Every kid in grades 6 to 8 in St. James-Assiniboia School Division gets an iPad in September -- 1,000 in all, believed to be a first in Canada.
The division outlined the plans in a series of parent meetings Wednesday evening, superintendent Ron Weston said Thursday.
"There are school divisions across Canada who do it on a school basis," but he's not aware of any that do it division-wide.
The division has a wide scattering of classroom desktops, laptops and other devices, he said. With the move to iPads, "We've bundled all that up.
"We're investing money in technology. There's so many rich resources available in a digital format," he said. "They're able to have a thesaurus, a dictionary, a video library right at their desk.
"There's a very rich suite of apps for it. It has a video camera, an audio recorder built right into it," said Weston.
Dakota Collegiate in Louis Riel S.D. has had a prominent classroom device program the last two years, with students in grades 9 and 10 having mandatory laptops, a project that expands to Grade 11 in September.
The iPad "certainly doesn't do everything a desktop or laptop computer does," Weston acknowledged. "It's not about the device, it's about the learning."
Weston said the iPads won't replace traditional classroom tools, they'll augment them. "Absolutely, there will still be a need for pen and paper. We haven't made a full transition to the digital world."
Nevertheless, Weston chuckled, he uses digital tools for much of his paperwork. "I use a pen mostly now to sign my name -- that's a reality," he said.
The division's IT staff has assured him all the middle-years schools have the network capacity to handle every student having an iPad, he said.
Other city divisions are watching how it goes in St. James-Assiniboia.
"In technology, we are not pursuing either 'bring your own device' or a 'one-to-one' initiative like St. James, but we would be interested in their experience. As device prices come down and connectivity and battery life improve, these initiatives become more feasible," Seven Oaks S.D. superintendent Brian O'Leary said.
Pembina Trails S.D. provides a variety of devices in classrooms and invites students to bring their own to class, said an official.
Said a River East Transcona official: "We are moving towards making it easier for students to use their own devices in our schools, but we aren't making it mandatory they have an iPad in class."
LRSD superintendent Duane Brothers said the division is "inching towards" having all students bring their own devices.