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OLPC's XO Laptop  (Source: OLPC)
Over 50,000 laptops will be delivered to elementary students in South Carolina

Exposure at an early age to computers is considered essential by education experts to the high tech future of nations.  While initiatives like the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative have worked hard to deliver laptops to children in Third World nations, many forget that there are millions of children here in the U.S. living in poverty without ready access to computers.

A new joint initiative between the South Carolina Department of Education and the non-profit Palmetto Project appear to be ready to provide students with computer access.

The project launched in 2005 with the goal of putting laptops in the hands of children across the state.  Project leaders cited the OLPC project as inspiration, and now the OLPC leadership has joined in the effort.  The three organization team-up will deliver the first laptops this spring, with 50,000 laptops going to elementary school students.

The students will not receive the laptops for free; they will have to give a trivial donation of typically a dollar or two.  The donation is aimed at illustrating the importance of the project to the children.  The students also have to sign a pledge to “do something great for their state, families, and themselves” with the laptop.

The XO laptops will be presented to students at special ceremonies.

Thus far, South Carolina is the only state to propose such a program.  The program does face its difficulties; going ahead it will rely on future funding (and advocacy efforts).  The fund is currently accepting tax deductible donations.



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Fantastic idea!
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 1:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is great! Teaches the kids that they don't get something for nothing, and gives them a bit of ownership. Also good is how this is being funded by the state government and not some faceless assembly in Washington.




RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 1:14:52 PM , Rating: 4
Personally I'm of the opinion that this will do nothing to teach kids. Them having a computer doesn't help them learn. It just gives them something else to play with and distract them in class.

I think all of us here are of the generation that learned just fine (well, maybe not all of us) without computers.

Without parents being active in a child's education, the child having a desire and motivation to learn, and teachers who actually teach knowledge rather than to take a test, no amount of money and shiny tools will improve education.

And with our current government further seeking to increase the welfare state and punish those who succeed, what motivation will kids have to excel in school? Certainly not to get a good job, because there won't be many of them.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 1:20:48 PM , Rating: 2
Well, obviously parents need to be involved in their child's education. I've seen firsthand the difference that makes. My nephew was reading on his own when he was 4 thanks to the efforts of my sister and brother-in-law. He got to kindergarten last Fall and over half the kids in his class couldn't read a word. I don't the official score, but I'd guess he's on a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level.

Will laptops help this? No, not directly, but it will give kids a chance to get used to using computers, a skill they will most certainly need in their lives. Computers today are like paper and pencil were to us (I was born in 82, and I assume you're close to that).

I do agree with your core belief that more government can only lead to a worsening society, but giving educational tools to kids is not a problem.

If we do move to a more socialist society, then kids won't have to worry about getting a job, because the state will provide them one.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 2:31:21 PM , Rating: 2
I really don't think in America that kids won't have the opportunity to learn to use a computer.

I think the problem is kids are too dependent on computers today. Why learn to spell when you have spell check? Why learn grammar when you have grammar check? Why learn how to solve a math problem when you can google it?

I didn't really start to use a computer in my education until high school and I turned out fine.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
I also worry about the affect of too much technology in schools. I know lots of people my age that can't do basic math because they were allowed to use calculators in school. I don't seem to have problems. I'm sure it's because that even in my calculus class we weren't allowed to use calcuators on tests.

I just shake my head when I buy something at a store, and give the cashier something other than a $20 bill. One time I bought something that came out ot $19.20. I gave her a $20 and then found I had two dimes in my pocket. I gave them to her and she said "sorry, it's too late."

Something has to be done about our education system and having more government involvement is not the answer.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 3:36:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah we couldn't use calculators in Calculus either. But I sucked at Calculus. I handled everything through single and double integrations fine for the most part. After that....not so much. I hated series.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 4:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
Ugh, yeah series and sequences are the reason for my B- in Calc II. I had an A+ in Calc I.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 6:04:48 PM , Rating: 2
I had a C in both. Failed Calc 1 the first time around. About 50% of kids at my school did.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By onwisconsin on 5/11/2009 1:29:19 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with your stance on the laptops, however:
quote:
And with our current government further seeking to increase the welfare state and punish those who succeed,


Because government doesn't grade the papers. You still have to do well in High School to get into college, and do well in college to get a degree. Even with the increased role of government, most companies are operating the same as always. Just because a few big companies are getting socialized doesn't change the American buisness climate, just more right-wing blowhards have more FUD to work with


RE: Fantastic idea!
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 1:30:29 PM , Rating: 2
Have you been to college recently? They're giving degrees to anyone who floats through on a C average.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By ClownPuncher on 5/11/2009 1:47:35 PM , Rating: 2
You have always been able to get a degree with a C average in most colleges, depending on the degree you are getting.

