CLIFTON PARK -- Shenendehowa Central School District students are taking repairs of district-issued computers into their own hands, with the help of some teachers.
The Shen Help Desk, which students call SHED, is a student-run, troubleshooting and computer repair service for the district's two high schools.
Formed over the summer, SHED has offices in both high schools where students can drop off their Chromebooks for repair or pick up a loaner if needed.
This year, 3,200 high school students at Shen were issued Chromebooks as part of the district’s 1:1 initiative, aimed at providing a computer for every student. The 1:1 program has been in the works since 2016. Students are expected to bring their Chromebooks home for homework and to school for classroom instruction.
Lucas LaBarre, High School East class assistant principal, said the 1:1 program created the need for a centralized service area to make quick repairs to the machines if something goes wrong.
About a year ago, LaBarre and other school officials visited nearby districts, including Bethlehem and Guilderland, which already had student-run help desks, to help Shenendehowa educators plan their own IT service.
“One of the things that we were really focused on, I think, is that we wanted to be student-driven as much as possible," LaBarre said. "We wanted to plan on students really being the lead in this, once it got up and running."
Shen advertised SHED to students, who then applied to volunteer to staff the IT centers. Those selected attended a two-day summer training program about customer service and device repair, allowing SHED to open when the school year began.
SHED is based out of part of an unused computer lab in High School East. In order to get Chromebooks worked on, students enter in their information into a kiosk at the lab, including the nature of their Chromebook problem, and SHED volunteers determine whether the issue can be solved immediately or if the student needs to leave the device and sign out one of 110 loaner Chromebooks SHED maintains.
Another goal of the SHED program, LaBarre said, is ensuring all students have the materials they need for class every day.
“We started from the premise that we don’t want a kid not to have what they need for their class work," he said. "How do we accommodate every student every day in a timely manner?”
All SHED volunteers must go through a certification process run by John Bullington, the school district's lead teacher for technology. Students are taught to deal with problems ranging from broken screens to lost passwords and operating errors.
The objective, Bullington said, is to teach students to be flexible in their approach to repairs.
“How do we attack a broken Chromebook, and what processes do we walk through to try to figure out how to do those things?” Bullington said, noting SHED volunteers possess many computer and technology skills.
Since September, SHED volunteers have handled 4,000 Chromebook repairs.
Bullington hopes to expand the number of certified SHED volunteers and secure some funding for the program, which currently has none. He would also like to give students the chance to earn classroom credit for working at SHED.
Right now, students volunteer during their lunch or study periods. There are around 45 volunteers now.
Shri Selbaraj, a sophomore at Shen High School East, was working diligently Wednesday afternoon to fix a mouse for a Chromebook.
Selbaraj, who had opened up the back of the machine and was working on various components, said she enjoyed SHED because it gave her the chance to provide real help to her fellow students.
“I like how people come here looking for help, and we can actually help them,” she said, as she finished her repair and reassembled the Chromebook.