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?

Potential Players, Partners

Grand Rapids Community College
Calvin College
Aquinas College
Grand Valley State University
Kendall College of Art and Design
Ferris State University
Davenport University
Michigan State University
Wood TV 8
Grand Rapids Press
Local First
Neighborhood Associations
George Wietor
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Chamber of Commerce
Business Association
Design West Michigan
AIM West
The Right Place
Cool Cities
Hispanic Center
Creative Commons
Rapid Growth Media
The Rapid
Grand Rapids Public Library
Local Cable Access
Local Radio
Grand Rapids Media Center
Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation
Innovation Works
Degagé Ministries
In the Image
Herman Miller
Child Discovery Center
Stepping Stones Montessori
Volunteer Match
Facebook Causes
Changing the Present
Good Magazine
Tinkering School
826 Valencia
Craigs List
Craigslist Foundation
Yahoo Local
Google Local
Bre Petis
Philadelphia Wireless

Help me out, who else? Please add on…

Digital Inclusion in SFGTV, video

Posted in benchmarks, education by forgr on March 2, 2008


• Important to have access to high speed internet
• Need to have knowledge to use those tools effectively
• Understand the value of a computer
• We want the digital inclusion task force to make sure that we address the needs of undeserved vulnerable communities, not communities that are already very tech saavy
• People don’t know that these computers are available to them
• They don’t know what is useful
• There are so many businesses in the area that are constantly retiring their computer equipment that’s perfectly good for home use
• Computers and internet access are helping everyone in the community
• Barriers, confusion, intimidation, not having anyone in their peer network that uses computers in their lives
• Immigrants are able to communicate with their families at home
• Able to receive news and information in their own language
• Connected with the world, and connected with their local communities
• If we value the diversity of our city, and value the diverse neighborhoods in our city, we need to insure that they remain economically viable. Equipping residents with jobs in those areas is critical to them.
• Workers with more education in this area are more likely to be working in the technology sector. They are going to need familiarity in that area, they are going to find value in it and they are going to use it and be produce with it every day.
• The other half of that population is disconnected from that opportunity and that prosperity.
• Content is essential
• We have to blend community network and computer equipment, with training and support. If we can pull all that together then we’ve got it.
• It’s more about social and economic justice than just technology

TechConnect (San Francisco)

Posted in benchmarks, education by forgr on February 29, 2008

The TechConnect Digital Inclusion initiative is a set of programs to help all San Franciscans access technology to improve their lives.

TechConnect’s Digital Inclusion programs provide ways for San Franciscans to more easily obtain a computer for their home, as well as the technology training and support needed to use it effectively. TechConnect also seeks to increase the availability of culturally relevant Internet content and applications.

From the TechConnect website:

Implementation Approach
The principles underlying the implementation of the San Francisco Digital Inclusion Program are to:

·      Engage the community in a community driven planning and implementation process.

·      Leverage existing community, governmental and business resources whenever possible.
Include measurable outcomes and indicators of success.

In less than a decade, the Internet has radically changed how people communicate, seek employment, and access services, education and entertainment. Students use the Internet for research and to create new works of all types. Businesses use the Internet to extend their service offerings, improve customer service and improve their bottom lines.  Governments at all levels find new ways to harness the Internet to improve the delivery of public services.  Nonprofits and community based organizations are using the Internet to better reach out to their constituencies and fulfill their social missions.

Enhanced Digital Literacy Programs
·      Relevant, Multi-language Internet Content and Online Services such as the promotion of multi-lingual web portals, promotion of community based web sites, content development training programs, and new collaborations across San Francisco’s communities.

Possible Strategies:
·      Implement communications programs to increase awareness of programs that collect, refurbish, distribute and sell used computers to underserved communities.

·      Develop low or no-interest computer purchase program that enables qualifying low-income residents to purchase new PCs (desktops and laptop computers) and supporting equipment (printers, Customer Premise Equipment) for a low monthly cost ($25-$60) over a 1-3 year loan term and required computer training.  The City will partner with technology vendors and financial institutions to implement this program.  The City will seek to partner with the Unified School District and local nonprofits to distribute the computers and provide training.

·      Organize technology fairs in the City’s most underserved neighborhoods where participants will be able to sign up for the computer purchase programs, vendors can provide information about purchasing computers, networking equipment and other internet devices; and refurbished computer providers will be able to collect donated equipment, provide information about or possibly even sell refurbished computers onsite.

·      Provide education and information about buying a computer and available resources for purchasing low-cost hardware on the digital inclusion program website and provide written materials at community events and technology support centers.

·      Facilitate partnerships between device and application providers (e.g.: Nokia, Skype) with nonprofits and schools to introduce new devices and applications for underserved communities.