Sunday, June 8, 2008

Laptops/Tomorrow it starts!

I can't tell you how excited I am. Tomorrow, 43 fourth-grade migrant kids - the most at-risk children in our community - will each get his very own XO laptop computer, along with the first two-hour lesson in how to use it. Our Waveplace pilot will begin. (

I've been waiting four years for this. That's when I first read about the adorable little green-and-white XO, and the mission of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit spin-off of the MIT Media Lab. (

For four years I've watched, waited; tried to help and been rebuffed ("We aren't set up to take donations at this point," I was told when I first reached out to OLPC all those years ago. How hard is it to open an envelope and deposit a check!?!?)

Now, it's actually going to happen. You may think I need a life, but tomorrow's event will mean more to me than my birthday. Of course, I caught the flu this year on my birthday and my family was away in Boston, but still....

Tim Falconer, the creator of Waveplace, is flying into town tonight with another of our board members and our documentarian.*

Tomorrow at 9:30, the teachers assemble to begin their training, which will cover 30 hours in the next five days. Two of the teachers are only 14 years old. The idea of teenagers stepping up to lead in this way - that's a whole new dimension that we hadn't even anticipated.

This project we're about to launch is transformative on multiple levels.

Joining us will be Valerie Alker of WGCU Radio. That is just the beginning of some outstanding media coverage which will include Wink TV, the Naples Daily News, and even National Public Radio.

This is a national news story.

At 1:00 the children will arrive for their first lesson. So will Bill Ventress, my new idol, who is funding one of the two pilots. His company,, is nothing short of inspirational. I'm sorry to gush like a school kid, but that's how I feel right now.

Of course, tomorrow is only day one of a week-long training with Tim, and a 10-week program with the kids and the teachers.

I promise to keep you posted as we go.

Oh, almost forgot: I guarantee you, we will stumble along the way. That's why this is called a pilot. It's the first time we'll have this many teachers involved, for one thing, and they have never worked as a team before. Jane, John Lawson, and I haven't worked in-person with Tim before - I hope we don't let him down, but we'll just have to see.

That's okay, though. Even with the occasional glitch, we will be learning and improving on the fly. We'll all be better for the experience.

*I'm pretty sure I made that word up, or at least that's what spell check wants me to believe. Go ahead and use it. Just give me credit if you would.