Netbooks for sixth graders?

I am a tech guy.   A geek, a nerd,  the whole shebang.   My home office has three or four shells of old computers.    I am plugged in all the time, whether it is an iPhone, iPad, one of two Macbooks, even technology on my wrist when I exercise.  I help people with computers, setup networks, etc… I have four old hard drives just sitting on the floor next to me as I write.       So why do I find myself annoyed to read that the local school district spent $800,000 to equip 1000 sixth graders with $400 crapbooks, er… netbooks?    Underpowered laptops in the hands of 12 year olds;  on three year leases.     

Is it personal experiences that these computers are not worth close to that amount, and will end up piles of junk long before these kids – expected to use them day-in and day-out for three years – are done with them?  I’ve seen first-hand the damage a 6th grader can do to a netbook, a laptop, and a desktop.  And its not pretty.  

Is it the sense that in a largely upper-middle class school district, in a state that is BROKE, I am forced to ask why are we spending $800,000 per year (as one can only expect the program to continue) to equip families with devices that most of them could afford on their own?   Sure, there are poor families in Unit 5; and if we were to require laptops/netbooks, I’d certainly support helping them out.   Or maybe some of it is annoyance that even though I pay a god-awful amount of money on local property/school taxes (close to $6K per year), I still got hit with almost $200 in “fees” when my kid registered for high school.   (Why is there a fee needed to take geometry? — But I digress….)

Is it the sense that we are focusing too much on technology, and not enough on the three Rs of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmitic?     A friend who is (an excellent) teacher at one of the jr high schools was quoted  in the paper saying “this will change how we teach, not what we teach.”    You know, I am not certain I buy that argument.  As a college professor over the past two decades, I have watched students become more and more tech savvy (or at least tech dependent, they are not all saavy), and less and less prepared for college.   I teach a generation of kids that seems to have lost the ability to read anything longer than… gasp… a blog entry.  Books?   They don’t even buy them.  But they can make powerpoint presentations for group projects.  (Yet, even here they tend to make the most atrocious-looking powerpoints imaginable, so even that is questionable). 

I am not sure why I am bothered by the schools embracing technology in this way.   An expanded wireless network, computers in the hands of every kid.   Call me cynical, but I am not sure we are going down the right path.    

Curmudgeonly yours… 

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