If Glenbard High School District 87 officials have their way, iPads will replace textbooks and novels next fall for all incoming freshmen.
The proposal to use the devices was discussed at four recent community forums and presented at this week's school board meeting. It comes on the heels of eight iPad pilot programs at the district's four high schools over the past two years, including a "bring your own device" policy that allows students to use smartphones and tablets in class.
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Jeff Feucht, assistant superintendent for educational services, cited research over the past five years saying that simply deploying learning devices "is not a silver bullet," but properly implemented educational technology can substantially improve student achievement.
"Students will learn more at a faster pace," Feucht said, "and students will be able to take on learning work and create learning products that previously were inconceivable."
A proposed rental program will fund the initiative. Students will have the option to either rent an iPad from Glenbard or bring their own qualifying iPad.
Students in grades 10 through 12 would remain on the paper textbook rental fee structure next year as the iPads are phased in.
The total estimated annual cost of renting an iPad would be $274 per student; with $189 of that for an iPad rental fee and $85 for purchasing digital curriculum. Over the course of four years, the cost would come to $756 per student.
The annual cost of textbooks, novels and workbooks is currently $195.
Chris McClain, assistant superintendent for business services, said the program will require an investment by the district of $500,000 to $600,000 annually when factoring in the 35 percent of the district's students who won't be able to afford renting or buying an iPad.
But he projects other expenditures will be reduced by a minimum of $300,000 by year four as the district begins phasing out the number of traditional desktop computers it has and reduces spending on textbooks.
Cindy McManus, world languages department chairman at Glenbard South, said she's seen a 6 percent jump in students' speaking and writing skills from an iPad test program.
"One of the biggest benefits of having an iPad is there's a more seamless flow to their learning process," McManus said. "It gives them an opportunity to learn at their own pace."
A survey of 512 teachers throughout the district found 90 percent are ready to begin using iPads as part of classroom instruction by the 2014-2015 school year.
R.J. Kasicki, an English teacher at Glenbard East, is part of an iPad pilot program that started in January.
"What we noticed is that the benefits were almost immediate as far as student engagement," Kasicki said. "Last year we had two chronic truants. Once we got them iPads, they were always there."
Responding to a concern about parental control, director of technology Nate Dhamers said, "Once the device comes home, it's up to parents what happens to it. They can put content filters on it. They can take the devices away and lock them up. When they're inside here, we have a pretty restrictive content filter."
The board will be asked to approve the plan at its Nov. 18 meeting.