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Education Software Linux

South Carolina To Give 1 Laptop Per School Child 279

Posted by kdawson
from the begins-at-home dept.
ruphus13 sends in an OStatic article outlining the plans of the state of South Carolina, inspired by the One Laptop Per Child project, to provide laptops to local elementary school children. "The South Carolina Department of Education and the non-profit Palmetto Project have teamed up to get a laptop in the hands of every elementary school student in South Carolina... The OLPC/SC hopes to distribute as many as 50,000 laptops this spring to eligible students. The effort is underwritten and managed by the Palmetto Project, whose mission is to 'put new and creative ideas to work in South Carolina.' While low-performing school districts with limited resources are a special focus for the OLPC/SC, the group is adamant on one point: There are no free laptops. In order to receive a laptop, children need to give a small monetary donation — the project coordinators say a dollar or two is sufficient."It's not obvious from browsing around the OLPC/SC site what software the XO laptops will be running; but by following links one gets the impression that they will be powered by Linux, not XP.
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South Carolina To Give 1 Laptop Per School Child

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  • Please (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2009 @07:59AM (#27875311)
    Please give one to Miss South Carolina too.
    • Re:Please (Score:4, Funny)

      by kcinmodnar (1495903) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:03AM (#27875351)
      What about the kids in South Africa and Iraq?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nomaxxx (1136289)

      Please give one to Miss South Carolina too.

      Yes, one that comes with Google Earth pre-installed.

    • by xzvf (924443) on Friday May 08, 2009 @10:10AM (#27876753)
      Maybe Miss South Carolina would be an advocate of using the XO. I grew up and was educated in South Carolina and it is a unique place. I had the opportunity to build an IT infrastructure for an urban district. Some of the kids would skip breakfast for the opportunity of free time on the computer. These aren't for people that have technology at home. If only 5% of the kids that get these laptops improve their lot in life it is well worth the cost (50K laptops at $200 is only $10 million). Do they have the infrastructure or teacher training to take full advantage of this? Probably not. Will innovative teachers and good, but poor parents take advantage of this? Definitely. Why doesn't everyone help? Go to laptopsc.org and give $5 dollars. If you live in SC volunteer some time to build the infrastructure. Sure you'll have to buck the bureaucracy, but try.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TropicalCoder (898500)

        Go to laptopsc.org and give $5 dollars.

        Even though the the post says "...by following links one gets the impression that they will be powered by Linux, not XP", we better wait to see if Microsoft will yet find a way to sabotage this project by turning it into yet another promotion for One Microsoft Way. The higher profile this becomes, the greater likelihood Microsoft will step in and you will suddenly find all those laptops running Windows, and therefore your donations going to promote Microsoft lock-in.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:00AM (#27875329)
    They're giving laptops to "low-performing school districts with limited resources", but surely to actually use those laptops in lessons, the schools will have to spend even more of their limited resources setting up an infrastructure and new teaching plans?
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:11AM (#27875425) Journal

      They're giving laptops to "low-performing school districts with limited resources", but surely to actually use those laptops in lessons, the schools will have to spend even more of their limited resources setting up an infrastructure and new teaching plans?

      What's interesting about this is this part from the article:

      The child must sign a document promising simply to try to "do something great" for their state, families -- and themselves -- with the laptop.

      It doesn't sound like they're putting these laptops in the hands of the children for the purpose of teachers utilizing them as teaching tools. And of course, with such a bold new technology, I would expect the teachers not to use them at all at first. Then learn to use them as an augmenting learning tool. And maybe the final stage five years from now is to have the textbook on the laptop and all that jazz.

      I know a school teacher in the Bronx and from what she tells me it sounds like all other attempts to improve the learning process have failed or actually deterred from it. She sounds like she'd be willing to try anything.

      Keep in mind that these laptops are probably going to cost the same as a couple of new textbooks. Who cares if it fails? It'd be great if a few kids did do something great for their state and family with these laptops.

      • by Sockatume (732728)
        Ah, now I see, it's more like a project grant. We'll give you the tools, you better yourself. Always a good idea. That's what I get for skimming the article.
        • Sounds like poor planning to me. It reminds me of when my local college lost its president, and a temporary man who given the job for about a year. The power went to his head, and he went-off and built a 50 million dollar building next to the student center. He had no input from any of the professors or staff - just create a big hawking building.

          That building sat empty for ten years, filled with beautiful tables and chairs, but not used because it had no designated purpose.

