Teachers and students at SI with computer ailments know they can get expert help from the school’s version of the Apple Store Genius Bar — SI’s Tech Center.
There, they will find Director of Information Technology Jamie Pruden, System Administrator Dave Buhl, Client Support Analyst Jerold Malone and Client Systems Analyst Alan Siu.
Their work goes far beyond troubleshooting problems on individual iPads, phones or computers. The team ensures that the network infrastructure works well, that backups happen and that everyone can access online sites such as PowerSchool and Canvas for homework, grading and attendance.
Each of them also shares their expertise beyond SI by taking part in online discussions to help their colleagues at other high schools.
Toward that end, Siu, thanks to encouragement from Pruden, created a blog that has become a hit with other tech admins who find themselves scratching their heads when faced with tricky problems.
What sets apart Siu’s blog is how well-written and how accessible it is. That comes, in part, from his background as an English major in college and the son of two college professors. His father teaches math at Harvard and his mother taught social work at Boston’s Wheelock College.
“I’ve seen other blogs that are more sophisticated than mine,” said Siu. “The information that they contain tends to be more in-depth, but I like to think that what I bring is a more accessible writing style. That comes, in part, because I don’t have a tech background. I’m often the bridge between people who are technical but who can’t articulate well and those who are less technical and have a hard time understanding tech writing.”
Each time Siu solves a problem, he posts that information on his blog. He knows the site is helpful given the hundreds of followers he has and the number of times a post earns comments or is reposted.
Siu created the blog also because he wanted a place where he could document solutions publicly. “That keeps me in check to make sure a fix actually does work. It also helps me when I look back to recall what I did.”
The biggest problem Siu and his colleagues face are software programs that are badly packaged by vendors, making it difficult for end-users to install them or make upgrades. To help faculty at SI, Pruden suggested that Siu use a program written by a tech expert at Disney. That program, called Munki, rolls out upgrades when they meet Siu’s exacting standards. “If the programs aren’t written well, people like me have to do weird work-arounds.”
Over the years, Siu has come to appreciate the comments made on his blog. “Others will share that they have struggled with the same problems I did and thank me for finding and posting a solution. I’ll do the same on their blogs. It’s good to know that as a community, we work together to help each other.” For Siu’s blog, go to technology.siprep.org.
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