District 73 looks to equip all middle school students with Chromebooks

 
 
Updated 11/23/2016 5:37 PM
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  • Jeffrey Broms, left, and Erik Boehmer, sixth-graders at Middle School South in Vernon Hills, use Chromebooks during a writing class. Hawthorn Elementary District 73 is considering a 1:1 initiative for all middle school students.

    Jeffrey Broms, left, and Erik Boehmer, sixth-graders at Middle School South in Vernon Hills, use Chromebooks during a writing class. Hawthorn Elementary District 73 is considering a 1:1 initiative for all middle school students. Courtesy of Hawthorn District 73

Shaping a proposed master plan for its buildings and facilities has taken center stage in recent months, but another initiative under consideration in Hawthorn Elementary District 73 would affect all middle school students next year.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the Vernon Hills-based district's two middle schools have been using Dell Chromebooks and other devices, but they are shared among classes and teachers have to reserve them. The initiative being pursued for the 2017-18 school year would equip all of the approximately 1,300 students with the devices for what's called 1:1 personalized learning.

"We're looking at the impact of how we could personalize learning for students," said Lisa Cerauli, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "The device is the tool to support individual learning styles."

Sharing devices comes with its own logistical issues. Knowing all the students would have their own devices to take home would save time and space, she said.

The initiative becomes more crucial as expectations for students entering high school increase, she said.

"We need students who can think and communicate and solve problems. Those are things we can start as early as elementary and middle school," Cerauli said.

The school board Monday is expected to vote on recommendations to use Dell Chromebooks for the 1:1 program and increase fees to $100 from $35 per student to help pay for them.

Previous discussion has envisioned the district buying or leasing 1,400 devices for daily use and another 140 as loaners for students who forget theirs or to replace damaged units. The recommended model, including licensing and a case, sells for $354 each, board members have been told.

A technology team has been considering which devices would be best for the initiative and have or will visit other districts where the personalized learning model is used. Four teachers in each of District 73's middle schools are leaders for training and act as on-site coaches, Cerauli said.

Among them is Jacqui Ray, who teaches sixth-grade writing and has been piloting the personalized learning approach in her four classes. She says this generation of students has grown up with information being available at a keystroke, so knowing and finding what's reliable and credible is part of the learning curve.

"I'm trying to give them the skills to go beyond asking Google," she said. "It's a struggle for them. We're focused on using it in a way that it will enhance their learning and not be an easy answer."

Ray said the 1:1 initiative will give students a greater opportunity to be part of the learning process inside and outside class.

@dhmickzawislak

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