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August 12, 2005

Reinventing the education challenge in Cleveland

OneCleveland seeks to inspire innovation and transformation in our region. Truth be told, for a city that ranks as the most impoverished in America, many proud and engaged community leaders are more than a little embarrassed by the failed attempts to fund the turn around of Cleveland’s Schools. The failed school funding efforts runs the risk of reinforcing negative self images and our predisposition to wrap ourselves in Cleveland’s very real Eeyoresque funk of “woe is us…”

OneCleveland is one idea that can help us to reinvent the entire education challenge in Cleveland. We need a big, bold, vision to help us imagine a 21st century education project for a community that is as cynical as it is disenfranchised. Over the next 18 months, OneCleveland can help connect every single child and every household in Cleveland to the Net. Netizenship in the 21st century is every bit as important and inalienable a right as the civil rights movement of the last generation.

Here’s the challenge. We need to turn the access challenge, social inclusion, and digital divide into a HUGE win for Cleveland Schools. OneCleveland is part of the solution. Cleveland’s middle and high schools will all be connected to this world class infrastructure through a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. But that is not enough. While we work on adding transformative and provocative services on OneCleveland’s wires we need something really out of the box that will stop everyone in their tracks. It has to be something big, bold, and even audacious to reignite our wonderment and awe in what is possible. Most learning goes on outside the classroom. So, here is my proposal.

Cleveland needs to develop a $99 laptop computer for America’s inner cities. The Cleveland laptop is not really “just” a computer, it is an integrated communication and gaming device. It needs to come complete with a keyboard, screen, storage, software tools, headset, and wifi and all for under $100. We need 100,000 of them in the next 18 months. From a technology perspective every Cleveland laptop would come complete with mesh network tools tying every household and school classroom to one another. With Skype running on linux every laptop will also serve as a presence and communication device. These adhoc mesh networked devices can also be connected to OneCleveland’s core application suite which today includes health care education and moving forward hopefully music education, oral health, early childhood education, art education, and much more. Peer to peer learning, communications, gaming, and of course authoring and sampling will drive massive adoption of the Cleveland laptop. Cleveland will be making front page news for its innovation, inventiveness, and its support for leveling the playing field in the all too important years of a child's developmental years.

Cleveland, like every major city in America has spent tens of millions of dollars connecting schools. For less than a million dollars we can provide every child in Cleveland a fully integrated data, voice (and maybe video) device that can be leveraged as a networked device whether it touches the backbone of OneCleveland or any other service provider. No one has got a $99 device on the market. Students from Case Western Reserve University and other schools and colleges should have a city-wide competition to propose a technology solution and business plan. The winning team would receive $50,000 along with a commmitment to a manufacturing contract and additional R&D support. There would be little, if any, profit driving the effort here in Cleveland. If it works here in Cleveland the Cleveland laptop can work anywhere in America. Because there is a need for this kind of device, it is only a matter of time before someone develops a strategy that will truly change the nature of human communication and citizenship. Why can’t we build it here in Cleveland to address community priorities, create jobs, and change people’s lives.

The data is unequivocal; education is the single most important predicator of human development. Today, as we know peer to peer environments are engendering significant creative development and invitations to discovery, exploration, discipline, reasoning and creativity. The Cleveland $99 laptop program will provide every kid in Cleveland with not only the device but also the communication and software infrastructure to develop, sustain, and advance the informal learning opportunities for young people. This is a go for it! strategy. The Cleveland $99 laptop program will spawn a solutions economy that will make education cool again and along the way attract the population at large to support public investment in more innovation both inside our schools and beyond the playground fences.

Posted by lsg8 at August 12, 2005 12:40 AM and tagged Bytes 

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It seems obvious that Case could offer a lot to MIT's One Laptop Per Child project. In turn, the experience would be great for Case's engineering and computer students. And when the project began distributing laptops domestically the collaboration would put Cleveland at the front of the line.

I don't know if the project is receptive to offers of help but I think it would be smart to ask. Where is the OLPC project on the radar of the Case ITS?

I was prompted to comb through your archives and comment on this post when I read this update on the OLPC project.

Posted by: Stuart at November 5, 2005 08:59 PM

Just an update that the $100 laptop is moving closer to reality at MIT. Even if it's a case of NIH (not invented here), the existance of this product would allow Cleveland schools to improve if we can get the corporate sponsorship needed.

$100 Laptop a Reality
Though they've been bouncing the idea of a $100 laptop around for a while ($100 Laptop - No Child Left Behind), it looks like it's finally becoming a reality. The lime green laptop is about the size of a text book and with a hand crank to allow it to operate without electricity. Designed at the MIT Media Lab, the project mainly aimed at developing countries where a calculator and Internet access can mean the difference between starvation and a good year. The goal is to allow these kids and even adults to actually own the laptops, though governments or charities will pay for them.

Looks like Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria are the choices for the first wave of laptops early next year and each is slated to buy at least a million of them. Though not in production yet, one unnamed company has offered to build them fro $110 each and four others are considering joining the effort. They operate at about half the speed of store-bought laptops and will run on an open-source OS. The screen is actually from a portable DVD player and can be viewed in either color or black and white.

Posted by: Leon at November 22, 2005 09:35 AM

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