- NECC Educators Get a Peek at the $100 Laptop
Educators attending the National Educational Computing Conference were among the first to get a peek at a working model of the $100 laptop that One Laptop Per Child hopes to distribute to millions of children in the developing world.
- Wireless Laptops Motivate MI Students
According to a new study, more than 60% of students using wireless notebook computers in the classroom credit the devices with increasing their interest in learning.
- Henrico County May Go Wireless
Henrico County, home of one of the first district-wide one-to-one computing programs, is considering building a countywide wireless network for use by teachers, students and government workers.
- IN May Get Virtual Charter School
Ball State University is exploring the opportunity to establish Indiana's first virtual charter school.
- New Device Reads to the Blind
A new device, developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind, can convert print to audio, helping the blind read.
NECC Educators Get a Peek at the $100 Laptop
Educators attending the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) were among the first to get a peek at a working model of the $100 laptop that is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte and the team at One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). Negroponte was one of NECC's keynoters and he updated his audience on OLPC and its launch schedule. Working through local governments in developing nations, OLPC plans to deliver between five and 10 million $100 laptops in 2007 and 50 to 150 million in 2008. While initially the computer will cost more than the fabled $100, probably around $140, Negroponte insists that getting down to the $100 point isn't that difficult. In his speech he detailed the cost savings he envisions. He contends that 50% of the current cost of laptops is attributable to sales, marketing and distribution, which will be eliminated in the OLPC scheme. Another 25% of the cost supports the operating system, which Negroponte criticizes as "obese." The OLPC laptop will run a version of open-source Linux. Although the OLPC computer will be underpowered by today's standards — only 500MHz — Negroponte claims it will be faster than current laptops because it won't spend as many resources supporting unnecessary software and functions. The real cost challenge lies in the screen, which accounts for the final 25% of a laptop's cost. A modern laptop display, Negroponte says, costs $10 per diagonal inch which OLPC has reduced to $1 per diagonal inch by using an innovative dual mode display which features low power consumption and 1200 x 900 screen resolution in black and white mode and 800 x 600 in color. While designed for use in the developing world, educators in the United States expressed interest in the laptop as they watched it go through it paces.
Source:San Diego Union Tribune
Wireless Laptops Motivate MI Students
According to a new study from the Center for Research in Education Policy at the University of Memphis, more than 60% of students using wireless notebook computers in the classroom credit the devices with increasing their interest in learning. The students surveyed all were participants in Michigan's Freedom to Learn (FTL) program. FTL targets middle school students, especially sixth graders, creating one-to-one learning environments in eligible schools by providing wireless laptop computers for each student to use on a direct and continuing basis for the length of the program. As of March 2006, the Freedom to Learn program included 23,000 students and 1,500 teachers in 181 buildings across 100 school districts. Researchers observed the program in 2004 and 2005, administered surveys and conducted interviews. More than 90% of teachers designated as "leaders" at 77 of the participating schools said the program improved student proficiency and comfort, and more than 85% said it increased student motivation. More than 87% of students surveyed indicated that they want the computers next year, and nearly 60% said having the notebook computers made schoolwork easier. Achievement data and parent perceptions are currently under analysis. Michigan had reported earlier that participating students demonstrated improvements in math and reading scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.
Source:TechWeb Technology News
Henrico County May Go Wireless
Henrico County, home of one of the first district-wide one-to-one computing programs, is considering building a countywide wireless network. The primary reason for such a network would be to allow teachers and students to access the Internet freely from wherever they are in the county. Local government workers would also benefit from the free access to a secure wireless network as they go about their jobs. The secure network would serves two educational purposes. It would provide Internet access for students who don't now have any connectivity at home and it would give the school system a secure network that they can control in a safe manner. While Henrico County officials note that it is too early to know anything for certain, they hope the network could be built at little or no cost to the county. The timeline calls for the county to issue an RFP by late July to gather specific bids from vendors interested in building the network. Bids would be reviewed in November and submitted to either the School Board or Board of Supervisors for further consideration. County and school officials hope that vendors, interested in being associated with a system that has a cutting-edger reputation for technology use, may offer to build the network for free or at greatly reduced costs. Another possibility is inviting local businesses to donate funds to help build the system.
IN May Get Virtual Charter School
Ball State University is exploring the opportunity to establish Indiana's first virtual charter school. Like most virtual schools, families enrolling a child in the school would receive a free computer and other equipment, allowing students to do most of their work online. But under the rules envisioned by Ball State, students would be required to spend at least 20% of their time at the charter school, allowing for personal contact with their teachers. When the Indiana legislature established the state's charter school legislation five year ago, it gave the state's universities the authority to establish charters. The original legislation did not allow for at-home schooling, but an amendment approved last year says that while charters schools cannot provide "solely home-based instruction," they could use computers and the Internet to deliver instruction. Ball State, the only state university that used its authority to establish charters, has posted its proposed virtual school rules online at its web site, inviting public comment. The University will adopt a set of rules, possibly incorporating elements garnered from the public comments, and begin to accept proposals from entities wanting to run a virtual charter under Ball State's authority by September or October. If all goes well, the first virtual charter school could open by the fall of 2007.
Source:The Indianapolis Star
New Device Reads to the Blind
A new device, developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind, can convert print to audio, helping the blind read. Devices that convert print to audio are not new, but a portable device is. Thirty years ago, when Kurzweil first invented the reader, it was about the size of a washing machine. The latest device, about the size of a paperback book, combines a personal digital assistant and a digital camera. The camera scans the print and takes a picture, which is converted to audio and read aloud by software loaded on the PDA. The National Federation of the Blind expects that the reader, which costs about $3,500, will be a big hit among its membership. "It's not quite like having a pair of eyes that work, but it's headed in that direction," said James Gashel, executive director for strategic initiatives at the National Federation of the Blind.