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.