Should Maine’s 38,000 Apple iBooks in schools program be renewed?

“This week’s story came to us via an e-mail that asked us to catch up on the Maine’s One-to-One Laptop Program. The program began in January of 2002 when Maine signed a four-year, $37.2 million contract with Apple Computer, Inc., to provide iBook laptops to every seventh and eight grade student, and their teachers, in the state. In 2006, the contract is up and the state must decide whether to keep the program or not,” Giselle Goodman reports for The Portland Press Herald. “With 38,000 laptops in circulation at 243 schools, one reader asked this: ‘So. . . how are they doing nearly four years later? How many laptops have been lost? Stolen? Broken?'”

Here are some numbers:
• Computers lost and or stolen during since the project was implemented in 2002, statewide: 100
• Rate, across the state, of laptops that have been damaged since 2002: 3.3 percent.
(Information provided by the Maine State Department of Education and King Middle School)

Goodman reports, “One of the many concerns over Maine’s One-to-One Laptop Program is the cost of rough treatment. Many who opposed the idea said that 12- and 13- year olds would cause too much damage to the computers to make it worth the money spent. Have they?”

Goodman reports, “The critics were right and just as predicted, seventh- and eighth-graders in Maine are using their state-issued laptops for games and for entertainment, not just tests and homework assignments. Here is a sampling of how: During study hall, eighth-grader Sariah Abaroa, 13, of Arundel goes to http://www.coolmath.com, where she plays numbers games. Last year, Kayla Cogle, then a seventh-grader and first-time laptop carrier, joined a group that followed election results online during lunch… As for 12-year-old Ella Ross, a seventh-grader at the Middle School of the Kennebunks, she already has plans for her laptop when she has free time in school. ‘I like to write stories,’ she said. ‘I like to write futuristic stories a lot and stories about different worlds and stuff. They usually involve a dog of some sort.'”

Goodman reports, “These tales of laptop use are something to consider as Maine’s One-to-One Laptop Program draws to a close. The $37.2 million program, which started in January 2002 under the wing of then Gov. Angus King, ends in early 2006. That means the 37,000 iBook laptops in the states’ middle schools today (seventh- and eight-graders have 34,000 of them, their teachers have 3,000) are supposed to go back to Apple Computer Inc. at the end of the school year. Some cheer the end of this era. Others – including some parents, kids, teachers and policymakers – aren’t ready to see them go. ‘It will be like being crippled,’ said Cogle, now 13, now laptop proficient… Dugan Slovenski, a mother of three boys from Brunswick isn’t sure [about Maine’s One-to-One Laptop Program]. ‘For the amount of money (spent) there should be a definite measurable change,’ she said.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Just because you can’t measure change with whatever measurement tools you have at hand, doesn’t mean change hasn’t occurred. In Maine’s case, a very positive change indeed. Explaining to some people why one-to-one laptop programs in schools are a tremendous gift to children is like trying to explain to a Windows-only user why the Mac is better: they have nothing other than the Windows experience, so they can’t appreciate the degree of positive change or recognize and appreciate the subtle differences unless they try the Mac themselves. In both cases, such people also usually don’t seem to possess much ability to see beyond initial price tags. So, you’ll have to trust us. Maine’s iBook program should be renewed for the good of the students and, if you only use Windows now and take our advice to switch to Mac today, you’ll be thanking us profusely within two weeks.

22 Comments

  1. I may have misread the article but are these so called critics actually complaining about the kids using the laptops in their free time to play mathematics games, follow politics and for creative writing? I’d be ecstatic if I was running such a program. Kids doing independent learning – pah! Forget win/mac for a moment, this is brilliant.

  2. “The critics were right and just as predicted, seventh- and eighth-graders in Maine are using their state-issued laptops for games and for entertainment, not just tests and homework assignments. Here is a sampling of how: During study hall, eighth-grader Sariah Abaroa, 13, of Arundel goes to http://www.coolmath.com, where she plays numbers games.

    Uh, how is playing math games a waste of time? As far as I can tell, CoolMath.com isn’t a waste of time, it’s a way to challenge the math skills of kids in a fun and enjoyable way. Is there some law that says learning has to be completely boring and mundane? At least she isn’t playing Everquest.

    Last year, Kayla Cogle, then a seventh-grader and first-time laptop carrier, joined a group that followed election results online during lunch…

    Unless this caused massive depression or fights between liberal and conservative students, what in God’s name is wrong with THIS!? Have these people never heard of Social Studies!? This is witnessing our national election process LIVE! This is better than reading about it from a book or writing notes off a blackboard.

    As for 12-year-old Ella Ross, a seventh-grader at the Middle School of the Kennebunks, she already has plans for her laptop when she has free time in school. ‘I like to write stories,’ she said. ‘I like to write futuristic stories a lot and stories about different worlds and stuff. They usually involve a dog of some sort.'”

    Creative Writing…

    I am flabbergasted by these people. These kids have discovered new ways to learn and test their knowledge, some have found a way to see history in the making using this technology, while others have learned how to use these tools to unleash their creativity.

    What they are citing as misuse, are actually the very things they should be seeing as the measurable results they have been seeking.

  3. http://mainetoday.com/iHerald/051010students.shtml
    This link is part of the story of whether the program should be extended or not. The kids in this story are mostly complaining about their ibooks crashing and losing unsaved work. I have an ibook that I have had for 4 years. I have had exactly 1 crash in that time and I didn’t lose any information because of an autosave feature. Does anyone know what these kids are talking about? Did the journalist just pick the kids that are least happy with the ibooks and ignore the rest of the kids that had never had a crash or who are happy with their ibooks? This seems like a very biased report to me based on my experience.

  4. 1) I think this article is one sided. I cannot believe these children could not find other less educational games to play. Or they are very good at hinding them from their parents and teachers.

    2) Hopefully the people who have the power to decide do not just look at standarized test scores. I don’t think standarized tests can measure improvement in the students ability to learn, which is more important than what they have learned.

    3) Mac or Windows religious war do not belong in education. They really should try to teach using multiple platforms, such as MacOSX, linux and Windows (may be when they replace their iBooks, new ones will run all three OS).

  5. M.X.N.T.4.1 I was wondering the same thing! That seems to me the exact things that the laptop program is good for.

    Now if the schools could just figure out how to get their textbooks to their students in a PDF format they could actually reap SAVINGs from the laptop program.

  6. Fred, I am sorry. It did not seem that way from the quoted text. Reading it further, it is apparent they are using those examples to support renewing the program.

    MW: data – I should have all the data before I write a scathing response.

  7. Yes, Alex that was kind of the point, since this is more of our tounge-in-cheek section. I wrote it in a way that lets the reader decide whether these kids are disrespecting the program. It is supposed to answer all questions: yes they are using their computers out of class, and yes, also, they are learning from them, and, sometimes doing both at once.

    Take care.

    Giselle Goodman
    iHerald Staff Writer
    Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram
    390 Congress Street
    Portland, ME 04104
    1-800-442-6036 ext. 6330 (phone)
    207-791-6920 (fax)
    ggoodman@pressherald.com

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