Who is Mike Ford, Executive Director of OLPC America?

   
   
   
   
   

Just who is the new executive director of OLPC America? That is the question I ask myself as I look for references to "Mike Ford" + OLPC.

mike ford
The same Mike Ford?

The Birmingham News says that Nicholas Negroponte appointed Mike Ford to lead One Laptop Per Child's foray into USA distribution of XO laptops to school systems (no individual sales, contrary to reports). And the US News elaborates on OLPC America's priorities:

But only those states showing the most need will have first dibs on the $200 computers. "We want to be efficient and fair," says Mike Ford, executive director of the new One Laptop Per Child branch in Washington, D.C.
The only other reference to Mike Ford and OLPC is this participant list from a La Organizaci├│n Juventud Ecuatoriana learning workshop, which lists Mike as from Pittsburgh, not DC.

And just what does "Mike Ford Pittsburgh" give us? Michael R Ford, attorney at law. Is it the same Mike Ford? I don't know. What do you think? Could it be "Michael Ford" instead?

No matter which "Mike Ford" we're dealing with, I can't wait to see how he interacts with domestic school districts if he starts his tenure with money quotes like this:

"Birmingham is immensely important because you look at all the problems in the country and they all start in the Deep South," Ford said. "We're going to turn it around."
That ought to go over well with school superintendents south of the Mason-Dixon line.

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24 Comments

Wayan
Why don't you ask him for an interview? You can email them some questions from OLPC News readers and I'm sure you'll get the answers.

Greg,

i would love to ask him for an interview, but just how do I get a hold of him? If that Mike Ford of Pittsburgh is really the same guy, do I write a letter to his Pittsburgh address?

Personally, I hope I am way wrong. I would hope that Nicholas Negroponte would hire someone with actual international development skills, or at least a better web presentation than P-burgh Mike Ford.

Wayan,

there's an extra return after the link to the Alabama newsletter but once you're there and reading the comments you kind of get the impression they didn't like "all the problems in the country and they all start in the Deep South". Imagine that!
http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2008/01/one_laptop_per_child_taps_dc_l.html

Personally, from what goes on here and in the forum, volunteers are one of the main strengths of OLPC. For the most part they're intelligent, patient, helpful and polite. If this is the mindset of the paid employees they should keep him stashed away in an office in DC.

Maddie,

What really struck me as I searched for "Mike Ford" online, is that I can't find any mention of him in an educational context or even talking about OLPC before this announcement. Its like OLPC picked him out of thin air.

And if he is a education system newbie, exactly how will he be able to relate to local or state school system administrators? Certainly not by blaming them for "all the problems in the country".

Oh and I fixed the link, thanks for the catch.

> I would hope that Nicholas Negroponte would hire someone with actual international development skills

Har! You are an optimist. No, it looks like Dr. Negroponte opted for someone with political skills as finely honed as his own:

"Birmingham is immensely important because you look at all the problems in the country and they all start in the Deep South,"

Ah, obviously a man with scholarly insights into the region based on multiple viewings of "Deliverance". That dovetails nicely with Dr. Negroponte's understanding of poor nations informed by multiple viewings of the "Tarzan" series of movies starring Johnny Weissmuller.

No, on second thought Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan was on good terms with his neighbors and didn't condescend to them or demean them. Highhandedness and dismissiveness would be more typical of the European powers treatment of their colonies.

I got a kick out of this one. The following reader comment was posted to the original Birmingham News article:
----------------------------
Posted by BhamOnMyMind on 01/17/08 at 9:24PM

"Birmingham is immensely important because you look at all the problems in the country and they all start in the Deep South," Ford said. "We're going to turn it around." -Mike Ford

Shoooooooooot........ where oh where do I begin?

All the problems begin with worthless bigoted political think tank whor*s from inside the beltway. Oooooh look out! Here come our 'white savior' from the North (Mid-Atlantic rather) to 'revolutionize' the South by tellin us all how wrong and backward we are and how we should do things different.

We'll take your laptops and $$$, but please go on back where ya came from. Last time I checked, D.C. schools werent nuthin to brag about.

I don't think he is the lawyer from Pittsburgh but a Washington-based political strategist.

I found this article in the Akron Beacon Journal that describes a Mike Ford as "a Washington political strategist who has run all of [Jerry] Springer's campaigns since 1970."

"He's run every Springer campaign since, and he has carved a niche for himself as a sought-after strategist who has managed a Democratic candidate in every presidential election since the 1980s."

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/news/article_full.cfm?eventid=1303

More news on Ford from the Kentucky Enquirer
http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2002/08/27/loc_pulfer_physician.html

"Former Ford clients include Evan Bayh, Ted Kennedy, Richard Daley, John Gilligan, Paul Tsongas, Ed Rendell. And before that, Bella Abzug, Birch Bayh, Morris Udall. Senators, governors, big-city mayors."

Looks like OLPC chose him because he can use his connections to big-city mayors to land some big orders.

Oh crap! Nothing makes Southerners close ranks like someone who "knows what's good for us." Sort of imperialistic.

The xo I have has caused quite a stir at my school. The principal asked about it. I would love to try to get Arkansas involved in OLPC, but this does not bode well.

LesleyT,

When I said some of the volunteers at the forum could do a better job representing OLPC than this guy I had you and AntiMame in mind. I think they need a *teacher's corps* to show what the XO can do--instead of some guy telling them they're pathetic and damned lucky he happened by.

Wayan, I think it's time for "Is Negroponte crazy? - Part deux"

There are many Mike Ford's in the world, but the more I think about this one - whoever he is - I feel he is starting to symbolize an inherent problem with OLPC.

In starting OLPC America, here was a change for change - both for the program and American education - where Negroponte could have reached out to a maverick educator, a known expert on children's learning, who could really give the program its educational twist.

