I was asked by BHS Senior Cat Hoyt to write an endorsement for our Burlington High School Student Help Desk for the Follett Challenge, a contest for which she made the video below. I thought the endorsement was worth sharing with others who also might want to start a Student Help Desk. Whether you are 1:1 or not, this would be a great resource for your school!
Burlington High School became a 1:1 high school distributing iPads to all students and staff at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. As someone who speaks regularly to teachers and administrator from other schools about this initiative, I can say without hesitation that the biggest factor in the success of this program has been the involvement of our students through the BHS Help Desk.
In the fall of 2011, I dealt with a great deal of anxiety as we distributed over 1,100 iPads and became one of the first schools in the country to become a 1:1 iPad school. I was worried that the program would be a flop and that teachers and students would struggle to integrate these new digital devices into their daily workflows. However, the BHS Help Desk released me from my fears by giving staff and students a place to go and find answers and solutions to each and every question that came up regarding their iPads or one of the endless web-based resources that they could now access through their new device.
Our students solved the biggest question for us that administrators are faced with during the implementation of any initiative - where do I go if I need help? There was not anyone in our district who could claim that they did not have a place to turn if they ran into a problem. In addition, the response from faculty and students about the quality of the feedback from our student help desk team has been overwhelmingly positive. It is quite common to swing by the help desk and see staff members being taught by students. We have also had a number of teachers who have had student help desk support in their classrooms as they tried using a new digital tool for the first time. The whole experience has been transformative as we have broken down traditional boundaries that separate teachers and students and become a community of learners where adults are just as comfortable being on the receiving end of the learning as they are facilitating it.
Finally, I could not have a discussion about the BHS Student Help Desk without talking about the amazing BHS Help Desk website which can be seen at BHSHelpdesk.com. This site has been an incredible resource for learners inside of Burlington and outside who are looking to increase their capacity to use iPads and/or other digital resources. As someone who connects with those in other school communities, I have had numerous discussions with educators from all over the country who have referenced our student help desk as a valuable resource for their own learning. Our students are constantly investigating and sharing insights on the latest and greatest resources for students and teachers.
So, the first step for any school looking to increase its technological capacities is undoubtedly to start a student help desk. When students take the lead good things happen. The BHS Student Help Desk is living proof!
cross-posted at www.patrickmlarkin.com
Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning of Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA and the former principal of Burlington High. He blogs about education at www.patrickmlarkin.com.