Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Education

Maine Laptop Program a Success 483

Myoglobinologist writes "The New York Times has an article about how the State of Maine purchased $37 million worth of iBooks from Apple. The article states that the kids have adapted quickly to the laptops, attendance is up, and there is even heart-warming testimony from some politicians that were opposed to the project." We've done several previous stories about this initiative (they were originally considering custom-designed thin client machines - probably a good idea to go with off-the-shelf systems), and it's interesting to see how it has panned out.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Maine Laptop Program a Success

Comments Filter:
  • "attendance is up" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Scoria ( 264473 ) <slashmail AT initialized DOT org> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:08AM (#5439769) Homepage
    Until the laptops are considered mundane, perhaps.
    • A little more tempting than milk money.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      sadly that is all they care about. is there a body in the seat? did they show up everyday? what they didn't learn anything? who cares, send them on their way they did the time.

      back to basics people! teach them to read and write and count back change first!

    • by andhar ( 194607 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:28AM (#5440216)
      Hey, according to the article, part of the program is that the laptops go home with the kids. They can play at home (or sit outside Starbucks and surf) if they wanted to.

      Meaning, the laptop itself is not necessarily the reason more kids are coming to school.
  • Think different (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:09AM (#5439771) Journal
    Actually, this has been discussed here long ago, but iBooks have a really good bang-for-the-buck ratio...
  • by danormsby ( 529805 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:09AM (#5439772) Homepage
    About time school kids had more apples.
  • by Rtech ( 647652 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:10AM (#5439778)
    All I have are 20 pounds-worth of big old books. Then again, though.. where I live, we might be expected to use bookcovers, since they are "iBooks"... *mutters about small country towns*
    • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:35AM (#5439927)
      *mutters about small country towns*

      I tell you what, you find me a place in the US with more small country towns than Maine, and I'll buy you an apple.
      • "I tell you what, you find me a place in the US with more small country towns than Maine,"

        I don't know if you've heard of it, but there's this tiny little state called ALASKA...

        Sheesh, the place is so sparsely populated that they don't even bother dividing most of the land into boroughs (counties). And you're so short-sighted that you can't think of any place in the entire nation (the third-largest, no less!) more sparsely populated than Maine?

        Give back your laptop, it's obviously not helping your education.
    • 20 pounds!!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @11:19AM (#5440536) Homepage
      You should feel lucky! 20 lbs! Why in my day...

      No seriouslt, NYT recently had something about how certain grade schools are now evaluating textbook candidates for weight. It seems that as books have gotten fatter to cram in pointless pictures and factoids many are clearing the 1,000-page mark and students are literally suffering back injuries toting them from class to class, and home and back.

      Now, like you I thought this is silly, why aren't these dumb kids planning a head a litte, just carrying the books they need and knocking off the "heavy" subjects in study hall. Well, a separate development is that these schools have eliminated student lockers, to reduce problems of drugs, weapons, and forgotten lunch meat. These were relatively affluent school districts, too (heck, they can afford new textbooks).

      So ... maybe laptops can help with this rather pressing issue of weight. They sure would've made me nervous to leave my backpack unattended, though. Maybe the computers should come with leashes, or ignition keys. Nad maybe they should bring back school lockers, perhaps in plexiglas.

      You know, when I was a kid they didn't even give us pencils.
  • by ShelfWare ( 457545 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:11AM (#5439787)
    ... Maine saves $1 million dollars on removal of all trash cans [slashdot.org] from their classrooms.
  • upgrades (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wayward_son ( 146338 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:12AM (#5439792)
    What happens come upgrade time? While there was a surplus when the program started, most states now have a deficit. Some of the schools in my state have resorted to turning off all hall lights to save money. Granted, Maine is better off than S.C., but the money has to come from somewhere.

    • Re:upgrades (Score:5, Informative)

      by questamor ( 653018 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:28AM (#5439882)
      The bane of 2nd hand mac collectors could then turn into a bonus for schools.

      Macs hold their value to ridiculous levels, some because the hardware is quite decent to start with, and part because there are less 2nd hand macs to go around than say, 2nd hand Dells.

      In any case, schools should either be able to get a decent amount back from selling the things to upgrade when it's necessary, or if the machines are leased from apple it's likely there are planned upgrades in there.
      • Re:upgrades (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:16AM (#5440134) Journal
        This is true. I recently sold a 450MHz G4 (128MB RAM) for $600. That was with NO monitor and NO software. I offered to include OS X 10.2, but the buyer wasn't interested.

