Students get hands-on learning with Dell’s TechCrew for Student

North Augusta High School students sit at long tables to troubleshoot broken laptops.

Students participating in the Dell Student TechCrew program complete approximately 40 hours of training and earn a Dell TechDirect certification.

North Augusta High School

Hundreds of thousands of digital devices have flowed into the hands of American students in recent years.

Some went directly to students in the Aiken County Public Schools District in South Carolina. The district’s 41 schools, serving about 22500 students, including North Augusta High School. North Augusta expects to welcome about 1,800 students this academic year.

At the height of the pandemic, Aiken County school leaders decided to embrace 1:1 technology. 1:1 technology, or 1:1 computing, means that every student has a personal computing device to support their learning. Supporting more than 22,000 devices is a huge task for any organization.

It was a perfect opportunity for North Augusta High School students in Dell’s Student TechCrew Program for Intervention, Michelle O’Rourke told ZDNet. She is a teacher of business education and computer repair in the school. It also facilitates TechCrew.

The Dell Student TechCrew Program provides professional hardware repair training and certification for high school students. Students earn Dell TechDirect certification. They also get hands-on learning experience in repairing their peers’ devices.

The flexibility of the program allows schools and educators to offer TechCrew as a stand-alone program or integrate it into the academic curriculum as a class. This is the approach North Augusta uses. It is part of the school’s computer repair and maintenance program.

“So within two years of the course, the first thing they do is get their Dell certified. And then for the next year and a half, they fix the laptops and they also work by getting their CompTIA A+ and TestOut PC Pro certifications,” he said. O’Rourke.

This means that students can graduate with three industry standards Technical Certificates And 2 years of hands-on machine repair experience, which is a “really cool thing”.

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“They know what they’re doing”

O’Rourke said it is expecting 140 students in the TechCrew program in North Augusta this fall. There will be about ten new people in the program. The rest will be sophomores in the program, which consists mostly of 10th and 11th graders.

North Augusta students must take a basic course in Computing Fundamentals before enrolling in TechCrew.

Students get plenty of practice repairing cracked LCD screens, faulty power outlets, and keyboards. Kim Boutwell explains that screen edges and device cases also get a lot of abuse when they’re in the hands of students. You created Dell’s TechCrew, and it continues to operate today.

Students begin with approximately 40 hours of training for a Dell TechDirect certification.

“Once that’s done, they are certified. They know what they’re doing. I shouldn’t be able to tell the difference [between] A ninth grader and a tech expert for 20 years at that point, Botwell said. “They know what they’re doing, and they’re also certified on our gateway, Dell’s self-maintenance portal.”

The school’s senior TechCrew facilitators complete an eight to 10 hour course to lead the program. Boutwell said facilitators usually occupy other roles in the school. They may be teachers, librarians, volunteer parents, or even managers.

Botwell emphasized that TechCrew students don’t have to piece together a working device by dismantling its remains. old devices stacked in a closet. Instead, they use their online self-maintenance portal to order new parts, just like a regular enterprise customer.

“They’re in the same tool,” Boutwell said. “We didn’t make a fake one. They’re in the industrial tool.” “They are industry certified. Within this tool, they put their friend’s serial number in, they are trained to do the diagnosis, and then they are given a parts list. They know which parts to order. And they are dispatched overnight.”

Students’ devices sometimes have a hard life

In terms of repairs, Boutwell said LCD screen replacement is very common in schools.

“Children will put their pencil on the keyboard and lock it when the bell rings. …Or they walk down the hall and reach out to say hi to their friend and the laptop slides out. Or they run to get to and they go open the door and forget they have the laptop in their hand.”

School-issued devices also fall victim, Botwell said Spills and water damage. This may happen if a student is walking somewhere or cycling home in the rain and inadvertently getting their digital device wet.

Existing service contracts cover repair costs. The program itself is also free for schools. Boutwell said Dell funds it through an annual grant agreement with each school.

But mastering the technical aspects of repairing digital devices is only half of the program, Boutwell said.

“The focus of this program is 50% technical and then 50% what I call professional skills,” Boutwell told ZDNet.

The career side includes aspects such as customer service and communication – skills that are valuable to anyone, no matter what type of career you pursue.

“This is where the soft skills part of the software comes in,” O’Rourke said, “and that’s something I think is more important than knowing how to fix a laptop, is knowing how to start a conversation with someone. Or how to maintain a level of professionalism when someone isn’t listening to what you have to say.” Him. These kids are learning how to do it.”

