Wandering dog wins Russian roulette – for now

Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education 
and administration members display a plaque 
and banner marking the district’s recognition 
by Apple Inc.
(Photo by Tom Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

Apple Inc., the world’s largest information technology company, has recognized Flossmoor School District 161 as “an exemplary learning environment for innovation, leadership and educational excellence.”

District 161’s Personalized Learning Using Digital Tools (PLuDT) initiative was chosen as an Apple Distinguished Program for 2015-2016. It is the second time that the PLuDT program has been honored by Apple. The district received its first two-year designation in 2013.

School officials received a plaque and banner from Apple at Monday’s board of education meeting.

“The administration and faculty at Flossmoor School District 161 have shown that they demonstrate the five best practices of an Apple Distinguished Program: visionary leadership, innovative learning and teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and a flexible learning environment,” John Couch, Apple’s vice president for education, wrote in a November notification letter.

District 161’s PLuDT initiative kicked off in December of 2011 when a team of school board members, administrators and teachers started planning the program. Students and teachers first began using iPads in the fourth and seventh grade classrooms in 2013. The program was later expanded to fifth and eighth grades. Three iPad templates are now used: for K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.

“The whole purpose of our PLuDT is so the students can use a mobile device to accomplish learning by doing, seeing, engaging in conversations, using self discovery, learning from the web, using wikis, blogs, online chats, social networking, podcasts, etc.,” school officials said in the Apple Distinguished Program application. “We seek to provide the tools of choice that allow students to become leaders and digital citizens. We have inextricably tied our learning and teaching to incorporate and strengthen the home and school connection.”

Teachers helped choose apps for instructional needs on specific grade levels. Students are using a supplemental digital curriculum designed for their individual strengths and weaknesses in reading and math. Instructional coaches work as a team and assist teachers by co-planning, modeling, and co-teaching lessons that use digital devices and shift instructional practices to 21st century learning standards.

In his letter to District 161, Couch said Apple has engaged with educators for more than 30 years to explore and enhance the experience of teaching and learning.

“Our education mission is to provide a learning environment that supports the way students live and how they want to learn,” he wrote. “We applaud programs such as this one that advance this mission, ensuring that all students are prepared for future success in work and life.”

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