But they lost -- and in so doing, the entire Western World from Chicago to Johannesburg. to Paris and Sydney.
Considering that the conditions in 2013 Birmingham (73.4 percent black) are akin to a third-world - remember, "Cities are what people make of them" - it should be of no great shock the city was the first to adopt a laptop program designed for 'developing nations' for its nearly 98 percent black K-12 public school population [Birmingham City Schools will be first in nation to get $200 XO laptops, Birmingham News, December 4, 2007]:
Birmingham city schools will be the first in the nation to receive laptop computers designed for children in third-world countries under an agreement completed over the weekend, Mayor Larry Langford announced Monday.
Langford signed a purchase agreement for 15,000 laptops from One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit foundation whose goal is to provide every child in the world with access to technology.
"We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all aspects of their lives," Langford said. "We are proud that Birmingham is on its way to eliminating the so-called `digital divide' and to ensuring that our children have state-of-the-art tools for education."
Under the agreement, the city will buy 15,000 laptops for $200 each, Langford said. The $3 million deal will allow every child in grades one through eight in Birmingham city schools to receive a laptop, he said.
"Our students will have access to global thinking now," said Birmingham schools Superintendent Stan Mims. "It becomes a tipping point in the digital divide."
Langford has asked the City Council to approve $7 million for the laptops and a scholarship program that would give Birmingham students with a C average or above a scholarship to college or tech school of their choice. The City Council has not yet approved the funding.
The rugged, waterproof computers will be distributed to students on April 15, Langford said, and children will be allowed to take them home. If a computer is lost, the school system can disable it, rendering it useless, Langford said. Students will turn in their computers at the end of their eighth-grade year.
Kids know how:
The machine, called the XO Laptop and dubbed the "$100 laptop," was designed by Nicholas Negroponte, the founding director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory. He set out to build a $100 laptop so every child in developing countries could have access to new channels of learning, said Jackie Lustig, spokeswoman for One Laptop Per Child.
The XO didn't make the target price and it sells for about $200, still far below the $500 price tag of most basic laptop computers in U.S. retail shops, Lustig said.
Langford said training for the computers will not be a problem, as they were designed for children to pick up on immediately.
"Get the computers, get them in the children's hands and get out of the way," he said. He brought back two demo computers from his weekend trip to Boston and said a 3-year-old went up to him at a restaurant and began teaching him to use the computer.
"Every child in this restaurant came up to me and within minutes, they were on Google surfing the Web," he said. Even though the computers are so easy to use, Langford said a consulting firm has offered to train students in all Birmingham schools.
Langford said he was asked to be the national spokesman for the program as other U.S. cities begin taking advantage of One Laptop Per Child.As Fox News put it perfectly:
If $200 laptop computers are good for kids in Peru and Mongolia, why not Alabama?
Birmingham's City Council has approved a $3.5 million plan to provide schoolchildren with 15,000 computers produced by the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which aims to spread laptops to poor children in developing countries.
The foundation says the deal marks the first time a U.S. city has agreed to buy the machines, which also are headed to such countries as Rwanda, Thailand, Brazil and Mexico in addition to Peru and Mongolia.
Then came the really bad news about the whole XO laptop program, normally reserved for "developing countries" though Birmingham was to be the first pilot-case in America: the almost-entirely black student population of Birmingham City Schools failed to even use them [ Most Birmingham classrooms not using XO laptops much, but supporters urge not giving up on them, Birmingham News, 7-25-2010]:
Two years into the XO laptop initiative for Birmingham's elementary school students, a recent study shows only a fifth of the students who have the computers use them much in class.
More than $4 million has been invested in the project, but the city recently eliminated XO funding, at least for now, as part of its budget cuts.
But the initiative's supporters say that with the right teacher training the laptops can be useful in class, and they hope city and school leaders won't give up on the project.
