Public schools

Kids, Turn in Your Federally-Funded Laptops for Imminent Destruction

They should Google "what the road to hell is paved with."

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Laptop
Evan Lovely / Wikimedia Commons

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

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on the Latest Bureaucratic Nonsense from Government Regulators

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  1. And I’m sure you know the reason the homeless can’t find work is the lack of free minutes on their free cell phones, right?

    “More free talk and text on cell phones for homeless”
    http://blog.sfgate.com/cityins…..-homeless/

    Unbelievably stupid quote from worthless bureaucrat:
    “”This is a big change, and a very good one,” said Bevan Dufty, who as San Francisco’s head of homeless initiatives pushed hard for the free phone program last year. “It’s going to make a big, positive difference in people’s lives.”

    1. Don’t be ridiculous.

      It’s the lack of free texts that has been preventing them from finding work.

      1. I thought it was the lack of alt-text?

        Reason can help everyone by ensuring a steady flow of alt-text.

  2. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

    You mean people tend to not take care of things they have no personal financial stake in?
    Shocked, I am.

    1. “Drive it like you stole it”

    2. Pretty much. Add in the fact that they’re forced to go to school (which does embitter some) and forbidden to use the laptops for anything but school purposes and you really have a great recipe for them not to care at all about the laptops.

      I think the heirarchy goes:
      -student paid for with their paycheck
      -student paid with xmas/bday money
      -parents bought for them after doing something hard/great
      -parents bought for them after some whining
      -school requires them to have and use only for school purposes

      If schools could require the parents to purchase the equipment instead, we’d end up with problems that are a mix between college professors making students purchase their book, and a group of students with free/subsidized laptops who abuse them.

      The whining about equality and competition would be deafening if students had to just bring their own laptop to connect to what should be a terminal services/thin client system that doesn’t have heavy client requirements.

      Then again they can’t seem to manage a wifi environment that doesn’t rely on pre-shared keys even though they control the endpoint devices and all of them are presumably the same. Any decent IT admin should able to install and configure a certificate authentication system for each portable device.

      Perhaps books, paper, pen/pencil are still the best way to do this.

    3. The article does say

      Ranieri said he was relieved to be free of the stress of keeping track of his laptop. Families had to sign papers agreeing to be financially responsible if the computers were lost.

      Of course, there’s a difference between “the family is financially responsible” and “the individual student is finally responsible”, and teenagers are not particularly known for their responsibility anyway.

  3. “They should Google “what the road to hell is paved with.””

    The broken shells of school issues laptops?

    1. It’s the new aggregate we’re cementing with good intentions.

    2. America is paving a superhighway. We need all of the unintended consequences we can make. Consider it a shovel ready jobs program.

  4. Is are children learning?

    1. awl the ryt thingz yep

  5. Hey my 14 year old is going into High School next year where he will be required to have an Ipad, difference is the school is not providing it, they require the family to provide it and if you can’t afford it they have a handy financing plan available.

      1. How do you think those kids are supposed to play Candy Crush and send pictures of their junk to each other? The phones they already have? Jeez!

      2. He’s not joking. It’s the Massachusetts way!

        I am looking at that same issue in 12 months.

    1. What could he possibly need an iPad for?

      1. snapchat pitchers of yer mom

        1. Not…..clicking….must…..resist…..

        2. Also – WARNING us now? “NSFW”? You’ll lull us into thinking you have a conscience, or a soul.

          You, evil, evil bastard.

          1. [stroke goatee while laughing maniacally]

        3. That’s the male students sorted then. What about the girlies?

          1. If they just gave it up, the boys wouldn’t need the fleshlight.

            1. Perhaps girls want something better than the fumblings of a horny child. C’mon Mr Free, give us cutting edge teledildonics for the girls! Perhaps something with Hello Kitty on it

      2. Nothing prepares you for the job market like learning on tools that have little if any business application.

      3. http://www.essextech.net/technology-department/

        Basically there will be no textbooks, they will all be electronic on the IPad, they will also be linking them to the smart boards in the classrooms, administering tests through them, etc.

        If the software is well designed I can’t say I am entirely opposed, I can certainly see the value it could provide but lets just say I don’t have a high degree of faith in a government agency run by the lowest common denomonator of college grads is going to be able to successfully manage the technical requirements.

    2. If you, or anyone else reading this, is in a situation where you need to procure a laptop for your kid’s school on your own dime, shoot me an email: robby.soave@reason.com.

      Would make a good story.

      1. Email sent

  6. “There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.

    This is the only sign of success I see in the whole article. Learning how to circumvent security measures will actually teach you a lot about how a computer works.

    1. Never underestimate a teenager with a woodie.

    2. Nothing like seeing some titties online to motivate those little fappers.

    3. Seriously, my 11 year old daughter who has a learning disability cracked XBox’s parental controls so she could access netflix when we weren’t home

  7. I love this. My local school district just tried to get a tax increase to buy computers for 9th graders. Fortunately we voted it down.

    1. Don’t most schools already have computers? 20 years ago my urban public school had computer labs.

      1. In the late 90s, my school still had Apple ][s.

  8. Foreseeable consequences are not unintended. Amirite?

  9. Maybe they should have just dumped them out in the playground.

    Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

    Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch ? powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

    1. “Page not found”
      I can’t believe SF SF’d the link!

    2. Yep – you You’d the link.

      *applauds vigorously*

      Superb

    3. Yeah, yeah. I guess MITtechreview is behind our proxy wall.

      Try this.

      1. you’se gotz a br tag in der 1st’n linkin’

        1. Bastards. It’s on the actual URL to the article, I guess just to break a link to it. MIT assfucks goats.

  10. The worst part about the LAUSD iPad debacle was listening to Apple fanatics talk about how the iPad was finally cracking the code of computers in the classroom. No Apple fan, it didn’t. Now get back in your cage.

  11. Ahh, Hoboken. One of the wealthiest places in the state, yet for some reason I have to pay for their public schools. Fucking Abbott districts.

  12. “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?”

    Public school administrators basing a plan on personal prestige instead of student welfare? Shocking. Even more shocking that they go through with the plan even though they haven’t even fantasized beyond the first step. But hey, it’s not like its their money, right?

  13. I miss the days when computers in schools were a self-selecting thing. Stick some Apple II s (or, god forbid, some Trash 80s) in a closet at the end of the hall, open it up for an hour after school, see who shows up. Also, onions, belts, etc.

  14. “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.”

    YOU FAILED US!! AND WE TRUSTED YOU TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN!! NOW YOU WILL PAY THE PRICE OF YOUR DISOBEDIENCE, YOU UNGRATEFUL HUNKS OF SILICON AND PLASTIC!!

    This makes sense. Because if these computers failed to teach children, *what good are they!?*. Its not like any adults could find any use for them. Also, for “budgetary reasons”, it makes more sense for them to destroy them and buy new things. Reasons such as, “any one-time spending should become a line-item requirement in perpetuity”. That is how things work.

    ‘Forget it Jake, its New Jersey’.

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