State of Maine grants schools more flexibility in choosing technology

UPDATE: The Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4440 will now include Windows 7 software in the package.

The following is a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Governor LePage emphasizes importance of using technology that enables students to easily transition to the workforce

AUGUSTA – Thousands of Maine students will be firing up Hewlett-Packard laptop computers next school year. On Friday, the Maine Department of Education announced HP as its preferred contractor in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative’s latest bid process.

The Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4440 running Windows 7 software will be made available as the primary technology and learning solution as part of the Initiative.

“It is important that our students are using technology that they will see and use in the workplace,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This is the lowest-priced proposal, and the laptops use an operating system that is commonly used in the workplace in Maine. These laptops will provide students with the opportunity to enhance their learning and give them experience on the same technology and software they will see in their future careers.”

The MLTI is an integral part of the Department’s strategy to achieve the new Common Core State Standards, as well as implement new proficiency-based learning systems.

“It’s about how we use technology to enhance student learning by giving students access to tools that will be used for creativity, to access content and to allow them to communicate and collaborate with peers around the world,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. “MLTI devices are as good as the teaching that goes with them. Laptops and the tremendous resources they allow students to access are a part of how we engage students in their learning and make that learning relevant.”

While the Hewlett Packard laptop proposal is the state’s primary solution, Governor LePage said Friday that middle schools would be able to choose any of the five proposals awarded through a competitive bidding process, and the state would cover the cost up to the amount of the HP proposal. At the high school level, at which districts pay for the devices themselves with the support of state-targeted technology funds, the state will leverage its buying power to get the lowest price possible on any of the solutions.

The five proposals come from three vendors: Hewlett Packard, which also was awarded for a tablet solution; Apple, which proposed both an iPad and a MacBook Air laptop solution; and CTL, with a Windows laptop solution.

13 thoughts on “State of Maine grants schools more flexibility in choosing technology

  1. This program has been the bane of my existence. I grew up without having 24-hour access to technology and I’m as technologically competent as anyone. What this encourages in our children is an erosion in communication skills (due to the internet disabling non-verbal communication cues such as tone of voice and body language); the anonymity of the internet encourages unethical/immoral behavior as sites and information are easily hacked without consequences; the technology persists in being an ongoing distraction, which has caused all of my children’s grades to drop substantially. I have been stringent on time restraints for technology which the schools are sending them home with. These laptops/iPads are supposed to be an assistance to the educators, the educators are not supposed to be reliant on the technology that they use for their lessons. I have insisted that my children not bring home this technology, due to the continual strife that it causes in the home. The schools persist in being non-compliant with my wishes citing that the technology is a necessity for my children’s learning, when it is NOT a necessity. Technology is becoming such an invasive issue with this nation’s children that there has been a new psychological diagnosis consideration in the DSM V, by the American Psychiatric Association (Internet Addiction Disorder). If we wish for our children to be competent, educated leaders in the future this is NOT the way to do it. This is a way to create more of a distracted, morally bankrupt society of easily manipulated drones.

  2. If no child should be left behind why aren’t homeschooled children provided with laptops? Their parents pay taxes the same as parents of children in traditional school settings.

  3. Robert, thanks for your question. I spoke with Jeff Mao, Maine DOE learning technology policy director, and Bill Hurwitch, director of the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, who agreed it is challenging to consider what interventions occurred in the teaching and learning of reading as a result of the MLTI program. However, the data warehouse provides overall NECAP/MEA reading performance data starting with the 2005-06 academic year (after MLTI started). The public resource for earlier years of MEA reading data is the DOE website at MLTI also provides a report on writing, titled Maine’s Middle School Laptop Program: Creating Better Writers.

    Jeff warns that one cannot equate gains or losses simply with the existence of the program. Every school could show the reading score increases since students began reading a certain book or show the math score improvements since the school bought its last textbook series. Correlation does not equal causation.

  4. Is there any data available to show an increase in reading scores since the MLTI program began?

  5. Unfortunately, if we actually want to be teaching Maine kids about technology, it has to work when they (the students and teachers) want it to work. In my district, each building has a dedicated fiber line all going to a central server in the town, this entire network is based and only hosts Macs. In my 9 years of schooling, not once have we had a network failure of more than 20 minutes. In my out of school experience, I have worked with Windows in office and home environments and often spend more time setting up and maintaining the software and hardware than actually using it. This is true for almost any Windows environment, especially true when the Windows machines are faced with the consent abuse of middle school life.

