Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 11
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology
Maine's Digital Learning Effort Facing Tough Questions
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Gabor Degre/Bangor Daily News-File
Robert F. Bukaty/AP-File
experiences we want for kids, how
tech can help, and what kind of
supports teachers need."
Launched in 2002 under former
Gov. Angus King, an Independent,
the Maine initiative began by leasing and distributing Apple laptop
computers to every 7th and 8th
grader in the state. During the past
eight years, the effort expanded to
include other grades, vendors, and
The initiative, which now provides computers or tablets to
66,000 of Maine's roughly 183,000
students, helped convince a generation of policymakers across the
country that widespread 1-to-1
computing was possible. In the
process, it provided a roadmap for
how to manage the purchase and
deployment of tens of thousands of
devices to schools.
But since his election ﬁve years
ago, LePage, a Republican, has been
skeptical of the program, which now
costs about $11.5 million per year.
While the details of the current review are still being hammered out,
it appears as though all options, including a dramatic scaling back of
the state's involvement in technology purchases for schools, could be
on the table.
Such uncertainty speaks directly
to the need for better monitoring
of technology's use and impact in
K-12, said Douglas Levin, the president of EdTech Strategies LLC, a
"It's an incredible missed opportunity to have Maine run its 1-to-1
initiative for over a decade and to
still have so many questions about
the efﬁcacy of the program," Levin
During the past decade, the push
for 1-to-1 student computing has
picked up considerable steam.
More than half of U.S. students
now have access to school-issued
personal computing devices, according to Futuresource Consulting, a U.K.-based research ﬁrm.
Generally, the thinking behind
such efforts has been that putting
personal devices in the hands of
students will allow for the delivery
of more personalized content and
lessons. Many 1-to-1 initiatives,
including Maine's, include an explicit focus on helping to prepare
students for the modern workplace.
Proponents frequently describe
their desire to empower students
to use technology to solve problems,
engage in complex and creative
work, and collaborate with others.
But districts, rather than states,
have mostly taken the lead. In
Michigan, an effort similar to
Maine's lasted only a few years before funding was pulled. Smaller
state-led efforts in Pennsylvania
and Texas never fully took flight.
Only Utah and Nevada are pursu-
FROM TOP: Then-7th grader
Felicia Wentworth shows work
on her laptop to author Stephen
King at Freeport Middle School
in Maine in 2002, the first year
of the state's ambitious 1-to-1
computing initiative. King had
said he wanted to try teaching
writing to students via
About 1,000 students
participated in the 9th-annual
Maine Learning Technology
Initiative Student Conference
at the University of Maine in
Orono in 2012. They learned
about digital game design and
other computer skills.
ing statewide 1-to-1 initiatives, both
via pilot programs.
In general, the research behind
1-to-1 computing initiatives has
Earlier this year, researchers at
Michigan State University released
a ﬁrst-of-its-kind meta-analysis of
15 years' worth of studies, ﬁnding
that efforts to give K-12 students
their own laptop computers led to
increased student achievement
and modest boosts in students'
"21st century skills."
A raft of prior studies, however,
showed that even when technology
is present in classrooms, teachers
have been slow to transform their
practice and often failed to make
the most powerful uses of the new
tools at their students' ﬁngertips.
That seems to have been the experience in Maine.
"There is a legitimate concern that
our kids are stuck at [using technology for] word processing, presenta-
tions, and online research," Muir
That reality, plus ﬂat statewide
test scores, has been a source of
consternation for LePage.
While some educators and digital-learning proponents bristle at
the notion that technology initiatives should be expected to move
the needle on standardized test
results, Levin of EdTech Strategies
thinks it's a fair expectation.
"If you're going to roll out a highproﬁle learning initiative statewide
for 10 years, I don't think it's inappropriate to expect to see some effect on math and reading scores,"
More Device Options
Another point of concern in
Maine, as elsewhere, is that too
much attention has been paid to the
question of which device students
For years, the state department of
education dealt solely with Apple,
By 2013, however, a wide range
of new, more affordable devices had
entered the educational market.
