Falmouth student 'Geek Squad' preps for new school year

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FALMOUTH — Technology is everywhere. Devices are on desks, in backpacks and pockets, and fairly regularly in people’s hands.

For Norman Jewett, who manages technology for the Falmouth School Department, it became too much to handle when students started bringing their own devices to school four years ago.

“There are 700 different devices (just in the high school),” Jewett said, ranging from computers to tablets to phones. It was too much work for one person, he said.

So Jewett decided the students could be a potential resource for tech support. A student tech team to supplement technicians was born, with the help of librarian Dan Wolotsky and IT Director Nate Barns.

There were seven people on the tech team when it was launched. Jewett said there will be 20 in the coming school year.

“We trained kids how to take computers apart and make repairs,” Jewett said, with the hope that they could begin to provide tech services when he wasn’t available. And the tech team succeeded.

“The added benefit is I don’t have to be in the building,” Jewett said. “These guys can be the tech support.”

Matt Claar, a rising senior at FHS, said the rest of the school, including students and faculty, now seeks them out for help.

“The rest of the student body knows who the tech team is and will approach us outside of the tech room,” Claar, 17, said.

Jewett said in the past, someone in need of tech support would likely call the library or tech office, and it could take quite a while for someone to respond. Now teachers know who the students are and stop them in the halls for help.

“I never get calls in the high school anymore,” Jewett said, where the students are the first line of help.

In addition to training the students how to deal with technology, Jewett said the tech team also provides the students with customer services skills and workplace experience. He said he looks at the tech team as more of an internship than anything else.

“It’s not a structured course, we want to support their ability to learn on their own,” Jewett said. He said unlike a regular classroom setting, failure is necessary on the tech team. He said learning how to troubleshoot is just “part of our life back here.”

Logan Singer, a rising junior, said the team is a good experience.

“It’s fun because it’s what we’re interested in,” he said.

Other students said the team comes with other benefits outside of simply learning tech support. Claar said it gives the students workplace experience in something they enjoy.

“It’s allowed us to turn a hobby into a job,” he said.

“It’s not only tech experience, but customer service experience and work experience,” rising senior Max Abramson said. “We’re learning how to work through a work day.”

Jewett admitted the tech team is not for everyone. He said students must have teacher references for consideration, and if it doesn’t work out he’s willing to let people go. Students must also maintain good grades.

“I wouldn’t be able to do my job without their help,” Jewett said.

Last winter, students on the tech team received training to become Apple certified, which was paid for through the IT Department’s professional development fund. A handful of the students also received Microsoft certification this summer.

Jewett said there are plans to continue expanding the team, but outside the school. He wants to reach out to local businesses to begin partnerships to fund training, which would also give the students more opportunities outside the schools.

“All the pieces have fallen into place, and the next piece is to become a bigger part of the community,” Jewett said. “To get to where we want to be, that’s the next step.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Norm Jewett, center, manages technology in the Falmouth School Department. Students training to be part of a tech team to provide additional support include Matt Claar, left, Logan Singer, Max Abramson and Jack Horgan.

Back to school

The first day of school at Falmouth Elementary and Middle schools is Tuesday, Sept. 1. The first day for kindergartners is Wednesday, Sept. 2. Freshmen at the high school start on Sept. 1; other high school students begin on Sept. 2. There is no school on Friday, Sept. 4, or on Monday, Sept. 7, which is Labor Day.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.