DOWNERS GROVE – Now that the Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education has approved a one-to-one technology initiative that includes new iPads for students in kindergarten though sixth grade, district officials face a variety of challenges including faculty training, implementation and effective communication with parents.
The board's approval of the technology refresh came after significant questions and concerns raised by board members and parents alike. Some questioned the decision to spend $1.4 million to lease the iPads over a four-year period, while others raised issues about the role the technology would play in overall learning.
One of the district’s goals is to ensure the technology is used in similar fashion across the district, said Justin Sisul, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Several critics of the proposal said some teachers have not incorporated technology into their curriculum. Instead, they said, the tablets were used to play games rather than to support lessons.
"We don't want to see a situation where a parent says, 'My child does not use the technology,' " Sisul said.
He added many teachers incorporate technology into their lessons.
“I can walk into any of our 13 schools and point to examples,” Sisul said.
He added the decision not to integrate technology “is not bad teaching.” Rather, it’s the responsibility of the district to ensure it’s happening.
“There’s not going to be an overnight change in culture,” Sisul said. “It takes time to implement lasting change.”
The district's goal is to make technology use routine rather than having "a special moment when we take out our iPads," he said.
James Eichmiller, the district's director of innovative technology and learning, took issue with criticism of technology used solely to play games.
In fact, games "can be a creative way to say, 'I understand this,' " Eichmiller said.
Appropriate faculty training is another goal of the technology initiative.
"We have a finite amount of time for professional development at the district level," Sisul said. "Some training from Apple will be included. They'll model integration. We drive the content of delivery."
Additionally, some tech-savvy teachers in the district will serve as coaches.
"They will be a significant part of our support to teachers," Sisul said.
Technology integration also will be a topic at grade-level meetings, Eichmiller said.
The success of the technology refresh also hinges on buy-in from parents, Sisul said. To accomplish that, the district must effectively connect with the community, he said.
"There are so many vehicles of communication now, " said Sisul, who added technology carries a variety of personal biases.
The district will rely on the Seesaw digital portfolio to give parents access to their children's work and what's occurring in the classroom.
"We've had some really positive feedback from parents," Eichmiller said.
Additionally, the district plans to change the focus of parent-teacher conferences to a student's overall learning experience rather than only discussing grades, Sisul said.