CMLE Interview: Students Join Becker’s TechSquad Team!

This week CMLE interviewed Nancy Lorentz, Media Specialist at Becker High School. We offer this best practice under our Strategic Focus Area of Stretching Dollars!

Becker High School TechSquad Representatives
Becker High School TechSquad Representatives

We have all seen the commercials for the Minnesota based company Best Buy and their trendy and beloved “Geek Squad” on television. These seemingly knowledgeable computer support teams are available on-site and on-line to help answer questions and trouble shoot technology woes.

Nancy Lorenz is overseeing a no cost/low cost technology solution to stretch her library dollars. Her squadron of savvy tech support is being culled from the classroom.  In 2011, Becker added 900 iPads to their inventory in preparation of the launch of a 1:1 iPad Initiative. Nancy began searching for assistance from among the high school student body through National Honor Society’s Facebook page and the current Student Teaching Assistants (TAs).   The students focused on trouble shooting ways to synch large numbers of iPads, research and learn about educational apps and finally, inventory, label and distribute equipment.  Since then, Nancy has developed a course for the “TechSquad” assigning tasks such as creating iPad specific tutorials about set-up, apps, and programs.  They have now morphed into providing software updates, troubleshooting air printing issues; and assisting with email, writing work orders, inventorying equipment and performing basic maintenance.  Bringing this service front and center, this coming year Nancy will designate a corner in the Media Center as an iPad help desk, staffed in the afternoon by the student TechSquad.

Nancy responds to our questions:

Q: What are the qualifications to become a member of the TechSquad-STAC?
We are expanding the TechSquad/TA model into STAC (Student Technology Advisory Committee) which will be grades 6 – 12, beginning this spring headed by Ryan Cox, our district technology coordinator. I chose sophomores and juniors from former and current TechSquad kids.

Q: Do you limit the number of students?

The high school has ten members on STAC – one junior, three sophomores and six freshmen. I chose more of the younger students because they are more excited and have more time than the older students. We used the school’s History Day projects to identify freshmen that showed the greatest interest in technology.

Q: How is their time compensated?

We plan to allow the STAC students to keep their iPads through the summer so that they can come up with new and awesome ways to use it for education. When they come in during the summer to help with iPads we will pay them with pizza and flavored water.

Q: Do students receive on the job training?
I do my best to train my TechSquad and TAs to behave professionally when working in the media center. It is important that they never make another student feel stupid for asking for help. I have a Moodle site for my TechSquad that I plan to turn into an actual course when I have time. I’m not sure that all of the current freshmen STAC members will work in the media center as TechSquad or TAs, as some may not have time in their schedules. I’m hoping that when it all shakes out, those students who we choose for STAC will take the TechSquad independent study class at least once per year. Regardless, we will meet with them once per month after school, and they will come in to help when needed in the summer.

Q: What was/were the motivating factor(s) that contributed to the school’s/district’s decision to solicit help with technology from students?
Our district had actually cut four of my ten extra days the summer we received the iPads and did the same for our tech assistants and media assistants. We had no other choice but to have students help – we are still fighting to get enough tech hours to handle the extra work the 1:1 brings. I only see the TechSquad class growing.

Q: How has the program helped your library specifically?
I think having student workers in the library has made it more welcoming – kids think it’s cool to work in the library, and I am getting plenty of great students who want to belong to the TechSquad or work as TAs.

Q: Final thoughts!
I’m hoping that, moving forward, these students will be trained to provide tech assistance to teachers as well as other students. I have had TechSquad students go into classrooms and demonstrate iMovie for specific projects – I would like that aspect of the program to grow.

Becker High School Tech Squad Representatives
Becker High School Tech Squad Representatives

Technology is similar to sports in that it reaches across disciplines. Think of how this can continue to enhance your relationships with teachers across subject areas.

Tip: Identify possible programs for you to engage students in your media center. Seek out distinctive ways to spotlight technologically savvy students in your schools (name tags, locker signs, personalized attire, dedicated section in the school yearbook, etc.) to ignite participation from the student body.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Geek Squad employees are referred to as “agents” and assigned titles similar to those used by intelligence agencies, i.e. Counter Intelligence Agent (CIA). Their uniforms are also indicative of investigative professionals (white sleeve shirt, logo pin, black shoes, etc.)