Maine Newspaper Examines iBook Program

Maineis well-publicized one-on-one iBook program is approaching the end of its two-year contract, and Maine Today has published an article looking at the pros and cons of the program, and asking whether or not the program should be extended.

The program put an iBook into the hands of every 7th and 8th student, along with their teachers, in the state of Maine. Championed by then-governor Angus King, the program was the first such to try and put a computer in the hands of every child across an entire state.

Apple has worked with other school districts, some of which have been as large as the 37,000 iBook program in Maine due to local population density, but the Maine program was considered ambitious by its supporters, and too extravagant by its detractors.

Since its inceptions, there have been several reports labeling the program a success, but with it approaching time to actually pay for it again, the same debates are returning to the foreground.

The Maine Today article takes a balanced look at the case for and against, pointing to anecdotal evidence of how students are using their iBooks, and the criticisms of those who think that the program only gets in the way of learning.

For instance, test scores for the students using the computers have not improved under the program, but David Silvernail of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute told the newspaper that looking only at test scores is a myopic way to gauge success.

"Are they learning differently? Are they learning more? We have evidence that [this] is the case," he said. "When you are in the classrooms, the schools, you can see it. But it is not the type of thing you can put down on paper with pencils to measure with a test every year. I think it is revolutionary but itis hard to capture what that is."

On the other hand, Dugan Slovenski, a mother of three boys in public schools, wanted to see some improvement.

"For the amount of money (spent) there should be a definite measurable change," she said. "Iim still uncertain about the need for one-on-one laptop use. Are they there to learn the content or there to help the kids be comfortable with computers?"

There is additional information, anecdotes, and quotes in the full story at Maine Today.