On a normal day at the Academy of Business, Law and Education charter school in Stockton, students will enter their classrooms and perform a 10-minute warm up assignment as part of a 90-minute course block.
If that sounds like "any high school USA," it is. Except for one thing: ABLE Charter doesn't use textbooks. It's an all-digital high school that uses an online curriculum and Web-based research tools in all of its courses.
"Everybody has a laptop. The text is an online experience, and the kids take them home," the school's Assistant Principal Clem Lee said.
The concept is something that one ABLE teacher, George Neely, wants to expand. Neely also is a Lodi Unified trustee, and he said he plans to make a big push in the coming year to bring the type of school at which he teaches into the district he oversees, even after he's seen resistance for his idea in the past.
"It's really not much different from other high schools," Neely said. "People think what I want to do is make an online school. It's not that. It's a brick-and-mortar campus with teachers. The only difference is we are using technology, and the students are motivated by that."
In Neely's social science class, students recently delivered presentations to their classmates on a report topic of their choosing. Senior Sean Epperson gave a 5-minute speech on United States foreign policy.
Using the classroom smart board -- an interactive white board that connects to a computer -- Epperson presented using Google Presentation software. He did all his research online.
Epperson, 17, and his classmates say they don't miss their books.
"It's really better on the computer," he said.
Lodi Unified has been somewhat resistant to Neely's proposal to start a cyber school, however. Neely presented his idea in late June, but his colleagues on the board said it wasn't the right time for the district to venture in that direction, and they told Neely no.
"I like the idea; it's a good idea. But right now, we have other financial priorities," said Trustee Joe Nava, who was among the no votes.
Neely has pledged to keep pushing for a digital high school.
Lodi technology services director Dale Munsch said the district has been working toward integrating more technology. It has introduced the iPad in eight classrooms throughout the district and hopes to expand the type of work students do on those types of devices. The district is even getting more comfortable with the idea of students using their own technology -- tablets, smartphones, and computers -- in the classroom.
However, the district needs a significant upgrade in its computer technology.
Creating a school based on technology would be a challenge, Munsch said.
"It would take a good amount of work. We would need to know a lot more and get direction from the board to do it," Munsch said. "Is this something they want to do at an existing school that has Wi-Fi internet set up? Or a whole new campus. If it's that, we'd have to go like crazy."
Neely said the result would be worth the expense and the trouble. Buying computers for each student could be cost neutral, if not cheaper, than buying multiple textbooks for each, he said. And students thrive on digital education, he said.
Lee said he constantly reminds people that while some of his students are those that slip through the cracks of traditional high schools, ABLE is not a credit-recovery center, which some schools have to allow students to blaze through online courses to make up for past failures in a short time frame. He said students are motivated.
Senior Belen Bygoytra, 17, said she's grown as a student. The way teachers are able to list assignments on the web and link to them helps keep Bygoytra motivated and on task.
"I'm an 'A' student now," she said.