          That's exactly what's going to

          • Do not underestimate the abilities of humans with still working creativity and freedom from false (learned) conventions. ^^
            I'm sure they will have their fun with the machines. Even if they "only" play games on them, they will learn. I, for one, still think games are by far the best method of teaching.
            Unfortunately, the "games" that are created for this purpose are crappy games, and most game developers are crappy teachers. I guess it's pretty hard to be good at both. Especially when most of those people are

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              More likely these machines will experience the same flaw as when my school "gave" a bunch of Mac IIs to my teacher.

              Nothing. They sat there and collected dust, except for two weeks (out of thirty) when we did some stupid reading-practice program. A gigantic and huge waste of taxpayer dollars, as the Macs eventually made their way to the junkyard. The truth is, you don't need computers to learn. All you need it a pencil, some paper, and a brain. And maybe a $1 paperback bought used off amazon.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        They're giving laptops to "low-performing school districts with limited resources", but surely to actually use those laptops in lessons, the schools will have to spend even more of their limited resources setting up an infrastructure and new teaching plans?

        What's interesting about this is this part from the article:

        The child must sign a document promising simply to try to "do something great" for their state, families -- and themselves -- with the laptop.

        It doesn't sound like they're putting these laptops in the hands of the children for the purpose of teachers utilizing them as teaching tools. And of course, with such a bold new technology, I would expect the teachers not to use them at all at first. Then learn to use them as an augmenting learning tool. And maybe the final stage five years from now is to have the textbook on the laptop and all that jazz.

        I know a school teacher in the Bronx and from what she tells me it sounds like all other attempts to improve the learning process have failed or actually deterred from it. She sounds like she'd be willing to try anything.

        Keep in mind that these laptops are probably going to cost the same as a couple of new textbooks. Who cares if it fails? It'd be great if a few kids did do something great for their state and family with these laptops.

        Parents who care and teachers who can actually discipline the students will do far more for the kids' education than laptops.
        If we went to a voucher system the schools could set their own policies-- "Yes most of our students achieve very high test scores, and we will take your child, but you must sign this consent form that we will be providing consequences for your child if he is acting up and disrupting the class". If the parents didn't like it they can just send their kids to another school.

        I admit I hav

        • I admit I haven't thought about it much, but I have yet to see a good argument against the voucher system. It would help weed out the bureaucracy and spending on school stadiums and football fields, too.

          The only argument in general I've heard against the voucher system has been from teacher's unions and Principles of 'bad' schools. "How would I guarantee any students come to my school?"

          Exactly

          No, but for real I've heard people say well that will make things worse because all the smart kids will end up together, and the bad schools will get much worse because you can't kick kids out of public schools. Which is why children need to be left behind, there needs to be academic levels. Kids need to fail or

      • It doesn't sound like they're putting these laptops in the hands of the children for the purpose of teachers utilizing them as teaching tools. And of course, with such a bold new technology, I would expect the teachers not to use them at all at first. Then learn to use them as an augmenting learning tool. And maybe the final stage five years from now is to have the textbook on the laptop and all that jazz.

        I'm skeptical of the apparent vagueness of the goal here. It's great to offer the world a tool that
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:11AM (#27875427) Journal
      Obviously, one cannot be sure if it is a good idea or not without real world testing, which hasn't happened yet; but the OLPC project is specifically designed with those concerns in mind.

      A great deal of effort in both hardware and software design(ie. mesh networking, robust and easily repaired design, the bitfrost security model, the "school server" mechanism, easy system state restoration tools, etc.) was dedicated to making the cost and complexity of infrastructure and administration as low as possible. The system is designed to be usable without a class of dedicated technicians and network managers. With the mesh stuff, you can cut back substantially on access point density and ethernet cabling. With bitfrost, school server backups, and system state restoration, you can mostly leave administration in the hands to the students, with the option of easily blanking them if the student screws up.

      I'm not saying that it is certain to work; but OLPC is designed with exactly those concerns in mind. Also, if a district is currently "low-performing" it already needs a new teaching plan, because the status quo isn't cutting it.
    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:55AM (#27875903)

      As a once poor-kid-from-a-poor-neighborhood, I'd have loved to get a decent laptop as a kid. I did get a computer at one point, and a few (pirated) disks with... yes, games but mostly apps and docs, and it opened a whole new world for me: audio editing, animation, multimedia, 3d modelling and architecture, movie subtitling, programming... That computer did more for my future than anything else I learned in my teens.

      If they're given laptops with internet, the effect could be even greater. Just one thing... I really hope they don't let the kids get on youtube with these, and think that's all computers are for. Or worse, get some stupid school "learn multiplication with bingo" app, and think that's all their computers can do. If so, it'll be a detriment, rather than an aid.

