Electronic devices

Technology specialists help maintain the iPads, Chromebooks, laptops and other electronic devices that teachers and students depend on in Catoosa County Schools. (Photo courtesy of Kris Richardson)

Anyone who has a computer or iPad has probably experienced that "oh no" moment when it wouldn’t work – just when you need a piece of information or need to check your work schedule or your bank balance.

Now imagine today’s schools where teachers and students deal with desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, printers, smart boards, document cameras and more. Education has become dependent on well-functioning electronics.

Catoosa County Schools provides all students and teachers with electronic devices. Teachers have to deal with not only their own devices but those of their students.

So how does the school system keep all this technology running smoothly? Enter the technology specialist (TS). Kris Richardson is one of a team of about a dozen TS’s who work for Catoosa County Schools.

Richardson’s day starts early – almost as soon as teachers arrive at school to prepare for class. She finds formal requests for help – "tickets" submitted through the system’s help desk – and she also gets texts from teachers: "My screen is blank, I can’t access the program, I can’t get online."

"I try to start out with simple solutions," says Richardson. "Make sure all the cables are plugged in, try restarting the device."

If that doesn’t work, Richardson starts digging deeper. She keeps a supply of spare parts on hand and has to keep up on the latest changes in technology. The problem can be with hardware, software or understanding operating systems . "Recently, we’ve been working to master Windows 10," she says.

Richardson, who has worked as a TS for 10 years, has a degree in psychology and says it comes in handy. She asks questions and offers answers in ways she’d like to be treated. "I try to be sensitive to people’s feelings. I don’t want to make anyone feel stupid because they don’t understand something about their laptop or the smart board or even because they just forgot to turn their device on."

With yearly testing coming up in the schools, Richardson says there’s currently a lot of focus on making sure keyboards and screens on Chromebooks are all working properly, because the tests are done completely on computers now.

"You never know what issues you’ll be facing when the day starts," Richardson says. "The biggest challenge is to get problems fixed quickly so teachers can get on with their job."

Richardson says her favorite part of her job is knowing she’s made life easier for a teacher. "I like working one-on-one with the teachers and getting things going for them again. I try to deal with their technology issues during a lunch break or a planning session when they aren’t busy with students, so it won’t add to the things they’re having to pay attention to."

When her work takes her into a class in session, Richardson says the kids sometimes try to help. "One little boy, a second grader, came up to me while I was working on a device and said he knew what was wrong. He told me all about a virus he thought the device had and said if I’d fix that it would work again. It was so cute."

Richardson’s husband also works as a TS for Catoosa County Schools. Both have worked in similar positions for Dalton State College, and Richardson worked for Walker County Schools for a couple of years. While Richardson works primarily at Graysville Elementary and West Side Elementary, her husband works mostly at Heritage Middle School.

As the use of technology in schools grows, the need for support will grow. The Catoosa County school system is addressing that, in part, through their Catoosa U program, something new since becoming a charter system. A handful of students serve as paid interns training to become technology specialists. The system’s official TS’s help train the students and prepare them to become HP-certified.

To learn more about technology in Catoosa County Schools, go to Catoosa.k12.ga.us and click on Departments then Technology then Let’s Get CONNECTed.