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District 200 to start phasing in technology for teachers

WHEATON – Community Unit School District 200 will roll out its technology program this year at a more controlled pace than originally proposed.

The Board of Education said Wednesday it would go forward with a modified version of a plan to equip teachers with devices such as iPads and laptops.

Interim Superintendent Faith Dahlquist said with another year of tight budgeting anticipated, district staff decided to look at how to introduce technology to the classroom.

"Just to buy devices without having to change curriculum ... is just a waste of time," she said.

Originally, the district planned for all certified, full-time middle and high school staff to receive a device and professional development as the school year progressed.

"But the problem is that without development, there is opportunity for a lot of waste to happen," she said.

Instead, staff hope to take the about $75,000 in money put aside for the initiative and let school principals select 20 to 30 percent of their staff to receive a device at the beginning of the year, with a required three hours of professional development.

Should the rollout go smoothly, the district would use the remainder of the money for a second round of device distribution around January, Dahlquist said. A third could follow in the 2015-16 school year with an additional $75,000.

A slower expansion with more school control left principals "elated," Dahlquist said. It also allows for more immediate action for the cash-strapped district and creates a chance to build a system of professional development and staff support at each building before the devices are widespread.

The same process could follow in giving devices to students. District staff originally looked at a 1:1 device implementation, consisting of a large, fixed investment each year to buy new devices for an entire grade level.

However, if the district limited its growth to specific subjects and classrooms – for example, providing devices to all eighth-grade science classes – it could increase yearly spending flexibility with less district-wide pressure on professional development. The approach could also help teachers determine what devices work best for each subject.

"I think that this is the better option," Dahlquist said. "It allows us to really work on our core business, which is instruction and student learning."

Dahlquist said department chairs and other staff leaders are already testing a number of devices the district purchased over the summer to see which may fit their needs best. She anticipated the schools would inform the district in the next week and hopefully have devices in the hands of as many as 90 teachers by September and more than 180 by the end of the year.

Board President Barbara Intihar said she hoped the introductory program could provide a blueprint for a master plan for the next several years.

"I think we would benefit from – and I know I would like to see ... either our success stories or even our failures," she said. "I would like to see a presentation on that to encourage other teachers who want to investigate and give us and the public some information about how technology is changing instruction."

Dahlquist said she anticipated members of the high school staff would be ready to give presentations by November.

Board member Brad Paulsen said he hoped the push for technology funding would be a popular and achievable project the public and the NEW 200 Foundation could get behind.

"How can we not proceed with this?" said board member Jim Mathieson.

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