ellohay! West Michigan

One Laptop per Child XO Laptop (Give a Laptop, Get a Laptop)

Posted in donations, education, good news, hardware resources, laptops by forgr on November 17, 2008

You can purchase an XO Laptop on Amazon.com today. Absolutely brilliant.

If you’re looking for a way to give to the world, buy one for a child in a distant land and get one for yourself for $399. Or if you feel like you have too many toys in your office…

XO Laptop

Now is the chance to place an XO laptop in a loving home here in West Michigan. We’ve started an Amazon Wish List for the Digital Inclusion Project/Ellohay! West Michigan, so when you buy from our Wish List, it will go directly to an under-served child here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

You can browse our list here:

My Amazon.com Wish List

If her guardian agrees, we’ll interview, post video and pictures to track her progress with her new laptop here.

We have a high hopes, so we have 100 XOs, 100 EePCs, laptop sleeves, and a few printers, and optical mice in our Amazon.com Wish List too.

If $399 is a little too much for your budget, you can put a child in charge of her own data by purchasing a usb drive for just $4.

Some XO testamonials from the OLPC page on Amazon.


“I use my computer very carefully so that it will not spoil. I use it to type, I use it to write, I use it to draw, I use it to play games… I’m using my computer at home to type assignments.” — T. (Primary 4), Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

“I like the laptop because I always snap pictures… I snap pictures and I play games; we use… Google [Internet]. I put it in Write and use it in class work.” — S. (Primary 4), Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

“Sometimes I play football and sometimes I stay in the classroom… I operate my laptop: I write, draw, and record music… At home, I go turn on the television and record music.” — C. (Primary 5), Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

“I think the laptop is very good. It helps us to find some words, like our uncle [teacher] will teach us… The things we didn’t know, we go check on the laptop.” — T. (Primary 6), Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

What Teachers Are Saying

“With the laptop we can say that our school is really elevated because the children are really learning more… They see themselves discovering things that they have never been doing before.” — Mrs. M., Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

“Pupils go even beyond what I can teach in the class. It’s a very interesting thing to use. I personally have a better idea about teaching… We discovered that giving them time to discover something and to do it in their own way, they feel more happy and they are so excited in using it that, ‘Yes, I discovered it! Yes, I can get it!! Yes, I can do this on my own!!!’ Teaching is getting more interesting and less stressful.” — Mr. O., Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

“Some children are naturally faster than the others; we discovered that they go ahead of the class. They can teach their mates that, ‘Look I got it, this is how you do it, this is how you do it, this is how you do it.’ This way the slower children also are catching up. When the children can learn on their own, apart from what they can learn in class, they go faster above their mates in other places.” — Mr. O., Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

See the One Laptop per Child XO Laptop on Amazon.com.

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Tech and what makes us tick

Posted in breakthrough, discovery stages, logic by forgr on August 3, 2008

Technology can be intimidating.

Trying to understanding technology by ourselves can be intimidating.

Most individuals avoid people, places, and things that are scary.

Avoiding something is a way to protect oneself from harm.

If we fear technology, we will avoid technology for as long as we can.

Avoiding technology is very difficult, it’s everywhere because it is effective.

Personal computers are very helpful tools.

Many tasks in the workplace, and in our personal lives are computer-based tasks.

If we understand what makes a piece of advanced technology a helpful tool, we are more likely to make room for it in our lives.

Relying on someone else to provide education and support is very common.

Many people who have home computers now, rely on a kind neighbor, relative, or friend to help them trouble shoot and fix their computers.

Most companies have tech support resources at their disposal, and rely on them to troubleshoot or fix computers, but their company pays for the service.

New technology is very complicated to understand.

The fast pace of innovation is difficult to keep up with.

If a person misses out on some new technology paradigm, it is often difficult to catch up later.

Not knowing something that everybody else seems to know is often embarrassing and overwhelming.

It is difficult to avoid technology as it becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives.

Many of us use a computer at work.

Many of us use a computer everyday.

New computers are expensive.

Used computers are affordable, but often unreliable.

Affording any computer is difficult, and there are usually other necessities that take precedence.

Computers make our lives easier overall.

Everyone deserves to be on a level playing field.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to common tools.

Many of us, because of our financial status, do not have equal and meaningful exposure to technology.

Those of us that can afford new technology, have an upper hand.

Understanding how to use computers can make us more efficient in our daily tasks.

Abundant information is available online to learn new skills, and understand the world around us.

If we can be more efficient and more intelligent, we can potentially get better, more high paying jobs, and our quality of life will improve.

If we know how to use technological tools, we have a greater opportunity to get higher grades in school, which leads to great opportunities for college and education.

Having access to the internet and the tools to digest the information available online is beneficial to us.

Having access to the internet allows us to research, purchase items, sell items, publish information, digest information and communicate efficiently.

Having access to the internet allows us to communicate with one another in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost.

If we are exposed to each others cultures through sharing information on the internet, we can understand each other better.

If we are able to express ourselves through digital means in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost, those who did not have a voice previously can now be heard.

‘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?

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?

Client personas and potential use cases, part two

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

Remember Kim? 35, single mother of two, works five days a week as a physical therapist’s assistant from 8 am until 2, English is her second language.

So the question was, ‘What will she do when she gets her new laptop home?’

Kim gets her laptop home and plugs in the power cord (the battery is running low). She feeds the kids dinner, puts in their favorite movie, and sits down on the couch. She picks up her computer, opens the top, and sets in on her lap. She’s never had her own laptop before so she gets a nervous flutter in her stomach when the screen lights up.

