Oct 12 2017

6 Tips to Start Your Own Student Help Desk

Setting up a successful student help desk can lead to valuable experiences.

A huge part of educating today's students is making sure that they are ready for college and then the workforce. While student help desks have proven effective in easing the burden on limited school IT departments, they also provide an excellent way for students to get hands-on tech skills that will continue to benefit them in the years to come.

Here are six tips from trailblazers who have launched student tech support teams:

1. Get Buy-In from All Stakeholders

“When we started, we heard a thousand reasons why it wouldn’t work,” says Justin Brown, senior network and systems engineer at Bethlehem Central School District. “Getting buy-in from all your stakeholders, especially the high school administration and tech committee, is really important.”

2. Involve Digital Natives in Planning

As Indian Prairie School District implemented its help desk program, it solicited input from students about what issues it should address. “Top down is not the way to go,” says Stan Gorbatkin, assistant superintendent for technology services. “You need to listen to what the kids have to say.”

3. Start with Small IT Services

Keep your goals simple at first and add services each year, says April Requard, an instructional technology specialist at Albuquerque Public Schools. “Before you know it, you have a great program.”

4. Find a Dedicated Help Desk Space

Make the help desk easily accessible. “Location is a big deal,” Brown says. “We were fortunate to be able to take a section of the high school library that is behind a glass wall, where everyone can see us.”

5. Set Limits for Student IT

Establish rules on what students can do with their newfound powers.

“There were a couple of times when we had to put barriers in place, like students can’t walk into classrooms unattended,” Brown says. Bethlehem High students also sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit sharing any sensitive information they may come across.

6. Create an IT Team to Fit Your School

Resist the temptation to simply copy what other schools have done, says Jennifer Scheffer, who led a pioneering initiative at Burlington High School.

“I don’t think any two help desk programs look the same,” she says.“Some focus on hardware repair, others allow students to troubleshoot the network or infrastructure issues. We focused on the educational side, on innovative instructional practices using technology.”

For more on how schools have found success with student IT teams, check out our Fall 2017 magazine feature.

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