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Sad day: Two Kindles damaged. Now what?

sad facefavicon It’s a sad day at the Kindle Classroom Project.

I have confirmed that two Kindles in the San Francisco classroom are no longer working because their screens have been damaged. Because the devices are more than one year old, they are no longer under warranty, so Amazon will not replace them.

My partner teacher has asked the students if they dropped the Kindles or exposed them to pressure or liquid. Both said they treated their device with care and always used a case. It is possible, of course, that the students are not telling the truth, maybe because they’re scared. Or maybe they stuffed their Kindle inside an overpacked bag or dropped their backpack. Amazon representatives have repeated that the screens’ horizontal and vertical lines do not occur without misuse.

I am bummed. This is a big setback. We’re down to 42 Kindles.

More troubling, it is difficult to figure out what happened. Is this a fluke? Is this a case of improper training by the teacher? Or negligence by the students? Or a combination?

(Up until this incident, one Kindle has been damaged since the project’s founding in 2010.)

I’ll try to figure out what happened, but for right now, I instructed the teacher to collect all the Kindles and to suspend the project until I determine next steps.

I understand that loaning out Kindles to ninth graders does present some risk, and I probably should allow for the loss of one or two Kindles per year. In fact, I’m thinking of saving some money to replace broken or damaged devices.

But what should I do now? I welcome your thoughts to these questions:

  1. How do I find out what really happened?
  2. Should I cancel the San Francisco classroom or give its teacher and students another chance?
  3. What are some ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
  4. Should I order replacement Kindles ($47.20 each) for the broken ones?

Please let me know what you think! favicon


  1. David Wees

    We’ve had teachers at our school have some accidents with their laptops. I’d say that you should talk about appropriate care of the Kindles again, and then continue your program, ideally replacing those Kindles. People make mistakes, and we have to account for those mistakes in our systems that involve technology.

    • Mark Isero

      David, you’re right that people make mistakes. But I suppose I just wasn’t ready for so many mistakes so soon, so quickly. Then again, the E Ink displays are fairly fragile, so I can see how they can break easily. I wonder what experience Clearwater High School is having. They’ve been giving out Kindles for years.

  2. Donovan

    If the Kindles are a fairly recent generation, definitely get them repaired! There are so many small shops that replace iPhone screens; I wonder if they do Kindles too. Heck! I saw two kids with a table at our farmers’ market that would do it while you waited. Perhaps one of them would be willing to do it at cost, with labor and profit as their donation to your project.

    You could consider SquareTrade, but with so many devices it’s probably cheaper to “self-insure.”

    As far as handling the incident, I would say don’t overreact at the first real mishap. After this, you may go another 3 years without incident! Stuff happens and there’s inherent risk, as you said.

    But make those two kids carry a hardback copy of every book that’s on those Kindles everywhere they go for a week. That’ll learn ’em.

    • Mark Isero

      Donovan, thank you for the suggestion to look into repairing the Kindles. Replacement screens cost about $40-$45. A new discounted refurbished Kindle is $42.70, but that’s the entry-level version, which does not come with speakers and text-to-speech (like the Kindles that were broken). I’ll have to figure this all out.

  3. Beth Silbergeld

    It sounds like there needs to be a discussion about the value of the kindles and a review of care for the class. Had you discussed consequences beforehand? It would be sad for most of the students to miss out on the opportunity because of the actions of a few. Perhaps you should create an incident report/student reflection for the students who broke the Kindles. I would determine replacement based on the reflection.

    • Mark Isero

      Beth, students signed a contract, and there was the understanding that all Kindles would be recalled if a device was damaged or went missing. There was also the understanding that students who did not follow the contract would not be able to continue using a Kindle.

      I do not feel comfortable, nor do I think it is appropriate, to require students to replace the damaged Kindle. After all, the point of this program is to encourage reluctant readers to read. Maybe the students who broke their Kindles could have an opportunity to earn back the privilege of using a Kindle if they’re interested.

  4. Katie

    Bummer indeed! What’s your sense of the students’ level of remorse? Does your gut tell you they would be more careful if given another chance? I would feel inclined to try again, with a strict reminder of proper Kindle care.

    • Mark Isero

      Katie, this sounds pretty good. Even if there’s remorse, though, there are still two broken Kindles. I need to figure out if the students would want a second chance. If so, we can talk replacement options.

  5. Tammy

    Bummer … but I think a second chance is in order. If the students really do want a second chance, then maybe you could arrange for them to earn them back — either by raising the replacement money or some other form. Maybe you could have them do a DonorsChoose type fundraising campaign and arrange for other donors to do matching contributions or something. (I’d certainly consider doing that.). That way there is some more tangible form of consequence, but not something that unduly burdens the students.

