NORTH RIDGEVILLE — An eighth-grader is bent over a Lenovo Chromebook crusted with spilled queso sauce, ready to take it apart, fix it and put it all back together again.
Matthew Schnell will spend about an hour a day working on broken Chromebooks at the North Ridgeville Academic Center before heading to study hall.
He can repair about five to six broken screens in an hour and said he’s getting pretty quick at it, especially considering he started about seven weeks ago.
Matthew is part of the North Ridgeville Schools Chromebook Academy Club program that is employing students to fix the Chromebooks that get broken at the school. It saves the school the cost of sending it out, but it also teaches students valuable workplace skills, said Jim Brandenburg, technology integration specialist who helps oversee the students.
“They’re pretty self-sufficient,” Brandenburg said. “We showed them all the tricks to taking a Chromebook apart, and they catch on pretty quick.”
When a Chromebook gets broken, teachers will create a ticket and include what they think is wrong with it and then either send it upstairs to the small lab or ask one of the students to come pick it up.
Brandenburg said the students who repair them can do it all and he’s there for help if they need it. He said this is something different from a lot of other schools are doing because it’s preparing students for the workplace with a skill they won’t get anywhere else in the schools.
“That’s part of what this is about,” he said. “These students are go-getters. … It’s just so cool to watch them.”
There are eight students involved in the program. Brandenburg said the long-term goal is to turn the program into a class for which students can get credit. He said he hopes to turn the students onto laptops and desktops someday, but the biggest need is for the Chromebooks. There are about 3,700 of them in the school.
The school used to send the technology to Elyria to be fixed. It would take seven to 10 days or more and it cost money. With the students now repairing the broken ones, North Ridgeville has seen a reduced turnaround and all the district has to pay for are the parts, Brandenburg said.
“They’re learning skill sets employees look for,” said David Pritt, director of curriculum and instruction at North Ridgeville Schools. “They’re working together, they’re self-directed. They’re learning time management. They have to be finished with a computer before they go to their next class.”
Brandenburg said that before the semester is out, they’ll get either burgers or pizzas, whichever the students want. Right now, burgers are winning.
As for Matthew, he said he likes doing anything with tools and he has fun fixing the Chromebooks. He’ll leave his lunch time a little early so he can come upstairs. He said the cameras are the hardest thing to fix, but he’s picking up on things on his own.
Still, he said it’s a little too soon to know if that’s what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Brandenburg said he extended an offer for all the students to come back after they enter high school and continue with their repair work. They’ve all expressed interest.