As one of the first in the nation to have a fully wireless one-to-one program, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, is no stranger to being a pioneer in innovative educational practices. The all-girls PK-12 school started a student helpdesk program that gives the students hands-on experience with fixing their school computers, boosts their self-confidence and strengthens their problem-solving skills.
While transitioning to the one-to-one program in 1997, there was concern about how smoothly the program would run without the necessary technological support — from this “the CAVE” (a student run helpdesk) was born. They took what could have been a deterrent to the program and turned it into a fantastic teaching tool and a valuable experience to the students.
Janet Thorson, technology director for Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart was far from convinced that a one-to-one program was right for the school. The idea was just starting to be explored in the United States, though countries like Australia had implemented one-to-one programs in the 1980s. As the person who all of the technology problems would fall to, she didn’t know how they could offer helpdesk support to an entire school. However, all of that changed after attending a Microsoft® Summit.
Thorson spoke with other schools about how they handled similar situations and came back to the Duchesne Academy with a clear idea of how they could proceed. She requested to start a class where the students could learn how to provide helpdesk support for the campus. However, in order for the CAVE to be successful, they needed the students to embrace the program—which they did in a big way. With a computer repair company to back them up in case the volume of repairs became too much, or if a problem was beyond their capabilities, the CAVE has grown into a hub of the school where the students help the faculty and one another, letting their abilities shine.
“Toshiba has been really helpful in providing support for our girls in our training so that we are a certified service center,” said Eileen Ford, educational technology support manager for Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, and former CAVE student intern.
The students go through training in the summer to prepare for the start of school (watch the video on the CAVE). The CAVE offers students a chance to take on a leadership role where other students and faculty look to them for help. This inspires the student interns of the CAVE, and it motivates the younger students who see their peers fearlessly taking apart and putting computers back together with self-confidence and assurance. The program has grown so much in popularity over the years that a new Junior CAVE program has been started. Comprised of 7th and 8th grade students, they design content for a middle school TV kiosk, get a closeup look at the work of the Upper School interns, and even offer computer classes to their peers.
The future aspirations of the students who take part in the program are not necessarily to work in technology. Their interests remain diverse and varied, but they leave school with skills most high school students don’t possess. On top of technical skills, problem-solving and communication expertise, the CAVE teaches the value of community service by the firsthand experience of helping others.
This program that started out of necessity has become an educational dream for the students, teachers and Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.