Craig Olson has tutored five students over his dozen or so years at Cluster Tutoring. But his technical expertise in keeping the program’s computers humming for student use is just as valuable as his work in academics.
Craig is retired now, but he spent his last 12 years of employment as director of telecommunications for the computer division at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His experience was a natural fit when Cluster’s Tuesday night library installed new computers with their own network.
“They had three computers and printers, but they had no one to maintain the desktops,” Craig said. Now, Craig checks in before tutoring starts each week to install any needed updates and to give everything an overall check.
“Over the years, they connect by themselves, so there’s less baby-sitting,” he said.
Thursday night tutoring offered a different computer challenge: Instead of a network, Cluster tutors and students could use the wireless network at First United Church. It quickly became apparent that, with all of the laptops and cell phones tapping into the church’s Wi-Fi network, things got overloaded, and tutors’ and students’ connections got lost. Craig consulted with the church’s Tech Committee, the signal was strengthened, and now tutors and students can use the network without interruption.
Thursday night offers Chromebooks for students along with laptops and printers, and many tutors bring their own laptops or tablets to use with students.
Pine Avenue United Church also has Wi-Fi for tutors, but the signal sometimes isn’t strong enough to reach the gym on the upper floor. (There’s always a technical challenge!) He has upgraded the router systems and made sure the bandwidth is increased. Craig brings his own laptop to tutoring.
“Schools are relying on computers more and more,” he said. As most tutors have discovered, students use them to log onto a school’s platform to write and turn in papers, check assignments, do research, and even check their current grades.
Working with computers doesn’t mean that Craig’s tutoring students get less attention in academic basics. He’s worked with students of all different ages, but he likes the middle school ages the best.
“I have a background in math and science, but you can work on everything,” he said. “If you get a junior high student and make sure they have a good foundation, that serves them well as they get older.
“I’m old school,” Craig said. “If a student is able to read, write, and understand the logic of work, they can master anything.”