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Student tech teams repair district technology

Burbank student tech teamWhen Burbank student Ricardo Julian arrived to his Practicum of Information Technology class last week, he had a bit of a surprise. 


Members of the district’s Information Technology department were there to teach the class how to repair Chromebook screens. 


Julian’s screen just happened to need repairing.


The senior, who just earned his CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification, was able to practice on his own device.
“I did not know I was going to be fixing my own Chromebook,” Julian said. “I was excited because while everything we used to do was on the computer, it really doesn’t compare to what we are doing now, which is hands-on.”


Julian and his classmates are the latest of three student tech teams now authorized to repair Chromebooks for the district’s information technology department. The class will employ 12 students — four teams of three, to repair devices from Burbank and its feeder schools for the busy testing season ahead.


They join Edison and Sam Houston, who also have student tech teams to run diagnostics, and replace screens, keyboards, and bezels when needed. 


“We go out and work side by side with them, showing them how you diagnose, how to replace a screen, or a keyboard,” Aaron Alonzo, executive director of Information Technology said. “They do all our QC [Quality Control] checks that we do internally before we give them back to a campus.”


The student tech teams project, which helps maintain the district’s one-to-one device-to-student ratio and dramatically reduces turnaround time on repairs, is a partnership involving the IT department, the Career and Technical Education Department, and funding from Methodist Healthcare Ministries through the SAISD Foundation.


The idea first started with students last year at Sam Houston High School, who were also preparing for the CompTIA certifications: A+ and IT Fundamentals. 


“They were doing everything on computers and drag and drop, but they needed to hold and handle something for real,” Alonzo said. “We were able to work together. I can give them Chromebooks to fix and they will get that same experience.”


Alonzo worked with the Career and Technical Education Department to make sure that curriculum connections were in place – that students were learning state standards and could be graded on their mastery. 


After the students successfully repaired the broken devices at Sam Houston last spring, Alonzo expanded the idea, to include 16 paid student interns from various campuses last summer, with the goal of creating career-ready San Antonio ISD alumni.


“I want to hire SAISD kids,” Alonzo, a Highlands High School alumnus, said. “So I asked myself, ‘How do I get them ready as seniors to come and work for us, to get that career pathway?’”


The student interns repaired and reimaged district devices over the summer, getting them ready for the new year. Alonzo then set his sights on scaling out the 2022 program from Sam Houston and working with other high schools that had similar practicum courses. 


Just before the winter break, the Edison High School student tech repair team started up. The 25 students in Humberto Salazar’s practicum class have repaired more than 200 units to date, keeping up with technology at Edison and feeder schools including Rogers Academy and Whittier Middle School. 


Salazar said that besides helping prepare his students for certifications this month, the work has changed the dynamic of his classroom.


“My attendance has been better than previous years,” Salazar said. “Students look forward to fixing the devices and feel a sense of accomplishment, so they are more interested in coming to class. I also see my students becoming a more responsible with duties and responsibilities.”


Bolstered by the $100,000 grant for parts from Methodist Healthcare Ministries through the SAISD Foundation, the IT department has been reaching out to start up at other campuses where the curriculum connection can be made, as part of the department’s Always Learning objective to provide high-quality technology for all students regardless of program, neighborhood demographics, school influence, or funding. They are up and running again at Sam Houston, and now at Burbank, with Brackenridge and CAST Tech coming up next.



“At some point in SAISD, we’re going to be a self-sufficient school district with all our repairs in house by our own students,” Alonzo said.


As demand for devices increases during STAAR testing season, the student tech teams could not have come on board at a better time. For students like Julian at Burbank, it’s a win-win, getting the experience while knowing he is ensuring a better experience for his community.


“It makes me feel more responsible,” Julian said. “Helping others while learning more about computers will be pretty efficient.”

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