TAMPA — Using iPads for school work is not a new concept for 17-year-old Gregory Kujawa, a junior at Jesuit High School.
In some classes, he takes quizzes and completes projects on the device, which can be checked out from a school technology cart.
“It’s really easy for everybody,” he said.
Next school year, Gregory and each of his nearly 800 fellow students at the all-boys Catholic school will receive their own school-issued Apple iPad Air, which they will be allowed to use in class and at home.
The iPads, which will be handed out to a projected 760 students over the summer, will be paid for by a new $300 per-student technology fee, which parents will pay in addition to tuition. School officials say opportunities for financial aid are available.
Gregory said having his own iPad will lighten his textbook load and save paper.
“I think the biggest advantage is that we won’t have to carry around all these textbooks we have now,” Gregory said. “I feel like if we could take the iPads home with us, it’ll be easier for a lot of students.”
More than 2,000 schools across the country have programs in which every student receives a digital device, according to the One-to-One Institute, a Mason, Mich.-based nonprofit dedicated to helping schools develop sustainable programs in which each student has an electronic tablet for school.
Out of the 49 Jesuit schools surveyed by the Jesuit Secondary Education Association before the start of this school year, 39 percent have such a program and another 41 percent are developing one.
The Hillsborough County school district is working toward bringing more technology into its schools but does not have a districtwide program to give all students access to a tablet. The district does have a program in which students are allowed to bring their own digital devices to use in class.
Jesuit teachers have found their students are more engaged in classroom activities since they started working with iPads, Assistant Principal Debbie Pacheco said.
“Our kids are digital natives,” she said. “This is what they are familiar with. For many years, they entered our schools and checked technology at the door. We’re finally meeting them where they are at.”
The school has been working toward its launch for nearly three years. In the 2011-12 school year, Jesuit purchased its first iPad cart and added several iPad and laptop carts for 2012-13.
The same year, all teachers received laptops and the school was equipped with a wireless network. Teachers also receive ongoing professional development on how best to use digital devices in their classrooms, said John Caballero, director of instructional technology.
“The school added a position called the instructional technology coordinator whose job is to work with faculty in integrating the technology into their teaching to make it better, not just different,” he said.
Also new this year is a learning management system through which teachers can post calendars, class documents and videos for their students to access anytime.
Jesuit sent parents a letter last week letting them know about the new program. Caballero said the response from parents has been positive overall, with only a few worried about the $300 technology fee.
Next school year, all three of Missy Kujawa’s sons will be attending Jesuit. In addition to Gregory, Jeffrey, 15, is a freshman this year and Christian, 13, will be a freshman next year.
Kujawa said the fee doesn’t bother her because she thinks the iPad program will save money in the long run as more textbooks become available online. This year, she spent $700 on textbooks for Gregory and Jeffrey.
“As the world gains in technology, so does Jesuit High School,” Kujawa said. “Even though it’s a school that’s based on tradition, they are so progressive in the technology department. I really could not be happier.”