As Northwest Suburban High School District 214 works on a plan for each of its 12,000 students to have an iPad in the future, students and staff at Vanguard Alternative School will test the idea over the next two years while developing a digital-only curriculum.
Through money set aside in the district's technology budget, the 14 staff members at Vanguard will receive iPads for the 2012-2013 school year to create a paperless curriculum and each of the schools' roughly 100 students will receive the tablets the following year, according to teacher Mark Kosirog.
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"We are excited to be a part of this important technology and look forward to developing a program that will prepare students for a digital world," said Sharyn Marsh, director of alternative programs.
Marsh said the staff will research and develop the best ways to use the iPads in and outside the classroom starting this summer and through the next school year.
"Vanguard has always tried to find different ways to deliver the district's curriculum," Marsh said.
Vanguard is a school of choice for nonspecial education and non-English-as-a-Second-Language students who have fallen behind in graduation credits at the district's traditional high schools.
"This is the technology that's out there in the world our students live in and that's the way our students will need to grow. We're preparing them for the future the best way possible," Marsh said.
Costs are a concern as District 214 shifts toward tablet learning over the next several years. Even after discounts and buying in bulk, the iPads will cost about $480 per device.
The district expects some savings from replacing some of the thousands of desktop computers across the district with iPads. Reductions also are anticipated in other technology costs. For example, the district has moved to Google Docs, a free, online word-processing service, to replace the fee-based Microsoft Office. The district is seeking grants to help defray the costs as well.
Creating a nearly paperless school experience is a big undertaking for Vanguard, but an exciting one, Marsh said.
"It's stirring a lot of conversation right now and a lot of excitement about how we can do things in a more effective way for the kids," she added.
District 214 has iPad pilot programs going on in its six traditional high schools and at the Newcomer Center, but the Vanguard program will be the first to include all students at its school.