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New iPads, teacher training are key to Downers Grove District 58 technology initiative

DOWNERS GROVE – A recommendation to acquire new iPads for students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be voted on in June by the Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education.

The board on May 14 heard an hour-long presentation about the future of technology in the district, including a $1.4 million expenditure to lease the iPads.

Students in grades 3 through 6 would receive iPads with keyboards while first- and second-graders would get the devices without keyboards. In kindergarten, one iPad would be provided to every two students.

James Eichmiller, the district’s director of innovative technology and learning, said the recommendation is necessary for the district to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

“We really are making a recommendation that is best for students,” Eichmiller said. “We think this is going to have a positive impact on students.”

The district will lease the iPads over a four-year period at a cost of $360,000 annually, he said. The district expects to receive about $140,000 from the sale of 4,400 iPad Minis the board designated as surplus.

Funds generated from the sale of the iPad Minis will go toward the purchase of the new iPads, Eichmiller said.

During his presentation, he said a goal of the technology upgrade is to provide the professional development necessary for teachers to be proficient in the technology used in the classroom.

“We need to spend some time getting our teachers on even footing,” Eichmiller said.

He said technology training would be incorporated into district institute days, faculty meetings and grade-level collaboration meetings.

Eichmiller’s remarks come in response to concerns expressed by board members at an April 9 meeting. Concerns included the failure of some teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons.

Board member Jill Samonte continued to express reservations about the initiative at the May 14 meeting.

“I’m on the fence, and I don’t know which way I’m going to fall yet,” Samonte said of the recommendation.

She added the technology refresh is expensive and comes at a time when the district faces other expenses.

Some parents who attended the meeting said Eichmiller's presentation did not include ways in which technology will improve test scores or academic growth.

Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said the district must do a better job supporting teachers and nurturing collaboration, but it needs the tools to do that.

“Ultimately, this has been a really difficult decision to make,” she said.

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