Two District 65 schools receive iPads through national learning program

Annie Bruce, Reporter

A national learning program provided two schools in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 with iPads at the end of October as part of an initiative to give students and teachers opportunities to extend learning through the use of technology.

Through the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program, teachers and their students at Chute Middle School in grades six through eight and Dr. Martin Luther King Literary and Fine Arts School in grades five through eight, along with six other schools across the country, were chosen to receive iPads donated by Digital Promise with a grant from the Verizon Foundation.

“We are excited and honored to have two of our schools selected to participate in a program that not only will give students and teachers access to technology to supplement learning in the classroom and at home; our teachers will receive ongoing training on the use and integration of these devices to help improve student achievement,” said John Price, assistant superintendent for schools for District 65, in a news release. “Through our partnership with Verizon and Digital Promise, District 65 is closing the digital learning gap for over 800 students.

Regina Colquitt, an instructional coach at Chute, said she was very excited that all students will receive iPads. She said that with the devices, students and teachers are able to interact on a more regular basis, which helps extend learning time outside of the classroom.

To prepare for the transition, Colquitt said teachers received their iPads at the end of August and students were required to complete lessons in a Digital Citizenship course, an online instructional program.

Digital Promise, a nonprofit that uses technology and research to improve learning opportunities, selected schools to receive the tablets based on a variety of criteria. All schools involved in the program are required to have Title I funding, which provides financial assistance to schools with a high population of low-income students. Jason Tomassini, director of communications at Digital Promise, said the company also chose schools in which at least 40 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

“We wanted to work in schools that were representative of a nation of public education,” he said.

Tomassini said iPads and other forms of learning technology can be used as tools to achieve a number of learning goals.

“We try not to focus too much just on the technology,” he said. “One of the real goals for us in this project was to … really close that digital learning gap quickly and be able to get kids and teachers access to the learning opportunities afforded by technology.”

Digital Promise tracks progress in each of the schools selected to participate in the program through their website, where teachers are encouraged to share best practices and experiences.

The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program has worked with more than 24 elementary, middle and high schools since its launch in 2012.

Colquitt said she hopes the iPads will help students tap into additional learning opportunities and make students more college ready.

“I can tell you that many of them had the look on their face like it was Christmas morning,” she said. “Once the newness wears off … they’ll see it’s just a tool. It’s just a device that hopefully will help them to see that they can have access to information and possibly it may even reach as far as helping them hope for a different future for themselves.”

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