Lauren Bull had settled in for an hour in study hall when she realized she had forgotten the novel assigned in her English class. Rather than race back to her locker, the Maryvale Preparatory School sophomore quickly located "Pride and Prejudice" on one of the school library's iPads.
Students have cheered the devices, added this year as the all-girls Catholic school in Baltimore County expanded its technology offerings. When students return from their summer vacation this year, each will be equipped with an iPad to use during classes and for homework.
School officials say the devices are easy to use and will make educational materials more accessible and interactive. Many in the Maryvale community are enthusiastic, though some parents have expressed concerns about privacy and how the digital connection will affect social interaction.
"I love the idea of moving forward with technology," Lauren said. "This will be amazing to use in class and to have everything at my fingertips."
Rachel Jarboe, an eighth-grader, said iPads will save paper and relieve students of the weight of hefty textbooks.
"Our teachers can send us worksheets, and we can take notes right on the iPad," Rachel said. "This really is getting the whole school more technology-based. You are carrying your work with you all the time."
The project is part of a $12 million expansion at the Brooklandville campus. Maryvale is constructing a new humanities building, set to open within a year, adding several athletic fields to enhance its sports programs, and upgrading its wireless capability.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, each student will receive an iPad 2, the model Apple introduced last month.
"We wanted a one-to-one solution with technical access for the entire school and access at home, too," said Sarah Butcher, digital media specialist. "This device gives everyone immediate access."
The school gave parents an introduction to the technology last week and will offer them training sessions in the fall. Maryvale will pay for more than 400 iPads, which retail for about $700, and the students' technology fee will increase by $150 to $400 annually.
Some parents were concerned that their daughters might become too immersed in the technology. One suggested iPad-free lunches.
"I like talking face to face with my friends and seeing their reactions," said Lauren, adding that she won't be emailing classmates in the cafeteria.
Rachel said she also prefers live conversation to typing email.
"I don't think iPads mean the end of social interaction," Butcher said.
Parents also wanted information about controls on what can be downloaded and safety settings.
"Parents can place the same restrictions on these as they do on their TVs," Butcher said.
All the nearly 75 teachers will have the devices to work with this summer, giving them time to research applications appropriate to their classes. Lisa Cohen, director of academic technology, said she expects every department to discover numerous ways to apply iPads to classrooms.
"Even in phys-ed, they will find exercise programs and food diaries," she said.
Some teachers have started experimenting already.
"Every day I am finding more apps available to my courses in art and digital media," Butcher said. "There is truly awesome picture quality. You can shoot a video in HD and create a movie all on the same device."
Rachel believes she will master the technology quickly and make use of it in all of her high school classes.
"Our teachers will help," she said. "They are not going to just hand us something and tell us to figure it out for ourselves."
And for those who forget to recharge those 10-hour batteries at home, the school will install a few charging stations.
"If a student forgets to recharge and has to go without for a day, it could be a good lesson in personal responsibility," Butcher said.