Burlington High's iPad integration program launched in 2011 with help from an outspoken principal eager to inspire other schools. Larkin talks about pushing for less required seat time, virtual learning on snow days, and students who understand hashtags.

"We want to get other people interested in doing the same type of thing," Larkin says. "If we can get a network of teachers and schools together doing this type of work, when we have problems or we have best practices, it's gonna help us all move a lot faster."

And by adopting cutting-edge tech culture, BHS is opening doors for students beyond the school's walls: Larkin says a group of students will be working with Google engineers during the coming school year.

Before kicking off their iPad initiative, Larkin helped organize the first Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative Conference, a networking and workshopping event for educators looking to transition away from traditional textbooks.

But Larkin does voice concern for technology's impact on face-to-face socialization. "The balance thing really concerns me," he says. "Teachers worry, and parents worry — are kids gonna be getting too much screen time, always being plugged in?"

Despite the challenge of helping students learn to balance screen time with face time, Larkin still believes it can't be taught by denying access to digital tools.

"Our mission statement says that we produce responsible citizens," Larkin says. "If we're going to talk about responsible citizenship in the year 2012 and we're not gonna be willing to embrace digital citizenship, then we need to change our mission."

SACRED HEART KINGSTON: IPADS GO PAROCHIAL

Bibles are downloadable, the Pope tweets, and Catholic schools are now teaching with iPads. Students at Sacred Heart, an educational Catholic ministry in Kingston, will trade their heavy backpacks for tablets this fall — as educators embrace the evolution of educational technology.

A 17-year-old Sacred Heart student named Tom Griffin helped set the pilot program in motion last year when he approached Pamela Desmarais, the president of the Sacred Heart school system, with ideas for widespread iPad integration.

Desmarais welcomed the opportunity for top-level administrators to collaborate withand learn from students. She supported Griffin's iPad ambitions by helping establish a pilot team of 10 students.

The group met with teachers, administrators, and members of the Apple education team throughout 2011, developing rules for acceptable use and plans for classroom integration.

"It's a huge role to have," says Griffin, about to enter his senior year. "Teachers are looking to you [students] to teach them something. . . . It's definitely changing the entire culture of the school."

Sacred Heart isn't going completely digital this year, but Desmarais says she's seen students use iPads to make presentations more dynamic and interesting, with videos and multimedia innovating traditional written reports.

"It really does encourage engagement," says Suzanne Giovanetti, director of Sacred Heart's Office of Advancement. "I think 'engagement' seems to be the word that is central to the iPad's success."

Giovanetti says some Sacred Heart teachers attended Burlington High School's digital workshops this summer, while preparing for a school year with drastically fewer textbooks.

Desmarais says she's heard concerns about digital distractibility becoming a classroom problem, but she doesn't sound worried. Before the end of August, Sacred Heart students in grades seven through 12 will each receive their own iPad for use in the upcoming school year.

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Related: As 'Superman' debuts, risks and rewards of school reform made plain, Continuing education August 2010, The cost of open courseware, More more >
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