The informal help desk model, or as Apple calls it, the Genius Bar, is a great model for tech support in schools. Like Apple figured out, putting help in the open is part of demystifying it. Your computer doesn’t disappear into a back room, instead, a friendly person, a real human being, helps you. Why shouldn’t tech support be more like asking a friend, “hey, how did you do that?” This creates a culture of collaboration where questions are encouraged and not knowing something does not require a walk of shame to the dark tech closet at the end of the hall.
So the question is, how do you staff a genius bar full time, with people who have time to answer questions, not just fix broken hardware? Answer… students.
Here’s a great example. THE Journal’s recent article, When Students Run the Help Desk, profiles Burlington High School in Massachusetts where a new 1:1 iPad initiative includes students running a help desk. Why? Because as the principal says, it’s a “no-brainer.”
Also from THE Journal a few issues back was They’re Taking Requests: Student Techs Command the Help Desk — THE Journal which profiled several other student-led tech support projects including several GenYES schools in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Everyone benefits with this solution – more support for teachers and students using technology, students learn great life skills like listening to others and troubleshooting, and the school puts forward a model that everyone is part of the problem-solving community. It’s better than win-win, it’s win-win-win-win.
In other words, pure genius!