The AP reports that Empire High School in Vail, Ariz., has shunned textbooks altogether, instead supplying each student with an Apple iBook laptop computer. ''We've always been pretty aggressive in use of technology and we have a history of taking risks,'' said Calvin Baker, superintendent of the Vail Unified School District. Baker said that many districts use computers "like frosting on the cake," leaving the textbook-based curriculum essentially unchanged. "We decided that the real opportunity was to make the laptops the key ingredient of the cake. ... to truly change the way that schools operated," he said.
Students get the materials over the school's wireless Internet network. The school has a central filtering system that limits what can be downloaded on campus. The system also controls chat room visits and instant messaging that might otherwise distract wired students... In addition to offering up-to-date information, teachers can make the curriculum more dynamic. For example, lessons in social studies, which might previously have been done in summaries, can include links to full Supreme Court rulings or an explorer's personal account of a discovery.
Students can turn in homework online. A Web program checks against Internet sources for plagiarized material and against the work of other students, Baker said. ''If you copy from your buddy, it's going to get caught,'' he said.