Laptops return to (not) play

Broken laptops like this plague students throughout the year. Photo by Alex March.

While students were out and about during the summer, RAHS’s Blended Learning Technologist Anthony McLaughlin was hard at work fixing the laptops so they would function better during the 2015-2016 school year.

After a cleaning of the hardware, inside and out, as well as updating necessary programs and cleaning out the software, laptops have been returned to students.

“Most of the things I did over the summer included general cleaning and dust removal,” said McLaughlin, “as well as reimaging laptops with latest software build, and updating the BIOS with latest firmware.”

While McLaughlin was updating programs and software, he also dug up a lot of problems from students messing with their computers.

“The most common problem with the laptops is battery and/or hard drive failure,” said McLaughlin. “Tech violations were mostly centered around students changing or attempting to change the administrative credentials.”

Some students, like last year’s seniors, were never punished for abusing their laptops. These actions left incoming freshman like Shayla Haynes to bear the burden of their busted laptop.

“I feel like it’s not just mine, but everyone else’s as well,” said Haynes. “Some (or most) students may be happy with these laptops, and I really am grateful that we have them, but there are most definitely things that could be fixed.”

Freshmen who received laptops that were used by someone else last year often find that their laptops have software and hardware problems.

“Students use their laptops a lot, and even when they are charged every single night, the battery life runs out quickly,” said Haynes, “and we are not allowed to plug them in and charge them.”

According to McLaughlin, the most vital thing that can be done to keep laptops in good condition is to keep them in their cases, but there are also some other rules and guidelines that are listed in the student handbook.

“Remember the laptops are property of the Highline School District,” said McLaughlin, “and that they should be used in accordance with the Technology Contract in the 2015-2016 Student Handbook.”

That’s only an overview of how computers should be treated. McLaughlin also has a list of more specific things to be done to keep the computers healthy.

“When prompted to restart computer for Windows Updates, do so when computer is plugged in,” said McLaughlin. “Also, keep backup copies of any work stored on your laptop onto your networked H-drive, for in case of hard drive failure your data stored locally may not be recoverable.”

Many teachers have their own rules regarding computers, and preach saving in multiple places. Great options for places to save are flash drives, Google Drive, OneDrive, or locally on the computer.

Though they are meant to be helpful, all these guidelines and suggestions, from both the technology contract and teachers, can leave students confused or irritated.

Junior Vlad Nazarov finds that the rules in place are not only unnecessary, but stop him from being able to fix his laptop when he has trouble.

“The HDD (hard drive disk) is at fault for the problems I have had with the laptop,” said Nazarov. “HDD don’t have the reliability or speed as modern SSD (solid state drives).”

He appreciates laptops are provided for us, though he thinks that they’re not all they were cracked up to be.

“If the computers were bought for $300 I would be very happy, but for something that costs $1k,” said Nazarov, “I don’t understand when there are modern laptops out there for the same price that are far more practical and reliable.”

Though the laptops often have issues, they are given to students to enable them to do both homework and classwork that might not otherwise be available, and are tools for education, not play.

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