        Try to sell the equivalent P3 for that amount. It won't happen.

      • Let's test this.

        Please reply to this post with the amount that you would pay for my PowerBook 5300 (100MHz PowerPC 603e). It has the grayscale screen and 50MB of ram. I'll throw in an external SCSI CD-ROM and PCMCIA ethernet card. I payed $2300 for the machine in 1995, and the RAM upgrade cost roughly $200 in 1998.
        • I'll take it off your hands if you give me US$50 + postage..

          Has yours been refitted so the hinges don't crack/pcmcia cards work/catch on fire/display these [fortunecity.com] problems?

          Seriously, I have been offered 5300s many times, and won't touch them with a 10ft pole..
    • Re:upgrades (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jnorswo1 ( 593386 )
      Being from Maine, I can assure you that we no longer have a surplus in the budget. Just this morning I was watching a story on how 110 jobs have to be cut from one school district. Thought it was a bad idea then. Still do.
    • Re:upgrades (Score:5, Informative)

      by Christopher Bibbs ( 14 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:46AM (#5439981) Homepage Journal
      The computers are leased, not owned, so their is no upgrade. They'll simply lease better machines in a few years when they turn these back in.
      • Re:upgrades (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, that is entirely incorrect. The laptops were purchased, not leased. The kids have the opportunity to purchase them, in turn, at a severely discounted price when they leave middle school.
      • Re:upgrades (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chase ( 8036 )
        I live in Portland Maine. I have met with former Governor King when he was pushing this program. My wife is a middle school teacher. I have listen to a lot of material on this issue.

        It's unlikely the state will fund the laptop program again once the current lease is up. Maine has an enormous state budget deficit. The economy is getting worse and our legislature is making cuts everywhere. School systems in Maine are cutting all non-core programs including foreign language, sports and music. If they could have backed out of the laptop program they would have.

    • Re:upgrades (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jaavaaguru ( 261551 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:53AM (#5440017) Homepage
      Upgrade time? Why would anyone *need* to upgrade a modern computer (with the exception of gamers)?

      The only reason I have a fast PC is that some of the software projects I work on take a while to compile. I wouldn't expect school kids to be working on projects of that size.

      Some of the most educational software is *much* less bloated than most of the stuff on Average Joe's PC.

      450MHz, with a 10mb NIC is perfectly useable today. Just as useable as it was 4 years ago. And I'm talking about x86 systems here, not G3/G4s.
      • You have a point to a degree. I am still using an AMD K6-2 350MHz at home - and it is OK. But I use a 1.5GHz p4 at work and the home machine is really starting to get on my nerves... :)

        I'm sure that some of the childern with newer machines at home will be yelling about how slow the ones at school are 3 years from now. That and the wear and tear those machines will recieve from the students using them day after day.

        Three years from now they will want to upgrade. Someone posted that they are leased machines - very good idea in this situation.

        duke

  • by mark_lybarger ( 199098 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:12AM (#5439795)
    there were lots of studies about factory workers and those that were given some attention liked their job more. put windows into the factory and morale goes up, production goes up. treat people nicely, and they'll feel good about themselves. nice to see the old tried and true is still being shown today.

    btw. i can't read the article, the link only went to NYT front page, and the link from there didn't give me an article. anyone willing to help a guy actually read the article ??? hint hint.
    • I saw that too...then I scrolled down to the technology section and there it was!
    • put windows into the factory and morale goes up, production goes up. treat people nicely, and they'll feel good about themselves. nice to see the old tried and true is still being shown today.


      you obviousally dont work in today's corperate environment..

      Review time, nothing but praise, how the company couldn't do what it did without me, bla bla bla,,, yadda yadda... Yet after all the Outstanding marks and recieving 2 outstanding achievement awards this year.. I still come out to "average" because of the weighting and the requirement to "NOT GIVE ANY MORE THAN 3% RAISE" unless the manager is willing to stand up for you.

      Duties tripled, in areas that are NOT part of my job (same as others here too, I know tighten the belts)

      and the looming layoffs that are a part of the merger life. Many of us pack up everything we own and carry it to our cars thursday nights as friday mornings are when the axe is falling.

