American Elementary Schools Need OLPC Too

   
   
   
   
   

I love One Laptop Per Child's focus and mission to introduce a full-function, durable, and power efficient laptop computer to impoverished children in remote areas of the world. I am in full support of this concept and strongly believe there is a great need to expose students from around the globe to new ideas and concepts, linking them to a literal world of knowledge and communication to which they were previously unable to belong.


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There is also a great need to get the OLPC into classrooms in America. Perhaps now more than ever.

As a classroom educator in America, I have seen the "have and have-not" dynamics that exist between my students. I have also seen this dynamic exist among neighboring school districts. There is a great disparity among schools and the resources offered to students. Students in some areas of the U.S. would be as equally transformed as a student receiving an XO in Peru.

Which schools should have access to the OLPC program? The following items are indicators for schools with students in need what the OLPC XO can offer.

  • Schools with high rates of students receiving free and reduced lunch.
    The free and reduced lunch rates for a school district reveal a lot about a school's student body. Unlike high school students that are able to have jobs, students in grades K-6 still rely on their parents for their basic needs. If students are struggling to have something as simple and necessary as breakfast and lunch, the ability for parents to provide technology such as a laptop often does not exist.
  • Schools that are underachieving with regards to state identified standards.
    It could be assumed that high performing schools are those with the greatest exposure to technology. Underachieving schools are often those with outdated technology options available for students. These are the very schools that would benefit most from a program such as OLPC. The XO would allow students to experience class work in new ways, empower their teachers to develop engaging lessons, and improve student achievement.
  • Schools with the lowest per pupil expenditures.
    This data is often readily available. It's a fact that some schools have the resources available to spend more per student than others. Schools with more money are able to buy new computers, update textbooks, take field trips, and provide greater educational opportunities. Schools with less money are limited in their ability to provide for their students. It's that simple.

There is usually a high connection between the criteria listed above and the schools themselves. The underachieving schools are often those that spend the least amount per pupil and have high rates of students receiving free and reduced lunch.

Many of these schools may not even be aware of the OLPC program or its potential benefits. Many of the educators in my own school have a limited understanding or haven't even heard of OLPC. It would seem that the time is now more than ever to inform administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and even students about the OLPC program.

Am I the only educator in America that sees this need?

Matthew Dillon is a teacher, guidance counselor, and advocate for using technology in the classroom

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4 Comments

Reading this article led me to research what OLPC is exactly and I am glad that I did because it is an amazing cause to support. I agree with the fact that it's a good idea to give these laptops to impoverished children in poor countries and that schools in America would also benefit from the program. Children in U.S. elementary schools, especially schools with a lot of students from low-income families might not have access to technology to help them learn. Giving them these laptops would benefit them greatly because it would introduce them to technology and how to use it to help them learn.

I live in Canada, and I have recently tried out Sugar on a stick with my 4 year old son, and even demoed it at his preschool. I would be very interested in purchasing an actual XO laptop for him, but sadly that doesn't seem possible. If they were available I would promote them in the local community. The Give 1 Get 1 program sounded fantastic, I really hope they do that again this year, I would love to participate. I will continue to promote the Sugar environment, but while OLPC remains just one of countless charities asking for simple cash donations, I will not be talking about the XO laptop itself very much. It really seems like a shame. I don't think that poverty should be a criteria for being eligible for one of these machines, I think that any child could benefit, and families who can afford it subsidizing those who can't seems like a no brainer. Deciding to not make these machines widely available seems like a crippling move to me.

Mike, you can always get XO's on eBay: http://bit.ly/xo-on-ebay

I agree 100%, and in fact I have been working toward getting XOs into schools for some time. I am talking with politicians in California, and I see that Nicholas Negroponte has talked with a number of Senators in Washington. We also have several Free digital textbooks in California, and Earth Treasury wants to create many more. You can call me at 408 219 4178.

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