The first thing she notices is an alert that there is an open wireless network available, she clicks “OK” and sees that the signal is strong. She then clicks on the internet browser icon in the dock at the bottom of the screen.

When the screen loads, she sees the program page that reads “Welcome to the neighborhood Kim. The Digital Inclusion in Grand Rapids, MI project is happy to see you here again.” She smiles and clicks on the email icon on the page. She’s curious if she has any new mail from her class instructor. She has two new messages, one from her instructor, and another from the program director. She reads both and replies to the one from her instructor, she thanks him for answering her questions in the orientation class earlier that day.

When she goes back to her home page, and project welcome page, she sees that there is an event calendar on the page. It has the class schedules, community events, and hours of the workshop on it. She takes a look at what’s happening next weekend.

Her kids need to get to bed, so she closes her laptop and heads up to get them ready. After they fall asleep, she heads back downstairs to wash the dishes, puts in a load of laundry and turns the tv on. The entire time she’s going thinking about her new laptop, glancing at it when she walks back and forth bringing bowls and glasses from the living room into the kitchen. It’s still slightly foreign to her.

She sits back down again to rest and watch the weather report on tv for tomorrow, she opens up the computer again and looks at the event calendar a little more. She’s more nervous that she thought she would ever be about a piece of technology. She closes the lid and sits back on the couch. Before she goes to bed, she puts the computer on the kitchen table with the folder from the workshop next to it, she’ll read and explore more tomorrow when the kids are at the neighbor’s house.

It’s Sunday afternoon the next time she’s able to get back to her computer again. The signal is strong, the program’s page is welcoming, she has no new emails. She clicks on the icon that reads “Community Resources” as she’s curious about what’s there. There are sections of links divided into different categories, and she looks at all of them. She clicks on local weather and news. The website loads and shows her that it will be raining tomorrow afternoon, she smiles knowing that that sort of information is available whenever she wants it, not just at 10:00 or 11:00 at night when the local station reports it.

She reads more resource links and ends up sitting on the computer for almost three hours. She stretches and rubs her eyes, realizing that she’s spent that much time looking at the screen. She feels more comfortable with her computer though now, and is glad that she’s in the program.

Monday work then a school play, Tuesday work and then her youngest with a high fever. Wednesday she finally gets back to her exploration. She finds YouTube, and Flickr. She sees a website advertised on tv, and for fun, goes there to see what it offers. She experiemetnsregisters for a digital scrapbook class at the workshop. She’s feeling even more confident now.

A Conversation with Patrick Shaffner, 826 CHI Outreach Coordinator

Posted in benchmarks, conversations, physical presence, planning by forgr on March 30, 2008

I spent the weekend in Chicago with some friends (taking a break from writing, but not from thinking). I dragged all five of my friends into “The Boring Store” which is a store front for the nonprofit writing workshop 826 CHI. You guessed it, it’s part of the 826 network of workshops started by Dave Eggers and friends.

The front is a spy supply store (disguises, gadgets) and the back is the one on one tutoring and writing workshop.

I was fortunate enough to catch Patrick, the Outreach Coordinator for the local 826 CHI program. He gave me, and my educator friend Wendy, a tour of the store, the writing workshop, and the back offices.

There are four full time employees, and over 600 volunteers. They offer a suite of programs to the community youth, you can find out more about them here.

I actually called Patrick about a month ago, asked him to tell me a little more about the program’s day to day workings and organization, and told him about the project that we were starting here in Grand Rapids. He remembered us when I mentioned the digital inclusion project and jumped up and down.

He said, “No, don’t start it in Grand Rapids, move here and start it here in Chicago!” I laughed, but he meant it, he said computer literacy is a huge issue in Chicago schools, and in the community at large. We agreed that it’s really a big problem across the nation, there’s no real way to get the guided tour through the whole experience.

There are those who:
know what a computer can do
know what they want to do with it
know what questions to ask at a store
can afford the computer
can get one-on-one attention to learn new tools
can get the computer fixed if it breaks
know how to get the right upgrades, new software
can excel on their own terms with the right tools
can expand their reach

And then there are those who have limited access, are behind the curve, under-served, poor, embarrassed, limited, left behind, scared or intimidated. We should serve that second set of individuals.

Talking with Patrick (who works with a similar set of children) made me realize that there is a large set of individuals who actually want to be served. There is a thirst and it can be quenched.

In 826’s experience 35 to 40 hours a year of one-on-one attention, can raise student’s grades up one level.

Dave Eggers talks about starting 826 Valencia in this TED video.

Initially they started the workshop and pirate supply store and no one came in. An obvious trust issue. So they talked with a teacher friend and make her the executive director, and started going directly into the schools and talking with teachers about their needs.

The program was then a success, now they serve in classrooms and in the workshop. They are an anchor in their community. They have volunteers and employees who have flexible hours available during the school day and just after. They created their network of volunteers out of graduate students, writers, educators, and thinkers. All of these people are able to give just a few hours a month, and make a huge difference being able to shine a light on a child and their work.

So, brilliant. Yes. I got a serious boost from talking with Patrick. And now I know, we need to keep up the conversation with teachers, we’re headed in the right direction.

Wendy, my educator friend who toured with me yesterday, wants to volunteer there now. She’s got the Summer off and wants to do something other than graduate school, and beach lounging. 826 CHI will also help her students next semester too. She’s pumped about it.

Patrick, the Outreach Coordinator, wants to be kept up to date on when our program is coming to Chicago :-)

It’s great having existing programs nearby, and being able to visit and talk with them is absolutely wonderful. Thank you Patrick for your time and encouragement.