Every Carmel Catholic High School student will start the 2012-13 term with a personal tablet computer, officials announced Monday.
The campuswide, high-tech effort is the first of its kind at any school in Lake County and among the first in the Chicago area.
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"Technology is an increasingly integral means of education in our changing world," Principal Lynne Strutzel said in a news release. "There is no question that this technology initiative is essential for our students."
An estimated 1,370 students at the Mundelein private school will receive Lenovo ThinkPad tablets, keyboard cases and styluses for classroom and home use. The school will lease the tablets, but families will have an option to buy them when the leases end, school spokeswoman Dawn Jenich said in a telephone interview.
A per-student cost estimate was not available Monday. The cost of the devices will be added to the tuition bill, according to a Carmel document about the project.
The tablets won't replace traditional printed textbooks. As popular as tablet computers have become since Apple unveiled the iPad in 2010, textbook manufacturers have not yet embraced the medium.
So at Carmel, the devices will be supplemental aids that should help students improve their skills and will let them participate in electronic debates and discussions, officials said.
Tests could be administered through the devices, too.
The tablet project -- dubbed a "1:1" program because each student will get a computer -- has been in the works for three years, Jenich said. Teachers were issued Lenovo tablets two years ago.
"Over the past several years, our teachers have come to recognize technology as an aid to improving student learning through the use of online classroom resources, forums, blogs and discussion boards," Strutzel said.
Carmel went with the Lenovo ThinkPad over the industry-leading iPad for a few reasons, officials said.
Primarily, the ThinkPad -- which runs Android software -- comes equipped with USB ports that allow data and software from other computers or devices to be saved on them easily. They also have HDMI ports that will enable students to use overhead classroom projectors.
The iPad doesn't have either port.
Additionally, educators didn't think students would need access to Apple's plentiful software outlet, the App store, because they won't be using the tablets for games or entertainment.
"It's an academic tool," Jenich said.
Carmel officials plan to restrict access to the school's computer network to limit students to educational material while on campus, Jenich said.
A discussion of the technology initiative for parents is planned for Thursday night at the school.
Tablets, especially iPads, are being used at many suburban schools, but to a much lesser extent than what's planned for Carmel.
About 850 students in Northwest Suburban High School District 214 are participating in a test program that could eventually lead to all students in the district having their own tablets.
Some St. Charles Unit District 303 students have been assigned iPads for all-day use, too.
In Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, some teachers recently received grants to purchase iPads for social studies classes and to help students with disabilities and special needs.