BHS Genius Barons Support Students and Staff
Brighton High School has more computers and tablets than ever this school year due to the expansion of the District’s 1:1 device program. All freshman and sophomores received their own tablets and all BHS students will have tablets at the start of the 2020-21 school year. The additional devices have led to the usual questions and technical issues, such as trouble connecting to a printer or accessing files on the cloud.
The student-run Genius Barons club is able to resolve some of these issues through its help desk in the BHS library. Students in the club are available throughout the school day to assist their fellow students.
“We're like the first line of defense, we help with the basic issues,” said senior Ari Stein. “Students come to us, they tell us the problem, and we assess if we're able to fix it. Sometimes we can fix it and sometimes we need to send them down to the technology office.”
The idea of a peer-to-peer technology support team started in 2013 when the District was preparing for future device distribution at Twelve Corners Middle School and Brighton High School.
“Somebody suggested some kind of student technical help desk at the high school and when somebody else asked, “Where could we put it?’ I raised my hand and offered the library media center,” said BHS Library Media Specialist Howard Enis. “It's centrally located in the building, we see 1,000 students per day, we have the space, and we can host the talent. That's where the Genius Barons idea was born!”
The Genius Barons, also known as GenBar, formed during the 2013-14 school year and helped beta test the library’s tablets. At the start of the 2014-15 school year, the club helped with device distribution for eighth graders and supported the BHS library’s tablets.
In 2015-16, the club started using GenYes, a help desk work ticket system, to help the students keep track of their progress on a problem. Some club members received Microsoft Innovative Educator training, making them some of the first students to receive the certification. This means they are certified by Microsoft to train teachers on how to use Microsoft 365 products in the classroom. Several more students received the certification in 2016 and 2017.
“The certification is a pretty special thing,” Stein said. “Mr. Enis worked to allow us to have that opportunity,” Stein said.
GenBar added its help desk during the 2017-18 school year to support the ninth graders’ devices. The students also provided professional development to teachers around the District.
The club had a booth at the 2017 New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE) Conference. GenBar members led a panel at NYSCATE in 2018, where they fielded questions from educators from around the state.
“We made a PowerPoint that describes what GenBar is and the kind of things we do,” sophomore Ayesha Patel said. “We also took feedback from people who were staff or teachers at other schools. It was nice to have other people's opinions, people who have seen problems that all schools face and everyone has different solutions.”
Students in GenBar receive school credit through the school/work internship program. Doing 80 hours of work equates to half a credit on their transcripts. Students can also use their experience as volunteer hours that are required for health class.
While the club is going to continue its role in supporting students and teachers in using their devices, they’re also looking to grow the club in some different directions.
“We started working with Raspberry Pi devices, tiny computers that can help GenBar students learn more about computing in general, Linux navigation, and things of that nature,” sophomore Thomas Jordan said. “We're also creating video tutorials for parents, students, and teachers on a lot of different topics, such as how to print, how to connect to Wi-Fi, how to use the sticky notes program, and so on.”
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Debby Baker said the Genius Barons are an asset to the District’s technology implementation initiative. However, she has also seen the GenBar benefit the students who run it.
“Over the years, they have grown confident in their abilities to talk to adults, lead discussions, and be a voice of authority,” Dr. Baker said. “One example was this past fall when several of the GenBar students presented at NYSCATE, a statewide conference of technology-using educators. With almost 50 attendees to their seminar, they described their work and answered questions from the audience, all the while, never looking nervous or flustered. There are many adults who wouldn’t be able to do that.”