Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The Digital Age

WNYC has a nifty story on a school district in New Jersey which spent an unexpected windfall on a whole bunch of laptops: one for every child. The purchase was intended to keep a technology gap from opening or widening between poor kids and not-poor kids.

However, the officials didn’t necessarily… think about what they were going to do with the computers. Their first instinct was to make the computers unusable, by installing so much nannyware that the computers ground to a halt.

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. [One of the school district’s IT guys] Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. …

All this security software also bogged down the computers. Teachers complained it took 20 minutes for them to boot up, only to crash afterwards. Often, there was too little memory left on the small netbooks to run the educational software.

Okay, so the computers don’t work because they’re crippled with software to make sure the kids don’t cripple them. That’s a great IT plan. But it’s okay, because there wasn’t any educational plan to go with it anyway:

Superintendent Toback admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.

All right, then. That’s actually pretty convenient. The computers were useless, but there were no uses for them anyway because teachers were just expected to magically pull Computer Lessons out of their /dev/null files.

The school district is now going to pay a recycling company for the privilege of disposing of these laptops. Great job, guys.

Read the whole story; it’s a train wreck. These kids deserved better.