Equipping our youth with tools for success

If Bermudians are to survive in the digital age it is imperative that we make the early jump to equip every child in school with a laptop.  Such a trend is increasingly happening around the world as countries are discovering the need to expose their youth to the benefits of technology so they can ensure no child is left behind in tomorrow’s future.  We should be looking to take the best ideas from around the world and utilizing our wealth to properly invest in our youth to provide tangible opportunity for the future and the best education system possible.

CNN has an interesting article on how the government minister for technology in Macedonia, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has decided to improve the country’s educational system by outfitting schools with a slew of new computers using thin-client technology.

What is particularly fascinating about the article is the discussion of whether Macedonia should be investing in the One Laptop Per Child initiative instead:

Walter Bender, One Laptop Per Child’s director of software and content, derides the traditional model, in which children get to use PCs only in computer labs for a few hours a day, as “antiquated” and “ineffectual.”

“It’s such a backward way of actually educating people in computing,” Bender said. “It’s better than nothing, but it’s not going to touch the families, it’s not going to be used as engine for entrepreneurship, creativity, exploration. … Maybe it’s economical from the dollars and cents perspective, but not from the learning perspective.”

Ivo Ivanovski, Macedonia’s minister of information society, defends his decision to equip schools with thin-client computers as the One Laptop Per Child route would be unrealistic for a country where educational resources are stretched so thin that half the children attend school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.  He contends that his plan will better equip all of Macedonia’s 420,000 students even with their limited resources.

However, Bermuda is not limited like Macedonia.  Indeed, being one of the richest countries in the world we are far from it.  With our own situation of a poorly performing education system and questions arising of how to revolutionize it, should we be leaving ourselves to be left behind when third world nations around the world are preparing to equip every student with a laptop?

Bermuda could be in the position to lead the way if we were to embrace truly progressive forward thinking and begin strategizing how we could equip our own students with the tools for success.  Ideally, we could be taking the best of both worlds by equipping our students with laptops that act as thin-clients supported by a high speed wireless network with benefits such as being able to host centrally managed virtual machines for youth to connect in to which would remove a great many of the maintenance hurdles while still affording youth the abilities to explore, create and entrepreneur their way into a digital future.

Bermudians need to encourage and embrace a future that will provide the best possible opportunities for our youth.  We need to take heed of the changes happening worldwide and rather than being left behind, take the lead by being one of the first to empower our youth.  We should be taking the best ideas from around the world and investing in the best possible education system to provide the most opportunity we can manage.  Every Bermudian child should be equipped with a laptop.

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harry powell
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harry powell

I agree with all you have said “BUT” we have a mind set that has to change in Bermuda. we have been waisting our only asset , “BRAIN POWER” It is costing about a million dollars a year to produce one student of about 12th grade education .
May i suggest we read ‘BLACK RED NECKS AND WHITE LIBERALS’ by Thomas Sowell .and we might understand where our education has gone . he explains it very well .or i should say where our education has come from.
NNNN

harry
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harry

Education?? ask a young person today , where vegatables come from? They can tell you ! the supermarket.When i was at school we had gardens not to become farmers , non of us did.but we know how and where food comes from and what kinds .”SO” we did not get “FAT” There are manny aspects of education and learning which we seem to have lost.

silencedogood
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silencedogood

I’m all for technology and fortunately this is a rich country and can afford things like laptops for every child. And I would support this 100% provided controls were in place to make sure the kids took care of the laptops and actually used them (i.e. a privilege that is respected) That’s long, detail oriented topic. -BUT- I completely agree with Harry–it’s the desire to get an education which is most important. Things like laptops are just tools, which in the right hands become extremely useful. If we don’t get that Abraham Lincon attitude of learning by candlelight and using… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
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A large part of the problem is motivation. For today’s youth it is hard to see the long term benefits of working hard and getting a good education. The core reason why I’m good at computers today is because I liked playing games on the computer at a young age. It provided the seed for me to explore games in greater detail and then branch out to other areas. The trick to getting kids to respect and use laptops is to provide reasons for why they’d actually want to. Tap into their interests. Garageband is a great example. Tutorials could… Read more »

silencedogood
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silencedogood

Unfortunately, only the rich will be able to achieve it because they’re the only ones who will have the resources to provide these kinds of opportunities to their children. Whoa there buddy. I can’t agree with that, at least in the bermuda context. Actually, in any context. Money has its advantages, don’t get me wrong, but its attitude that’s key. We’ve got to break those types of negative thought patterns and focus on positive solutions. (No, I’m not Tony Robbins) In any case, this island’s got a billion dollar budget now. That is $16,666 for every Bermudian. Compare that to… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
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Silencedogood, Thanks for effectively arguing in support of my case. There is simply no reason why real solutions cannot be undertaken. As you suggest, “The overspend on Berkeley alone would buy 31,000 laptops. More than enough for every student and teacher.” and those estimates are at a pricey $1300 when compared to the $200 Classmate PC (http://www.intel.com/intel/worldahead/classmatepc/), the regular PC’s you can get for about $700 (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3119392&CatId=2510) or even Macbooks for $1100. Bermuda needs to start paying attention to what the rest of the world is doing to solve similar problems (OLPC for example) and not only copying them, but… Read more »

silencedogood
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silencedogood

Yahwelcome! I agree with you on the tech, I just don’t see it as necessary or unattainable. That don’t mean I don’t think it’s great if we can afford it, and we can.

Denis Pitcher
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I’m not suggesting it’s the be all and end all solution to our education problems, but I think it could serve as part of the puzzle.
That along with regular standardized testing across the board for both students and teachers, internet based tutors and programs focused around technology including laptops for every child. Some of which could be introduced as a trial alongside the proposed changes of the education review.

gladtobehere
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gladtobehere

Ah, but your math is very misleading. First the United States budget is 100 billion dollars less to start with; factor out major costs Bermuda can’t even fathom such as 550 billion for defense or a space program or billions to aid other nations, and the statistical spend is much more like $7,500 per person, including some 20,000,000 illegal immigrants. Much less than half the amount supposedly spent per person by Bermuda.
With those numbers in mind, it seems the situation there is far worse then even you want to admit Mr. Pitcher. Where does the money go?

Denis Pitcher
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Thanks to the new budget format (http://www.denispitcher.com/2007/02/wheres_the_beef.html), those questions are even harder to answer.

S Brown
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As someone who works in the IT dept of a school that equipts all its students with laptops, I have mixed feelings about the policy. I agree, we should prepare our students with technology that will make them more competitive in the global job market. It is very idealistic. But the reality of it is that most of these kids use it for msn and downloading music (when they are home, they do not have access to it in school). And you would not believe the amount of cracked screens and damage these kids inflict on the laptops.. I can… Read more »

silencedogood
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silencedogood

True, that’s a danger but probably a manageable one. I’d say the kid gets one laptop for the whole term of their education. If it gets damaged or destroyed they don’t get a new one, they get detention, and have to work off the price (no payouts from mom and dad), and no using private laptops at school. I’d make them sign a contract every year to this effect–not enforceable at all, but psychologically the child would have to commit to these responsibilities and lets everyone know what’s expected of them. I wouldn’t let it go home with them until… Read more »

hockey fights
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This seems like the most comprehensive blog on this niche