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Alabama Schools to be First in US to Get XO Laptop

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the educatin-on-the-cheap dept.

Education 334

CountryGeek passed us a link to a story in the Birmingham News, saying that schools in the Alabama city will be the first US students to make use of the XO laptop. The piece touches on a bit of the project's history, and seems to indicate the Birmingham school district is ready to make a serious commitment to these devices. "Langford has asked the City Council to approve $7 million for the laptops and a scholarship program that would give Birmingham students with a C average or above a scholarship to college or tech school of their choice. The City Council has not yet approved the funding. The rugged, waterproof computers will be distributed to students on April 15, Langford said, and children will be allowed to take them home. If a computer is lost, the school system can disable it, rendering it useless, Langford said. Students will turn in their computers at the end of their eighth-grade year."

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Alabama? (5, Funny)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572713)

Alabama you say? That's entirely natural. After all they were supposed to be for the third world... ;-)

Re:Alabama? (1)

dryueh (531302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572793)

Give them a break! After all..

Langford said the computers are more than sufficient for Birmingham students' needs. "We're not trying to give these kids a computer that would launch a space shuttle."

One-space-shuttle-per-child: a project for the next generation.

Re:Alabama? (4, Insightful)

j_sp_r (656354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573305)

These laptops are more then capable to launch a space-shuttle (after all, they use computer from the 80's)

Re:Alabama? (3, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573777)

That's pretty funny you should mention that. I'm in the business of (amongst others) hosted virtual machines and the smallest plan has 64 MB. People sometimes ask me, "What can I do with such a small amount of RAM?". When I basically answer "everything, but you might have to tweak some config files and heavy scripts", they're very surprised.

Re:Alabama? (3, Informative)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572945)

Puh lease. Alabama is hands and arms above, oh say, it's next door neighbor, Mississippi and Florida. There is a *reason* Fark has the Florida Tag.

Seriously though, you wanna see some of the worst parts of the country, go to the Delta areas of MS and some counties in AL. Poverty, STDs, teen pregnancy, HS graduation/college acceptance rates, life expectancies are among the worst in the nation. Do you think it's right to just ignore these areas for any sort of advancement?

The former Gov. of Mississippi, William Winter, put it best when endorsing the need for higher education in MS- "We can either compete with the other 49 states for jobs or we can do nothing and compete with China and Mexico."

Re:Alabama? (2, Insightful)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573067)

go to the Delta areas of MS and some counties in AL. Poverty, STDs, teen pregnancy, HS graduation/college acceptance rates, life expectancies are among the worst in the nation. Do you think it's right to just ignore these areas for any sort of advancement?

I'd bet you can find similar rates in Newark, NJ which isn't far from me and is very urban.

Although people like to generalize about the southern states having substandard schooling, I'm sure there are communities in every state that could use some help.

Re:Alabama? (2, Informative)

lib3rtarian (1050840) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573233)

Well, you bet wrong. Newark is doing much better these days that it has historically, although it is still the car theft capital of the world. However, it is not rural, it is extremely diverse, and is a short train ride to NYC. It is also home to one of the finest institutions in the world (Rutgers).

Re:Alabama? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573121)

I live in the Delta and this guy is right. The schools around here have a 15% percent literacy rate and poverty rates among children are well over 50%.

The real question is will XO laptops help turn that around?

Re:Alabama? (2, Insightful)

seven of five (578993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573147)

"We can either compete with the other 49 states for jobs or we can do nothing and compete with China and Mexico."

errr... the other 49 states are competing for jobs with China and Mexico....

Re:Alabama? (2, Interesting)

cluckshot (658931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573431)

Cut the troll crap! Alabama is not a third world country though I must admit that Birmingham City is not Alabama's finest and brightest.

I live in Alabama. Nobody ever went to the moon without going to my home town first! We are the people who invented the "Green Revolution" that feeds the world. We are the ones who gave the world many amazing medical advances and we are the ones who have some of the finest and brightest the world has. Alabama is a fine state and isn't even the 49th out of 50 economically either. We are doing much better than most of the USA. Yes we have paved roads, good schools and we have running water too. Actually it may surprise the bigoted idiots out there but Alabama is actually one of the most accepting and welcoming societies on earth so we are not even the racists some people think we are. We are one of the centers of computer technology and manufacturing for the world. We are one of the technical leaders in energy, genetics and much more.

To be blunt Alabama is a very nice place with a lot of very bright people and a lot of very nice people. As long as you are somewhat civilized the people of Alabama welcome you and treat you well. Every race finds that this is so. The state has one of the strongest and faster growing economies of the USA. It has a lot to recommend it. I think we should be proud that XO laptops begin to spread in Alabama. Learning is for every kid.

Re:Alabama? (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573547)

Chill dude, it was a joke... You know, the things you laugh with.

