Who are you going to call when computer or other technology problems strike? For Maine West High School students and teachers, one new answer is: TechGenius.
That's the name of a newly formed group of 20 Maine West students recruited and trained by West Technology manager Neil Charlet for the purpose of expanding the school's technology resources. Similar initiatives will soon follow at Maine East and South.
At West, 40 students applied for the role, which gives students both service-learning credit and experience in solving tech problems in a real-world setting.
TechGenius students take turns reporting for duty in West's Learning Resource Center and Think Tank Computer Lab, where they field spontaneous questions from peers or work with students or teachers who have made an online appointment to see them.
Charlet has set up a grid listing each TechGenius member's areas of expertise in Web and local applications. The range of services is wide -- from navigating the school's e-mail system to giving tips on embedding a YouTube clip into a presentation or creating a MovieMaker project.
Many of the TechGenius students are interested in pursuing a career in technology. For some, their new responsibility is simply an extension of what they already had been doing less formally.
As senior Parisha Patel explained: "I like to help people in general. Even before this, after school, I used to help people with their projects."
Jimmy Yim, a junior, agreed, said, "My friends usually come to me for help, so I realized maybe more people need help with this kind of thing."
In addition to receiving additional training from Charlet, each TechGenius member signs a list of expectations ranging from showing up for TechGenius duty on time to maintaining a professional working relationship with students and faculty alike.
Charlet sees benefit for both the TechGenius designees and the rest of the school. "The value is that now we're tapping into students that have this knowledge and expertise to assist our school," he said. "Now teachers and students not relying on just a small technology department for training and support."
And while the program is just now getting under way, Charlet already has a larger scope in mind. "My goal is to have 100 TechGenius students, taking our current support and expanding it to over 100 people for staff and students to go to."
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