Maine laptop program offers lessons in ed-tech implementation

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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