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updated: 8/14/2014 6:46 PM

Dist. 200 leaning away from digital devices for all

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  • The Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 board of education is mulling how to expose students and staff to more technology this school year.

      The Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 board of education is mulling how to expose students and staff to more technology this school year.
    AP FILE PHOTO

 
 

Instead of rushing to buy digital devices for all students, Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 board members seem to agree devices should be introduced to some teachers first and then rolled out carefully to students.

Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent for educational services, presented the board Thursday with two options for exposing students to more technology this school year.

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One is to move to a so-called 1:1 environment, where all students would have their own devices -- such as Chromebooks or iPads -- that they would take home, and to each class.

District staff members had concerns with that option, however, including the cost and its impact on the budget each year in the future. They also worried about having enough resources to teach new learning methods with the devices.

Rodney Mack, executive director of technology, said the district could charge students a fee to help with the leasing or purchasing of devices. But he said even in a best-case scenario, the district would need to double the technology budget, which is currently about $2 million a year.

The other option is to work toward increasing student access to digital devices but stopping short of promising a device for all. Tat approach was favored by the board because it would cost less while still modernizing classrooms.

Originally, there were plans to give a device to all certified full-time staff at the middle and high school level for the 2014-15 school year. But Dahlquist said administrators realized giving out a large number of devices without much professional development provided "an opportunity for a lot of waste" in resources and time.

Instead, principals will choose 20 to 30 percent of their staff to receive a device of their choice, contingent on them participating in two hours of training and agreeing to share what they learn with other staff members.

The remaining money that was budgeted for devices this upcoming school year will now either go toward a second wave of purchasing devices for teachers and increased professional development or to possibly start purchasing student devices, Dahlquist said.

"I love that you have thought that through and didn't just go with the shiny object (of new devices)," said board member Joann Coghill. "This makes so much sense and I love getting leaders who will rise from within each building ... I'm sure they'll love to share (what they learned) and that's going to create a whole culture of working together."

As far as choosing which devices to use, some sample devices have already been purchased and dropped off at the high schools and middle schools for department chairmen and key leaders to test out. They will have to choose which device they want to use by the beginning of September, Dahlquist said.

While option two doesn't involve any extra spending for this school year, Dahlquist said there is still a need to find additional funding so more devices can be purchased in the future.

"Not pushing to 1:1 does not get us out of our financial woes," Dahlquist said, adding that, for now, district officials need to decide "are we trying to build something for 1:1 or are we trying to build capacity and professional development first, because we don't have money to do all that."

Teachers who receive devices at the beginning of this school year are tentatively scheduled to make a presentation about them to the board in November.

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