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Border & Immigration

School District In Poor Border Region Gets Technology Rich

High Tech School District
High Tech School District

A school district in a poor region near the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas is turning into a national leader in educational technology.

The decision was a simple one for educational leaders at the McAllen Independent School District in the Rio Grande Valley region, just a handful of miles from the border: replace desktop computers with mobile devices.

The outcome will be quite innovative. Within a year, the school district expects all 25,000 students to have an iPad — for grades 3-12 — or an iPod Touch for those in kindergarten through 2nd grade.


Just because his youngsters live in a poor region, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a poor education, said McAllen Superintendent James Ponce.

“That’s the bigger goal: How do we keep up with students? How we do we maintain that engagement?” he asked.

Then he answered his own question.

“Twenty-first century skills of collaboration, creative thinking, innovation, communication; those are the tools that we’re wanting to make sure that are part of the repertoire for our students and our staff,” Ponce said.

The total price tag of $20 million — over five years — will be covered with district money. Ponce said it’s mostly the same amount the district would have otherwise invested in traditional desktop computers and related equipment. The mobile devices will take their place.


And others are pitching in.

Federal funds will help with infrastructure. Free training will be provided by Abilene Christian University (ACU), a leader in educational technology instruction.

“McAllen is definitely one of the first to take this on as a whole district and you know I really admire them for that,” said ACU professor Billie McConnell, who’s in charge of training McAllen teachers and parents. “So I think it’s going to have a huge impact on this community.”

The school district began rolling out the program this week by handing out more than 6,000 iPads.