The following is a proposal to develop an academic class whose focus is school-to-work, community service and technology skills: developing student knowledge about maintaining computers and associated software in a school or office environment, and their application of this knowledge in service to the school and greater Poughkeepsie community. The class might be called "The Tech Scouts", after the existing afterschool club. It could also be given another name, such as "Computer Support Internship", with students from the course joining the club on their own initiative.
In this initial proposal the two structures, class and club, are conceived as complementary: the class offers a legitimacy and rigorous course of study that would be more difficult for a club to establish, while the club offers greater flexibility, adaptability, and esprit de corps than can easily achieved in a classroom environment. As the initiative moves forward, each structure will of course require separate and increasingly differentiated development.
The basic format of both class and club are similar: first, students learn the basics of maintaining the computers and software they are likely to encounter in the school/office environment, practicing those skills in a lab set up for that purpose. Second, as they progress students demonstrate their capacities to each other and to their teacher/leader, earning their way through steps of sequential recognition (merit badges in Scout lingo) and moving up in status from, say, scout apprentice , to "scout", to scout guide, to scout manager. Third, students who are judged to be sufficiently knowledgeable leave the lab in response to calls for help from the community they service. Repair or solution is attempted on a house call basis, but if necessary equipment is brought back to the lab for in-house work.
Tech Scout Activity Possibilities
[These are not intended to be definitive, but to provide a sense of texture and possibility on which to build.]
Because student service-learning is the focus of both the class and the club, it is essential that the teacher/leader have a student-oriented, scout leader orientation. Student growth and development must be the priority of the course/club, as it is with any school-based activity. Students gain tremendous self-esteem from being of service to the community, but their gain, not the satisfaction of the communitys every technical need, must remain paramount.
The students must have ready access to one or more people who are themselves proficient problem solvers of the kind of hardware and software problems that occur in a school or work environment, and that person must play a significant role in overseeing the development and application of assessment rubrics, but the teacher/leader need not be that person. It is far better to co-lead the class/club than to force-fit a techie into a leader-type or a teacher into a techie.
Most schools have not typically made much use of student expertise and support, and the appearance of students in the role of Tech Scouts may at first be disturbing to some of the people they encounter. It is essential therefore to get off on the right foot, and to move conservatively until the new role is familiar to the community. At a very minimum, apprentices should not be allowed to make service calls; and, initially, no student should be allowed to make service calls unless accompanied by a responsible adult. (Familiarity with and skill at handling both the technical and the interpersonal problems encountered in the field is a prerequisite for guide status. A "scout guide" might act alone, or as the supervisor of an apprentice scout making a service call, with an adult present as an observer; eventually, after meeting some defined standards, the student guide could become a mentor, and operate without an adult present.)
In the Tech Scouts afterschool club, the person designated to provide technical services to the school community takes on the role of teacher/leader as well as technical advisor to the class/club. In the case of the class, care must be taken to be sure that whoever is in charge of technical services in the school plays a role in planning, or at least trouble-shooting, the proposed class/club, particularly its service protocols, and is kept aware of activities and developments. At no time should the class/clubs activities be seen as interfering with the functioning or adding to the burdens of those in charge of technical support in the building.
What else would we need to specify/discuss in order to create an appropriate proposal for a Poughkeepsie High School course?