AURORA | Students at Regis Jesuit High School can count on lighter backpacks this school year as the school ditches heavy textbooks in favor of skinny iPads.
But at about $600 a pop for each student, buying the pricey devices will mean lighter wallets for their parents, too.
Jason Beyer, an educational technology supervisor at the school, said the minimum requirement for the device is an iPad 3 with 32 gigabytes of memory.
Those retail for $599 at Apple’s website, but can be found for slightly less on sale at various retailers.
Beyer said school officials looked at allowing the less-expensive iPad Mini, but they opted for the standard size after discussing it with some other Jesuit schools that ran into trouble with some advanced science text books not translating well to the smaller display.
The 32 gigabytes of memory are important, too, Beyer said, because students are being asked to do a lot with the devices, including storing textbooks on them.
“That space fills up really quick,” he said.
The larger model means the devices should last longer before the memory is tapped, he said.
Other Jesuit schools have gone with other similar devices, he said, including Google Chromebooks and other laptops, but the bulk that have required a similar device have gone with the iPad.
“We have learned from what other people are learning,” he said.
Students won’t be able to completely scrap classic paper-bound books this year, but Regis Jesuit officials hope that one day that will be the case.
Will Cropper, another educational technology supervisor at the school helping to launch the program, said school officials have run into a few titles that aren’t yet available on the iPad.
“This year is a bit of a mix,” he said.
While the devices are expensive, Cropper and Beyer said that in the long run, they hope the cost savings on books will even out with the cost of the device.
“That makes it easier for the parents to swallow,” Cropper said.
Beyer said there are a few cases where an electronic version of a book is more expensive than a paper version, but that isn’t a common occurrence. Beyer, who also teaches theology, said one of the books his students need typically costs $52 for a paper edition, but only $12 for a digital version.
As for the cost of the device themselves, the school has a link on its website pointing parents to deals on iPads, while students who qualify for tuition assistance may also qualify for assistance to buy the devices.
Cropper said that school officials expect a bit of a learning curve when it comes to how students use the devices in the classroom, and whether the devices can be a distraction if they aren’t used properly.
“That was probably the No. 1 concern of our faculty,” he said.
Teachers can tell students to come into class with a “clean slate” on the devices, he said, meaning all the applications are turned off except the ones they need for that class.
Beyer said that beyond the ease with which the devices will allow students to get books, it is also important that the students understand how the devices work because they are becoming more common in professional settings.
None of the public schools in the area require similar devices, though officials at both Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District said they utilize iPads and other similar technology in the classroom regularly.