Schools embrace first chance for choice of learning technology

AUGUSTA – For the first time since the Maine Learning Technology Initiative began in 2002, schools have made a choice in the solutions they will use for 21st century teaching and learning.

This fall, 39,457 students and educators will start using Apple’s iPad tablet ($266 per year, per seat with network), followed by 24,128 using Apple’s MacBook Air laptop ($319 per year, per seat with network) and 5,474 using the HP ProBook 4440 laptop which runs Microsoft Windows 7 ($286 per year, per seat with network).

Those figures are not final as orders – including those for most of Maine’s Career and Technical Education centers – are still trickling in following Thursday’s opt-in deadline.

Teachers in schools that went with Apple’s iPad will additionally receive a MacBook Air to use over the four-year contract.

The State will submit the total next generation order Monday, with teacher devices shipping in July and student devices arriving in time for the start of the upcoming school year.

Through MLTI, long referred to as the laptop program, the State spends around $15 million annually to provide a device to all seventh and eighth graders and teachers in grades 7-12, with the option for high schools to buy competitively-priced devices for their students using the State’s bulk purchasing power.

Since its start, the program has only provided Apple laptops but Governor Paul R. LePage and Department of Education leaders wanted to ensure schools had options, including equipping students with the PC and Microsoft technology they are most likely to find in the workplace.

The Governor and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen cite technology as integral in Maine’s move to implement personalized, proficiency-based learning.

“These devices put students in the driver’s seat,” Commissioner Bowen said.   “Modern educational software adjusts to each child in ways that a teacher cannot, providing increased instruction on a concept where students need it, and less when they don’t. The result is an educational system in Maine that is truly able to meet the needs of all students as it best prepares them for college and career in an increasingly digital world.”

Despite the State selecting HP as the preferred provider, it was not expected that the majority of schools would break from their long-standing relationship with Apple, which has a team of sales and support staff now living in Maine and is renowned for its brand loyalty.

The two dozen districts that did make the switch said the HP laptop with Windows better served their students and that they were grateful to have choice for the first time.

“We are excited to have a choice this year, and the HP device with a Windows operating system is a great fit for our staff and students,” explained Jennifer Nitchman, the director of Information Technology Services for the Town of Scarborough, which purchased 877 HP laptops. “From a maintenance, resource, and financial perspective, the ProBook 4440 just makes sense for our district, and we feel it will best prepare our middle school students for high school and beyond. The vast volume of applications and professional development that is included with HP’s solution added to the already attractive package, and we are really looking forward to getting the devices in the hands of our users.”

Other large buyers of the HP laptop included MSAD74, MSAD 60 and the Brewer School Department.

Major purchasers of the Apple iPad include Portland, South Portland, Auburn and Lewiston school departments.  Those that went with the Apple MacBook Air include MSAD 75, Yarmouth and Oxford Hills.

For more information about the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, visit www.maine.gov/mlti.

 

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