By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Service — and the superhero persona — come in many shapes and forms.
For the App Avengers group at Regina Elementary School in Iowa City, service comes in the shape of an iPad.
The group of fourth, fifth and sixth-grade student volunteers meets twice a month to clean the devices, perform maintenance and updates and make sure the iPad programs (apps) are compliant with school guidelines.
It may not be the kind of work that would appeal to the superheroes of the Avengers movies and comic books, but the youths and staff know the task of routine iPad maintenance is important at Regina.
“Our slogan is ‘App Avengers: saving the world one iPad at a time,’” said club adviser Diann Zirtzman, a fourth-grade teacher.
At the beginning of the school year, the school administration sent an email to teachers addressing a need for the 60 elementary iPads to be maintained on a regular basis. The iPads are routinely checked out by teachers for class projects and assignments.
Upon receiving the email, Zirtzman wondered if there was a way to involve older elementary students with an interest in technology. The school agreed that it could work; seven students volunteered and participated in training. Zirtzman offered to supervise the students and oversee the project.
She observed the students catching on quickly. “They are very skilled now. … Kids these days have so much skill when it comes to technology. We couldn’t have chosen a better bunch just because they had that passion (for technology) to begin with.”
Fifth-grader Lily Santillan serves as student captain. She joined the group because she thought it would be a good opportunity to help the school and the students. “I think technology is interesting,” she said.
Lily noted that she and other group members have learned about teamwork. The App Avengers troubleshoot a variety of iPad issues, from students taking “selfie” photographs with the iPads to apps that have been downloaded without teacher permission. The students collaborate with each other and Zirtzman to determine the best course of action. This often means removal of the non-compliant files and apps and alerting the administration of common iPad abuses.
“When we work together we can accomplish something, and if we work together it will all work out!” Lily said.
Fifth-grader Peter Knepper said his interest in technology has grown since becoming an App Avenger, and “It’s always good to know that you’re helping.”
Bella Schuessler, a sixth-grader, joined the group because she enjoys working on iPads. She has had “fun” getting to know the other group members. Although she will age out of App Avengers after this year, she looks forward to seeing new people get involved in the group next year.
Zirtzman said she is proud of what the students have been able to accomplish this year. “They are super-responsible students that are just doing a phenomenal job.”