ENCINITAS—When the students at Mission Estancia have trouble with their school-issued iPad, who are they gonna call?
Think of it as the children’s version of “Geek Squad,” minus the Volkswagen Bugs.
The moniker, which is actually an acronym for “Student Technical Assistance and Resources,” puts a group of students in control of the school’s technical help desk, as they fix everything from log-in problems to downed WiFi networks.
The students are preparing to present their experiences at a major conference in Orange County on April 24.
“It’s really cool to help out other students with their iPads,” said Kayla Hultgren, a sixth-grade student at Mission Estancia. “There’s no better feeling than being able to come in and help someone get their computer back up and running.”
Encinitas Union School District launched the pilot program at its various elementary school campuses this school year with the goal of alleviating the technology help workload that teachers bore while teaching a group of high achieving students a special skill set that will translate to real world-situations.
Students had to apply for the positions, and were selected based on their academic standing and knowledge of technology.
Once selected, the students attended an eight-hour training session during the summer to equip them with the basic knowledge to fix some of the most common problems that plague the district-issued personal computers.
Students are grouped into pairs and each pair works one day at the help desk, taking tickets that students fill out and leave at the school’s technology lab, and then canvassing out across campus to fix the issues, and finally closing the ticket.
Some of the issues take a few minutes, like a WiFi setting that was changed. Others, however, might take a little longer.
“The WiFi had a problem, and we had to do everything we learned to try to fix it, and it took the entire class period,” said Abby Baker, a Mission Estancia fifth grader. “Normally it doesn’t take that long.”
The program has been a blessing to Mission Estancia teacher Heather Hultgren, who runs the technology lab and teaches a tech class on campus. Before the student help desk was created, she was responsible for troubleshooting the school’s computer issues and technology flubs.
It was tough when the school only had a computer lab and 3 computers per classroom. Then, the school district rolled out its one-to-one program, placing an iPad in the hands of every student in the district.
“It was constant,” Hultgren said about the help desk requests. “They were streaming in here, and it was hard to deal with 600 iPads each with their own issues. And this really impacts the students, if their WiFi is down or if their iPad isn’t working and they are taking a test, it is a big deal.”
Hultgren said the students love the program.
“These were always the kids who the other students went to when they had issues, so now we’ve just equipped them with the knowledge to take it a step further,” Hultgren said. “And I think there is something to be said about students helping their fellow students. The younger ones really get a kick out of it when they see one of the older kids in the school coming to help them.”
For the students of the Mission Estancia STAR Tech, the program also will provide them with the knowledge that many of them hope will be the foundation of future careers in computer technology.
“It gives us a leg up and advance learning now, instead of jumping into the advanced technology later without the base of knowledge,” said Celeste Magosineth, a sixth grader.
For others, it beats the alternative.
“I like it,” said Zain Asarat, a fifth grader on the help desk team, who provided a very candid perspective. “I like going around to different classes and fixing problems better than sitting around in class.”