Next semester all three of the regular Columbia Public Schools (CPS) high schools will be offering a new learning opportunity. In an upcoming program, students will act as the first-level technology help within each school’s media center. The option will count as a .5 elective credit. In addition to helping other students with digital problems, each participant will pursue one of four paths in a project context. The categories include innovation, design, entrepreneurship and applications. Additionally, in order to share their expertise with a broader CPS audience, students will create posts for the Help Desk blog and moderate Twitter chats.
The program will align with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards. It will be available for students to take multiple semesters in row in order to build on their experience and skills. Although plenty of thought and effort has gone in developing the course, the timing of its implementation has affected enrollment.
“We have gotten a lot of maybes. It’s a little awkward because it’s starting mid-year and so there are students who have been interested but they don’t feel they can necessarily fit it into their schedule,” Beth Shapiro, RBHS Media Specialist said. “There are also students who because they’re already interested in this are already taking some Career Center classes on the topic already. We haven’t had any kind of firm schedule changes yet.”
Director of Technology Services Chris Diggs, who spearheaded the addition, first looked to a high school in Vermont as an example for her vision. After her initial idea, Diggs presented a plan of action to the media specialists then to Dr. Peter Stiepleman and the assistant superintendents and finally to the guidance directors.
“I had the idea and then as part of my research I found the course program at Burlington High School which helped serve as a model and inspiration for developing our CPS course,” Diggs said. “I really wanted to develop this course so that students who have an interest or aptitude in technology, whether it be the hardware or software aspects, could have the opportunity to gain this experience and perhaps help them realize a possible career path.”
Both Diggs and Shapiro urge students to come and discuss any inquiries they have about the help desk with either them or another technology education staff member within CPS.
“Definitely if it’s something you are interested in come and talk to us. If [students] already have [a class] they have to take and it’s a requirement on their route toward graduation or college, we don’t want people dropping [classes] for this,” Shapiro said. “I would encourage any students to come to talk to me or Mr. [Dennis] Murphy, Mr. [Donny] Silver, Mr. [Jeremy] Young. I’m excited; I think the potential is very great, and we can allow for a lot of hands-on, real-life problem solving and learning.”