Mike Isaac

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Boosting STEM Education, Facebook Starts Christmas Early With Laptops for Schools

Facebook Home questions and answers session.’Tis the season for selflessness — and Facebook is getting an early start on its gift-giving.

As part of its efforts to encourage learning in the STEM fields of education, the company is donating hundreds of free laptops to kids in schools around the San Francisco Bay Area.

That came most recently in the form of a free laptop for every eighth grader at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, with a surprise visit from CEO Mark Zuckerberg Facebook CIO Tim Campos, who had 100 Lenovo Thinkpads in tow. (He gave 25 laptops to Mission High School students, as well.)

Everett and Mission High are the first San Francisco schools to which Facebook has donated laptops, but the company has a history of giving away free laptops and computer equipment to schools around the Peninsula and Silicon Valley — closer to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. The company has given away more than 1,000 laptops over the last two years, according to a company spokesperson.

“We understand that young students need the tools of technology to compete. The Facebook laptop giveaway program is designed to provide a critical tool to students in need,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We hope these students will pursue an education in STEM as a result of being exposed to technology now.”

The main focus is on eighth graders and those on the cusp of entering high school, Facebook said, and the company will continue working with civic leaders to pinpoint schools that most need the technology. All of the laptops come via Facebook’s own refurbished-hardware department.

To be sure, donating computer hardware to schools isn’t new to tech companies. Google has a large high school laptop grants program, and of course there is Nicholas Negroponte’s “One Laptop Per Child” initiative (though that has seen its share of struggles).

Still, credit where due — Facebook’s targeted approach with community organizers could be helpful in getting tech help to Bay Area schools where it is needed.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald