D95 staff spotlights district technology needs

Hope to be included in facilities plan

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By BOB UPHUES

As Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 looks ahead at its future facilities needs, one area that both staff and parents have shown a keen interest in improving is technology. Both Brook Park and S.E. Gross Schools have computer labs, working networks and a ratio of one computer for every five students in the district.

While that's acceptable now, according to the district's Technology Committee, the district should look to find ways to improve computer hardware and software as technology becomes more sophisticated, and update buildings to support the needs of changing technology.

"We need to see how we can prepare learners to become citizens of a technological world," said teacher Pam Sullivan, a member of the committee. Sullivan and two other members of the committee presented the current state of technology in the district at the Oct. 13 meeting of the Board of Education.

Currently, each building has roughly 95 Macintosh computers, over 40 printers, several scanners and a handful of LCD projectors. One to two computers can be found in each classroom and each school has a computer lab. In addition, each building has a computer "cart" with 30 iMac computers, a printer, and a hub that connects those computers wirelessly to the school network.

Both computer carts were paid for through a state grant, but teacher Susan Nokes, another member of the Technology Committee said that state funding has been dwindling in recent years. Last weekend, in a bid to raise money to fund computer purchases, the Technology Committee held a fashion show. Their goal was to raise $20,000 for technology.

Many of the district's computers are between four and eight years old. With a number simply breaking down each year, Sullivan said that the district would need to purchase 11 computers per year for each school building over the next three years in order to reach the committee's goal of three computers for each student in the district. That ratio, she said, is the state average.

"We can keep the computers running for a long time," Stanek said. "The equipment we bought is good equipment, but some of it is seven, eight years old, so we need to upgrade what we're running.

"We know what the financial pictures are, but if that changes, we hope you think of technology. Eleven computers a year is not enough," he added.

Beyond purchasing computers, the committee also said the district should look to improve its computer network, electrical infrastructure and opportunities for staff development.

According to Lou Stanek, who serves as the district's part-time technology consultant, the networks at each school are good.

However, Stanek said that creating a wireless network would not only allow for flexibility, but could eliminate the need for costly rewiring of the school to improve the network. The hope, Stanek said, was to create a Virtual Private Network that would link both schools via the Internet. At the same time, Stanek said that the schools' electrical infrastructure simply isn't prepared to handle the requirements of new technology.

"We don't have enough power to run all the computers," Stanek said. "We have extension cords everywhere. We need more power if we're going to run a modern school."

One of the biggest needs, according to Sullivan, is ongoing staff training, so they can better understand and use the new technology.

"Once a teacher experiences something, they can become a pro and go in front of the classroom and teach it," Sullivan said. "We're recommending including development sessions during institute days."

The committee also detailed a plan to improve the Dist. 95 website, to make it more useful for parents, teachers and students. The first order of business, Sullivan said, should be to shorten the domain name?"d95.w-cook.k12.il.us?"to d95.org.

Useful information, such as school lunch menus and calendars, are already online. Sullivan said the website could also include student-friendly additions such as a homework help link.

"We feel the website could be utilized a lot more," Sullivan said.

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