MINNETONKA, Minn. -- It's a sign of the times: technology is everywhere, including the classroom.
As students return to school this fall, many of them will return to classrooms that are becoming increasingly engaged with the latest forms of technology. And among those districts leading the technology push is Minnetonka.
"We have kids who are growing up with this technology, so actually if we don't use the technology, all of a sudden schools are a different place than the whole rest of the world," said David Surver, a math teacher at Minnetonka High School.
In 2002, voters passed a technology referendum in Minnetonka -- allowing district leaders a healthy allowance to spend on the technology of their choice. They opted to start with interactive computer screens.
"We started with the SMART boards in every classroom," said Minnetonka Schools Superintendent Dennis Peterson.
Last year, the district took the next bold step -- giving every freshman student an iPad. This year, they've added the sophomore class to the iPad mix; and the goal is to eventually supply all Minnetonka students -- Kindergarten through 12th grade -- with iPads.
So far, the addition of the iPads is earning mostly rave reviews from Minnetonka students and teachers alike.
"There's a saying that the mind once expanded can never go back to its original size. I feel like that as a teacher, now that I've got these amazing tools, I wouldn't want to go back," Surver said.
And Minnetonka school leaders are also quick to point out what they believe is improved academic performance by their iPad-toting students. According to a district study last year, those students who had iPads received fewer Ds and Fs and earned higher grades in science, math and English. Staff also concluded that iPad students missed fewer assignments.
But not everyone is signing up for the technological revolution.
At the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, books and encyclopedias -- not computers -- fill the schools media room.
"There's actually a value in preserving childhood and a lot of screen time doesn't serve that purpose," said Caroline Askew, Director of Admissions at the school.
Askew said the Waldorf education deliberately logs off from technology -- emphasizing instead outdoor play, creativity and what teachers call a love of learning. And teachers also point out that Waldorf students do exceptionally well: a recent 7th grade class scored in the 90th percentile for math, language and reading on the California Achievement Test. And 94 percent of Waldorf alums go on to college; 50 percent go on to graduate school.
What's more, Askew and other Waldorf leaders say the technology of today will not have a lasting impact on students' lives.
"That technology that we're all using -- whether it's the keyboard or the mouse -- it's all going to be obsolete," she said.
"What is core to the learning is the relationship with the teacher... learning how to get along with other people and being in relationship with healthy authority figures as well as children," Askew said.
And so, two schools of thought do indeed return to the classroom this fall. In the end, it's clear that it's up to each individual family whether to log on or not.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)