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updated: 3/5/2013 1:50 PM

Glenbard pushes technology for 'anytime, anywhere learning'

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Students in Glenbard high schools will be encouraged to bring their own iPads to classes beginning next year as part of an instructional technology rollout plan that aims to put the computer devices in the hands of all 8,500 District 87 students.

A district technology committee has been meeting for six months, conducting listening sessions at all four district high schools, and making site visits to other districts that already employ the use of hands-on technology in the classroom.

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Their recommendation: put in place a "bring your own device" policy starting in the fall, then begin phasing in a so-called "1:1 deployment" of iPads in 2014-15.

It's possible the program will be phased in by grade level, according to Nate Dhamers, director of technology.

Jeff Feucht, the district's assistant superintendent for educational services, said students would be allowed to continue to bring their own devices if they own them, or lease them from the school district. They would likely pay a subscriber fee, perhaps taking the place of the existing textbook rental fee.

Apple, the exclusive seller of iPads, could allow families to purchase the devices at a reduced rate, Feucht said.

Officials say the program will encourage "anytime, anywhere learning" -- in the classroom, on the bus, or at home.

Glenbard's instructional technology plan follows what two of its elementary feeder districts -- Carol Stream Elementary District 93 and Marquardt Elementary District 15 -- have started doing with 1:1 computer device programs of their own. And District 87 officials have been looking at nearby high school districts, such as Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and New Trier High School District 203, to learn from their experiences and any mistakes that might have been made.

"We didn't want to be first, but didn't want to be last," Dhamers said.

The district's plan states the devices should "serve the purpose of instruction, not the other way around."

Already, some teachers are using iPads as part of their classroom lessons.

Robert Lang, a physics and engineering technology teacher at Glenbard South, said he actively uses his iPad, and often asks students to take out their Internet-capable devices in the classroom if it helps with his instruction.

Lang, a finalist for the recent Illinois Teacher of the Year awards, will become the district's first director of instructional technology starting in July. The school board confirmed his appointment this week.

"This position isn't about gadgets, but it's about pedagogy and how to integrate technology," said Superintendent David Larson.

A survey of 512 teachers throughout the district found 90 percent who said they were ready to begin using iPads as part of classroom instruction by the 2014-15 school year.

School board member Tom Voltaggio asked at a board meeting this week if it was realistic to be able to implement the program so quickly.

"Full implementation by 2014-15 seems rapid to me," he said. "Major initiatives in the district typically rollout in a number of years."

Feucht said administrators initially were taking a conservative approach, but feedback from teachers and students indicated they should speed up the process.

Larson compared the technology rollout to learning how to swim.

"It's a movement and way of life that will change our students' day and routine," Larson said. "There's some risk, but that's how we learn. That's how we grow."

Currently, students are allowed to bring devices such as iPhones to school, but they are required to turn them off.

But Glenbard officials plan to update the district's acceptable use policy this spring to address the current "reality" and allow students to bring their own devices to school as learning tools, Feucht said.

And while the new program gives students more freedom with technology during the school day, part of the plan is to set "expectations of digital citizenship," Feucht said.

iPads will be given to teachers over the next eight months, and professional development training sessions are scheduled, he said.

Dhamers said the 1:1 program likely will mean the district could begin phasing out the number of traditional desktop computers it has.

And Feucht said it also will mean the district won't have to spend as much on textbooks. The district spent $525,000 on books this year, and already is only budgeting $246,000 next year.

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