Pencils, paper and even textbooks are on the way out at Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
Starting next school year, Buffalo Grove and Elk Grove High schools will be fully 1:1, meaning every student will have an iPad to use in class and at home.
The district's other four high schools and alternative programs will join with full implementation at the start of the 2016-17 school year, officials said, putting the devices in the hands of more than 12,000 Northwest suburban high school students in just a few years.
Already the district is about three-fourths of the way there, with more than 9,000 iPads distributed and many classes phasing out textbooks. By the 2017-18 school year the entire district will have moved to a digital curriculum, eliminating physical textbooks from sight, said Keith Bockwoldt, director of technology services.
The transition has been in the works for years, starting with pilot programs in individual classrooms and training for all teachers.
Bockwoldt said the devices haven't cost the district any additional money. The iPads, which retail between $399 and $699, have been bought with money from grants, Title I funding and savings from not upgrading the district's desktop computers, servers and other technology that is being phased out, he said.
Slowly phasing in the devices over the past five to six years has allowed for more creativity as teachers change the way they teach, officials said.
"The fun part is that every class and every subject uses them differently," said Jeff Vlk, innovative technology facilitator at Buffalo Grove High School.
Students in AP Statistics have to conference into class via FaceTime when they miss school, for example.
"It's held kids accountable. There's really no excuse to miss material for class," Vlk said.
In English classes, students write papers on Google Docs and use other apps to annotate readings and show their understanding. In physical education, they track their heart rate and watch demos for how to do new exercises.
Tim Kosiek reminded his AP Environmental Science students of an upcoming test via a message on Twitter, and when they got to class on Monday they all had their iPads in front of them ready for a review.
But they weren't doing traditional memorization drills all period. Instead, they played a game through an app called Kahoot where Kosiek programmed in multiple choice questions and each student could touch the correct answer on his or her screen. The answers pop up on the projector so Kosiek can see how close the students are to understanding concepts and review where needed.
"We've been using iPads in the classroom for three years, and it has completely changed the way we teach," Kosiek said. "We can now create the environment we want for our students to learn."
Kosiek and many other teachers are writing digital textbooks for their own curriculum, phasing out the need for students to drag around a heavy bag full of books.
"It's awesome," said Zack Masciopinto, a senior at Buffalo Grove High School. "It's easy to keep everything organized. I have a folder and specific apps for each class. I still carry around notebooks and stuff, but I don't really use them."
Students in Quinn Loch's biology and physics classes at Elk Grove High School use their iPads to receive a daily class agenda, along with homework assignments and instant feedback on their work.
"I can check their progress and see what we need to cover again," Loch said. "But there are also creative ways students can show their learning." For example, using an app called Show Me, students turn their iPads into an interactive white board where they can write, draw a picture or annotate a diagram while recording their voice, and then share that video with Loch.
"I can use that on the flip side to create videos for students to watch as a form of notes," he said. "It's almost like notes on demand for them outside the classroom."
With the advent of more technology in the classroom, the role of the teacher is changing, officials said, to be more of a facilitator of learning.
"It really allows us to reinvent the classroom. There are no limits on what instruction can look like," said Steve Kellner, director of professional learning and instructional technology. "There was a time when the teacher was delivering knowledge and you couldn't get it anywhere else. Now knowledge is everywhere, but teachers help put it in context and disseminate what that means."