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Our View: ‘One-to-one’ program a good start

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Many students today have access to a variety of electronic devices at their homes that they routinely use in completing their schoolwork.

One challenge that many public school districts face is how to make those same devices accessible to all students while they are in the classroom.

Although the challenge of years past might have been providing enough desktop computers for classrooms, the landscape has shifted: More students rely on portable devices such as smartphones and tablets than the traditional home computer.

These devices come at a cost, but they should only become more commonplace in classrooms. DeKalb School District 428 has an opportunity to commit some serious resources to this effort by launching a pilot “one-to-one” technology program.

The program would provide students at Lincoln Elementary School and eighth-graders at both of district middle schools with a computer device they would also take home at night. It would cost $560,000 to launch the program, an expense that seems worth it for the benefits it could bring.

Educators at the district said it will allow students to work together in small groups more easily, while allowing teachers to work more closely with students. School board members are expected to vote on the proposal at their meeting Tuesday.

They should approve it, and hopefully after some experimentation with how the model works and how curriculum can be shaped to accommodate it, they will expand it. The district, which has much of a $21 million construction grant salted away, could provide many more students with technology access that would be the envy of many public schools around the country. They also could level the playing field for students in households that can not afford such devices or do not place value on them.

The goal should not be to teach students to rely solely on electronic devices as the go-to solution to every problem, or see them as a substitute for actual life experience. But the wealth of knowledge available on the Internet, and the window it provides to the greater world, have tremendous potential to enhance education.

Virtual field trips, street view maps of cities around the world, news coverage from many perspectives on current events – there are seemingly endless possibilities for innovative teachers to bring educational topics to life for students in ways that textbooks cannot.

In the Internet age, part of the goal should be teaching students how to see the Internet. They must learn that not all information sources online are credible or appropriate, that sometimes false information is disseminated once, then copied and echoed by others, that researching a topic is a more involved process than typing a term into a search engine and reciting whatever the first result shows.

They also should learn to think about new ways that they can harness our society’s new connectivity to do amazing things.

Most children are immersed in online culture and the digital tools they use to access the digital world. Issuing students their own electronic devices will help educators to connect with students in ways they intuitively understand.

Incorporating more technology into classrooms will only help prepare our children to be citizens of the 21st century.

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