Digital Learning and Overcharging American Schools

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The Orlando Sentinal just published a great piece on the state of digital learning in public schools (“Digital learning Florida: The future is now, but change is slow“).  It describes a local elementary school that is fully digital, but that is also a bit unique to the district:

“I like using the computers,” said Cara Chen, 9. When other students hear she is in Audubon’s totally digital class, their response is always: “Lucky!”

A child should not need luck to get access to the tools they will need to learn and participate in society in the future.  The article identifies cost as a factor:

Audubon, for example, spent $700 on each netbook it purchased for its second digital class.

Take note of that price: $700 on each netbook.

The "One Laptop Per Child" ProjectBack in 2007, I first saw a broadcast on the CBS show “60 Minutes” titled What If Every Child Had A Laptop? It documented the work of Nicholas Negroponte who was working to place a fully functional laptop computer into the hands of impoverished children in third world countries.  The name of his organization:  One Laptop Per Child. Each device featured many items not available in the US market at that time, and still not available:

  • Laptop battery life in excess of 10 hours – long before the iPad was made available here – with the ability to hand-crank more power as you like – one minute of cranking = 20 minutes of power.
  • A bright enough screen display to be seen outside during daylight in strong sunlight – to some families the laptop served as the primary light source in their homes at night
  • Strong enough wifi to provide Internet access to a village distributed across many miles on the strength of a signal a single server in the heart of town
  • And it’s waterproof and dustproof.

Total price? Less than $200.

And that was in 2007.

So why does Audobon have to spend $700 per netbook for the few “lucky” students in Orlando, Florida?  

Perhaps the United States needs to appoint Nicholas Negroponte to be the next Secretary of Education.

What do you think?

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