Laptops for All

Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation president Bruce Dixon is on a mission to put a laptop in every child's hands.
Publish date:
Social count:
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation president Bruce Dixon is on a mission to put a laptop in every child's hands.

As president of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, Bruce Dixon works with people from schools, industry, and academia to build a vision of a future in which every child has a laptop. School CIO talked to Dixon about why laptops are essential, how they will be used, and what this means for CIOs.

Q. Why should all children have laptops?
A. Getting every kid a laptop is just putting them on the bench; now we have to start playing the game. A child in a school with a six-to-one student-to-computer ratio will get at most two to three hours of access per week. If you had to do your job in two to three hours, you’d find it rather disabling. Giving every child a laptop is the target, but it is a means to an end. We’re focused on what happens next.

Q. So, what happens next?
A. If what we’re doing with computers is the same as what we did without them, then it’s not particularly useful. The next step is significantly improving the opportunities for learning by having a laptop in every child’s hands. For instance, what are the innovative ways that I can teach difficult mathematical concepts when every child has a laptop? Or, what if every child could go online and access original historical documents? Is it going to help them want to find out more? The answer is yes.

Q. How can school districts manage the cost of providing laptops and Internet access?
A. The premise of your question is that cost is a key component of the decision. It’s an important question, but most people use it as an excuse. There are many thousands of schools across North America that could easily afford to give every child a laptop and the accompanying learning experiences. Each school has its own identity, culture, and policies, and they can make the best decision on how to finance it. Of course, there are infrastructure, servicing, insurance, software, and professional development costs. But let’s get the machine, and let everything else fall into place. What we require now is commitment, vision, and leadership.

Q. How would the roles of CIOs and technology staff change after the implementation of your program?
A. The move to one-to-one computing will give CIOs status that every school should aspire to. This has been a problem for CIOs, because computing in many schools today doesn’t touch all the students. It’s casual or incidental use, for some akin to using sport facilities. But in a one to one school, students use technology every day of the year. Therefore, there will be a lot more attention paid to the people in technology support roles.

Q. Why laptops?
A. If you compromise the power of the device, you compromise what you can do with it. People say to me, “I want to buy a laptop for my child, but I don’t want to spend too much money.” I tell them, “Frankly, they’ll need a more powerful computer than you, because they’ll use it more creatively than you ever will. Kids do simulations, blogging, and complex spreadsheet work. They demand a lot more computing power than you expect.” It’s not just about being able to hit a keyboard and get a word out; it’s about being able to explore powerful ideas.

Q. What do you think of Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop initiative?
A. It’s great. Once people hear about it, they believe that every child will have a laptop. Then they find out that we’re doing it for kids in Brazil and Namibia and everyone says, what about America? They realize it’s about time for every kid in America to have a laptop. But the $100 laptop isn’t meant for American kids. If it were $100, I’d sell it for $500 and donate $400 to undeveloped countries. If kids in Thailand get it for $100, then relatively the cost for American kids should be very cheap, and it is cheap enough now. Price is not the barrier. The barrier is people’s failure to believe that it should happen.

Q. What are some obstacles to realizing the vision?
A. If you ask people how they measure the success of one-to-one programs, sadly, most use short-term, superficial measures, such as an increase in test scores. Let’s be serious about how we’re going to measure significant improvement in opportunities for learning. We’ve got to be a lot more critical about what’s happening once the laptops get into kids’ hands. Just some large number of laptops is not enough. We’ve got a long way to go.

Lindsay Oishi is a graduate student in Learning Sciences and Technology Design at Stanford University.



Image placeholder title

Laptop Lessons

Although we see more articles every week about schools doing iPad pilots, a great number of districts are finding ways to launch oneto- one laptop initiatives or refresh their laptop carts.

The XO Laptop

from Technology & Learning The pioneering XO computer balances low price with kid-friendly features. Company: One Laptop Per Child Foundation ( System Requirements: Electricity (though alternate charging methods such as hand crank, solar and wind are/will be available). Price:

Laptops for Teachers?

My site leadership team wants to purchase a laptop for every teacher, but is meeting some resistance from district officials who feel that the money should be spent on student equipment instead. How can we resolve this issue? Research that began in the mid 1990s shows that in order for teachers to make good use

Laptop Ergonomics

Tip: Laptops were only meant to be a temporary solution. However, many of us, as well as our students, are now using laptops regularly if not daily. In many cases, the laptop is the only computer we use. Now that I’m sitting here at my laptop, I notice that ergonomically, I may be causing problems because

Getting Results With Laptops

Despite a growing number of mobile computing initiatives across the country, including dramatic statewide adoptions in Maine and Michigan, laptop programs continue to breed controversy. For instance, critics of Maine's laptop program point to a $28 million per year price tag that hasn't yet yielded higher scores on