      • by swillden (191260)

        I really hope they don't let the kids get on youtube with these, and think that's all computers are for.

        I have an XO (got it because I volunteered to write 4th grade math ed software for it) and I'll tell you that youtube does not work very well on these things. They do have a flash player, but when I go to youtube, the video never plays.

        I think that's a good thing, personally.

        BTW, the XO is the coolest little machine I've ever seen. It looks and feels like a toy (a solid, sturdy, well-built toy), but the damned thing is quite a powerful little computer, and the Sugar interface rocks. It's different en

    • by Sandbags (964742) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:02AM (#27875997) Journal

      My wife teachers here in SC, 3rd grade. I PRAY they don't try to incliude these things in lessons in any way!!! A BEST these would be forced into convoluded lesson plans. The applications ("activities") available on the XO are not really classroom usable. Sure, it can access Wikipedia, but that's not exactly something we need to be doing in a classroom when they typically already do that in the computer lab. These also don't run true Linux or Windows without being hacked, so using them to connect and interact with the smartboards, run applications the school curriculum teaches to, heck even using a traditional word processor is not viable.

      What we're really doing here is simply giving each of these kids a basic educational toy. It;s somthing they can play with to learn on their own outside of the classroom, and to interact with other kids. They have very little interactive classroom value.

      Also, advanced kids will hack them, so having them fully able to do what a teacher wants when they plan a lesson is questionable at best.

      It's GREAT that they're giving these things to kids, but if the SC school board thinks they can use this as a marketing springbourd, and ask teachers to 1) learn a new OS, 2) learn the associated apps, 3) update their lesson plans to accomodate these systems (In SC each teacher writes their own plans, nothing is provided by the district or state, it's a MASSIVE amount of work!), then they're going to have a lot of teachers quit on them, or damand compensation or assistance.

      The school system can NOT afford ANY increased costs. They've already lost (thank to our asshole govornor) $250 million in assistance funds, and have on top of that experinced budget cuts that care eliminating nearly all special programs, dramatically cutting field trips, and cutting 3,000 teachers. As it is, teachers are expect to buy THEIR OWN classroom supplies (glue, paper, consumables for science expereiments, etc) My wife is limited to 100 pieces of printed paper per week, but is required by state regulations to hand out nearly tripple that amount in required tests, quizzes, handouts, and communications. We go through a printer about once a year simply wearing it out. We go thorugh 300-400 pages a week printing at home, and several hundred dollar in ink anually. We do NOT get compensated for that. ($250 a year total compensation, for 2008 I have receipts for $1700 in classroom expenses we filed on ourt taxes). If they're THAT tight, how do they expect to afford the infrastructure and man power including these systems will require.

      Thanks for giving me something for free that will cost me more money than not having it...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Gramie2 (411713)

        My wife *teachers* here don't try to *incliude* *A* BEST these would be forced into *convoluded*

        First three sentences.

        Rather amusing that you are commenting on the quality of education. Even though you have good points, the presentation somewhat diminishes them.

        • by Gramie2 (411713)

          Sigh...

          My wife *teachers* here

          don't try to *incliude*

          *A* BEST these would be forced into *convoluded*

          is better-formatted

      • A laptop might be a good idea if you want to save paper and ink...

      • My nephew was given a computer by his school. What he uses it for is to play games - in class, at home - and his grades have never been more abysmal. It's the squarely the fault of my sister that he's not getting his homework done, but people are kidding themselves if they think that computers are going to magically make underperforming students into powerhouses of scholarship. A laptop may make a good student great, but it will likely not make a poor student measurably better.
      • I would think ebook readers like the kindle would be a much better choice for schools. Notes and hand outs could be distributed as PDFs, students could easily have access to many more books, and simple yet necessary tools like a dictionary or full text search would always be available. For an even better deal, work out a simple educational discount on books and get the kids reading whatever they want. When I was growing up all we had were libraries and your parents had to drop you off. Then of course the bo

    • by xaxa (988988) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:04AM (#27876039)

      My mum teaches in a school in the UK where some of the kids have free laptops (generally the ones that don't deserve them). She has to deal with

      • Kids who break their laptops on purpose
      • Kids who break their laptops through carelessness
      • Laptops being stolen
      • Laptops being "stolen"
      • Laptops not working when needed because they've been fiddled with

      It's a while since I asked her about it though.

    • Let me sound like the big meanie...but bear with me.

