Foundation 153 helps purchase 90 devices for students

A gift from Foundation 153 has helped purchase 90 new computers for students in Homewood District 153.
Beth White, technology director, said the funding helped her department purchase 60 iPads for students at Willow and Churchill Schools, and 30 laptops for students at Hart School.
“It’s a super exciting thing for us,” she recently told school board members. “It’s going to allow teachers to have more time with technology and more time for students to use these great tools.”
In addition, the estimated 100 special education students in the district’s three schools are now very hands-on with devices.
“We have almost a one-to-one use for these students,” White said. 
This past school year, White set up a schedule for a member of the technology team to meet monthly with teachers in each school. These sessions give teachers more tutorial time so that they are comfortable with using the latest technology improvements in the classroom. 
District 153 is now using Office 365 software that offers teachers a variety of tools. The technology team no longer has to install the software program on each device. Students and teachers go directly to the internet cloud for programs. 
Staff members Jim Cassidy and Amy Lewandowski are spending part of their work day helping teachers acclimate to the new programs and apps.
“It really makes the teachers more comfortable and more willing to jump in and try, because they know they have someone to help them the first few times,” White said. “It’s a great benefit.”
Office 365 offers Hart School students an email address so their teachers can contact them directly about assignments. The email is limited to correspondence only between the teacher and the student.

Bob Dippold, part of the technology team the past 20 years, said he sees how technology has helped improve the school day.
“When I think back to what we started with, the change is amazing,” he said, recalling how involved students got when the district installed Smart Boards years ago. Teachers reported even the most quiet student in class stepped up and got engaged in learning thanks to that technology.
“Our students today are engaged from the minute they’re in school,” Cassidy said.
The district this year also updated its 20-year-old phone system, Dippold said.

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