Professional skills [aspect]”It’s a hard thing to get kids into,” Boutwell said. “They don’t want to read ‘Chapter Three: Communication, How to Communicate Effectively With Your Team.’ Gen Z is like, ‘Can you put that into TikTok for me?’ I had to find a way to gain those professional skills. [component] Cool and fun.

Students helped shape the newly revamped TechCrew curriculum, which was launched last month.

“It turns out that they don’t like videos longer than a minute and a half,” Boutwell explained. She added that students did not like to read long passages of text before they had a chance to follow up on what they were learning.

The updated course also takes into account another important point of student feedback: children love to learn from each other. Therefore, as part of the revised curriculum, students in the program have created videos that help other students learn important ideas.

Dell has also partnered with Konrad Foundation To help students learn and communicate.

Supporting the continuous digital transformation of education

Botwell created TechCrew to address a problem she encountered first-hand.

She is a former middle school teacher. In 2015, she was also a Dell customer. That year, her district decided to move to a 1:1 technology model. At the time, the idea — and the ability and best practices to implement it — was still new.

Boutwell said:

I was so excited to give 35,000 devices to the kids in my community and transform education that I forgot a small part of it, which is that high schools are crowded, kids run too fast, ride bikes, and forget to tie their shoe chains. Things happen, and they drop their devices.

I realized there were potential appliance repair technicians in the classroom: the students.

Boutwell later started working for Dell and pitched the idea to the company. It was officially launched in the 2019-20 academic year. The pilot program proved successful even with the introduction of an unexpected variable – the COVID-19 pandemic – that accelerated distance learning.

“It was such an interesting time trying out the hardware support software, I honestly didn’t know how it would be affected,” Botwell said. “It turns out that schools need that support more than ever and kids need this place to belong. It’s been more successful since then.”

Boutwell said she loves the path her career has taken so far. “It’s been an amazing journey. And I think my path from education to corporate helps me keep in touch with both people from the corporate world and people from the classroom. I don’t like being one or the other.”

Even without the pandemic, Boutwell said, school systems are still moving toward a 1:1 technology model for students. As a result, “we knew education was still transforming. And we knew the opportunity gap narrowed for students who don’t have their own devices.”

Right now, there is a huge push to make it happen Getting kids to code. This is a valuable skill. But O’Rourke said it’s important for students to learn Hardware These programs and applications will live on it.

“Laptops of programmers are also failing. Hard disk drives are also failing,” she said.

Three students from North Augusta High School gather around a laptop carrying repair tools.  The laptop case is open.

Students at North Augusta High School in South Carolina gain hands-on experience repairing appliances through the Dell Student TechCrew Program.

North Augusta High School

Early Success and Global Growth of Dell Student TechCrew

The 2021-22 school year was the first for the North Augusta TechCrew Program.

“All 25 students got their Dell certification before Thanksgiving,” O’Rourke said. “My goal was to do this in the first eight weeks of school, but with quarantine and Covid still happening, a few of them took a little longer.”

By the Christmas holidays, students were dealing with 98% of the repairs “not just for our school but for our middle school and primary schools around us,” she said.

Instrument care is a major responsibility of the full-time adult technicians in the area. Some Monday mornings, the crew would arrive to find a dozen or more students whose laptops needed repair.

“That’s a lot for one person, especially when some of our school technicians support more than one school and the 1:1 laptops are just one part of their work,” O’Rourke said.

“They still have to take care of the teachers and other things that are going on [full-time] The technicians were able to collect those laptops and bring them to us. My kids would take them in, fix their problems, order the parts, get the parts the next day, fix the laptops, and then text the technician and say, “Hey—I’ve got the laptops set up,” Come and get them.

O’Rourke said students had repaired more than 500 devices by the end of last school year.

Boutwell said she expects 175 schools in the United States, Australia and Ireland to participate in TechCrew this year. Students connect virtually to share their experiences and perspectives.

Aiken County students in Three other high schools You can also register with TechCrew.

As the program’s creator and leader, Boutwell also stays in touch. She acknowledges that it can sometimes be a challenge with students in many different time zones. Sometimes she starts her day communicating with students in Ireland and ends her day communicating with students from Australia.

“As a teacher, it’s fun to talk about all of this, but I really like to talk about the kids,” Boutwell said. “That’s what makes me really excited. We’re changing their trajectory, and it’s exciting to be a part of their opportunities.”