I work with my friend in order to sell these pretty useful Chromebook protectors. Another friend was discussing the covers with some of his friends who work in one of the 50 largest school districts in the nation. They laughed at the idea of adding protection to their Chromebooks. They told him that the devices don't break, but I know the breakage rate is probably around 10%. Then they said that if one does break, they just send it back to Google and get a new one. Easy, right? Not really, since Google (or their actual distributor) knows there's a standard breakage rate, and if free replacement is offered, that rate was considered in price quote or insurance plan that was purchased. In a large school district, these amounts not only add up but are also covered up because of the large scale and limited accountability.

My friend told me that another guy at their little meeting was in charge of updating technology in the schools, but because of the size of the district, they could only do one school at a time. When standards change yearly, that's simply insane. For example, in the district I was in, Smartboards were added (God knows why), along with projectors. This was in 2012, and the projectors were capable of ONLY VGA inputs and lower resolution outputs. That's because the purchase was really from several years before and had yet to be installed at my school. Sad. Later, as I taught a film class and asked if I could have a better projector with HDMI, but I was told we didn't have that technology. Really, in 2013, there were no HDMI projectors in the school? And it would not have really mattered, since the old-school computers they'd purchased for us also lacked HDMI, so it would have been a DVD player from home that I was going to hook up. The point is that the big school district could not be nimble and make decisions now, so all those tech upgrades were always years behind.

Big heads play as big a role as anything in school tech departments that fail. I'm not saying every school needs the Chromebook covers I mentioned, but most of the tech guys I've met believed they were God's gift to technology. You are a school technology director, for heaven's sake, not Steve Jobs. You didn't invent anything, and your decisions are not always right. Just because you can send 10% of your Chromebooks back to the warehouse and pay yearly fees does not mean that it's the best way, and just because you chose soft case covers does not mean some other way works, too. Your job, as someone who pays taxes to a school district, is to make sure these tech people are more than just smug guys who think every decision they make is beyond reproach. I've seen poor implementation of online teaching tools, purchases of horrible teacher websites, and so many purchases that seemed to be approved by no one. But those purchases need YOUR approval.

Can you fix these problems. The answer is not to just stop technology spending. It's to buy the right stuff. Maybe your district wants to pay extra for insurance rather than covers for Chromebooks. That's not a huge issue. But make sure the tech department is asking the teachers, students, and parents what THEY think rather than simply making decisions based on cheaper prices or cool factor. Cheaper items, like old projectors, might come back to hurt you later, and cool factor items might never live up to expectations. Buy one and have teachers test it out instead of buying 1000 and implementing it district-wide over the summer. Use common sense.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.

    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.

    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.

    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.