Clearwater, Florida - Clearwater High School students enter a new technology era and they are the first in the country to lay the groundwork for other schools to follow.
Clearwater High School students file into the auditorium the wait is nearly over. After a bit of paperwork, each student is assigned a Kindle.
"Now I get to carry this instead of textbooks," says one student. All 2,100 students are the first in the country to trade in their English and Math books, science workbooks and several novels for the 8x5" e-reader weighing just 10 ounces.
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"It's all about literacy, getting kids excited about reading. That's the most important thing," says Keith Mastorides, principal of Clearwater High School. He adds, "I hope grades will improve. We will see as it goes. We want to capture the kids, get them excited about education. That's the most important piece obviously today we've done that."
11th grader Jenny Goodwin says today feels like Christmas morning. "We are going to have more time in class it will help us academically," says Jenny. She adds, "Our books are on here. We can do it at home. It has 3G network, don't have to find wireless station."
Unlike textbooks, students can highlight passages and make notes. If students don't understand a word, there's a dictionary built in. The Kindle's Internet access benefits teachers too. "I can have them write reports without having to go to library and research. They can do it in my classroom," says Mary Koning, English teacher at Clearwater High School. Mary says the Kindles offers a teacher the tool to speak a language students understand today.
Mary says, "These kids have grown up with cell phones and computers. I'm a bit older than them and I didn't grow up with all that. I think it will help them be more interested and engaged in what they are learning and want to read."
Students like another feature, the Kindle can read text out loud. "I think a lot more students would be a lot more motivated to learn," says 12th grader Bennie Niles. He thinks the Kindle will help make him a better student. "I'll be more eager to learn," says Bennie.
If a student loses a textbook, they buy it. That's an 80 to 90 dollar cost. But with the Kindle, students can buy an insurance policy for 20 bucks. The first couple of times they lose one, they pay a small deductible. But if a student loses it a third time they lose the Kindle for good and they go back to the textbook.
The Kindle costs $177.66 each. The school is using its technology and textbook money from the district without impacting funds for other technology programs. School district officials say downloading each textbook cost about 10 percent less than the hardcover version and about 40 percent less for novels.
School officials say the Kindles should pay for themselves in three years. And teachers warn students forget using that old excuse. Mary says, "If they try to say my dog ate my Kindle, we are going to have some problems."