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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho task force hears how Maine runs its student laptop program

Members of Idaho's
Members of Idaho's "Students Come First" Technology Task Force listen to presentations in Boise on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)

The "Students Come First" technology task force now is hearing an online presentation from the head of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, Steven Garton, on how that state's laptop computer program for every student has worked. State Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, who is chairing the task force this morning (state schools Supt. Tom Luna, the chairman, isn't here, but is participating online), said Maine started its "one-to-one" laptop initiative in 2002, and is "one of the states that probably have the most history behind them in online learning."

Among Garton's hints to Idaho: His state carefully structured its request for proposals for the computers, and now two other states may join in its next RFP; Idaho could join in too, he said. Maine currently uses Apple computers Other perhaps surprising aspects of the Maine program: The computers must go home with the students. Maine found that damage actually went down with that requirement, Garton said. Without it, he said, "You can't assign homework assignments that must be done at home because the student doesn't have the device." A key is parent meetings to acquaint them with the expectations for student use of the computers. There's no filtering of student computer use at home; instead, there's logging, showing what students have done so they can be held accountable. He also noted that the Maine program includes elaborate charging programs and battery-replacement, rather than having power cords strung about in classrooms; the service contract requires replacement of batteries once they can't last the whole school day. Schools also have spares on hand for any student whose computer breaks or is in repair.

Garton also told the Idaho task force, "If the student has music on their machine, they're going to take care of it." And he said professional development for teachers is a top priority in Maine to make the program work. "We have 13 people on our staff that just do professional development," he said. It includes twice-weekly webinars for teachers and more.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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