U-46 board OKs Chromebook purchase for fifth through eighth grades

Updated 3/12/2019 5:12 PM

Elgin Area School District U-46 is adopting more technology-based curriculum and resources, and moving toward providing one-to-one technology devices to all students.

The school board recently approved spending $3.4 million to purchase 11,750 Chromebooks and related equipment for students in fifth through eighth grades districtwide.

Officials cited research studies showing improved student academic outcomes and 21st century skills tied to the adoption of one-to-one technology programs.

Investing in Chromebooks also is more fiscally responsive as Microsoft will stop supporting devices using the Windows 7 operating system -- widely used by the district -- by year end. No updates, including security measures, will be available for Windows 7, eventually requiring all devices to be upgraded and making the switch to Chromebooks a timely solution, officials said.

The $322 cost per unit includes the device, power adapter, and license to access online educational materials, documents show.

Students can access resources with the Chromebook computers even while offline, completing homework assignments without internet access and later uploading them once logged onto a wireless network. Families must pay a $25 insurance fee at the start of the school year for repairs, officials said.

Teachers will be trained on the use of this technology, possibly through webinars and how-to videos, said Trisha Shrode, U46's director of curriculum and instruction.

In the last five years, the district has adopted several technology-based curricular resources for core instruction and intervention. Moving to one-to-one in fifth through eighth grades will allow students greater access to those resources, interventions and progress monitoring tools, officials said.

Last spring, the school board adopted new mathematics resources, mostly digital, for high schools. It resulted in thousands of freshmen, sophomores, most juniors and even some middle-schoolers taking new algebra and geometry courses and receiving personal computers at the start of this school year. Total cost for those resources and technology -- including purchasing 11,000 Dell Chromebooks and graphic calculators -- was roughly $5.5 million.

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