For most of us, computer technology is a big part of our daily lives. Even beyond actual desktop/laptop computers, we now rely on our phones and so many other things as well. But what happens when the computer shuts down…or won’t do what you think it should do? Technology is wonderful…until it needs updates, fixes, or requires something from you that you can’t do or give. Most of us are quick to admit- we need help fixing the technical difficulties in our lives. And we want them fixed yesterday!
The same is true for our Conway Public Schools. We have more than 18, 000 computers district-wide for our 9, 920 students and 1,190 employees. Think about that for a second. Consider the maintenance, service, and work that is required to keep those up and running all year long. Our Technology Department takes care of all our computers, not to mention our smart boards, projectors, iPads, TV’s, Printers, and more. These hard working men and women also keep track of inventory, manage our network, install and maintain Wi-Fi access points, and oversee student computer access and internet safety. All in a day’s work.
I really wanted to see what a "Day in the Life of a Computer Technician" was like. I soon learned that no day is the same, nor is it predictable. Our computer techs schedule their days much like physicians or others who have appointments, yet still allow time for "late breaking events." Bottom line: You never know what’s going to happen that day. Trying to plan your day for "regular work" when you don’t know what "urgent work" is going to come up is a challenge.
We started off the day at Conway High School, updating some of their laptop computers. Each school has an assigned technician, but all of the technicians worked on this project together, making it faster to complete. After working at CHS, we went to our assigned school to respond to work tickets that had been submitted to the tech department. When something is broken or teachers have a technology need, they submit a work ticket. Then the technician responds to the work request at the school. This day, we had 4-5 from one elementary school. They ranged from a smart board not working, to a projector needing replacing, to a Chrome book needing repair because a headphone plug had been forced into the wrong plug-in. We also had new equipment to deliver and install for teachers. We brought a teacher a new document camera and another a new television to replace her old smart board. It’s a constant cycle of replacing old with new and making sure everything is working properly. Technology changes so quickly. It is tough to stay ahead of it.
I noticed a few things as we worked throughout the buildings that day. First, the rapport between the technician and the teachers and even the technician and the students was genuine and positive. The teachers were thankful to see him and appreciated the time he took to help them. The kids would cheer when we walked into the room. "Yay! Mr. Adam is here to fix the smart board!" The technician interacted so well with them. He even talks to the classes about using technology responsibly, how to take care of the equipment, etc.
I also noticed the work process itself. I was always impressed with the technicians and all their technical knowledge. (I still am!) But I realized they are problem solvers more than anything. They work hard, work fast, and are constantly trying different things as they problem solve. Occasionally something is an easy fix, but usually not. Mostly they have to try and try again before getting something to work. Their job is not to know everything. Their job is to figure it out. They spend most of their time "figuring it out."
I discovered that walking down a school hallway with one of our technicians is a little bit like being with a celebrity. But instead of asking for autographs, people ask about computers or fixing equipment. People always have a need. They always want to ask a question. And none of us realize that we are ALL doing this to the poor technicians. We say "Can I ask you for a quick favor?" as they walk by and without realizing it, these guys have spent a day full of 9 "favors" and 14 "quick questions." Then they have to keep track of all these things so they can try to remember to follow up if needed.
"The days are long and hard but I’m back here at 7:30 each morning because I love what I do and the people I work with." That’s what Technician Adam Stroman told me as I spent this "Day in the Life" with him last month. He and the other technicians don’t get many breaks, and they can never catch up on all the tasks on their "to do" list. There are always more work tickets. New technology. More Chrome books. Something to fix. Our technicians troubleshoot and hard wire and connect and do a lot of other things that we don’t understand to get and keep all our people connected in this tech-heavy district. They have to be sure we are ready for annual student testing (now almost exclusively online) and work all summer long making sure all our schools are ready for a new school year of students. They love their jobs and it shows in each task they do. They want every student to be able to learn and every teacher to teach using technology every day. Whatever it takes. They do it.
Heather Kendrick is the Communication Specialist for Conway Public Schools. Contact her at email@example.com, by phone at (501) 450-4800 or log onto conwayschools.org.