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If the only knowledge school administrators have of our laptop program in Henrico (Va.) Public Schools is through the media, they might think that giving laptops to students isn't worth the effort. News coverage correctly reported that a small number of students downloaded material they shouldn't have after we gave every high school student an iBook at the beginning of the 2001-02 school year.

Certainly this is distressing, but we've proven we can handle it. Experiencing this, and the other ups and downs of our laptop experience, has only strengthened our commitment.

In September, every seventh grader in Maine-and their teachers-will be given their own iBook and free 24/7 Internet access. The following year, every eighth grader will get an iBook. Two years ago, Maine Gov. Angus King caused an eruption of debate when he proposed this laptop plan. At the time there was little if any legislative support. Today, it's the law of the land. King hopes this initiative will serve as a catalyst for reinventing public education and as a means for maintaining his state's quality of life.

Principal: I don't know what I am going to do with some of my teachers. They are so resistant to using technology and stuck in their ways. I move heaven and earth to bring the best computer infrastructure to the school, and they just let it sit there.

Sound familiar? Administrators repeat these words over and over on the battlefield of technology integration in our public schools. There are many "reasons" for this, but this month's column exposes the nasty truth. Public schools don't do an adequate job of technical support. Read the teacher retort below:

One of the best ways to spend the summer is curled up with a good book. The following are nominees for books that will inspire, provoke or entertain educators. Professional development for you and your staff is only a bookstore away. Why not stay connected with your colleagues this summer by starting a book club? You can find all of these books and more at

Summer Reading

The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith


Q&A with Joseph Baust Sr. of the North American Association for Environmental Education

I was sitting in my 12th grade physics class, carving my initials into the top of my desk. It wasn't that I believed physics to be irrelevant; to the contrary, though I knew little about physics, I concluded that it had to be important. After all, you had to take lots of other science classes before you earned the right to take physics, and if you were college bound, your guidance counselor was sure to push you to take it.

On the front seat of a New Orleans taxi was a television the cabbie managed to watch while driving. The TV was tuned to an infomercial for a miracle home food dehydrator. The show demonstrated all of the ways in which this amazing technology would revolutionize your life. The host actually made the following claim, "You can save hundreds of dollars per year on jerky alone!" I thought to myself, "How much money would you need to spend on jerky before you could save hundreds of dollars?

Long, long ago, in some mythical classroom of the lost world, if you wanted to know how well a student was learning, you'd just ask the teacher. Teachers then not only had eyes in the back of their heads, but powerful eyes all around that could read the body language of 30 students at once, zero in on one child's scrawl while evaluating another's doodles, and see which kids added with their fingers and which read with their lips.

Aliterate citizen has command of a large and expressive vocabulary. Schools "do vocabulary" presumably in the hopes of creating thoughtful thinkers and articulate communicators.

Vocabulary is developed by immersion in a social culture rich in stories, songs and other people to converse with. Despite the intuitive and scientific evidence of this truth, schools still insist on drilling new words into kids.

HyperStudio and Microsoft PowerPoint 2002

Apink starfish on a bright blue background on a computer screen introduces a special creation from a bunch of third-graders in Tennessee.

"Animals in the Coral Reef" is spelled out colorfully on another screen and written as if a child innocently scribbled it.

This is the beginning of a HyperStudio project that third-graders in Laura Peacock's class in Memphis' Orleans Elementary School created last year.