      WHY are they doing this? Schools that have limited resources do NOT need to be spending money giving ELEMENTARY school children laptops. That's a luxury--especially for that age. They'd be better as spending the monies on books or other supplies.

      We're hearing anecdotal stories about teachers who are spending THEIR money to help educate their class because there's not enough in the budget (except for the highly paid administrators, but that's another story)

    • I always find it funny that the politicians see these under funded schools filled with kids who are bright and eager to learn. And if you just give them the right tool they will outshine everyone.

      What are they going to do with these laptops... Durring class when they are suppose to be listening and taking notes, they will be browsing the web, and IMing everyone they know, and doing everything but focusing on the class.

      They are better off to give 1 Desktop per child so when they go home they have the same se

    • by Wildclaw (15718)

      but surely to actually use those laptops in lessons,

      And here is the crux.

      Where are the interactive video lessons complete, with recorded answers to all the common questions as well as more detailed explanation of subjects that can be more difficult for some to grasp? Where is the framework allowing teachers as well as students to jointly build upon these lessons? Where are the computer driven practice "books" for those same lessons? Where are the teacher applications that aggregates information from the above programs?

      We are currently stuck in a system with

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I admit to liking the idea of requiring a donation so the laptops aren't completely free. It is well known that you value the things that cost you more then those that don't.
    However I am still left with the unsettling feeling of why give laptops to children? The US has health problems because kids aren't getting out and playing and instead sitting in front of video games, TVs and what not and we are going to give away laptops? I understand why kids should be exposed and be familiar with computers but sho

    • Maybe I'm just naive and old but I have yet to hear a good reason why children need laptops.

      Agree. Maybe they don't need them, however that does not mean that they cannot benefit from them.

      I'm unfamiliar with the specifics of this target population, but I've seen some pretty horrific 'family' situations through work & travel.

      For many underpriviledged kids, school is a real 'haven', where they can gain some knowledge and competencies that - hopefully - will one day help them move on and up. Surely IT familiarity is a good one?

      So, in the context of a carefully-(re)designed program, (agree with

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        But sure there are other ways to teach familiarity with IT than by giving out laptops. How hard is it to have a computer lab (or 2 or 3) so that the students can use computers. If the family situation is really as bad as you are insinuating, I think the student would be much better off using the computers at school, rather than bringing them home.
    • by bensafrickingenius (828123) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:31AM (#27875657)
      WTFE. "A dollar or two" as a donation isn't going to make even the poorest child/family value the thing any more than they would a completely free laptop. Seriously -- a DOLLAR OR TWO? If you want them to value it, you either need to make them pay for it in full (or almost) which of course is a non-starter, or make them work for it. Community service? Picking up litter at a park? I don't know -- *something*. A dollar or two is ridiculous on many fronts. The costs associated with collection and accounting for a dollar or two from every student will be astronomically high compared to the cost of giving them away for free.
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        The dollar or two is just so that can "adamantly" say that the laptops are not "free".
  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:06AM (#27875381) Homepage

    Sounds like there will be a lot of cheap XOs on sale on eBay pretty soon - can't wait.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbeale53 (1451655)
      I'm not sure why this was modded as Funny. The first thing I thought of when I saw this article was all the poor families that are going to sell the laptops as soon as Junior brings it home.
      • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xaxa (988988) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:13AM (#27876159)

        I know of a blind boy, who suddenly lost his sight at age 14. The state (social services department, I think) gave him a special mobile phone -- full voice navigation through menus, it read out text messages etc. A couple of days later and he complains to one of his teachers that his mum has sold it. How many parents are so mean that they'd take their blind son's special phone? (And they weren't so poor that they needed the money.)

  • by Zerth (26112) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:08AM (#27875389)

    Is that just to avoid the laptop being "free" for political reason, to give it some value to the child, or is it the consideration needed to make the agreement a contract?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:30AM (#27875639) Journal
      Human psychology is rather quirky in its relation to perceived value. Homo Economicus' valuation of things might exactly match their monetary value; but humans exhibit significant discontinuities at the boundary between free/given and paid for/owned. Even minimal buy-in(though a few bucks, for a child in a low-income/underperforming SC school district may well not feel minimal) will likely substantially increase care for the laptops.

