These West Philly High students run a Chromebook repair shop and share their expertise on TikTok

Tech training comes in many forms – coding bootcamps, IT certificates, device repair for teens. Also, TikTok.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Philadelphia School District worked to connect students to high-speed internet at home and ensure they have devices to learn from. In April 2020, it rolled out a program to get Chromebooks into the hands of more than 117,000 students through the Philadelphia School District Fund and over $7 million in donations. Devices, as well as connectivity programs like PHLconnectedhave been a central part of remote, hybrid and return to in-person learning amid the pandemic.

But with the distribution of thousands of devices comes the need for routine repairs and troubleshooting. A West Philadelphia High School the class is on it.

The high school is one of three in the district to offer a Computer Systems Networking program as part of its Career and Technical Education, or CTE. In the Grades 10-12 classroom, students learn about the design, implementation, and management of related computers, peripherals, and associated software, and become familiar with devices.

Marie WilkinsWalker leads the class, which recently joined a Chromebook repair shop. Think of it like a Genius Bar or Best Buy’s Geek Squad: The class maintains computers within their school system, but also computers throughout the district, and they say they average about 50 repairs per week. The program aims to reuse and recycle technology that is still good and to teach practical skills.

Marie Wilkins-Walker with two of her students. (Photo by Adam Northam for the School District of Philadelphia)

“They realize the technology isn’t going away,” Wilkins-Walker said of her students. “Even if they don’t focus on something in technology [for a career]to be that person in the room who understands it and can do those repairs is valuable.

This is not only to provide a practical way to implement what they learn in the classroom, but also to serve as a pathway for students to pursue technology jobs or careers beyond graduation. Ed Deitrichthe director of IT customer service and field support for the school district says students are ready to join the district Urban technology project, a computer learning program. The district is also making the repair shop a paid internship for students over the summer, Deitrich said, and expanding its capacity for the fall.

Zeinabou Coulibaly, a junior in the class, runs a TikTok account that teaches basic Chromebook repair and maintenance so viewers can try troubleshooting for themselves. She hopes to one day become a director.


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♬ original sound – West Philadelphia High School

“I think it’s going well so far,” she said. “We have about 500 views, and I made five videos today on how to take care of your Chromebook and posted students fixing them.”

Second year Nyeem Shubert didn’t consider a career in technology until administrators put the CTE class on her schedule. But he has since learned to do repairs and recently became responsible for screen repair.

“I thought, ‘I could see myself doing this in the future, I could want to do this when I grow up,'” he said. summer.”

Wilkins-Walker hopes to open the class to ninth graders next year, to get even more students involved. Two other high schools Murrell Dobbins Vocational and Technical Secondary School and Swenson High School of Arts and Technologyhave computer system networking CTE programs, but West Philly High is the only in-house repair shop so far.

As the program is currently structured, the training serves as a means to fill the the gap between high school and college or to provide technical training in the real world. She and Deitrich hope some will join the Urban Tech project after graduation and work in schools with students who were like them a few years ago.

“I think it’s powerful,” Wilkins-Walker said. “They will be closer in age to my students than me, and to see that clear pipeline and journey is a good thing.”



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