High school teachers across Illinois can now access free curriculum resources through iTunes U and bring additional digital learning experiences to their classrooms.
Vision 20/20, a consortium six different education associations in Illinois, launched its 21st Century Learning Center at Northwest Suburban High School District 214 on Tuesday.
The learning center offers lesson plans and resources for classes including algebra 1 and 2, geometry, chemistry, biology, physics, English and economics, said Michael Jacoby, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Board Officials. The resources are free and accessible through iTunes U.
"This is going to be an exciting opportunity to see some rich teaching with technology embedded," Jacoby said.
A group of educators from 22 school districts across the state have been working to create the digital content and curriculum resources since earlier this year. Before going live, the group vetted its content with education and curriculum specialists, officials said.
Resources include lectures, videos, books and materials that are all aligned to Common Core standards and can be used or adapted by any teacher in the state.
Jacoby said the group plans to later expand its offerings to elementary and middle school teachers.
"Never before has information been so readily available for students and teachers to maximize learning and teaching," said Jeffrey Leathem, an English teacher from Palatine High School who helped develop the English course content. "This was developed by Illinois teachers for Illinois teachers, students and parents."
Illinois Education Secretary Beth Purvis attended the launch and commended Vision 20/20 for its work.
"A collaboration of professionals like this is a model for the state and the country about how we can all come together to do the right thing for our students and our families," Purvis said.
From a simulcast in Springfield, State Superintendent Tony Smith called the portal "extraordinary."
iTunes U is the world's largest online catalog of free educational content that helps educators create and manage courses.
While all students in District 214 have iPads and many other districts have given their students tablets or laptops, Jacoby said the launch is a reminder that some parts of the state still do not have access to broadband Internet.
Vision 20/20 is made up of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Principals Association, Illinois Association of School Business Officials, Illinois Association of School Boards, the Superintendents' Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools. It is working to create a long-range plan to improve public education in the state.