Dear District 57 Families,
The school year has gotten off to a great start, and I'm excited about the progress of some of our new technology initiatives. Integrating high-tech learning into the school day is an important part of 21st Century education. That's why the District has developed an aggressive, multi-year plan that re-envisions the role of technology in the classroom. I'd like to update you on three ways that we are implementing the plan this school year:
· Lincoln has launched a 1:1 Computer Ratio Pilot Program, with the Jaguar team of eighth graders receiving Chromebook computers to use at school and bring home in the evenings. We are gathering data to determine how learning can be enhanced by a 1:1 computer ratio (similar to District 214's recently expanded iPad program). The Chromebook integrates with Google Apps for Education, which provides free productivity and collaboration tools that Lincoln teachers and students already use. Teachers are incorporating the Chromebooks into their lesson plans by using them for in-class teaching and homework. District 57 purchased some of the Chromebooks for the pilot, and others were donated by the District 57 Education Foundation. By the end of the school year, administrators and teachers will determine the value of a 1:1 computer ratio and decide whether it's possible to expand the program in the future. Many area middle schools already have a 1:1 ratio or are considering it.
· For the first time, Lincoln students have been given access to Gmail through their Google accounts, for communication and collaboration with peers and teachers. Several safety precautions were put in place, so the email can be used to enhance learning while encouraging online safety and responsibility.
· We have maximized Internet connectivity throughout Lincoln and Fairview, so large groups of students can simultaneously take advantage of online learning opportunities. Similar projects are scheduled at Lions Park and Westbrook next summer. Previously, Lincoln and Fairview Internet access points were located in the hallways, a setup that did not allow classrooms next to each other to use the Internet at the same time. But now each classroom has its own access, so every student can potentially be online.
· Fairview's computer lab was converted into a classroom over the summer. The school needed the extra space, but the change was also part of a strategic shift away from the computer lab model. A lot of our new curriculum requires quick online access, so we want to make technology continuously available in the classrooms. This makes more sense than going to a lab at a designated time. Mobile devices are getting cheaper and many schools are doing away with computer labs. We will be determining if it makes sense to eliminate our other labs and bring additional devices into the classrooms.
Studies show that students who have regular access to computers in school are more organized and engaged learners, perform better and have an advanced understanding of technology. This is the direction that education is heading, and I'm pleased that District 57 is taking a proactive approach to keep up with the demands.
If you would like to learn more about the technology that students are using, I invite you to attend the Engage 2015 Parent Tech Conference. District 214, District 57 and other area elementary districts are hosting this conference from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Hersey High School. Watch the school newsletters and District 57 social media for more details and to learn how to register.
Dr. Elaine Aumiller, Superintendent of Schools