Re:Alabama? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573657)

Just remember, if you are kayaking in the area, and you hear banjos, RUN.

Alabama, a thrid world country? (3, Interesting)

4solarisinfo (941037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572743)

I don't recall OLPC allowing any of these things in the US, it was starting strictly in 3rd world countries wasn't it?

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21572779)

According to Neil Young they are. They've got a wheel in the ditch...

Response (-1, Offtopic)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572971)

Well, I am willing to burn some Karma here:

In Birmingham, they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572823)

it was starting strictly in 3rd world countries wasn't it?
It's Alabama... :P sorry couldn't resist

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572949)

Why wouldn't they?
Maybe I'm confused, but from my understanding they need a lot of orders to fill mass-production needs, so why not? It's not like the school system is going to turn around and sell them on ebay for profit or something.

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573009)

I don't recall OLPC allowing any of these things in the US, it was starting strictly in 3rd world countries wasn't it?


Developing countries have been the focus, but the project has never ruled out working with school authorities anywhere in the world. What they ruled out was mass retail sale in developed countries as an early focus.

OTOH, there is a break from the earlier articulations of the principles of the project here, and its not in the fact that its in a developed country, its in the "Students will turn in their computers at the end of their eighth-grade year" part.

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573421)

Also, OLPC initiated the "Buy 1, 1 Gets Donated" program in time for the holiday season, so it would be possible for an American school district to shell out $200 a copy for them and thereby send an equivalent number to under-developed countries.

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (1, Flamebait)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573123)

I don't know exactly what the deal is, but I don't see why they wouldn't allow it in Alabama. Scaling production up would allow the laptops to be cheaper. And besides, Alabama is almost like a 3rd world country.

Seriously, though, if the purpose is to build a laptop for children who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a computer, there are enough poor kids in Alabama (or elsewhere in the US) for whom this project makes sense. Having some kind of access to computing is great for education, and I don't see why kids should be deprived of that simply because they live in the US.

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573257)

Once they promised a digital copy of the 10 commandments on every laptop, they were assured a big order from AL.

Re:Alabama, a thrid world country? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573807)

Alabama's education system is worse than a third world country.

Wonderful (1)

Joshua W Ferguson (1165439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572751)

I hope some kids take advantage of this and the scholarship, I'm sure it's a dream come true to some parents.

Other names... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21572789)

It is also called Down's laptop, for you biological types out there.

As soon as teenagers get a hold of it, it will be called the XXX laptop... :p

Turner, not Down (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573827)

It is also called Down's laptop, for you biological types out there.
You try to make a joke, but you fail it. Down syndrome is trisomy 21. "XO", or monosomy 23, is Turner syndrome [wikipedia.org] . Is Ted involved?

C average (3, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572799)

I thought a C meant that you were doing exactly the work that's expected of you (aka, Average). So now they're going to award scholarships for performing like you should? Crazy!

Re:C average (5, Insightful)

dryueh (531302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572881)

I think the point is to encourage all students to consider post-secondary education, whether that's college or tech school. It's a fine idea -- I imagine that 'C' performers, in many areas, are seldomly encouraged to go on with their education/training after HS graduation.

Re:C average (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573099)

Good point. Some kids just need a chance to leave the backgrounds they came from to really develop, and a scholarship like this would do just that. When the best any family member has done is graduate high school, a C+ average might be very good.

The being said, a scholarship like this wouldn't be a appropriate for, say, a private school district in the Hamptons

Re:C average (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573437)

Somebody wants those kids to get not a C, nor a C+, but a C++, and they want them to be not A#, but C#.

Either that, or someone wants to find future recidivists early...

Hey Paw, I got a C! (1)

Finuance (1066546) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573017)

I could see helping those students to head on out to a trade/tech school, so they can become trailer truck drivers or welders, but c'mon!

It's getting to the point where the college degree is a relatively unimpressive feat in today's world.

Should every child go to college? Or should every capable child go to college.

A C average is nothing to be excited about. Funding like this should be reserved for putting our brightest in college.


Good thing they didn't approve this.. yet.

Re:Hey Paw, I got a C! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573445)

I know A students that are worse students than C students, this A students only study for the test an a year after the test they don't remind anything of that test but some the C student even if they are not good at the test they can remember the lessons five years later of the test without problem. In this case one student learned the lessons for the test and the other truly learned the lesson.
 
Then, who is really the brightest student?

Re:Hey Paw, I got a C! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573469)

Do those C students know how to write sentences that aren't run-ons? I bet the A students do.

Re:C average (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573073)

I suppose you think the average person doesn't deserve to go to college? I think we are at, or very close to a point where secondary education must become the norm. Many 'C' students will likely go to community colleges and a small scholarship might be the difference in part time work/full time school or full time work, at which time we have stopped the momentum of learning and the chances that individual will be exposed to higher learning is near zero. Everyone that graducates should get a scholarship to help with the first year of college. Forget global warming, higher education is the only hope to save our earth.

