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Laptop Shortage of Nearly 5 Million Affects US School Districts

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Thousands of school districts across the US are planning to begin the school year with virtual classes. These virtual lessons will require a machine for each student, but many districts throughout the nation are struggling to meet the demand.

According to a report from AP News, manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo have notified these districts of a laptop shortage totaling nearly 5 million devices.

The shortage began back in April when supply chains were disrupted from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and corresponding national shutdown. The delays have only increased as the school year draws near, and unexpected demand due to remote learning has only exacerbated the issue. 

Sanctions against China due to forced labor and human rights abuses have also limited companies, like Lenovo, in obtaining critical components used in their machines. Lenovo is developing a plan to transition production of these components to alternative locations.

Many states are waiting for thousands of laptops with no clear answer in sight as to when these critical machines will be available. With the school year starting soon, this shortage is adding pressure to thousands of districts across the nation, and some districts are already facing the possible impact of rationing, with larger school districts getting their orders fulfilled before smaller districts. 

  • AnimeMania
    What good is getting a new laptop if you don't have the internet. Maybe they would be better off giving students decent Smart Phones and tell them to use any old laptop they can find that may or may not be connected to the internet.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    If learning is going to be remote by computer then who needs teachers? The Dept of Education should find one excellent teacher/Professor for each course and then make that lecture/course/homework available online in English to all students nation and world wide.

    Also have online homework that progresses students at their own learning rate when they can demonstrate proficiency in the material. Fast learners aren't held back. Fund tutoring centers for kids having difficulty that their parents can't help the student master. Eliminate grades, but rather track proficiency levels.

    The computer can also link to movies, further lectures, books, documentaries and specials related to the courses to make remote learning and home schooling more interesting. Develop courses for all levels and courses from K-BS/BA online and give college credit for BS/BA level coursework.

    There is no reason a good education has to cost $15,000 annually per student. No reason 4 million plus teachers are needed in the US. Also no reason that access to the courses should be limited to the young but rather open to all Americans as continuing education.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    If there is a laptop, PC shortage then why aren't they trying to purchase used consumer computers. For example I have a five year old MSI 17" gaming laptop that my lawyer daughter was recently using for remote work from home and zoom calls during the virus. Original purchase price was $1600 but I would probably swap it now for the price of a new 3080 GPU. In the past I've passed on my old computers to neighbor kids when I've built a new one.

    In all honesty however kids don't need a fancy expensive computer. When in college in engineering (1969-1973) we still used slide rules. When getting my MBA (1976) three years later, I thought I was in heaven having a scientific calculator. Then when in business before the first PCs I purchased a HP12c business calculator which I still have on hand for quick calculations.

    A $99 kids Fire tablet connected to a keyboard and mouse with the right programs and storage is as powerful as a computer that filled a room in the 1970s. A smart TV or one connected to a Fire TV and internet can be the broadcast medium for TV courses and lectures. Same with a smart phone.
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    Then within six months, all these laptops will end up in a landfill somewhere.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    Chung Leong said:
    Then within six months, all these laptops will end up in a landfill somewhere.
    Why should we let the teachers back into the classrooms to pursue a two millennium old, obsolete teaching/learning system from ancient Greece? The teachers now want to be paid not to teach. They are now scared by something that is no more deadly than a nasty flu season. Why should communities spend $10-20 million on building a school? While some educators /teachers may be useful as tutors, most should be retasked into more productive careers.

    My four "kids" who are now in their mid 30s-40s., learned basic keyboarding skills at a young age playing an educational computer game called Typing Tutor. They became proficient in basic mathematics playing another computerized game Math Blasters. There math problems appeared at the top of the screen and you scored points by typing the correct answer before it "fell" below the bottom of the screen. We didn't have to force them to play these games, they enjoyed doing it. My grandkids now have Fire Kids Tablets with educational games on them.

    Things change and so should educational methods.
    Reply
  • drivinfast247
    School?
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    Gurg said:
    Why should we let the teachers back into the classrooms to pursue a two millennium old, obsolete teaching/learning system from ancient Greece?

    The main service that schools provide is adult supervision, duh. You certainly can't get that from a laptop. Kids could be playing video games all day long.
    Reply
  • btroy2
    My suspicion is it is Chromebooks primarily. My kids were all issued Chromebooks starting in middle school (U.S.) and there is no way a pubic school in the U.S. can afford $400 or more machines for each student. In our case the kids were issued $200 Chromebooks. Why, because they can be efficiently configured and maintained.

    Used machines, yeah right. You obviously haven't carried one around much or tried to keep one working on battery for a few hours at a time. I've bought used ones and the first thing that has to be replaced is the battery, that'll be another $20. Installing ChromeOS or something that won't be easily corrupted ... hmm. Lock down machine to the school echo system, that will be $xx and this many hours of time. I think the public school system my kids are in had one band director handling the ID for middle school, and one dedicated person to oversee it all. The only option is seamless administration of the machines.

    If you have skills, I am sure the schools would like your assistance. There are still some machines used for programming, cybersecurity and developer courses that require something more than ChromeOS. Those often are 8 years old and dire need of some love and maintenance.

    As far as critics and teaching. I'm not a teacher, but saying the teachers want to get paid to not teach is just rude. From what I see they are doing their best to create curriculum and new ways to hold the students accountable for their lessons and also following up on progress and areas where students are struggling. My kids' teachers DO CARE and are doing the best they can under the on again off again politics of this year's Covid-19 education.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    In DC area teachers unions are opposed to opening the schools. But some districts are looking at opening the schools for day care for which the parents will have to pay. Paid in person day care in public school classrooms which are funded with tax dollars is OK but students learning in classrooms with union teachers is not OK? Virtual learning in the DC area was pretty much a complete failure in the spring as the public schools could not get it to work. The exact reason why has never been explained.

    Supposedly they are going to try virtual class rooms again in the fall. There were discussion about bringing in half the kids for two days and then the other half for two days and giving the teachers the other day as a free day, but that evidently got nixed also.

    The common assumption is that if Biden wins in November then the schools will open in January after the teachers enjoy their Christmas break. Of course there is absolutely no discussion about schools staying in session to make up all the missed classroom time.

    Yeah many of us are very cynical about the teachers, the school administrations, their motivations and exactly how much they care about educating students. Meanwhile the rest of the economy is reopening.

    One of the local DC radio talk show hosts made a great comment about better not see any of his kids teachers at Target, eating in restaurants or on TV protesting while schools are shut down.
    Reply
  • JayNor
    The problems with laptops are the cheap keyboards and the screens are too small. Laptops aren't the right choice for the current situation. The kids don't need to be hauling them back and forth to school during a pandemic. Get them a little NUC box, a big monitor and a durable keyboard. They'll figure out how to hook it up.

    Yeah, internet to everyone.
    Reply