North Carolina School District Suspends $30M Amplify Tablet Program

In North Carolina, Guilford County Schools have suspended a $30 million program with the highly-touted Amplify tablet due to safety concerns. After reports of multiple hardware issues, including the device’s charger melting at home, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice Green has decided to suspend the use of 15,000 tablets.

The suspension will likely hurt Amplify’s efforts to promote the use of its cheap educational tablets. Amplify is an independent subsidiary of News Corp. and directed by former New York City education chancellor Joel Klein that plans to help bring K-12 education into the 21st century — but melting tablet accessories aren’t a good start, writes Gregory Ferenstein of Tech Crunch.

“We recognize that suspending the program on short notice is going to be disruptive to students, staff and parents,” Green Explained. “My decision was made out of an abundance of caution, and I decided to err on the side of safety.”

“Parent Linda Mozell said her daughter and other students at Southeast Middle School had repeated problems connecting to the Internet with their tablets. And even though her daughter got one of the “hard shell” protective cases, that caused its own set of problems, she said. The keyboard’s hard-shell case kept rubbing against the tablet screen in a way that could scar it, she said. In addition, the cord connecting the tablet and keyboard broke easily, the stylus was too big for easy use, and the equipment came home without a user’s manual,” News & Record reported.

The breakage rate of screens is around 3%, which compares to Asus’s industry average of about 2.5%, according to Amplify.

An Amplify spokesperson said the melting charger was an isolated incident. In the next round, the company believes that tablets will not pose a safety risk to children.

“This week our largest customer, Guilford County Schools, informed us that a tablet charger, which was manufactured by ASUS, was partially melted while charging a student’s tablet at home overnight. We are working to determine whether the issue was caused by an electrical problem in the student’s home or because of a manufacturing defect.

While the problem occurred with only one of the more than 500,000 chargers of this kind that ASUS has manufactured and distributed across the world, one instance is too many in our opinion. Nothing comes before the safety of our students, teachers and their families. Out of an abundance of caution, we are requesting that Amplify Tablet customers cease all further use of the ASUS charger until we can determine the cause of the single reported malfunction in Guilford County, North Carolina.”

Mass tablet programs have faced serious hurdles this academic year. Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has decided to take back iPads from students after a hacking scandal rocked the fragile pilot’s early start. The district recovered iPads from students at Westchester High School and Roosevelt High School and will keep the devices until the district strengthens security measures.