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updated: 7/26/2011 5:17 AM

Palatine, Bensenville, St. Charles schools get tech grants

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Four suburban school districts will split around $1.2 million in grants through the Illinois State Board of Education's Low-Cost Laptop program.

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 was awarded the largest amount of the group at $466,730, which will be used to purchase nearly 900 iPads for every student in grades 3 to 6 at Virginia Lake and Jane Addams schools.

St. Charles Unit District 303 will get $407,160; Bensenville Elementary District 2 will get $161,000 and East Aurora Unit District 131 will get $180,500.

"Across the state, very few districts were awarded this incredible opportunity, which many educational technology experts predict is the wave of the future," said Jim Garwood, deputy superintendent of Palatine District 15.

Statewide, the ISBE spread $10,000 around to 18 selected school districts in two rounds of funding, paid for with Build Illinois bonds. Data on student performance, technology proficiency and demographic information will be collected as part of the pilot program.

To be eligible, at least 40 percent of the district's student body must be low-income, the district also must have demonstrated low student achievement and have limited access to laptop technology.

At least one-third of participating students had to be in Chicago, another third in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, with the final third coming from the remainder of the state.

Like Palatine, St. Charles Unit District 303 will use its grant money to buy Apple's most popular tablet for every student at Richmond Elementary School. This summer, the school was transformed into a third- through fifth-grade center due to declining enrollment and low test scores.

Superintendent Donald Schlomann said Richmond students, who will receive 40 minutes additional instruction each day with emphasis on foreign language and science using technology, will use the iPads to learn from more of a global perspective.

"We see technology becoming more and more an integral part of curriculum, and this allows students to immediately interface with the world," Schlomann said.

Bensenville District 2, which will use its $161,000 to buy iPads, servers, storage carts and some applications to equip seven social studies classrooms at Blackhawk Middle School.

Community Relations Coordinator Terry Ryan said the iPads will allow students to learn and research at their own pace, and to develop 21st century skills including critical thinking and working collaboratively.

"We're not just using technology for technology's sake," Ryan said. "We want to make learning interactive for students."