Students As IT-techs

During my career as a computer teacher I was often the major IT-support person. When I left a school and moved to another there was always an issue of what would happen with IT support. This was handled in different ways:

  • the school looked for another computer teacher to do the job,
  • the school arranged another teacher on staff to take over the job, or
  • if no proper computer teacher could be obtained, the job was just assigned to someone…

There are lots of things that can happen in such transitions. To ensure a smooth transition, I repeatedly suggested interested students be given the role of IT-support. This suggestion was never accepted because students were considered untrustworthy or incompetent or that somehow this just wasn’t done. I could not understand that because students I taught could do it all and they certainly could have learned the few gaps in their training by practising giving tech-support. They could disassemble and reassemble ATX PCs with certainty the machines would work. They could install and update software. They could write simple HTML and native code applications. They could make Ethernet cables reliably and they could run websites and servers. I felt they were a greatly underutilized resource in the school. Teachers in every other subject area had students help out by tutoring other students, working on projects to help the school or community, and yes, sharing with other students in other schools over the Internet, yet students were not trusted to help out with local IT.

At a school where students do support IT, things are humming. Read about it below. I used to use thin clients in schools to lighten the workload. Here’s a school that used 1:1 notebooks as thick clients and students do a major portion of the work and they use FLOSS to lighten the impact on the budget…

“Students technology apprentices work alongside district IT staff on hardware support, repairs, software setup, instructional tutorials, system imaging, peer training, and any number of tasks related to our school-wide laptop program. Daily work assignments are guided by the needs of fellow students and classroom teachers. On any given day, you might observe our help desk apprentices answering questions from students or staff, repairing a damaged laptop screen, experimenting with code, or diving into Linux configuration files.”

See Linux laptop learning initiative at Penn Manor High School.

“The laptops are running Linux, specifically Ubuntu 13.10, along with several dozen free and open source programs. Our program is believed to be the largest open source 1:1 implementation in Pennsylvania. By using open source software exclusively, we estimate an initial cost savings of at least $360,000 on licensing fees.”

See The Laptops Have Landed!.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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