Monday, March 12, 2018

Colonial Heights Public Schools - Chromebooks Are Almost Disposable?

Diapers are disposable, and for good reason. Once used, they stink. And they don't serve another purpose. Colonial Heights Public Schools in Virginia will soon be getting Chromebooks, which are cheap compared to other devices. However, the following statement should make taxpayers worry just a bit:
"The computers are only $185 per device, which is another reason we’re doing this, because they’re inexpensive,” Tillman said. “It’s easy to replace them, it’s easy to insure them, and if they break, they’re almost disposable."
Let's think about that for a moment. If your school district has around 3,000 students and therefore 3,000 Chromebooks, that's a half-million dollar investment. If you experience a typical (for schools) 25% breakage rate (mostly broken screens), then you have 750 broken computers at a cost of  nearly $150,000. In five years or less, when it's time to buy all new Chromebooks, you'll have spent over $1 million on the initial Chromebooks. That's a lot more than I ever spent on diapers for my kids.

Chromebooks really are great. I can do most of my real-world job on one. The people in Colonial Heights have made a good choice to use these devices. The school district is also realistic about expectations, acknowledging some of the challenges. Besides, imagine a 1 to 1 system with $1,000 computers.

But what are the options to protect the investment? Insurance is fairly cheap, until you consider the initial price of the Chromebook. Even at $25 per year, you'll pay more than 50% of a new device just in insurance over four years. If I had to pay $10,000 on my $20,000 car over four years to insure it, I'd take the bus. Also, who pays for this "easy" insurance? Many schools will have parents foot the bills, which does not always sit well with anyone who owns a calculator.

This website has some links to cases and covers. Our favorite is the Cranium, but there are other options. These represent a one-time insurance investment that will take breakage rates down. The point that should be considered is whether or not Chromebooks really are disposable. If so, then forget about insurance or protectors. Just buy a new one each time one breaks. Maybe get a newer model each time. This might not give students a huge incentive to not break their older versions, but it might defray total replacement costs over time.

Overall, you'll still spend a lot less on Chromebooks than on other laptop options, so it may not matter all that much what you choose to do. However, it's not a bad idea to have the discussion.

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