      You see the same phenomenon elsewhere: People are often willing to do volunteer work for a wage of zero dollars; but would refuse to do the same work for an insultingly low wage, even though, theoretically, if you are willing to do something for $0/hour, you should be more willing to do it for $1/hour. A similar effect is seen with cash vs. non cash transactions. It is easy to get friends/students/volunteers to do things in exchange for, say, pizza, that they wouldn't be motivated to do in exchange for the value of the pizza given to them in cash.
      • Acatully, I suspect it goes the other way. Charging a nominal fee is likely to make kids feel like they now have greater rights over the thing and give a sense of entitlement (i.e., "it's mine, I can do with it what I want, because I payed for it") while still being practically free.
        Whereas if you just flat out give it to them, you could more easily foster a sense of indebtedness and gratitude ("You did nothing to deserve this, take care of it").
        I think AC's observation about volunteers is to the point: V
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 (138196)

    Why? What is the point? Do they have any evidence indicating that getting a 9-year-old to make a promise will in any significant way improve his life?

    • by Zerth (26112)

      I imagine it'll work about as well as making a 9yo promise not to have sex before marriage.

      Perhaps South Carolina feels that they don't have enough home-grown criminals? Or merely ensure the students remain mediocre? It depends on if the child goes for the opposite of "great" or the opposite of "for South Carolina".

  • by just_another_sean (919159) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:16AM (#27875483) Homepage Journal

    It's not obvious from browsing around the OLPC/SC site what software the XO laptops will be running; but by following links one gets the impression that they will be powered by Linux, not XP.

    Forgive me if I take a wait-and-see approach on this until I hear what MS's PR department has to say about the project...

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:21AM (#27875527) Homepage

    Most of the teachers suck at what they do, and in poor places like South Carolina there are many parents who discourage their kids from being successful. Case in point, when we lived there, my mom tutored a kid at my school. You know what happened when he got an A on a test? His piece of shit excuse for human trash mother said to him "you actin' white now?" Technology is no solution for bad schools and students with parents who pull them down because they have ego or race problems (both apply in the case of the black mother who ridiculed the kid my white mother was trying to help succeed).

    There is so little incentive now to get an education AND for schools to compete to hire people who have an education in something more than "education." Throwing around millions of dollars to buy laptops for kids who can barely read is more likely to have the state subsidizing the gaming, movie and porn industries than actually teaching these kids anything.

    And here's the thing. People will crawl out of the woodwork in most cases to attack comments like mine about how I'm unfairly judging the public schools or am a closet racist for saying such harsh things about that black bitch who tore her poor son down everytime he succeeded. It's easier to make excuses for why the public schools are failing and why parents, especially poor parents, are often roadblocks to their kids' success than to start making hamburger out of the sacred cows and fixing the problem by introducing more competition and making an education more critical to just being able to get by in America.

    • by mc1138 (718275)
      You make a really good point. It's not even a rural thing either. I went to an urban high school with a high amount of students from the ghetto, and they were pretty much allowed to get away with anything, no one really cared to help them. I had a friend, AP student etc who cut class one time and got severely punished, when she complained that the ghetto kids did it all the time and got a fist pound from security when walking in, they told her that as a AP student they expected better from her. Double stand
    • by XorNand (517466) *
      I don't understand why you keep spreading the blame around to the school system when your anecdote clearly places the blame on a parent. Teachers don't go into teaching because it is easy or it pays well. The overwhelming majority of freshly minted teachers are extremely idealist when they first start. They are excited to help children learn. However, they quickly realize that their function is just a babysitter paid for by the state. The parents don't demand much else, so that's what the system produc
      • by Thaelon (250687)

        Sadly most of them seem pretty motivated to me because they're incapable of anything else.

        Looking back on my education - especially the early years - I'm furious at how little teaching they did and how much of my time they wasted with busy work.

        I got where I am today (a developer with a 4 year bachelor degree in CS) despite most of my teachers, not because of them.

    • It's easier to make excuses for why the public schools are failing and why parents, especially poor parents, are often roadblocks to their kids' success ...

      I'm always puzzled by this. Obama made the statement in a speech recently that the number one predictor of a child's success in the classroom is the teacher. We've all heard that before. However, he followed it up by stating the the number one predictor "outside the classroom" is the parents' attitude toward education (ie, involvement). That follow u

    • by querist (97166) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:11AM (#27876127) Homepage

      I don't even know where to start...

      I agree with your overall assessment of South Carolina, having lived here for the past 15 years. There are clearly cultural issues that need to be overcome before any education initiative will be effective here.

      South Carolina is strangely bipolar when it comes to education. The majority of the public schools seem to exist to maintain the status quo, teach to the PACT(1) test (or whatever its replacement is called), and keep the teachers employed through whatever means are leagal. South Carolina spends a very high percentage of taxes on education (as shown on the tax bills for property taxes as well as explained in state income tax booklets) yet we have some of the worst schools in the country. Apparently, Inez Tennebaum, our Secretary of Education for far too long, was publicly ridiculed on TV for her failures and she honestly thought she was doing a good job. Pretty sad, IMHO.

