The Eanes school district will become one the first in the state to distribute iPads to every single one of its students, kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Texas Legislature paved the way for school districts to adopt tablets two years ago by allowing schools districts to spend textbook money on digital learning materials.
Of course, the school districts still have to buy their own iPads, and that’s what the Eanes school board voted to do last month: Spend $1.2 million to buy enough iPad 2s for every student in the district.
“It’s worth the money, and also, this can change the educational dynamic in the classroom in making it much more student-driven is what makes it a very powerful instrument and the board felt it was worth the money,” said board President Kal Kallison.
Whether it will be worth the money depends on how the iPads are integrated with curriculum, according to Vincent Cho, a professor of education at Boston College who specializes in technology.
“Whether or not that happens isn’t about the technology,” Cho said. “It’s about whether or not teachers understand the curriculum and they understand how to use the technology to get kids learning in those ways. Otherwise, we’re just buying expensive typewriters.”
Eanes Superintendent Nola Welman says they’ve been carefully rolling out iPads to make sure the devices actually help students learn. Last year, all high school students got one.
“We’re finding that students realize it’s just a tool, it’s just like a textbook or a piece of paper and a pencil,” Welman said. “And they’re much more comfortable with it than those of us who didn’t have it when we were in school.”
Before iPads are handed out to all Eanes students this year, teachers will receive training and students will learn about appropriate use of their new devices. The iPads are Wi-Fi only, and the Internet connection at schools in Eanes filters what the district considers inappropriate content.
Welman says she expects all 2,700 or so iPads will be distributed by the end of April.