C = 75% = pass

I'm not sure how this differs from college in the past.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By RamarC on 5/11/2009 1:48:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Have you been to college recently? They're giving degrees to anyone who floats through on a C average.

??? "C" has always been a passing grade. and a "C" average is has always been the minimum for graduation (in most disciplines) so long as all required courses had passing grades.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By Lakku on 5/12/2009 2:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
C means average, so that is perfectly normal to graduate on a C average. In a given class, for those that don't drop the course early, the avg. grade will be in the high 70's or low 80s, hence why most college and uni's have adjusted the grading scale for a C to 75 rather than 69.5 like it was when I was at University. B's are still usually starting at 80, though on a GPA scale, 80 is considering 2.5 instead of 3 now, 85 3.0, 90 3.5, and 95+ 4.0. Glad that changed after I left! Because my 3.4 ot .5 avg. would have dropped to about a 2.9 or 3.0.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/12/2009 8:50:38 AM , Rating: 2
Where are you talking about? I graduated in 2005 and it was 90-100 was an A, 80-89 was a B, 70-79 was a C. Now when I was in middle school and high school my grading scale was 94-100 was an A, 85-93 was a B, 77-84 was a C. The public schools switched over to the college grading scale when I was in high school.


RE: Fantastic idea!
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 2:33:58 PM , Rating: 2
Not really since we have policies where kids are moved on even when they're failing. And since in many states schools have quotas to meet for ethnic and minority groups, they'll take lower and lower quality students to do so while passing over those of other groups who have better grades.


Why does a grade schooler *need* a computer?
By Shadowself on 5/11/2009 2:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Exposure at an early age to computers is considered essential by education experts to the high tech future of nations.


In a word, Bull!

I cannot think of one thing for which a first or second grader (or maybe even third or fourth grader) NEEDS a computer in order to learn. Not one.

I know high school students who simply cannot do long division. It is not that they are bad or inaccurate at it. They simply cannot do it. Some of these students are getting As and Bs in their classes (including math and science). How did this happen? Students were encouraged to use calculators in grade school rather than actually learning how arithmetic works.

Computers in and of themselves are not a bad thing. However, I believe it will follow the trend of the implementation of calculators. The computers will become crutches and the students will not really learn.




RE: Why does a grade schooler *need* a computer?
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 2:40:16 PM , Rating: 1
Well said. I remember when I was 16 and going to get a job at Universal Studios(since Islands of Adventure was about to open and they were staffing up), you had to take a basic math test and weren't supposed to use a calculator. But after I finished in 15 minutes, as I was going to turn in the test, I saw almost all the other people there sneaking calculators out of their pocket or using their cell phones.

It was pathetic. This was basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. And what was even worse was when I saw that some of the kids who'd even used a calculator, STILL GOT WRONG ANSWERS!

I also remember after freshman year in high school I had to go to a public school to make up PE and LMS. Kids were amazed I could write in cursive. It was stunning.


RE: Why does a grade schooler *need* a computer?
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 4:32:32 PM , Rating: 2
Hey now, I went to public school and I can write cursive! :P


By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 6:13:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not all are bad. My best friend at the time went to a public school in Orlando that rivaled my school. It was in the wealthy area of town though. One of the public high schools near my house had about 50% of the girls as single mothers or expecting.

I thank every day that my parents sacrificed to send me and my siblings to private school. They were always behind on tuition payments.


By skaaman on 5/11/2009 4:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. It would seem that targeting grade schoolers with their own computer is missing the mark. I do believe (and have seen the effectiveness) that elementary classrooms should have one or more computers available.

Computers are tools just like textbooks. Targeted appropriately, they introduce kids to a number of skill sets presented in a fun and friendly manner that is conducive to learning. A classic example would be basic keyboarding skills. Now I took typing in high school. I trudged my way through it, but if someone would have tossed a space invaders style game in front of me I probably would have excelled at it.

Middle school is where they show up in my kids case. Over the last two years they have been providing incoming 6th graders with MacBooks. Beginning next year 6-8 will all have MacBooks. My son has been using his for a couple of years and I have noticed he uses it very little for math. He mostly uses it for Language arts, Social studies and Science projects. All in all it seems to be a good balance.

While it's easy for us to harken back to the good ol days of walking 5 miles to school, up hill, both ways, in the snow, with an ENIAC on our backs, the times are changing and technology will be a part of our kids lives.