      However, South Carolina also has some interesting charter schools - the good ones (e.g. Blythe Academy of Languages in Greenville) are in the wealthier neighbourhoods (no surprises there). There has been a large number of "online" charter schools lately. Unfortunately, the one we experienced with our son was run as effectively as a regular South Carolina public school. (In other words, it was pathetic.) I teach in an on-line program as well as on-campus at a large university, and I thought that the on-line charter school would be a good idea. I still think it could be, if done correctly.

      There are many private schools in SC, catering to the wealthy. Some of them have tutions that are more than the state universities. (Surprisingly, some of the state universities in SC are very good, such as Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.)

      Homeschooling is tolerated, barely. The majority of homeschoolers I have encountered do it for religious, rather than academic, reasons. We homeschool for academic reasons becasuse the SC schools are so bad. It is against SC law to segregate students (at least in the lower grades) by ability because someone decided it was discriminatory due to the fact that there were disproportionally fewer minority students in the advanced classes. Therefore, rather than look for a reason _why_ there were fewer minority students in the advanced classes they just decided that the practice of allowing gifted students to work at a more challenging pace without being held back by average students was racial discrimination.

      I doubt those laptops will go anywhere but to public school kids.

      (1) PAlmetto Achievement Test - the state created exam given to children every few years with the reported purpose of determining how well the schools are doing. Unfortunately, the teachers teach to the test instead of educating the children.

      I find it interesting that the CAPTCHA for this post is "converse", which, beside its usual meaning, happens to be the name of a very good private all-women's college (Converse College) in Spartanburg, SC.

    • An internet-connected computer is one of the best possible gifts for a child in a poor and education-hostile home setting. It would allow the student to reach out to people around the world, rather than being exposed only to the proudly ignorant community he is surrounded by in RL. The child could pursue intellectual curiosities with the encouragement of the peers he finds on the net, whereas, locally, he would find only discouragement.

    • Agree with all of the parent post except this:

      ...fixing the problem by introducing more competition and making an education more critical to just being able to get by in America.

      Do you realize just how much bitching and moaning would occur if people were forced to do anything to get by in this country? You don't need an education, welfare will take care of you. You don't need to procreate responsibly, welfare will take care of your kids. You don't need to watch your weight, you'll get disability pay and nobody will dare blame you for it. Hell, you don't need to take care of yourself at all - modern medicine will strive to keep you ali

    • by couchslug (175151)

      I've lived in SC for more than 20 years, work in vocational education, and strongly agree with you.

  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:23AM (#27875551) Homepage
    More kids will be encouraged to go to myspace?
  • First things first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:28AM (#27875607)
    Some of the schools in the "Corridor of Shame" [corridorofshame.com] are falling apart so badly that they have to beg private companies for basic furniture [postandcourier.com]. The education department should at least get the basic facilities of the schools functioning before they start getting this extravagant. There are schools in the lowcountry that still don't have air-conditioning (in a state where it can get into the 100's, and a wet heat to boot) and have holes in the classroom walls you can see daylight through.
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:28AM (#27875615)

    I got an XO second-hand from someone who had bought it from the G1G1 program, thinking she'd be getting a cheap, full-sized laptop, and was extremely disappointed.

    I gave it to the kids and they absolutely love it. They use it for playing around with the paint program ("activity"), some music stuff, etc., Not exactly the "learning" experience a school kid might have with it, but at least they'd rather play with the computer and explore than watch tv.

    Frankly, I'm *glad* it doesn't have XP on it; my 4 yo figured out how to do stuff on the XO without having to ask. It uses metaphors that a kid "gets". Do I care she's not "learning what she'll need in the real world?" Can you imagine still hitting the "start" button to do something in twenty years?

    Plus I don't have to buy an anti-virus program to install it it. :)

    • This is slightly off topic; but how the hell did she get the impression that the XO was a "cheap, full-sized laptop"? I bought a G1G1 laptop, after following the project for a while, and they were pretty damn clear about what you were getting. The site is loaded with pictures, the text is quite clear on it being designed for small children, and the specs are available. how did she manage that one?
      • by wandazulu (265281)

        She's 5 feet even, so I guess she figured it would be full-sized for her. She also bought it because she saw it as another way she could "help growing humanity" (her words) so whatever her misunderstanding of the physical specs of the machine, I give her props for her charity.

  • There are no free laptops. In order to receive a laptop, children need to give a small monetary donation -- the project coordinators say a dollar or two is sufficient.

