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. Giselle,

    THANK YOU for your comment, and for taking the time to respond to a message board discussion about your article. It’s great, if a little rare, to see measured responses and polite replies (and even acknowledgements of error – kudos, DakRoland) in these discussions. It’s even better, and rarer, to hear from the subjects of the discussion themselves.

  2. Computers, laptop or desktop, Mac or PC, are nothing more than a tool that can be used in the educational process. Just as a fine musical instrument can play bland scales, great music or random noise, a classroom computer requires training and imagination in order to realize it’s true value.
    It amazes me how poorly many schools and businesses utilize the potential of computers. Like the analogy of the musical instrument, practice and preparation make all of the difference. Musicians like to say ‘You are what you play’ in reference to tying skill and ability to practice. Likewise, I think many schools get less than what they want from their computers because they have not made the investment in planning and learning up front.

  3. Keep the education rolling!

    When I was in college, I had one of the few laptops in business school, and with the airport connection I had access to vital information durring class. Sometimes I did forego the lecture for more pertinant information, but I was able to do a tremendous amount of work. I also had access to about half of my texts online in PDF form, and with the audio function in Acrobat, I listened to my texts being ‘read’. This enabled me to crunch my learning in to a more applicable timeframe so that I could work full time as well as full time school.

    Keep the program going. Education is more than just class and books.

  4. While I’m a big Mac fan, I’m also an educator, and the education world is FULL of “reforms” that sound good and cost a lot but get no results. Standardized tests–while not perfect (what is?)–are an absolutely solid measure, and anyone who says otherwise is just making excuses. The students deserve the funds be invested in something that makes a real difference. If computers make a difference in SOME of the schools, by the way–the ones where the educators figured out how to make good use of them–then THOSE schools ought to keep them.
    Jake

  5. I gave my nefew my PowerBook at 14 he uses it to play games on the net. They have a computer program at school with Apple and all his friends play games.
    Some students will use them properly but they will be good students without them.
    1200 of them are damaged. Its not worth it. Taxpayers work to hard for there money. In order to get a $1,000 computer to a student it probably cost the Taxpayers around $12,000. Administration fees, working out contracts, the 100’s of agencies it has to go thru and every politician takes a little piece of the pie.
    Ask yourselves this. Have students received a better education in recent years?
    Forget the computers, fire the Administrators, and let the Teachers Teach.

    Educational computers could work on a donation system, donate your old computer to a school.

  6. “I gave my nefew my PowerBook […] Taxpayers work to hard for there money. […] Ask yourselves this. Have students received a better education in recent years?”

    Sorry. Can’t resist.

    Hopefully your nephew has learned the difference between there and their.

    “Educational computers could work on a donation system, donate your old computer to a school.”

    Years ago, a friend of mine spent about six months jumping through all the necessary hoops in order to buy a lab of new Macs. He was almost done when, suddenly, the school got a donation of old Windows machines from some company. It set him back about three months in his order as he had explain over and over that (a) these machines were not what he was ordering so don’t cancel the order, (b) these machines are not suitable for video editing, and (c) we’re essentially getting somebody else’s obsolete crap.

    Before you go around “donating” your obsolete crap, check with the people you’re donating it to. There are also a ton of charities for whom a PowerBook G3 is better than nothing.

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