The Tech Ninjas

The Tech Ninjas

Jon Pearcy, Staff Writer

With the launch of the BYOD initiative has come a storm of technological problems, ranging from broken wifi to broken computers. In the midst of this have been the Tech Ninjas. The elusive group of students tasked with fixing the schools tech issues. But while we all know that they’re our school’s student led tech support, most of us know very little about them beyond that. Who are they? What do they do? Why do we need them?

“The Tech Ninjas are students who have gone through a lot of technological training to help students and staff trouble shoot problems, they’re also looking for apps and extensions for different classes. Generally trying to provide as much help and support as possible to students and ,” said Tech Ninja advisor Kris Schrotenboer, “they [go] through the regular E-Achieve training like everybody else.”

The concept of a student run tech support system isn’t new; in fact it’s used all around the country. Many schools, like ours, have an official technology department; however, these departments staffoften take longer to respond than is convenient. They are very effective at fixing large technology problems, but for smaller issues an easier to access tech support system is needed. With the new BYOD initiative, it seemed like the perfect time to create this system.

“Our technology department is housed at Central Office, at Cascade and Burton,” Schrotenboer said. “So if there’s a major problem or even a minor problem that needs to be attended to immediately, we have a ticket system that we use. The ticket system is very effective, it’s actually a pretty good system, but for an immediate concern, we needed to have better support in the building. There were too few people who were servicing too many people”

Schrotenboer was selected as advisor for this new system due to her experience with both E-Achieve and technology integration.

“That was kind of a natural fit for me,” Schrotenboer said. “We had discussed having someone with more of a computer background doing it, like Mr. Smith, but because I was already doing the E-Achieve coordinating, and it’s an elective class, I mean, I may not know the programming side of it as well as Mr. Smith, but I certainly know the tech integration side of it pretty well.”

From this, the Tech Ninjas were born. On site, student led, quick response tech support.

Senior Sam Dolphin is a member of this enigmatic group of students. Sam originally joined the Tech Ninjas to fill a hole in his schedule. Now, seated in a quiet corner of the media center, Dolphin helps solve some of the school’s most immediate technology problems. According to Dolphin, he wasn’t a techy person before joining the class, but he’s still managed to do quite well.

I’m just good at figuring stuff out usually. I don’t have any special knowledge whatsoever, I just figure things out as I go. So far it’s served relatively well actually.”

— Sam Dolphin

“I’m just good at figuring stuff out usually,” Dolphin said. “I don’t have any special knowledge whatsoever, I just figure things out as I go. So far it’s served relatively well actually. It’s been [mostly] wifi connectivity issues.”

Wifi connectivity has been one of the major problems the school has faced, especially for Mac computers, which have a harder time connecting to the Windows optimized network.

“Wifi with Macs [has been a problem],” Dolphin said. “Just Macs in general basically. Macs are not doing well. If you have a Mac you’re a little bit screwed. Windows does perfectly fine as far as I can tell. Richardson said that the network is actually modeled after those HP Compact Notebook computers they have and have had for years. It’s modeled after a Windows [system] so Windows computers work well. Then there’s Macs and they’re pretty different, and it just fails.”

Unfortunately, there’s very little a Tech Ninja can do to fix the network itself. That job falls to the Tech Department, who have been working hard to solve the issue. In the meantime the Tech Ninjas have been looking for a work-around to the problem.

“Unfortunately connectivity isn’t something that a Tech Ninja can really fix,” Schrotenboer said, “so our tech department is handling those types of things. We aren’t completely sure, but [we] think it may be something to do with our filter system. If that’s the case that’s something the tech department can take a look at and rectify, it’s just that right now we’re trouble shooting. This is a big initiative with three thousand kids and three hundred teachers, so it’s a big thing to have to deal with, and we’re all working together and doing the best we can with what we know at present.”

Another major problem has come from the sheer size of the BYOD initiative. With over 3100 devices connecting to the three school’s networks at one time, it can be hard for the system to keep up. With the recent switch from 300 mbps (megabytes per second) to 500 mbps, the system is much better equipped to handle the load of all those devices.

In class the Tech Ninjas also work on individual projects, like finding apps to help students.

“At the beginning of the year I was looking for calculator programs for teachers to use and to give to students,” Dolphin said. “Schrotenboer’s thinking was that we were asking a parent to buy a device for daily school use, and they need a calculator for math. That’s a couple hundred and another hundred for the calculator. So I found a calculator app online that’s actually pretty simple to set up. It’s exactly like a TI 84 because it is a TI 84, it’s that operating system, [and] it actually works for Mac and Android.”

As for what he’s learning, Dolphin thinks being a Tech Ninjas helps him learn important life skills and technological skills.

“People just work stuff out,” Dolphin said. “I definitely say it’s a beneficial thing for college apps. You’re doing actual tech work, it’s simpler tech work compared to what the IT department does, but you’re actually doing something to help the school. Computer skills. Problem solving skills. It’s forcing me to figure stuff out.”