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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

U-46 preschoolers to get increased tech time


By Seth Hancock
  Children starting in preschool in School District U-46 will be exposed to more screen time under its technology plan.
  In February, the district gave a technology update to the Board of Education. Brian Lindholm, coordinator of strategic initiatives, said the district started developing a new technology plan in the 2018-2019 school year.
  “This plan is based on the premise that technology is not an end in itself, but that it can enable and enhance the most effective learning behaviors,” Lindholm said adding the district wants  “increased access to digital resources” for students which it believes  “will drive student engagement and ultimately student achievement.”
  In March, the board approved of a nearly $1 million technology purchase which included 1,700 iPads to be used by early learners.
  Lindholm said both curriculum and assessments are increasingly going online with third graders starting to take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) online. He said the district has not seen positive results on the IAR which the district blames on lack of technology use by younger students.
  “We’ve noted that each year we’ve added a grade level to online IAR testing, student outcomes on these measures has dropped,” Lindholm said. “And these initial decreases in student proficiency have not yet been recovered. These findings have led us to believe there’s a need for consistent and real-life use of computing devices in our classrooms well in advance of our students using these devices for high stakes testing.”
  The goal for technology use from preschool to second grade is to give students familiarity with technology.
  “Students will use devices within centers in the classroom to provide enrichment and intervention,” Lindholm said. The district wants to have one iPad for every four early learner students.
  From second through fourth grade, the district wants students to have daily access to devices with classroom Chromebooks which are not taken home. For fifth grade through senior year of high school, each student is given a Chromebook which is taken home while U-46 provides higher end computers at the schools for specific programs such as the BEACON Academy at South Elgin High School or Project Lead the Way classes.
  Lindholm said the district teaches “digital citizenship” by helping students “understand responsible and appropriate technology usage” with lessons on how to manage one’s digital footprint and how to determine credible sources.
  The district has been providing multiple trainings on technology during professional development (PD) days according to Lindholm.
  A new Learning Management System (LMS) is being implemented, Lindholm calling it “a web-based application that provides a central location for educational resources.”
  The board approved in March the Canvas LMS through Instructure, Inc. costing $426,915.
  Hallie Furtak, the student advisor on the board, encouraged the district to expand its PD to teachers.
  “Within our classrooms it is clear that a lot of our teachers are confused…. They don’t know how to utilize all of the available programs that are out there,” Furtak said.
  Board member Melissa Owens asked about implementation of new technological programs to which Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, said “it often takes us three to five years to get real implementation.”
  Shrode gave an example with the implementation of ST Math. She said: “In the first year to two years, I’m going to be very honest… we see early kind of people that jump on board and get it right away and then some people that take a little longer to get on board.”
  There are technology coaches at every elementary school, two at every middle school and four at every high school according to Shrode.
  Owens said given that implementation can take up to five years then “we’ve got a whole high school cohort that has gone through and not received the benefits of these tools.”
  Shrode said the district does get feedback from teachers after every PD experience to help speed up implementation times, and Lindholm said: “I think we do agree with you on the sense of urgency.”
  Board member Eva Porter asked about licenses for online materials considering the implementation times.
  Shrode said the “curriculum cycle itself is a roughly six-year process” so the district tries to secure six-year licensing agreements. A lack of local control and a heavy reliance on outside resources (state and federal) causes problems as Shrode said lengthening agreements is ofter dependent on the district receiving grants.
  Porter said, regarding screen time for younger students, that “I think it’s key” in order to create a “second nature” in using technology for young kids.
  Sue Kerr, the board’s president, asked about the replacement cycle for Chromebooks which Laura Macias, director of information services, said they are replaced every four years and the district “pretty much sells them” after they’ve reached that lifespan.
  Part of the early lessons for students is teaching keyboarding skills, and Kerr said: “Keyboarding could be obsolete in a few years because everything’s going to be done vocally.”
  Shrode said the district does train teachers on text to speech modes in order to help “students who don’t read or write as well as some of their peers.”

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