Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

Laptops come back looking good

Chris Urban knew there wasn’t even a remote chance the inventory would come back totally unscathed.

“But everything looks good for the most part,” she said, “so I’m not complaining.”

 Urban is the technology director for Monongalia County Schools.

She’s referring to the 850 or so Google Chromebook computers from the county’s Class of 2020, which began filtering back to her office last week.

There are generally 8,000 or so of the devices answering roll in Mon during the school year.

The district began issuing the laptops to middle- and upper-grade students four years ago, as a way to digitally enhance and extend classroom learning.

Of course, that was pre-pandemic.

Before, the Chromebooks were only fully enlisted during snow days and work stoppages.

After COVID-19 appeared at the bus stop this spring, it was every day.

And the thing is, laptops don’t always live to tell about it.

You dropped yours in the dining room  — you know, with the nice hardwood floor?

Your dog swept it off the edge of  your bed with his tail. That’s kind of on you, since you’re the one who put it there.

Your kid brother sat on it. He didn’t mean to.

You spilled your giant Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on the keyboard. At least you got one drink.

You dropped it (again) in the dining room. That hardwood floor sure does look good, though.

Online, on task

Urban said she was pleased with the digital stewardship offered by the seniors.

“We had chipped monitors here and there,” she said, “but there weren’t any real horror stories this year.”

Well, there was that time the — wait. We’ll boot that up in a bit.

Meanwhile, she said, chipped and cracked monitors, plus the occasionally sprung casings on their flip-top lids, are just part of the Chromebook day-to-day, she said.

“That’s where you get the most wear,” she said.

All that opening, she said. All that closing.

Homework (and, home work)

Accidents aside, she said Mon’s students in general are good at being gentle with the district-issued devices.

“This is their generation,” the former math teacher said.

As far as that goes, Mon County’s Class of 2020 may be the first generation to clock in remotely more than ever before, as employers consider cost ledgers and workplace dynamics, post-pandemic.

According to a survey last month reported by the Brookings Instution, the Washington, D.C., think tank, one in five of the chief financial officers who responded said they’ll continue to keep 20% of their employees working from home, even after COVID-19 finally clears.

See above for the reasons why.

It’s more cost-effective, they said.

And workers, at least so far, they said, appear to be more productive at the kitchen table opposed to the cubicle.

Urban, meanwhile, isn’t projecting that far out, because she can’t.

School, in one way or the other, will start up again in late August.

That means a fleet of Chromebooks that she and her staff of six have to electronically tweak for the next round.

Each one gets a digital tune-up and internal “laundering,” as it were, so drives go back shiny and new.

You’re not gonna believe this, but …

The staff also makes sure every charger for every computer is also accounted for — which goes back to the aforementioned “horror” story.

Yep, it was a howler. As in the laughter kind.

Last fall during a Chromebooks update at a Board of Education meeting, she famously reported that one such charger met an untimely demise that previous spring.

  That was after it was eaten. By a goat.

“It is what it is,” she said, as BOE members couldn’t help but smile.