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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One Laptop Per Child Is Not a Solution for Education Woes

Posted by on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 4:29 PM

For years now, politicians as diverse as Newt Gingrich and Angus King have proposed giving laptops to every single public school student. At WNYC, Jill Barshay reports on a free laptop program at Hoboken Junior Senior High School. Spoiler alert: Five years later, the program is ending.

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.”

There are way more accounts of the carnage inflicted by these kids on the laptops at WNYC. Like any story involving education, there's a possibility that some moron could interpret this experience as a sign that no children anywhere should have access to technology. That's not the point of this story. The point is that children are children—hell, people are people—and that you can't predict and prepare for the worst thing that will happen. But if the kids were given technology under adult supervision, to use only at school, there would likely be fewer laptop-wrecking shenanigans. The best solution to our problems with education is not more technology—it's a combination of technology and enthusiastic, compassionate human interaction.


Comments (23) RSS

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Not to mention making sure kids come to school fed, clean, having had a good night's sleep in a safe place, with medical problems taken care of in a timely fashion, and the peace of mind that they have a safe place to go home to each day after school.
Nothing like having a starving kid come to school stressed out after sleeping in the hot car all night with junkies pounding on the rolled-up windows. This same hungry kid is then stressed out all day due to delightful high-stakes testing (accountability, don't you know!) and because they are at school wondering if the family will still be there when he/she gets "home" from school.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Computers don't even rate until all that is taken care of.
Posted by StuckInUtah on July 29, 2014 at 4:49 PM · Report this
The Shoreline School district has been doing this successfully since 2006.…
Posted by Texas refugee on July 29, 2014 at 5:00 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 6

So what's your proposal? Taking all those kids away from their parents? And who's going to take care of them then? You?
Posted by keshmeshi on July 29, 2014 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 7
I say start with semi-automatic handguns with multiple multi-bullet clips for students, and then when they demonstrate they can handle the responsibility, move them up to laptops.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 29, 2014 at 5:14 PM · Report this
You are correct, troll @ 2,3 4. Normally that would be under the purvey of the parents. But when the family has been evicted because of the mortgage fiasco, or when their low-income building has been sold to a for-profit group, or when they are on a waiting list for a shelter or housing - what then? How about those parents who have to work 2 jobs because their cheap-ass company (McDonalds, Walmart, Subway) won't pay them a living wage or keeps them just under the full time mark so they don't get benefits? What then? Or when one of the parents has died or left? Has substance abuse issues? Has a disability? Why should the kids be punished for what their parents have done or what the big banks have done, or what government has done/won't do?
Posted by StuckInUtah on July 29, 2014 at 5:28 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
Want to help US education?

Provide reduced fee school lunches with fresh fruit and veggies, free breakfasts that are not processed food.

Provide recess, not tests.

Reduce class size.

It's not hard.
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 29, 2014 at 5:34 PM · Report this

You can get tablets for $33/unit from Alibaba if you order in bulk.…

Computers should be as available, and disposable, as a notepad in the stationary supply closet.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 29, 2014 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Sam Levine 12
People don't value things that are given to them, news at 11.
Posted by Sam Levine on July 29, 2014 at 6:52 PM · Report this
Sam Levine 13
The kids that broke public property should be forced to work to pay for the shit they broke. That's an actual teachable moment there.
Posted by Sam Levine on July 29, 2014 at 6:53 PM · Report this
The State of KY just gave 18.2 million to a Creationist Noah's Arch Park. Seems to me 18.2 million would buy one hell of a lot of cheap computers. But no none of that, Kids don't need access to information they need bullshit theme parks their parents can't afford but will go in debt to go to anyway.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on July 29, 2014 at 8:08 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 16
Kids don't need laptops, they need lap dances. Doesn't Kelly O know some rad pole dancers to volunteer some time? Think of the children, at least have Savage Letter of The Day be part of their curriculum. Basically, have schools follow the example of The Stranger, and celebrate degeneracy!
Posted by dnt trust me on July 29, 2014 at 8:32 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 17
"Enthusiastic, compassionate human interaction" is expensive. So that's pretty much that.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on July 29, 2014 at 8:41 PM · Report this
I don't know, I kind of think the IT guys should just suck it up and fix the kids' laptops, and we should pay for it. Having a computer at home is essential for research and writing. Poor kids have to stay at school till 12 am writing their 10-page paper while their richer counterparts are comfy at home?

