By Terry Dean
Just what would it take to get a computer in front of every student at Oak Park and River Forest High School?
That's something the administration is exploring. Right now, OPRF has one computer for every three students — primarily in computer labs, according to Mike Carioscio, the high school's chief information officer. The goal, he says, would be to get to a "one-to-one" model.
Some of OPRF's peer school districts have either already achieved that or are heading down that road, Carioscio said.Plans to follow suit, he added, are very preliminary right now. Carioscio and the District 200 Board of Education discussed the topic at the board's technology committee meeting on Aug. 13. Carioscio was looking to gauge the board's interest in pursuing the one-to-one model. Board members had some questions about potential costs and how that model would work for OPRF.
Admittedly, Carioscio said some of those questions couldn't be answered now because more research is needed. He did note that OPRF's feeder districts, 97 and 90, are moving toward the one-to-one model.
D90 two years ago approved iPads for its eighth-graders. That pilot program, according to D90 school officials, was successful. Seventh-graders there have since received the devices.
D97 kindergarteners have been using iPads since 2011. Starting this fall, they will be distributed to third- and fourth-grade classrooms. The availability of technology in the feeder districts is another reason behind OPRF's interest in the one-to-one model, Carioscio explained.
"I've had a number of parents talk to me about what we have when they come to high school. And my answer to date has been that we have labs and we have computer carts that we can use," he said. "There is pressure there. I'm not saying that's a reason to go ahead and do it. I just want to recognize that's a real pressure we feel as the recipient of all these students that have received this technology."
For some D200 board members, pursuing the one-to-one model is a high priority — for others, not so much.
Sharon Patchak-Layman said the high school needs to do more research about the costs. OPRF students have some access to technology already, she noted.
"I don't feel we're at a disadvantage from what the other districts are doing," Patchak-Layman said. "It's not as if we are devoid of having computer access in our rooms. So having everyone walk around with computer in hand — I don't know. I don't think we've done enough research and I don't know how classrooms would use them."
Board President John Phelan, however, stressed it would be a mistake not to pursue the one-to-one model.
"I don't know what the world is going to look like six years from now, but if we don't start planning for it and start living in it, we're going to be even less prepared to jump on it at that time. So to me, it's definitely a priority to get this done and get it done as soon as possible," Phelan said.
After hearing mostly positive feedback from the board, Carioscio said he'll look further into potential costs and how this could benefit the high school.