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The purchase of an additional 1,100 Acer C740 Chromebooks for incoming Evanston Township High School students was approved by the District 202 School Board at its June 12 meeting, helping to further support the school’s 1:1 Digital Learning initiative which recently earned high praise from Google. 

In April, District 202 was recognized as a Google Reference District, making ETHS one of the first schools in the country to receive this designation for demonstrating “excellence and thought leadership through the innovative use of technology, including G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) and Chromebooks, to drive impact and positive learning outcomes,” David Chan, Director of Instructional Technology, told Board members at their April meeting.

The IT department of ETHS added four new staff members last year, enabling the school to “focus on initiatives we’ve always thought about but didn’t have the time for,” said Mr. Chan, who gave several examples.

WiFi hotspots: ETHS collaborated with the Evanston Public Library to distribute 15 WiFi hotspots. “This initiative helps ETHS close the access gap by providing wireless Internet access to students who do not have connectivity at their home,” said Mr. Chan. 

The ChromeZone, student-led tech support center, has become a “full fledge repair center within our school building,” said Mr. Chan.  As of March 2, the center closed over 1,100 repair tickets just during this school year.

Google Expeditions: ETHS was one of the first schools to take part in Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program which allows students to go on virtual field trips to places like Mt. Everest and the Galapagos Islands. Recently, students on trips to Japan and China used 360 degree cameras to document their experience and share photos with their peers.

Mr. Chan also highlighted how ETHS is sharing its growing IT experiences.  District 202 and District 65 IT staffs meet regular to discuss how to share services and use emerging technology, he said. In addition, ETHS faculty and staff members share their technology knowledge on a local, state and national level as featured presenters and program committee members for Midwest Google Summits, NICE, ICE, IETC, and ISTE.

Chromebooks and 1:1

For the 2016-2017 school year, Chromebooks were issued to both freshmen and seniors who joined the sophomores and juniors participating in the 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative since 2014/2015. “As a result, the entire school is now officially 1:1, and teachers of all grade levels have access to anytime, anywhere learning capabilities for their students,” Mr. Chan told the Board. Fred Schenck, English teacher at ETHS, told the Board that at first his students, “balked” at using the Chromebooks, but that “this is the way it’s going to be in college and elsewhere; how papers and information are shared.”  He said he too was unsure he wanted to enter the tech work of teaching and “learn new tricks,” but that incorporating digital learning into his classes has been an “energizing experience.”