HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) -- Technology has become a big part of the classroom, and at a couple of schools this year it will be the center of attention.
More schools are moving farther from the abacus and the chalkboard. The Hopkins School District, for instance, has come a long way. Every seventh grader there is starting the school year with a brand new iPad.
As you could imagine, the students are pretty excited. It's a big investment that the district is confident will pay off.
"If we wanted a projector in our classroom 12 years ago, we had to check it out weeks in advance from our media center," said teacher Becky Fritz.
When school starts next Tuesday, each of the 550 seventh graders at Hopkins North Junior High and Hopkins West Junior High will begin learning with an iPad.
Students picked up theirs early along with their parents for an introduction.
"I think it's pretty cool, because they have to keep up with technology, I mean it's a way of life now," said parent Staci Steinman.
The district paid $245,000 to outfit incoming seventh graders with iPads and another $197,000 to hire two full-time positions to set up the program and train teachers -- a $442,000 investment.
The iPads are viewed as a valuable tool and a shift in how kids learn.
"Our content is no longer just defined by a textbook, but our content is rich and varied," said Sid Voss, director of education technology, media and information systems.
Last school year, teacher Benjamin Friesen tested the iPads on his students and witnessed how the devices can engage a classroom.
"One of the reasons we're using the iPads is that it helps personalize the learning experience," he said. "If a student needs more, they have access to that, right at their fingertips. And if they need more and need to do things again and again, that's something else that they can also do. "
Hopkins is another school district banking on the iPad, and another signpost for the shift in education.
"It's going to change how kids learn, and how teachers teach," said Fritz.
Each year the district will give iPads to the incoming seventh grade class, so the eighth and ninth graders won't have them this year. Some of them are reportedly pretty jealous, especially since the kids get to take them home.
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