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SCHOOL-IT  September 2005

SCHOOL-IT September 2005

Subject:

Re: Maine Closing Technology Gap for Students [Kansas City infoZine, September 25, 2005]

From:

Vince Rossano <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

School Information Technology Discussion <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 26 Sep 2005 10:24:18 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (175 lines)

Okay!  Here's one of those rare moments when Steve and I actually agree
on something.  I definitely approve of providing  home Internet access
for students from low-income families.  We need that here in Vermont; we
need that everywhere, actually.  

Some of us met with Michel Guite from VTel on Friday.  The man presents
his company as wanting to use the excess bandwidth they've acquired 
 (Well, okay - you can never really have "excess" bandwidth, but
they've got a big pipe straight out of Boston.) to do good things at
very reasonable rates.  He's brought a circuit into the state ed dept.
offices and given a few of us (schools) free 10 meg drops for a year.
(Makes me a bit nervous though. Bandwidth is like drugs, and I'm
reminded of the old drug dealer saying, if I may paraphrase: "C'mon kid,
try it!  The first year's free.)

Anyway, the point I started out to make was that perhaps the state
should explore a deal with Michel that would deliver home access to
under-privileged kids.  We might have to wait until we get rid of
Douglas before any real progress can be made toward something that would
require state government to spend money (sorry, I can't resist turning
things into political issues), but it seems worth looking into.  

Vince





>>> On 9/26/2005 at 8:49:18 am, in message
<[log in to unmask]>, [log in to unmask]
wrote:
> Maine Closing Technology Gap for Students
> Kavan Peterson
> Kansas City infoZine
> Sunday, September 25, 2005 ::
> http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/10478/ 
> 
> By Kavan Peterson - The former governor of Maine who created the  
> nation's only statewide program to give laptop computers to public  
> school students is continuing his personal crusade to close Maine's 

> digital divide by offering free home Internet access to low-income  
> students.
> 
> EducationStateline.org - infoZine - Former Gov. Angus King (I), who 

> left office in 2002, raised $850,000 in private funds this summer - 

> including $100,000 from his own pocket - to create the nonprofit  
> Maine Learning Technology Foundation to offer the free Internet  
> access for the first time this school year.
> 
> The initiative builds on the state's four-year, $37-million program 

> that has provided laptop computers to all seventh- and eighth-graders
 
> since 2002. The free home Internet connection will be offered to  
> families of students in the laptop program who qualify for free or  
> reduced-price school lunches.
> 
> Maine's cutting-edge laptop program has generated positive reviews  
> from educators, converted many critics and sparked a national trend 

> toward personal computing in the classroom. Yet despite the support 

> of King's successor, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, state funding for
 
> the program could end this year.
> 
> "Over the past three years I think we've erased any question that  
> providing one-on-one computer access is a powerful education tool," 

> King said. "However, some of our students have not had the  
> opportunity to continue their learning outside of school because they
 
> lacked access to the Internet at home, and this puts them at a  
> disadvantage."
> 
> King said that as governor, he envisioned Maine gaining an economic 

> edge by becoming the most digitally literate state in the nation. He 

> said his new foundation will work to promote that goal and encourage 

> the state Legislature to continue funding technology in schools.
> 
> Despite the state's hi-tech triumphs, the Maine Legislature has voted
 
> down expanding the laptop program to high school as originally  
> planned and has left the program unfunded after this school year.
> 
> Although Maine has become a national model for classroom technology, 

> no other statewide programs have been launched. Michigan scaled back 

> plans to provide laptops to the state's 132,000 sixth-graders and so 

> far has provided computers to about 14,000 students in the state's  
> neediest schools. Local school districts have launched their own  
> laptop programs in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico and  
> Pennsylvania.
> 
> "One of the problems we've faced is that the idea sprung to life at 

> the very moment that everybody's (state) budgets collapsed," King  
> said. "Circumstances have changed, but states are still struggling  
> financially."
> 
> Now in its fourth year, the laptop program provides Maine's 34,000  
> seventh- and eighth-graders and their 3,000 teachers with Apple ibook
 
> laptops.
> 
> Initially, the program was derided by educators as a classroom  
> distraction and resisted by the Legislature as a waste of money, said
 
> project manager Tony Sprague. Critics worried students would break or
 
> lose the computers or spend class time surfing the Internet and  
> "instant-messaging" friends.
> 
> Now school administrators and teachers say the program has lived up 

> to its promises of better engaging students in learning and leveling 

> the academic playing field for Maine's many rural and under-served  
> districts, Sprague said.
> 
> Last year, about three dozen high schools opted to spend more than $5
 
> million in local tax dollars to provide laptops to 9th-graders and  
> their teachers.
> 
> "Given the fact that we have so many high schools going forward  
> (buying laptops) on their own with scant local resources, it  
> certainly is being seen as a success," Sprague said.
> 
> Sprague said that about 8,000 Maine seventh- and eighth-graders  
> qualify for free or reduced lunches and so are eligible for free
dial- 
> up access. Low- income high school students participating in the  
> laptop program also are eligible for the free access. All other  
> students in the laptop program can purchase dial-up service at the  
> discounted rate of $8.33 a month, or high-speed broadband service for
 
> $20 a month, from Maine-based Great Works Internet.
> 
> The state will host the free Internet accounts on its computer  
> servers and will filter for content.
> 
> Independent studies by researchers at the University of Southern  
> Maine say the positive impact of the laptop program is being felt  
> statewide. More than 80 percent of the teachers surveyed last year  
> said students who are using the state-provided laptops were more  
> engaged in their schoolwork and produced better work, according to  
> survey from the Maine Education Policy Research Institute. More than 

> 70 percent of the students surveyed by the institute said the laptops
 
> helped them to be more organized and complete higher-quality  
> schoolwork more quickly.
> 
> The improvements were even greater for children more at risk of  
> failing, such as those in special education and from low-income  
> families.
> 
> "It engages especially students that were lower performers and didn't
 
> have the interest in school by stimulating them in a way that fits  
> their learning style," Sprague said.
> 
> Send your comments on this story to [log in to unmask] . Selected 

> reader feedback will be posted in the Letters to the editor section.

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