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ELC/Kosovo kids communicate via computers

By Staff | Mar 22, 2008

In the 1960s, it was Art Linkletter who coined the phrase, “Kids say the darndest things.”

Fast forward to the 2007-08 school year, where Beth Langford’s Seventh Grade Talented and Gifted kids think up the darndest things.

These students at Estherville Lincoln Central Middle School thought it would be unique to be pen pals to students in Kosovo where their art teacher Jerry Wilson is currently deployed with the Iowa National Guard.

Since his departure in July, Wilson has sent photos home of the countryside, people and young students attending school in that Eastern Europe location.

“My students dreamed up a scavenger hunt activity where they gave clues about Estherville geography to see if they could figure out where we live,” Langford explained. Student Ben Herrick’s clue was, “I’m living where ‘living is great at the top of the state.'”

Langford continued, “We just assumed these Kosovo students had computers at school and in their homes. But they don’t. And in a town of 56,000, youth have to walk a long ways to get to the public library to use computers there.”

The class discovered a program titled “One Laptop Per Child” where a single laptop could be purchased for $200 with a word processing program to be sent to Third World countries.

“We couldn’t designate where the computer could be sent unless we ordered 100 or more and that would cost us $20,000. The students knew that was too much money to raise.”

But that doesn’t mean they hit a dead-end. A new avenue was provided by Tom Lynch, owner of the Computer Zone in Estherville, who suggested contacting various computer companies and software companies and pitch the idea of providing computers to a school in Kosovo.

Lisa Fernholz, technical director at Northwest Iowa Technical College in Sheldon, suggested Langford and students research possibilities through the Gates Foundation for grants.

Lynch also told the class to be careful when purchasing software and computers for use outside the United States.

“He said to make sure the programmed software comes in their language and that power source is adaptable to the plug,” the teacher said. “He also said to check how much it would cost to buy an ink jet cartridge for the printer.” The computer would be of no use to anyone if the user couldn’t afford to replace the printer’s ink cartridge.

So their assignment was to contact computer/software companies to solicit donations for their cause.

“We have asked, ‘Would you consider donating a laptop with software and the proper power source for use in a Kosovo school?”

Langford said the efforts have not produced any favorable results. Unfortunately, both of these suggestions fizzled. The companies had no program for this type of donation and the Gates Foundation has restrictive guidelines for grant applications.

So on to Plan C.

The students will be holding a raffle to raise funds of about $1,000 to make the purchase locally. Tickets are $1 apiece or 10 for $5 and can be purchased at the Computer Zone. Prizes include: full-size electronic basketball game, Blue Bunny ice cream for a year, inflatable love seats, Treats to Treasures special items, 8-foot inflatable Hulk, giant lollipop and more. The winners will be announced at the end of the school year.

“I’m glad my students envisioned this community service project that they did. I’m proud of them that they chose to do it in the spirit they’ve chosen and are providing communication in a country that doesn’t speak English. This has given my students an appreciation for the country they live in and its benefits,” Langford commented.