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Maine laptop program offers lessons in ed-tech implementation

Ed-tech director offers advice to other states, districts looking to mimic Maine's success

Maine became the first state to implement a 1-to-1 laptop program.

Nine years after it became the first state in the nation to initiate a 1-to-1 laptop program in its schools, Maine continues to innovate with technology and has hired technology integrators to help its schools move forward. Jeff Mao, director of learning technology for the state’s education department, recently reflected on the groundbreaking program and its lessons learned with eSchool News.

“What we are doing [is] relatively bleeding edge. … There isn’t a book to read, there isn’t really a manual that says this is how you do it … but you are kind of creating it on the fly, and from that perspective there’s a lot of invention,” said Mao.

Mao said the biggest adjustment for the state and its school districts, which began the program in 2002, was not the machines themselves but the human element.

“I think some of the greatest challenges we’ve seen are really kind of on the human side of it, meaning teacher training, leadership—just the simple notions of change. Anything that has such a significant change in the way you can do business, I think that’s just hard for any large organization,” Mao said.

He said teachers usually put the most pressure on themselves when trying to adjust to a new teaching process.

“Schools are relatively risk-averse, particularly because innovation and change in education is a very difficult thing to measure and to quantify and to bottle,” Mao said. “Anytime you introduce a change, there’s a risk the change won’t go well.”

To try and adapt to the quick pace of new developments, many schools in Maine have added ed-tech “integrators” who help incorporate new technology into classrooms.

Mao said Maine teachers not only distribute technology to their students, but also benefit from its use.

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Comments:

  1. ctoy

    February 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The vision is simple, the implementation is about as complex as anything can be. The key is to keep everyone and everything focused on the vision while providing the support and resources for moving the vision forward. At the center of the vision is student learning. EVERYTHING else needs to be focused on this. If it moves student learning forward, incorporate it. If it gets in the way, remove it or go around it.

    Principals as the educational leaders, decision makers, and evaluators in schools MUST head up and make the decisions about technology use in their schools and classrooms. Just as they would with any other initiative, project, or policy affecting teaching and learning in their schools. The difference between schools that successfully integrate laptops and those that struggle or have failed is the involvement of the principal.

    If you’re interested here is my online diary of the first year of the MLTI.

    http://www.middleweb.com/mw/msdiaries/diaries02-03.html#CT

  2. ctoy

    February 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The vision is simple, the implementation is about as complex as anything can be. The key is to keep everyone and everything focused on the vision while providing the support and resources for moving the vision forward. At the center of the vision is student learning. EVERYTHING else needs to be focused on this. If it moves student learning forward, incorporate it. If it gets in the way, remove it or go around it.

    Principals as the educational leaders, decision makers, and evaluators in schools MUST head up and make the decisions about technology use in their schools and classrooms. Just as they would with any other initiative, project, or policy affecting teaching and learning in their schools. The difference between schools that successfully integrate laptops and those that struggle or have failed is the involvement of the principal.

    If you’re interested here is my online diary of the first year of the MLTI.

    http://www.middleweb.com/mw/msdiaries/diaries02-03.html#CT

  3. atorris

    February 24, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    This is an interesting take on the progress of the Maine project, of which I have followed now for several years. As an International school leader in Shanghai, China we watched the early years of the implementation in Maine as we prepared for our roll out of 1:1 which occurred in 2008. I agree with Mr. Mao when he states that success needs to be clearly defined, and I would like to refer your readers to a very interesting journal article that summarizes the critiques of 1:1 programs.

    The article titled “The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change by Mark Weston and Alan Bain in the Journal of Technology, Learning Assessment (www.jtla.org) lays out 6 keys to realizing the benefits of 1:1– or as they refer to it, “cognitive tools”. They are:

    1. An explicit set of simple rules that define what the community believes.
    2. Systematic and deliberate process for embedding the rules into the “big ideas, values, aspirations and commitments in day-to-day actions and processes. They note that by embedding these into the design of the work done at a school the results yield a big picture result.

