“From Lunchboxes to Laptops:” Maine’s Laptop Initiative

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“From Lunchboxes to Laptops” -Previous Governor Angus King

For over a hundred of years, Maine found itself in the “bottom third of states – in prosperity, income, education, and opportunity for [its] kids” (Curtis, 2013). In order to increase Maine’s reputation, previous Governor Angus King discussed the possibility of increasing the academic success of his state by creating a smaller student-to-computer ratio within the public school systems in the 1990’s. At the time, Maine had a 5:1 ratio of students to computers. Governor King proposed decreasing this ratio to 2:1. He first proposed this idea to MIT scientist, Seymour Papert, who was a child behavior specialist. Papert suggested decreasing the ratio even further to 1:1. This 1-to-1 ratio would mean that every student would receive their own laptop. Papert argued that a laptop is “the intellectual tool of our time” and a 1-to-1 ratio would be “magic” (Curtis, 2013). Governor King wanted to do this to make a change and wanted it to be better than what everyone else was doing. The changes Maine had previously attempted were not working. The following essay investigates the implementation of the 2002 Maine Learning Initiative for laptops in middle school classrooms, and how this technology has either helped or hindered student learning and teachers’ ability to teach.

Initially, the 2002 Maine Learning Initiative for laptops was viewed favorably by the original supporter, Governor Angus King, because to him, technology meant a higher status for Maine and he believed this program was a better use of the state’s funds. However, by 2009, the program became too costly, and by 2016, a major shift had occurred. Despite the initial positive results that laptops were seen to have on student and teacher learning, collaboration, and behavior, Maine began to question the feasibility and affordability of implementing this new protocol. Switching every public middle school to a 1:1 ratio became too expensive and teachers were transforming their practices at a slow rate. The current Governor, Paul LePage, criticizes the program for the lack of training that the teachers receive. Furthermore, the Education Department in Maine also voiced its own concerns because the Maine Learning Initiative is now moving away from its originals goals.

In 2002, King was able to move forward with his idea, and he distributed laptops to every seventh grade student in the state. Through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, this made Maine the first state to implement a 1-to-1 laptop program. By the fall of 2002, Maine had distributed 17,000 Apple laptops to the seventh graders and their teachers in 243 middle schools across the state (Garthwait and Weller, 2005). The laptops included “built-in wireless technology; a CD-ROM drive; a case; and a full complement of software, including AppleWorks, iMovie and iPhoto” (MEPRI, 2003). These laptops were expected to last until the students graduated high school. Today, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative has provided laptops and tablets to 66,000 of the 183,000 students in Maine (Herold and Kazi, 2016). The reason why not all students have a laptop is because of the tight funds and budget. Even though all levels of schooling in Maine have the same goals for the 1-to-1 initiative program, the money that the middle school receives versus the high school differs. The middle schools in Maine “receive money for software, hardware, network infrastructure, warranties, technical support, professional development, and data-backup services,” whereas in the high schools in Maine they only receive funds for “the wireless-network infrastructure that is installed by the state to support the laptops” (Ash, 2009). As a result, in 2009, when costs were increasing and economic times were tough, only “50 percent of the high schools in Maine [had] allocated and dedicated the funds to advance this program” (Ash, 2009). As a whole though, by giving students a laptop, especially the ones who could not afford to buy one for themselves, the state of Maine has provided them with a powerful learning tool.

Having technology very accessible in these Maine classrooms has made students learning more successful. It has increased test scores in the subjects of science, writing, math and English. Students have edited papers more often than before and have received more feedback on their writing. The mathematics score for the eighth graders “rose from 30 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2011” (Morell, 2012). When students use laptops to search the web, they use a wider range of sources. While working with laptops, students have gained experience in project-based learning, learned how to access resources on the internet, work collaboratively with others and have increased their problem solving skills (Zheng and Warschauer, 2016).

From the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2002, positive changes occurred in the students’ behavior. Attendance rates increased, discipline problems declined, detention slips went from 29 to 3, suspension rates went from 5 to 0, and overall 91% of the students’ grades improves (Curtis, 2013). One student said, “I have never handed all of my homework in because I always lose stuff,” but “now I hand everything in because it is right there on my laptop” (Curtis, 2013). Students found themselves to be more interested in their work because it was more fascinating to search on a laptop.

