Last autumn, Albemarle High School began a school-wide 1:1 laptop program serving nearly 2,000 students. The school is based outside of Charlottesville, a small city in central Virginia. The school district covers a wide geographical area with a mix of rural and urban based students. Our school is quite large ( 9th to 12th grades-15/18yrs) and staffs two full-time librarians.
As the new librarian, I immediately connected with my partner, Erica Thorsen. Erica worked at Albemarle High School for two years prior and understood student scheduling and school culture. Our goal was to recruit enough students for each block of the day so we could have a fully-staffed help desk throughout our blue colored schedule and our red colored schedule days. The school timetable operates an alternate day schedule, similar to the A/B week schedule some Irish schools operate. A block is a period of approx 88mins but varies due to color based schedule or school events occurring.
Our recruitment effort involved face-to-face visits to each study hall classroom. When we met with a class, we promoted the benefits of signing up and we explained exactly how students would use their time. Giving up a study hall is not an easy decision for a teenager!
Below are some of the benefits we promoted:
A permanent pass from study hall to the library
The opportunity to try our latest tech products from the 3D Doodler Pens to the 3D printer
An understanding that students could work in shifts for part of the block or “pass” helping at the desk once or twice a month
No application process; simply an interest in learning about technology
We brought a sign-up sheet with us and reinforced that students could approach us at any time. We were accepting students on a rolling basis.
As a result, nearly thirty-five students expressed interest. When students first arrived, we emphasized five key areas of service. Students would (1) take help desk tickets for broken laptops and make minor repairs, (2) create digital tutorials, (3) provide support in classrooms, (4) network with technology professionals and leaders, and (5) spend time following their passions. The last component was the most important and it is the reason why so many of our students do not need to be enrolled in a computer science course to participate.
The help desk that Erica and I created is one that is focused on curiosity and lifelong learning. We embrace students’ interests. Our help desk workers have learned how to repair screens, have tried 3D pens and engineered model bridges. They received cross training on all of our Makerspace equipment from our new sewing machines to our Makerbot 3D printer. Help desk workers also cross-trained with one of our engineering teachers and used the Maker Lab to design and print with the school laser cutter. If your school library is interested in creating a student help desk, it is critical to expand learning opportunities equitably to techie and non-techie students. Bridge the gap between the digital divide. You will find that personal interest takes students’ much farther than one might imagine.
Monica’s blog can be found at http://adventuresofanemerginglibrarian.wordpress.com/ and on twitter.