Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Free Laptops for All U.S. Students

Libya gets it.

In a world dominated by high tech powerhouses, Libya has stepped to the forefront of education with its decision to provide $100 Linux based laptops to all of its 1.2 million schoolchildren. Libya may also help pay for laptops in poor African nations such as Chad, Niger and Rwanda.

Such a bold statement by a country famously known as a world malcontent shows that Libya understands that access technology is a crucial component in today’s educational programs.

Ironically, the laptops being purchased by Libya are developed and marketed by an organization located in a country that doesn’t get it: the United States.

Living in the world’s largest superpower, one has to wonder why the U.S. has not developed a strategy to put a computer in the hands of every student in this country.

According to the U.S. Department of Education National Education Technology Plan 2004, there are approximately 50 million students in the U.S. Of those students, 90 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 use computers.

Using these numbers, simple grade school math illustrates that approximately 5 million students do not use computers regularly. In a country with the educational mantra “No Child Left Behind,” it appears as though children are quickly being left behind in our technology dependent world.

It’s sad to think that children located down the street from the Delaware based non-profit group One Laptop Per Child may not have the same technological advantages given to children who live in a country that is known for supporting terrorism and producing weapons of mass destruction.

A mere $100 could open up a world of educational opportunities for students in the U.S. The only credible reason for the delay in initiating such a program in the U.S. is that it would cost approximately $5 billion dollars to provide every student with their own laptop.

While that figure may cause some people to wring their hands and mutter about big government spending, there is another option that would prove to be much cheaper and more beneficial to U.S. students.

The laptops being purchased by Libya are, in essence, capable of doing little else than accessing the Internet. They are a valuable educational tool, for sure. However, hands on experience with a decent computer that runs Windows and other modern applications would be an even better option.

According to Midwest Computer Recyclers, approximately 500 million computers will be discarded in 2007. While these computers are too old for business purposes, many of them are still useable and could be put to good use in the hands of a student.

Most organizations struggle with the disposal of their retired computer equipment. Quite often companies must pay for their old computers equipment to be taken away for recycling. Most organizations would jump at the chance to eliminate this expense.

One obvious solution would be to create a federal program to obtain retired computer equipment from the business sector and provide it to students free of charge.

This scenario provides corporations with an inexpensive way to discard their old computer equipment while giving students valuable hands on experience with a real computer. Everyone wins.

Such a program is not a new idea. Canada implemented a similar program called Computers for Schools. This program supplies approximately 25% of the computers used in Canadian schools each year. Only 2% of the computers in U.S. schools are recycled in this manner.

Despite hearing how no child in the U.S. will be left behind, it’s obvious that children without regular access to computers are going to be ill equipped to handle the technical demands of our society.

Libya gets it. Now it’s time for America to get it.


At 8:02 PM, Blogger Will said...

Great arguements and well written. Where do I sign my government up for such a program?

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