MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) — As students and teachers are navigating the complicated world of virtual learning, a Miami middle school has a special tech team in place to help troubleshoot any problems.
The tech team, which started in August, is comprised of 16 middle schools students.
The team at Hammocks Middle School is helping not only their peers, but also their teachers in making sure distance learning stays seamless as schools remain closed due to the pandemic.
“They are kind of like the emergency team now because they are able to assist in the different programs that teachers are using,” Lois Seaman, a technology teacher at Hammocks Middle School told CNN.
Last year, the school in Miami received the Verizon Innovative Schools grant which provided iPads for every student and faculty member. In addition, the tech team was created to allow students the opportunity to learn more about technology and also to teach others.
Proudly wearing their white tech team shirt with words Verizon Innovative Learning printed on them, the students joined their teachers and principal for a virtual interview with CNN on Tuesday. Instead of being in the classroom, the students logged in from their homes, their new physical space for learning due to the pandemic.
“We’ve been preparing for this all year,” Seaman said about when people ask her about distancing learning.
A few weeks before the school closure, Seaman said the students started learning apps specifically that teachers could use to record and hold virtual classes, like Zoom, which has become the new normal in virtual teaching.
The team oversees 615 students and 36 teachers at the school. Each student of the tech team is assigned two teachers and a grade level to assist throughout the school year.
“I often say that this generation of students came into this world holding devices in their hands,” Beatriz Llano-Scherker, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach, told CNN.
The students are growing their skills in the tech world but also learning how to teach and problem solve. Most often they are the only ones responding to a service request and are troubleshooting the issue themselves.
“The student is a teacher and a mentor and a role model,” said Seaman. “Not just for other students but for teachers.”
At the beginning of the school year, they were helping others learn how to use the iPads and different learning applications. Now, they are helping troubleshoot issues around these new virtual learning setups.
Samuel Gamez, team member, said his most common service request is around using Zoom and distance learning apps. Another student on the team, Daniel Dezayas, said not being able to connect to WiFi is the most common for him.
When they aren’t fielding requests, the team meets just like any other class but with curriculum focused on technology. That’s one reason why Gamez said he joined the team, since he enjoys coding and wants to use it in his future career.
Since the school will be closed the rest of the year, Gamez also came up with an idea of holding a Zoom party for 8th graders so they can celebrate virtually together as they end their middle school career. Seaman said the tech team is working on the logistics and details around hosting.
The tech team received such positive response from students and teachers that next year they will expand the program to two teams of students.
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