FOR SEVERAL YEARS, Seattle Public Schools has used stimulus funds to pay for an “educational technologist”—kind of a tech-savvy teacher’s aide—for each of its schools. But when the district found out earlier this year that the federal program was ending and that remaining monies had to be spent by August 31, its IT department got creative. Rather than let the cash go to waste, it invested in 90 iPod Touches and more than 100 iPads, to be distributed this fall at 10 schools that applied for a tech grant. Students will use the devices for everything from collecting and analyzing data to creating multimedia presentations.

“It was like Christmas for the teachers,” says SPS IT director, Eric Caldwell. “At a time when we’re cutting budgets and a lot of the news is gloomy, they had the opportunity to have some resources that were really exciting.”