D219 Rolls Out Anywhere/Anytime Learning This Fall


D219 Rolls Out Anywhere/Anytime Learning This Fall

Starting this fall, freshman students at Niles North and Niles West High Schools will be the first class to directly benefit from District 219's new Anywhere/Anytime Learning (AAL) initiative, which will provide laptop computers to expand students' learning opportunities.  The AAL program is one of five key strategies adopted by the Board of Education to achieve its goal of increasing the academic achievement of every student.  The board established this goal to carry out its mission: to provide a student-focused learning environment where every student succeeds.


D219's Technology Department's administrative team has worked closely with the Technology Committee for School Improvement, which is made up of faculty members, staff, students and community members, to develop the AAL plan. The focus of the plan is teachers and curriculum - not simply the technology. Over the past few years the Technology Department has run pilot programs "test driving" different devices in key areas around the district. Student  feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.


Technology trends change week to week, so D219 has put its efforts into content and not devices. The Information Services team has decided to supply the students with the Dell Mini 1020, running the free, open-source Ubuntu operating system, which will save the district thousands of dollars through the reduction in required licensing and maintenance contract fees.  Further savings will be realized through the district-wide implementation of Google Applications for Education, Google’s constantly evolving, “cloud-based” solution for schools.


"We recognize that supplying the technological tools does little good for teaching and learning unless we have prepared teachers for how best to integrate the technology into the curriculum, so addressing curricular needs has been our utmost priority," said Chief Technology Officer Guy Ballard.


During the 2009-2010 school year, teachers and administrators have been revising the freshman curriculum to include technology integration components in order to engage students in new ways.  This is in accordance with the Board of Education's Strategy #2, which is to offer a guaranteed and rigorous curriculum for students, with a common final exam.  Part of that curricular revision includes increasing teacher opportunities to learn 21st century technologies. The professional development team has spent this school year helping teachers learn and develop best-practices for technology integration by offering courses that were developed in-house and are offered for professional advancement credit in cooperation with Aurora University.

"These courses have been wildly successful," according to Ballard.  "More than 200 of our nearly 400 teachers have completed our Tech I classes."


Through these courses, the administration has been able to identify teachers in key content areas who exhibit leadership in technology integration. Beginning with the English Department, those teachers will be frequently called upon to act as Facilitators of Technology Integration - spearheading AAL in their department and leading by example.


To assist the students, D219 has hired two Student Technology & Applications Support Specialists, one for Niles North and the other for Niles West. These specialists will hold workshops during freshmen study halls to assist and teach students how to navigate their laptop/netbook. They will also be available for assistance along with student Tech Leaders who earn community service credit for volunteering their expertise.


Each year the incoming freshman class will receive District-issued netbooks, so by the year 2014, every high school student will have a netbook. During the 2010-2011 school year, teachers and adminstrators will revise the sophomore curriculum to include more 21st century literacy skills - just in time for that first group of freshmen to move to the next grade-level. This trend will continue each until all grade levels have been included.


Not only has curriculum been improved to accommodate this new technology, the technology infrastructure has been beefed up to handle an increased load. By the fall of 2010, at least 95% of the school's physical structure will be covered by WiFi. Additionally, the IS team is working on managing network traffic through the installation of additional fiber to support this initiative. Netbook charging and printing stations are being installed throughout Niles North and Niles West as well.


To learn more about the Anywhere Anytime Learning intiative, please visit the AAL Plan