Doran Smestad walks through the empty gym to the office in the back corner. The high school sophomore’s mission: to recover an important file that physical education teacher Jim DiFrederico can’t seem to open on his new Macintosh laptop. Doran’s long fingers cover the keyboard as he taps at it with cool concentration.

It’s a typical call for students known around the halls of Nokomis Regional High School as “tech sherpas.” Whether they fell in love with computers when they were 2, as Doran did, or when the state of Maine issued them a laptop in seventh grade, the digital world is so familiar to these teens that they can guide their teachers up some steep learning curves.

Within a few minutes, Doran has a file open on screen and asks, “Is this what you need?” With a relieved smile, Mr. DiFrederico gives him a pat on the shoulder. “Something that would take me a couple hours, they can do it in five minutes,” he says.

The timesaving for teachers is a big plus, but it’s not the main point of this informal program in rural Maine. For students who are keen to keep up with technology, helping adults is a way to broaden their own experience and practice communication.

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