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Article posted: 11/26/2012 5:30 AM

All Stevenson High students could get iPads by 2015

By Russell Lissau

Already widely used on campus, Apple iPad tablet computers could be distributed to all Stevenson High School students by 2015, officials said.

If plans progress, every incoming freshman could get one of the popular devices starting next year. That's a small but growing trend across the suburbs.

"There's no doubt that the use of tablets in classrooms is one of the biggest technological changes on the educational landscape," Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.

The Lincolnshire school already leases hundreds of the slim, Internet-accessible tablets from Apple for students and staffers.

An estimated 750 students are participating in a test program called SMART, or Stevenson's Mobile Academic Real-Time Technology. Those students -- in Spanish 2, Advanced Placement Music Theory, and Anatomy and Physiology -- received iPads at the start of the school year, and they can use them on campus and at home.

About 40 teachers are involved.

In January, the school board is expected to expand the SMART program by buying iPads for 50 additional teachers, Conrey said.

Most of the students now in the SMART program are freshmen. For the 2013-14 term, all new freshmen and any sophomores who haven't yet been assigned iPads would get the devices, Conrey said.

That's between 1,000 and 1,100 students, he said. Plans are in preliminary stages and have not been finalized.

If the board eventually opts to expand distribution to all students, Stevenson would join a select number of suburban schools that have taken such a high-tech step.

At Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, more than 1,300 students were given Lenovo ThinkPad tablets and accessories for classroom and home use at the start of the 2012-13 term.

Gurnee Elementary District 56 officials announced this month that all 2,250 students will start using iPads by late February.

In Carol Stream Elementary District 93, the goal is to have 4,000 students using personal iPad or MacBook Air laptop computers by 2015. As part of a first-year test project, some teachers have the devices already and are learning how to best put them to use, said Ryan McPherrin, the district's community relations coordinator.

Early next year, sixth-grade students should have MacBooks for classroom and home use, and kindergartners will have iPads for classroom learning, McPherrin said.

"There's a little bit of nervousness (because) the way you teach will change a little bit," he said. "But there's definitely a lot of excitement among the staff and students as well."

Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 rolled out a similar program this fall. About 1,500 of the district's 13,000 students were assigned iPads for classroom and home use.

Although the program is too new for year-to-year comparative data, educators already have seen teens who were reluctant readers take more interest in their assignments because of the tablets, Associate Superintendent Daniel Cates said. Additionally, some students who had trouble completing homework assignments are getting more of their work done, he said.

"We are seeing a great increase in student engagement," Cates said.

At Stevenson High School, iPad use isn't limited to students in the SMART program. The school also has about 300 tablets for use by students and teachers in classrooms or the library.

Those computers don't go home with teens, however.

Officials in some of the districts with campuswide iPad programs have drafted guidelines for students that govern proper use at home and school. Gurnee District 56's rules remind parents and students that the computers are district property and may be seized and examined at any time.

They also prohibit disclosing someone else's personal information, sending mass emails and sharing racially offensive material.

Stevenson High's student-behavior guidelines are general enough to apply to emergent technology like iPads, Conrey said. Even so, officials may tweak the rules to specifically incorporate the devices, he said.

Although growing in popularity with educators, iPads are not designed to replace teachers, Conrey said.

"They're only a tool," he said.

"They're not the be all, end all in learning."

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