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posted: 9/18/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Pooling resources will help boost digital learning

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  • A consortium studying online learning could lead to important advances in tailoring technology to meet individual students' needs.

    A consortium studying online learning could lead to important advances in tailoring technology to meet individual students' needs.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We do a fair amount of hand-wringing over the state of educational funding in the state of Illinois. And we have been known at times to criticize the spending of taxpayer dollars by local school districts or approved by local school boards.

But that criticism -- which sometimes is also leveled at teachers and their unions -- is necessary, we believe, to make sure suburban children get a solid education and suburban taxpayers get the most bang for their buck.

So, when we can offer praise to our school districts and their staffs for achieving both of those goals, all the better.

Five suburban districts have recognized a need and an opportunity and are working together to find the best, most cost-effective way of dealing with it. Batavia Unit District 101, Indian Prairie Unit District 204, Kaneland Unit District 302, Naperville Unit District 203 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 have formed a consortium to find the best way to deal with online and blended (classroom plus online) learning.

It's a 21st century dilemma and one that all districts surely are facing. We know that students learn at different paces and, in many cases. flourish in different learning environments. It's the job and the challenge of local school districts to offer the best options to help every student achieve success -- be it in the traditional classroom or some other way.

"It's the time to really maximize this opportunity to reach diverse learners in diverse settings," said Kaine Osburn, deputy superintendent of Naperville Unit District 203.

As Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson reported Tuesday, District 203 is considering a policy that would establish a remote educational program that could offer experiences both online and in the classroom and would be customized to meet individual student needs.

In addition, District 203 and the other four unit districts are working with a Colorado-based consulting company that helps unit districts implement online learning. By joining together, districts could share some of the costs of providing these enhanced educational opportunities.

"We're looking at ways to not only improve what we're already doing but also to expand the course opportunities," said District 200's Faith Dahlquist. "For example, it was hard to find teachers of Mandarin; however, by pooling our resources with other districts, we could find a teacher and have a lot of students participate in a class like that, digitally."

Just as work places are using the digital revolution to change how and where people work, it's a positive move for our school districts to at least study how best to marshal technology for the benefits of both students and taxpayers.

We encourage parents and the public to offer their input as the consortium move forward on a strategic plan.

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