In the spring of 2016, our district decided it was ready to go 1:1 with Chromebooks district-wide during the next school year. With that decision, I threw out a crazy idea to my principal and superintendent: “What if we created a student help desk to repair the Chromebooks?” Much to my surprise and delight, they thought it was a great idea. The principal and I worked on a new class schedule for me, a high school social studies teacher at the time, to have a couple class periods of students as a help desk. Our initial goals for these classes were to provide students with real-life experience, have students research tech tips/tricks for our teachers, and reduce the financial impact of repairs. As a district, we were in a unique position as we did not have a Technology Director to carry-out these types of activities. We were jumping in the deep end, hoping to be able to swim.
In the fall of 2016, we launched two class periods with 6 students per class, who served as the student help desk. Prior to this opportunity, I was a computer hardware rookie, very green in repair. As a result, for the first semester, the student help desk did very little in terms of repairs, as I was afraid of causing more harm than good. Instead, I had students connect with a few teachers in the district with the goal of identifying any tech support they needed/wanted. The students would then research for those teachers solutions/ideas and then create a blog response to meet those teachers needs. These blogs were then posted via WordPress, Twitter, and Google+ so that their learning (Blog Assist) would be shared globally!
As the semester progressed, we began having an issue with broken screens. We then took the plunge and bought our first set of screen replacements and tools to replace them. Since we had never done this before, we searched on Youtube for a video tutorial. Surprisingly, despite our inexperience, we were able to easily and quickly repair the devices.
Once the 2nd semester rolled around, we got the courage to start doing more in-depth repairs including keyboards, hinge/tops, motherboard replacement, etc. Sadly, there were no videos on Youtube for those types of repairs, so we went all “Leonardo Da Vinci” and analyzed the Chromebooks. The students took apart one of the Chromebooks and took pictures of where each of the parts was originally located. Over time, the students became experts in certain repairs which decreased the amount of time necessary to do the repairs.
One student came to class around March super excited about something that happened at home. His mother had a laptop that had a damaged screen, similar to the ones we had already repaired in class. With that experience, he took apart his mother’s laptop and repaired the screen for her! Had we not offered this type of opportunity to our students, he would likely not have had the technical skills to save his mother money like that.
The part I was least prepared for was the financial savings we discovered throughout the year. By having the students repair the Chromebooks instead of an outside 3rd party (assuming it cost $50/hour), we were able to save the school over $5,000! This is monumental for a district that has a total of $4,000 in our budget for computer repairs each year. So not only were our students getting real-life skills that could turn into a job one day, we as a district were in a better financial place to provide these tools to our students!
Our Student Help Desk was essential to our success and progress in the 1:1 Chromebook experience.
Austin Houp has been an educator for 10+ years and is currently the Director of Curriculum & Technology at the Ash Grove School District in the heart of the Ozarks. He is a Google for Education Certified Trainer/Innovator. He is married to his wife Amanda Houp and is the proud father of sons, Eli and Ezra!
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