Indian Prairie School District 204, serving more than 28,000 students, has Chromebooks and smart boards, but wonders where to go next with education technology that will have a lasting impact.
)(TNS) — In January 2016, the Indian Prairie District 204 School Board approved a fee structure that set in motion a plan to place a Chromebook computer in the hands of every student in grades 2 to 12 by the 2018-19 school year.
Three years later, the district is looking at what comes next and will be asking staff, students, parents and the community for help in determining how Indian Prairie will proceed.
“We’ve done Chromebooks; we have them now. We have Smart Boards in our classrooms. What are we going to do next. … That’s the question we’re posing to the community,” Adam Smeets, the district’s chief technology officer, told the school board this week.
That’s not to say the district isn’t already studying a variety of devices that would keep District 204 innovatively moving forward. “We’re still evaluating the Chromebooks as part of the three-year plan,” Smeets said. “But what are the other things that the community is interested in?”
Simply adding a new digital device to a classroom environment doesn’t mean the school is doing “transformational work,” he said.
“It’s much more than that,” Smeets said. It involves innovative teachers, students and ideas.
Over the next few weeks, the district will be collecting input through several methods.
Besides gathering ideas via formalized focus groups, the district will be talking to parents at school tech nights, hosting tech talks with students and getting feedback over coffee with staff, Chief Academic Officer Kathy Pease said.
“One of the things that we have known for a very long time in this district is that our staff is very innovative, and our parents as well as our students also have great ideas,” Pease said. “We want to hear directly from them what are their ideas.”
Smeets expects to have the information compiled in time for a March school board meeting.
The idea is to give the school board an idea of what technology upgrades Indian Prairie could provide next and how those enhancements mesh with district curriculum.
Pease said the concepts also will align with the new six Portrait of a Graduate competencies that all students need, no matter what path they take. They include creativity and innovation, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, citizenship, flexibility and adaptability, and resilience.
Board member Justin Karubas said he’s struggling with how to deal with the constant changes in instructional materials as the district integrates more technology into the classroom and materials are constantly being updated.
“It’s not like a textbook,” Karubas said.
Superintendent Karen Sullivan said school code is way behind in what’s happening in the field, and it’s a subject she’s broached with Illinois State Board of Education officials.
“It isn’t just a textbook anymore, and it isn’t easy,” Sullivan said. “You just can’t pass it around and show it because a lot of the digital resources change.”
In addition, Pease said students are taking charge of their learning by researching subjects on their own.
She said not only is it the district’s job to inform the board about the tools the teachers are providing and supporting, but the board needs to know how the schools are educating students to be able to find the most appropriate resources on their own.
“It’s really a complex process at this point,” she said, but guidelines will help support in that area.
Board member Mark Rising questioned how the district gauges teachers’ use of one-to-one technology in the classroom. He said he’s never wanted technology to be used strictly for researching, doing an assignment or creating Google Docs.
“Yeah, those things are great; yes, that helps students. But is that really being innovative, enhancing teaching, helping learning and that type of thing,” Rising asked. “I don’t want the Chromebook to become a paperweight.”
What the district doesn’t want, Pease said, is to set a specific amount of time every student or teacher must spend on instruction with a piece of hardware because it restricts personalized education.
“I don’t ever see us putting a parameter around it, but that education on how to use it is very important,” she said. “Teachers have done some really nice work in that area.”
One of the biggest concerns when the Chromebook initiative was launched was teachers felt like they needed to fully understand the device before they gave it to a student, Pease said. Now that teachers have gone through the cycle, they understand they don’t have to know how a Chromebook or any device works or how to fix it, she said.
And that flexibility is necessary for teachers these days, she said.
In the past, people had years to get accustomed to a change, Pease said. Now they’re adjusting to changes that happened yesterday, and must adapt to the changes occurring today, she said.
“So the role of the teacher is to be that coach and help students maneuver through that,” she said.
©2019 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.