Re:C average (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573143)

Everyone that graducates should get a scholarship to help with the first year of college.

You know what? I'm actually in favor of that...with the stipulation that they pay it back in full if they drop out before completing their second year of college.

Re:C average (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573247)

My understanding is that a handful of southeastern US states consistently rank in the 45th-50th range in terms of education out of all 50 states. Alabama is one of those states that consistently ranks at the bottom.

Maybe a C in Alabama is considered an achievement.

Re:C average (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573377)

In a state where science and intellectualism are view with suspicion, sadly, that's not far off. In too many Southern states, redneck preachers with high school educations are much more respected than college professors, scientists, and engineers. And it's a great embarrassment to many of us Southerners who aspire to something better.

Re:C average (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573551)

I come from a school district where we had about 25 kids out ~400 in my graduating class with a 4.0 (non-weighted). I always just thought that if you had that many students passing with a 4.0, that either the teachers were handing out grades too easily, or the curriculum needed to be stepped up with either more advanced topics or wider scope. I never thought of it on a national level. Is a C in Alabama supposed to mean that person has achieved as much as somebody who earned a C in New York, Ohio, or Iowa?

Re:C average (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573797)

I come from a school district where we had about 25 kids out ~400 in my graduating class with a 4.0 (non-weighted). I always just thought that if you had that many students passing with a 4.0, that either the teachers were handing out grades too easily, or the curriculum needed to be stepped up with either more advanced topics or wider scope.

It also could mean that the school is already offering plenty of advanced courses in the form of AP classes. At my school (way back when), you got an extra 0.5 added onto your grade if it was an AP class. The effect of this was that the top 15 or so students out of a class of 450 had a GPA of 4.0. Of course, this was also at one of the highest-ranked schools in what was then considered the best school system in the country. And quite frankly, a number of those students went on to do quite well at Ivy League and other top-ranked schools.

Re:C average (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573339)

No joke, C average is pretty bottom line in middle and high school. B average should be the cutoff point.

Re:C average (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573485)

A C is supposed to be what is expected of the average student, but when I was in school, if you got a C, you were thought of as a below average student. I think relatively few people ever actually got Cs. There were a few straight A people (of which I was not one because there was always one teacher a year who would give me a B), then there were probably 70% of the population which got As and Bs, and then there were your 10 or 20% that got D's and Fs, which dragged the average grade down to a C, but very few people actually received a C as an actual grade.
In my high school in Oklahoma (which I am sure most people will also consider third world), they actually instituted a new grading scale to try to move more people into the C range for some unknown reason. Their scale was 94-100 was an A, 85 to 93 was a B, 70 to 85 was a C, 63 to 70 was a D and everything else was an F.
I've often wondered about the traditional grading system anyway. Where is E? Did the school board flunk kindergarten?

Two things about determining average grades (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573793)

  1. The average grade varies from school to school.
  2. What you think the average grade in your school is might be quite far off the mark. You're probably judging that off those students that you know, but there's a selection bias at work there. I taught for several years at the same high school that I graduated from. I realized that the impression I had of the school as a student was quite different from the impression I got as a teacher. If you attended a school with less than 500 students, that might not apply to you, but #1 definitely would.

No they're not... (5, Insightful)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572805)

What part of: "The City Council has not yet approved the funding." = "schools in the Alabama city will be the first US students to make use of the XO laptop."

Re:No they're not... (2, Informative)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572903)

Given the article I believe the statement was about the scholarship, not the purchase of the laptops.

C average? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572817)

The opening up of the university system to all and sundry has already lowered standards and resulted in grade inflation. Just compare the rigour of an undergraduate education a half-century ago to the situation now where anyone (even me) can breeze through four years without a challenge. Is paying for college for people with a C-average instead of directing them towards only vocational training--as in many other Western countries--a good idea?

Re:C average? (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572853)

Ah yes, because the "head start" program and "No Child Left Behind" have done any better. At least with this program kids who otherwise would have no way to go to college have the choice to go.

Re:C average? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573081)

Is paying for college for people with a C-average instead of directing them towards only vocational training--as in many other Western countries--a good idea?


Scholarships offered independently of the school don't guarantee admission, and the scholarships are for any college or technical school. So, even granting, for the sake of argument, that broadening admission criteria is potentially harmful, that's irrelevant to what is going on here.

Unless, of course, you think that with the same grades and other performance measures, people who are poor should be kept out of college in favor of those who are rich.

Re:C average? (2, Interesting)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573625)

Unless, of course, you think that with the same grades and other performance measures, people who are poor should be kept out of college in favor of those who are rich.
My own experience, as a kid coming from a poor family but with excellent grades and test scores, getting financial aid was super simple. It's the kids who have good, but not great, grades/scores that have trouble. Top schools compete for top students and will bend over backwards to ensure the top students have the means to attend. There are enough good students out there that the top schools don't have to compete for them.

