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Screw Class Sizes, Give The Kids Shiny New Toys

By Greg L | 23 July 2014 | Schools, Prince William County | 5 Comments

There’s not enough money in the state budget for education? I’m calling BS on that tonight after learning that some corporate lobbyist for Microsoft managed to get a budget item inserted that has the Commonwealth buying a slew of tablets to hand out to ninth graders next year. I just can’t wait to see just how quickly the creative teenagers at Stonewall Jackson High School can prove what a phenomenally stupid idea this was.

Dear incoming Stonewall Jackson High School freshmen and sophomores:

I am writing to alert you and your families to an exciting new initiative that will be waiting for you when school resumes in September.
Stonewall Jackson High School is one of three PWCS high schools selected for Virginia’s e-Learning Backpack Program. Under the program, every incoming freshman and sophomore at Stonewall Jackson High School and the other schools will receive a Windows-based Asus tablet computer in September to use in class throughout the regular school year, and all the way through graduation. Students will have Microsoft Office accounts and will be able to access resources and download software especially geared to boost performance in mathematics and language arts.

This is a special investment in the students of Stonewall Jackson High School. The Commonwealth of Virginia and Prince William County Public Schools are providing the tablets so that enhanced access to technology can better prepare students for graduation and for the technology-intensive education and careers that follow.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Free money from the state to buy shiny toys for high school students that will magically turn them into a junior Bill Gates, even though Bill Gates himself thinks this is a stupid idea.  Only it’s not free, as local school districts have to match this grant with money they could otherwise be using to reduce class sizes, which is an actual problem instead of the imagined problem of children not having an adequate supply of technology toys these days.

If these devices manage to survive what these kids will do to them, and if the Microsoft operating system they run on doesn’t turn out to be as useless and awful as Windows RT which was end-of-life’d this week, littering these wireless devices around a school system is going to be a real test of whether the school’s notoriously inept IT staff can secure network assets better than they have in the past.  These folks still haven’t figured out that it’s a good idea for students to have individual logins, instead of a shared login, to access computers for school projects and even in elementary schools the more tech-savvy kids have been running amok through this utterly insecure network infrastructure.  I can only imagine the imminent mayhem about to be unleashed at the high school level.

If they’d have given me an opportunity like this when I was in ninth grade within a security environment as laughable as I’ve seen in our schools, I’d have a horrible criminal record by now.  Fortunately back then all we had was a printer terminal that connected to a university mainframe via a 300 baud modem and in BASIC you just can’t do anything that bad.  By November Dr. Walts is going to be getting paychecks written out to “Stevie Monkeypoop” and the entire student body at Stonewall Jackson will be on the Principal’s Honor Roll and have passed “advanced” on SOL tests that won’t even start for seven more months.  I guess if you want to boost SOL scores, that’s one way to do it, but I kinda doubt that’s the intent here.

Simply put, you’re not ever going to solve educational achievement issues by handing out toys and logins to Microsoft Office servers. What you will do is waste a ton of money and time, create an inventory management nightmare, and pad the bottom line of a corporate giant by a fractional amount.  And of course defer actual solutions to classroom overcrowding, teacher pay and lack of facilities a little longer.

If we actually cared at all about classroom overcrowding and trailers, you’d think we’d actually try to do something about it.

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  1. The Ghost of Steve Jobs said on 24 Jul 2014 at 7:24 am:
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    I first thought it said they were Anus tablets, which would have made sense since they’re running on a Microsoft platform and therefore full of crap.

  2. Stephanie said on 24 Jul 2014 at 7:35 am:
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    Just a preliminary investment and necessary tool for common core?

  3. Doug Brown said on 24 Jul 2014 at 9:50 am:
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    They’re handing out I-Pads to incoming Freshmen in Manassas. This is a very bad trend because it works against what the schools are sorely in need of i.e., more civil, academic, human interaction among students, faculty and staff.

    I’ve heard some interesting ideas from Osbourn students on how to balance and offset the dissociative, dysfunctional, disorders that accompany device dependency but nothing from our visionary school leaders.

  4. Paul Miller said on 24 Jul 2014 at 9:13 pm:
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    It’s a constant slide downhill. Other developed countries that have even exceeded our pace of digital foolishness (namely S. Korea and Germany) are now debating ideas for getting like toys out of the classroom altogether. They see what we should see: dropping attention spans, sight problems, posture problems, etc.

    It’s just mental laziness. That’s all I can figure. I have some experience with military requirements development. The catch phrase is ‘analytic rigor.’ Can you back up every single proposed parameter with some rationale that can gain consensus? If not, try again. Here, it’s just pseudo-intellectual mush about technology in higher education and future careers. That’s the only rationale given. It’s repeated so often, I’m starting to think the mush mouths might just actually believe what they are saying. And if you ask them to connect the dots about how tablets (or smart boards, or website-based assignments, etc.) better prepare students for the specific challenges ahead, all you get is blank stares in return.

    I miss the days when we had to be smarter than our phones. Human nature, unfortunately - most of us will be as lazy, physically and intellectually, as our situations allow.

  5. The Ghost of Steve Jobs said on 25 Jul 2014 at 9:58 am:
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    Apple iPads now hold an 85% share of the U.S. education market, so naturally PWC will partner up with the Dodo Bird instead.

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