Bureaucrats love to throw fancy technology at schools and expect it to magically improve students' learning outcomes. That's easier than hiring, training, and fairly compensating good teachers, right?
A New Jersey school district has admitted that it's every-seventh-grader-gets-a-laptop plan was a dismal failure, however, and is preparing to destroy the devices.
The school district was able to obtain the laptops five years ago through federal stimulus money. The intention was that kids was use them for homework and teachers would design internet-involved assignments and lessons. Instead, calamity after calamity ensued, according to The Hechinger Report:
By the time Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer, arrived in Hoboken's school system in 2011, every seventh, eighth, and ninth grader had a laptop. Each year a new crop of seventh graders were outfitted. Crocamo's small tech staff was quickly overwhelmed with repairs.
We had "half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going 'my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,' " said Crocamo.
Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still . . . teenagers.
"We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do," said Crocamo. "I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed."
The devices were also frequently stolen, and Crocamo spent much of his time filing police reports and appearing in court. Students quickly figured out how to crack his security software and spent time visiting unauthorized social networking and porn sites:
"There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer," said Crocamo.
Students spent more time playing games on their laptops than using them for school work. Wi-fi became another problem. So many people in the vicinity of the high school had the internet password that they could steal it by bringing their own laptops near the school. The internet eventually became so bogged down that it was unusable.
In other words, the program was a complete disaster from start to finish. The district is now taking back the laptops and intends to destroy them.
Los Angeles Unified Schools experienced similar problems when administrators attempted to give every student in the district an iPad. According to Allison Powell, vice president for state and district services at iNacol, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, such programs are common—and commonly end up causing more headaches than they solve:
"Probably in the last few months I've had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, 'I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,' and they're like, now what do we do?" Powell said.
Bureaucrats in districts with failed technology programs typically bemoan the results while maintaining that the initiative was motivated by good intentions. They should Google "what the road to hell is paved with."
Too bad Hoboken's internet isn't working.
Hat tip: Chuck Ross / The Daily Caller