All across the nation, students are running help desks at their high schools. And they’re doing so for class credit.
It all started in 2011, when Burlington High School in Burlington, Massachusetts, rolled out over 1,000 iPad tablets for student and teacher use. Because the school’s IT department would have been overwhelmed by calls for help as people set up the devices or worked with them, they relied heavily on tech-savvy students to provide assistance.
This eventually evolved into recruiting a team of students to learn how to troubleshoot and solve tech issues on multiple devices and offer their advice on how to best use the iPad in the classroom.
Since then, Burlington’s program has grown to the point where teachers and students now collaborate on which tech tools are most effective in the classroom. The help desk students are also called on to demonstrate technology tools in their classes. Burlington High School’s help desk is a formal, elective class worth 2.5 credits toward graduation. Students actually apply and go through an interview process to be accepted, and once enrolled, they can take up to two full years (four semesters) of the course.
Inspired by Burlington High School’s success, other schools have replicated the help desk program in ways that meet their individual districts’ needs.
Lake Central High School in Indiana, for example, will launch its computer tech support class in the fall of 2017. Its class will be open to juniors and seniors and will include duties like maintaining the school’s Chromebooks, helping students with tech problems such as getting on the school’s wi-fi or having trouble with any of the software the school uses to manage its educational offerings.
“The whole purpose is for the students to be able to try the career in a more concentrated light to see if this is the career path they want to explore,” Lake Central Principal Sean Begley told the NWI Times. “We are looking for a symbiotic relationship where the students are leaving here with real life skills and helping support the school.”
At Burlington High School, the help desk class also gave students new skills.
According to Andrew Marcinek, who was an instruction technology specialist at Burlington when the program was launched, a lot of the students didn’t know much about technology, but they knew how to research, ask the right questions, find answers, and think on their feet.
The student-run help desk at Bethlehem Central High School in New York provides front end tech support for all the schools in the district. Sal DeAngelo, the chief technology officer at that school, said he thinks the “soft skills” such as collaboration and problem solving may be even more important than the tech skills they learn.
“People who have been somewhat introverted, through our program develop the confidence to be able to interact with their peers and with teachers at a level that some would have thought was not possible for them,” DeAngelo told US News.