LePage intervened in the state's
procurement process, threatening
to pull the plug on the program
before ultimately agreeing to a
compromise that allowed districts
to choose from among four options:
Macbook Air laptops or iPads from
Apple, and a laptop and a tablet option from HP Inc.
In the years since, just 5 percent
of schools have selected the HP
options. And an initial swing by
schools toward iPads has since been
reversed, with many opting to trade
those tablets back in for laptops.
Jeff Mao, the state's learning
technology policy director from 2004
to 2014, said any undue focus on
the technology itself came primarily
from those outside the Maine Technology Learning Initiative.
"The training that has taken
place for the last 16 years has never
focused on the device. It has focused
on teaching practices and how to
best integrate technology into the
classroom," he said.
Still, Mao acknowledged that the
initiative has struggled to cultivate
a consistent classroom approach, in
part because Maine, as a local-control
state, can't mandate speciﬁc teaching
practices for all of its schools.
"It's always been difﬁcult to provide measurement for the program
due to lack of ﬁdelity," he said.
Supporters hope that the efficiencies Maine is able to generate through its single, statewide
contract will be enough to see the
1-to-1 initiative through its current
The process by which the review
of the initiative will take place is
still to be determined. Among the
options under consideration are a
switch in focus to early grades, or
shifting resources away from devices and into professional development and training.
The idea of such a nationally
lauded program being on such thin
ice may come as a surprise to some.
But it may actually be an opportunity, Muir said.
"In any long-term implementation, things start getting taken for
granted," he said."I think every so
often, it's good to stop and reﬂect."
Coverage of the implementation
of college- and career-ready standards
and the use of personalized learning
is supported in part by a grant from
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
Education Week retains sole editorial
control over the content of this coverage.
Visit the DIGITAL EDUCATION blog, which tracks
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EDUCATION WEEK | August 31, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 11
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 31, 2016
Education Week - August 31, 2016
Calls to Halt Charters Stir Friction
Head Start Benefits Underscored
Efforts to Boost Teacher Diversity Seen Falling Short
Digital Directions: 1-to-1 Computing Under Microscope in Maine Schools
News in Brief
Back to School: Taking the Public’s Pulse
U.S. State Department Tackles Gender Gap in Stem Participation
Act Scores Dip as Participation Swells
Are Poor Students More Ready for Kindergarten?
Teacher-Tenure Battles Continue After Vergara
Judge Blocks Guidance on Transgender Rights
Reading the Tea Leaves in Advance of Essa Funding Rules
Q&A: With Christopher Emdin
Q&A: Talking K-12 With a Force in the House Gop
Howard Fuller: The Naacp Has It Wrong
Milton Chen & Jonathan B. Jarvis: 100 Years Old, Our National Parks Are the Best Outdoor Classrooms
Topschooljobs Recruitment Marketplace
David E. Dematthews: The Principal as Community Advocate
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Digital Directions: 1-to-1 Computing Under Microscope in Maine Schools
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 2
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 3
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Back to School: Taking the Public’s Pulse
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - U.S. State Department Tackles Gender Gap in Stem Participation
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Are Poor Students More Ready for Kindergarten?
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Teacher-Tenure Battles Continue After Vergara
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 10
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 11
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 12
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 13
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 14
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 15
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Reading the Tea Leaves in Advance of Essa Funding Rules
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Q&A: Talking K-12 With a Force in the House Gop
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Howard Fuller: The Naacp Has It Wrong
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Milton Chen & Jonathan B. Jarvis: 100 Years Old, Our National Parks Are the Best Outdoor Classrooms
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 20
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - Topschooljobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - 23
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - David E. Dematthews: The Principal as Community Advocate
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - August 31, 2016 - CT4