In the earliest days of technology use in schools, particularly computing, it was understood that the school would provide and maintain the equipment. Today that is changing, and some schools are expecting students to come equipped with their own computing ability, maintaining equipment for only students with a proven financial need. Obtaining the equipment is less of a challenge than many might think; the real issue may turn out to be maintenance. With students having to provide their own tech support, reliability of service may become an important issue.
This problem was brought home to me with all too much clarity over the past few months. As I write a highly shortened version of what happened, imagine that I am a student trying to deal with assignments under my school’s technology requirements. I take a lot of trips in which total luggage weight and space is a real concern, and I decided my best option would be a tablet. I researched the reviews and settled on a top rated model, an ASUS Transformer, a tablet with the ability to be used like a laptop with a keyboard. Since I did not see it as a critical part of my life, I foolishly spurned the store’s additional full replacement warranty and stayed with the basic ASUS warranty.
When the tablet would not turn on one day, I used the ASUS email tech support. A couple of days later I got a reply telling me to go into the settings and make a number of changes. I replied that the solution they offered required me to turn on the tablet first, which I could not do. After a couple of days I got a new set of instructions for doing something completely different in the settings. I again tried to make them see that changing the settings was not possible unless the computer was turned on. Eventually I talked to a human being on the phone, and after a bit of an exchange he was able to see that point.
The new solution was to send it to a repair facility in Texas, and after a few weeks it came back, the day before a planned trip, with a new mother board. I replaced all the applications I had downloaded and did everything I could to get it ready for the trip. I then tried to turn it on again—no dice. I returned from the trip to face a new round of talks with tech support, and I sent it back to Texas. It came back a few weeks later. It would not turn on.
It was time to escalate the problem to a higher level, and escalate it I did. I was finally told to send it to another location where it would receive management-level attention. It came back a few weeks later with a new power cord/adapter, just in time for another trip on which I would face extreme weight limits. It would not turn on. I took it to the service department of the store where I bought it, and they very nicely signed a letter explaining that the tablet was dead as a doornail and would not turn on despite their best efforts. I sent a PDF copy of that letter in with my next reply, but it took several more email attempts to get management to acknowledge it.
All of this started in mid-August, on almost the first day of school in the local school district. We are now near the end of the semester, and I still don’t have a working tablet. ASUS has now promised to replace it, and I just mailed it in again. They told me it will take a while for that process to take place. Hopefully I will have it in a few weeks, a full four months after I first contacted tech support.
This has been a serious inconvenience for me, but only an inconvenience. On each of the trips I took I was able to take my laptop, a huge, heavy desktop replacement model not intended for extensive travel. What if I were a high school student, and this were my only means of meeting the requirements for technology in my school? In that case it would be much more than an inconvenience. It is hard to see how a student could function effectively in a school that requires computing but relies on outside technical support to keep it running.
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