GREENFIELD — It was a problem Riley Ward thought he could fix.
The charge cords for Greenfield-Central High School students’ school-issued Macbooks were bending and splitting, and a replacement cost about $70. So Ward, a freshman, teamed up with a friend and created a protective case using one of the school’s 3-D printers.
The tech cadet used technology at the school to find a solution to a real-world problem, he said.
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Stories of projects similar to Ward’s echoed through the halls of Greenfield Central Junior High on Saturday morning as more than 150 students from schools across the state met for the annual Hoosier Student Digital Leader conference, hosted by Greenfield-Central School Corp. and the Indiana Department of Education’s E-learning office.
Armed with computers and an eagerness to learn from one another, students and teachers spent the day attending workshops about letting students help implement digital learning in schools.
The school corporation, which hosted the conference for the first time, was picked as a host site because staff members there have shown excellence making technology a regular part of the classroom experience, said Michelle Green of the DOE’s e-learning office.
Nearly 30 students at the junior high and high school work as tech cadets, spending part of their school day addressing technology problems that pop up. During the past few summers, some of those students have even been paid to help get the buildings ready to accommodate school-wide digital learning.
Inviting students to take the lead allows them to help shape their learning experiences, Green said. In turn, teachers and staff are able to learn from students.
Saturday’s conference — which was free for students to attend — encouraged schools to launch tech programs like the one at Greenfield-Central; schools just getting started learned from students and staff across the state that have successfully made their classrooms digital, Green said.
Ashley Arnold, a technology integration specialist at Greenfield-Central School Corp., led a session Saturday detailing the district’s journey to digital learning, which started in 2014.
Over the past two school years, the district has supplied all high school and junior high students with computers, allowing much of their learning to take place online. Leaders created two teams of tech cadets, giving students experience fixing technology issues, she said. And for the past few summers, the corporation has hosted Applemania, a technology conference for teachers across the state.
Students are the best asset schools have to address technology support needs, she said.
For example, when a problem arises in one of sophomore Elaine Hilton’s classes, she’s able to help the teacher fix the problem so class can move forward more quickly, Elaine said.
“There are teachers who aren’t as tech-savvy,” Elaine told a group of students and teachers. “I can help them.”
Other sessions Saturday encouraged students to be creative in their learning.
A session led by New Palestine High School teacher Chris Young introduced educators and students to BreakoutEDU, a program that combines gaming and learning by giving students a series of puzzles — online and in the classroom — they need to solve in order to unlock a box. Students and teachers are able to design their own games using the program.
Christy Hilton, assistant superintendent at Greenfield-Central, said the conference gave Greenfield-Central students an opportunity to meet with others who are doing similar work and projects in their schools.
They were able to collaborate and learn from one another, much like their teachers do regularly. Hopefully, they returned to school Monday with new ideas to implement in their classrooms, she said.
“It’s important for students to have those experiences,” she said.