Every fifth- and sixth-grader at Johnson Elementary will receive a $1,350 IBM ThinkPad computer loaded with digital versions of state-approved textbooks and 2,000 works of literature. If the experiment works, the program will be expanded to other grades.
In Henrico County, Va., where schools give laptops to all high schoolers, Apple Computer Inc. replaced pop-out CD-ROM trays with slides on its iBook laptops when students kept breaking off the trays after forgetting to close them.
“They get heavy use, and occasionally they drop them,” said Cathy Fisher, Henrico’s director of high school education. Still, she said breakage, as well as thefts, are rare.
The Henrico school board will decide next year whether to renew the deal with Apple, which cost the school district $18.5 million over four years. Fisher said the district can’t prove that computers raise test scores, but she said they make learning more interesting.
Smith, whose program serves up to 150 students, doesn’t know what he’ll do after the experiment with textbook-loaded laptops next year. It all depends on the price, he said.