With new technology comes problems with new technology.
The Platte County R-3 School District anticipated the need for help in solving issues with the new digital tablets the school acquired for this year. In accordance with the start of shifting to a “one-to-one technology model,” the high school created a new class available to students — one that operates a lot like a real customer service center.
About 40 students enrolled to become a part of The Cyber Crew. The class operates each hour of the day and can mobilize to solve problems teachers and students experience with the new Google Chromebooks issued this year.
Some didn’t realize the problem-solving would be so in-depth but have adjusted and enjoyed the earliest stage of the program.
“You kind of figure out where each screw goes, so you kind of learn as you do it. It all kind of stays up in there (in your head),” said senior Dalton Pelham, a member of The Cyber Crew, while addressing the Platte County R-3 Board of Education during its Thursday, Sept. 15 meeting about the program.
While their primary goal is to fix Chromebooks, the students do so with a focus on professionalism and customer service. As learners, they find success in earning badges in digital citizenship, communication, professionalism, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation through ongoing digital portfolios.
In order to ensure that all stakeholders are apprised of the most current issues and innovations in technology, they will soon begin creating weekly newsletters and videos about anything from quick troubleshooting tips for students and teachers to spotlighting creative and effective uses of technology for learning in classrooms.
Just last week, Platte County School District director of communications Laura Hulett helped The Cyber Crew create a mission and values, propelling them to individually create a slogan and logo, which will be voted on next week.
“We’re still learning,” said Ms. Sarah Larson, the program’s instructor.
This past summer, the district came up with about $400,000 in the budget to purchase 470 Chromebook tablets for staff and the lease of 1,200 more, starting the one-to-one initiative at the high school level with the possibility to grow the program to other levels. The Chromebook purchases/lease agreement will be on a three-year contract.
During discussion of the tablet purchase/lease at the April board of education meeting, Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik tried to assuage concerns about the tablets by saying that students simply have begun to learn in a different matter, and there’s no plan to make a complete switch away from text books, even at the high school level, at this time. However, he believes a certain point will be reached when a cost analysis will need to be done to see if the change would be beneficial to students.
This type of movement helps reduce the need for computer labs and other hardware costs that can be saved to offset the cost.
“We do have a plan, a long-range budget plan, that we are trying to execute to create the desired results,” Reik said at the time. “It’s just a different approach to providing hardware to students.”
Other schools with similar one-to-one programs have also added the tech support class to help deal with the issues.
Students on The Cyber Crew have used the product manual and class time to learn how to work with the Chromebooks. This can involve simple restarts to resolve battery issues to taking the product apart to diagnose internal issues.
Turnaround times at can last anywhere from minutes to a day or so to resolve the problems. Cyber Crew members can respond to classrooms or have the devices brought to them at “The Tech Deck.”
“Honestly, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most about the program is just the chance to start working with these machines and getting in the habit of working with actual people,” said senior Cyber Crew member Ethan Bartlett, “and not just working on assignments but working with people who have actual problems.”
The class was offered during enrollment, and some joined with prior knowledge and a desire to expand expertise in the technology field. Platte County High School principal Dr. Chad Sayre said he also did some recruiting in an effort to fill out the numbers.
To have students available throughout the school day, five to seven students have the class during each period, allowing them to respond in real time as students or teachers have issues with the Chromebooks. Other class time is spent developing similar job skills with Larson and administrators continuing to develop the curriculum and use of class time.
“She’s done an amazing job, and I can’t speak enough about the impact these kids have had right out of the gate. It’s been amazing,” Sayre said.
Platte County chose the Chromebooks in a trial of three different devices conducted in 2014-15.
High school staff members began working with the tablets during the last school year in an effort to prepare for their utilization with students. The new purchases supplied a Chromebook to staff third through eighth grades in an effort to prepare them for the budgeted expansion of one-to-one technology in the coming years.
Each student is assigned a tablet that would be checked in at the end of each year. Students receive the same device back the following year as applicable.
A $40 per year fee for insurance coverage would be required for each student, who would also be responsible for the deductible for replacement or damage repairs. The district plans to look at options to help those who might not be able to afford the insurance, including small payment plans that could be made throughout the course of the school year.
Insurance must be paid for the student to take the device home.