The task force charged with recommending how to use Maine’s new $50 million educational technology endowment took its first swipe at drafting preliminary proposals Nov. 27.

Without reaching consensus on any recommendation, the 17-member task force appointed by Gov. Angus King and the Legislature appears to be leaning toward providing students with what are known as “mid-client” or “thin-client” devices, as opposed to desktop or laptop computers.

Mid-client devices are portable machines that have only limited internal computing power, relying for the most part on servers for software programs and computing capabilities. Thin-client devices rely entirely on servers.

The mid- and thin-client devices are much less expensive than laptops and personal computers, and they are easier to troubleshoot, because they contain minimal software. The ease with which they are cared for and upgraded were big pluses to task force members, who said reliability was a major concern.

Task force members also discussed the ratio of computers to students—whether there should be one computer per student or some lesser degree of saturation; teacher training to incorporate computers into the curriculum effectively; the ability of students to use computers at home; how to build on the technology already existing in the state’s schools; and setting minimum technological standards to provide equity among districts.

Last March, Gov. Angus King proposed gradually providing portable computers to every seventh- through 12th-grader in Maine public schools by 2007.

At its November meeting, the task force did not discuss which grades should get the machines, concentrating instead on the saturation level needed to “transform” education in Maine.

John Lunt, president of the Association of Computer and Technology Educators of Maine, said, “The transformation won’t be realized until computers are in everybody’s hands.”

But Rep. Richard Mailhot, D-Lewiston, said constituents have told him they don’t want the state to hand out computers to every student. They’d rather see the schools control the machines, permitting students to check them out like library books, he said.