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New York Times Reports That Maine's iBook Initiative Is A Success

New York Times Reports That Maine's iBook Initiative Is A Success

by , 5:45 PM EST, March 5th, 2003

The New York Times has published a report that says Maine's iBook initiative is a success. Surprisingly, however, Apple's name didn't appear at all in the article, and the word "iBook" was only included twice. The initiative is program that puts iBooks into the hands of every 7th grade student this year, and then every 7th and 8th grade student next year. Maine is working directly with Apple in the initiative, and the Cupertino company is managing the computers, including support. From the Times: article:

Attendance is up. Detentions are down. Just six months after Maine began a controversial program to provide laptop computers to every seventh grader in the state, educators are impressed by how quickly students and teachers have adapted to laptop technology.

In a language arts class at Freeport Middle School, for example, muted howls could be heard recently as students researched projects related to Arctic stories, including "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. Following Internet tracks created by their teacher, Janice Murphy, some students, inspired by the story, were researching wolves.

"Look," said Doug Hoover, 13, double-clicking on a wolf site. "Here's a picture of the sound waves the wolf makes when it howls."

Here and at the 239 middle schools around the state, students, teachers and parents say they are finding unexpected benefits.

The Maine program is the only one of its kind in the country. While entire school systems have adopted Apple computers, Maine's statewide program is an attempt to bring computers to every child in the state, a goal touched on by the New York Times article:

Though an estimated 90 percent of the homes in Freeport, near Portland, have computers, the laptops go home with the students at night. "We needed to make sure that level playing field is extended to the home," Mr. Toy said. "Now, no one's computer is better or faster."

That sense of equality is felt keenly in the state's poor and remote schools. At the tiny elementary school in Pembroke, about 240 miles northeast of Portland in Washington County in the Down East region, children and teachers seem to be using the laptops as effectively as those in more affluent areas, the principal, Paula Smith, said. Washington County is the state's poorest, and Ms. Smith estimated that perhaps 35 percent of her students had a computer at home.

As at other schools, she said, seventh graders seem more focused and less mischievous. Last year, Ms. Smith said she handed out about 30 detentions to Pembroke's seventh and eighth graders. This year, there have been two.

There is much more information in the full article at the New York Times.

For more information on the program since its inception, check out TMO's extensive coverage:

The Mac Observer Spin:

It's very good news that the program has been a success. It's important for Apple, but it's even important for the future of integrating technology into the classroom in a way that makes sense. That said, we strongly doubt that this program would have been anywhere near as much of a success had Maine chosen Windows laptops. Your opinion may well be different, and we obviously do not have empirical evidence to back up our opinion, but we'll stand by that gut feeling.

It is obvious that the kids are able to stay focused on the classroom with their iBooks; if that wasn't the case, we would be hearing all manner of complaints from teachers about how the kids can't concentrate on learning due to distractions from the laptops. With change being such a feared thing, and new technology being especially (and understandably) feared by many educators, the continued glowing reports coming out of Maine is even more impressive.

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