Behind the scenes of tech support: unsung heroes of the pandemic

The+Media+Center+tech+office+houses+laptops+in+need+of+repair+and+those+needing+to+be+directed+to+other+schools.+

Spencer Douglas

The Media Center tech office houses laptops in need of repair and those needing to be directed to other schools.

Internet down! On Oct. 8, faculty and staff were notified the even-numbered portables used for everyday classes would have service disrupted until further notice.  In technology-dependent classrooms, internet outages interrupt learning even in the physical classroom. 

Micro-computer tech specialist Christopher Barroso, along with Ed Shadoin,  manages all technology products at the school and ensures they are running smoothly. Barroso’s job shifted during the pandemic as he was assigned to assist not just the school but the entire county during virtual instruction. Access to technology was the main issue. One of his duties was managing the distribution of student laptops. 

At over 3600 students, one of the largest in the county, the school donated laptops to other Broward County schools during the height of the pandemic to fill technology voids. Barroso said 24 computer carts were given to other schools which adds up to a rough 700+ laptops given away. Not only were these laptops given to other schools, they were also distributed at centers set up throughout the county. 

Even with all in-person instruction, teachers often expect students to have laptops for class, so the distribution is off the charts.

“I got a chunk of computers back, but I am distributing more than collecting,” Barraso said. 

“Computers are an essential part of my education. I am expected to have one and be prepared with one for class every day,” sophomore Michael Berkowitz said. “I needed to check out a computer and I expected that to be a long and annoying process. I simply went to tech support during lunch, answered a few questions regarding my student number and any obligations, and the next thing I knew I was on my way with a practically brand new computer to use for class.”

Within the past two years, the type of support  Barroso provides has shifted from assisting primarily faculty and staff to students and their parents as well. He said teachers and staff have the most complex issues because of the level of equipment they use such as Promethean boards and document cameras.

“Chris is on top of things whenever I need any sort of tech assistance,” math teacher Bree Morales said. “He is there almost immediately and actually I had to hook up my iPad to my board and I had to get a device that would help me and he was here the next day helping me.” 

The wireless connection can be shaky, whether it’s school or district-wide. On the days the internet is unreliable, it can get to a point of frustration.

“When the wifi is unreliable during engaging activities using online resources, learning is disrupted. It forces teachers to make concessions on their activities, and it causes students frustration as well,” English teacher Brandy Zdenek said. “Reliable internet access should be a priority for the school district to ensure that teachers and students have every resource available to them to make magic happen in the classroom.”

The outage in the portables was a county issue due to construction for another local school. During construction, a worker is believed to have cut a wire, therefore breaking the internet connection. According to Barroso, the county is talking to the company who provided construction and looking to see how to restore the internet and at what cost. 

It isn’t noticed by the average student, but the amount of technological support needed to run the school grows each year. Even with two staff on tech support, things still can get out of hand from time to time. Barroso acknowledged gaps exist despite their best efforts to assist everyone quickly.

“Be aware, we are trying; it is overwhelming,” Barroso said.