ellohay! West Michigan

‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’

This is a great article to come across while surfing… I’m actually glad that it was written. I need to hear this kind of stuff.

Take a minute to read an excerpt from this article written back in 2004 titled ‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’ about a grant offered through Michigan’s Freedom to Learn initiative (FTL), which allocates $68 million for school districts to lease laptops to kids for up to four years:

Placing computers in classrooms is, of course, only the latest educational fad, designed to divert our attention from the real issue, which is what our children actually know once they leave school. Sure, technology is important and students will have to be able to work with computers to be successful in the workforces of today and tomorrow.

But computer skills can be learned without handing out personal computers. They are skills a good percentage of children already know and use on home computers by the time they are in the sixth grade. Bringing any child up to speed who has no computer at home should be a matter of selective targeting, maybe even by giving out a small number of personal computers.

But this should never be confused with measures aimed at improving student academic achievement, particularly when studies have failed to reveal any such relationship. This appears to be another program where money is being spent, simply “because we can.”

Read the entire article posted here on Apr. 6, 2004 by Jeff Steinport

Jeff Steinport is a computer network administrator for Advantage Sales & Marketing of Walker, Mich. and treasurer for the Grand Rapids Board of Education. Jeff is also a member of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority board.


Alright, so the challenge is to do what? Make sure that when we design this project, that it’s genuinely good, advantageous to be involved with, different. It shouldn’t stink up the place with poor planning, ill informed recommendations, or inappropriate goals.

The frustration is palpable in this article. It would be a terrible thing to evoke similar sentiments in our future clients.

I’m going to speculate (this is only a guess) of the potential downfalls of this program at this time:

• Potentially, the computers were leased, not donated
• Potentially, there was no curriculum in place to integrate the computer as an effective tool
• Potentially, there was no infrastructure for tech support
• Potentially, the training sessions for teachers, students, parents were not in depth enough, or of limited use
• Potentially, there were no clear goals for the introduction of these tools into this environment
• Potentially, students weren’t using them appropriately
• Potentially, they were intrusive in the classroom

If we’re going to do this right, we need to do some serious homework. We need to know needs, desires, concerns from all parties involved. Our goal should be to make this program as seamless as possible, useful, accessible, sustainable, measurable.

Here’s another article titled “Giving Laptops to Sixth Graders Won’t Improve Their Education

Here’s an article discussing why the “State laptop program [was] erased

And last, but not least, the infamous Freedom to Learn website

What other kinds of things would make a program like ours go sour? What could we go so wrong in our plan so far, that would make you as a potential client feel as frustrated as Jeff was?

A few next steps, growth

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

1.) Finalize project name

2.) Get feedback on mission statement, problem statements, finalize mission statement

3.) Post draft of Executive Statement, get feedback

4.) Write out plans for involvement with community partners

5.) Finalize and Print out finished Executive Statement, supporting diagrams and materials

6.) Start writing grants

7.) Schedule time to meet with Comprenew to discuss pilot program

8.) Schedule time to meet with WMCAT to discuss pilot program

9.) Schedule time to meet with Community Media Center to discuss pilot program

10.) Schedule time to meet with Grand Rapids Public School representatives to discuss pilot program

11.) Schedule time to meet with other important community partners

12.) Write memorandums of understanding for potential partnerships

13.) Breathe.

14.) Determine next steps again

Thank you.

Posted in donations, fundraising, pilot, planning by forgr on May 4, 2008

So far, your contributions to the Start Up fundable account equal $40. The community thanks you and I thank you.

If you intend to contribute, you have until May 25, 2008 to do so.

Please tell your friends, co-workers, family or anyone you know that might be interested in supporting the project.

Thank you.

Mission and programs, draft

Alright. I’m going to throw this out there onto the interwebs. It’s the newest mission statement along with some of the latest program ideas. I haven’t been sitting on it for long. I’m trying to get some feedback and perhaps fail fast instead of a long, slow death.

Please note, I’m using the placeholder name, “The Tomorrow Project”, it’s not a serious name or anything, just a placeholder until we can come up with something really good.

Here goes nothin’:

The Tomorrow Project utilizes existing resources in the community to provide opportunities for individuals and communities through individualized and focused interactions with technology.

Some of our programs include:

Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, 10 hours of community service gets you a laptop computer, orientation classes and general education

Student Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, collective of 50 hours of community service from your class at your school or in your community, gets you, your classmates and your teacher, laptop computers, training, education, and tech support

Tomorrow Box Tech Support
10 hours of community service gets you and your Tomorrow Box life-time tech support from a certified Geek Next Door

Tech Support Mentoring
Hands-on mentoring program that matches technology professionals and underserved individuals to teach, understand, and implement basic tech support skills

Geek Next Door Training and Certification
Tech support training for young volunteers and students of the geeky persuasion. Graduates get their own laptop, office hours, a tech manual, business cards, and the opportunity to engage in one-on-one tech support with people in the community

Tech Education
100-Level classes, centralizing and providing a schedule for free introductory classes and workshops from existing community resources.

Thoughts?

A Conversation with Ashima Saigal

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Ashima Saigal, Director of Technology at Dorothy A. Johnson Center of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Grand Valley State University.

I explained the project, the few programs that we have planned, the thinking behind it all. She had some really good suggestions and encouraging feedback as well.

• We should definitely get the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) Organization in on it, get them to set up a buy one get one program for the citizens of the city of Grand Rapids.

• She also expressed that we need to build in a give/get aspect to the donation process. Donors give something and they get something in return.

• She expressed that getting clients involved in their community would be wildly important. For example, 10 hours of community service with Mixed Greens gets you one laptop computer. This will help our clients realize the value of the tools we’re providing to the community.

• Open Office may not be compatible with MicroSoft word file formats, the file format that most educator’s machines, school computers or workplaces use. That may cause some annoying problems for our clients.

Also,
While I was laying out all of the elements of the program, (the lack of connectivity between the hardware and education and support and wireless connectivity) I mentioned that there were only a few resources for getting ones computer repaired, i.e. the “smart kid next door” or the “tech-saavy nephew / co-worker / acquaintance or Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

She misheard me, perhaps thinking that I had mentioned that there was an organization of smart kids that fixed people’s computers for them, smart kids next door. I clarified, adding that something like that would be really cool. She said something to the tune of, ‘that would be so cool if that existed for real’. A troop of friendly nerds that could roam the streets providing tech support for a simple trade of homebaked cookies or iced tea.

So I’ve been chewing on that, writing a new draft of the mission statement without my head up my rear, drafting program outlines, and memorandums of understanding.

I’ve got some more to write about this meeting, but nights seem to be getting shorter, so I need to stop if I’m ever going to get anything else out of my head.

Thank you for meeting with me Ashima, hope to talk with you again soon.

Naming exercises continued

Posted in physical presence, planning, writing by forgr on April 10, 2008

Grand Rapids United

Technology United

Laptops United

Peregrine United

Technology Independence Initiative

Hi. Hey. Hello.

Free up

Connected

Noise

Matter

Sea Change

See Change

Nomad

Portable

Move Around

Get Around

Independence

Freedom

Free Change

Me. You. Us.

We. Us. Ours.

Center for things, inc.

We/are/one

Netter

Netr

FORgr

Piggyback

Handuptops

The Technology Workshop

artex (out techs)

Lighter

Lightr

Great Tech

River

Free Fall

HOMES

Community Connect

Socket

The Fire

Computer

Machine

Box

Laptop

Lapdog

Lapcat

Open Door

Free Key

Toolbox