Restarting with educators and students

Ever since a teacher at a school in New York City threw a very successful Restart Party on Earth Day this year, we’ve been really excited about the possibility of restarting in schools. Jeannie Crowley, Tech Director at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, generously shared her experience with us, and continues to do so.

We’ve always been convinced that educators – and students – need to pave the way for restarting in schools.

We could try and cook up some fabulous curriculum or after-school club, but at the end of the day, we have not been in school for nearly twenty years. And in our times, there were no tablets, no mobiles. (In fact, we were lucky to have personal computers at home at all.)

So our thinking was that we should find keen educators, students and institutions and work with them to discover how best to spread our Restart ethos.

Multiple, overlapping motivations

We have one big hunch: that anything we propose needs to appeal to students with multiple and overlapping motivations. We remember that the most formative activities light a spark in young people, and let them shape their own participation on their own terms.

For example, the student-activist, who is interested in the why above all else, concerned with the planet, supply chains and fairness. Then there are the potential tinkerers who might be motivated by a number of things: curiosity, income and/or money savings, sense of purpose. Or even a career.

And we definitely should never forget educators themselves, a group under increasing pressure, but motivated to work with young people, or else why would they be there in the first place? Some maybe interested in making practical links to curricula like geography or natural sciences. Others may be motivated by the active, practical aspects of restarting.

We are looking to work with institutions and educators who can help us find appropriate ways to catalyse restarting within schools, responding to all of these groups. We are quite aware that every school is its own microcosm, and that we will need to design materials that are flexible, straight-forward and adaptable.

Opening up school IT support

Jeannie at ECFS continues to lead the way, working with her techs to open a “Restart Center” – which at the moment sounds like an itinerant, in-house Restart Party. Her IT technicians are working directly with students to service student devices, mostly mobiles, tablets and laptops. Student volunteers get recognition for “community service”. She describes it on her blog:

We are taking a “pop-up” approach to the Restart Center, setting up in busy places at popular times of the day. Our student volunteers listed the most popular places, such as the library, student commons, and cafeteria, and we’ll bring the Restart Center to them. Having the Restart Center set up in high-traffic, visible locations also helps to raise awareness about the service.

The volunteers have a wide range of skill sets and experience with tutoring, so our training focuses on both repair skills and tutoring development. We are helping students externalize their thought processes while diagnosing an issue, to make sure they’re demystifying the repair process for the tutored student. Additionally, we emphasize the mantra, “If your hands are on the device more than the device owner’s, that is a fix-it center not a tutoring center.” We have several adults who will be present during the first month of the launch for technical support and tutoring tips.

Jeannie and her colleagues are sharing repairs, and encouraging students to do the same on #RestartCenter.

Working with London schools

Even with our limited resources – we are not yet two full-time staff – we’ve been able to start exciting conversations with two London schools, both state schools, about how to work together.

These schools are not necessarily as resourced as ECFS in the Bronx, but they have a real interest in trying new things and introducing new skills and ideas to students. With one, we are talking about delivering after school classes, that would include learning about rare earth minerals through explorations of smartphones. With another, we are looking at ways of integrating a Restart Party into another super creative environmentally-minded project involving plants and computers. Yes, plants and computers.

One exciting aspect of working with schools in London: we can count on some of our volunteer Restarters to get involved. So organising a big Restart Party in a school, including parents and students, is not such an intimidating task.

Our approach

Our approach will never be to create a franchise, or an in-school service-delivery empire. Instead we will work with the same logic as we have with our community Restart Parties: generating quality materials with educators, and encouraging and assisting educators to use and adapt them to their context.

We are very excited about the possibilities for this work with students and educators, which is partially funded by Esmee Fairbairn. You can support this emergent area of our work by contributing towards our yearly fundraiser – we are still only 1/3 of the way towards our 2015 fundraising goal.

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