Of course, a good student at a non-top school can very often be one of the top students at that school and qualify for grants and scholarships that would have been unattainable to them otherwise. Just one of the benefits of being a big fish in a small pond, I suppose.

Re:C average? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573831)

My own experience, as a kid coming from a poor family but with excellent grades and test scores, getting financial aid was super simple. My own experience, as a kid coming from a poor family but with excellent grades and test scores, getting financial aid was super simple. It's the kids who have good, but not great, grades/scores that have trouble.


Yeah, I'd agree that they'll be the big beneficiaries.

Of course, a good student at a non-top school can very often be one of the top students at that school and qualify for grants and scholarships that would have been unattainable to them otherwise.


Non-top schools often don't have as many grants and scholarships (for instance, when I attended Caltech, I was pretty much the bottom of the barrel of admits -- yet received pretty much full support because anyone that got into Caltech that didn't have everything covered by scholarships and had financial need was covered by Caltech grants at the time [not sure if that's still true].)

When that didn't work out, the other schools I went to (where I was certainly, comparatively, much higher on the performance totem pole than at Caltech), it would have been much harder to get money if I had had the same need (fortunately, because of changed family circumstances, I didn't, but I had done the research and it just wasn't there.)

Re:C average? (4, Insightful)

jdunn14 (455930) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573101)

No, and we're doing them any favors by pushing everyone through high school regardless of ability either. My mother works at a community college, and the number of kids that have to go straight into remedial english and math is appalling. But we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings... no, it's better to let the real world do that. Then there's no one that can be pointed to as "the problem".

Here's something else I don't understand. What is this country's aversion to vocational schools/training? We as a society seem to look down on such training, but I'll gladly pay someone many tens of dollars per hour to make my car go, make my AC work, fix plumbing, rewire my house, add an addition to the dwelling, etc. There is nothing wrong with this. You don't like school, but think cars are fun? Hello mechanic work. It just seems silly, these people are as important to our economy and every day life as the surgeons.

Re:C average? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573501)

Our aversion to vocational training comes from a bunch of elitist snobs who are in denial about being elitist snobs. If you listen to them, they'll claim the idea that "not everyone should go to college" is elitist, exclusionary, and bigoted. Inherent in those claims are the belief that you *must* go to college in order to be a decent human being, and that anyone who opposes a 100% enrollment in college only does so in order to keep everyone else "down".

It's a foreign idea to these people to consider that a mechanic or carpenter might still be a decent person, still be a smart person, and even still be a happy person. To them, being a carpenter or mechanic is "dirty work", and considered unfit for any human to undertake. They have no problem reaping the benefits of that work being done, but they believe it's an insult to tell someone that they should consider anything other than white-collar work.

Hypocrites.

Re:C average? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573691)

In my state (Oklahoma), or at least in my County, public schools are funded out of property taxes. This is fairly common. What is somewhat progressive, I think, is that a portion of property taxes also goes to support your closest vocational school, technical school, or junior college. Depending on income, some people can go through these schools and get an associates degree for free. My sister, who had been delivering pizzas, got an associates in CAD for next to nothing, and is now working at much higher pay in a professional environment with health care benefits and Paid Time Off.

Re:C average? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573779)

What is this country's aversion to vocational schools/training?

It's the "nouveau protestant" work ethic. If you aren't making $100k/yr, you're a failure as a human being.

Re:C average? (1)

Marcus Green (34723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573187)

Absolutely, if grades are going up it must mean that exams are getting easier, it absolutly cannot mean that teaching methods are getting better or students are studying harder. You can tell in a similar way that the mile has got shorter in the last 50 years ago. Way back when, absolutly nobody could run it in under 4 minutes, but these days lots of people can do it. People have defnintly not improved their training techniques. They really ought to adjust measuring equipment to allow for this shorter mile, and of course Mt Everest has got lower..... yaddda yadda

Re:C average? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573387)

Absolutely, if grades are going up it must mean that exams are getting easier, it absolutly cannot mean that teaching methods are getting better or students are studying harder.

I read Classics as an undergraduate. Fifty years ago, students had to be able to read Latin and Greek texts without prior experience with them (unseens), compose fluently in Latin, and be able to quote a least some poetry. Now, all they need to know is some basic morphology, translate passages they've already been able to work out on their own time, and perhaps be able to read some abridgements and simplifications of the original on exams. There is little disagreement among Classicists over falling language standards. I'm sure the same problem exists in other fields.

Re:C average? (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573783)

And... who is going to be helped by being able to quote poetry?

Not that there's anything wrong with poetry, I just don't see how me not being able to quote Robert Frost means that my college is shitty.

