Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series looking at technology in Northwest Indiana classrooms.
MERRILLVILLE | The Merrillville Community School Corp. has launched a one-to-one computer pilot program studying the effect on learning when students use computers throughout their day.
Of the 6,889 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at Merrillville schools, 2,500 are participating in the pilot program.
"The overall goal of this pilot program is to improve student learning and academic achievement," said Kelly Murphy, the school corporation's director of information technology. "We will monitor this goal with the selected classrooms during this school year. The possibility of expanding this program will be based on what kind of learning gains we find and the availability of funds."
Students will not take the devices home, Murphy said. Parents also are not required to make any payments regarding use of the technology. School officials are compiling a list of the software and applications used at school to give parents an opportunity to install them at home on their personal devices.
Installing and upgrading wireless networks cost $95,000. The district used capital projects money to buy 400 iPads for $220,000 that have been distributed among 15 elementary classrooms from kindergarten through fourth grade.
The district also spent $210,000 to buy 455 netbooks distributed among students in grades five through 12.
Merrillville joins other school districts, including the School Town of Munster, the School City of Hobart and the Tri-Creek Community School Corp. in offering a one-to-one computer program.
Merrillville teachers received the devices in June, and from then until November participated in a Professional Learning Community to develop procedures and activities to use with students in the classroom.
Most elementary school teachers said they are using the iPads to assist with reading and math and will prepare students for ISTEP-Plus testing using the technology.
Murphy hosted a meeting last week at the high school giving elementary school parents a program overview and an opportunity to ask questions.
Parent Diana Tadic, whose son Robert is a third-grader at John Wood Elementary School, said they have computers and the Internet at home, but Robert is enjoying using the iPad.
"It's a different world, with the Internet and computers and all of the devices that students have available to them," she said. "This program enables the students to know what's out there. The teachers really seem to be on top of it, and they're also focusing on Internet safety."
Robert said he likes using the iPad and is enjoying doing "math, multiplication and division" on it.