    The second part is the fact that my and many other districts have fairly substantial investments in servers. Specifically $20,000 in just hardware in my town. That’s a lot of money to be thrown away because it’s $33 cheaper per machine to use Windows.

    I personally use Mac OS X and Windows 7 both on a day to day basis, and have a iMac and custom built PC. The Mac is better for some things, and the PC is better for others. One thing that I don’t use the PC for is anything that is creative including video and music production. Yes PC’s are used in the world more, but by the time kids are out of college, it won’t matter what we learned on computers in middle school because everything will be so different. So the fact of the matter, we should stick with the option thats not the cheapest, but the one that will allow Maine’s students to learn more academically.

  6. We work with hundreds (going on thousands) of elementary and middle school students each year and they transition from Macs to PCs as quickly as they can figure out the glide pad or mouse. Microsoft operating systems now account for about 83% of the operating systems out there, compared to just under 10% for Mac operating systems. But if you want the flavor of the future you should also be exposing your students to mobile operating systems which will continue to grow and have doubled in the past year and will likely double again in 2013.
    What people have said, including Patrick from Winslow, about this generation being weened on electronics, that is absolutely true. PC/Mac/Android… it will matter less which operating system they are using and more on what we are asking them to use the device for. Are we teaching them how to make the next generation of operating system? Are we teaching them how to write programs so they can grow into the next generation of producers? Or are we teaching them how to use the technology but not generate the technology? By the way, both are important, but always better to be a producer than a user.

  7. I think the whole program is a little wasteful. The Mac batteries in my children’s computers are not replaced often enough and stay plugged in most of the time wasting power that I have to pay for. I assume they have to keep them plugged constantly at school too. I see my kids playing games on these devices more than doing schoolwork. That may be my bad parenting but I think it’s pretty common as I see most of their friends on in either Facebook, Google+ or tiny chat all chatting and staring at each other. I realize this program is a way to expose our children to new technology and all that but I see the laptops as more of a toy than a “learning tool”. In school it may be different and more constructive so maybe the administrators need to limit the play, or social time spent on these machines. I personally like Mac’s but the PC has copied the Mac to the point of there not being a big difference as a user. I think the Mac OS promises to be more intuitive in the future where the PC OS will always be playing catch-up. That’s unfortunate for Apple because HP will always be able to sell a cheaper product. Mac or PC is a secondary issue. States, schools and taxpayers are always going to be looking for the cheaper option – even if it ends up costing them more in the long-run (which I think it will if they go with PCs).

  8. I agree with everyone, but especially with Charles. Reading is now part of a school’s “grade.” Computer skills are not. We do, however, also need to consider math (granted the proposed testing requires significant math literacy).

    On the other hand, upcoming tests of reading will (almost definitely) require students to be facile and comfortable with some form of computer writing and input tool. A little bit of research shows that the platform does not matter, as the tool delivered by (probably) Smarterbalance will run on an overlayer downloaded onto the student tools and school servers for the occasion – the newest operating systems and more powerful tools will work better, but the platform should not matter.

    This will be a relatively transparent change to students, but an expensive and time-consuming challenge to teachers and tech leads and tech coordinators and schools and districts (hardware and application costs are hidden – it’s not just the new machines – and PD is going to be rushed and all-important, so many schools will need to purchase it). A big headache may be on the way (not to mention virus issues and data migration and… ).

    Teachers, etc. are already drowning in the challenges of new standards, literacy across the curriculum, new testing which is leading to significant curricular revision, and now the burden of a “grade” based largely upon test results. Now a new burden. Their time would be better spent embedding rigorous, challenging digital tools into creative and critical learning tasks.

    I have been a teacher in 1:1 schools and/or a tech coord. under both platforms – the headaches in terms of early implementation were the same and often mitigated against learning benefits from the 1:1 program. Is it wise to put Maine’s educators through that again? A stable, secure, manageable set of tools backed by a robust infrastructure is what is important for learning with technology. Maine has been working toward this for years and is closer to that goal than most other states. Why throw out that base?

    I hate to say it, but it is most likely the state’s educators (Maine scores a D here from Education Week) and the state’s economics, not the platform, that keep Maine from developing a strong workplace base. In fact, this change makes no sense in terms of workplace-readiness, even two years from now, or in college-readiness (college is where we want students to end up also and where platform-independence has been the norm for a while). In fact, k-12 schools are the only workplace I know of where platform is more important than skill with and creative use of job-specific tools. My graphic designer and architect use Mac’s, my health professionals use PC’s. PC’s will be different, but not better.

