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School : Burlington High School

District : Burlington Public Schools

State : Massachusetts

Level : P-12

District Enrollment : 1,001-10,000 students

Community Type : Suburban

Related Tags : 1:1 Initiative, student leadership

Students as Tech Support

Burlington Public Schools, located in Burlington, Massachusetts is a K-12 1:1 tablet, apps for Education district. The suburban district is home to four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school with 3,500 students and 300 teachers. Burlington launched the country’s largest 1:1 tablet initiative back in 2011 as well as one of the nation’s first student-run Help Desk program.

The Challenge

When Burlington High School was preparing to rollout over 1,000 tablets back in 2011, the administration, IT department, and educational technology team relied heavily on students. During the planning stages, students served realized teachers and students would need ongoing technical support as well as assistance with integrating the tablets into instruction. During the planning stages, students served as consultants.

The Solution

Recruiting a team of tech-savvy students who were able to troubleshoot and solve technology problems effectively with multiple devices and offer their advice on how to best leverage the iPad in the classroom was a key factor in the success of Burlington’s 1:1 program. The creation of a student-run Help Desk alleviated some of the demands placed on the IT department while at the same time creating a school culture where students became partners in pedagogy. Teachers and students now collaborate on which technology tools are most effective in the classroom; everyone is learning together. Help Desk students will often be called upon to demonstrate a technology tool in their classes because they have established themselves as ed tech leaders in the community.

The Help Desk was modeled after Apple’s Genius Bar. Located in the back of the high school library, the Help Desk is open throughout the day for teachers, students, staff, and administrators. Since its inception in 2011, the program has evolved: students now do much more than offer solutions to technology problems. They publish a globally recognized blog, present at state and regional educational technology conferences, consult with app developers and local businesses, and host a Live Google Hangout On Air Show called “Help Desk Live.” Additionally, Help Desk students are given the opportunity to complete a 20% time Genius Hour project known as the Individual Learning Endeavor (ILE). The curriculum offers each student a personalized learning experience and provides them with authentic, real-world learning experiences.

Help Desk students have also emerged as exceptional digital role models for their peers. All maintain personal blogs and many leverage social media tools including Twitter, LinkedIn, and About.Me to showcase their skills and to connect with industry professionals. They have led Twitter chats, appeared as guests on the BAM Radio Network, and have appeared in the Mind Shift and TED-Ed blogs. Help Desk is a formal, elective course worth 2.5 credits. Students complete an application and must go through an interview process to be accepted into the program. Once enrolled, students may take up to four semesters, or two full years, of the course.


  • Be sure your infrastructure can accommodate the increased demand.
  • Engage with local ISPs in a conversation about what it would take to develop a program to make sure all students have equal access.

Additional Resources

From District 87:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

Point of Contact

Questions regarding the Burlington High School Help Desk can be directed to Jennifer L. Scheffer at
You can also connect with Jennifer on Twitter at @jlscheffer
We do not have an organizational address. Jennifer will answer Help Desk related questions. She leads the Help Desk program and serves as the Burlington Public Schools Mobile Learning Coach and Instructional Technology Specialist.