Old Laptop or Outdated Tablet? Consider Donating it to a Kid and Making a Big Impact!

1 Apr

Warning – direct solicitation for charity follows.

There is a good chance if you read my blog, or follow me on twitter that you are very connected to technology.  Getting new hardware isn’t just a pleasure, it’s often part of the job.  One side effect is a collection of slightly outdated, but replaced hardware that sits unused in the garage.  Actually I’ll bet most of my readers are not so efficient as to move the old tech to the garage, and instead it sits under one layer of books and papers on the desk!

Sometimes you can find a new home for the tech within the circle of family and friends, but if not I’d like to ask you to consider donating it to the Technology Cooperative.

Closing the digital divide means getting every child access to technology, and access that’s more than a computer in the school library.  A child should feel free to experiment on a computer without fear a parent or teacher will be because "now they have to reinstall the system".  A child is also much more engaged when they have ownership – this is "my" tablet and it runs "my" game and it’s the coolest tablet in the world because there are no other tablets like mine!

So once you donate, what happens after that?

For Android Tablets and Phones we’ll setup App Inventor and start teaching the child programming in one of the most fun ways possible.  App Inventor uses a drag and drop style system (think Scratch) for mobile game and app development.  The amazing part is the development is instant – drag a button on to the development surface in a web browser and see it appear immediately on the tablet.  This quick feedback loop not only give a child the confidence they can program, but also sparks the imagination of all the things they could create.

Laptops are first reviewed for operating system.  If the laptop has a verifiable license and registration key, we’ll reinstall the system.  If not we’ll install Linux and fiddle with any drivers issues to get it running.  After that it’s time for Scratch mentioned above.

Scratch and App Inventor are solid first steps.  As a child grasps the concepts in programming we can move to Python or even jump right in to a professional SDK or framework like Unity.  Of course, this is only one part of what it takes to develop software, so along the way we may get into Gimp, Inkscape, Blender, and software like Open Office that can help with school work.

Microsoft and Apple tablets and phones are welcome, though due to their closed nature are not as easy to open up for development like Android is with App Inventor.  Things are changing all the time however and every child is a unique case, so these devices are just as welcome as the rest.

Old desktop computers are generally not useful.  They require a lot of space the child may not have.  They are not portable, so a child cannot easily bring their desktop to the TechCo for lessons and take it home with them to continue on their own.  We will accept a desktop only after we’ve had a chance to review it first.  It will need to be somewhat modern and we don’t want any CRT monitors.  Storage of these older bulky systems becomes an issue and we’ve tried it and decided the best policy for us was not to accept desktops unless we can use them as classroom computers.  For me, this means being able to install and run Unity to teach game development with.

"This is all great, but what if I don’t have any old tech and still want to donate?!"

The request is for old tech, but new tech works just as well!  There are several $60 – $90 Android tablets that are prefect for App Inventor.  Specs aren’t important, but when looking keep an eye out for "runs Android 4.1" or greater to be on a safe side.  A good example is this model we found on Amazon and ordered for a child.

Old fashion donations of money are also welcome.  Information for donating via PayPal can be found on our website.  There are even programs by Amazon and Kroger that will donate money to the TechCo without any cost to you except a few clicks setting up the Technology Cooperative as your target non-profit.  The Technology Cooperative is a Federal 501c3 Non Profit and all of your donations may be tax deductible.

If you have any questions, or things to donate you can get in touch with us at techco(at)techco.org