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.

“A lot of our trainings now occur over webinar, so right now every Thursday we have webinars for teachers,” Mao said.

While the program has seen some evidence of success so far, Mao said that in hindsight, he might have executed it a bit differently.

“If a state is looking at this from a state’s perspective, I think it’s important to make sure to define your own terms for success,” Mao said. “This is one of the things that we didn’t really do clearly at the beginning, and we’ve been playing a little bit of catch-up ever since. … We didn’t clearly define what we thought success would look like.”

He said it’s important for proponents of a one-to-one laptop program to know their educational goals, in order to explain to their constituents why such a program is worth the funding.

Maine’s program began in 2002 when all 7th graders receiving Apple laptops, and it has continuously expanded until students from grades 7-12 all had laptops.

Mao said it takes a great deal of leadership to make 1-to-1 laptop programs successful, but it can be done.

“The leaders in your system, from the highest levels of government and departments of education all the way down into schools, are the drivers of change. If a principal doesn’t see the necessity for the change or doesn’t provide the pressure for the change, the change won’t occur. Just because you’ve introduced the technology doesn’t mean anyone will do anything significant with it, if the leaders aren’t applying the pressure to do that,” he said.

He cautioned that a great deal of assistance and cooperation is necessary to make a smooth transition to a 1-to-1 laptop program.

“The leaders won’t be successful with pressure if they don’t provide support. You can’t just tell someone to do something differently but then not give them any support in trying to do that. So there’s a balance between pressure and support, but those things are very important—and you’ve got to have both,” Mao said.

He said this kind of support ranges from professional development, to arranging schedules so that teachers can have planning periods together.

“It’s the little, simple details that can sometimes go a very long way, [and] that might not even cost you any money,” he said.

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

Comments are closed.

INNOVATIONS in K-12 Education


Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.