Filled with textbooks, notebooks and school supplies, Reece Tappan's backpack weighs about a quarter of what he does.
Beginning this school year, the sixth-grader at Academy of the Holy Names is getting a big break for his back and neck: All Academy students in the third through 12th grades were provided with iPads and ultimately will use them to take notes, conduct research and read textbooks.
"They're a very fun and interesting technology," said Reece, 11. "It really helps you a lot."
Administrators at the school on Bayshore Boulevard hope iPads will provide academy instructors and students with an exciting, modern way to teach and learn. The tablets will be used for research and cooperative learning, and instruction can be tailored to individual students, said Arthur Raimo, the school's president.
"It's a huge note-taking platform. The days of the big binders are gone," said Bridgid Fishman, principal for pre-K through eighth grade.
"I'm so excited. It's like Christmas."
The Bailey Family Foundation provided the academy with a $210,000 grant to lease the lightweight tablet computers for three years for all students in the fifth through 12th grades.
Two anonymous donors provided about $12,000 each to buy iPads for students in the third and fourth grades as well.
Teachers also received iPads.
"The iPads are a blessing for the teachers," said Reece's mother, Lori Tappan. "I think it's going to enhance the students' education."
Two public schools in Hillsborough County have similar programs.
In May 2011, the Hillsborough County School Board approved spending $900,000 to put an iPad in the hands of every student and teacher at Franklin and Ferrell middle magnet schools.
"This unique program will keep pace with technology and offer cutting-edge education," an executive summary of the proposal stated.
Apple launched the iPad in spring 2010. Since then, making iPad learning mandatory in school has become a trend nationwide. From April to June this year, Apple sold 1 million iPads for schools.
Last school year, Apple officials said they knew of more than 600 districts that launched what are called "one-to-one" programs, by which at least one classroom gets iPads for each student to use throughout the school day.
For Reece, who already owns an iPad and uses it to play video games and write, using the technology for school makes sense. He said it will help students with everything from science to geography.
"If a country breaks out in a civil war, Syria or something, you can get the latest information on it," he said.