To set the scene, it is 9:30 a.m. on a school day. 3rd Period Language Arts. I begin typing into my Google Classrooms chat for the assignments, my laptop is beginning to slowly deteriorate. It had some technical issues regarding the fan and keyboard processing, but nothing that seemed too far out of the blue. However, my battery began to decrease to an extremely low level, and thus my immediate instinct was to plug my charger into the side of the laptop I was using. Instead of the sweet relief of a charging notification, I was instead greeted with a continued declining battery. Seconds turned to minutes and soon enough the computer was shut down too. Then a small stench came out. What was it? A neighbor barbecuing? A figment of my imagination? Instead, as marked by the cloud of smoke coming from the backside of my laptop by my battery, it was lo and behold the absolute destruction of my beloved device.
After muttering a few obscenities, I began hard at work to find alternatives to log into my meeting and continue as if nothing had happened, removing my charger to quell the batteries’ heating and fire-hazard behavior. I had a school-issued Chromebook near me in my bedroom at the time, and I thought to use that as an alternative. The Chromebook was given to me for evacuation preparation and for exams, but I had set it aside in favor of my own laptop for schoolwork and home studies. I powered on the device and was immediately with a warning. The Operating System used on the laptop had not been installed on the Chromebook by district IT. My only current modes of communication with my teacher had now been completely obstructed by technology issues beyond repair.
My only way to complete my schoolwork was through the means of technology, as digital is the only route I could take studying and learning in quarantine. Having these means taken away from me was a hardship that caused great disturbance to my workflow. It also made me ponder on the reliance we have with these devices, because if something as simple as this could happen anywhere or say a power outage were to stop devices throughout a local area, it would be devastating for jobs and communities everywhere.
While I believe that digital devices and technology are a much better way to go for a lot of resources and jobs in our communities, we need to find ways to ensure that in cases where these devices are to suddenly fail on us that there are additional ways to communicate this – a plan B of sorts.
Addison Pickrell (16; he/him) is a student at Technology High School, and lives in Santa Rosa. He is a member of the Sonoma County Junior Human Rights Commission and is an active participant within his Tech High community.