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Coal City School District may give students iPad, Chromebooks

Board looking to advance the 1:1 program

COAL CITY – Coal City School District may equip every student with his or her own iPad or Chromebook within the next two years.

“As a district, we’ve made a commitment to creating 21st century classrooms,” Superintendent Kent Bugg said. “Part of this focus is giving our kids the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century workplace.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Coal City School Board discussed advancing the district’s 1:1 program, which aims to put a technological device in every student’s hands, said Jason Smith, director of Technology and Business Services for the district.

The 1:1 program began in 2011 with students bringing their own devices into the classroom. Today, the district provides 950 Chromebooks for middle and high school classrooms, and seven iPads for each kindergarten through third-grade classroom.

“These devices allow our students to be creative,” Smith said. “We have students creating movies, videos, podcasts and presentations that convey their learning instead of just writing a 500-word essay on the topic of the day.”

The next step in the program involves selecting a pilot group of high school students to take a device with them to every class. Currently, devices must stay in an assigned classrooms, but Smith said eventually the district wants to assign a device to every student to be used throughout the school day.

Smith said the district will periodically collect feedback from the pilot group so staff can determine which devices best cater to each student’s educational needs.

“Before we just dive in and give everybody a computer, we want to test a pilot group and go through that process,” Bugg said.

Smith said the school board supports the decision to move forward with the pilot.

“We’re always trying to keep up with technology,” Ken Miller, Coal City School Board president, said Thursday. “This is an idea that we want to try and that we think could be very successful.”

The district also is providing professional development training for teachers so they know how to deliver their curriculum using the new devices.

“By 2017, when we’ve reached that endpoint where we have enough devices for every student, these teachers will be very well-versed in incorporating these tools,” Smith said.

When this program began, the school board agreed to allocate $1 million during a four-year period to the 1:1 program. Now in its second year, Smith said the district is on track to spend less than that amount.

“Part of the reason for that is the price of the Chromebook was cut in half almost overnight,” Smith said. “When we started, they were $499 and then they dropped to $250.”

With the funds, the district has updated its wireless connectivity, phone lines and purchased nearly 1,000 devices, among other improvements. Smith said if it’s not needed, the district will not spend the entire $1 million.

Bugg said the goal is to equip every student in the district with at least one device.

“These devices will give our students the opportunity to create their own learning in the classroom,” Bugg said. “Students will be able to direct the learning and teachers will become more facilitators of that learning.”

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