By 2015, all 4,000 students who attend school in Carol Stream Elementary District 93 could have their own computer to use in the classroom.
The district is rolling out its so-called "1:1 learning initiative" that will put new iPads and MacBook Airs in the hands of students and teachers to use as learning and teaching tools.
Teachers will receive training on how to use the devices beginning this fall, and students in sixth grade and kindergarten will have use of the computers starting in January.
"You can put a textbook in front of a student and it may mean nothing, just like putting a computer in front of a student. It's how do you utilize that resource to make the child a better learner," Superintendent Bill Shields said. "It's the idea of personalizing education for kids. Teaching isn't something that takes place within four walls anymore."
Officials said the devices will allow students to view videos and animations, take "virtual" field trips, and read etexts with the ability to highlight and take notes. The technology also will provide teachers with real-time assessment data to evaluate student strengths and weaknesses.
Under a first-year test project, the district will lease 570 MacBooks and 290 iPads from Apple for $879,000. Based on how successful the program is, the district can then decide to extend the lease to get additional computers.
David Hill, the district's assistant superintendent for business services, didn't provide an estimate for how much the entire program could cost at the end of three years, but did rule out the possibility the district would need to increase taxes or go to referendum to do it. He said the new technology would help create efficiencies by reducing costs of paper and textbooks, for example, while helping re-purpose existing funds.
The district is targeting the 2013-14 school year to provide students in preschool and grades one, three and seven with computers, and the 2014-15 school year for students in grades two, four, five and eight.
Those in preschool through second grade will have iPads, that will remain in the classroom, while older students in grades thee through eight will have MacBooks, and with parental permission, they will be able to take the devices home.
Leasing the equipment is more financially advantageous than buying it, Shields said, since it's expected that as the technology ages, new computers will be needed about every three or four years. The computers now in use by the district were purchased.
The district currently has one computer for every four students.
Shields said students won't be "glued" to their computers, but the use of the technology will be balanced with other classroom activities. And the role of the teacher isn't diminished but becomes more important, he said, since they will be the facilitators of the digital learning.
District 93 officials took site visits to school districts around the country where similar initiatives have been implemented. They were particularly impressed by the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, where officials credit the 1:11 program with helping improve test scores.
District 93 is enlisting the services of the Pearson Education Company for training of teachers and staff. Other Illinois school districts that are implementing similar programs with Pearson are located in downstate Mendon, Jerseyville and Rushville.