    3. ALL members of the school community are fully engaged in sustaining the design. Read COLLABORATION here!

    4. The design creates a clear pathway of feedback from all members in “real-time”- all of the time. As we all know feedback, when accurate and consistent begets real change.

    5. The feedback and interplay of the rules, the design,and the collaboration make it possible for the school to explicitly develop a framework that will define further practice. This “schema” will require the school to work holistically instead of with individuals repeating the same activities in isolation over and over again.

    6. Guided by the schema, the community begins to DEMAND systemic and ubiquitous use of technology as opposed to the isolated and sporadic use that so typical in early adoptions.

    Weston and Bain note that “In a self-organized school, if the community members want it, all students can have a differentiated learning experience that produces measurable, substantial academic social effects”. When the above mentioned 6 components are put in place the community will demand such change and each will bring their unique skills and talents to the table creating an atmosphere where teaching, learning, creating and communicating are the norm and the line between those activities and “technology” are blurred.

    This certainly is a different result from what many of us thought we were after when we began our 1:1 programs, but one cannot argue that the effects are positive and will create great amounts of positive energy for teaching and learning in our classrooms.

    The article is certainly worth the read and reinforces what is happening in Maine and also at our school.

    Great article! Thanks,
    Andrew Torris
    Deputy Superintendent
    Shanghai American School

  4. atorris

    February 24, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    This is an interesting take on the progress of the Maine project, of which I have followed now for several years. As an International school leader in Shanghai, China we watched the early years of the implementation in Maine as we prepared for our roll out of 1:1 which occurred in 2008. I agree with Mr. Mao when he states that success needs to be clearly defined, and I would like to refer your readers to a very interesting journal article that summarizes the critiques of 1:1 programs.

    The article titled “The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change by Mark Weston and Alan Bain in the Journal of Technology, Learning Assessment (www.jtla.org) lays out 6 keys to realizing the benefits of 1:1– or as they refer to it, “cognitive tools”. They are:

    1. An explicit set of simple rules that define what the community believes.
    2. Systematic and deliberate process for embedding the rules into the “big ideas, values, aspirations and commitments in day-to-day actions and processes. They note that by embedding these into the design of the work done at a school the results yield a big picture result.

    3. ALL members of the school community are fully engaged in sustaining the design. Read COLLABORATION here!

    4. The design creates a clear pathway of feedback from all members in “real-time”- all of the time. As we all know feedback, when accurate and consistent begets real change.

    5. The feedback and interplay of the rules, the design,and the collaboration make it possible for the school to explicitly develop a framework that will define further practice. This “schema” will require the school to work holistically instead of with individuals repeating the same activities in isolation over and over again.

    6. Guided by the schema, the community begins to DEMAND systemic and ubiquitous use of technology as opposed to the isolated and sporadic use that so typical in early adoptions.

    Weston and Bain note that “In a self-organized school, if the community members want it, all students can have a differentiated learning experience that produces measurable, substantial academic social effects”. When the above mentioned 6 components are put in place the community will demand such change and each will bring their unique skills and talents to the table creating an atmosphere where teaching, learning, creating and communicating are the norm and the line between those activities and “technology” are blurred.

    This certainly is a different result from what many of us thought we were after when we began our 1:1 programs, but one cannot argue that the effects are positive and will create great amounts of positive energy for teaching and learning in our classrooms.

    The article is certainly worth the read and reinforces what is happening in Maine and also at our school.

