Teachers in Hawthorn Elementary District 73 this coming school year will be equipped with a new way to connect with students in their classrooms.
The Vernon Hills-based district has invested in 180 iPads for teachers as part of a broader goal to ensure all classrooms have similar access to technology. The upgrade also is designed to provide more versatility for teachers and interaction by students.
"I'm excited about this because of what I think it will do for teachers and learning," said Beth Pollock Burke, coordinator of technology. "You have this one tool that can really transform how teachers teach in the classroom."
This rollout of a multiyear technology project also includes stands, LCD projectors and Apple TVs for each classroom at a total estimated cost of about $283,000.
Burke said technology use in District 73 classrooms was found too inconsistent. The iPad was selected because of its diversity in meeting the needs of teachers while engaging students.
For example, the stand turns the iPad into a document camera and the Apple TV connects it wirelessly to the projector, Burke said, creating an interactive white board in which student work can be displayed.
More than 130 teachers recently participated in "iPadapalooza," a two-day training session spanning the basics to advanced techniques, such as creating e-books, for using the devices as part of daily instruction.
"It's exciting," Burke said. "It's not a toy, it's a tool."
Funding includes an initial contribution of $36,000 from the parent-teacher organization and a 3-year commitment of $100,000, according to Taunya Reback, who just ended a four-year stint as president of the group.
In the past, the organization donated money to each school building on a per-student basis, with the principal deciding how to use the funds, be it a field trip or materials for a science class, for example.
"Our PTO this year made a commitment to put more money to technology," Reback said.
The rest comes from a previous district bond issue that had set aside money for technology-related purchases, according to Burke.
"It was waiting until we had a use for it that we thought would really make a difference," she said.
Superintendent Nick Brown said this is the first in a two-year roll out for instructional staff, with the idea of integrating technology seamlessly during the day for students. The district is determining how best to utilize iTunes and other applications, he added.