Wouldn't it be great if the One Laptop Per Child project was piloted in the US? Computer accessibility and education in many parts of the US is pretty weak in my opinion. I would love to see every child issued a laptop at the beginning of the school year...starting at 1st grade, and continuing through their senior year of high school.
Think of the possibilities. Instead of spending five minutes copying the homework assignment - the teacher could just transmit the assignment to each student's laptop. When the child got home that day, there would be no confusion about what the assignment actually was. I can't tell you how many times our son, who is a somewhat slow writer, did not have time to finish copying all of his spelling words.
The teacher's grade book could be an electronic version that automatically updated the student's grades in their own grade book. Every student could know exactly where they stand at a moment's notice. More importantly, parents could find out exactly how their children are doing. No more lying about homework, projects, or report cards. Each parent could also digitally sign grades periodically to show the teacher they have been reviewed. This could be via biometrics, or a parental administrative password. Parents, teachers, and students could also message each other about various issues - each reading and responding at their leisure.
I'm not sure how the laptop would be used in the classroom environment exactly. I can definitely see how one would use a laptop for a class like English Composition or Literature, or maybe even History. Science classes could use logging, graphing and calculation software. Math classes will still be mostly pencil and paper I think.
The laptops could certainly improve the efficiency of quizzes and tests. A lot of schools have started using scantron forms in order to save on paper. Having students complete quizzes and tests on the laptop would eliminate the use of paper, and make grading much easier. The teachers could even have the testing software randomly mix up the question order and multiple choice selections to combat cheating. Johnny's question #5 might be Sally's question #15, and even if Sally figures that out - the correct answer is B on Johnny's quiz, while it has been moved to D on Sally's. Get the idea?
What about the developing (aka third world) population? Every year, students in developed societies turn their laptops in to their school, and get issued a brand new one for the upcoming year. All of the old ones get sent to developing countries. They are still functional, just a year older than the very latest Student Laptop in places like the US.
I think the One Laptop Per Child project would work in the United States. We have the money and the infrastructure in place for such a project to work. I feel sure that manufacturer's of the OLPC's would be more than happy to provide the education for teacher's to transition their lesson plan and practices to the OLPC concept of education.
Think of the amount of paper we could save? The amount of ink. Lost paperwork. Miscommunication. I think this would work.
Technically speaking, I like the design of the OLPC. It appears to be very rugged. In the next few years I think we will see advances in solid state storage that will mean more reasonable amounts of high reliability storage for all devices. The OLPC depends flash storage as part of its robust design. Hard disk drives are a high failure rate, power hog that hopefully will eventually become a thing of the past.
I should do my research before I start writing. I found a link at PC World.com. Apparently the OLPC is already planning on giving out laptops to needy students. Why not give them to all students? Here's the link.