    Great article! Thanks,
    Andrew Torris
    Deputy Superintendent
    Shanghai American School

  5. mchapin23

    February 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I was very interested in reading this article and the posts. I was working as a 3rd-5th grade teacher in the first years of the Maine Laptop Initiative and was always hopeful that this Initiative would reach down to the elementary classrooms. At our small, rural school in Phippsburg, Maine we have been very lucky in having several principals who really supported technology. For several years we have had enough laptops for use in at least one classroom at a time, with each student having their own laptop along with a computer lab with enough stations for most classes to have a computer per student. With this technology that was available, our students have been able to learn keyboarding skills (not always as successfully as I hoped), had access to science sites that provide extensions and practice with concepts learned in the classroom, compared the Jamestown Colony with the Popham Colony which is located in our town of Phippsburg and whose colonists were sent out from England just a few months later than those colonists in Jamestown, talk to archaeologists in Jamestown and those who have worked in the Popham Colony excavation, as well as doing other work with technology embedded in the curriculum.
    This past summer, Maine’s First Ship, organized to build a reconstruction of what is believed to be the first English ship built on the North American continent at the Popham Colony in 1607-1608, developed a program attended by 14 Morse High School freshmen and sophomores under the direction of a shipwright and a media specialist, a high school science teacher and over 2 dozen community volunteers to build a shallop, an 18 foot boat that rows and sails and of a type which was used by the Popham colonists while they were building the larger pinnace, Virginia. Fortunately, our Regional School Union #1 Superintendent allowed the students to use their Maine Laptop Initiative laptops for the project. We worried about flying sawdust from the power and hand tools, and tried to keep them clean. Under the direction of the media specialist, the students learned the skills necessary to take video and still photos of the work being done on the shallop. Each day, a student wrote in our blog and took photos to tell the story of the work in the 19th century freight shed. The students also took turns being the docent, greeting and explaining the project of building the shallop and the history of the Popham Colony to the visitors from all over the world who stopped by. This was only an 8 week project but the skills learned and personal growth in a varied group of learners was all quite amazing. One of the things that we tried to teach the kids was the importance of being able to go back to classrooms and tell their teachers that they had experience in using technology, thanks to the MLTI program, and that they could help the teachers in using the technology in their classes. This technology access provided the students the opportunity to develop confidence and skill that can be important throughout their lives.
    Now that we are in a Maine winter, Maine’s First Ship partnered once again with the school district to make the rigging and build longer oars so that the shallop can be used in a community rowing and sailing program developed by a volunteer. MFS pays the shipwright and the media consultant. 2 of the summer volunteers have moved to the Morse High carpentry shop to lend a hand. The school district provides the 15 kids, the services of an Educational Technician and another volunteer helps out. Fortunately we can share space with the carpentry class and use the power tools there. Hand tools and safety equipment came from the summer project. The students get academic credit as they did in the summer program. And the technology piece? Once again we are part of MLTI with the students documenting their work with video cameras loaned from a community television station and writing every day in the blog on their laptops. Our media specialist assigns homework using the laptops and communicates with the students through email by which homework is also submitted. Several students are involved in making videos of how to do certain skills such as making a grommet for the shallop. Students will be involved in making brochures to educate the public about the project. They are learning marketing and public speaking skills as they learn to “sell” the project to community groups. All of the academic skills of writing, editing, communicating, measuring, history and science are a piece of what these students are learning.
    Of course we have the usual technology problems of “my puppy ate my laptop cord”. And we had the very sad experience of a student who really had no idea of what to do with his laptop. He didn’t know how to get on to email or how to send in his homework. We are so fortunate that with 6 adults in this class, we have the time to solve these problems as they come up. Most of our students signed up for this class because of their learning style – of wanting hands on learning. This class is really a pilot which we hope to duplicate with a program that continues throughout the year, with our present students being able to serve as apprentices next summer with new students enrolling to help build a keel and frames for the reconstruction of the 1607-08 Virginia. I believe that the MLTI program has been of great importance in the education of students in Maine, as has certainly been demonstrated in these projects. I am so thankful for the vision of former Maine Governor King, and those who have supported the MLTI program in giving fabulous opportunities to Maine students.

    Please visit http://www.mainesfirstship.org to view the student work.