    Why is the dollar or two necessary to pay? Some kids don't even have enough money to eat properly every day. An extra dollar or two means skipping an (inadequate) meal or two. Why should they have to go hungrier? What's the point of extracting that dollar or two from them? What goes on in South Carolina that pressures the OLPC suppliers to be

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      There are no free laptops. In order to receive a laptop, children need to give a small monetary donation -- the project coordinators say a dollar or two is sufficient.

      Why is the dollar or two necessary to pay? Some kids don't even have enough money to eat properly every day. An extra dollar or two means skipping an (inadequate) meal or two. Why should they have to go hungrier? What's the point of extracting that dollar or two from them? What goes on in South Carolina that pressures the OLPC suppliers to be "adamant" that kids pay a dollar or two they don't have?

      I think the idea is to give value to the notebook. Unfortunately, when many people are given something for free, they consider it worthless since they gave nothing of "worth" for it. By asking for something in return, it gives value to the notebook.

      However, I do understand your point about a dollar having a much greater value to someone who sees dollars so rarely. With the school lunch program, that dollar could mean the difference between a lunch and 30 minutes of watching others eat. Still, I hope the

  • by slapout (93640) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:39AM (#27875747)

    Looks like we've gone from throwing money at the problem to throwing computers at the problem.

  • ...their textbooks as this is a prevalent problem in South Carolina. It's not dead last (usually) in education in the US because the kids don't have laptops, it's because they don't have the textbooks they need, enough teachers to go round, and half the schools are forced to use trailers for many of their classes due to the poor infrastructure; so, hurray, let's throw out 50,000 laptops to make things better. These are, of course, vast oversimplifications of the problems in education in South Carolina, bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      I never even saw a textbook until I was in high school, and even then we only had them for a few classes. You don't need textbooks to teach. For math, you can do all you need with a blackboard, some blank paper, and maybe a few photo copied (or ditto machine) homework assignments. For English, you can teach most of it without "textbooks". Sure you need novels, but out of copyright works can be extremely cheap. If you think about it, and look for alternatives, there are ways to teach just about every su
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:50AM (#27875843)

    Howdy, I do IT work for a fairly rural school district in SC. There are so many problems with this idea I don't know where to start.

    Firstly, we've just recently had our fired/not fired meetings owing to the current budget crisis. The idea of giving up to 50,000 laptops to school children is noble, but the money would be better spent retaining teaching positions that are either being cut or lost due to attrition. I realize that's an apples-to-oranges comparison since this is more of a grant, but the truth is that most school districts are flooded with initiatives like this, Title 1 funding, etc. that can only be used for very specific purposes. Priorities need to be examined and these programs need to be reorganized. Federal funding is great and all, but it doesn't make much sense that a network closet that 20 computers run back to has 10 brand new switches in it while the school can't afford to retain its current teaching staff.

    In addition to that there are a ton of infrastructure problems that need to be examined. Most schools in the great state of SC (and, I assume, most places) were built before the advent of widespread computer adoption in education. Power is a major issue. All the sudden the room that really only needed power to a TV and maybe 4-5 computers now needs to have the power capabilities to also handle 20-30 laptops as well. This is not to be underestimated.

    How about network connectivity? Are we going to install network jacks in these classrooms for these laptops or put in WAPs? Who is going to pay for this new equipment/cabling?

    How about all of the volume licensing agreements? Agreements for OSes, anti-virus clients, patch management systems, etc. are all done by volume. Who is going to pay for the additional licenses for these systems?

    Maintenance? Is the grant going to give us enough spare laptops to cover for children while they're laptops are down for repair, students who forget laptops, etc? What about the increased workload of an already-thing IT department covering the additional laptops that will, in all likelihood, break more often?

    And as for the Linux? I'm a FOSS advocate, run nix at home, etc. But you have to realize that *most* school/district IT departments are staffed by folks who were the most technologically proficient users at the time the equipment was installed, e.g. the librarian who knew how to install MS Office got promoted to be the head of the district IT department. Sorry, but supporting (or even running) Linux for a lot of these folks is over their heads.

    Is all of this worth it to give young students laptops? Will this really foster that much additional learning?

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that someone is trying to promote the technology. Unfortunately there are a lot more pressing matters to take care of in SC schools and a lot of issues to tackle before this could be successfully implemented.

    • by viralMeme (1461143) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:24AM (#27876273)
      "Howdy, I do IT work for a fairly rural school district in SC. There are so many problems with this idea I don't know where to start"

      Countries in the developing world such as the African nation of Rwanda [about.com] don't seem to have any such problems. As neither does Brazil [olpcnews.com].

