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District 124 iPadding its technology

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Students and teachers in Evergreen Park School District 124 are getting tech savvy.

  The district expects to put iPads in the hands of every student and faculty member within the next three years, Superintendent Robert Machak said.
  Some students and teachers already have the opportunity to work with the new technology tool.
  The district is piloting a program this year that gave iPads to 21 teachers and 250 students, including English language learners and students in the special education program, Machak said.
  The iPads are an excellent complement to the curriculum used for special education and ELL students, who tend to be spatial learners, he said.
  “They engage the kids in a way that a pen and paper can’t. They also offer kids learning opportunities like FaceTime and various apps that would be impossible otherwise,” Machak said. “It’s much more interactive.”
  Machak stressed that the technology is not used as a diversion for students. Rather, the iPad applications support the existing curriculum.
  Machak said he discovered 100 packaged iPads when he arrived at the district in August 2012.
  No one knew for whom the iPads were reserved, so Machack emailed faculty members and asked them to “make a case” for use in their classrooms. Several teachers responding with compelling cases to use the devices as part of their lessons, he said.
  For example, some teachers were interested in the virtual science labs available via an iPad application while others looked forward to using Skype to connect with various experts.
  “There were more teachers asking for them than we had devices,” he said.
  Additionally, teachers who did not initially ask for an iPad were encouraged to use them by colleagues who were taking advantage of the device, Machak said.
  The district has purchased additional iPads to meet the growing demand on the part of faculty members, he said.
  The technology initiative will save the district money over the long haul, Machak said. Students eventually will access textbooks via iPads and teachers will no longer have to make copies of handouts and tests.
  Students leave the iPads in school because bringing them home would require a security deposit, an additional cost the district did not want to pass onto parents.
  “We did not want to do that to our community,” said Machak, who added that parents already are faced with significant school-related fees.
  The district also has introduced interactive white boards in its five schools and a green screen at Northwest School, which allows students to broadcast their own newscasts.