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District 833 tech pilot program expands

A three-year pilot program that started with 5,000 iPads and many carts of shared tablets has expanded beyond the five schools where it started.

"We stand in a position right now," technology director Robert Berkowitz told the South Washington County School Board recently, "where we have over 14,000 devices in the district, we have a solid network infrastructure, solid support systems. And for our 18,000 students, that's 14,000 diverse devices that are available to teach with.

"So that positions us in a great spot to start to think about what we're going to do with these devices."

Inspired by changes in its strategic plan, School District 833 is moving toward what officials are calling personalization of learning through technology.

2013's five-school 1:1 technology pilot inspired rapid addition of devices, which are used for teaching 21st-century skills, critical thinking, creativity, utilization of various means of communication, and district-wide and global collaboration.

"They still want some textbooks. I won't go there," said Ed Harkness, secondary technology integrationist. "We cannot have personalized learning without technology."

Superintendent Keith Jacobus expressed thanks to voters for approving a referendum that allowed the successful technology pilot in 2013. It started at Park High School, Oltman Middle School and Newport, Crestview and Pullman elementary schools — the district's Title I schools.

The district quickly found that when students tested out Chromebooks as an alternative to iPads, they wanted them all the time, said Barb Brown, communications director. Devices grew to be a tool in the toolbox of all teachers in District 833, she added.

"All of the pieces are in place," Berkowitz said. "So how do we effectively enhance learning through the use of technology?"