      "it doesn't make much sense that a network closet that 20 computers run back to has 10 brand new switches in it while the school can't afford to retain its current teaching staff"

      Retraining FUD ..

      "All the sudden the room that really only needed power to a TV and maybe 4-5 computers now needs to have the power capabilities to also handle 20-30 laptops as well. This is not to be underestimated"

      I thought laptops ran off of batteries :)

      "How about network connectivity? Are we going to install network jacks in these classrooms for these laptops or put in WAPs? Who is going to pay for this new equipment/cabling?"

      The laptops utilize mesh networking so they can still provide functionality even without a central gateway.

      "How about all of the volume licensing agreements? Agreements for OSes, anti-virus clients, patch management systems, etc. are all done by volume. Who is going to pay for the additional licenses for these systems?"

      There are no 'volume licensing agreements', the XO isn't susceptible to such things as viruses

      "I'm a FOSS advocate, run nix at home, etc"

      You sure sound like it :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I'm an XO owner... "...now needs to have the power capabilities to also handle 20-30 laptops as well." -- XOs are specifically designed to use minimal power - you can run 20 XOs at less than the energy requirements for a TV, and they can be charged up in rotation while students do other things, then used 'cord-free'. "How about network connectivity?" --Xos have built in wifi mesh networking, and any installation of an XO cluster includes a local server that administers the wifi logins, long term data sto
  • Not only because of the risk of big brother hocking it downtown, but also for what I would think are even graver concerns. Take my situation, for starters. I'm a computer professional. I know all about the dangers of the Internet. I have a brilliant, beautiful, innocent, obedient, *GOOD* 10 year old daughter, who would LOVE for me to get her a netbook. Pink, of course. I'm terrified at the prospect of turning my little girl -- smart and good as she is -- loose on the Internet. Sure, there are lots of
    • I know all about the dangers of the Internet. I have a brilliant, beautiful, innocent, obedient, *GOOD* 10 year old daughter, who would LOVE for me to get her a netbook. Pink, of course. I'm terrified at the prospect of turning my little girl -- smart and good as she is -- loose on the Internet.

      If she's old enough that she doesn't require full time supervision as with younger kids, maybe just having her account for where she's been and what she's been doing would suffice. For that, simple access logs would

    • "I'm terrified at the prospect of turning my little girl -- smart and good as she is -- loose on the Internet .. What's going to keep these kids safe? Oh well, I'm probably being naive and alarmist. And maybe for nothing, since the laptops will probably stay at the school anyway"

      Going on the requests for how to bypass websence on 'Yahoo Answers', I would assume the school network is locked down to approved sites.
  • you can update the text on a computer a lot quicker and cheaper than redistributing new text books made from paper.
  • Having taught a class at a university where they hand out laptops to every student, I'm convinced it's a huge mistake and counter-productive to the goal of providing a good education.

    All these laptops do provide a huge distraction, and I teach a class where we need computers. As I walk around the class I'll notice them closing chat windows or minimizing browsers.

    Having grown up around computers I know first hand how distracting they can be in the class, and we didn't even have anything like the internet at

    • "All these laptops do provide a huge distraction, and I teach a class where we need computers. As I walk around the class I'll notice them closing chat windows or minimizing browsers"

      Tell them not to use their laptops while you are teaching ..
  • All elementary students in Portugal are awarded a small computer (a custom ClassMate, actually) and older ones can get a standard laptop with UMTS access to the Internet for about 150 â (free for students who can't afford it).
  • One wonders how much they could improve their student/teacher ratio if they used all that money on hiring more teachers instead.
  • While I hope the Linux thing is real, let's follow two different scenarios and see which one is cheaper to implement:

    1. Buy laptops with Windows installed
    2. Pay lots of money

    or...

    1. Announce plans to buy laptops with Linux
    2. Raise the attention of Microsoft
    3. Get free or super-cheap Windows from Microsoft, who's willing to lose money on this deal in order to keep their monopoly entrenched and give bad press to Linux

    Seems like an easy choice.

  • Yay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mmaniaci (1200061)

    I don't care if they use Windows, Linux, or OSX. This could actually motivate students to learn on their own, a concept rarely taught in grade school.

    When I was in Jr. High I was fortunate enough to take a keyboarding class. The final project was to make web page summarizing what you learned in the class. I didn't learn much until I began making the web page. A few of us in the class were enthralled by how it works and instead of using FrontPage, we used the internet to learn basic HTML and designed our pag

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