Help Desks: Teenagers as Classroom Tech SupportJuly 12, 2007 | Chris O'Neal
I'm reading through lots of notes and mental Post-its I recorded at this year's NECC, and, in upcoming posts, I'll share a number of fun, productive conversations of which I was a part.
First, something struck me while I was chatting with a teacher after one of my sessions. She said she felt like she had grown so much in the last few years in regard to integrating educational technology into lessons and units in her middle school classroom. She shared how when she first attended technology-related workshops years ago, they were nearly all mechanical: Intro to Word, File Organization, and so on.
Later, however, they turned into integration-related workshops, aimed at helping weave technology resources and projects into content and standards-based units. Her thought was that she had gotten better at both those pieces -- her own technical skills as well as her ability to integrate technology more effectively.
However, she felt she was sometimes still frustrated with technical issues getting in the way of integration, and teaching in general. She mentioned that, over the years, she had collected numerous technology items -- computers, a scanner, a digital camera, and so on. But each time one of these things had a technical glitch, or the students couldn't figure out how to fix a printer jam, for example, either she had to stop her lesson and go help them, or they had to postpone the piece of the project they were working on that involved that piece of equipment.
I told her that when I was teaching middle school, I had students doing all first-level tech-support issues -- those things I was capable of fixing myself before having to wait on central-office tech-support staff.
At the beginning of the year, I would keep a handful of children after class a few days in a row and train them on one of our classroom pieces of equipment. I'd give them the basic rundown of how to operate the digital camera: taking pictures, zooming, saving images, deleting images, using the charger, basic care, and so on. From that point on, anyone in the classroom who needed the digital camera for anything would first ask that group of students for help. I then used another small group for printer issues, the digital microscope, and so on.
In my classroom, I posted a chart listing student troubleshooters their classmates knew to check with before coming to me with a problem. I did not want to be removed from teaching to handle computer crashes, jammed printer paper, or a digital camera question, and I rarely was. Nine out of ten times, they were able to handle small technical issues without even letting me know.
Plan now, and think ahead to how you might use something like this chart to relieve yourself of some tech-support issues this fall. I'll bet even elementary school students can handle many of the issues you would otherwise waste time handling. You get relieved of the bother of technical interruptions, and they gain valuable skills in technology, teamwork, and helping out their classmates!
Share your strategies for empowering students to solve technology-support issues and for streamlining technology use in your classroom in general.