With most schools back in session, students in about 600 districts nationwide will return with a new piece of tech: their own personal Apple iPad.
Since the iPad launched last year, some schools have replaced textbooks with E-books. Programs in two thirds of the 600 districts are new for this year; others started these "one-to-one" programs, in which schools provide one iPad for each student, soon after Apple released the tablet in April, 2010.
[Learn about an Iowa school's one-to-one program.]
Thousands of college lectures, videos, and textbooks are already available on Apple's iTunes U store. Recently, major K-12 textbook manufacturers have started releasing their products electronically as well. Earlier this year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released an iPad app for Algebra 1 that combines its standard textbook with interactive content. Similar apps for Algebra 2 and Geometry are forthcoming. Each iPad app costs schools $59.99, a savings of $13 off the company's hardcover textbook.
In a pilot program in four California districts, students who used the Algebra 1 app outperformed students who used traditional textbooks, according to teachers at one of the pilot schools.
Tablet computers are more than electronic textbooks. With their fast processor, Internet connectivity, and large touch-screen display, tablets can function as powerful graphing calculators, video players, and photo editors. The website iPad in Schools has a list of dozens of apps that can be used in high schools.
These desirable features also make tablet computers a potential source for distractions. The iPad has access to thousands of games and all major social networking sites. According to the Associated Press, many high schools that have implemented one-to-one programs are trying to decide whether students should be allowed to take their iPad home and are devising plans to make sure students are on task while using the devices in school.
Schools that are trying out iPads for the first time this fall have a good model to follow: Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop High School in Minnesota bought 375 iPads for its students shortly after Apple released the product, according to a Marketplace article. In the first year, 22 iPads were lost or broken at the school, but the iPads have helped engage students, cut down on paper, and allowed absent students to keep up with classwork.