RE: Why does a grade schooler *need* a computer?
By vanka on 5/11/2009 5:05:48 PM , Rating: 2
I agree completely. This reminds me of a short story of Asimov set far in the future where people cannot even do simple arithmetic. When a lowly engineer has a "breakthrough" that he can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc using paper and pencil; many do not believe him. They keep checking the figures that he gets with a computer and cannot believe that the "magic" he uses to do arithmetic is nothing more than the basic theory that 5x5 is always 25 and etc. In fact they verify this several times on their computers after which they are still skeptical. The people in power at first do not see any use for this "discover" since a person is many times slower at arithmetic than a computer, but then realize that using a person for simple computations in a missile would be cheaper than "wasting" a computer.

My fear is that we are moving towards a similar situation. The knowledge and skills that have been discovered and passed on over the centuries will be lost because the young (encouraged by their instructors) are not learning the needed concepts (especially in math).

I am not against students using shortcuts to get to the answer - as long as they understand what, why, and how they are getting the answer. I will be the first to confess that all through college I used a calculator for operations involving numbers bigger than single digits. But this was because I knew the concepts and how to apply them - I still remember when in the early years of elementary school my mom forced me to stay inside and memorize the multiplication table during spring break. Seeing the other kids outside enjoying themselves and knowing that I couldn't join them until my mom was satisfied that I had memorized everything was all the motivation I needed.

Then in college when I worked as a math tutor we'd have people taking advanced algebra come in who needed help with solving matrices (to get solutions for 3+ variable equations). All their instructors had shown them was how to plug in the numbers on their graphing calculators and get an answer. They didn't know what the calculator did or even what the answer represented or what to do with it; so a large part of "helping" them involved teaching them the concepts and showing how the matrix was giving them the solution and what to do with it once they got it. Contrast this to when I took an advanced algebra and trigonometry class in high school; the teacher explained the concepts, showed us what was going on and how to do it, explained what the solution was and how to use it, and then required us to do all problems by hand. He did show us how to solve it on a calculator - but we were only allowed to use them to check our work. In fact, as extra credit he gave us five 5-variable equations and had us find the solution be hand - 10 minutes of work for a weeks worth of homework credit.

Then there's my grandma who can count the times she's used a calculator on her fingers; she can do 3+ digit multiplication in her head and regularly corrects the button pushing imbeciles and their computers at the supermarket.

As an answer to StinkyWhizzleTeeth in a different "thread" in this article; requiring children to learn their multiplication tables, addition, etc is not the same as requiring them to wash their clothes in the river instead of the washing machine. It is rather like requiring them to learn/understand that soap+water+scrubbing will get their clothes clean; otherwise they may grow up thinking that the washing machine has some magical power that cleans clothes. Having them do it by hand first ("washing in the river") will get them give them direct experience with the concepts and help them understand them better. They can then use computers to find the solutions quicker ("using a washing machine") and appreciate them.

As an aside to those who may think I'm an ancient Luddite - I was class of 2001 in high school and have work in IT for the past 5+ years.


By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 6:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
Same class here and same teaching methods.

We didn't get calculators in math class ever in high school. We got them in chemistry and physics though.


By SunAngel on 5/11/2009 10:59:21 PM , Rating: 2
Are you kidding? Computer are everything nowadays. If it were possible, I wish a mini-computer could be inserted in the womb and they begin using it immediately before entering this world. Maybe, just maybe, there would be no need for preschool nor prerequisites and kids could go straight into development.


Different Times
By StinkyWhizzleTeeth on 5/11/2009 3:52:40 PM , Rating: 1
Computers are a skill, and like any skill it needs to be tuned. Giving kids a head start while they're young, and have lots of time to learn this stuff, is a good idea.

Why learn math and spelling, when computers can do it for us? Why learn multiplication tables when 25 cent computer can do it for us. Why read books when we can watch videos showing us how to do thing, or how things work? Just look at all the Youtube tutorials, especially khanacademy.org. Perhaps we should be concentrating more on speech classes (voice, facial expressions, expressing through body movement). Maybe all reports should be done via video.

This will seem sacrilegious to many, but why waste kids time learning things that are irrelevant anymore since computers can do it for us? It seems to me like teaching kids to wash clothing by hand in a river.

P.S. If you don't like change, then you'll like irrelevance even less.




RE: Different Times
By Spivonious on 5/11/2009 4:33:34 PM , Rating: 2
So when computers go down we get a country full of idiots that can't wipe their own ass? No thanks.


RE: Different Times
By FITCamaro on 5/11/2009 6:21:57 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe because how does one develop new things when they don't understand how anything existing works?

Or do we just have enough knowledge now and not need to learn any more in your mind?


Hey Jason
By clovell on 5/11/2009 3:16:38 PM , Rating: 2
Any idea how much these are costing the state per unit?




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