• Tech In Edu Magazine

Hands Off Helper

Student A: I don’t know how to [insert any tech, digital or device related task].Student B: I can help!Student A then turns their laptop/tablet towards Student Bwho proceeds to complete the task or fix the issue. They then turn the laptop/tablet back to Student A to continue on their way.


The scenario described above is happening in classrooms across the globe and it is your job as a teacher to ensure it changes. Although the issue of ‘Student A’ was resolved and the task probably completed, the long term damage is obvious - Student A has not learned how to complete said task. I also witness this “doing” rather than “showing” occurring when teachers help students (with the best of intentions). If a teacher reaches over and takes charge of a student’s device to make a quick fix, they are missing the opportunity to teach and therefore empower that student to be independent next time.

Have I ever grabbed a student’s device or reached over and just made the change or fix myself in order to save time?...yes!

But when I do, I am admonished by my own students who are quick to point out that I’m not being a “hands off helper”.


Many years ago, when I was the specialist ICT teacher from grades P-6, I introduced a concept called a Hands Off Helper (full disclosure - I’m not sure if I coined this phrase or heard it somewhere and have completely ripped it off! If it is the latter, thank you and please reach out to me for due credit to be given). As a teacher trying to juggle 25+ students on devices and managing the myriad of ensuing issues, I relied heavily on students helping each other. The concept of a 'Hands Off Helper' is simple: students are encouraged to help other students but without touching the device. They are allowed to use verbal instructions as well as gestures (pointing) but strictly not allowed to touch the device. The rationale is twofold:

  • The student in need of support is learning by doing it themself, therefore becoming more capable to complete the task independently next time.

  • The student doing the helping is challenged to explain the process verbally and through gestures. This student is learning how to teach.


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