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By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
Associated Press Writer
Students at Empire High School here started class this year with no textbooks _ but it wasn't because of a funding crisis. Instead, the school issued iBooks _ laptop computers by Apple Computer Inc. _ to each of its 340 students, becoming one of the first U.S. public schools to shun printed textbooks.
School officials believe the electronic materials will get students more engaged in learning. Empire High, which opened for the first time this year, was designed specifically to have a textbook-free environment.
'We've always been pretty aggressive in use of technology and we have a history of taking risks,' said Calvin Baker, superintendent of the Vail Unified School District, which has 7,000 students outside of Tucson.
Schools typically overlay computers onto their instruction 'like frosting on the cake,' Baker said. 'We decided that the real opportunity was to make the laptops the key ingredient of the cake. ... to truly change the way that schools operated.'
Two years ago, about 600 school districts nationwide had pilot projects to provide laptops for each student _ a figure that's likely doubled since then, said Mark Schneiderman, director of federal education policy for the Software and Information Industry Association in Washington.
But most still issue textbooks _ for now."