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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More Thoughts on Using Technology to Do Good


I have been thinking a lot about the "using technology to do good" idea, trying to flesh out some ideas for a project. I am inspired by sites like freerice. I've been thinking of ways to challenge my students (the 5th graders) to come up with an original way that they could use technology to help others. 
As with many lessons/projects, I start with a kernel of an idea and as I think, write, talk and search the web, the idea begins to shape itself into a "lesson." Sometimes it is not fully formulated by the time I start teaching it; it needs input from the students themselves to take direction. 

I have now come up with two distinct but related activities about which I am excited. I think the first will serve as an introduction and the second will be the meat of the project.
The first part is an online game called Karma Tycoon. It is free to play, just needs a log in and password. Here is the description from the website: Karma Tycoon rocks the gaming world by offering you a thrilling ride through the world of social entrepreneurship as you earn Karma in virtual communities across the US.
It involves choosing a city and building non-profits such as animal shelters, youth centers, etc. You rack up good karma while at the same time paying monthly expenses, applying for grants and loans, and going into debt. It is quick paced and challenging. I played and lost. 

My second idea came during a meeting today with the woman who heads the P2K partnership, a relationship between the Jacksonville Jewish community and the community of Hadera in Israel. As part of the partnership, there is to be collaboration between Israeli teachers in Hadera and teachers at Jewish schools in Jacksonville. Being the computer lab teacher I naturally tend to envision projects that involve technology. I was told that the schools in Israel do not have computers.
This made me think of The Laptop Project. This is the enterprise that has created inexpensive Linux laptops that use free, open-source software. Their goal is to give laptops to children in the developing world. Now, I am not sure that Israel would qualify as the developing world. But those details will have to be figured out later. 
If you raise enough money to donate 100 laptops  you can decide where to send them. I originally read that they cost $100 per laptop, but looking at the site today, it quoted $299 per laptop. Just another detail. But what a worthwhile undertaking for our students to attempt to figure out a way to raise money so that children in Hadera (or elsewhere?) could have access to the technology that they have come to take for granted. 

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