MLTI technology updates bring benefits to schools and students

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is updating many of the technology solutions in classrooms this year in order to bring districts the features or budget savings they have been requesting, while improving support strategies for teachers and schools.

Mike Muir, director of MLTI and the Learning Through Technology Team at the Maine Department of Education points out, “It’s important to remember that MLTI is a learning program, not simply a device purchase program.” MLTI is certainly best known for the devices it provides to students and teachers, but it is really focused on how to create better learning experiences for students by leveraging the device and the tools on the device. That takes budgeting supports, software and tools for learning, device and app management, technical support, supporting teachers and school leaders with professional learning, and more. The benefits to the refresh are in the device, in cost savings, and in the program and services.

For schools choosing the iPad solution (referred to as Apple Primary), Muir reports the major benefits are with the updated features of the device, including newly available (but long-requested) device and app management tools, and increases in local control of those tools. “This is the first time teachers will also get a full sized iPad, as well as a MacBook Air. Through lucky coincidence, Apple announced the new 9.7” iPad Pro on March 21. MLTI’s refresh announcement was scheduled for March 24, and within 3 days, the MLTI and Apple teams were able to upgrade their planned offering to include this newly released device,” says Muir

For schools choosing the MacBook Air solution (called Apple Alternate), the major benefit is the significant cost savings. In 2013, the last time schools refreshed their MLTI solutions, the Apple Alternate cost per student or teacher seat was $272 per seat per year. The state funding support level for seventh and eighth grade was approximately $254 and schools had to pay the $18 per seat difference. The current Apple Alternate seat cost is $217 per seat in the first year and $248 per seat in second, third and fourth years.

“Not only is this significant savings to districts for grade levels they pay for themselves, but it means that for 7th and 8th grade, the cost is within the state funding support level and there will be no additional cost for districts,” says Muir.

Further, districts are allowed to choose either Apple Primary or Apple Alternate and do not have to stay with the solution they chose in 2013. The pricing structure even allows districts who currently have the less expensive Apple Primary solution to change to Apple Alternate without altering the budget they have already prepared for 2016-2017.

In addition to receiving brand new devices, having the option to change solutions, and either significant new features or new savings, both Apple Primary and Apple Alternate districts will share additional benefits to the refresh. Apple is reinstating the Teacher Leader program that was so successful at the beginning of MLTI. There will be a Principals Academy for school leaders. And for schools that had opted in for wireless networks in 2013, Apple will review the school’s 2013 Apple MLTI wireless network and, provided that Apple has not already done so prior to the 2016 MLTI refresh, make Apple-determined adjustments to support the network. These benefits are only available to schools that refresh with one of the 2016 Apple MLTI offerings.

The Department of Education MLTI team had conversations with both vendors about a possible refresh. Apple was the only one that offered Maine both real benefits to updating the solutions and an offer to help the DOE pay off the fourth year of the lease by taking back current devices for their residual value.

“We are aware,” acknowledges Dr. Muir, “that some districts are unhappy because they really wanted to buy their 4-year old devices at the end of the lease, or because they wanted to do something other than one of the offered solutions. But with this opportunity, Maine has been given an amazing deal financially and technologically. We would be remiss to let this opportunity pass.”

Darcy Dunphy, Technology Manager of the Mt. Blue Regional School District reports, “We’re happy for the possibility to refresh our MLTI MacBook Airs. The refresh is giving us the opportunity to save more than $140,000 over the next four years.”

In RSU 2, Technology Director John Armentrout shared that the refresh is helping them save money, allowing their students and staff to have brand new devices, and the reduced cost means that he can have additional staff, including ed techs, participate in MLTI for less than the current cost for just the teachers.

This is the second time since 2002 that MLTI has done an early refresh in the third year.

Please review the following documents to see what an amazing opportunity this is to Maine schools: