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Friday, March 23, 2012

Schools Abandon Textbooks To Go All iPad

Burlington High School Principal Patrick Larkin shows off his iPad at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

Apple reports schools in more than 600 districts have bought iPads for all of their students. And it’s not happening just in wealthy suburbs. Schools in urban districts like New York City and Chicago are also handing out iPads.

In the Boston area, Burlington High School launched a one-to-one iPad program in the fall, providing a tablet for each student.

It cost the school about $500,000 for the devices, and the principal, Patrick Larkin, said the school paid for them within its existing budget.

How To Pay For iPads

The school saved money by getting rid of its computer labs, abandoning plans to build a new language lab and deciding it would no longer buy new textbooks.

Larkin said they didn’t throw away the old books, but no longer need to buy new ones, since students and teachers can find everything they need online.

Larkin said the school isn’t even buying electronic versions of textbooks, since they end up costing the schools more than traditional ones in the long run.

Teacher Skepticism

Some teachers were initially skeptical of the change.

Burlington High history chair, Todd Whitten, said he was afraid the kids would spend all their time playing video games and texting friends.

But he said if teachers stay attentive, they can keep their students focused. He said if kids start getting too distracted by the iPads, he just makes sure they turn them off.

“The great thing about the iPad is you just turn it over and it’s done.” Whitten told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

The project is just in its first year, but Larkin said so far, kids seem to be doing as well or better with the iPads.

But Burlington might not be an all iPad school forever.

Larkin said you never know what the next technology will be, and they are prepared to switch to the next best thing in the years to come.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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