Monday, November 22, 2010

Student Technicians

One of the design goals for this project is that student technicians will be the first port of call for school-based trouble shooting:
"The device should allow a technican to re-image it quickly using a USB stick only."

So when the first 100 Netbooks arrived, the moment came when all the adult professionals had to step back and hand over control to a bunch of eager 10-12 year olds - who had all applied in writing for this position. eg
"Dear Mrs Burt
I am writing this letter to apply for the job as a Netbook technician. I like to help both students and teachers and I have very good people skills. I can explain very well with detail so people can understand. I would love to know how to fix technical difficulties as well as getting people started. I know I will be a reliable and a great technician.
I would love to have this job and I thrive on responsibity. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely etc"

This was a big ask on many levels; EdTech as the company who procured the Netbooks and are supporting us technically, the development team who has put endless sleepless nights into developing the operating system and hacking the BIOS, Russell who has advocated from the outset that students CAN do this, and me who had volunteered to 'train' them when all my expertise is in the Mac OS, not Ubuntu!
Fortunately Joel created a training video, and with Nevyn created a list of written instructions. What could be simpler? Take a look...
OK, so that was all we had to do. We watched the video over and over until we all felt confident and then I was chosen to demo the first one - lots of pressure!
Things didn't go quite to plan initially, and Nevyn has written that all up here and here.
But they ironed out the glitches and soon the techie team were on a roll, swapping BIOS sticks for OS sticks and discovered they could do the complete job from unpacking to repacking in 14 minutes if all went well - particularly if John was ontask to put the BIOS password in for them.

In one day 8 kids imaged 100 laptops with ease. No sweat. Roll on the next round of the pilot with the next 500.
We had lots of interested visitors during the day to lend moral support, and most of them were handed a Netbook and asked if they would like to help out with the process. Because so many have put so much into it we decided to UStream the day so anyone who wanted to could watch - from classrooms and offices. At one stage we had 40 viewers online! Not bad for a geek fest.

So when all was completed and the Netbooks were back in their boxes looking like new, all was ready for the BIG day - tomorrow we hand them out to their new owners!

Student technicians:
Joshua, Lepa, April, Sela, Helen, Nathaniel, Paulitia, Latham