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Danville's John Baldwin Elementary School fifth graders, from left, Justin Yu, Mia Thornton, Emma Stivers, Bennett Christensen and Nick Espinosa, all 10, use their iPads and a laptop to work on a presentation to be shown during the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Technology Symposium held at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. The students were also on hand to answer questions from school district employees about John Baldwin Elementary School's daily JBTV show made by students during lunch and recess. The elementary school has five teams consisting of 60 students who volunteer to produce a daily TV show using iPads and laptop computers. (Doug Duran/Staff)

With a variety of funding sources and encouragement from administrators, schools in the Acalanes, Emery, Mt. Diablo and San Ramon Valley districts are purchasing iPads and pioneering apps as a way to engage students and give teachers new tools to get their messages across.

Acalanes High in Lafayette recently received an Apple Distinguished Program award for its use of iPads in the classroom, said district Superintendent John Nickerson. The district has urged schools to develop plans to bring technology into the hands of students, with funding from grants, parent groups and a general obligation bond, he said.

"It's kind of a new frontier," he said. "You're moving beyond the bells and whistles of technology and trying to bring transformative change and trying to address 21st century needs of students. It's challenging work, but it's exciting work."

The San Ramon Valley district has unveiled a three-year plan to boost technology, including iPads, in schools, said spokesman Terry Koehne.

Fifth-graders from John Baldwin Elementary in Danville showed off their video production skills during a recent technology symposium at Dougherty Valley High. They interviewed people and shot video at the event to produce news pieces for their morning announcements, Koehne said.

"So, it gets kids directly involved in the work of the school," he said. "It's taking us by storm."


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Fourth-graders at Quail Run Elementary in San Ramon used iPads to create presentations about California missions instead of constructing replicas like many of today's adults did as children.

"Using an iPad for some of these kids is like what a pencil is to us," Koehne said. "These kids are born with a digital device in their hands. They're digital natives. The rest of us are digital immigrants."

The district also is exploring digital textbooks at middle and high schools, he said.

The Emery District in Alameda County plans to use local bond money to buy a $500 iPad for every student in grades seven to 12.

The Mt. Diablo district, which passed a $348 million bond measure in 2010, hasn't yet earmarked any of those funds for iPads.

Using parent funds, Sequoia Middle School in the district recently bought an iPad cart with 20 iPads and recharge docks, said teacher Michael Holmes. He is excited about sharing an app that will show his students what ancient Rome looked like.

"It's really cool," he said. "It has the Colosseum and the Forum, but it uses the gyroscope in the iPad. You hold it up and as you turn it around, it changes the view that you're looking at."

If teachers and students find the iPads useful, he said, the parent club will pay for more.

Staff writer Katy Murphy contributed to this report.