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Local high schools enthusiastic about digital technology boom

  • Written by Kelly White

lilly lorenz photo 9-8

Submitted photo

Stagg High School freshmen (from left) Lilly Lorenz, 14, of Worth; Jose Guzman 14, Palos Hills; and Reem Shanab, 14, Palos Hills, received their new Chromebooks as the school year began.

 

Feeling the wave of the future, many local high school districts are steering away from the traditional textbook and leaning towards a new approach of digital learning.

Community High School District 218, made up of Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard, joined in on the digital ride as all 2016 incoming freshmen students were given an iPad, courtesy of District 218, to carry with them throughout their four years of high school, using it in and out of the classroom.

“Teachers are integrating the iPad and its digital tools into their lessons and units of study,” said Tim Prost, director of District 218 Educational Technology. “The iPad provides access to digital resources that will become more common in our classrooms over time. The iPad has a powerful classroom management app that allows teachers to distribute, collect, and provide feedback on assignments. The classroom management app has useful communication features and allows teachers to provide access to digital materials for their students. Additionally, many teachers will be using the iPad to administer tests and other classroom assessments.”

The iPads were distributed to more than 1,700 freshmen at the District 218 schools in August. Next fall, all students in District 218 will receive the tablet computers to keep with them.

iPads, manufactured by Apple, were also distributed to Evergreen Park Community High School District 231 freshmen this school year. This is the second year in a row that Oak Lawn Community High School distributed iPads to students of all four grade levels.

The iPads reflected a positive educational environment and were used again this year, according to Joseph McCurdy, Assistant Principal for Operations at Oak Lawn High School.

The iPad was not the only tablet distributed to high school students. District 230, made up of Andrew, Sandburg and Stagg high schools, opted for the Microsoft Chromebook.

The Chromebooks were distributed the first few days of school this semester to all freshman and sophomore students, according to Carla Erdey, director of communications for District 230.

“It's now time to take the next step to transform the way we teach students in a digital world,” said Dr. James Gay, District 230 Superintendent. “District 230 has always prided itself on being cutting-edge in the way we prepare students for their future. Expansion of the Digital Learning Program is the next logical step. The Chromebooks are an outstanding tool to support learning.”

Like the iPad, Chromebooks provide access to a number of learning apps that make the classroom experience more interactive and collaborative. ​They assist in learning the curriculum of their classes, as well as teach them to be positive digital citizens.​ Chromebooks provide access to the vast information available online, as well.

Although the iPad and Chromebook will be beneficial in the learning process, it will not replace the common textbook – at least not yet, according to both District 218 and 230 officials.

“District 218 is currently in a transition period as we work to incorporate more digital content and resources in our courses,” Prost said. “Some classes will continue to utilize printed textbooks during this transition period. The iPad is an important tool that will support teaching and learning in our schools. However, a balanced approach is always best and students will continue to use a variety of resources for their assignments. Some homework assignments will utilize the iPad while others will utilize more traditional resources.”

District 218 has contracted with Apple, Inc., to provide student iPads and iPad cases for its one-to-one initiative. These iPads and their cases are being leased at a cost of $131 per student, per year. This cost is partially offset by a new technology fee of $25 that is assessed to those receiving devices. When the student leaves the district either through graduation or transfer, they must return the iPad, just as they would a textbook.

District 230 has leased the Chromebooks that are distributed to freshmen. Those will be turned in at the end of their freshmen year. They will receive a new Chromebook at the start of their sophomore year.​ Students pay a $75 annual technology fee. That fee goes toward the price of the Chrom​e​book. When they graduate, the Chromebook will be their property, unlike districts using the iPad.

The iPads and Chromebooks will be heavily monitored by classroom teachers and officials believe the positive educational benefits of the digital devices far outweigh any risk of distraction in the classroom.

“Good classroom management is always important whether the devices are present or not,” Erdey said. “There are ways built into the devices for the teacher to assure students remain on task.”

“The goal has always been for the technology to be the catalyst for a deeper understanding of course material and enhancement of student creativity,” said Mike Jacobson, principal at Richards.