Madison's 'IT' students get hands-on experience
Saturday, December 07, 2013 4:00 AM
Gabe McMahon sits in a room filled with laptops, chords and computer parts and quietly goes about his business replacing the screen of a laptop computer.
Lucas Fisher, one of the MCHS computer service tech students, updates the school’s Clifty Drive road sign from a computer in the library on Wednesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
McMahon, a sophomore at Madison Consolidated High School, is one of the school's eLearning student technicians - a group of technology-minded students who fix school equipment - including iPads, laptops, computers and Promethean boards - and walk students and teachers through any tech queries that might come up.
While he says he doesn't necessarily see a career in information technology, he enjoys taking the class.
There's not a teacher standing over him while he works, McMahon said, and he's allowed to work at his own pace.
"It takes a kind of stress away from the day," he said.
McMahon says he prefers to work with hardware issues instead of software.
"There are a set amount of things that can go wrong," he said. "With software, it could be any number of things that go wrong."
The eLearning student technician project began three years ago, when Madison Consolidated Schools began a one-to-one initiative to get devices into the hands of every student.
Lisa Cutshall, director of eLeaning, said MCS has about 5,000 devices - 4,000 of them mobile.
Cutshall said students are taught how to troubleshoot and work with others who are seeking help or advice with their electronic device.
Students can also work toward certain certifications while taking the course.
"They can do course work from Sysco or Microsoft or Adobe and graduate with certain certifications," Cutshall said.
This year, the program has expanded to each school in the district. A student technician class was started last year at Madison Junior High School, which Cutshall called a sort of "feeder program" to the high school. But now Madison's elementary schools will have a chance to participate as well.
So far Deputy and Rykers' Ridge elementary schools have four students each, Lydia Middleton has eight students signed up and E.O. Muncie has 15. The junior high has 16 students and the high school has 23.
The program, Cutshall said, had to turn students away this year because of the amount of interest it has gotten in the school.
Cutshall said there is an application process and students have to be interviewed before they can enroll.
"We're looking for the right kind of students," she said. "It is a course where they have to be trustworthy and self motivated. They don't necessarily have a teacher watching over them, so they have to be self-directed."
Jennifer Watson was hired this year as the school's digital curriculum integration specialist. She works directly with the student techs at every level. Recently she's been working to get the elementary school programs set up.
"I've been showing them troubleshooting problems with the iPads," Watson said. "The kids will go into settings and play with things. They explore and then they'll get stuck somewhere. So, we teach the techs how to work through that.
"Today, I took over 13 of the junior high kids to E.O. Muncie and we went to the classrooms to help students and teachers get their email set up. And they would just fix the little problems."
More than 3,000 mobile devices go home every day, so there are opportunities for little problems that to crop up.
"There have been very few that we haven't been able to fix. I think I can probably count on one hand the number that we haven't been able to fix," Cutshall said.
The school's mobile devices are under warranty, and the school has also been certified to fix most of the equipment used.
Most of the problems that do come up, the eLearning student techs are trained to fix. And if they can't, they reimage the machine, meaning they reset it to it's original factory settings.
Cutshall said they teach their students the motto that "if you can't fix it in five minutes, reimage it."
Both Watson and Cutshall said the students have taken to their new role. The high school's media center has been set up as the hub for student technicians to talk to other students.
"That's probably their favorite part," Cutshall said.
"We get students all the time that say 'I'll be with so-and-so next class so I'll just have them take a look at it."