Chrome Squad program is included in the 10th annual Bragging Rights Magazine published by Texas School Business.

Royse City Independent School District officials have known that the high school’s Chrome Squad is brag-worthy.

Others are beginning to join them in singing the praises of the student team that’s considered to be the first tier of support for teachers and students in the school’s Chromebook program.

Royse City and 11 other school districts are basking in the glow of positive news with the release Thursday of Texas School Business magazine’s 10th Annual Bragging Rights 2016-17 special issue. Bragging Rights, which calls for nominations and is published every December, recognizes school districts that have implemented programs that are bettering the lives of students, schools and communities.

Royse City’s story is told in a two-page magazine spread under the headline, “Chrome Squad empowers students with future-ready skills.”

Superintendent Kevin Worthy, possibly the program’s biggest cheerleader, expressed his excitement with recognition that the Chrome Squad and the Connected 4 Learning (C4L) projects are receiving. He said the students -  who are becoming known as “Chromies” - and Cody Holt do an outstanding job supporting the C4L initiative.

“The reason our 1:1 device initiative is successful is because of the Chrome Squad,” Worthy said. “The service and customer care they provide staff and students allows for the program to grow and sustain excellence. I could not be happier and would like to extend my appreciation and congratulations to our staff, Mr. Holt and our wonderful Chromies.”

Holt, the high school’s digital learning specialist, said receiving the Bragging Rights honor validates the hard work students have put in and the support campus and district administrators have given to ensure the Chrome Squad and C4L programs’ success.

“Royse City ISD does amazing things every day to change kids’ lives for the better and this has been an opportunity to let the community and state see one example of the magic happening here,” he said.

Here’s how the Chrome Squad was described in the magazine:

“The Chrome Squad is a team of student interns who provide tech support and training to teachers and students who use Google Chromebook laptops and other devices. The program began in tandem with the high school 1:1 technology initiative in which all students received Chromebook laptops to help them stay connected inside and outside the classroom.”

Other honored school districts are Aldine, Blooming Grove, Cypress-Fairbanks, Fort Bend, Frankston, Karnack, Newton, North East, Pearland, Sunnyvale and West Oso.

“We had close to 200 nominations this year, and all of them deserve bragging rights,” said Dacia Rivers, Texas School Business editorial director. “We hope the 12 stories we singled out and chose to share will inspire other districts into action. Our mission at Texas School Business is to report on the good things happening in our public schools, and we are never short on stories to report.”

For 63 years, Texas School Business has served as the news magazine for public education in Texas. Since 2014, it has been produced by the Texas Association of School Administrators (www.tasanet.org). To read the 10th Annual Bragging Rights issue online, visit www.texasschoolbusiness.com.

After two years of planning, school officials kicked off the program during the 2015-16 school year when they placed Chromebook laptop computers in the hands of about 1,500 high school students. The Chromebook program came about as a result of the school district’s strategic plan and discussions about “connected learning” – a learning approach designed for the demands and opportunities of the digital age.

So, Stuart Burt, the school district’s chief technology officer, said, the program came out of those strategic plan discussions and “morphed” into what it is today – a program that is unique to Royse City, a program called “Connected 4 Learning” that has become known by its “C4L” acronym.

“The ultimate goal behind C4L is to allow all students to be connected at any time and the opportunity to extend their learning beyond the regular classroom instruction,” Worthy said when the program was kicked off. “Another goal through the use of the Chromebooks was to create a digital environment that will allow for creativity, communication and collaboration.”

Initially, Burt said, the focus wasn’t on the device.

“The conversation was less about the device and more about what this is going to enable our students and teachers to do,” he said. “And it eventually came down to what doors this is going to open up for the students.”

The Chrome Squad appeared to be a natural progression in the program’s development.

“The Chrome Squad is kind of a natural thing that came out of it,” Burt said. “We’re enabling students now with this device and we’re resourcing them with the device. The Chrome Squad is an extension of, we’re going to let students do the whole thing.”

Initially, Burt said, “in my mind, we were talking about three Codys – three employees to run this.”

But at some point, the conversation turned to students.

“So, instead of three employees, let’s go with one and have some totally great students who are running the whole project,” Burt said. “So, that’s when the Chrome Squad vision came up.”

The vision didn’t include what later became the team’s official name. The students themselves get credit for coming up with the Chrome Squad name.

The Chrome Squad, Worthy said, has played an important role is providing support for teachers and students through several different platforms.

Burt said Holt and Chrome Squad members teamed to design resources for teachers to use their Chromebooks in the classroom and to provide support for teachers who may need help. And they help run the C4L lounge, an inviting space designed for students and teachers to come in for individualized support.

Each Chromebook Squad prospect had to be recommended by a teacher and interviewed by Holt. Prospects were sophomores, juniors or seniors who already had at least one year of experience on the campus. Holt said they also had to have good interpersonal skills. They had to be well respected by their teachers and peers, and they had to be quick learners and be self-sufficient.

The selection process trimmed the prospect list from 65 to 21. During the current school year, the team is made up of 19 students.

Zach Snow, instructional technology coordinator, said the key was not how much technology the students knew. It was important for the students to be able to think on their feet and to be problem solvers.

“A big part of it was the relational side of it, the customer side of it,” he said.

Holt said Chrome Squad members, who are considered to be interns, have multiple roles.

They provide customer support for the students.

“So, students can come in and they can get help with any number of issues, from a broken Chromebook to trying to work with the software,” Holt said.

They provide similar help for teachers.

“Teachers can come in, ‘I need help with this,’” Holt said.

“They also go into the classrooms and help teachers and students,” he added. “So, teachers who are wanting to try something new, we can send the Chrome Squad to support them and provide some training,”

 

Jim Hardin may be reached at jhardin@heraldbanner.com.

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