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Jenks Public Schools creates Chromebook repair program to prepare students for future IT careers

About Jenks Public Schools

Founded in 1908, Jenks Public Schools encompasses the city of Jenks, Oklahoma on the west side of the Arkansas River, and portions of South Tulsa on the east side of the Arkansas River. The district is made up of 10 school sites with an overall enrollment of 12,400 students and about 1,600 staff members.

Fast, cost-effective Chromebook repairs—while teaching students new skills

Students can be hard on technology devices like Chromebooks: screens can crack, hinges can break, and keys can pop off under the pressure of constant use and being toted from home to school and back. Keeping devices in working order creates work for school IT teams: Either they add repair tasks to their workload, or they send devices out for repair, increasing the costs and delaying the return of devices.

Jenks Public Schools in suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma decided on a third approach: create an in-school repair service that’s staffed by students, who gain valuable career training in customer service and IT help desk skills. The result: significant cost savings for the district, fast turnaround time for Chromebook repairs, and graduates who can land jobs in the IT field. Here’s why and how Jenks created its Technology Student Intern (TSI) program.

Facing a challenge, seeing an opportunity

Many of Jenks Public Schools’ 12,000 students and 875 teachers have Chromebooks. Grades 3 and up are 1:1, while students in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade can be given Chromebooks as needed. That’s a lot of Chromebooks to keep in running order among the district’s 10 schools.

“Our IT staff is simply not big enough to handle that workload of repairs,” says Paul Goodenough, director of educational technology at Jenks Public Schools, noting that the district only has four repair techs in its IT department. “And we want them working on more important strategic tasks.”

With that option off the table, technology leaders considered purchasing school laptop repair insurance, but that still meant delays in terms of filing insurance paperwork and getting Chromebooks repaired and back in students’ hands. In 2012, inspired by the TSI program at Leyden High School District 212 near Chicago, Jenks decided to create and staff a similar program.

“As a teacher, I’m always looking for alternative learning environments,” says Dawn Sponsler, the teacher who directs the Jenks TSI program. By offering training in repairing laptops and diagnosing tech issues, Jenks can provide a career path for students who might be well-suited to IT jobs post-graduation. “Our mission is to provide skills for all students.”

How Jenks runs its in-house student-staffed IT repair program

The main TSI program is located on the grounds of Jenks High School; there is a smaller TSI program at nearby Jenks Middle School, serving that school’s students and teachers. Students who take part in the program earn credit for an elective class, and can also obtain industry certifications that help them get jobs in IT after graduation.

Students must apply to take part in the TSI program. Educational technology leaders received about 40 applications to work at the TSI facility during the 2020-21 academic year, and 19 students were chosen. Good grades and attendance records are key for selection. “It’s important that students are reliable and that they’re here to work when they say they’ll be,” Sponsler says.

“We run the shop like a business, including requiring students to work the front desk and deal with customers,” says Goodenough. “In fact, a big part of the program is having students learn customer service and how to interact successfully with the public.”

Starting with simple, common repairs

Once students enter the TSI program, they begin learning how to do simple repairs, such as replacing cracked screens and broken hinges. These common repairs can often be done immediately, which means students, teachers, and parents who bring in Chromebooks can get their devices back in about 10 minutes.

For more complex repair jobs, students simply swap the broken device for a Chromebook from TSI’s pool of previously repaired devices. “That’s the beauty of Chromebooks,” says Sponsler, since students and teachers can simply log in and access Workspace and other apps no matter which Chromebook they’re using. The bottom line is that visitors to the TSI front desk always leave relatively quickly with a completely operational Chromebook.

The students’ training is guided by Sponsler as well as a teaching assistant—who, during the 2021 school year, happens to be a former TSI student. After graduating from Jenks High School and receiving his IT certifications from the Tulsa Technology Center, the student returned as the TA for the TSI program. The TA is always at the TSI high school location during its open hours—typically 8:30am to 4pm on school days. Sponsler is usually at the TSI location all day herself, ensuring that the students working there, usually six at a time, get the guidance they need.

To track repairs and to help students visualize how their progress in their IT repair knowledge, Sponsler added a large “mastery board”: a whiteboard with magnets, listing the names of student interns, types of repairs, and Chromebook models in use in the district (such as ASUS, HP, and Lenovo). “Instead of guessing who’s done which repairs, you have the board that helps students achieve mastery,” Sponsler says. “It motivates students to keep learning. And when someone comes to us with a problem, we can look at the board and see who can do the job.”

Containing costs while boosting confidence

While the Jenks TSI computer repair shop provides cost savings by keeping expenditures for repairs in-house, perhaps the biggest benefit is how it provides a new learning and career option for students. A former TSI intern who graduated from Jenks High School two years ago is now a team lead on the help desk for QuikTrip, a convenience store chain based in Tulsa.

Reducing device repair costs also offers benefits beyond just dollars and cents. “The school board and taxpayers can see that what the TSI program is doing is tangible,” Goodenough says.

In 2021, Goodenough and Sponsler have big plans for the TSI program. Sponsler wants to offer IT fundamentals certification as a permanent part of the curriculum, so students walk out the door with an essential requirement for IT jobs. Sponsler also hopes to offer the more advanced IT A+ certification as a further tool for helping students be job-ready after graduation.

The TSI program is also getting a larger space. A new building for district-wide technology services is under construction, and TSI will be housed there. Goodenough envisions that in the future, students might be able to work alongside IT employees and learn even more—perhaps allowing interns to shadow IT techs as they do their jobs.

No matter what skills students learn as part of TSI, they all take a sense of pride in being part of a program that’s run much like a business. “A big part of the program is having students learn customer service and how to interact successfully with the public, which has helped many of them become more confident,” Goodenough says. “There’s a sense of empowerment and pride, and it’s great to see.”

What they wanted to do

  • Reduce costs for Chromebook repairs
  • Avoid long turnaround times for repairs
  • Provide students with real-life experience in IT

What they did

  • Launched the TSI (technical support intern) program

What happened

  • Generated significant cost savings for the district
  • Prepared students for future IT careers
  • Reduced repair turnaround time to about 10 minutes
  • Helped students confidently build their customer service skills

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