District 301 rolls out devices for all students
By next week, each of the more than 3,800 students in Burlington Central Unit District 301 will have a personal computing device, officials said.
The district implemented one-to-one devices from kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of this school year. Teachers tested iPads, laptops and Chromebooks in classrooms the last three years.
"Our launch is fairly ambitious," Superintendent Todd Stirn said. "We went districtwide one-to-one in the same school year. We've been spending quite a bit of time planning."
Officials spent the last three years upgrading the infrastructure in district schools to be able to handle complete one-to-one rollout. Last school year, some teachers were pulled out of the classroom to work with other teachers on integrating technology in the classroom.
The district is deploying Google compatible devices only. Students in kindergarten and first grade will get Android tablets -- 7-inch Google Nexus -- and second through 12th grade will get Chromebooks.
"We needed to change our communications platform to Google apps," said Matt Smith, district technology director. "We went with Chromebooks not only for their collaboration possibilities, but also they are much lower price points. Any student in third grade and above takes the device home."
Smith stressed the devices merely are tools to aid classroom instruction.
"The students won't be on the devices all day long. It's based on the teacher's discretion and how it can enhance the learning," he added.
The district's wireless network firewall filters all content accessible on student devices. The devices students take home will have safeguards to protect students when browsing the Internet, Smith said.
Officials can monitor what students are browsing, "if they are searching for things they shouldn't be," Smith said.
Funding is being covered through student fees and the district's revenues.
Students pay a $50 yearly technology fee, but also get to keep the device after two years.
"It's a shared cost between the district and the families," Stirn said.
The nonprofit District 301 Central Education Foundation is also allocating $20,000 for technology training centers on the east and west sides of the district to help enhance teachers' skills.
"Technology evolves so quickly. It's just one of our focuses," said Karen Warner of Elgin, a foundation board member. "It's really exciting to be able to support that and help our kids be excellent students, and provide them with all the tools."
The training rooms will be a place for teacher collaboration on using various technologies, and for experimenting on lessons with students.
"We're using that as a model for our future classrooms," Smith said.