These are my notes from a presentation by Sylvia Martinez of Generation YES at TCEA on 2/8/2007. I’m recording this session with Sylvia’s permission and will share this as a podcast later tonight. This is a GREAT model that more school leaders need to be aware of and embrace!

Generation Yes:

What is tech support?
– true for any organization
– providing hardware/software/networks that support organizational goals
– however: business organizational goals are different than educational goals
– lots of other goals are going on: learning does not always mean efficiency
– traditionally text support has been built in businesses to drive down the number of tech calls

US DOE Expert Panel on Ed Tech in 2001

GenYes was rated exemplary

Examples from Technology and Learning Magazine
– Shoring Up Your STaff: Timely and Sustained Teacher support
– more


Issues in school tech support
– school tech support levels are 10% of industry standards (1 onside tech for 50-70 machines, that is considered adequate in business, where needs tend to be less complex)
– complexity increasing
– systems increase
– overflow support falls on “teacher down the hall”
– Plan B
– Laptop schools: problems multiple

As more and more applications become “business critical” those go to the top of the priority list, the applications that are more instructional and have the biggest impact on student achievement

It is very rare that school tech support people understand the mission of schools

Best way to create shortcuts: narrow everything down and make sure no one can mess up your network, because you won’t have time to fix it
– unfortunately, that is the worst possible solution for educational goals

Guess what? There is never enough tech support
– if you get people using the equipment, they will try
– using students as a solution is a way around that, because it provides you with unlimited resources

National School Board Foundation: asked districts do you use students in any capacity to provide tech support
– response was 54% (that is a surprise, many people think they are the only ones doing it, in reality most districts are doing it in some way)
– this is an opportunity to understand what works and make it work in all schools

What can students do? Student tech support
– students learn technology, troubleshooting, and communication skills
– they help the school maintain school technology and infrastructure
– highly relevant career and technology education
– the school benefits by having a core of students trained in technology, familiar with the school infrastructure, and immediately available on the school grounds to help fix computers and save software problems

Most technicians stay with the school for just 1 year
– high schools keep most students for 4 years
– this is literally about putting power in the hands of the students
– walking the talk

This is about showing what you can do, having students show what they can do

What can students do?
– provide level 1 hardware support
– tech TAs: on call
– help desk
– teach students how to use new equipment
– work with teachers as new hardware is rolled out
– provide simple preventative maintenance and software configuration
– leadership comes with increasing challenges
– student led culture decreases hacking
– student leaders teach newbies
– laptop programs: reinforces the student centered culture and ownership

If you can give students some admin passwords, students can install some software
– some districts during the summer open up computers to permit student admin access

The reward for doing well is MORE CHALLENGE, and that creates leaders and STUDENT LED culture
– we have schools who go recruit at the JHS level, and try to bring them over from the dark side
– if you build a wall, kids will try to go over it
– students really aren’t interested in the

Creating a culture where the seniors say “we don’t do that here” is much more powerful than having adults say that
– kids in that culture will want to “be on thet team’

this is about students owning the technology, owning their own education

ROI (return on investment)
– this is a really easy calculation to do
– make really simple foolproof guesses about how much tech support kids can do
Reduce tech support load
– assume 10 students elminate a single instance of tech support per day
– 10 students x 5 days x 15 weeks x 5 min/instance = 62.5 hours of tech support time recovered per semester class
– with tech support resources valued at $25/hour

Estimated value of support: $3000+

goal is to free up professional tech support resources to do the things they want to do and can do: more complex and sophisticated / helpful things

Case study
– Student Intern Program at Borrego Springs HS, California
– this gives kids a career path they wouldn’t have otherwise

We try to help schools not reinvent the wheel
Generation Tech Program tools
– blog: individual, team, teacher management (closed classroom blog, this is an assessment tool for the class, to keep track of what students are doing, they are not sitting in front of you turning in papers)
– project tools: calendar, tasks, shared bookmarks (individual or team)
– teacher messaging
– more

