HARLINGEN — Harlingen public school students may soon be equipped with iPads.
The Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District is making plans to bring the electronic tablets into every district classroom.
Three classrooms at Harlingen High School South already have the devices produced by Apple, with students using them in place of textbooks, reading files that are transferred via the Internet to the iPads. Eventually the district expects more classroom applications for the iPads.
Shane Strubhart, the school district’s director of communications, told the school board Tuesday that iPads “epitomized what the future of the classroom is going to look like.”
“We want our students to be 21st century ready,” Strubhart said, “and so we feel we’ve got to get them in the hands of the students so they can get familiar with the product.”
The iPad allows the user to read books, access the Internet, store photographs, play music, and shoot and edit video. There are numerous apps, included a global positioning device, Strubhart said.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “There’s very little that the iPad cannot do.”
Superintendent Steve Flores said he supports the plan.
“We are about innovation,” he said. “We need to be OK with our students powering up.”
The McAllen Independent School District is already implementing iPads in its classrooms. The district announced in January its plan to purchase almost 27,000 mobile Apple devices for every student and teacher.
Parents would be required to pay a $40 deposit for every iPad and iPod device issued to their children. Last fall, the school district trustees committed more than $20 million in local, state and federal funds over the next five years to pay for the program.
Strubhart said HCISD officials are learning from McAllen’s iPad and iTouch program.
“We’re actually working with McAllen closely,” Strubhart said. “We’ve got a great partnership with them, because they’re doing a major rollout with McAllen. They have actually hosted several meetings about iPads and how they’re doing it and the obstacles they’ve faced, and how they’re overcoming them.”
James Pearcy, HCISD’s director of technology, said the district has been working for the past five or six years to upgrade its infrastructure in preparation for mobile devices that would eventually arrive in the classroom.
One of those improvements is the increase in band width.
“Now these devices are much more multimedia intensive, so we’ve increased our band width from six megabyte five or six years ago to 100 megabyte per second now,” he said.
Funding for those improvements has come from a government program called E-Rate.
Strubhart said the district plans to have more iPads in the classroom next year. He said school officials would soon begin serious meetings to determine the cost of the devices.
“I know that we’re going to start setting up meetings probably with McAllen and with Apple,” he said. “It’s kind of complicated. We’re at the infancy stage right now to find out how much things cost.”