It’s not everyday that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn makes a publicly announced stop in Forest Park, though he acknowledged this is a great town to celebrate the joys of Fenwick High School athletics where his brother is a teacher. But during a tour Monday of Betsy Ross Elementary School, Quinn and the community as a whole shared a moment worth remembering.
District 91 recently received 100 laptop computers that are unlike any other on the market. The XO, designed by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, caters to children both in function and durability. More specifically, this amazing machine was built with the children of impoverished nations in mind.
The energy efficient laptop is water resistant, virtually dustproof and incredibly sturdy, making it perfect for dry, arid climates where electricity is scarce. It’s also lightweight, colorful and chocked full of educational tools to help kids better grasp their school’s curriculum and the world around them.
So what are students in Forest Park doing with this machine? Negroponte is distributing his XO laptop through a program called One Laptop Per Child. For every computer that’s purchased here in the states, another is sent overseas to children in places like Rwanda and Haiti. Through the Internet, students across the globe will be able to interact.
Quinn has made the advancement of technology in the classroom a priority and is spearheading efforts to bridge what he has labeled the “digital divide.” It was a breakfast meeting with Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins last fall that got the ball rolling to bring the XO laptop to the public schools here. Hoskins, whose own son will get to use a computer in his fifth-grade classroom, quickly called on the mayor and Commissioner Mark Hosty to drum up support in political and business circles. School Superintendent Lou Cavallo and his staff spent hours working with Quinn’s office and sent two staffers to Cambridge, Mass., for training at MIT on the use of the revolutionary laptop. In every way, this was a collaborative effort that makes a tangible difference in kids’ lives.
Secondary to the bottom line goal of improving education, the schools and the municipality are now at the head of the class in the lieutenant governor’s statewide push to bring more computers to educators. Betsy Ross teacher Katherine Valleau will likely speak to lawmakers in Springfield when HB5000 asks legislators to support a two-year pilot program in support of the One Laptop Per Child program. Quinn was openly impressed with Valleau and her students and said she’d make a great envoy in closing the digital divide. And because the support here for One Laptop Per Child was not limited to the schools, Quinn and his staff will surely remember that level of cooperation each time the village is mentioned.