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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New Tech Support Center Provides SPS Students With Technical Assistance For Online Learning Devices

By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) students and families who need technical assistance with computers or other devices used in the continuity of learning outside of school during the Covid-19 crisis can now access a team of dedicated volunteers who will provide customized support over the phone.

Due To the COVID-19 crisis that led to the closure of all schools across the state, Seattle Public Schools and its students had to quickly implement and adjust to an online learning model, which meant that the district needed to not only provide an online curriculum, but they also needed to make sure that students had the necessary resources to successfully engage in a new online learning model.

Amazon and the Alliance for Education donated 8,200 Google Chromebook laptops to SPS elementary students who didn’t have access to a device at home. However, with the growing deployment of equipment, many students and families were using computers and devices for learning at home for the first time, or in new ways, and the need for support quickly became apparent.

In order to assist students, Seattle Public Schools recently launched their new Family Tech Support Center designed to help teachers and students who may need technical assistance with computers.

Support Center calls are answered by a network of volunteers working remotely to provide the technical expertise. Approximately 115 volunteers, many who are parents of SPS students, come from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, sea.citi (a consortium of large and small tech companies in Seattle), the Alliance for Education and Seattle Public Schools.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our community and these great corporate citizens,” said JoLynn Berge, SPS Chief Financial Officer, who oversees the school district’s technology department. “The Covid-19 pandemic created extraordinary challenges to keep the teaching and learning going. Being able to solve technical issues for our students means they’ll be able to stay focused on learning.”

Sea-Citi a network of tech companies headed by Nick Merriam has offered their services as the primary provider of technical assistance to parents, teachers and students. They promote both civic community engagement by making their technical expertise available. The school district has adapted programs such as Schoology while using Amazon’s Chromebook computer systems.

“The focus of the Family Technical Support is really to provide basic technical support for the families of the Seattle Public Schools,” says Merriam. “Because the computers are not supported by the SPS there is a critical gap that needs to be filled to make sure that families have resource that they can draw on as they are gearing up and adapting to digital learning.”

According to Merriam, some of the main issues reported to the tech support center is the availability of WIFI, the changing of passwords and the basic configuration of the donated computers.

“We’ve seen about 120 requests coming through the line since we started,” says Merriam.

“A lot of questions come in regarding the applications such as Schoology that the district is using. Other questions include how to reset the passwords. The Amazon donated Chromebook there are a lot of questions asked about parental controls and then there are general question around WIFI connectivity,” added Merriam.

The Family Tech Support Center began operations this week with staffing 12 hours a day – from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

  • To access the Support Center, families can call 206-413-2700.
  • During staffed hours, callers can speak with a volunteer who can provide immediate support.
  • Outside staffed hours, a message can be left and it will be followed up by a tech volunteer at the first available opportunity, usually the next day.
  • Alternatively, families have the option of submitting a tech form, which will be followed up by the Support Center team via email or phone call. The tech form is available on the SPS website at www.seattleschools.org/family-tech-form.

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