Crowley schools will hand out 7,000 iPads this year

Crowley students shopping for back-to-school items need to make sure and pick up a computer-friendly backpack.

More than 7,000 Crowley secondary students will get iPads this school year as the district wades into into the digital learning world.

“It’s going to change our classrooms,” said Jerry Allen, director of information and technology resources at the Crowley school district. “It’s going to open our classrooms to the world.”

The urban district, which encompasses Crowley and pockets of south Fort Worth, is the latest to equip students with high-tech learning tools.

Last school year, the Mansfield school district equipped 9,000 high school students and 500 teachers with iPads as part of its plan to revolutionize the learning experience at the secondary level.

The Northwest school district is entering its fifth year of providing computers to its sixth- through 12th-grade students. This year, Northwest students and secondary teachers will get Dell Latitude 10 Tablets, while elementary school teachers will get iPads.

Northwest’s long-range technology plan was created to ensure that “students and teachers are receiving relevant technology tools to assist in today’s digital classroom,” said Emily Conklin, the district’s director of communications.

Several high-tech efforts are under way at Crowley schools, including expanding the district’s Internet radio — called Radio Crowley ISD — and the opening of a Global Prep Academy that offers virtual classes for students.

Crowley’s student iPads will be handed to all students in grades 7 through 12 in October, Allen said. The iPads are part of a larger technology effort, a $6.4 million Phoenix Project.

“We want to set the rules down and make them understand this is not a toy,” Allen said. “It’s an educational resource.”

Allen said they have a lease program with Apple for three years at $1million per year. Money for the iPads was raised through a tax increase that was approved by voters in September 2012.

The iPads will be equipped with a filter that travels with students so Crowley-issued tablets can’t be used to surf inappropriate websites, Allen said. Students will be required to pay a $50 technology fee, and the district is working to partner with a company to offer insurance plans.

Crowley school district Superintendent Dan Powell said textbooks and material can be loaded into the iPads. He said they hope to replace hardback textbooks with virtual ones.

“The electronic versions of the books are much cheaper. It will save us money over time,” Powell said.

The Crowley district is also setting up an instructional technology department to help teachers bridge the generational digital divide that exists between some teachers and students in classrooms.

Allen said they are embracing the idea that students are wired to learn in a technically advanced era.

“This is not something that is going to keep our kids from learning, but it is something that can help our kids to learn,” he said.

Star-Telegram reporter Jessamy Brown and Lee Williams contributed to this report.