Computer practicum course turns students into teachers

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Cassville High School students River Phelps, left, and Richard Lauffer, change a projector bulb in computer science instructor Jake Forste’s classroom for an assignment in their computer practicum course, which turns student into teacher as they help teachers and fellow students district-wide solve a myriad of technical issues that occur throughout the course of the school day. Contributed photo

Cassville students solve technical issues, gain work-place skills

Students at Cassville High School are getting a unique opportunity to assist their fellow students, teachers, learn workplace skills and serve their school district.

The students are able to do all of these things through a computer practicum course, which places them in a consultant-type role to help students and teachers with all manner of technological issues.

Shelley Henderson, instructional technology coach, supervises the students and oversees the program, which is in its third year at the high school.

"I definitely think it's been a positive for the students and the district as well," she said.

The program came about after the districts' 1:1 initiative, which aimed to give every student from third to 12th grades access to their own Google Chromebooks. While the initiative has been hailed as positive for students and teachers, it brought new tasks and considerations along with it.

"We knew that would create additional work," Henderson said. "Eric Fuch is in charge of larger tasks such as networking and the internet, so for the smaller things that teachers encounter on a daily basis, such as, 'My projector bulb went out,' or, 'I can't print,' we thought, why not have students who are interested in this field be helpers who could go out and fix these issues and free up Eric."

"Also, when we got a new computer lab [in the middle school], the practicum students went over and set up the computers and got them on the network. They also research apps for teachers and will go into the classroom and teach the student or teacher how to use them, and have created websites and performed different technology tasks. So, any kind of job they can handle, they do."

At the beginning of each hour, two practicum students check into an online help desk to see what needs fixed and who needs help.

From there, the students are entrusted to go wherever a teacher or student is having a technological issue, whether that be in the high school, middle school or primary school.

"They have a lot of freedom," Henderson said. "I trust them to go to the primary school and fix an issue [or wherever else they need to go]. I have had a lot of compliments from other teachers about how professional they are, and the program has really allowed us to correct problems much faster because if Eric is in the middle of a project, he can't just go change a projector bulb, whereas with this program, we've got someone over there in an hour or so."

Henderson has noted that helping others with daily technical issues is helping the student as well, boosting their self-esteem and communication skills.

"We have kids who are gaining confidence," Henderson said. "And, it really helps them to practice work-related skills. In each setting, they have a customer with an issue and have to ask questions to figure out the problem, so it helps with their communication skills as well. It's really a positive. I think the students have received it really well."

Along with gaining important work and interpersonal skills, the students also receive a practical art credit for the practicum and experience that stands out on a resume.

"I have had former students who've called me for references, especially for technical jobs," Henderson said. "Even if they're not interested in computer science as a career, we have a lot of students who are interested in engineering and other technical fields. And even those who are more techie and maybe don't typically have a lot of interaction with others, it helps their communication skills, because you really have to ask a lot of questions to solve problems."

Unlike many adults who can be intimidated by technology, students are not, Henderson said.

"The kids are pretty fearless and are not afraid to try things and are not afraid they're going to break something," she said. "If they don't know how to do something, they'll Google it, or they learn from each other. The students helps the teachers who are challenged, too."

Henderson added that students don't have be be technically-oriented to be in the practicum, and with all the skills students have the opportunity to learn, it's no wonder it fills up quickly.

"It's offered on a first-come, first-served basis each semester," Henderson said. "A student doesn't have to be a techie, they learn quickly from each other. I get students who return from last year who are like my leaders who teach the new ones how to do new things."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: