This podcast features an interview with a teacher from eastern Oklahoma who was ambitious, creative, persistent, and fortunate enough to receive 150 free HP laptops from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) at the end of the 2007-2008 school year for students in the elementary school where she teaches. Unfortunately, however, the secretary for this K-12 Oklahoma school decided that the laptops which were donated for student use were too delicate for students to be able to use, and since May 2008 has successfully blocked all the teachers and students in the school district from using ANY of these donated laptop computers except for ten of them. I am sharing this recorded interview with the teacher in the hope that listeners can offer suggestions for how this stalemate can be broken, and these laptops can be utilized by students as well as teachers in a one to one learning initiative. Certainly there are MANY issues which need to be addressed for a successful one to one learning initiative: digital curriculum, professional development, wireless and other networking infrastructure, on-site technical support, just-in-time instructional support, insurance for student laptop use at home, content filtering at home, etc. Recognizing the complexity of these issues, however, the COST for laptops for students is also a significant obstacle in our Oklahoma schools. Having 150 free laptops provided to a school for student and teacher use sounds like a fairy tale, but that fairy tale can’t have a happy ending if the school’s administrative secretary won’t allow the laptops to be used by students and the superintendent won’t even inform the school board members about the availability of these laptops in the district. Please share your thoughts and suggestions for how this situation can be constructively addressed.

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Show Notes:

  1. The Case for 1 to 1 Computing in Schools (TCEA 2007 presentation)
  2. Anywhere Anytime Learning Foundation (AALF)
  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  4. One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a low-cost, connected laptop for the world’s children’s education
  5. Learn and share about OLPC (blog post from 28 Nov 2008)
  6. Video about the deployment of 15,000 XO laptops in Birmingham, Alabama (Nov 2008)
  7. Free software used for OLPC Project (Live CDs available for download)
  8. Laptop Project (one to one learning initiative) in Crescent, Oklahoma

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On this day..

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  • http://www.learningismessy.com/blog Brian Crosby

    1) My students are still using almost 9 year old laptops that they use all day everyday.
    2) The same argument has been used to not make the change from bark to paper, feathers as pens (quills) to metal tips, individual chalkboards to paper, pens to pencils, abacuses to calculators, chalkboards to whiteboards, and the list goes on. Which of those changes ended up being bad for students and didn’t actually improve learning opportunities?
    3) Laptops actually hold up well if teachers are trained in using them with students and students are trained by those teachers in proper use and care. I know my students are very careful (in 3 years not one has been broken or dropped) because they don’t want to lose their access to their laptop.
    Brian

  • http://scottsfloyd.edublogs.org Scott S. Floyd

    Wouldn’t the easy answer here be to let the parents know what their kids are missing out on? An anonymous letter to the editor, TV station, or other press would seem like it would develop a wave of public support that would put the secretary in her place and open the doors to laptop use by all students and staff. Remember, hell hath no fury like a woman (mother) scorned.

    With that failing (which I doubt it would), the next step would be to contact FEMA and let them know the result of their donation. Maybe that would spur some movement.

  • Scott

    Just one more example of the tail wagging the dog, the cart pulling the horse… you choose the idiom. There is no easy answer here but another good example of someone beside educators making educational decisions. What a shame.

  • Chan Bliss

    Use the few laptops that you have in your room to create a very exciting project with your students. Possibly it could be a collaborative project involving the members of the school board and others from the community. It could be a tie in to the Celebrate Oklahoma Voices.
    Once your project is up and running, invite the local media to see what your students have done with the technology provided by FEMA. Invite the board members to be there. Ask the superintendent to be there. Talk up all the positive things that are being done with the laptops, all that the students have done and learned. Show how the students have learned to care for these very delicate pieces of equipment.
    Make sure that the reporter knows how many laptops were donated to you and your district. When the reporter asks about the other 140 laptops explain that that question can only be answered by the superintendent. Allow him to explain why it is a better use of the computers to have them stored away that in the hands of students.

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