Viking Genius Bar
In the spring of the 2020 – 2021 school year, Perkiomen Valley School District Foundation granted $18,000 to fund Dan Pennebacker and Karthik Ganesh’s proposal for a Viking Genius Bar to start in the 2021-2022 school year. The Viking Genius Bar provides a student-powered helpdesk where students can gain real-world opportunities while supporting Perkiomen Valley School District‘s technology initiatives. Included in this proposal was a new class to support this helpdesk and a renovation of space to offer a flexible workspace where students can collaborate on projects as well as spread out parts when working on computers. This proposal aims for students to support the demand for district hardware and software beyond the capabilities of existing technology staff.
The open-enrollment class is offered to high school students without needing any prerequisites. Students interested in technology and expanding their knowledge and relevant skills will love the real-life experience of learning and working in the Viking Genius Bar. Students in this class would develop communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills while focusing on creativity, innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. The course/experience will offer authentic learning opportunities that can lead towards technology industry-standard certifications and real-world experience.
When asked why he submitted this proposal, Pennebacker said, “Exposing them to something our courses don’t normally have. We teach them how to code, we teach them a little about hardware, we teach them a little bit about the bigger picture of stuff, but there wasn’t really anything like this. I think any student can be successful here, it’s an open enrollment class, so they don’t have to have a certain math class or anything for it.”
In their first year alone, it is estimated they have saved the district over $90,000 in Chromebook warranties and repairs. In that first year, students quality-checked over 600 Chromebooks to see if they were fit for use and programmed over 100 Chromebooks. But this isn’t the end of the class. When asked what’s next for this class and curriculum, Karthik Ganesh said, “this is just year one, and we are so glad we have gotten to do this. This course is going to be about the next generation of technology, cyber security; the goal is to, at some point, have this class cover all the technical operations. So students will be able to learn about how technology works in an institutional environment.”
What students and teachers are saying:
“I really appreciate the course itself because not only is it like learning these things about the hardware that I wouldn’t normally know, but it’s also a. getting the hands-on experience that I wouldn’t get in a lot of other classes and b. it’s benefitting the school district itself because we’re repairing the Chromebooks that other students will be using” – Jason, student.
“I really like the way how it’s run. It’s not a lecture-based type of class, I guess you can say, it’s not a teacher standing up front teaching you, it’s kinda like a self-paced. Like, Here’s a Chromebook; take it apart and learn how to fix it. You attempt it, and if you need help, you can ask.” – Christian, student.
“It’s funny because they have classes where they go in a lot, and they go ‘the geniuses are here, the geniuses are here,’ and I think they like being called that” – Dan Pennebacker.
“I like that it’s more hands-on and less note-taking and lectures. There is definitely something you can learn. In a lot of traditional classes, it would be learning things on paper, taking notes, reading from a textbook, I find that boring, and for a class like this, it’s better to be hands-on, and I appreciate it.” – Max, student.
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