The CSS Program
The School District of Philadelphia and Communities In School of Philadelphia, Inc. (CISP) have partnered to create the Computer Support Specialist (CSS) program to provide additional technical support to over forty school and selected central offices. The CSS workforce development initiative is a registered IT Apprenticeship Program with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry – the only program of its kind in the state.
The CSS program builds upon the Digital Service Fellows initiative which offers recent School District of Philadelphia high school graduates the opportunity to serve for one year as Information Technology apprentices with District master technicians. Computer Support Specialists are primarily recruited from the pool of qualified Digital Service Fellows alumni and graduates of District technology programs.
The Computer Support Specialists are supervised and mentored at their respective locations by the schools’ Technology Teacher Leader and administration. Computer Support Specialists provide on-demand break/fix support, allowing the school Technology Teacher Leaders to focus more time on implementing and integrating technology in the classroom.
Passing It On…
The Computer Support Specialists teach and mentor middle and high school students through the District’s summer activities. One of these initiatives, the Digital Miracles Project, provides an opportunity for participants to learn hardware components, software installation, troubleshooting skills and various software applications by refurbishing a used computer. Students complete a 40-hour training and develop a service-learning project to apply their newly acquired knowledge. Upon completion, students show off their skills in a special family event and take home the computer they refurbished. Computer Support Specialists also lead or assist with after-school technology clubs and participate in pre-graduate course work at accredited higher learning institutions to enable them to stay on the forefront of emerging technologies. Not only do Computer Support Specialists mentor and teach Philadelphia school students, they also provide technical support for a variety of conferences. These include the International Society for Technology in Education, Black Data Processing Associates, The National Service-Learning Conference, The Philadelphia Higher Education for Network for Neighborhood Development, The Student Anti-Violence Summit, and District-wide events.
Committing to the Future
What is next for the Computer Support Specialist program? The CSS model has received state-wide recognition and has been evaluated by other school districts as a way to help maintain their technology infrastructure. We have presented at various conferences, and we are discussing models to serve non-profit agencies. We look forward to the coming years with enthusiasm and excitement. Our aim is to continue to support the integration of technology into the classroom, thereby supporting the work of teachers and administrators in providing students with relevant learning experiences