A Texas school district is trying to close its digital divide by distributing thousands of Apple tablet computers in a move that could make it the largest iPad program for students in the United States.
The McAllen Independent School District has distributed more than 6,800 devices—mostly the iPad tablet computers, but also hundreds of iPod Touch devices for its youngest students.
By this time next year, the district says, every one of its more than 25,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade will receive an iPad or iPod Touch. The district believes it’s the largest effort of its kind, and while Apple Inc. would not confirm that, other districts the company noted as having made large investments have not made ones as big as McAllen’s.
Educational use of the tablet computers is so new that there’s little evidence available on its impact for improving learning. McAllen Superintendent James Ponce says the district wants to change the classroom culture, making it more interactive and creative, and decided Apple’s devices—even at $500 retail for an iPad 2—were the best investment.
The district’s typical classroom is outfitted with three computers for students and one for the teacher. Under the new plan, those technology investments will be supplanted by the iPads. For now, McAllen’s iPads don’t carry its textbooks, but eventually they will, and at a much lower cost than the hard copies, which can cost $200 apiece.
A small group of teachers in the district began preparing more than a year ago to incorporate the devices into their lessons. Recently, more instructors have started studying the devices. Teachers already training will see their students receive the first wave of devices.
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2012 edition of Digital Directions as iPads Easing a Texas District’s Digital Divide