[Olpc-open] [OLPC-Chicago] The Children's Low-Cost Laptop Act - Contact your Illinois Legislators NOW!!!

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Fri Apr 4 01:49:23 EDT 2008

I was born in Chicago, and I am going to be on staff for PyCon 2009 in
Chicago, so I signed up here. Hi, everybody. My part of PyCon will be
to recruit parents and children with Laptop experience to teach the
adult Pythoneers what this XO thing is all about and how to work one
to program in Python. Some people don't get the idea, and think that
they will be teaching the children. Little do they know how little
they know!

On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 4:51 PM, Larry Langellier
<llangellier at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Dear OLPC-Chicago Enthusiast,
> Have you heard about the Children's Low-Cost Laptop Act? This bill is
> currently in front of the Illinois House of Representatives and is scheduled
> to be voted on this week. Read the attachment for additional details. You
> can also follow the progress of the bill (HB 5000) at
> http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=5000&GAID=9&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=35963&SessionID=51&GA=95.
> Full text of the bill can be found at
> http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=51&GA=95&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=5000&GAID=9&LegID=35963&SpecSess=&Session=.
> In the spirit of One Laptop Per Child, we need to muster grassroots support
> for this bill.

What do we know about the bill's sponsors? We must talk with them
ASAP. Who is in their districts?

House Sponsors
Rep. Cynthia Soto - Constance A. Howard - LaShawn K. Ford - Ruth
Munson - Jack D. Franks and Patrick J Verschoore

As usual, the Devil is in the details. This says nothing about how to
choose the laptops. Will the authorities decide to buy as much
hardware as they can for $400 per unit? Or will they understand that
the XO hardware and software are designed for the mission? Of course,
they could buy every child a 1G or 2G thumb drive, on some scientific
instruments, or something. Do they even know that this is possible? Is
it possible under the terms of the bill?

Furthermore the bill explicitly provides incorrect criteria for
evaluating the project.

3                The report must include the
4 		project's effect on:
5 		        (1) academic progress of students who are
6 		    participating in the pilot project, as measured by
7 		    performance on assessment instruments;
8 		        (2) student progress in schools or classrooms
9 		    participating in the pilot project as compared with student
10 		    progress in schools or classrooms not participating;
11 		        (3) student performance on assessment instruments
12 		    required by the State Board;

Items 1 and 3 specify the use of standard tests for evaluating the
program. If this bill becomes law, the education authorities will be
prohibited from evaluating the children's interest in learning,
whatever they learn outside the curriculum, or their progress in
collaboration, independent learning, discovery, creativity, or
problem-solving. Several laptop programs in the US have been shut down
because they did not evaluate any of these things, and produced no
significant gains in standard test scores.

If we want to make this program happen, we have to learn how education
using the XO is supposed to work, teach a bit of it to the legislature
and the public, and then make sure that that understanding informs any
bill on the subject. This means that group members will have to learn
to demonstrate the process with real children, and show the process to
everybody who will pay attention. We also have to be prepared for the
naysayers who will come up with every excuse not to look.

* These laptops are toys
* Laptops distract from the educational basics
* Children will just play games or view porn (or any other content the
speaker doesn't like)
* Discipline will break down as children message each other in class
* It costs too much
* What do you mean, children can repair XOs?
* What do you mean, children can teach each other?

In the Chicago O'Hare airport on my way to PyCon last month, I offered
a child a chance to try an XO. His mother wouldn't let him touch it,
because she is a Christian home-schooler. (The boy turned on his
mother and said, "I hate you." She said, "No, you don't," which is no
doubt true, but not helpful.)

The New Math died in large part because of such objections, compounded
with the fact that the teachers were not given adequate training.

13 		        (4) school cost savings on textbook or other purchases
14 		    replaced by laptop abilities;

How will such savings be realized, when there are no approved
electronic textbooks to replace the paper ones?

15 		        (5) attendance rates;
16 		        (6) teacher performance and retention;
17 		        (7) communications among students, teachers, parents,
18 		    and administrators;
19 		        (8) parental involvement in education;
20 		        (9) community involvement and support for the school;
21 		    and

Points 4 through 9 are fine, although I would think it would take at
least two years to evaluate teacher retention. But how will parental
involvement be approached? Will the teachers explain Constructionism
to the parents? Will they be expected to learn simply be observing
their children, or through what the children can teach them, or will
there be a program to bring in parents and teach them? It makes a

22 		        (10) student proficiency in technologies or "computer
23 		    literacy".