Re:C average? (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573391)

If you take any science related major you will be learning material in your undergrad studies that didn't exist 50 years ago. How can you compare the two?

Re:C average? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573699)

"Is paying for college for people with a C-average instead of directing them towards only vocational training--as in many other Western countries--a good idea?"

Only if you want to continue to use the trade schools as a dumping ground...
There is good money in the trades, but our society despises them so we chase potential talent away from learning about them.

Waste of money (2, Interesting)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572835)

Why on Earth do grade school students need to be issued a laptop? Early education should be about learning the basics. I remember not being able to use a calculator even in college Calculus classes as the professor thought it made people lazy and dependent on them. I do agree that schools should have computers, but every student?!?! Computer labs work just fine and cost a lot less than issuing every kid a computer.

gasmonso http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Re:Waste of money (2, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21572991)

I have not even heard a convincing argument of why young children need to use computers. What can a 10-year-old learn on a computer that A) actually needs to be taught in elementary school (as opposed to high school) and B) actually requires the computer to be taught effectively. Given child labor laws, the "need computer skills for the workplace" argument does not hold up in my opinion (for high school, sure, not not elementary school!)

Re:Waste of money (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573577)

I can't decide whether or not I agree with you. On the one hand, I have no difficulty imagining how computers could hinder education rather than help. People have a tendency to think that our education problem with somehow magically be solved if you just throw computers at the problem, when in fact the most important thing children can get is personal attention from parents and teachers.

On the other hand, our society (and economy) are becoming increasingly dependent on computers. Children who grow up without computers lack experience, which then puts them at a disadvantage later in life. Also, I think the Internet is an amazing tool for communication and discovery, and an Internet-connected child might have far more opportunities to broaden their minds than would otherwise be possible.

Re:Waste of money (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573595)

You to realize that computers are good for things other than "learning computer skills", right?

Re:Waste of money (2, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573701)

Interacting with a computer is one of the fastest ways to become literate.

If you're literate, you can teach yourself anything you can find a source for.

If this computer can teach kids to read and write while they're having fun with it, that, by itself, justifies putting it in their hands. Anything else it can teach them is a bonus.

Re:Waste of money (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573019)

No, computer labs are horrible. It takes 10 minutes to get there, 10 minutes back, you loose almost half of the period. Not to mention a lot of states/counties mandate that kids spend X amount of time per week using program Y on a computer. If the program ran on one of these, it would be a *dream* for teachers (or at least my wife).

Re:Waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573169)

No, computer labs are horrible. It takes 10 minutes to get there, 10 minutes back, you loose almost half of the period.
That's why universities have a 10 minute gap between classes that start on the hour -- it gives you time to get across campus (or down the hall if you're lucky) to your next class. Maybe you live in Alabama and all your classes are taught in one room by Prof. Cletus Fuckstick, but the rest of the world isn't quite so backwards.
 

Re:Waste of money (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573059)

It is a waste of money. My kids have had computer labs all through grade and middle school to learn how to use the software, not use the software as a crutch. Even in high school, some math classes don't use calculators because they are learning the principles by hand first. My boys are very computer literate because of this and have skills they can exercise without the computer as well.

Re:Waste of money (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573829)

It is a waste of money. My kids have had computer labs all through grade and middle school to learn how to use the software, not use the software as a crutch.

Learning how to use software is a waste of time except as job training. Knowing some specific pieces of software isn't computer literacy any more than knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet is literacy.

Even in high school, some math classes don't use calculators because they are learning the principles by hand first.

Computers aren't calculators. They're general purpose machines that can become calculators, but that doesn't mean that reasoning about calculators applies to computers.

It can be hard to see what the benefits of these computers will be for kids without actually watching them use the computers - but there are some things that are obvious. The easiest one I can see is that computers will help basic literacy and written communication skills. Kids working (or playing) on a computer can't just decide to not read, and if they want to communicate to anyone else they'll have to type. Maybe they'll type in retard leetspeek pidgin english, but that's still a step up for elementary-school students.

Re:Waste of money (2, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573095)

Why on Earth do grade school students need to be issued a laptop?

Isn't this a tired old argument already? I thought we had established what a useful tool that a personal computer had become for education. As a student from a rural area with limited educational resources, I can say from first hand experience with distance learning and paperless courses that PC's are becoming almost essential to education at the higher level. A good part of grade school education is priming children for the whole educational experience. Using the standard tools of the trade is only too obvious of an idea. I've always thought that the whole dependence on technology x was completely ridiculous. Technology is supposed to remove some labor intensive task. Tech is not making us dumber. The people that can only do math with a calculator probably wouldn't be able to set up an equation at all if calculators had never been invented. Tech + education == good for the most part. Note technology has to have some end. Throwing kids in front of a computer as a baby-sitting mechanism is not good. Allowing kids to have constant access to the tools a computer offers is a good idea.

