Iowa high school equips students with 1,425 MacBook Airs in $1.4 million initiative

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Iowa's Ames High School has announced it will provide each student enrolled in 9th through 12th grade with an 11-inch MacBook Air for use during the 2013 school year.

The program, approved by the Ames Community school board in May, is intended to enable the school to offer more personalized instruction to students. Tim Taylor, superintendent of schools in Ames, said the computers will allow teachers to reduce "one-size-fits all lecture formats and rote instruction in the classroom."

Students and parents are excited about the potential impact of the initiative, but district officials have been quick to caution that the devices themselves are only a tool.

"The magic is in giving students and teachers the tools they need to create, collaborate and communicate," said the district's Director of Technology Services, Karl Hehr.

Students will pay a $25 deposit when checking out the devices, and will not be allowed to modify their software configuration. In the event of damage or loss — major concerns for 1:1 computing programs — they will be charged maximum fees of $50 for the first incident and $150 for the second incident. If the event is deemed to be the result of "gross negligence," the students may find themselves liable for the full replacment cost — more than $1,000.

Iowa State University will also be involved with the program, monitoring its progress and suggesting improvements.

As 1:1 initiatives gain popularity in high schools across the United States, Apple is readying a push to bring iPads - rather than laptops - to classrooms. The company recently revised the iTunes Store's terms and conditions to allow children under the age of 13 to open and manage their own accounts, as long as the Apple ID was requested by an "approved educational institution," making it easier to deploy the tablets in elementary and middle schools.