    Merry Chapin
    Maine’s First Ship Co-President and Education Chair

  6. mchapin23

    February 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I was very interested in reading this article and the posts. I was working as a 3rd-5th grade teacher in the first years of the Maine Laptop Initiative and was always hopeful that this Initiative would reach down to the elementary classrooms. At our small, rural school in Phippsburg, Maine we have been very lucky in having several principals who really supported technology. For several years we have had enough laptops for use in at least one classroom at a time, with each student having their own laptop along with a computer lab with enough stations for most classes to have a computer per student. With this technology that was available, our students have been able to learn keyboarding skills (not always as successfully as I hoped), had access to science sites that provide extensions and practice with concepts learned in the classroom, compared the Jamestown Colony with the Popham Colony which is located in our town of Phippsburg and whose colonists were sent out from England just a few months later than those colonists in Jamestown, talk to archaeologists in Jamestown and those who have worked in the Popham Colony excavation, as well as doing other work with technology embedded in the curriculum.
    This past summer, Maine’s First Ship, organized to build a reconstruction of what is believed to be the first English ship built on the North American continent at the Popham Colony in 1607-1608, developed a program attended by 14 Morse High School freshmen and sophomores under the direction of a shipwright and a media specialist, a high school science teacher and over 2 dozen community volunteers to build a shallop, an 18 foot boat that rows and sails and of a type which was used by the Popham colonists while they were building the larger pinnace, Virginia. Fortunately, our Regional School Union #1 Superintendent allowed the students to use their Maine Laptop Initiative laptops for the project. We worried about flying sawdust from the power and hand tools, and tried to keep them clean. Under the direction of the media specialist, the students learned the skills necessary to take video and still photos of the work being done on the shallop. Each day, a student wrote in our blog and took photos to tell the story of the work in the 19th century freight shed. The students also took turns being the docent, greeting and explaining the project of building the shallop and the history of the Popham Colony to the visitors from all over the world who stopped by. This was only an 8 week project but the skills learned and personal growth in a varied group of learners was all quite amazing. One of the things that we tried to teach the kids was the importance of being able to go back to classrooms and tell their teachers that they had experience in using technology, thanks to the MLTI program, and that they could help the teachers in using the technology in their classes. This technology access provided the students the opportunity to develop confidence and skill that can be important throughout their lives.
    Now that we are in a Maine winter, Maine’s First Ship partnered once again with the school district to make the rigging and build longer oars so that the shallop can be used in a community rowing and sailing program developed by a volunteer. MFS pays the shipwright and the media consultant. 2 of the summer volunteers have moved to the Morse High carpentry shop to lend a hand. The school district provides the 15 kids, the services of an Educational Technician and another volunteer helps out. Fortunately we can share space with the carpentry class and use the power tools there. Hand tools and safety equipment came from the summer project. The students get academic credit as they did in the summer program. And the technology piece? Once again we are part of MLTI with the students documenting their work with video cameras loaned from a community television station and writing every day in the blog on their laptops. Our media specialist assigns homework using the laptops and communicates with the students through email by which homework is also submitted. Several students are involved in making videos of how to do certain skills such as making a grommet for the shallop. Students will be involved in making brochures to educate the public about the project. They are learning marketing and public speaking skills as they learn to “sell” the project to community groups. All of the academic skills of writing, editing, communicating, measuring, history and science are a piece of what these students are learning.
    Of course we have the usual technology problems of “my puppy ate my laptop cord”. And we had the very sad experience of a student who really had no idea of what to do with his laptop. He didn’t know how to get on to email or how to send in his homework. We are so fortunate that with 6 adults in this class, we have the time to solve these problems as they come up. Most of our students signed up for this class because of their learning style – of wanting hands on learning. This class is really a pilot which we hope to duplicate with a program that continues throughout the year, with our present students being able to serve as apprentices next summer with new students enrolling to help build a keel and frames for the reconstruction of the 1607-08 Virginia. I believe that the MLTI program has been of great importance in the education of students in Maine, as has certainly been demonstrated in these projects. I am so thankful for the vision of former Maine Governor King, and those who have supported the MLTI program in giving fabulous opportunities to Maine students.

    Please visit http://www.mainesfirstship.org to view the student work.

    Merry Chapin
    Maine’s First Ship Co-President and Education Chair


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