Yeah, they're teenagers and their laptops aren't going to be taken care of as well as a 30-something professional. So? Computers are only getting cheaper, and I'd trade having to fix some delinquent's computer for enabling an underprivileged talented kid to do whatever it is they want to do.
Posted by Laura Lynn on July 29, 2014 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 20
Just give their parents a raise and stop obsessing over how to fix education.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on July 29, 2014 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Uh, Paul, how would people make money off public education and technology if we didn't spend money on providing technology that, really, kids don't need to learn?
Posted by westello on July 29, 2014 at 11:05 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 22
It sounds like the point of the story is this program was poorly implemented at almost every level by the school who didn't realize that there's more to technology than buying a stack of crappy laptops with terrible software. Kids breaking laptops is hardly the worst of it.
Posted by Josh Bis on July 29, 2014 at 11:19 PM · Report this
AFinch 23
@17 - but laptops are sooo much cheaper that people (teachers, counselors). Technology is magic and we can replace all humans with bots of one variety or another...esp. if we buy disposables off of alibaba for $33 a pop.

Why bother educating these kids for a future of unemployment when everyone has been replaced with a bot?

@sugartit - you're gonna find out the feed trough is bare and you can no longer milk (asset strip) any further value from the consumers who make up the "economy" when you reach your libertarian free-market paradise.
Posted by AFinch on July 30, 2014 at 7:17 AM · Report this

I dunno, how about maybe waiting to have kids until you can afford it?

If the state must pay half your child rearing costs, you've failed as a parent.

If you lost your house it's because you didn't make the payments. Signed up for a mortgage on bad terms? Well, sucks to be you, but you'll know better next time. Can't afford to live where you do? MOVE. Nobody owes you the right to live in a high cost area. Working a low skill and therefore low pay job? Gee, how about getting some saleable skills, Skippy?

I agree kids shouldn't suffer from parents choices. So if the state must pay for your parenting, the state should remove the child to a home capable of caring for the child.
Posted by Seattleblues on July 30, 2014 at 8:48 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 25

In that case, kids should be loaned desktop computers that have fewer opportunities to break. All laptops accomplish is making the kids look like busy, serious students in class, when in reality they're all playing games or chatting on Facebook.

Also, have you ever heard of a library?
Posted by keshmeshi on July 30, 2014 at 9:27 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 26
Want to save US Education? KICK POLITICIANS AND CORPORATIONS OUT OF THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS!!! And let's try something CrAZy!! Let's have educators determine what our schools need to be successful !!! I know, we don't want trained teachers with experience helming the ship of public education. Let's have Jeff Bezos, George Bush, Barack Obama and John Boehner do it and see what happens!!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on July 30, 2014 at 9:54 AM · Report this
AFinch 27
@24 - that's how you achieve a negative birth rate..and we're tottering right on the edge of it today. Ditto Western Europe.

The problem isn't that people are irresponsible - it's that we don't pay most of our society enough money to live a normal life. Having a couple of kids should not be a luxury privilege.
Posted by AFinch on July 30, 2014 at 11:45 AM · Report this
venomlash 28
@24: What about a couple who has a kid, and then one of them gets laid off due to their field going downhill, and they find themselves in economic hardship? Should they have to give their urchin up for adoption?
As usual, Seattleblues assumes that everything is simple and that everyone deserves what they get and that there are no difficult concepts for him to wrestle with. Man, and he says WE live in a fantasy world!
Posted by venomlash on July 30, 2014 at 3:25 PM · Report this
AFinch 29
@28 - you probably aren't coming back to this thread, but in case you do:

1) What about someone getting laid off? My point was that the fact that kids are effectively a luxury good - that we have to have two-income households to achieve the same basic, lower-middle-class standard of living as we did with a single income fifty years ago shows that something is fundamentally wrong!

If you aren't going to do anything to restructure the distribution of income in our society via "market forces", then some selective redistribution is in order in other ways: free preschool & daycare, for example. I'm all down with the French/Scandanavian models for pushing up birthrate.

2) Seattleblues and his FUIGM fellow-travellers are fundamentally and perhaps subconsiously aware of the inequity and are vaguely uncomfortable with it. They are probably a little insecure and fearful and - again, perhaps only subconsciously - aware that their own "success" is pretty substantially due to pure dumb luck.

To justify themselves and apply a salve to those worries, they have to engage in a lot of "I'm well off because I morally deserve to be" or "those people deserve to be poor".

There's no doubt a whole ton of bad/poor life choices go into endemic poverty - it's just intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise - and there is a culture which suggests that choosing differently is a rejection of one's own in favor of being a quisiling traitor. But it is just as intellectually dishonest to pretend that it all starts on a level playing field and that people aren't queued up to go down certain paths as an accident of birth - something which has jack-all to do with personal merit or "moral deserving".

I am as horrified by the idea of mandatory long-term birth control as I am enthralled by the idea of offering it - pushing it as an option - for free to any female of childbearing age. There is no question that teen pregnancy is the number one cause of poverty - endemic poverty. These are my biases as a one-time inner-city public school teacher; I'm a very privileged white dood, but this attitude was the exact one expressed by a number of those extremely conscientious female black educators.
Posted by AFinch on July 31, 2014 at 6:15 AM · Report this

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