Re:Waste of money (1)

Loosifur (954968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573117)

I agree to a certain extent. My girlfriend teaches elementary school, and one of her students who has severe ADHD was offered access to a computer to type answers to quizzes, assigments, etc. My girlfriend pointed out that a kid who couldn't be asked a question at a reading table and then told to go to his seat and write his answer without losing track of what he was doing wouldn't be best served by having to go to a separate table, log in, start Word, and type his response. The County, however, likes to see computers in classrooms for statistical (read: funding) reasons.

On the other hand, I understand school funding in Alabama (and school quality) to be substandard, and if they're using this to maybe provide texts that they can't afford to issue to kids normally, then this could be a great idea. Besides which, it doesn't hurt to get kids used to using computers, breaking up the "digital divide" so to speak.

Re:Waste of money (2, Interesting)

Compholio (770966) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573161)

I remember not being able to use a calculator even in college Calculus classes as the professor thought it made people lazy and dependent on them.
I had a Physics class where we were able to use Mathematica on some of our exams. Another school of thought says "your brain is only so big: use it for things that matter."

Re:Waste of money (4, Informative)

KE1LR (206175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573205)

There are a ton of kids in Maine [maine.gov] who have spent the last few years proving this assumption -- that young kids don't learn anything useful on computers -- is wrong. Their program gave Powerbooks to all middle-school students and has produced remarkable results. It was recently renewed by the state legislature and is being expanded to additional grades with state $$, which is no small feat in a state under a lot of budget pressure. See link for published studies, etc. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Maine decided to go for OLPC's for the younger-then-middle-school set.

The primary problem in Maine's one-powerbook-per-child program has has come from backwards teachers like your Calc prof who won't adapt their teaching to the new technology.

I Live In B'ham (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573759)

I offered my help to the mayor in putting an implementation plan together. This is a newly elected mayor (a month or 2) trying to put his mark on the city. A few weeks ago he promoted a guy who cut grass to run city maintenance. The guy now has hundreds of people working for him and a multi-million dollar budget. Meanwhile Birmingham is in the process of shutting down 20 schools. No exaggeration there DAGS. The mayor is also trying to get a sales tax increase to help with school funding. Nothing he's done so far makes sense unless you consider it showboating. So anyway, the mayor is clueless and trying to shake things up. His implementation plan is to give the kids a laptop. That's it. They're supposed to teach themselves because the computers are so simple. This quote FTA sums up the response I got from him: "Get the computers, get them in the children's hands and get out of the way," he said. This is a common attitude among educators and politicians. Computers can cure any education problem. Teachers even like the idea of independent learning. It leaves more time for them to piddle around on the web while the kids are piddling around on the web. I offered to help define how the computers could be used within their curriculum. I also offered to provide educational software that fit with their curriculum. All free to the city. What I got was the typical uneducated response I half heartedly expected. The big shame here is that the kids involved are mostly poor, minority and at risk of ending up in prison at least once before they turn 20. What they really need is old fashioned from the book teaching and a lot of discipline.

Re:Waste of money (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573781)

First off, I don't agree with the expense, but the rationale is more than just the direct utility of a laptop for school work. It's also about familiarizing kids with computers over everyday contact with them that you can't get from limited exposure at school during allotted times. I worked in a high school as a computer lab monitor for a couple years and almost all of the kids in the computer classes were really only different in that they were from affluent families that had access to computers. These kids, for the majority, weren't all that serious about computers though they had the exposure and experience to deal with the classes with little problems.

I had another group of kids NOT from well-off families who came in during lunch and after school to play around with the computers, play with web development, etc. They didn't have the experience, but they had the drive to do something with what they'd learned (at least 2 I know of went to K-State to major in computer-related fields). While they might have caught up in college, they were definitely at a disadvantage. The line between the two subsets of students was almost cartoonish.

This program, while probably prohibitively expensive, will level the playing field as kids from different economic strata will get far more exposure to computers and a real chance to pick up and hone the skills that most IT geeks take for granted.

Re:Waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573821)

Yes, sir. Getting off your lawn, sir.

end game post time at hand, bet early & often (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573041)

we're betting heavily on the creators' planet/population rescue initiative. no gadgets required. the 'graphics' are incredibly surreal. just in case, we're also building a vessel that floats on nearly any substance. see you there?

meanwhile: unprecedented evile never sleeps

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/02/AR2007120201637.html?hpid=opinionsbox1 [washingtonpost.com]

however, its task becomes less daunting when its minions are at 'work', emptying yOUR pockets.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/12/03/us.debt.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

micro management of populations has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster.

we're intending (do not underestimate the power of intentions) for the corepirate nazis to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather'.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption.

fortunately there's an 'army' of angels, coming yOUR way

do not be afraid/dismayed, it is the way it was meant to be.

the little ones/innocents must/will be protected.

after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit?

for each of the creators' innocents harmed (in any way), there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available.

beware the illusionary smoke&mirrors.con

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven.

no need to fret (unless you're associated/joined at the hype with, unprecedented evile), it's all just a part of the creators' wwwildly popular, newclear powered, planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

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vote with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

we still haven't read (here) about the 2/3'rds of you kids who are investigating/pursuing a spiritual/conscience/concious re-awakening, in amongst the 'stuff that matters'? another big surprise?

