First Generation Of Chromebooks Prove Tarnished


It was just two years ago that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 rolled out its new Chromebook-based curriculum to great fanfare and applause, almost all of which was generated by the D-64 Board and Administration.

We wrote about it in our 07.21.14 post and our 08/26/14 post.

The Chromebooks were going to be the latest “magic bullet” for raising the District’s stagnant-to-sliding academic performance – as demonstrated by those pesky standardized test that provide those annoying objectively-measurable test results. Or maybe they were only intended to be $778,000 worth of new shiny objects to divert attention away from those test scores and related rankings.

Anybody who dared question the power and accuracy of this latest “magic bullet” was ridiculed as old fashioned, an unenlightened naysayer, and/or anti-child. That’s the strategy of choice by the “professional” education establishment, although just typing those words makes us laugh.

So far, however, we’ve neither seen nor heard about any improvement in academic performance. And if one entertains the possibility that the performance of Maine South students is affected by the educational quality of its D-64 feeder schools, the slide in Maine South’s performance becomes a tad ominous.

So we have to shake our head over a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reported (“All Chromebooks to be replaced in District 64, officials say,” May 2) how all of the District’s 2,782 “Generation 1” Chromebooks are going to be replaced, reportedly free of charge, with “Generation 2” Chromebooks by the manufacturer, Dell. The reason: more than half of them underwent repairs just this year alone, including a 25% breakdown rate for the computers’ logic boards.

The H-A article places the District’s cost of those repairs at $103,000 worth of parts and labor. So far, there’s no word from D-64 as to whether Dell will reimburse the District for those costs.

Two years ago the chief D-64 propagandist, Bernadette Tramm – still on the job today, sad to say – and a coterie of her sub-spinners were assuring anyone who would listen that those Generation 1 Chromebooks would have a four-year life cycle. Less than two full years later, however, Mary Jane Warden, the District’s director of innovation and instructional technology, and Finance Czarina Luann Kolstad are singing a very different tune.

“Expecting a product like a Chromebook to last a full four years of wear and tear may be too ambitious to sustain.”

What a difference two years makes.

We can’t figure out how Warden and the District’s other tech gurus didn’t see this coming two years ago because, according to Warden’s and Kolstad’s memo to the D-64 Board, “the Chromebooks are so new to the market, [and] there has been no history of product reliability or performance that we can put full confidence in.” But two years ago there was even less of a history.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t stop Warden from recommending the purchase of, or our School Board members and administrators from spending $778,000 of the taxpayers’ money on, 2,782 of the untried and unreliable critters.

And now they’re going to replace the Generation 1 Chromebook with Generation 2 Chromebooks, even though – according to Warden – Dell has not explained why the Generation 1s failed.

“I’m confident going forward we’ll have a better product,” she told the school board.

Just as confident as she was two years ago.

To read or post comments, click on title.


18 comments so far

Chrome books are not a Park Ridge issue, they are a nationwide issue. Books are no longer relevant, the latest and greatest technology is the way all school districts are going.

It’s unfortunate but welcome to the 21st century.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Books are no longer relevant”? We doubt it, but we have to point out that at least they don’t break down like these Chromebooks. Or are you saying that crappy technology “is the way all school districts are going”?

In a world where the small computer we all carry around daily (iPhone or android) has issues or becomes broken or obsolete with a year — your post is — to use your own phrase “near meaningless”.

I think you need to adopt silly drivel as your middle name. 🙂

EDITOR’S NOTE: Then you must think Mary Jane Warden is an idiot for projecting, just two years ago, that these Generation 1 Chromebooks would have a useful life of 4 years.

I am all for the use of lap tops in our educational systems across the country but the Chromebook is simply not durable enough for the kind of use it gets from school kids.

Talk to most students (and parents) at MS and they will tell you about plastic pieces coming off or apart and the machine having to be repaired. These are highschool students. I cannot even imagine the breakdowns with Middle schools students.

Everyone has a bad projection now and then. Here is one of yours.

“we believe Tony Borrelli deserves another shot at proving he can be the kind of thoughtful and courageous people’s representative we endorsed back in April 2011” (3/31/15)…….this comment was made after he voted for the Chromebooks that are the topic of this post.

How’s that working out for ya???

EDITOR’S NOTE: It isn’t, which is one reason why we have given up hope of him ever becoming anything close to the honest, transparent and accountable board member he insisted he should, could and would be – and which he gave enough indications of becoming during his first term that we endorsed him, albeit very grudgingly and with a host of reservations, for re-election.

Ever since, he’s been channeling John Heyde.

Have you ever used a Chromebook? They’re a joke. But if the school district had adopted Apple products, as some advocated, the higher price tag would have been predictably shredded by the likes of you. You get what you pay for.

And if technology of some sort like this hadn’t been adopted as it has in every other school district in the area, I’m guessing you would have shredded the district for not keeping up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We listened to and read about the discussion of Chromebooks v. Apple products, and we don’t recall anybody from D-64 saying we should take the new and untested Chromebooks over the Apple products because they were so much cheeper. They were supposed to be new and better.

As for getting what we pay for, that’s been a increasingly bad joke on the taxpayers for the past decade or so.

Given the track record of this 1st generation Chromebook it would be worth looking into the price of Dell’s extended warranty to realize the full life cycle per unit. They have full coverage where they will send a tech with the parts to make the repair the next day. I’ve experienced so many issues with some models that Dell has definitely come out on the losing end, so much so they offer to replace that model with another new one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortuately, having made that commitment to untested (and inferior) technology, D-64 pretty much has to accept Dell’s offer of Generation 2 replacement Chromebooks – otherwise it would have to invest another boxcar amount in Apple’s or another company’s products and then sue Dell for the $700K-plus.