By having laptops in the classrooms, it has also helped teachers. Teachers have mostly used the laptops for researching about lesson plans, finding instructional material and to communicate with other administrative staff. To be exact, in 2002, 55% of teachers used laptops to communicate with other teachers (MEPRI, 2003). They often exchange curriculum and instructional ideas. Maine teachers do not just do this with other Maine teachers, but also with teachers in different countries. One teacher said, “I am currently working on a unit with a teacher in Milan, Italy. We are going to have our students collaborate on a project of some sort” (MEPRI, 2003). When technology is in the classroom, it helps them convey information to students in ways that have never been done before. Instead of going to the library and having to find books for the students, they can all access resources on their computer. It helps teachers and students by having “information at their fingertips” (MEPRI, 2003). By teachers using their laptops a few times a week to more often, it has opened up many opportunities for them.

Implementing the 1-to-1 ratio throughout every school helped King to achieve many of the goals that he set out for the state as its governor. King wanted Maine “to have the most digitally literate society on earth” (Watters, 2015). His goal was to prepare students for the future economy, which highly relies on technological literacy and innovation. This goal came from the fact that “70% of business and information technology (IT) professionals nationwide report that their companies are concerned about the Digital Divide because they, and the U.S. economy in general, need more IT talent” (MEPRI, 2003). King’s initial idea to help increase his state’s national ranking ended up turning Maine into a national leader in terms of providing students with laptops for learning. His effort to improve his own state’s reputation resulted in a movement that improved student learning throughout the entire nation. Governor King had effectively “put Maine on the technological map” (Curtis, 2013).

Even though the Maine Learning Initiative is accomplishing Governor King’s goal of making Maine a “world leader” in the technological world, the program has cost the state a large amount of money. When the 1-to-1 laptop program was first discussed, King suggested that $50 million should be taken from the state funds and that $15 million should be raised, for a total of $65 million devoted to the program (Watters, 2015). King argued that this was a worthwhile investment, as funds are used to fix the roads every year, but this was a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something transformational instead of incremental” (Watters, 2015). After thoroughly discussing the budget for the laptop program, he decreased the budget for this program from the initial $65 million to $15 million (Watters, 2015). Instead of funding the 1-to-1 initiative all at once, Governor King decided that the funding would “be dependent on annual re-appropriation” (Watters, 2015). Currently, the Maine Learning Initiative costs $11.5 million per year, with $10.5 million used on Apple products and $1 million on H-P products (Gallagher, 2016).

With such a high yearly cost, Governor LePage argues that the price is not worth the effectiveness of the program. He said, “It has been a massive failure,” and continued, “It’s been a failure and we all know it but we keep doing it because we’re used to doing it” (Cousins, 2016). Governor LePage is skeptical of the Maine Learning Initiative and has asked for a review of the program. He thinks that the 1-to-1 initiative is failing because there is not enough training for the teachers and students. There has not been adequate training to demonstrate to them how to use the laptops to their fullest capacity for education. LePage critiques former Governor King, by saying that “we should have been doing that [the training] 15 years ago” and not waiting until technology catches up with us (Cousins, 2016). Even in the early years of the program, when people thought it was most effective, teachers reported that they felt as though they “need[ed] more time and professional development” (MEPRI, 2003). LePage thinks that schools have been focusing more on the device itself, such as “which devices schools will get, for what price, etc.,” but not on the learning the laptops can and should be providing. Governor LePage, himself, believes that the Maine Learning Initiative “has been flawed from the start and that the focus needs to shift” (Cousins, 2016). According to the Department of Education, there will be changes to the initiative in the next couple years.

As for the students, many children may become distracted by the computers by searching websites that are not school related, such as Facebook and YouTube, during the school hours. Additionally, students may encounter technological issues that slow down and distract their learning (Morell, 2012). For example, with a large number of people on the same network at once, internet access and network connection can become slow. One student reported, ““These computers aren’t completely stable, because I had a project that I saved on the server and on the desktop and both of these things got messed up with the file” (MEPRI, 2003). This means that sometimes technology is preventing students from completing their work efficiently, rather than enhancing their learning.

