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Wired Reports That Maine's Teachers Are Happy With State's iBook Program

Wired Reports That Maine's Teachers Are Happy With State's iBook Program

by , 9:00 AM EST, November 15th, 2002

A lot has happened since Maine's Governor King announced his plan to give every middle-schooler in his state an iBook; the original funding for the program has all but disappeared, causing many supporters to rethink their positions and giving opponents of the program ammunition, the program received a boost from, Bill Gate, in the form of a 1 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, and from a Maine native son, Stephen King, in the form of an offer to mentor young writers. Through it all the thoughts and opinions of the people on the front lines, the teachers, have gotten comparatively little press-play.

Wired News Reporter, Katie Dean, went to Maine to see what some of the teachers had to say and reports her finding in a recent Wired News article titled Teachers Mainely Happy With Tech. It seems that many of the teachers who have had a chance to be involved with the program are pleased with the results.

"I wasn't computer literate before this. I was definitely skeptical at first," said Steve West, who teaches eighth-grade science and social studies at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor and described himself as a bit of a Luddite. "Now, I couldn't be more excited about it. It's so user-friendly. It's so intuitive."

Both seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers have had laptops since last spring at Conners Emerson. The school was chosen as a demonstration school for others in the region.

West said he was worried the iBooks would be more entertaining than educational for his students, like television. But the laptops have proven their worth, he said: They allow for more student-centered projects and give kids access to a variety of current documents and news sources. His classes recently worked on a lesson comparing the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts to the USA Patriot Act.

"I think we have to train kids to use technology wisely," he said. "I really hope this program succeeds. This is getting kids ready for the future."

The article quotes several other teachers who give a positive assessment of Gov. King's plan, but there are still those who have serious doubts:

"In a pure world where education was well funded, laptops would be wonderful," said Charlie Colson, an eighth-grade math teacher at Mount View Junior High.

"I would suggest that it is an ethically and morally bankrupt position to spend $37 million on laptops when (in some areas) children don't get breakfast or don't have a safe place to go to school," he said.

"It's not the best use of the money for the common good," Colson added.

Colson and his students do not have laptops yet. Eighth-grade students and teachers are scheduled to get them next year.

Stop by Wired News for the full article.

The Mac Observer Spin:

It is good to hear what the teachers have to say about the program. They are, after all, the ones who can best assess any goodness Gov. King's program may offer, and can best point out any real problems. It's encouraging to read so many positive comments from the teachers who have had a chance to see the laptops in action. Now, with Stephen King throwing his time and talent into the mix, one wonders how anyone can find anything bad about the program.

We also appreciate the reality check from Mr. Colson, though we find his comments a bit at odds with reality. The iBook funding is not coming out of the state's School Breakfast program funding, and had the iBook program not commenced, that money would *not* have otherwise been spent on the problems Mr. Colson mentions. This is the reality of politics.

We also find the idea of waiting until every social problem is solved before bringing computers into the classroom, which is what Mr. Colson is effectively advocating when you get right down to it, to be a nice example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It could just as easily be argued that there should be no new play grounds in schools until every child gets a breakfast, or that there should be no new text books until every school is safe. Computers, when properly used in a classroom, are a tool, like school books, chalk boards, and a #2 pencil.

Getting our children fed, and providing a safe environment for their learning, is obviously important for the kids, for teachers, and for society as a whole. While we work on achieving those goals, progress can be made in other areas, too. Should more money be spent on these areas? That is almost undoubtedly the case, but it doesn't mean money shouldn't also be spent in bringing computers to the classroom.

There will be many Observers who disagree with all, or part of today's Spin, but TMO believes that Gov. King's program is a winner for students, teachers, and Maine.

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