Leaders of the Henrico (Va.) County Public Schools announced in May that they will buy 23,000 Apple iBook computers and give one to every high school teacher and student this fall. The district will spend about $20 million just on the purchase of the computers.
With all of this newfound computing power, the question arises: What is the district going to do with its new resources?
Henrico’s intention is to shift as rapidly as possible to a paperless administrative and educational system. Teachers are learning how to give and grade assignments online. Administrators’ meetings will be held online, eliminating travel costs and travel time for administrators who do not work at district headquarters. The district has scaled back its purchase of textbooks greatly for high schoolers, saving millions of dollars in the next several years that can be used to fund the technology initiative. Teachers are even reviewing ways to reconfigure classrooms, because students who use laptops may work more effectively at tables than at individual desks.
To make the system a success, Henrico is investing heavily in teacher training. It has developed summer institutes designed to show teachers how to use technology in the classroom. Already, 180 summer institutes modules have been developed, ranging across all subject areas. Teachers are encouraged to take these technology training courses through a $14-per-hour stipend and credits toward certifications and graduate degrees.
The district also is determining how to ensure that all students have internet access at home. Officials are seeking discounted or free service from an internet service provider for the estimated 30 percent of students who do not have home internet accounts already.
The rollout of computers won’t stop with the district’s high schools. Middle school teachers will get iBooks during the 2001-02 school year, and middle school students will get them by the start of the 2002-03 year. Each elementary school classroom has five laptops now, and elementary teachers will be provided with laptops in the next year or so.