Final lap to top

March 29, 2019

DIXON – Bulky backpacks won’t block Dixon High School hallways next year.

Textbooks are on their way out, and laptops will be in the hands of each of the school’s nearly 800 students. 

One-to-one learning is coming to the high school, and the district recently realized its nearly $350,000 goal to make it happen after 4 years in the works.  

The technology allows assignments to be tailored to students’ individual needs, and parents have online access to lesson plans. Filters are installed to prevent malicious or inappropriate activity, on campus or at home.

Curriculums are being converted from print to digital. Principal Michael Grady and Assistant Principal Doug Stansford are excited to roll out the system, particularly noting that teachers will have a better grasp of their curriculums rather than relying on dated textbook material, and therefore students can learn more effectively.

Hands-on and interactive lessons such as science experiments and dissections, and driver and physical education still will be taught through traditional means.

Stansford said that officials hope the system hopes will alleviate missed classroom time, particularly on snow days; Dixon had 8 missed days this winter.

“Students now are digital natives, and they can find their way around the internet and these learning management systems they’re going to have,” Stansford said. 

Grady remembered the struggle his teachers had when Illinois mandated common core mathematics learning strategies in 2013. The math department looked at updated textbooks and eventually wound up writing its own curriculum, Grady said. 

Utilizing a one-to-one curriculum allows districts to interact with others that have the same software. Dixon will work with the Canvas program, which also is used by Sterling Public Schools and Sauk Valley Community College. 

“A textbook is out of date as it is getting written,” Stansford said. “A student now can access information that is current.”

Stansford is leading a group of teachers who are in charge of educating the rest of the faculty about new technology. The team is an in-house combination of younger tech savvy teachers and experienced ones who are not; the makeup is meant to assist all educators regardless of experience.

One such learning session took place during a school improvement day Friday; they dissected the Canvas system to help teachers know each basic process of it.

“What makes that nice is that our own people have more ownership in it, rather than bringing in someone from the outside, or sending a small group out to another entity,” Stansford said. “When we are learning it as a team, as a whole staff – because these folks have a lot of technology skills – it’s worked out really well.

“If I had tried to do this on my own, it would have been daunting.”

The district had the money to pay for the program, and also relied on Dixon Schools Foundation help, corporate grants and individual donations to aid in financially sustaining it.

Chromebooks, Google licensing, insurance, an information management system and additional software for 800 laptops make up an initial cost of $248,000.

Outgoing students can buy laptops or return them after the school year. Replacements and software licensing renewal costs will total about $95,250 a year.

“The initial talk about going one-to-one was very exciting,” Grady said. “Then you start looking at the cost and the sticker shock, pull back a little bit, and start talking to some of the teachers that are involved that are going to be doing it, the tech department and the board, and try to get everyone moving in the same direction. 

“It took a little time, but I’m excited about the possibilities because having this kind of a tool in a kid’s hands opens up tremendous possibilities.”