School swaps textbooks for laptops

A few hundred Arizona high school students can cross books off their fall back-to-school lists. The Vail Unified School District outside Tucson is getting ready to open the doors of the state's first all-wireless, all-laptop high school. There, students will use electronic and online articles as part of more traditional teacher lesson plans.

About 350 students at Empire High School will be loaned $850 laptops for the duration of the school year, and district officials hope to eventually increase enrollment to 750, according to The Associated Press. A set of textbooks runs about $500 to $600, the report said.

While computers in schools are becoming , experts say Vail's decision to become an "e-school" is rare. Cost, insecurity, ignorance and institutional constraints often prevent the switch to an all-wireless classroom, said Mark Schneiderman, director of education policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, which represents corporations that develop classroom software.

"The efforts are very sporadic," he said. "A minority of communities are doing a good or very good job, but a large number are just not there on a number of levels."

Vail's move is aimed at urging teachers to be more creative when making up lesson plans--and, naturally, keeping kids more absorbed in their studies.

"I'm sure there are going to be some adjustments," Calvin Baker, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, told the Associated Press. "But we visited other schools using laptops. And at the schools with laptops, students were just more engaged than at non-laptop schools."

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Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.


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