GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Almost exciting as the first day of school is getting ready for it, but what kids learn when they get there has changed.

"It used to be about learning Microsoft Word," said Jen Legatt, a technology integration specialist at the Spring Lake Park school district. "Now it's all about using cell phones, iPads and E-readers, and all of these things in the classroom."

That's why dozens of Minnesota teachers are spending the week at a Best Prep conference learning how to teach with technology. It's also why students across the state are buying it and why it's part of school supply lists. They are new purchases that parents never had to make.

"It's more than we had, I guess," said Scott Wright of South Minneapolis as he shopped with his daughters Abigail, 8 and Samantha, 5. "Growing up it was two pens and a pencil and that was it, basically."

Not anymore.

While pens and pencils are still required the school supply list, in Buffalo, sixth graders need to bring a calculator or an iPod.

Ninth graders in Hastings need a scientific calculator and a flash drive.
Edina's middle school math students need a graphic or touchpad calculator and some schools now issue things like iPads or even laptops to every student, knowing many already use them at home.

"We have a Mac computer and I use that a lot, and my Dad has iPads and I use those a lot," said Gianna Lammer, an eighth grader at Annunciation School in Minneapolis.

"There are so many things you have to write down and you can take notes on an iPad too," added her sister, Rose, a sixth grader.

Many teachers agree. They say technology helps kids learn in new ways, and while it might seem expensive, it's both an investment and a necessity to prepare them for the future.

"I'd rather have the kids learn those lessons in high school before they get to college," Legatt said, "And especially before they get to the workplace."

"We can't ignore that technology anymore," said Anthony VonBank, a teacher in Belle Plaine. "This is a new part of the culture."

"It is part of raising kids," Wright said.