A group of Nokomis High School students known as the “Tech Sherpas” have been around the state, nation, and globe presenting to groups of students, teachers, and experts about the technology they are using in school and beyond.
Led by Kern Kelley, a long-time teacher at Nokomis High School and district-wide tech integrator, the Tech Sherpas are all part of Mr. Kelley’s and Mr. Brown’s Broadcasting classes which maintain a school TV station, live stream school events, create video tutorials, and dabble in a host of other cool things like robotics, 3D printing, drones, and more.
A presenter and tech professional development expert himself, Mr. Kelley moonlights as a speaker on a global level, something he has always incorporated with his students and career as an educator. What started out as taking students along to take part in his presentations has evolved into students presenting around the world.
Starting in 2012 on a train ride back from the New York Google Offices at a presentation with Mr. Kelley, the students came up with the idea of taking their skillset on the road more formally and the Tech Sherpas were born. Since then they have grown both in size and knowledge with every passing year and every advance in technology. Pre-COVID-19, the Tech Sherpas had traveled to places like Japan, Ottawa, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Chicago presenting to large audiences on topics like Google Slides, Google Meets, Google Classroom, and Flipgrid among others.
After the pandemic forced schools to adapt in the way that education is provided, Mr. Kelley and the Tech Sherpas didn’t miss a beat. What was once in-person presentations all over the world has now become a busy job of booking virtual meetings and presentations to keep up with the ever-changing needs of educators, students, people of all walks of life who need to learn, keep up with, and use technology in their everyday lives.
Nokomis High School Senior Rachel Wilcox has been a Tech Sherpa since she set foot in the Nokomis Warrior Broadcasting class her freshman year. Now a senior and finishing her final year of high school during a pandemic, Rachel is the project manager working behind the scenes to coordinate the Tech Sherpas’ virtual presentations.
“I like it,” said Rachel in a virtual interview. “I want to go to college for business management, so this is a good step in that direction,” she added. Rachel is in charge of organizing the Tech Sherpas into groups in terms of their readiness to present with the technology they feel most comfortable teaching others. She also works with outside organizations to schedule the presentations, lines up the students to present, coordinates the practice sessions, and participates in the actual event by doing a pre-event tech check, and helping to host the meeting. During the event, Rachel is usually working with a moderator who watches the meeting chat during the presentation, in addition to the presenters.
One of their most recent endeavors was a student-led presentation at the Virtual End of Summer Fest for the Google Waterloo Engineers. It was an opportunity for Google engineers to see creative uses of their tools by ‘real’ people. The topic was using Google Slides to Create Animations, like this one. The Tech Sherpas worked with EdTechTeam Canada for the event which featured the skills of Tech Sherpa, Kaiden Kelley who also happens to be Mr. Kelley’s son.
“When presenting, I’m there to share my skills with the teachers,” Kaiden said of his experiences presenting with the Tech Sherpas. In the event with Google engineers, he shared the skills, tips, and tricks that he learned from using Google Slides on various projects over the years. Be began working with the tool in 2012 and has experienced a myriad of changes and upgrades from Google that he has been able to navigate and use in his everyday work.
A pro at presenting, Kaiden said he doesn’t get nervous anymore during presentations and that the most memorable part of the presentation to Google was seeing everyone “come in” to the virtual meeting from all over the world. The successful presentation has led to further talks with Google Canada about more presentations by the Tech Sherpas.
“We are in a world now that everybody has experienced video conferencing,” said Mr. Kelley. “We will never again live in a world where that has not happened.” Mr. Kelley hopes to give his students as much experience as possible doing video conferencing knowing that when they graduate from high school they will need to be ready with skill sets that allow them to compete for jobs and post-secondary opportunities all over the country, and potentially enabling them to work and learn from right here in Maine.
While Mr. Kelley is excited about the incredible opportunities his students have experienced during the pandemic, he is quick to explain that using video conferencing is not necessarily better education for students, “it is a tool that we can use to keep providing opportunities for kids.”
Other ongoing projects of the team include helping Mr. Kelley on professional learning opportunities for teachers in Maine. One is an opportunity for educators in any part of the State to explore distance learning tools for students and teachers with the help of the United Technologies Center Adult Education and the Tech Sherpas (Learn more about this opportunity here).
Another is a similar “adopt a teacher” project at Nokomis where the students help resident educators with any technology needs they may be having as they navigate hybrid and remote teaching this year. It not only helps boost technology opportunities for students at Nokomis, but also bolsters relationship building, presenting, and teaching skills for the students. Their hope is to expand on these efforts to expand these types of opportunities for students and teachers state-wide