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.
Looking for XO help
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 Underachieving schools are often those with outdated technology options available for students.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