Are you looking for organizations that offer free laptop computers to low income families and single parents? If so, the good news is there are resources available to increase home technology access so digital learning is not limited to classrooms.
Resources for Free Laptop Computers
While not an exhaustive list, here are some sources for free laptops or computers that may be able to help you out:
Computers for Youth (CFY): Qualified participants receive a free refurbished computer that is preloaded with educational software. In addition to the free computer, program participants have access to free online educational software, resources and support. CFY (www.cfy.org) also provides information on resources for affordable internet service providers (ISPs).
Alachua FreeNet Computer Recycling Program: The AFN Recycling Program is a program manned by volunteers who distribute refurbished, recycled computers to needy individuals and groups on a case-by-case basis. There is no specific criteria or qualification listed, but the website states preference is given to schools, non-profit organizations, and individuals with special needs. To request to be considered for a computer, send an email to email@example.com, and include the following information:
Day and evening phone numbers
Email address (if applicable)
Information about how the computer will be used
Computers for Kids C4K: Low-income students in the Charlottesville and Ablemarle regions of Virginia may qualify to earn a year's worth of free internet service and a free home computer through Computer for Kids (www.computer4kids.net). C4K offers an independent learning program paired with an after school training and mentoring program to give students in grades 7 through 12 access to digital learning and technology. This is a 36 hour program with specific milestones students need to meet for their graduation. The free computer is available once students complete their first technology project and have it evaluated. Program participants must adhere to all program standards and guidelines and be in good standing to receive their computer.
Computers With Causes: Computers With Causes provides refurbished computers on a case by case basis to needy individuals and organizations. Apply online (www.computerswithcauses) or contact them at 888-228-7320.
Castaway Computers: While Castaway Computers (www.castawaycomputers.org) does provide refurbished computers to individuals and groups, they do not work directly with the individuals. To request consideration for a computer, you need to work through a religious, non-profit or educational organization. The requesting agency must fill out Castaway Computer's application form, and the recipient must conform to their guidelines for receiving a donated computer.
Freecycle (www.freecycle.org) is a grassroots movement that matches individuals who have stuff they want to get rid of with people who are looking for that item. It's recycling at its best because it is a win-win situation for giver and receiver. Groups are locally based and membership is free. While it might take a few days, weeks or even years to find someone with a computer to donate, it might be worth the time and effort. Who knows? You might just connect with someone who has something you have always dreamed of having but could not afford.
Finding Free or Cheap Internet Access
Having a home computer is wonderful, but unless families and single parents can find affordable Internet access, it is a limited academic tool. A quick way to overcome this barrier is to use a service like All Free ISP (www.all-free-isp). Use their free service to compare rates to select the best internet service provider or locate free ISP sources.
Just enter your state of residence or area code to bring up their database information for your region. The companies are listed by the name of the city and the prefix of the area code. You'll also be able to learn the name of the internet service provider and basic information on the rate schedule. All Free ISP uses a four-state rating system and offers information about the types of platforms that are supported by their service.
Benefits of Digital Learning
Children with a home computer and internet connection have access to a wide range of free online educational resources and support systems. They develop crucial computer skills that make them more employable in today's increasingly high tech world. Computers and the Internet offer academic benefits such as:
Self-paced, self-directed instruction: Children can learn at their own pace instead of struggling to keep up with others in a class or being bored by working in a group that is learning at a slower pace.
Higher levels of achievement and engagement: Students have access to courses and methodologies that might not otherwise be available, especially if they attend schools in low-income communities with limited resources. Because they can go online when it is most convenient for their schedules, they may end up logging more educational hours than they would in a traditional classroom setting. Choosing topics of the highest interest for them keeps them engaged and eager to learn more.
Parental involvement and support: Having access to the Internet and free digital learning activities, tools and resources allows parents to become more involved in their children's educational process. Parents are readily available to answer questions and provide support, and in many cases, the whole family can utilize the computer to learn as a group. An example of this application would be using free online courses to learn another language.
The value of free laptop computers to low income families and single parents goes far beyond the cash value of the donation or the equipment. The academic and future employment opportunities far outweigh the monetary costs.
Image credit: Whizzkid by pdekker3 under royalty free license via SXC
Screenshot by D. Cosmato, 2012