Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Student Helpdesk - Growing Gains

Early last year I was inspired by Burlington High School and their amazing student helpdesk program. Many years ago, the school I now call home, had a student helpdesk, but the program faded as our last graduate of the program became a school employee. Now, with inspiration from Burlington, I have set out on an adventure to start up a new student helpdesk at my school. The result? The Ashland High School Student Technology Assist Team (S.T.A.T.) So far, it is a resounding success. 

Our steps to success began around the middle of last school year when I wrote down my ideas and shared them with a few stakeholders.
  1. Develop a solid plan that demonstrated a purpose not only for the school, but also for the students
  2. Create a needs list and apply for grants to help fund those needs
  3. Recruit students to participate in the program
  4. Develop a real curriculum so that learning is not solely dependent upon broken computers
The results to date are as good as I could have hoped for and maybe a step better. While at times I feel that managing the student helpdesk course adds a little more chaos to my schedule, I can already feel the results are benefiting the students and the school in ways I could only imagine six months ago. 

  1. Students are actively engaged in troubleshooting technical issues on a daily basis and growing their own set of technical skills
  2. Students are working on writing skills for two different blogs for the course (one of which will be public within the next few weeks)
  3. Students are helping other students and teachers make better use of their time in school
  4. Students are coming back for more, often forgoing their studies to be working on the helpdesk!
The Program
  • Currently there are 13 students in the program who were each chosen and/or vetted
  • Two to three students work the helpdesk each period of the day 
  • Students are also expected to do a significant amount of writing for this course. This includes blog posts on how-to, product reviews, product comparisons, and personal reflections.
  • Students are becoming familiar with multiple platforms and devices. Having received over $5000 in grants from our local education foundation and the BAA, we have created a collection of tools that allow the students to work efficiently and that help mimic what they expect to see in the field. Devices we currently own include: iPad, iPod touch, Nexus 7, iMac, HP laptop, Chromebook, and a MacBook Air.
  • Students are expected to study a programming language of their choice. This independent study portion of the program will culminate in a presentation to the other team members and key stakeholders in the program at the end of each semester.

Today marks our fourteenth day of classes. The students are already running the helpdesk with efficiency in turn-around time, and they are creating the team feeling I was imagining months ago. Students stop by during studies just to see if there is more they can do, and often I have to kick them out so they get to their next class on time.

While it is still early in our school year, I am optimistic that the abilities of my students will continue to grow as they are challenged by the troubleshooting tasks as well as the projects they take on as part of this course. I expect there will be bumps along the way and look forward to seeing the program grow as we consider a possible 1:1 implementation in the future.

If you are considering a student helpdesk in your school, or simply have questions, please leave comments below or contact me directly via Twitter or email.

Chad McGowan is a high school technology teacher and professional development specialist in educational technology. Over the past 16 years, Chad has taught a variety of math and computer courses for grades 7-12. Since 2000, Chad has been guiding other professionals, pre-k-12, in educational technology. Follow Chad on Twitter @ahstechteacher,, and through this blog.

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