By Rosemaria DiBenedetto, President, Stryker-Munley Group Chicago

Students in High School District 215 in the south suburbs of Chicago, are learning how technology can change the way they learn and how it can help keep their bodies physically fit.

District Superintendent Creg Williams is a founding member of Vision 20/20 and serves as President of the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD).  He believes in the principle that every child in Illinois deserves a 21st century education, one of four areas for prioritization in the Vision 20/20 policy brief.

On Monday, January 30, Superintendent Williams and fellow administrators held a technology demonstration for leaders and educators in the region to show how technology is changing the way students learn.

“I’m excited about our new Student Innovation Studios because this will give students a better understanding of how technology can be used for learning as well as physical fitness,” explained Williams. “Instruction that provides students with access to vast amounts of materials increases creativity and prepares our students for life in an ever-increasing global society.”

The new technology labs allow for 3D printing, utilize touch screen televisions and more.  Students enrolled in coursework involving architecture, engineering, anatomy and Career & Technical Education (CTE) benefit from this kind of advancement.  The labs also help prepare students for standardized tests such as Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Princeton Review.

In one lab, students were learning about the roaring 20’s and were able to access materials on the subject from across the country using iTunes U.  This app is coursework tied to Illinois learning standards and was developed by teachers in Illinois through Vision 20/20.  Illinois is only the fifth state in the country to develop an iTunes U site.   This technology creates more interactive socializing among students about the topics they are studying.

District sophomore student Jalaya Sparks loves the way she is learning thanks to technology.  “I feel we all have better comprehension of subjects because of the use of our screens.  I find the material more interesting than just being lectured by our teacher.”

Junior Jaquel Weeden said her experience with the new technology is better preparing her for college. “In college we are going to be using this kind of equipment so gaining experience now is better preparation for me when I attend a university.”

Anatomy and Physiology teacher Susan Lessner was an alumnus of TFN graduating in 1999.  She loves teaching her students with advanced technology.  Lessner was one of the instructors who participated in the Vision 20/20 boot camp that created iTunes in Illinois for grades 9-12.

“My anatomy students are learning about body cells and the parts of their bodies using the touch screen technology.  A lot of these cells are microscopic and with this technology student are able to increase comprehension by visualizing it. My students love this technology which makes them better students overall.”

Keeping students physically fit was also a goal of the technology advancements implemented at the district.  Using technology to replace and enhance traditional gym classes encourages students to be healthier and gives them more insight into how the body develops.  In one demonstration, students were led to believe they were cycling in Italy using videos streaming on Apple screens.  The videos provide a different kind of energy to balance lectures and discussion.

Through innovative instruction District 215 students are redefining collaborative learning using multi-dimensional technology which will prepare them for post-secondary education and beyond.

Rosemaria DiBenedetto represents Illinois Vision 2020 which includes Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) who initiated a visioning process in partnership with the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO), the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD), and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) to unite the education community and to develop a long-range blueprint for improving public education in Illinois.

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