Give your old, broken laptop a new purpose

RIP Mr. MacBook

When I first started the station rotation model, I had a hodgepodge of eight devices, including my old black MacBook that I didn’t use anymore. This computer was painfully slow and, in fact, wouldn’t work unless the power cable was plugged in at all times. One false move and the cord ripped out from its magnetic jack and shut down, sending whatever you were working on into the cyber abyss. If you closed the laptop (as you should when not in use), it would also completely shut down. You even had to enter the wifi code every time you reopened it.

This led to my students creating all sorts of sticky note warnings: “Do NOT close!” and “Do not unplug!” Needless to say, when the hard drive finally quit and an ominous question mark took over the screen, we were all kind of relieved. We held a “funeral” for the MacBook and students wrote eulogies professing how much trouble the machine had given them. It was hilarious and what students called “their favorite moment of the year.”

It was clear the MacBook couldn’t be revived. And I wouldn’t need it the following year having just won a class set of Chromebooks. But I decided to keep the broken MacBook for training purposes. At first, I thought I would drop it on the first day of school so that we could collectively feel that icky feeling of a device being smashed to bits. But I didn’t want to put in students’ minds that we should drop computers at all.

I believe in teaching students through restorative means so I decided that any time a student dropped one of our brand new Chromebooks, they would have to take the old MacBook and practice walking with two hands and a good grip around the classroom for three minutes. And it worked! Students who dropped a Chromebook never did it again after the practice session. And other students didn’t want to waste their computer time practicing so they, too, were more careful after watching someone else have to lug the thing around. It became such a part of our routine that I didn’t even have to tell a student to come up and get the practice computer after they dropped a Chromebook. They just did it on their own.

So, if you have a broken laptop, don’t get rid of it. It may never turn on again but it can live a life in your classroom rehearsing as if it will.

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