Gurnee Elementary District 56 plans to start distributing personal tablet computers to all students next month, and Superintendent John Hutton says being among the trailblazers with such an initiative has risks.
Hutton, who reviewed a handbook that'll govern use of the Apple iPads at Wednesday night's school board meeting, said the risks are worth taking.
"Being a trailblazer, we do not have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of others," Hutton said. "We have done our homework and have looked at this hypothetically from every angle possible."
All 2,250 students -- from prekindergarten through eighth grade -- will receive their iPads during specific rollout nights starting Dec. 5. The last of the tablets will be distributed to the pupils, who must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, in late February.
District 56 is calling it the "1 to 1 iPad Initiative." In part, the district says the devices will provide a way for students to be empowered to maximize their potential with 21st-century tools for learning.
Officials have crafted several guidelines as part of the lengthy handbook governing the iPads' use at home and school.
Areas covered by the guidelines include a warning that there should be no privacy expectation because the tablets are the property of District 56 and may be seized and examined at any time. Disclosing personal information about someone, racially offensive material and sending mass emails are among the unacceptable and strictly prohibited uses.
"Students must use good judgment when using the camera," the iPad handbook says. "The camera will not be used to take inappropriate, illicit or sexually explicit photos or videos, nor will it be used to embarrass anyone in any way. Use of the camera and microphone are strictly prohibited unless permission is granted by district staff."
Board member Brian Weir voiced concern about how the camera use would be monitored. But Technology Director Phil Hintz responded that employees keeping on eye on the students will be the best way to ensure the cameras are used properly.
District 56 officials received a brief presentation from Spaulding School speech pathologists Jen LaCroix and Amy Ball on the potential the iPad offers their students. They showed video of a 5-year-old preschooler with a motor speech disorder using the tablet to improve his communication skills last year.
In one instance, the boy pointed to his school friends and family on the tablet when asked. The speech pathologists said the boy will be able to better communicate about his school day with his parents when he gets to bring home the iPad.
Various computer efforts have been popping up in the suburbs. At Carol Stream Elementary District 93, officials say a "1:1 learning initiative" means the goal is to have all 4,000 students with their own iPad or MacBook Air by 2015.
At Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, roughly 1,350 pupils were given Lenovo ThinkPad tablets, keyboard cases and styluses for classroom and home use for the 2012-13 academic year.