New Trier to consider mobile learning program expansion
Jeff Bailey (left), technology project specialist at New Trier High School, director of technology Chris Johnson (center) and software specialist James Foster work on their iPads at the school August 20. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 27, 2013 9:38AM
NORTHFIELD — With district officials citing the success of New Trier High School’s mobile learning initiative the School Board is prepared to hear a presentation about the possible expansion of the program and the projected budget to do so.
The pilot program has 700 students participating by using iPads in the classroom. At the board’s Feb. 19 meeting Assistant Superintendent Paul Sally said the staff, at next month’s meeting, will recommend expansion of the program to include 60-80 teachers and 1,500 to 2,000 students.
“When we get to a steady state, what we need is 1,050 new freshman to have iPads,” Sally said. “At $620 for a device, which includes apps and a cover, that equals $651,000. We’re trying to work our way to full implementation.”
Sally hopes the program could lead to savings for the district and parents through ebooks and apps, such as a Texas Instruments calculator app which sells for $29.99 and replaces a $175 calculator currently sold at the campus book store.
“I feel committed to the program and to what the teachers and administration is doing here,” said Board President Alan Dolinko. “I think it just really comes down to the cost. There’s some tremendous benefits we can see.”
Though the cost of the device to parents and how much the district will subsidize remains unknown.
“No question it’s a great platform for learning, but it’s very expensive,” said Board Member Patrick O’Donoghue. “It’s something we have to be very committed to and we’re certain that it’s absolutely necessary. If parents are going to be asked to pay $600 more at registration, I don’t think that will be warmly received.”
According to a district memo staff will propose two options for students to acquire their iPads.
First, families will be given an option to purchase the iPad from the district at a reduced cost that includes a district subsidy. The cost to families could range from $300-400, similar to this year’s purchase option. A one-time district subsidy per student of $220-320 would be paid using capital expenditure funds typically dedicated to computer replacements and would not result in an increase in the technology budget.
A lease/purchase option would have a family pay a fixed amount per year, possibly $155 each year until graduation. The district, however, would pay the entire initial cost of the device and would be paid back over four years.
Staff is encouraging the district to subsidize the purchase option at a higher level to encourage families to purchase the iPads rather than lease. The school will also support a bring your own device option.
“I think the technology is here and it has proven benefits,” said Board Member Carol Ducommun. “I think the question is affordability to parents in the district. We’ve got to figure out a way to make it affordable to district families.”
A report on the evaluation of the program and a final recommendation for next school year will be presented to the school board at their March 18 regular meeting.