Curriculum units for Generation TECH start with an idea of communication and documentation
– technical writing, organization, listening skills and team work
– core: research a solution, document it, and share it with others (if you don’t document it, what you’ve done really doesn’t count)
– other components: hardware, software, problem solving, researching solutions, preventative maintenance, helping teachers, portfolios and closing activities
– high school class with a career focus: this is a GREAT program

lots of role playing, partnering is built into this program (mentorship and apprenticeship)
– follow-up questions

Security Best Practices
– work within your system
– there is nothing that really needs to be done beyond AUPs your school has already done
– lots can be done even if kids won’t be allowed to have admin passwords
– negotiate expectations and policy
– negotiate rules for escalation, follow up and documentation
– protect students from critical data and systems

Use Standard security best practices
– differentiated access
-passwords: change regularly
– security reviews for ALL staff, teachers, students
– who is violating security and why? cracking down on “that’s how everyone does it”
– responses should be fair, quick and appropriate
— often there is an overreaction, really finding out what happened is a very important aspect

If students can easily access critical data, that is YOUR problem not theirs
Security is not just about protecting the system, it is also about protecting students when they are blamed for doing things

You need to have a fair community
– open channels
— openly communicate rules and changes
– new policies should have educational objectives
– open learning community
– student-led culture

– should be “two-way” not just punitive
– can have multiple levels for advanced students
– can have minimum academic standards, and they have to be applied fairly across the board (just like min. standards for athletes)

Credit and Payment
– this can’t just be free labor
– students have to receive academically appropriate instruction and opportunities and credit
– transition to paid internships

If you spend 3 months changing toner cartridges, you’re going to get bored and be finished
– you have to see a pathway to increasing complexity, challenges and rewards
– you have to provide a pathway for students who excel to go and grow

Mistakes, punishments and rewards

Preventing accidents and mistakes
– plan for the worst: mistakes happen
– use best practices: virus software, backups, track licenses, inventory
– practice makes perfect: “what if” scenarios and guided explorations
– policy with policy (not technology)
– encourage strong student/teacher and peer relationships

When Bad Things Happen
– One-strike policy, consistently enforced
– responses should be fair, quick and appropriate

if it is an academic class, it cannot simply be tech support
– students need to have a job to do when there are no emergencies
– you don’t want the superintendent to do and all the kids are in there playing Doom

Structured Freedom
– the price of freedom is documentation, creating tangible evidence of learning and completing tasks
– reward with increased responsibility and less supervision, not necessarily increased access
– trust and responsibility

Last two models
– student-taught technology literacy
– student supported professional development

Most applicable is last: student supported PD
– that really helps the teachers in the classroom
– the biggest benefit you can get out of a student tech team is that the teachers are using technology

In elementary schools, recommend that you really focus on teacher PD aspect
– it is teacher focused, all about improving technology support in the classroom

GenerationTECH curriculum: Have a team, class and a site license based on number of students
– we use Ubuntu Linux for helping students understand operating systems, installing operating systems, regardless of whether or not your district is using Linux now
– pricing on the website, varies by # of students

All web-based software

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5 Responses to Students Providing Tech Support: The 21st Century A/V Club

  1. ashley says:

    This is the third time I visit your blog and I like your articles. If you guys love gadgets, please visit my blog at: Thanks!

  2. Miss Profe says:

    This was a model to which my former school subscribed. It still may be doing it. The student techs were great! They were knowledgeable, and more patient than the adult techies. It also made students who weren’t athletes and artists feel needed and valued. I support it fully.

  3. Hi Wes,
    Thanks for the great write-up! There are so many students doing amazing work in schools and we love to hear about them. By the way, there are some great videos that I didn’t have time to show at our student tech support portal

    You don’t need to log in to see them.

  4. […] You can hear a podcast of the entire presentation, and read a summary of it at Wesley Fryer’s blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. Wesley’s summary is kind of funny, a stream of consciousness ramble. I don’t know if he was taking notes by hand or not, but he’s FAST and got most of the big picture. Thanks, Wes! […]

  5. […] You can read Wesley Fryer’s notes taken during the presentation at his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. Wesley’s summary is kind of funny, a stream of consciousness ramble. I don’t know if he was taking notes by hand or not, but he’s FAST and got most of the big picture. Thanks, Wes! […]

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