An innovative Beaver Area School District initiative, in place at the Middle School-High School since 2011, and called “STAP,” is training students in real-world applications of both the soft and hard skills of technology management.
Short for “Student Technology Assistance Program” STAP encompasses between 75 and 90 students each year who learn about and manage the entire district’s technology platforms. They work under the supervision of Director of Technology James Shay, who has been with the district since 2001, and Julie Allison, a Middle School science teacher and technology coach.
In the process, these young people actually run a technical support business within the business of secondary education, with “students managing students” and grading their faculty, Shay says.
In an era when technology increasingly isolates us from each other, one of the top skills the students are embracing is interaction with others.
“They’re learning leadership and management skills,” Shay says, such as how to talk interactively with people, present ideas and respond to criticism, and handle emotionally charged circumstances. These high schoolers also are designing and leading teacher in-service training, and are evaluating and approving the educators’ professional development credentials.
“We’ve flipped the dynamic,” Shay says.
Students are given increasing responsibilities and are trusted with such sensitive data as passwords for all faculty technology, including iPads, covering 225 administrators, teachers and support staffers.
The benefits of STAP to the community include having better-prepared graduates go on to college or enter the workforce with a wider range of skills. As well, some of the accomplishments directly benefit Beaver Area residents through access to current information, such digital downloads of the high school’s Echo newspaper.
The Echo is no longer printed in hardcopy, Shay says, but was replaced some years ago by an online edition that is available as a digital application which was developed by a STAP student. That student, now in college, remains engaged in the program and is able to log in remotely and make changes and improvements to the app. Future goals for the Echo app include having students solicit paid advertisements to generate additional funding, something they will directly manage themselves.
“Anyone in the community can download the Echo app from the App Store,” Shay says.
Another achievement was having students take a lead role in Beaver Area’s phone and text message alert systems, directly involved with notifying faculty, students and parents of such late-breaking news as snow delays and cancellations.
STAP alumni are now working for the FBI and enrolling in colleges and universities, with some moving on to law and medical school.
STAP initially was created for 1:1 iPad training. Today it encompasses a wide range of six basics, from ethics, customer service and hardware to software, networking and programming. Teams are organized with officers and departments, including iPad management, networking, printing and projecting as well as communications, finance, TechFix, hardware repair and teacher training.
Students may engage in the STAP process as early as seventh grade by taking an elective, semester- long class, and then in eighth grade becoming interns.
While STAP is an essential part of the district’s annual budget, additional mini-grant funding has been provided by the Beaver Area School District Education Foundation.
Says Shay, “STAP is a way for our students to apply hard and soft skills and help them stay a step ahead.