The look of education changes constantly and in some places, even the way it's delivered may be a page-turner to our future.

PA Cyber school administrators have began experimenting with the iPad, a move that could put educational resources literally at a student's fingertips. Downloadable digital versions of textbooks for more than 150 PA Cyber online courses – about two-thirds of the school's course catalog – have already been created.

The conversion of textbooks will eventually pay off through saving staff time and shipping expenses. It also makes the textbook content easier to update.

Another obvious change will be in the student's 'toolbox' of school supplies.

The 50 pounds of textbooks students had to lug around in a bookbag is replaced by your 1.5-pound iPad, which will contain an entire semester's worth of reading material. That large bookbag, which also included highlighters, sticky notes, spiral notebooks and three-ring binders, will no longer be needed and iPad promoters feel that the money saved on those items alone will easily for the iPad.

In secondary education, at least one college in the state – Seton Hill University, a Catholic college in Greensburg, Pa. – plans to give all its students an Apple iPad and a MacBook laptop computer this fall.

Seton Hill, which has spent $1.5 million on campus technology infrastructure, will charge students about $500 per term for the program.

Winthrop, a high school in Minnesota has made the decision to put an iPad in the hands of all its students but not all residents are happy. The dissenters wonder how the devices can be deployed without having a solid plan in place. Among other questions:

Ÿ How many textbooks are written for iPad?

Ÿ Should these "niche" products be used as learning devices?

Ÿ The devices will be replacing books, are easier to break and you're giving them to kids?

One of the main arguments citizens have is that they should have a say in how their tax dollars are being directed. An oppondent said he thinks it's a little premature for the school to be investing in something like the iPad, but that schools have made worse decisions.

In this time of budget-tightening, more districts are putting a hold on their line item spending. Translated, that means students will have to continue lugging the hard-cover textbooks.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com