Buffalo, New York, kindergarten teacher Maria Spurlock spent more than a week trying to get a reading app working on her students’ iPads. When she learned her building had a new team of technical experts, the frustrated educator put in a help request.
In walked 11-year-old Arefa Zaman, a sixth-grader with a yellow “tech squad” T-shirt. Arefa quickly solved the problems.
Buffalo Public Schools officials recognize that kids who have grown up with technology are readily equipped to help with the upkeep of the district’s thousands of iPads and laptops. And as they assist others in the school, the students hone practical skills they can take with them.
Despite concerns about excessive screen time, devices are here to stay. So supporting them will keep growing in importance. Buffalo isn’t the only city giving tween and teen “geek squads” a go. The strategy is playing out around the country as schools increasingly supply devices to every student.
Student techs learn from school staff, each other, and online tutorials. They fix cracked screens, stuck keys, freeze-ups, and dead batteries. Buffalo students even learn technical support from an Apple store.
“Anything that we can do here, they can do,” says technology specialist Jerilyn Stellato. She was referring to “Tech Team Junior” members at Oliver W. Winch Middle School in South Glens Falls, New York. Stellato says some students use their study hall hours to give tech support for the school’s Chromebooks.
Kentucky’s Fairview Independent Schools also put together “little help desks” staffed by kids. Overseer Corey Moore says 10-15 students take turns staffing a shop in the school atrium. Moore says the student tech team members can completely tear down student Chromebooks, “from screens to logic boards.”
But it’s not all about repair. Equipping and maintaining software for more than 20,000 devices was a big job for the Buffalo school district. It recruited high-schoolers as paid technology interns over summer break. They’ll work six weeks in July and August, resetting devices in preparation for the next school year.
The Apostle Paul believed young people could contribute much of worth. He told Timothy to be bold to teach despite his youth. (1 Timothy 4:11-12) For Spurlock, the Buffalo kindergarten teacher, Arefa’s age didn’t matter.
The middle-schooler correctly installed the app on all machines. Then she addressed a bigger problem: “Since they’re only kindergarteners, they can’t remember their username and password.” She set up log-ins using a scanned code. The pre-readers no longer have to key in a password.
“I was just amazed,” Spurlock says. “It was like calling an adult.”