Changes. Finally. But Not Necessarily Good Ones.

It has been almost eight years since I stopped working for the overly-large school district. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what’s happening inside the complex bureaucracy I left behind.

To that point, I subscribe to the PR department’s weekly parent newsletter so I can get a glimpse into the system. And once in a while something pops up in that publication that offers some surprises.

Like the little nugget of news buried in this week’s edition.

FCPS is changing its high school and secondary student devices to Chromebooks. This device will continue to enable students to use web-based tools like Schoology, Google, and online textbooks. Students will receive a device within the first weeks of school.

Chromebooks? You’re kidding! My how things have changed.

When I was still in the system, IT would never have allowed that to happen. Leaders of that department loudly and firmly blocked the use of any device that didn’t run Windows and was made by Dell. Or at least had the blessing of Microsoft. 

Over the years they squeezed Macs out of the district, including over the objections of their own graphic arts office, basically sabotaged a couple of major trials to test the use of iPads in the classroom, and shut down several school principals who wanted to try Chromebooks using local funds and parent donations.

Nope. We won’t even consider anything that deviates from the “standard” configuration.

So, the fact they will be giving Chromebooks to secondary students (and, I’ve heard, allowing teachers to use Macs if they choose) means things in the Fairfax IT department are very different since the days when I was working with them from the instructional side of the house.1

However, I don’t consider this particular change to be a step forward.

As I’ve ranted more than a few times in this space, Chromebooks not computers. They are little more than the 21st century equivalent of the dumb terminal I used in college. A window into the Googleverse, and maybe the parts of the internet permitted by your local Google administrator.

I wish all the best to my colleagues who will be involved in the day-to-day of making this project work. But, for many reasons noted in those previous posts, I don’t believe Chromebooks are good tools for helping students become creative learners.

It will be interesting to see what happens, watching from my outside-the-system perch.


The picture is of a dumb terminal very similar to the ones that lined one wall in the computer center at my college. They came in a variety of forms.

1. I got a lot of hassle for using my personal Mac (network name: tim’s-evil-mac) on the job instead of the Dell laptop that was specified for my position. Got lots of dirty looks from the IT people when I used it during meetings that involved their staff. So much fun!

4 Comments Changes. Finally. But Not Necessarily Good Ones.

    1. tim

      Of course, but I treated it much better than many middle school students would have. :-) But beyond the hardware, my Mac was able to do five or six operating system upgrades where the Dells everyone else used started slowing down after two or three.

      Reply
    1. tim

      One big point I should have included in the post was that using Chromebooks with secondary students only makes things worse. Their limitations for students at that level go far beyond programming. You could make a case for using Chromebooks in elementary grades but not in high school.

      Reply

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