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

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consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

C average or above? (1)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573051)

So let me get this straight, C average or above to get rewarded with laptops and scholarships?

Way to keep setting that bar higher and higher, America! You can win by being average!

(In all honesty, I think affording more kids accessibility to laptops and University is a great thing. Just why not make it universal, rather than "C average or above," which makes it a bit comical... Those with F averages aren't going to be qualify for University in the first place. In fact, at least here in Canada, I believe those with C averages wouldn't get in, either. Oh wait, making higher education accessible to all is probably gonna be shot down by Bush as being too socialistic, just like the children's health plan thing... [Shakes head...])

Re:C average or above? (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573191)

So let me get this straight, C average or above to get rewarded with laptops and scholarships?


Well, clearly, you are performing at below expected level, so wouldn't get the scholarship.

The laptops are universal, and not a reward. The scholarships are for C average or better, and are arguably not a "reward" either, so much as a recognition that either college or technical school is as necessary as a highschool diploma was a few decades ago, and the area wants to improve its economic condition, it would be desirable for the baseline to be moved up to include being able to attend one of those institutions.

Yeah, sure, its a change, but there was a time when education beyond the eighth grade was exceptional and only open to those with wealth or who impressed a wealthy benefactor with their performance. Heck, there was a time that that was true of formal schooling period. The baseline moves.

Just why not make it universal, rather than "C average or above," which makes it a bit comical... Those with F averages aren't going to be qualify for University in the first place.


"University" != "college" != "college or technical school".

Re:C average or above? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573359)

"University" != "college"

Don't know where you live, but in the US no one makes the distinction. FYI.

Re:C average or above? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573565)

Don't know where you live, but in the US no one makes the distinction. FYI.


I live in the US (more specifically California) and everybody I've ever met makes a distinction between college (which is more general, and includes, e.g., 2-year institutions that issue only associate's degrees and various certificates, but not bachelor's or graduate degrees) and university (which is usually limited to institutions that issue graduate and/or professional degrees as well as undergraduate degrees, but sometimes used in a more generic sense that includes institutions that grant bachelor's degrees even if they don't grant graduate/professional degrees.)

I've never seen someone (an American in the US speaking English to another American, at any rate) refer to a community college or similar as "university".

" Alabama Schools to be First in US to Get XO..." (1, Troll)

N Nomad (1198231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573069)

"SHOOT i aint neva seen one of deese befoe, lets see now..says here we need ELECI..ELECTRICI..ELECTRI-CITY for use.Aw hell we dont got those over here"

Re:" Alabama Schools to be First in US to Get XO.. (1)

Phairdon (1158023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573671)

You're right, we don't know what electricity is. The aerospace capital of the U.S. (huntsville, AL) is illuminated by millions of candles. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and the dozens upon dozens of Aerospace Engineering companies that work on building such things as new fighter jets, helicopters, armored troop vehicles, jet engines, rocket engines, etc. all do their work by candle light. I actually sent this letter by the U.S. mail to my friend in California who typed it up and posted it here for me. (You're welcome).

All together now! (4, Funny)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573071)

Oh I come from Alabama with an XO on my knee.

Re:All together now! (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573301)

I've got blisters on me fingers!

Now 1 in 5 humans have net access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573105)

Just to inform the discussion, note that now nearly one in five people are on the net:
http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm [internetworldstats.com]

This link comes from the Metagovernment's FAQ, where they point out that when most people have net access, there will really be no reason to maintain representative democracy.
http://www.metagovernment.org/faq/ [metagovernment.org]
Once we can all participate in a connected network, why appoint other people to make the big decisions for us?

AKA (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573111)

The XO laptop; AKA the Pedophile Dream Machine...

This is a first, open source anything for Alabama! (1)

ttroutma (552162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573155)

YEAH! Hopefully this is a step towards breaking windows from completely strangling the technical life out of that state. Everything else about Alabama is free and easy compared to most other states - maybe it finally catches up with software. (I live in Kaliforniastan) BTW I bought 4 XO laptops (2 for me, 2 for giveaway) in hopes that they could be used in the States in the future. I don't care about third world, the XO will be probably used there as improvised land warrior communications systems to more effectively kill people.