The current contract, which was signed in 2012, provided funding to the public middle schools for the 1-to-1 initiative until 2016, with the ability to add on one year extensions, giving Maine the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to continue with the program on a yearly basis. Bill Beardsley, the Deputy Education Commissioner, stated that this somewhat flexible contract “gives us a chance to regroup, to think it through,” and continued, “Should we still be doing the concept of what Angus King came up with, or a new concept?” (Cousins, 2016). Governor LePage is keeping a close eye on the Education Department because he wants to ensure that the initiative is having positive effects on student learning. He plans to look at test scores, attendance rates, engagement within the classroom, and the behavior of students. When the contract for the 1-to-1 program expires at the beginning of the 2017 academic year, LePage will no longer be the governor, so the Education Department will have to do their “homework for whoever the decision maker will be” (Gallagher, 2016).

The Maine Learning Initiative Program did achieve one of Governor King’s goals to “put Maine on the technological map” and to boost the reputation of the state (Curtis, 2013). By providing almost all teachers and students with a laptop, the program has created immense learning opportunities for all people involved; however, there have also been downfalls and challenges involved. The 1-to-1 initiative was successful in that it allowed students to search the web for projects, write papers at school and at home, and to make learning more fun. For teachers, the laptops have helped them to easily search for lesson plans and to communicate with other teachers overseas. Even though there are a large amount of benefits to this program, the technology itself, the training that teachers receive, and the need for funding are all examples of challenges and downfalls to the program. Now, in 2017, the program is still being questioned for its effectiveness, and I am curious to see where it goes from here. From what other states have done and the research I have found on the use of technology in the classrooms, I would recommend that the next governor of Maine provides enough funding for the program to continue for a few more years until data can be collected on its effectiveness for student learning and teachers’ ability to teach.


Ash, Katie. “State Laptop Program Progresses in Maine Amid Tight Budgets – Education Week.” Education Week 2 Sept. 2009. Education Week. Web. 1 May 2017.

Cousins, Christopher. “LePage Calls Maine’s Student Laptop Program a ‘massive Failure’ | State & Capitol.” N.p., 14 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 May 2017.

—. “LePage Eyes Changing Laptop Program Launched by Angus King.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 5 May 2017.

Curtis, Diane. “A Computer for Every Lap: The Maine Learning Technology Initiative.” Edutopia. N.p., 13 May 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Gallagher, Noel. “Maine Officials Extend Student Computer Contract – Portland Press Herald.” Press Herald. N.p., 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 5 May 2017.

Garthwait, Abigail, and Herman Weller. “A Year in the Life: Two Seventh Grade Teachers Implement One-to-One Computing.” (2005): n. pag. Print.

Herold, Benjamin, and Jason Kazi. “Maine 1-to-1 Computing Initiative Under Microscope – Education Week.” Education Week 31 Aug. 2016. Education Week. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

Maine Education Policy Research Institute. “The Maine Learning Technology Initiative: Teacher, Student, and School Perspectives Mid-Year Evaluation Report.” Mar. 2003: n. pag. Print.

Morell, Ricki. “King’s Laptops Leveled Playing Field, but Academic Benefits Hard to Assess.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

—. “Maine’s Decade-Old School Laptop Program Wins Qualified Praise.” The Hechinger Report. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

Watters, Audrey. “From Lunchboxes to Laptops: How Maine Went One-to-One.” Hack Education. N.p., 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Zheng, Binbin, and Mark Warschauer. “How Maine Schools Proved Why Schools Everywhere Should Provide One Laptop per Child.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 24 June 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Waiting for “Superman” Video Analysis

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David Guggenheim’s documentary, Waiting for “Superman” explains the problems with the American education system. The documentary shows personal stories of families who are enrolled in the broken public education system. These parents have been trying to get a good education for their children, but because of certain factors, it has been hard for them to do so. The film follows these students till they are in the lottery system, where only one was accepted and one got off the waitlist. Waiting for “Superman” discusses how families from different backgrounds and places all have something in common, which is that the education that every student is receiving is not equally distributed.

