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DeKalb School District 428 planning for ‘paperless classrooms’ by 2016

Roger Christensen, a teacher at Clinton Rosette Middle School, helps Edgar Hernandez (left), 13, as Hernandez works on a science lab using a laptop Monday in DeKalb.
Roger Christensen, a teacher at Clinton Rosette Middle School, helps Edgar Hernandez (left), 13, as Hernandez works on a science lab using a laptop Monday in DeKalb.

DeKALB – By the start of the 2016 school year, DeKalb School District 428 plans to provide all curriculum and materials in a paperless format.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be any text books or hard copies of materials available, but that there will be electronic options for everything. The plan is part of the district’s “one-to-one initiative,” meaning there will be a computing device for every student in every classroom.

The type of device will vary by grade level, said Doug Moeller, who will take over as district superintendent this summer. Elementary students likely will use iPads, but by high school they more likely will be using laptops or Chromebooks, an Internet-dependent laptop from Google.

“The devices are going to change,” said Moeller. “In four years, who knows what’s going to be available?”

A few teachers already have been chosen to take part in a pilot one-to-one program.

One of them, Clinton Rosette Middle School teacher Roger Christensen, already has all of his students using Chromebooks during daily lessons.

“It’s a mix of me teaching and students learning on the computer,” said Christensen.

He said students play educational games that relate to the lesson material they’re working on, in addition to taking notes or looking at multimedia on the Chromebook. Christensen gave the example of creating a digital model of an atom.

“Even ‘Angry Birds’ teaches numerous lessons about physics,” said Christensen.

By applying for grants, Christensen was able to get 30 Chromebooks for his classroom, and the school district paid for five more.

Moeller also participated in a Large Unit District Association conference this year that dealt specifically with the one-to-one initiative. The association includes 54 member school districts from around Illinois.

“Lots of schools are getting involved now because it’s a form of learning that really connects with our students today,” said Diane Rutledge, the association’s executive director. “The roll-out will be different for each school district.”

The conference focused on the different ways that districts are going one-to-one, and included information on how to find grants or look for alternative methods of funding.

Since D-428 was recently awarded a $21 million grant, it is likely some of the money for the devices will come from that. Moeller also said he is hopeful that some of the money will be realized from cost savings after not having to spend so much on textbooks. He said the district paid $700,000 for textbooks and related materials this year alone.

Next year even more D-428 teachers will be joining the program, and the schools will begin instruction and coaching for teachers.

“A lot of the teachers are really excited about it,” said Christensen. “Some are apprehensive, but I think a lot of that will go away after the training periods.”

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