    • Mark Isero

      Tammy, I like your idea. The students with the broken Kindles can decide whether they want to participate again in the project. If they do, they can work to replace the Kindle. I can work with them to come up with options.

      This incident is a good lesson about the difference between “it’s my fault” and “it’s my responsibility.” I am hopeful that I can encourage the students to do what’s right.

  6. fayedavies

    My friend’s Kindle broke when it was out of the warranty period. But she just argued with them and they ended up sending her a new one. Considering that Kindle have admitted (I believe) that they don’t intend to make money from the hardware, and that yours is a worthy, public project that could lead to the sale of more Kindles, I think you should push your point!

    • Mark Isero

      Wow, that’s great news. Faye, can I have your friend call Amazon and pretend to be me? 🙂 I’m not a particularly effective negotiator! Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve chatted and talked with several Amazon representatives, and they’re not showing signs of changing their mind. But I did write a letter to customer service headquarters. Wish me luck.

      The problem is that I’m not sure Amazon thinks that my project is a worthy one. The company would prefer that I use its Whispercast service, which is much more expensive and wouldn’t work given my limited budget.

    • Dave

      Good point Faye. I bought my Kindle because of this program. But I’m not good at arguing so I’m writing to wish Mark luck and to give him my anecdotal evidence that Amazon has made money off of his program.

  7. Mark Isero

    Which option would you prefer:

    (a) Have all students (and their parents) sign a contract that requires the replacement of a lost or broken Kindle. This would be $47.20 or replacement — similar to a standard textbook bill.

    (b) Have a mandatory insurance plan of $5-$10 per student. If there is a damaged or lost Kindle, then the money goes toward replacement. If all Kindles come back unscathed, the money is given back to the class for an end-of-year prize.

    (c) No change to current policy (honor system, no replacement consequences).

  8. Vanessa

    I really like the idea of having them do some bit of work or a donors choose project to help replace them. One other practical idea, which would, granted, cost more money . . . have you considered padded covers? Backpacks are dangerous places, I find. They could even make them as an art project (google: diy kindle cover) and choose their own materials.

    • Mark Isero

      Thank you for your ideas, Vanessa. You’re right: Backpacks are scary, and students might take better care of their Kindles if they make their own covers. (Right now, I provide the covers.) It’s pretty clear that having more preparation up front (before giving out the Kindles) may prevent loss and damage.

      (Overall, I think I’m leaning toward, though not certain about, the insurance option (if that’s what the students want to do). If each student pays in $5, that would cover two Kindles. And if no Kindles go lost or damaged, that’s a pretty good bonus for the class.)

  9. Meg Griswold

    I think you are doing the right thing. 9th graders are still learning about responsibility. This is a learning experience for them, even though it means that 3 Kindles had to be the casualty. The fact that Kindles have been taken and the project suspended there has showed that the adults are holding them accountable. Who even knows what effect this will have on them as individuals. Even if the students didn’t admit it, I am sure they are feeling the weight of their actions. Hang in there!

    • Mark Isero

      Thanks, Meg, for the kind words. Yes, part of this project is about responsibility. Why do students take good care of their phones but misplace their class novels and textbooks? What does it mean to borrow something, to take care of something that is sort of your own…but not really?

  10. Mikey

    Did the broken Kindles each have a sleeve case or a folio case?

    Being somewhat clumsy, I have accidentally pulled an electronic toy out of a sleeve and dropped it. The sleeve sometimes gets misplaced, leaving the device more vulnerable stored inside a backpack or purse.

    I prefer the folio case style because they always stay on the Kindle and thus are more likely to be used to protect the screen. They can help absorb some of the shock if the Kindle is dropped.

    Staples was closing out some folio cases for the Kindle Fire/Keyboard at cheap prices. I have some to donate if you need some.

    Folio cases for the Kindle Keyboard are also pretty cheap on eBay.

    • Mark Isero

      Thank you, Mikey. The broken Kindles had hard, high-quality sleeve cases. It’s unlikely that they fell out in a backpack or bag, but it’s altogether possible that the students didn’t always put them back into the sleeves after reading.

      Most donors include folio cases along with their Kindles. If they’re still in good shape, I usually leave them as is.

      Thanks also for the tips on how to get cheap folio cases. Right now I’m getting mine for $8 each, which I think is a pretty good deal. Were the ones at Staples comparable?

  11. Mikey

    Some credit cards double the warranty for new products so that a 1-year warranty becomes a 2-year warranty.

    If you used a credit card to purchase those Kindles, you should check with the credit card company to see if this can help.

    Someone stole my uncle’s camera less than one month after he bought it. American Express reimbursed him the full cost. That was a few years ago, though.

Please share your brilliant insights!