One of the families that was followed was Daisy’s. Daisy’s parents, her dad who stays at home, and her mom who cleans hospital, have been trying to have Daisy received a good education. When the film first introduced Daisy, it was nice to see the she had big dreams for herself. Guggenheim follows her family from the beginning, interviewing her at home and at school, and then to the lottery at KIPP LA Prep. Daisy, who is very dedicated to her studies, wants “to have a lot of choices” (Guggenheim 7:00) She said, “I want to be nurse, I want to be a doctor and I want to be a veterinarian,” because she “wants to help someone in need” (Guggenheim 7:24). At Daisy’s school only 13% of the school will be proficient in math, of the 15 courses needed to go to a 4-year college, only 3/100 students will have graduated with the necessary classes and 57% will not graduate (Guggenheim 21:03-21:30). It was sad to see that Daisy was not accepted in the lottery because she is one of those students who is excited to learn, loves to learn and has big dreams for herself. Due to the socioeconomic factors it has been a struggle for her to receive an education that she deserves to have.

Waiting on “Superman” explains and displays a lot of the issues surrounding the public school education in America. It shows when people come disadvantaged backgrounds, they receive a different education than families who come from more advantaged backgrounds. However, the documentary fails to address the people who succeed in the tracking system in public education. Guggenheim follows the students who are all from poor neighborhoods, who have poor schooling, but he does not follow other neighborhods, whether poor or rich, that have good schooling. To make the film more accurate to society Guggenheim showed show the public school system from all points of view.

Waiting for "Superman" (7:10)
Waiting for “Superman” (Guggenheim 7:10)
Waiting for "Superman" (1:34:35)
Waiting for “Superman” (Guggenheim 1:34:35)

Citation: Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

Connecticut Children’s Committee Meets Regarding “Baby Dylan”

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After a Connecticut baby suffers severe abuse and moves from home to home, the Connecticut Children’s Committee meets on the subject of Connecticut Department of Children and Families’ practices.

The Committee on Children met on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1pm in the Legislative Office Building at the Capitol Building in Hartford. The meeting commenced with a greeting and opening remarks by Senator Leonard Suzio. He proposed the bills to be drafted in this meeting. Proposed S.B. No. 396, an act concerning child fatality and S.B. No. 397, an act establishing an independent department of children and families ombudsman were passed without discussion. S.B. No. 6099, an act concerning the operation of group homes maintained by the department of children and families, and S.B. No. 6279, an act concerning voluntary placement in the custody of the department of children and families and parental rights were also passed without discussion. There was a short recess following these bills due to a technical issue.

After the passage of these bills, Senator Suzio gave the floor to Sarah Eagan of the Office of Child Advocates (OCA). Eagan presented on the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) case regarding “Baby Dylan,” who sustained various severe injuries while in foster care. A hospital visit and suspicions of abuse and neglect led to an investigation in January of 2016.

In the year 2015, when Baby Dylan was thirteen months old, he was placed into the foster home of a relative: his mother’s cousin. Five months later Baby Dylan was placed into another relative’s home. They immediately brought him to the hospital due to physically malnourished appearance. Eagan stated that Baby Dylan suffered from, “nutritional neglect and abuse, with numerous injuries including broken bones, burns on wrist, bruises and abrasions, and bleeding into his brain.” The child was described as being severely emaciated, unable to walk, talk, or feed himself, and only weighing seventeen lbs. Eagan discussed how his deteriorating condition should have been obvious to his care givers, but because of alleged substance abuse and a pattern of neglect, his conditions were ignored. The OCA then opened their investigation.

The investigation revealed “severe flaws” in DCF’s practices according to Eagan. Investigators discovered that during social workers’ home visits with Baby Dylan, there was a period of 100 days from the summer through fall where the social workers were unable to make contact with Baby Dylan who was “sleeping.” Eagan said that DCF committed, “numerous failures including forged document work in “Link,” unresponsiveness to red flags, and multiple conflicting statements around the foster parents.” There was serious cause for concern about social workers’ caseloads, citing too much to do and not enough staff to do it. By DCF policy, people who work on a case must enter information within five days of meeting with a family. The OCA noticed that eighteen out of twenty-one entries into the “Link” electronic licensing records for Baby Dylan were dated November 12th — one day after Baby Dylan was hospitalized.

Eagan concluded her presentation by arguing that the state strongly supports placement with families when they are clearly demonstrating capacity to meet the needs of the children. However, after reviewing this case and the DCF’s failures, the OCA recommends amending state law to require DCF to create standards for the role of the agency in assessing where the child is placed, making sure that it is a safe environment. After Eagan finished presenting, Senator Suzio asked a few clarifying questions regarding her presentation. Eagan answered them and emphasized her desire to increase the safety standards for children in Connecticut foster care.