Illustration by David Busby
I don't think of myself as a covetous person, but I do suffer from one particular strain of Greeneyedmonsteritis — house envy.
I live in a fine house. There is plenty of room. We are very happy there.
But something happens to me when I step into a house with floor-to-ceiling windows and a butler's pantry and a state-of-the-art professional-grade oven and a dressing room off the master bedroom — I mean suite.
I fall into a momentary fantasy in which my house is the setting for the most fabulous cocktail parties, and the perfect chocolate soufflés emerge from my Wolf L Series double oven while my family basks in the warm, rich glow of the natural light that flows through my entire house.
That's precisely how I feel every time I open the newspaper and read that Henrico County is doling out more computers to its students.
The county has been a national leader in bringing technology into the classroom, beginning a decade ago when it put iBooks into the hands of every high-school student and later as it expanded the program to a laptop for every student and teacher in grades six to 12.
Now Henrico is looking to take the next technological step by phasing out laptops for even whizz-bangier portable digital platforms like tablets and Kindles. This will lead to the Holy Grail of the Education of the Future: the elimination of traditional textbooks altogether, not to mention the straightening of children's spines.
As progress speeds along in Henrico, those of us in Richmond, Chesterfield and surrounding counties stand like encouraging parents on the shores of technological advancement as our school districts dip their toes into the waters of pilot programs. "Go on," we urge gently. "You can do it!"
Teachers report that students are more engaged, working more collaboratively and bringing deeper thinking to problem-solving.
Doesn't that sound wonderful? Like French doors leading to a sunroom off the breakfast nook.
Henrico also has more than 2,000 Promethean interactive white boards in its classrooms, allowing teachers to project anything from their computers onto the boards. Students can draw on them, manipulate images, solve problems on them just like on a chalkboard. A totally awesome chalkboard with no eraser banging.
Richmond and Chesterfield use these, too, but they are merely scattered throughout classrooms. In Richmond, computers I recently heard described as "boat anchors" are often marked out-of-order. Maybe it's not fair to pick on other localities for not making the same strides as Henrico, as there are obvious issues of budget concerns and management that are crucial to this discussion.
Even though good financial decisions were key to getting computers into the hands of Henrico's students, the real catalysts were vision and political will. Even in the face of skepticism a decade ago, glitches like students playing games and viewing porn (oops!), long repair times, changing school boards and superintendents, and yes, even a stampede over used iBooks, Henrico stuck to its guns that the future wasn't some far-off time. It was now.
I want to see kids across the area, the haves and the have-nots, all pulling out their clean little iPads instead of their grubby notebooks to work on geometry or science. I want to see them reading their assignments on Kindles. I want to see them darting up to the smart board to solve math problems. I want to see teachers given every tool they need and want to help inspire their students.
I want flying school buses!
Crazy, I know, but I dare to dream because Henrico's forward thinkers have made me greedy for a Jetson-y future, filled with Promethean boards, iPads and Kindles.
And maybe even Wolf double ovens.