Tablets or laptops? For at least two years now we’ve been getting that question, similar to the way in which the focus once was: Mac or PC? As with the last time, Jeff Mao, our Director of Learning Technology, and I try to remind people that we don’t choose a device – we choose a learning solution that will enhance learning in the ways we demand in our request for proposals. It’s up to vendors to show us how their solution will do that, whether it’s a laptop, tablet, smartphone or something else.
As you’ve probably read here (and here and here and here), this time around we’ve worked with a multi-state collaborative. This will do two really important things for us. First, it will leverage our buying power. If vendors know they can win business in multiple states, it should bring prices down for us. But even more important, having more states get involved in 1-to-1 solutions for their students helps Maine, too. As Jeff told the Lewiston Sun Journal, “Our hope is that it increases the likelihood that other states will do this style of work, which will then increase the number of people we can then collaborate with, things like sharing curriculum or sharing teacher professional development methods.”
We’ve cleared the first big hurdle on the path to a new statewide educational technology solution. Five of the 16 bids have been approved. The five approved proposals are: iPads and laptops from Apple; a tablet and a laptop from HP; and a netbook from CTL. States can use any of them to fulfill their technology needs. Jeff and his counterparts in Vermont and Hawaii are negotiating the final details with the winning vendors. Then Maine will choose which of the five to pursue as its statewide solution.
We anticipate making that decision soon – whoever we choose is going to have to manufacture 70,000 or so devices in time to be loaded with software and deployed to all of Maine’s middle schools and likely more than half of our high schools.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank Jeff Mao publicly for his leadership in this effort. Jeff is a nationally-recognized leader in the use of technology in schools who could be doing lots of things. He chooses to put his expertise to use here in Maine, working for state government. A generation of Maine students are the beneficiaries.