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Brewster’s Introduction to IT Students Get Career Ready with Project-Based Learning

students work to put a Chromebook back together

Clusters of students huddled around tables, staring intently at the exposed guts of Chromebooks. Tiny screws lined the tabletops and small tools rested nearby. Some students poked and prodded the open machines with confidence. Others moved more tentatively, not entirely sure of themselves.

“This class is not like a normal class,” Introduction to IT instructor Brendan Breen had told them earlier. “You have a job and I’m your boss. You have to take apart this computer.”

While a few of the students had some experience with computer hardware, many had never done anything like this before.

“The objective was to take apart the Chromebook completely and then put it back together,” said student Shashaank Sharma. “We had to check to see if we did it correctly and if it still worked.”

Students were given a guide as well as a checklist. In order to receive full credit for the day’s assignment, they had to make sure that once they put the Chromebook back together the battery turned on and could be charged, the keyboard, USB and camera worked, and the Chromebook could be connected to the network.

“It was a learning experience. It was tricky,” Breen said. “Next week, we’ll break up their teams so that it’s like a job. We want them to learn skills but we also want them to know that they’re not always going to be working with a friend.”

students take a Chromebook apart

The goal for the course is to equip students with the skills necessary for them to work with the district’s Technology and Innovation department.

“When they come to this period, we want to be able to say, ‘Go down to Tech and help out with this project’ or ‘Go to this classroom and provide some tech support,’” Breen said.

Students seem enthusiastic about the course. As teams finished their jobs for the day, they assisted other groups that were struggling. One group even cheered in triumph when they finally figured out why their keyboard was not working.

“I’ve never don’t anything like this before,” said Mattie Fitzpatrick, who is interested in pursuing computer programming and possibly information technology. “I’ve done a coding class before, but that was pretty much it. I really like it.”

Dante Riccoboni, on the other hand, has a little more experience. Both he and his partner have taken machines apart and put them back together before.

“We both breezed through it and now we’re helping everyone else. It is entertaining. I like it,” he said. 

Riccoboni is not a stranger to computer-centric courses. “I’ve taken a computer science course before, but it’s totally different. It is software oriented and this is hardware for the most part. I probably will do something more hardware oriented as a career — maybe hardware engineering.”

As students learn the basic skills necessary to move towards a career in technology, they are also learning other important life skills that align with the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan. The teams had to communicate and collaborate in order to complete the day’s mission. They also had to practice critical thinking and perseverance as they tried again and again to get specific functions to work.

students work together to take Chromebooks apart and piece them back together