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PORTAGE — Some students here will be able to lighten their loads if the proposal to move from textbooks to digital learning is approved.

The Portage Township School Board on Wednesday night held a discussion on the adoption of high school social studies and elementary through middle school math materials.

Superintendent Richard Weigel said, if approved at the board's May 26 meeting, high school students will no longer be assigned textbooks. Instead, all of the materials used in and out of the classroom will be digital and accessible through iPads, computers and other electronic devices. The only textbooks would be a classroom set for back ups.

In addition, kindergartners would be learning math solely through digital means and students in grades first through eighth would also be learning primarily through digital devices with some supplemental written materials.

It is a move the district has been making based on its technology. The latest five-year technology plan paved the way for digital content instruction, said Mike DePasquale, the district's director of technology integration.

"Digital content has been a priority," said DePasquale, explaining it will be delivered through the school's Schoology learning management system which will allow teachers to share and access additional public content resources for students.

Weigel said it will also increase the ability for differentiated instruction -- the ability to gear instruction individually for each student. 

In addition, the adoption of digital curriculum over textbooks will decrease the traditional "textbook rental" fees for families as the costs for the digital materials is less than that for traditional textbooks, said Weigel.

Weigel also said there will be additional professional development offered to teachers over the summer.

"We have a gap. Not everyone is a digital native," he said.

Weigel recommended the adoption cycle for three years out of concerns of what may be happening at the state level involving curriculum development and standards.

The teacher-led committee in making the recommendations suggested each cycle be for six years, saying the companies they had recommended included updating both digital content and supplemental content to meet any changing curriculum or standards set by the state.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.