The 21st Century Classroom

In 2010, Pete Helfers, Social Studies teacher at Elm Place, submitted an Opportunity Grant application for “Technology in the Social Studies Classroom.”  The program caught the eye of the Opportunity Grant Committee and administrators in District 112.  In June 2010, the 112 Education Foundation agreed to contribute funding for District 112 to move forward in establishing a pilot program for the 21st Century Classroom.

After extensive research, the District proposed a program that would introduce the paperless classroom to all District 112 middle school Social Studies students through the use of iPads over a 3 year period.  The 21st Century Classroom rollout schedule includes the following:

6th grade Social Studies classrooms in 2011-2012 school year

7th grade Social Studies classrooms in 2012-2013 school year

8th grade Social Studies classrooms in 2013-2014 school year

According to Pete, the goal of this program is to give students access to 21st Century technology on a regular basis for the purpose of accessing in real time current events and the most up-to date curriculum.  Textbooks are limited to one publisher, that publisher’s point of view, and are prone to be out of date (in regards to current social studies issues) before they even go to print.  By having an Internet ready machine in the hands of students, they can access multiple points of view on up-to-date materials every single day.   Mobile devices such as the iPad allow for our students to be participants of the world of social studies today whenever and wherever they are.

The benefits of this program are already visible in the classrooms.  The kids have had access to the Internet, have created blogs, made posts to online forums, etc.  They are getting real-world experience using today’s prominent technology.  Further, in Pete Helfers’ classroom, he has yet to run off any copies for classroom purposes, thus meeting the goal of going paperless.

In the spring of 2011, the 112 Education Foundation unanimously approved funding 1/3 of the cost of the project, or $100,000.  This money will goes toward the purchase of the iPads and supportive equipment for the students.