ALPHARETTA - Computers aren’t uncommon in North Fulton, where most families have at least one PC and schools use the machines as part of the curriculum.
At Creek View Elementary, however, a teacher and the parents of a one of her students managed to not only get 10 laptops for the school, they also sent another 10 laptops to students in another country who might never see a computer otherwise.
Kathy Shields made a connection with a group of educators in Uganda through a global classroom. When the program One Laptop Per Child came to mind, she thought it would be a perfect opportunity.
In the program, low cost laptops built with children in mind are available. Computers can be bought in a “two-for-one” deal, in which one laptop is kept by the buyer, and the second laptop goes to countries where children are suffering from the “digital divide.”
Unfortunately, Uganda is not participating in the One Laptop Per Child program, so her idea to send the laptops there could not happen.
“In the end, they didn’t benefit from our generosity but we benefitted from them,” Shields said.
Some of the participating countries include Nigeria, Ruwanda, Thailand, Mongolia, Peru, Mexico and Haiti.
“Literally millions of these are being placed in the hands of children worldwide to give them an opportunity, to give them voice,” she said.
The laptops are designed to be used in the Third World. They can be dropped from 10 feet with no damages and are built for children.
Creek View’s teachers and media center staff gave students little or no instruction on how to use the laptops on purpose.
“We wanted to see what would happen if they would be turned loose on them,” Shields said. “They absolutely love making these discoveries on their own, and showing their friends and sharing with them.”
The 20 laptops – 10 for Creek View and 10 donated – would not have been possible if not for people such as Rick Perkins, father of fifth-grader Ryan.
“How can you provide technology to those that don’t have it?” Perkins said.
Perkins and Shields started talking about the One Laptop Per Child program and plans for the school.
Shields said if she could determine the next step with these laptops, it would be to allow children who aren’t part of the information age to join it.
Diane Briggs found funding in her husband’s company, Moncrief Heating and Air. Children brought money from their piggy banks, and Creek View teachers and staff pitched in.
Students at Creek View started using the art and music functions of the laptops. Next they found how to chat, using the Mesh network. That triggered the realization they had complete access to the Internet.
“It started just the fun and games part of it, but then their imagination and inquisitiveness took off,” Shields said.
Creekview student Josephine Hartano showed how she learned about making matches in a memory game, how to make music and artwork.
And she wasn’t the only one.
“I think it’s really fun to play with because you can learn about different things and you can interact with friends and stuff,” said student Sarah Medina.
And thouugh its fun and games, Shields doesn’t want anyone to lose sight of what the program’s initial intent.
“The real reason is there are plenty of children out their all over the world that have zero access to technology,” she said.