With the tap of a screen and a swipe of their finger, students at Bowie Junior High and Bowie High School are ready to learn. Over 850 iPads were passed out to the students at the beginning of this school year by the Bowie Independent School District.
The school district raised over $500,000 through local funding to purchase the iPads and make some upgrades to the schools. Students were so excited that they couldn't wait to get their hands on these popular devices.
"I'll never forget it. The first student that got one, I was asking him how he liked it and he said 'it's cool'! So that was his deal… they love it" said Bowie High School Principal Kelly Shackelford.
Bowie ISD Superintendent Steven Monkres says the iPad initiative was all in an effort to give students the best education and to make learning fun.
"There are literally thousands of interactive lessons out there. Educational apps they can use. They can research famous authors and do so many things like make calculations with these devices" he said.
While in school, the iPads connect to a filtered Wi-Fi network which prevents students from going on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter along with inappropriate sites. The Wi-Fi is also case sensitive to words that a student types on their device. When the students are at home, the school is asking parents to monitor what sites their children are on with the gadget.
Not only is the iPad helpful in the classroom, it is also helping the school district save trees by using an online system called E-Backpack.
"Teachers are able to send students their work electronically rather than having a piece of paper and then the student can complete it on their iPad and send it back to the teacher electronically" said Bowie ISD Curriculum Director, Rhonda Cabett.
With the help of technology, school officials hope students will be able to get ahead in their education.
"It's all about student engagement. Our students are growing up in the technology world. So we are trying to prepare our students for those jobs that we don't even know are out there yet" said Shackelford.
"Our goal overall is to prepare every single one of our students to be successful in lie in whatever they attempt. And we are going to do everything in our power to do that" said Monkres.
These iPads will not be replacing textbooks but simply being used as a tool where students can draw resources from to study and learn in class. So far, Bowie ISD has received big support from the community and parents.
The students will return the iPads to the school during the summer and will get the same iPad back again at the start of the next school year. Each iPad comes with a thick case that the school district purchased to protect it from breaking. The graduating seniors iPads will be passed down to the incoming 6th graders. The school district also gave teachers iPads last year so they were trained on it before students got it this year.
For students that don't have internet access at home, the district is working on launching a project called "Homework Hotspot". Through this, students will be able to study using Wi-Fi networks of local businesses. So far, the library and local churches have agreed to participate.