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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

Student Help Desk squad keeps computers humming

Beth Biglin, from left, Geoff Stafford, Garrett Barboza, Paul Dental, and Hank Strong work on computers during their Help Desk class at Anthony Wayne High School. Beth Biglin, from left, Geoff Stafford, Garrett Barboza, Paul Dental, and Hank Strong work on computers during their Help Desk class at Anthony Wayne High School.

The students in Help Desk class at Anthony Wayne High School aren't exactly the Ghostbusters, but they're the ones to call when there's somethin' strange going on and it doesn't look good.

With the computer, that is.

Created five years ago, Help Desk is a unique course in which the school benefits as much as the students who take it.

The 10 upperclassmen enrolled in the class (there's a selection process that includes recommendations from other high school teachers) report to a classroom adjacent to the school's library, where teacher David Johnson stares at a screen filled with e-mails about printing troubles or Internet issues from other Anthony Wayne teachers.

If the teacher with the complaint is stationed at one of three school buildings on the district's main campus on Finzel Road, Mr. Johnson will assign a student or two to visit that instructor's room and attempt to fix the problem.

The district has two full-time computer technicians, but many of the issues that arise, such as printer or network problems, are dealt with by the students.

While the professionals are left to handle the more serious computer malfunctions, the students gain real-world experience by offering a service - help - to a valued customer - teacher.

"We love it," said Brad Rellinger, a full-time technology specialist at Anthony Wayne. "The students help us a tremendous amount, whether it be solving simple problems or delivering broken laptops to us. Plus, having experience in the technology field will be key later in their lives."

The curriculum is from a Web-based Apple Inc. technician training program, in which the students use their Apple iBook G4 laptops to learn the ins and outs of programming and troubleshooting.

Each student in the class is issued one of the small, white computers, as are the Web team members and those who take courses in video journalism and video production.

Senior Help Desk student Erik Dutridge said getting yearlong access to a free laptop is cool, but it's not the best part of taking the class.

"You get to use your knowledge of computers to help people," said Erik, who along with seniors Beth Biglin and Geoff Stafford are second-year Help Desk staffers. "It kind of makes you feel powerful."

Beth said there's a rush involved with going into a teacher's classroom to fix a computer and having to ask him or her to step aside while typing in the technicians' secret password.

"It's fun to have unlimited access," Beth said. She, Erik, and Geoff are the only students in the building with knowledge of all log-in codes.

"There's also a business aspect to all of this. You have to be able to get the job done as soon as possible and treat your customer with a great deal of respect."

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