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Altus students get their hands on new iPads

ALTUS, Okla._Sophomores at Altus High School had their first chance to get their new iPads Tuesday.

It's part of the 'One-to-one' initiative for Altus Public Schools. This is the third of four phases for the project, which is designed to give every student and teacher direct access to enhanced technology at any time. Students pay a $30 user fee annually if they plan to take it home, or they can choose to check it out from the library daily for free.

Freshmen got their iPads last week. The distribution process will continue until all the seniors get theirs early next week. The goal is to use the advanced technology to improve academics and get students used to the technology they will see in the future. It also allows teachers to use apps that enhance the learning process.

One app that math teacher Leslee Lollis excited about is called Livescribe. It allows her to write with a smart pen and everything instantly transfers over to the iPads, which she can then transfer over to the school's Internet platform. It also records the lesson if a student misses something. This is one of many ways the technology will change the way students will be learning in Altus.

Lollis says when she showed her students the Livescribe app for the first time, they were amazed. She is hopeful that apps like this can help spark their imagination.

"If they see something, see how an application is working, then they could see that they could possibly create something to make learning better. The whole purpose is to know the possibilities are endless, and they can do whatever they want with that technology," Lollis said.

Rusty Garrett, the technology director for Altus Public Schools, says the students need more than just a computer lab they can use once a week.

"Studies are showing that there is so much technology out there today. Kids have it at their fingertips with their phones at home. We don't need to take a step back once they come to public schools," Garrett said.

Much like the school computers, the iPads will have a device management program installed. This allows the district to monitor and remain in control of the devices, so they can block apps like Twitter and Facebook during the school day.

Lollis says that will help, but she knows students could still get distracted. As much as it is a risk, it offers with it a nice reward.

"I mean I've been guilty of daydreaming. If I lost something, if I'm daydreaming in class, then I can go back and replay it. I don't think it would be a crutch for them to use it that way, but I could see where it would help them in the long run," Lollis said.

The iPads are specifically barcoded and will be designated to each student throughout their high school career. They are also on a five year rotation schedule, meaning purchasing new iPads will not be a yearly endeavor. The district has bought just under 2,000 iPads over the past two years, at a total cost of $1.1 million. That money comes from existing funds in their budget set aside for textbooks and other teaching material.

The iPads come with a case, keyboard and charging kit for both. They are also encouraged to personalize them with appropriate music and photos, so that it can feel like more than just another school supply.

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