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Quaker Valley students offer tech support through help desk

| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Quaker Valley High School librarian Richard Hollein (left) tries to help Peer Help Desk tutor Isaac Lang, a sophomore, answer a question about a make-up test that Lang is administering to another student at the school Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The Peer Help Desk (PHD) is a program that allows students to help other students with tutoring, make-up tests, problems with their computers and more.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Quaker Valley High School librarian Richard Hollein (left) tries to help Peer Help Desk tutor Isaac Lang, a sophomore, answer a question about a make-up test that Lang is administering to another student at the school Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The Peer Help Desk (PHD) is a program that allows students to help other students with tutoring, make-up tests, problems with their computers and more.

A team of technicians wait behind the Peer Help Desk inside the library at Quaker Valley High School, ready for the next problem to arise.

A student drops computer and the screen on the laptop is cracked and needs fixed; or the computer's wireless card won't connect to the server and needs rebooted.

Or, there was that one instance, where a student's laptop began smoking ...

No matter what the issue, be it technology related, a student needs tutoring, or a teacher needs a missed test administered, there's a team of students at Quaker Valley High school ready to assist their peers.

The Peer Help Desk, which focuses on students helping students, started three years ago at Quaker Valley High School and has evolved over the years. Over the summer, a room inside the library was redesigned by students to give the student technical support team on the Peer Help Desk a “Geek Squad” like base, with live tickers on the walls showing data about the district's servers and news updates from across the world.

“If a teacher comes in and says their email is down, we can have actual evidence and say, ‘yes, the email system is down right now,'” said Nick Tusick, 17, a junior, and help desk technician, who redesigned the space for the district.

Students in Quaker Valley expressed a desire to help their peers and teachers, said librarian Rich Hollein.

Before the program's launch, students and staff visited a school in Beaver County that had a student-run technology support program.

In the car on the way back to Quaker Valley, the response from students was the same: They liked the idea, but they wanted to offer more than technology, Hollein said.

The Peer Help Desk at Quaker Valley also allows any student, for a 12-week term receiving a pass-fail grade, to offer support to their classmates through tutoring and administering tests for teachers, as well as helping disseminate and collect laptops for the school's one-to-one program at the beginning and end of the year.

“We are kind of part of the administration,” said Sarah Trapizona, 16, a manager on the Peer Help Desk.

If a student misses a test in class, teachers often rely on the Peer Help Desk to give a makeup test to the student. Teachers and guidance counselors also request the Peer Help Desk tutor students who are struggling in class.

There's no qualification to be a member of the Peer Help Desk. Freshman cannot join until the third trimester.

Students, however, are taught about ethics and communication skills and how to interact with adults — like their teachers — who they're dealing with on a professional basis.

“These guys have a little bit more access to help students, to locate students; they administer tests. A teacher giving up his or her test is a very big deal,” Hollein said. “The teachers all have a list of all of these kids and they know this program has some integrity and ethics behind it.”

Members of the peer help desk say they're learning important communication skills from the program.

“There are a lot of times when we have to send emails where they have to be to the point and concise,” said Kennadie Bates, 16, a junior and manager on the help desk.

Their clients, though, also are their classmates. They hope by having once sat in the same classes they're tutoring or offering support for, that it makes it easier for students to learn from them.

With the laptops, there often are things students and teachers don't know how to fix on their own.

Some members of the Peer Help Desk said they taught themselves the ins-and-outs of technology.

Much of what is done on the Peer Help Desk is tracked online. Technicians have a “knowledge base” center they keep to tell each how they fixed various problems they encounter.

“This year we're starting to repair things on site, just little things, like replacing bulbs in projectors,” Tusick said. That means going into classrooms and helping teachers with their technology.

Typically, the students don't open up the computers. That's left to the district's two IT technicians, who they send the computer's to for more advanced work. Computers also are sent outside of the district, at times, for repairs.

But they're still learning.

“Just the experience of working with other people, helping people, fixing problems, that's what I'm getting from this,” Tusick said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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