This Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. The Foundation has donated millions of dollars to both education and health concerns around the world, but our irony meter was set off when we noticed that the organization was also helping with part of one of the largest Mac purchases ever, the Maine iBook initiative.
Announced in December of 2001, the Maine iBook initiative is an effort to put iBooks in the hands of all 7th and 8th grade students and teachers throughout the state of Maine. Spearheaded by Maineis governor, Angus King, the plan was signed into law in May of 2002. Since that time, the plan has become the battleground for lawmakers interested in carving up funding for the project in the face of a statewide budget shortfall.
A compromise was reached amongst state lawmakers that preserves funding for the program, though at lower levels than had previously been signed into law. The compromise stemmed in part from a ruling from the Stateis Attorney General that pulling out of the contract with Apple would present substantial risk to the state. The result, according to the Boston Globe, is that the next major delivery of 16,000 iBooks is being delivered to the state this week.
Even more interesting, is a tidbit concerning teacher training. From the article:
Still, King said he is confident that the Maine program will get it right, partly because of a million-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to train the teachers who will lead these digital classrooms.
"It isnit going to work if you just hand out the devices," the governor said. Training is "an absolutely critical part of the project," especially since some teachers didnit know how to use computers or the Internet, while others didnit know where to find educational materials on line.
Today, each school has a technology team leader with special training in computer-aided education. Those teachers can turn to a nine-person team of mentors for additional help.
Paid for courtesy of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You can read the full article at the Boston Globe.