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VALPARAISO — Middle school students here took it pretty easy on their equipment during the district's first year with 1:1 technology.

Of the 1,400 Chromebooks distributed to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders this past school year, only 14 percent had to have repairs beyond normal wear and tear, said Valparaiso Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Jim McCall.

Students used the computers in the classrooms, to complete homework and, in most cases, they replaced the heavy textbooks they had to tote around each day.

"That is pretty exceptional," McCall said about the breakage rate.

That's good news for parents. During the pilot year of the program, the school district picked up the costs for those repairs, about $8,000 in total for replacement parts.

However, this coming school year parents will be responsible to pay for any parts that are damaged and have to be replaced, McCall said. In addition to the middle schoolers, about another 1,000 Chromebooks will be put into play when the program is expanded to ninth- and 10th-graders at the high school. Students in grades 11 and 12 will have the option to bring their own devices into the classroom.

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"It was highly successful. We used this year to audit our process and collect data on breakage without expenses to parents," McCall said.

Students using the 1:1 technology went to Chromebook "boot camp," and teachers reminded students on a regular basis of best practices.

McCall said the program was also successful because of the addition of technology integration coaches, teachers who taught or coached other teachers through the use of the new technology. That idea will also be expanded to the high school this coming school year.

While there are no data available yet, McCall said surveys given to students and their parents indicate a positive experience with the program and that students became more engaged with their studies by using technology.

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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.