Re:This is a first, open source anything for Alaba (1)

KiranWolf (635591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573809)

If you think this is the first open source project for Alabama, you obviously have never heard of Gaim (now Pidgin [pidgin.im] ) or Asterisk [asterisk.org] , both of which were started by Mark Spencer [wikipedia.org] (an Auburn [auburn.edu] grad from Huntsville [wikipedia.org] ). Phorum [phorum.org] also got its start in Huntsville as well.

Laptops For Sale (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573209)

The first thing most of these kids will do is "lose" these laptops, and sell them.

The lockout daemon (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070218-8872.html) will by bypassed / hacked, just like everything else.

If not, simply wipe all data and start fresh, or start gutting the machine (a little solder never stopped anybody).

A "C" grade? (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573283)

As I recall from my high school experience, getting a C requires me to do absolutely no studying at all (except half-listening in class). Is there any motivation when the goal set is so LOW? If we truly want the brilliant students to succeed, they need to be challenged, not bored to death...

Re:A "C" grade? (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573771)

Maybe the thought is that the C students still have a chance to get motivated, and need to be reached in a different way, since whatever they're currently doing doesn't work?

At least this should... (1)

helpmeconfess (1198229) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573297)

At least this should make them cheaper on eBay as more show up. :-)

more news on alabama (2, Funny)

flynt (248848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573313)

I just heard that the governor has signed a law in Alabama raising the drinking age to 35. He wants to keep alcohol out of the high schools.

just a joke.

C average - Low Bar (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573363)

give Birmingham students with a C average or above a scholarship to college or tech school of their choice.

That's an awful low bar to ask them to meet. If I only need to make a C to get a scholarship, that's likely only as hard as I'm going to work for it.

Re:C average - Low Bar (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573631)

That's an awful low bar to ask them to meet. If I only need to make a C to get a scholarship, that's likely only as hard as I'm going to work for it.


You probably need better than that to get into a decent school, which getting the city scholarship won't guarantee.

All this does (or is intended to do) is make it so that students that make even modest effort won't be denied access to whatever college or technical school their academic record qualifies them for because of their finances. Which, IMO, is a good thing. Rich students still have an advantage, of course, from legacy admissions on the like, as well as advantages in the environment they are likely to have supporting them in getting decent grades in the first place, but reducing the degree to which opportunity is a function of wealth is a good thing.

What does this PC actually provide them? (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573389)

This is a feel-good measure, nothing more. Tossing a laptop into a mix of bad teachers, and bad schools is not going to improve anything. There are several major problems, none of them technology related, that have made public education a colossal failure:

1) Most of the people who are teaching subjects, have their primary education in "education."
2) Teacher's unions.
3) School policies that don't allow proper discipline for disruptive students.
4) A legal system that actually listens to parents who sue when schools properly punish their kids for misbehaving.
5) Government monopolies that make it financially impossible for most parents to afford to send their kids to private schools or homeschool them.

But it's ok, technology will save the day. It couldn't do a damn thing for other social problems like pirating copyrighted materials, but it'll be able to take on... entrenched bureaucracies, good ol'boy networks, unions, crufty legal codes and parents who have no ability to hold their kids responsible for their behavior and are willing to shout and sue at the drop of a dime. Go technology, you modern day messiah of secular America.

As a Birmingham resident and software developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573403)

As a Birmingham, AL resident and software developer, I am disgusted by this waste of tax dollars. I love tech. I live tech. But laptops for kids that can scarcely ready seems a stretch. The Birmingham city school systems are already in a financial crunch and face rapidly declining enrollment. Birmingham politics is corrupt on levels you can scarcely imagine. I won't even drag this conversation into those details. In short, Birmingham City Schools are now in a position to close approximately 20 schools for the coming school year due to declining enrollment and funding issues, yet feel the need to invest in underpowered laptops for the kids in some sort of twisted PR ploy. No doubt the powers that be will also toss the maintenance and service contracts on these things to some trumped up company designed to pad their own wallets. The only consolation in living in this kind of corrupt political environment is that small business can thrive relatively unimpeded by these morons. To quote one of the wise pimps from the film "American Pimp", "When n****s run a town, they just let shit slide." (He was referring to DC / Marion Barry as I recall).

alabamais3rdworld tag (1)

Dracos (107777) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573497)

So where will be the next place in the US to get XO's? Mississippi, West Virginia, or El Paso Integrated School District?

Probably not EPISD, they're too busy not giving the kids school lunches ("Nutritional mid-day snack"?) while taking the Federal school lunch program money. Among many other types of incompetence.

OZPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21573683)

One Zune Per Child... Thanks alot Zune Tattoo Guy!!!!!!!!!!!

April 15? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 6 years ago | (#21573799)

April 15th, huh? How appropriate. Kids can read or write; send 'em a laptop!
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