    It is very possible to integrate PC’s with PC-specific STEM tools and Office toolkits into a Mac school. Making that even more possible is a reasonable change for Maine.

    The only sense I make of this total switch is a focus on short-term economics and on the need for a bit of administrative one-ups-manship (remember who brought in the MLTI?) Let’s hope this does not spell the beginning of the end for the MLTI – let’s hope that its end is not a closet driver of this decision.

    Last, let’s remember that our k-12 kids are not workers. They are kids – no matter how grown up an “adult PC” may make them look or sound. They need what is best for them, not for the state of Maine’s pocketbook. In my opinion, at this stage in the game that means Apple products.

  9. As a student, I believe that this is a great opportunity. It’s drastically more beneficial to our education if we will be operating a computer that is more widely distributed in the work area than the ones we are currently operating. I do think that Windows 7 would be better than Windows 8, but I’ll approach it with an open mind.
    Replying to Mary Hobson, I don’t believe it’ll be too much of an issue teaching us how to operate the Windows system. This generation of children are native with technology. We have grown up with it. Rather than the parents of the children that are going through school at this moment. They have had to adapt to it. And also, I’m pretty positive a substantial portion of the kids have associated with Windows before, at home, or anywhere else. It’s not so much of a new thing to us.
    Michael Corey, it appears to me that you are taking a rather biased approach to this whole concept. We’re not re-learning anything… We’ve been around this technology our whole lives. Maybe it’s the adult personal that need to adapt more than the actual students?
    So, basically I’m all in favor of this decision. And I’m speaking the words of more than myself here. I’ve gathered opinions of many of my peers that believe this is a great decision.

    -Patrick Hopkins
    8th Grade Student
    Winslow Junior High School

  10. I was disappointed to learn of the state’s (may I say Governor LePage’s) decision to go with an HP Windows 8 laptop. It is not so much that the Windows or the Mac OS is better or worse (though Windows 8 has not yet been adopted widely in the business world). Rather, it is the short-sighted decision to change horses in mid-stream. Years have been invested in teacher professional development on the Mac platform and now teachers will have to learn an entirely new (and not simple) OS. I have worked in teacher professional development for a national nonprofit educational institution for 20 years and I know it is not a trivial thing to change platforms like this. I find it hard to believe that the Department of Education did not lobby hard in favor of sticking with the Mac platform. The statements being made that students need to encounter the kind of operating system being used in the business world is entirely misleading. By the time these students get to their first job using a computer, it will have an entirely different operating system. Whatever “savings” being hoped for from a cheaper machine ($33 per laptop) will be eaten up many times over by the adjustments necessary in schools. Many school systems that can afford to stick with their Macs will simply pay the extra money and do so. All it really means is that the state will not reimburse them as much as if the Apple MacBook Air had been chosen. Penny wise and pound foolish is the best way to describe the state’s decision. Once again, Maine teachers and students have not been well served.

  11. I agree Mary…
    All the professional development that has gone into the Macs, and now we have to start at the beginning, and relearn new software and solutions…
    I’m not just talking about teachers learning how to create lesson plans and students understanding how to use the software to accomplish the task.
    Being a Tech Coordinator I’ve spent the past 10 years perfecting a flawless streamlined system with close to 0% downtime for my users.
    Those of you who deal with the tech side know there’s nothing flawless and streamlined about Windows, especially Windows 8. In fact the professional world doesn’t really use Windows 8 yet. A lot of them are still using an operating system released in 2001 (Windows XP).
    I understand that most machines used in the business world are Windows based but that’s only because the modern business world was built and structured on a Windows infrastructure.
    If we move away from the normal business infrastructure the children of now will be designing the software of tomorrow and it won’t be confined to the ways of the past.
    It will be faster, more streamlined, and robust…

  12. It may appear to be the cheapest solution at first glance, but with a little more analysis, it becomes the more expensive solution if you compare the years of teacher and student training, all of the lesson plans that have been created during teacher in-service days, and the amount of time it will take for all schools to be up and running with the new technology. In the long term, this decision serves to cost taxpayers much more than they will save.

  13. The most important thing for young students to master is reading. /Reading is the gateway to science, technology, and everything else.

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