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How to Create a Student-Run 'Genius Bar'

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If your school is in the process of creating a student-run "Genius Bar," you're in luck. This is one of the best ways to involve students in learning about how to use, diagnose, and repair common types of technology. Genius Bars like these allow students to interact with peers and faculty, allowing them to increase their learning while obtaining valuable real-world skills. If you need a little help getting started, I have provided some logical steps and best practices below.

1. Determine your goals and outcomes

Before you can do anything else, you need to determine the goals and intended objectives of the program. You don't have to go this alone, either--reach out to other teachers and students to find out what they would like to see and get out of a student-run Genius Bar. Research other Genius Bars to get ideas.

2. Design activities and assessments

Figure out what tasks students will be responsible for, and outline a rough draft of a curriculum. You don't need to have every single detail in writing, but you should know most of the tasks you will be having these students complete. They might write blog posts, review applications, facilitate video conference calls, or engage in "customer service" to help other students and teachers. Be aware, and make your students aware, that this Genius Bar isn't just a simulation of real-world problems--it is the real world. Students should be actively involved in realistic scenarios at all times.

3. Recruit your team

Think broadly and inclusively when recruiting your team. You should aim to recruit a wide variety of diverse students, each of whom should possess a varied skill set. Having students who are proficient in different types of technology or skills on your team will make it more equipped to solve problems. For example, you might consider a team that consists of "tech-savvy" students, who are good at troubleshooting device and hardware issues, artistic students, who can help develop multimedia projects, writers, and business-oriented students.

4. Promote your team

Other students won't utilize your Genius Bar if they don't even know it exists. Once your Genius Bar is up and running, have the students develop a promotional campaign. This will serve two purposes: it will give them valuable experience in collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving, and it will help show other students the services offered by this new program.

5. Start small and delegate

You don't want your Genius Bar to become so large that it frequently finds itself hung up by too many opinions and inputs. Start small and allow the students to get to know each other and build a collaborative team before you consider branching out. Make sure the students have an established system wherein they can develop, then delegate, and finally complete necessary tasks.

Most importantly, when you've established your Genius Bar, it's important to provide constant opportunities for feedback. Conduct surveys, panels, and open forums to allow students and teachers to share suggestions, criticism, and--hopefully!--praise for this new endeavor.


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