MIAMI — Holmes Elementary School in Miami’s Liberty City community has more than 525 students and now each of them has a laptop, given free of charge through a partnership that seeks to help bridge the digital divide and boost the children’s academic achievements.

The One Laptop Per Child program donated the computers through a $245,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Friday. 

The XO laptops are specially designed for primary school children in developing countries who live in some of the most remote environments.

The computer is about the size of a small textbook and has built-in wireless and a unique screen that is readable under direct sunlight for children who go to school outdoors.

 “Access to the Internet and digital skills are vital for success in today’s connected world,” said Jorge Martinez, who leads the Knight Foundation’s Universal Access Initiative. “We hope the laptops help these eager young minds at Holmes Elementary to become digital natives who are more informed and engaged in their classrooms and their community.”

Along with the laptops, One Laptop Per Child is providing in-house training at the school for parents, teachers and students on how to use the computers to advance students’ learning.

The laptops come equipped with software that allows students and teachers to work more closely together. In real-time, students can follow their teachers’ work on their computers or collaborate on projects.

The nonprofit One Laptop Per Child is also helping to design a curriculum that helps kids meet their academic benchmarks. 

“We are pleased to be working with Knight Foundation and the Miami-Dade County public schools on this new OLPC education initiative in the U.S.,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, chairman and CEO of the One Laptop Per Child Association.  “We believe that partnering with foundations, the private sector and the public sector is an excellent model that can be replicated across the country.”

Holmes Elementary, which serves the majority of Liberty City residents, is at risk of closing at the end of the year if its state test scores do not improve.  In an effort to boost performance, a variety of tools and resources are being used to enhance teaching and learning, including the laptops and training.

“With this project, every child will carry learning in the palm of their hands and we will be one step closer to leveling the educational playing field in Miami,” said Atunya Walker, Holmes Elementary School principal.

Holmes Elementary, 1175 N.W. 67th St. was selected for the laptop giveaway because it is working with Knight Foundation-funded Teach For America to change student performance.

The foundation has provided funding to triple the number of Teach for America teachers in Miami-Dade to 350  in a group of inner city schools that includes Holmes.


FREE LAPTOP:  Kawanda Ford, 5th grade student at Miami’s Holmes Elementary School holds aloft the free XO laptops which she received Friday from a nonprofit group that seeks to help children enter the digital age.