This shows that the author of the bill has no idea what the laptop
program is about. The question is whether the children can program,
build Web sites, administer servers, set up wireless networks, learn
(human) languages over the Internet, and create more XO software and
content. But the question that comes before that is, how will they
learn that, given that there is no curriculum for it, and no
age-appropriate textbooks? Will they be allowed to learn any of it?

So we need to bring in people who know something about these matters
to advise the legislature and the educators. There aren't many such
people available, which means that we have to become most of the
experts we need.

> Thanks,
> Larry Langellier

Calling or writing is easy. Building a movement is actual work. Who's
up for it? Ask your children who have tried XOs how much of a
difference it would make to them to have XOs in school before you make
up your mind. Don't forget that the children can volunteer in this

> First -- find your Representative and/or Senator at
> http://www.elections.il.gov/DistrictLocator/SelectSearchType.aspx
> All of them have 2 offices -- one in their home district and one in
> Springfield. You can call and write both of them. For a phone call, just
> find your Representative or Senator's phone number, call the office and tell
> them in a few sentences that you hope they will support House Bill 5000 (The
> Children's Low Cost Laptop Act). For a letter or email, feel free to use the
> script below:
> Dear ____________________________,
> I believe that laptop computers can help improve, and maybe even transform,
> elementary school education in Illinois.
> When you have the chace to vote on the Illinois Children's Low-cost Laptop
> Act (House Bill 5000), I hope you will think about the kids in our
> community, whose future social, economic and educational opportunities will
> be tied to their command of technology.
> The Children's Low Cost Laptop Act calls on the Illinois State Board of
> Education to administer a pilot project that would allow up to 300
> elementary schools in Illinois to receive grant funding for low-cost (under
> $400) laptops. Support for professional development (teacher training),
> school infrastructure readiness and laptop repair are accounted for in the
> bill.

Where? I see teacher training and parts, but no maintenance personnel
or infrastructure. Well, the kids can do the repairs on XOs, but what
if the program buys something else?

I see nothing defining what training to give, or how to decide what
training to give. Will we just show the teachers how the XO works?
Will we teach them anything about Constructionism? Will we do it using
textbooks, or will we do it hands-on in a Constructionist manner? Will
we provide any curriculum guidance? How will they share what they
discover in the classroom? Can we bring in the training programs now
being given in Peru, Uruguay, or Nepal?

The State Board shall use pilot
7 		project funds for the following:
8 		        (1) low-cost laptop computers;
9 		        (2) replacements for any of the following low-cost
10 		    laptop components: batteries, power cords, or other
11 		    software and hardware; and
12 		        (3) the hiring of staff to administer professional
13 		    development and technical support for participating
14 		    teachers; for the purposes of this item (3), "professional
15 		    development" means the training of certified teaching
16 		    professionals in the integration of low-cost laptop
17 		    computers into the classroom curriculum.

> Elementary schools like ______________________________ in our
> community could benefit if this bill becomes law.
> But make no mistake. I know that laptops alone will not fix all the problems
> in our schools.
> The fundamentals -- reading, writing, math, history, science, art and music,
> too -- can all be reinforced with computer technology.

Reinforced? No, the fundamentals can be mastered with computer
technology, and the children can learn far more than they ever have.

> We must make it a
> priority in Illinois to produce a generation of young people who can
> outperform kids in other states and other parts of the globe.

I hate that kind of political nonsense. The point of the laptop is to
get children everywhere into collaboration. It's not a race. It's not
a zero-sum game.

> House Bill
> 5000 is a real step in this direction. Thank you for considering my letter,
> and for your work on behalf of the people of ________________.
> Sincerely,
> ________________________________
> Use video conversation to talk face-to-face with Windows Live Messenger. Get
> started!
> _______________________________________________
>  OLPC-Chicago mailing list
>  OLPC-Chicago at lists.laptop.org
>  http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/olpc-chicago

Edward Cherlin
End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

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