Education

Downers Grove District 58 technology proposal stirs debate

School board to vote June 11 on plan to lease new iPads

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The future of the technology initiatives in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 will be decided June 11 as Board of Education members are expected to vote on a proposal to acquire new iPads for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.[]

DOWNERS GROVE – The future of the technology initiatives in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 will be decided June 11 as Board of Education members are expected to vote on a proposal to acquire new iPads for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The plan has been somewhat controversial as parents lined up on both sides of the plan to spend $1.4 million to lease the iPads.

Those opposed to the technology refresh argue it’s too expensive and will prevent the district from having the resources to meet other needs, such as curriculum updates, professional development, facility improvements and salaries.

They also argue the district has failed to build a case that the updated technology will lead to greater academic success and improved test scores.

Opponents have questioned the technology plan during the last few board meetings. But proponents have only recently made their position known. They maintain the district cannot afford to fall behind when it comes to technology.

Amy Vogt, the parent of a kindergarten student at Indian Trail Elementary School, said technology investments are critical to students’ overall academic success.

“We’re only going to keep adding technology,” said Vogt, a teacher in Oak Park Elementary School District 97. “It’s part of society today.”

Vogt added the latest technology tools, such as iPads, are needed to support the English language arts curriculum the district recently approved. Older iPads cannot support the curriculum, she said.

Vogt has voiced her support for the technology refresh on various Downers Grove social media sites and plans to attend the June 11 meeting with other parents who back the plan.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Downers Grove Village Hall, 801 Burlington Ave.

Vogt said Indian Trail has done an exceptional job of blending technology with social and emotional learning and traditional instruction.

“You can either use [technology] or shy away from it,” Vogt said. “We have to invest in our schools. We have to use it in a way that’s productive.”

Other parents have argued technology has taken the place of conventional learning methods, such as reading a book or learning penmanship. Vogt said the two methods of learning can coexist.

"Technology doesn't have to be in every child's hands 24/7," Vogt said. "We have to use it in ways that are productive."

The district proposal calls for students in grades 3 through 6 to receive iPads with keyboards while first- and second-graders would get the devices without keyboards. In kindergarten, one iPad would be provided to every two students.

“We really are making a recommendation that is best for students,” Director of Innovative Technology and Learning James Eichmiller said at the May board meeting. “We think this is going to have a positive impact on students.”

The district will lease the iPads over a four-year period at a cost of $360,000 annually, Eichmiller said. The district expects to receive about $140,000 from the sale of 4,400 iPad Minis the board designated as surplus, he said. That money would go toward the purchase of the new iPads.

During a presentation to the board, Eichmiller said a goal of the technology upgrade is to provide the professional development necessary for teachers to be proficient in the technology used in the classroom.

He said technology training would be incorporated into district institute days, faculty meetings and grade-level collaboration meetings.

Board members have expressed concerns about the proposal, including the failure of some teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons.