In July, the District 91 Board of Education authorized the purchase of additional Google Chromebooks and Nexus 7 tablet computers for use in the schools. All five board members in attendance unanimously approved the two proposals, which called for spending $94,050 on additional Chromebooks and $22,000 for new Nexus 7 tablets. Board members Corrissa Smith and Kim Rostello were not present for the vote.
In 2013, as reported by the Review, D91 embarked on a large-scale effort to upgrade technology in its schools, which included investing in new computers, Promethean whiteboards and network capability improvements. As part of its approach, the District also developed a “1:1” initiative, with the goal of providing each student access to his or her own computer during the school day.
With this latest purchase, Amanda Walsh, D91’s director of Instructional Technology, told the Review a personal computer is now available to every student and faculty member during school hours. Asked by the Review about the benefits of technological integration in the classroom, Walsh listed several advantages, including improved student-to-teacher communication, more efficient research abilities, and more immediate teacher feedback for students.
Working toward completing the 1:1 goal, D91 has purchased the hardware in installments, and has slowly incorporated the new technologies into classrooms throughout its schools. In the 2013-14 school year, one kindergarten and one fourth-grade classroom each used Nexus 7 tablets in a pilot program.
Chromebooks, which now will be provided to students in grades one through eight, are used alongside traditional instructional methods.
“Technology is just another ‘tool’ in the classroom like paper and pencil. It is used when appropriate for activities such as writing, researching, assessment, presentations, projects and more,” Walsh told the Review in an email.
Students are not the only group to receive computers. Every D91 faculty member also has access to a laptop and Chromebook. D91 is providing significant instruction to help with implementation, Walsh explained.
“There is a lot of training,” she said, “including job-embedded coaching, video tutorials, lunch-and-learns, after-school workshops, and more. My job is to work directly with the teachers, one-on-one or in teams, to support them in the integration of technology in their classrooms.”
According to Walsh the teachers have embraced the new technology.
“Teachers have been very open to the change,” she said. “Reaction has been very positive.”
Hired in 2014, Walsh holds degrees from Concordia University Chicago and Saint Xavier University. She told the Review her experience working as a District 64 math teacher in the northwest suburbs informed her views on technology in the classroom.
“I was able to record my lessons and share them with my students so they could review them for a test … [and] we were able to do research projects in math class to help students learn more about math in the real world.”
D64, unlike D91, allows students to take the computers home after each school day concludes. D91 is considering altering their policy.
“It is a topic of discussion this year. There is a lot to think about when making this decision, including policy and insurance,” Walsh said in an email to the Review.
D91 Supt. Louis Cavallo said at the July meeting, “I am certainly not opposed [to a take-home policy]. … We just need to get all the pieces together.”