Geek Squad for schools set for national rollout

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Best Buy plans to roll out a new service beginning this year that would place Geek Squad agents on premises at public schools across the country.

The Tech Hub program, modeled on a pilot initiative developed at Edina Public Schools in suburban Minneapolis, provides supplemental Level 1 help desk support for students, teachers and even parents, according to Best Buy Co.’s Eric Ebbe, senior manager, services, at the retailer’s business and education division.

The rollout follows two years of testing and research and will be an added service option available from the retail giant, which already offers a substantial online catalog of education products to public schools, Ebbe said.

Geek Squad tech specialists could eventually be on hand at 4,500 public schools, another executive at the Best Buy division told EdScoop. He declined to provide a timetable or pricing, but the program, which was featured at last week’s Future of Education Technology Conference, is expected to support Best Buy’s continued efforts to provide schools with expanded technical support.

Jack Salaski, an instructional technology specialist at Edina Public Schools, explained the Geek Squad pilot program began in response to the district’s one-to-one learning program. The school system, which serves 8,500 students, ran into initial difficulties when a number of students couldn’t get access to their assigned websites.

“The laptops were too locked-down,” with various settings, Salaski told EdScoop. The Tech Hub provided help initially with school-sanctioned laptops and later with students’ own devices, he said.

As the program evolved, and students sought greater freedom with a wider variety of devices, the Geek Squad became a regular presence in the media labs at Edina’s high school and two middle schools. Currently, two Geek Squad agents are available two days a week during lunch hours at the high school and at the end of the day at the district’s middle schools, he said.

The Geek Squad agents focus primarily on fixing basic operating issues on “non-Chromebook devices,” Salaski said. Students entering middle and high school are presented a preselected choice of recommended Chromebook laptops, available online from either Best Buy and CDW, but students can also order devices running Microsoft or Apple operating systems. The agents typically help students with password resets, Microsoft Windows 10 authentication or removing malware. The agents are not given administrative rights, he said.

“The service is open to all stakeholders,” including students, teachers and “taxpayers,” said Salaski.

But Ebbe said the Geek Squad fills an important gap helping schools “keep students learning and reduce down-time,” in schools where technology departments are typically understaffed.

Contact the writer at wyatt.kash@fedscoop.com, follow him on twitter @wyattkash and follow us @EdScoop_News.

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