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ARVADA - Every summer, parents must pour over the school supply list to get their kids ready to return to school for the fall semester. At Oberon Middle School in Arvada, there is one big item listed that stands out: personal technology device.

"Our technology committee came together and decided we have a community full of kids that are bringing devices with them every single day," Principal Tara Pena said. "We weren't allowing them to be used and so we said, let's change our thinking."

So, in addition to the usual school supply items such as paper, pencils, pens, binders, the list now includes "Personal Technology Device with 7-inch screen (or larger) – tablet, Chromebook, laptop, etc."

"Having a larger screen size really allows it to be definitely a more collaborative task and assignment," Pena said.

But, these devices cost hundreds of dollars.

"Paying for it out of your own pocket is kind of a surprise," parent Cliff Hannam said.

Hannam and his son Bryce just transferred to Oberon.

"A lot of families may not be able to afford a personal iPad or laptop," Hannam said. "If you have a couple of students in school, it could be difficult."

They also worry about damage or theft.

"If I provided my own, I would be (worried)," Bryce Hannam, student, said. "So, I'd definitely keep it pretty close to me."

Pena says her staff studied the use of iPads at other schools where the devices are provided by the district.

"The amount of theft and damage to the devices has been almost none," Pena said.

She adds that if families do not want to purchase a personal technology device, the school will provide loaners.

"And, it's not limited to just our free and reduced lunch students," Pena said. "We provide that device to any student who needs it."

While in school, the wi-fi system will not allow students to access web sites they should not be viewing. But, she does want parents to monitor what their children are viewing on their device outside of school, especially at home.

"We really ask that the parents are really safeguarding what their student is accessing," Pena said.

The principal believes this is the new direction of education. Oberon is the first school in the Jefferson County to add tablets or laptops to the school supply list.

"To be kind of pioneers, if you will, can be scary at times because there is not a model to reference or to look at," Pena said.

Learning through technology is the new norm, Pena says, not the exception.

"Our country, our world has been transformed already," Pena said. "I think education is trying to play catch-up a little bit."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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