Ten Years of Laptops in Maine Schools

[In 2001] Maine legislators approved — after months of doubt and debate — Gov. Angus King’s proposal to give every seventh-grader in Maine a laptop….

Ten years later, each seventh- and eighth-grader in Maine public schools and every grades 7-12 teacher has a laptop paid for by state taxpayers, at an annual cost of $11 million. And, through the Maine Department of Education, 60 percent of Maine high-schoolers have laptops, paid for by local property taxpayers. That’s a total of 72,000 laptops, according to the DOE….

Teachers, students and administrators interviewed for this report said laptops are giving several kinds of return on that money.

Laptops make learning and schoolwork more interesting, students and teachers said. “When kids are engaged, you can teach them anything,” said Jeff Mao, who oversees instructional technology for the Maine Department of Education….

In the years since thousands of laptops have been given to students and teachers, they’ve become such a part of classrooms that teachers often underestimate how much they use them, Mao said.

“They’ll say, ‘I don’t do too much with laptops,'” he said. “But you watch them in class, and you see teachers with classroom Web page where all kinds of information — homework, class work, recommended sites — is available. Teachers e-mail students and parents. They give out assignments on laptops. It’s become so common it all seems mundane now.”…

Maine is recognized as a “world leader” for technology in classrooms, King said. Delegations from Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Israel, Peru, Australia and Ireland, among others, have visited Maine to learn about laptops. While some cities and counties have given out laptops, Maine is the only state with a statewide program….

One of the most important reasons for the laptop program was establishing equity. That’s been achieved, King said.

“How many Maine families could have afforded to buy laptops for eighth-graders? Yet every single kid has one,” King said. “We put this tool in the hands of thousands of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have it.”

“I’m as enthusiastic as ever,” King said. “We did the right thing at the right time. It’s been tremendously successful.” Maine has a digitally literate group of students, he said….

Robert Krulwich on the Future of Journalism

It is, I know, hard to find a job.

I’m guessing you look at the world of newspapers and magazines and broadcasters and webcasters and Huffposts and Daily Beasts and sometimes the whole bunch of ‘em feel like the City of Troy – you know, this high walled, Fortress of Journalism, occupied by people who somehow got in before you did and now they’re looking down at you … little you, a newbie standing alone on the beach and you’re looking up, thinking: “Hey! How’d you get in there?… and they’re not telling …

If you want to make a life in this business, if you want to begin, and survive and flourish, how do you do it? How do you start? Well I think there’s a way….

What I’ve noticed is that people who fall in love with journalism, who stay at it, who stay stubborn, very often win. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen it happen over and over.

So, here, for what it’s worth, ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2011, is my graduation advice. Some of you will say, “This is a fantasy. Pay this man no attention,” but hey, you invited me, so here’s what I’ve got:

If you can … fall in love, with the work, with people you work with, with your dreams and their dreams. Whatever it was that got you to this school, don’t let it go. Whatever kept you here, don’t let that go. Believe in your friends. Believe that what you and your friends have to say… that the way you’re saying it – is something new in the world.

And don’t stop. Just hold on… and keep loving what you love… and you’ll see. In the end, they’ll let you stay.

The Crisis in Higher Education

When politicians, from Barack Obama all the way down, talk about higher education, they talk almost exclusively about math and science. Indeed, technology creates the future.

But it is not enough to create the future. We also need to organize it, as the social sciences enable us to do. We need to make sense of it, as the humanities enable us to do.

A system of higher education that ignores the liberal arts, as Jonathan Cole points out in The Great American University (2009), is what they have in China, where they don’t want people to think about other ways to arrange society or other meanings than the authorized ones.

A scientific education creates technologists. A liberal arts education creates citizens: people who can think broadly and critically about themselves and the world.

Let Kids Rule the School

I recently followed a group of eight public high school students, aged 15 to 17, in western Massachusetts as they designed and ran their own school within a school. They represented the usual range: two were close to dropping out before they started the project, while others were honors students. They named their school the Independent Project.

One student who had failed all of his previous math courses spent three weeks teaching the others about probability. Another said: “I did well before. But I had forgotten what I actually like doing.” They have all returned to the conventional curriculum and are doing well. Two of the seniors are applying to highly selective liberal arts colleges.

The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.

Portland Principal Promotes Collaborative Culture

Mike McCarthy is principal at King Middle School in Portland, Maine

McCarthy transformed a culture of divisiveness and violence by committing to cooperation and innovation.

McCarthy: “The genius of this school is not in a program, it’s not in the laptops, it’s in the learning. It’s in teachers designing learning that they know will work for kids … and they have the space and the time and the autonomy to do it.”

The Koh Panyee Football Club: A True Story

In 1986, in a floating village in the middle of the sea that has not an inch of soil, the kids loved to watch football but had nowhere to play or practice. But they didn’t let that stop them.

This film is based on a true story about a little island in the south of Thailand called “Koh Panyee.”

This video launched a campaign for Thailand’s TMB Bank, hoping to inspire people to start small, think differently, and create positive change. The video is based on a true story. Full credits are here.

Thank you for sharing this, Charlotte Agell!

The rise of K-12 blended learning

From Michael Horn, Innosight Institute:

Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. Continue reading “The rise of K-12 blended learning”

Adam Hartung: Why Steve Jobs couldn’t find a job today

From Adam Hartung:

Rather than search out growth, most businesses are still trying to simply do what their business has done for decades – and marveling at the lack of improved results…

But now we’re in the information economy… Today, value goes to those who know how to create, store, manipulate and use information.  And success in this economy has a lot more to do with innovation, and the creation of entirely new products, industries and very different kinds of jobs…

Unfortunately, however, we keep hiring for the last economy… While 1,500 CEOs say that creativity is the single most important quality for success today – and studies bear out the greater success of creative, innovative leaders – the study found that when it came to hiring and promoting practices businesses consistently marked down the creative managers and bypassed them, selecting less creative types!..

Until we start hiring promoting innovators we won’t have any innovation.  We must understand that America’s successful history doesn’t guarantee it’s successful future.  Competing on bits, rather than brawn or natural resources, requires creativity to recognize opportunities, develop them and implement new solutions rapidly.  It requires adaptability to deal with new technologies, new business models and new competitors.  It requires an understanding of innovation and how to learn while doing.

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