I am slapping this up without comment or analysis right now because I am busy elsewhere. It's kind of an electronic sticky note to remind me to get back to this subject soon.
01:15 PM Jan. 09, 2002 PT
While Maine educators look forward to the day when students and teachers will integrate one-to-one computing into their courses, they are realistic about the patience, time and training that this ambitious project will take.
No one knows that better than technology coordinator Crystal Priest. All eighth graders in her district have been working with laptops for over a year.
It's going to be a massive, massive project," said Priest, who works at School Administrative District #4 in rural central Maine. "As long as people are fairly relaxed and really roll with the punches, everything is going to be fine."
After securing state funds for the project, Maine selected Apple to equip all seventh and eighth grade students and teachers in the state with 36,000 iBooks. The program begins this fall.
S.A.D. #4 got a head start using laptops when a local manufacturing company, Guilford of Maine, was inspired by Governor King's proposal and offered to help supply their district with the computers.
"The summer of 2000 was very stressful for teachers because they weren't sure what they were going to do with the laptops and how it would work," Priest said. Now, "teachers are much more relaxed. People in this building would be really upset if they had to give up their laptops."
Staff development over the summer, a paid three-day "boot camp," and after-school re-certification classes all helped teachers learn to use the technology and integrate it into their courses. Support from the administration and the community was also essential, Priest said.
Now, the Piscataquis Community Middle School –- which serves 280 kids in grades five through eight -- is a wireless network. All eighth graders and teachers have a laptop, and extras are available for other grades to share.
"It's opened up the whole world for us," Priest said. "We're in the middle of nowhere. We can't just hop on the bus and go 15 miles down the road to a museum."
Instead, students can take virtual field trips. They can read about a historical event –- typically condensed into one paragraph in their social studies textbook -- then get on the Web and see the actual battlefield where the event occurred, read newspaper coverage, among other materials. A site on Gettysburg is one of the governor's favorite examples.
While Priest is excited about the statewide plan, she's also realistic about the challenges ahead.
"You can't move thirty-odd thousand laptops to 240 buildings built in 240 different ways without there being some glitches," Priest said.
At the end of February, nine schools –- one in each region of the state -- will have one-to-one computer access that will serve as demonstration sites.
Each of the 241 middle schools will select a lead teacher to serve as a liaison to the department of education to help assess their staff needs and professional development. Those teachers will get their computers first.
The state has also received a $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation for teacher training and professional development.
Governor King admitted the change will be difficult for some: "We're basically asking teachers to fundamentally re-think how they present the material."
"Change is not easy for anybody. The reaction I've been hearing from the education community is equally divided between enthusiasm and some anxiety –- and it's not surprising," he said. "In many ways this is uncharted territory. Nobody's ever done it on this scale before."
Thought daunting, it's an idea whose time has come, Maine educators say.
"We've been working for a number of years with the computer lab model. That model is almost self-defeating," said John Lunt, the technology coordinator at Freeport Middle School and president of the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine. "As more teachers were interested in computers, it became harder to get lab time.
"If you can't get in to use the resource, you decide to use something else. Teachers reverted back to the older ways without technology."
A computer lab "doesn't fundamentally change the role of technology in teaching and learning," said Yellow Light Breen, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Education. "It takes one-to-one access to make it a universal teaching tool, just like a pencil and paper."