New Pilot Program Enhances Curriculum with Hand-Held Devices
As the world continues to advance, District 211 is determined to prepare students for their future and to stay ahead of the curve through an education that utilizes cutting-edge technology.
This is why the Board of Education approved the One-to-One Electronic Device pilot program at its April 26 meeting, which will allow 1,500 District 211 students to have his or her personal electronic device to enhance classroom interaction and collaboration throughout the semester.
“Our students live in a world of unlimited information—and unlimited potential—if they can get to it,” said Daniel Cates, associate superintendent for administrative services. “The One-to-One pilot program will give students endless access to teachers, and a library card to the world.”
Students will be issued an Apple iPad 2 to use throughout the duration of their course, whether it’s in or out of the classroom. Teachers who are part of the One-to-One program will have a greater opportunity to reach their students on a more collaborative basis. For example, in a “flipped classroom” environment, teachers will post a video online the night before the next class. Students can then see a narrated video and summary of the content that will be covered in class.
“Students can watch a video the night before about the upcoming lesson, this way they can be introduced to the topic before entering classroom,” said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology for District 211. “That isn’t the lesson, though. It just helps the lesson move faster and allows for students to think about questions beforehand.”
The pilot program includes nine different departments, and teachers who will teach more than 30 different courses with a varying spectrum of student ability. Administrators emphasize this program is not to reform the educational system already in place, but is a way to transform and improve the curriculum.
Each One-to-One teacher is familiar with the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) which focuses on six different points of instructional improvement through technology, such as creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making.
Sorensen said teachers will be using classroom portals, which is a way for students and parents to access homework assignments, classroom texts, practices tests, videos, forums to communicate with peers, and any other materials needed for the course. Additionally, students can electronically ask questions to other students or their teacher through forum-type communication, and some teachers have said they will have online office hours after school for students who aren’t available after the bell rings.
“The Internet has evolved to a point where communication and collaboration are now the focus of using the web. Instead of just reading web pages and watching videos, students are collaborating with each other to create and share information,” Sorensen said. “They work together to make their own videos, participate in science experiments, create online journals and blogs, and solve complex problems. There is a great deal of pride that goes into work that the whole world will see.”
The overall goal of the program is to help students learn about better methods of accessing information and collaborating with their peers and teachers. Sorensen said he hopes this program teaches students to be independent learners before they enter the classroom. Cates reflects the sentiment.
“It goes beyond giving our students an iPad—it brings the curriculum alive,” Cates said. “It takes students who have never been out of Illinois to the streets of Arab spring, to a science lab on another continent and to transport them in history. Rather than just reading somebody else’s textbook, kids generate their own understanding of the world.”