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Free iTunes app to provide ‘equity’ for Illinois schools

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A group of Illinois educators advocating for changes in the Illinois' public school system have launched a free iTunes app they say will level the playing field for Illinois public schools.

On Tuesday, August 21, 2015, Vision 20/20, a policy platform represented by educators from across Illinois, released the 21st Century Learning Center, a free online database of digital lesson plans and resources that meet the state's learning standards. The app can be downloaded on the iTunes U app, the largest online catalog of free educational resources, according to Apple.

Mike Chamness, director of communications for the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), explained how the app would benefit all schools in Illinois.

"We are talking about lectures, videos, books, materials and nine courses that were developed by some of the top subject-matter experts," Chamness said.

Content is currently offered for the following courses: Algebra I, Algebra II, Chemistry, Geometry, ELA 9-10, ELA 11-12, Economics, Biology and Physics, with additional courses expected to be added this fall.

"We believe launching this is a step toward providing equity and curriculum throughout the entire state," Chamness added.

For the time being, the app focuses on Illinois high schools; however, educators say plans to expand the site to K-8 are in the initial development stages.

Geneseo School District's superintendent Scott Kuffel believes the app will not only benefit schools in Illinois, but across the world.Geneseo High School

"The curriculum doesn't have walls. It gives an opportunity for people to see from across the state, from other states and from other counties what we were able to put together for kids in Illinois," Kuffel said.

While Kuffel explained the Geneseo School District is not yet using the app, because it is so new, he expects teachers to utilize the resource sooner than later.

"I see the seeds are planted to really grow into something that is universally strong," said Kuffel.

Many classrooms at Geneseo High School have already gone digital, assigning Google Chromebooks to students. Kuffel said in many cases, the Chromebooks save the district money.

"Total cost of ownership for a Chromebook is somewhere between $250 and $500, and you have some textbooks, depending upon the course, that are $100 a piece," Kuffel said.

Kuffel added more schools are going digital, and he expects the 21st Century Learning Center to have a significant impact.