But maybe Warden and the rest of the D-64 brain trust will consider paying even more money for the extended warranty on products that should perform better.

It doesn’t surprise me that the first generation of chrome books turned out to be crappy. As another post indicated, the devices are frustrating to use if you are used to a standard laptop. The newer versions seem well built and will likely last longer.

What is interesting is that these devices and others were promoted not only to lower the costs of textbooks, but to improve learning. However, to date no research has been performed offering any evidence that using technology (chrome or other) improves learning outcomes. So essentially we’ve bought into technology as a medium to connect with children because we know the kids are really into it. They are into it all right. They are Into YouTube, into Twitter, and other means of distracting themselves from teacher prepared materials. The devices are expensive pacifiers, not state of the art tools for learning. Now throw a guess at it. Am I a teacher?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You could be. And if you are, we would consider you to be “old school” – and by that we don’t mean elderly but in the best sense of wanting and expecting kids to actually learn.

This being Illinois I have to question whether somebody got some encouragement to choose Chromebooks over other options.

I would have thought that somebody would have looked into a Toughbook model for elementary and middle school kids to abuse. Instead they get the flimsybook.

I heard an interesting story on WBBM this morning concerning the use of technology in the class room. In a test at West Point, greater use of technology correlated with lower grades:

I also listened to a Freakonomics podcast a while ago that listed studies that showed the same result.

I wonder if our professional educators are looking into these studies and how they apply to our school system and student population. It sure would have been nice to have some data before the taxpayers had to spend all that money.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Data? The D-64 Board and Administration don’t need no stinking data.

I can’t wait for the next magic bullet d64 comes up with to salvage its mediocrity.

Can d64 get a deal on GoogleGlasses?

Regardless of the device, Apple vs CBook they cannot sustain the daily commute in backpacks to and from school by 9+ year olds. Bouncing in backpacks, thrown around the playground and in and out of cars will beat up anything. These use the google cloud and if a family has ANY laptop/desktop/cbook at home, it is pointless for them to be transported as a child can log on to their cloud without issue. Currently the schools require them to be transported daily.


I have to ask did you even read the story that you linked to?!?!?!

The findings are clearly stated in paragraph two…..”faculty members’ findings, published this month by the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests that male students and students with high grade point averages at the beginning of their college careers are most susceptible to their grades suffering from device-induced distraction”. How in gods name does this information even apply to D64??

You are taking a study of students that actually qualified and are currently in an economics class at WestPoint and comparing them to D64 students??? Gee, where is the study about students at University of Chicago or Harvard??

If this is what you use as “data” it is no wonder some people are against testing.


Just one more comment. One of the suggested reasons in the article for technology causing grades to suffer was students being distracted by internet connected devises (surfin’ when they should be listening to the lecture) and social media.

Are you really suggesting that a 3rd grader is checking their facebook page on a chromebook during class???

There are all kinds of studies about technology in the class room. This is the one you pick???

6:31 AM:

Of course I read the article and understand your point that college students at West Point are not the same population as D64students. I never meant to imply that there is a direct correlation between this study and D64. Please go back and read my posting where I said “I wonder if our professional educators are looking into these studies and HOW THEY APPLY TO OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM AND STUDENT POPULATION.”

I’m not a professional educator, but I would guess that an average Park Ridge seventh grader would be much more easily distracted than students at West Point with high grade point averages. Just sayin’.

I think that in critiquing the study, you missed my point. Clearly studies have been conducted that show the affect of technology on learning. I’ve accidentally stumbled across a few of them without trying so I’m going to guess that there are more of them out there. Certainly the D64 paid professionals should actively search out these types of studies and determine how they apply to our student population BEFORE making a decision of this magnitude. The decision to change how our students learn should not be taken lightly. Nor should an expenditure of this amount.


Generally when one references a study it tends to support of their argument or position. As you admit, yours does none of that.

As to your comment about seventh graders being more easily distracted, I would ask you a question. Do you really think that a teacher in a 7th grade class (or a third grade class) is going to let a student sit there with their chromebook open surfin the internet?? Really??

This goes back to why your article link is so silly. See in a college lecture the professor is not going to even look at what you are doing on your laptop. They assume you are a responsible adult who paid for the class and they are not there to babysit. Hell when I was in college there were some classes you could not even show for as long as you took the tests.

Meanwhile with K-5 and 6-8, the teacher do play an active roll in when and where the chromebooks are used.


Let’s review, shall we?

1. I said that I heard an interesting story on the radio and I wondered if the D64 professionals are looking into these types of studies.
2 You attempted to show that the referenced study does not directly address our situation in D64.
3. I agreed and said that the D64 professionals should look into all of the studies that are available.
4. You again argue that the study doesn’t apply.

Again, my ONLY point is that the D64 PROFESSIONALS SHOULD GET RELEVANT INFORMATION BEFORE MAKING MAJOR DECISIONS. I wonder why you keep avoiding this issue and continue to argue that the West Point study is not on point. Are you an administrator or a school board member? Or just an apologist for them?

So, if you have some information that shows that D64 made a fact based decision to use Chromebooks, please produce it. Otherwise, I’m done engaging because you repeatedly refuse to address the real issue.

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