When Oak Parkers generously approved the tax hike referendum for District 97 schools in 2011 one of the key selling points was a coming investment in educational technology across the elementary and middle schools.

Supt. Al Roberts made the case that the thoughtful use of technology would allow much more customized learning for each student, more useful and up-to-the-minute assessments of a student’s progress, as well as integrating the remarkable teaching tools great software can provide to students at all levels of accomplishment.

A proliferation of white board technology and expansion of the FastForward program came quickly, as did a pilot that put iPads in the hands of Oak Park kindergartners.

Now that iPad pilot is being widely expanded, with students in several grades being given iPads this fall and all students set to receive the devices by 2015. We’re enthused about this effort. Not only are iPads a remarkable and versatile platform, but tablets are becoming near ubiquitous and are comfortable for students to use.

Surely the success of this program will depend on how wisely district curriculum leaders integrate the technology and the teaching. It will also depend on how thoroughly teachers at all grade levels adapt to the opportunities. As always, we are asking our teachers to do more here. We want more differentiation in teaching, more customized responses to ever more parsed assessments of student progress. That only happens if this new technology is used effectively.

We’re confident that D97 is capable of making this expensive investment work for all.

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