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Local school to require students to have iPads

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By Stephanie Harper

For the Courier

In earlier days, it wasn’t unusual for a student to bring her favorite teacher an apple. At Front Range Christian School, students will be keeping the apples themselves to feed their hunger for knowledge.

The South Jeffco middle/high school will bring educational technology to a new level in the 2011-12 school year, when it will require each of its 400 students to have an iPad.

D.J. Turner, spokeswoman for Front Range Christian, said teachers would decide how the iPads will be used in their classes.

“Teachers will be deciding on their own apps,” Turner said.

But there’s little doubt that the high-tech tablets will make teacher presentations and notes more available and accessible to students.

Also, kindergarteners can learn how to write with an app that lets them use their fingers on the screen. With thousands of apps to choose from, the possibilities seem endless.

“For both public and private schools to stay competitive, they must embrace technology,” Turner said.

The iPad initiative is designed to do just that.

“Students are digital immigrants,” she said, adding that bringing iPads into the classroom is not only a way to teach the proper use of technology but also to demonstrate real-world applications. In fact, Turner believes the iPad initiative is “a natural next step for students preparing for college.”

Front Range junior Alissa Cornhoff, 17, agrees. She finds the compact nature of the iPad an ideal alternative to a traditional textbook.

“Carrying around books is a pain,” she says. “The iPad is small, great for class. I will be able to carry it everywhere.”

Her mother, Angela Gifford, said Alissa’s goal of majoring in pre-med in college will be aided by technology in a field where information is ever-evolving.

“I hear (with the iPad), you can download a new book every month, as they come out of date,” she said.

Still, Angela Gifford has concerns about the cost for parents, especially those at lower income levels or who have multiple kids attending the school.

“I am concerned about families on scholarship and those with multiple students,” she said.

The iPad 2 starts at $499, and the school has asked that families purchase iPads for their middle and high school students by January 2012. The initiative was emphasized at a parent meeting in February, where Angela says the parents were told, “Come next January, it will be straight iPads — no books.”

Turner addressed the potential financial strain.

“We will be offering a leasing program for those parents concerned about purchasing,” she says.

She also said teachers would try to select the most affordable apps when choosing their classroom materials.

Among other concerns is the actual classroom application of the technology. Reports have noted that the touch keyboard of the iPad is difficult for some users to master. Alissa admitted that “they’re a little difficult for typing papers, but you can always get accessories.”

Turner believes students will adjust.

“While it’s not always easy to use, students get used to it,” she said.