Or Negroponte could have gone for a consummate deal-maker at the state level, someone who knows all 52 Department of Education heads (50 states + DC & PR) by name and could call them up for an informal chat about buying thousands of XO's.

Instead, Negroponte went with a relative unknown who looks awfully lot like a charitable giving lawyer from Pittsburgh.

Well I have been misquoted in the press before. Maybe he will leap into public view and distance himself from the quote. I can't quite see how it could have been taken out of context, but I try to assume the best in people. I would like there to be an OLPC United Kingdom (or perhaps OLPC Europe) it will be interesting to see how OLPC America operates and how active it proves to be.

Hi
I was under impression that XO is for 6-8 years old. Here is a quote from Birmingham News:
"Children in the Birmingham city school system in grades one through eight will receive a laptop."
Is it true? How it will help 8 graders to learn their curriculum?

OLPC will revolutionnize the whole educational system starting with the small children. But quickly One Laptop will be per Child all the way up to teenagers and adults in the universities.

The whole educationnal system needs to be brought up to the 21st century. Billions of dollars will be saved on the wasting of talents and opportunities under the current educationnal system.

Charbax,
It's a great vision, but as far as I know, right now XO has just a few educational games developed specifically for children 6-8 years old.
Could you give me just an example how XO could help teens to study Math or English, or other courses?

HAHA. You're right about the reception he's going to get in the South with that attitude! What a way to start!

Grishel,

Simply having access to the internet gives the child everything they need to study Mathematics or English up to PhD level and beyond...

I don't think there is going to be a problem with teenage users as they will easily be able to seek out the resources they need in order to learn. It's the younger users that will require hand-holding.

Grishel,
fire up the Measure activity. Everyone in the class now has their own oscilloscope. That can be used for music, physics, electronics, speech therapy, mathematics etc. Use a shared wordprocessor to get small groups to co-author a literary analysis of some classics they read from the Gutenburg project. Use Pippy or eToys to study geometric functions and Calculus in Maths. How about eToys to build a particle simulation that is an analog of some of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics problems. A decent teacher will find no problem teaching at all levels with the XO as a learning platform.

Leslie,

As a fellow teacher I uderstand you comments . It is easy for people to make over-reaching comments when they have never set foot inside a classroom! Will the negetative comment set well? Of course not! Will it keep educators from seeing the value of the XO ? Of course not. We are used to it. Until someone has taught inside a classroom and dealt with all the issues that affect kids, they have no real frame of reference. A few years back we had a superintendant who decided that the administration was "out of touch". He ordered every administrator to make arrangements to teach one day in a classroom! They had to fufill this assignment within one month. The results were amazing-many teachers had to be called back to their classrooms to restore order. A few actually cried, and every single one of them left with a greater understanding of teachers and students-and this was after only one day!

Most people do not understand that getting kids to school is a job in and of itself! They forget that when the parents are evicted from housing, the kids must switch schools again. One year when I taught 2nd grade I had a student who had been in 8 different schools! Most people also do not understand that we do not leave the building after the students go home. I have a good idea that many citizens do not know how much money a teacher spends out of her own paycheck to buy materials for the classroom. Here in the midwest teachers not only buy most of the classroom materials, but coats, hats and mittens for their students who do not have them. In these years of tight budgets you can see teachers buying and bringing into the school boxes of paper, glue, crayons, paint and much more. In many buildings I have worked in, we pass the hat in the teachers lounge, to try and get health care for needy students. We comfort children who have seen brothers shot in drive-by's, parents hauled off to jail, and have handed over our lunch so that one of our students can eat.

The XO provides an opportunity to engage students, provides excellent learning activities. It will not solve all the issues in education we face today, has students bring with them to school their lives experiences! XO or not if you are worried about MOM, it is not going to be a good day at school! That being said, as educators we are thrilled that there is finally a laptop that comes with appropriate educational software. As a teacher it is my mission to do whatever it takes to help my students learn.

I wish every person who thinks that they can cure, "the broken education system", spend one day inside the classroom teaching. If you can do a better job-please become a teacher-we need you.

When the Gates foundation started their library donations, they began with Louisiana and Mississippi in the 90's. They started with the South for similar reasons. A lot of the libraries did not have the money for upgrades or replacements years later, so the Beaumont Foundation was giving away Toshibe gear as part of a class action settlement, and they provided new equipement to replace the first round of donations. It will be interesting to see what happens to the XOs in poor schools after a few years.

It seems far more likely to me that the AP got the wrong picture, and the real Mike Ford is the Professor in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, rather than the random local estate lawyer. http://www.education.pitt.edu/people/MichaelFord/

I don't know if I'm right, but you should at least try a little research before posting FUD.

Or, alternately, OLPC could have announced exactly who the guy is what his credentials are.

Mike Ford is an influential union organizer (AFL-CIO); working as a lobbyist for rural issues in D.C.

Wayan,

You asked everyone about Mike Ford, and I gave you the answer.

Mike Ford is a union organizer for AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees), the largest union in the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations)

More to the point is that AFSCME is the umbrella union for the various teachers unions. As I have said in past comments, all this has been tried before: Computers in the classroom, Constructivism of all types, etc. The show stopper is ALWAYS the teachers unions. So, Negroponte went out and got a "union man" to deal with them. The reason Mike Ford is "from" Washington is due to the fact that he is a Lobbyist when Congress is in session.

Robert,

Okay, so there is a Mike Ford who is a union organizer. Is he the same Mike Ford that is part of OLPC? When will we hear from OLPC or Mike to confirm this? Or more on what Mike Ford is doing for OLPC America?

On a side note, is he the same Mike Ford from the Dean Campaign? And does he have connections to the American Federation of Teachers - the main teachers' union?

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