Now that the Pan Am and Para Pan Am games are over it is time to reflect on the experience I referred to on April 12, In that post I outlined a plan to allow students to use voluntary IT support work at the games as high school coop hours. Over all this was a positive experience for the students but there were some hitches along the way.
Throughout May and June the students continued to self organize their on line and in person training and the collection of credentials from North York in Toronto. The students also received their shifts and it quickly became apparent that I had overlooked one important factor. Hours. High school students need to complete 180 hours on the job in order to earn their 2 credits. Most of the students did not have near enough shifts to make up these hours. Furthermore some students were conflicted out of the coop course by the necessity of summer make up credit classes. The students had to make up hours by taking on other coop positions at local IT related businesses or by completing some in school hours doing IT related work.. Some elected to give up their Pan Am shifts and work at local IT shops instead. Lesson learned? I should have asked for direct involvement in the students' scheduling at the games. Did it matter? Not much. The students did an excellent job tracking their own hours and all of them had great experiences at the games and at other placements. The students dealt with the "hours" problem through good problem solving and collaboration.
During a Pan Am games "test event" at the Milton Velodrome I elected to drop by to see how one of my students was doing. In a normal coop placement the coop teacher visits the students on sight on several occasions to familiarize themselves with the work place, discuss the learning objectives with the placement supervisor and check for student health and safety requirements. At the test event I had no problem locating the student and viewing the workplace. The volunteer that helped me find the right room was a teacher herself and understood my reason for being there. I was not prepared for the increased level of security at the actual Pan Am Games. Without some form of accreditation I was not going to be allowed onto the sight. The security staff were volunteers themselves and were just doing their job according to the rules. I had to be satisfied with brief emails, a couple of phone contacts and one face to face with a Cisco engineer. Bear in mind that the students' supervisors were themselves volunteers. Lesson learned? If it is a world class event you must have accreditation. Did it matter? Not much. The Pan Am games structure was very well organised and we already had a good look into that organization during our webinar sessions during the last 18 months. The students received good feedback from their supervisors at the games.
After reading the students' reflections and attending some Pan Am events myself I feel confident that the students had memorable and worthwhile experiences. They learned varying amounts about computers and networks but they all gained a good deal of confidence at communication, problem solving and teamwork. I think the Pan Am experience taught us that the GTA can handle any event, no matter the size and it taught me that my students are ready to be leaders in the next big one.