According to a study conducted by an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, about 20 percent of students reported using the laptops "a lot" in class, about 60 percent reported using them only "a little" and about 20 percent reported never using them. Just 31 percent said they learn more in class with the computers.And just what did that study quoted from above reveal about the pilot-program for XO laptop program - normally reserved for third world, developing countries - in Birmingham, Alabama? [One Laptop per Child Birmingham: Case Study of a Radical Experiment,Warschauer, Cotten, and Ames, 2010]:
The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program is one of the most ambitious educational reform initiatives the world has ever seen. The program has developed a radically new low-cost laptop computer and aggressively promoted its plans to put the computer in the hands of hundreds of millions of children around the world, focusing on those in the most impoverished nations. Though fewer than two million of the OLPC’s XO computers have been distributed as of this writing, the initiative has caught the attention of world leaders, influenced developments in the global computer industry, and sparked controversy and debate about the best ways to improve the lives of the world’s poor. In 2008, OLPC launched its first major implementation in the United States with the distribution of 15,000 XO computers to students in grades 1–5, teachers, and administrators in Birmingham, Alabama. Imposed on the local school district by the Birmingham City Council, the program was mired in controversy from the beginning.
The largest deployment of XO laptops in the United States to date occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, from 2008 to 2010. The former mayor of Birmingham, Larry Langford, a contentious figure in Alabama politics, contracted with OLPC to purchase 15,000 XO laptops for children in the first through eighth grades (later this became first through fifth grades) in Birmingham city schools. Over 95% of the students in Birmingham schools are African American, and poverty levels are very high, with 80% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. The mayor stated that he wanted to eliminate the digital divide in Birmingham and to prepare children to be active participants in the information- and technology-based society that currently exists in the United States (Leech 2007).
Much of this controversy was A total of 80.3% of the Birmingham students surveyed indicated they either never use the XOs at school (20.4%) or use them a little (59.9%). Only 19.7% of students indicated they use them a lot at school. This stands in contrast to our surveys in other districts, where a majority of teachers and students indicated they use laptops for a substantial amount of the school day on a daily basis. For example, fourthgrade students in Saugus reported using the netbooks a mean of two hours per day in school, while fifthgrade students in Littleton reported using the netbooks a mean of 1.8 hours per day in school. We suspect the classroom use figures reported by Birmingham students are actually overstated. Answers to other questions suggest that much of the reported school use occurs outside the classroom. For example, though only 20.4% of students indicated they never use the XO at school, 29.7% indicated on a separate question that they never use the XO in class. In Littleton and Saugus, students do not have access to the netbooks outside of class, so the reported numbers can refer only to school use in class. related to the mayor of Birmingham, a contentious figure in Alabama politics and the one who initiated the OLPC program in the city. The XOs were seldom used in class and broke down at a rapid rate. After the two people responsible for launching the program, the mayor and city council president, were imprisoned for unrelated corruption, the new city leadership faced financial deficits and cut off further funding for the OLPC program, leading to its demise.
In 2010, the Birmingham City Council cut off further funding for the XO program as part of a broader package of cuts made in response to budget deficits. Though XOs remained in the schools, the school superintendent moved the XO program “to a subordinate position” and began to emphasize other uses of technology (Birmingham News Editorial Board 2010). In spring 2011, Birmingham City Schools announced they were moving away from using XO laptops in the schools because of the continued lack of funding from the city council and problems with reliability of the XOs. The Birmingham program stands in marked contrast to other one-to-one programs in the United States, which have shown broadly positive results. Laptops are widely used in these programs on a daily basis (see, e.g., Silvernail and Lane 2004; Warschauer 2006), and educational leaders are satisfied with their impact on teaching and learning processes (Greaves and Hayes 2008). Though a small number of laptop programs have been discontinued either because of lack of funding or lack of impact on test score outcomes (Hu 2007), we know of no other large laptop program in the United States where the computers themselves are seldom used in the classroom. In the two other programs using netbooks and open source software investigated as part of Warschauer’s (2011) broader study, both districts experienced teacher and student satisfaction, improved learning processes, and gains in student test scores.
Birmingham, as a representative case-study in Actual Black-Run America (ABRA) shouldn't be considered in the same conversation as a Mexico or Rwanda, labeled a"developing country" worthy of XO computers for its K-12 student population; it's a failed state, whose elected officials should be jailed -- in the case of former Mayor Larry Langford, he is.
This has been another installment of "Great Moments in Black History."