Freshman class at Denver's South High go textbook-free; 9th graders to use Kindle Fire tablets

DENVER - Freshman at Denver's South High School began classes Monday, but something was missing in their backpacks: textbooks.

South High may have one of the oldest school buildings in the Mile High City, but its 9th graders will be the most technologically advanced class in Denver Public Schools history, as they will be the first to graduate without using traditional high school textbooks.

All 500 freshman of the Class of 2018 at South are getting a Kindle Fire HD tablet, loaded with software, to replace a backpack full of books.

South's Technology Coordinator, Josh Henn, came up with the idea, and believes strongly that going all digital will better prepare students for college.

"We tried to come up with a reason why we shouldn't do it and we couldn't come up with a good one," said Henn.

South High freshman Marissa Morales told 7NEWS she thinks using tablets instead of textbooks is great and should make all the upper classman jealous.

"I'm excited about it because we don't have to carry a bunch of stuff around, so that's cool," said Morales.

Henn showed 7NEWS that certain websites and social media are always blocked on the tablets. However, once the students get home the school can no longer monitor Internet activity, and that's when parents will have to step in.

The kindle is just one part of the school's digital content initiative.

"They're going to get a differentiated education, because these devices in tandem with the online classroom format will allow for a much more individualized lesson," said Henn.

For every study that says children learn better on paper, school officials say they found one claiming digital learning is better.

"I know when kids walk out of our doors and graduate and get ready for college, they're not going to have textbooks, it will be online, it will be digital. If we're not preparing them for that we're doing them a disservice," said South High Principal Kristin Waters.

At $100 each, South High bought 600 devices -- using its own technology and textbook funds.

Parents have to sign an agreement for their students to receive a tablet that states it will cost them $115 to replace the Kindle if it gets lost.

If stolen, and they can prove the theft, they won't be charged.

However, Henn said replacing one of the tablets is actually cheaper than replacing a lost backpack full of books -- which used to cost students around $500.

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