      Yeah, morale is high. and they treat us quite fair.. "don't have the regular peope do that, make IT do it as they are salary and we dont have to pay them overtime.... Hey, are you doing anything saturday? can you come in to move furniture?"

      sorry, it's not as rosy as you think.
    • by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:04AM (#5440074)
      there were lots of studies about factory workers and those that were given some attention liked their job more. put windows into the factory and morale goes up

      These were the Hawthorne Studies... they specifically tried to determine the effect of lighting levels on worker productivity. Increasing the amount of light appeared to improve output. But decreasing the amount of light did the same thing. I don't think anyone knows for sure why the workers responded to the change in light instead of the absolute value of the lighting level. Prehaps they felt management was taking care of them. Prehaps they were more auspicious about being observed by the guys conducting the study.

      And yeah... a similar thing is happening in Maine. Are they really being effective with those laptops? Will it really pay off for Maine in the long run? Do we have any confidence that these laptops are being used effectively?

      I don't think I'll hold my breath.

    • by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:17AM (#5440143) Homepage
      put windows into the factory and morale goes up, production goes up

      Really? They tried to make ME use Windows and my production went way the hell down. Kudos to Main for going Mac instead!

    • by TKinias ( 455818 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @11:14AM (#5440514)

      scripsit mark_lybarger:

      didn't business learn this back in early 1900's... there were lots of studies about factory workers and those that were given some attention liked their job more.

      Around 1900 things were a bit different. That was back when there was a labor movement which was powerful, socialist, and struck fear into the hearts of the capital-owning classes. What concessions there were to workers were made when they couldn't get the National Guard to break a strike; violence was often the preferred response. (Of course, troops were used to break strikes even during the Reagan years in Arizona...)

      Don't paint too rosy a picture of capital at that time; there was nothing enlightened about it. "Liked their job more" just wasn't a concern of capital.

  • by dochood ( 614876 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:12AM (#5439796)
    I just love the new and inventive was that the govnernment figures out to give away gifts (or exchange them for votes) with our tax dollars!

    I don't care how "successful" it is, it's nothing more than stealing when they take one person's money to buy gifts for others.

    If my kids were ever eligible for such a program (they wouldn't be... they are homeschooled), I would refuse to take it. Beware governments bearing gifts.

    dochood

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy ... always followed by a dictatorship."

    de Tocqueville
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:21AM (#5439846)
      I'm glad that we can all agree that actually providing kids with computers they can use, regularly, to help them in their education is considered a cheap political ploy. Hopefully, next time money will be diverted to something more beneficial, such as the military.
    • I agree. Besides serving as an excuse to spend our money, this represents an attack on free competition in the market. When government chooses to "support" one private firm over another, what they are really doing is stealing that purchasing power from you and me. The effect is to neutralize competition in the free market.

      The root of the issue here is that government is involved in education in the first place. But we'll save that one for another day.
    • by matastas ( 547484 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:53AM (#5440015)
      Pissed off because your family didn't have the money to buy a computer, bitter because your children (homeschooled) don't benefit from the program, and rambling about the state's right to taxation.

      Almost feels like a Monday.

      These aren't 'gifts.' The kids turn in the iBooks when the leave eighth grade. This is no different than buy computers for them to use in labs, aside from giving them a more personal stake and a sense of ownership. Any initiative which is actually *successful* in increasing children's enthusiasm for learning, increasing attendence, getting them to work...hell, that's worth at least a second glance. I question your character if you honestly begrudge children an opportunity to learn more effectively and with greater joy. You sound like you need a hug.

      Two other points. The states' rights to taxation is documented rather thoroughly. Should you not like the way your tax dollars are spent, vote for a different official, make your opinions heard in a public forum, or (worst case) leave your region.

      And secondly, before you sling his comments out of context, have you even *read* de Tocqueville? (Notice, for that reason, I don't quote him.) Just because he's trendy doesn't mean he's right.
    • I just love the new and inventive was that the govnernment figures out to give away gifts (or exchange them for votes) with our tax dollars!

      Yeah. It's like those damn schoolbooks. How dare they buy them for the students instead of having the kids buy their own! Who cares if they can't afford them!

      Of course, you blatantly ignore the niggling little detail that these aren't a gift. The students don't own them. They have to turn them back in at the end of 8th grade. Kinda like how you have to turn books back in at the end of the year.

      As for your misappropriated quote - first off, the US isn't a democracy. It's a Republic. The founding fathers were rightfully afraid of a democracy and avoided it explicitly. Second, since the governor didn't run with "give free laptops to the kids!" as a platform, you can hardly claim that he was voted in based on this program. Third, and finally, Mr. King is now the former governor of Maine. Obviously he didn't give enough largess based on your statement.

      I do hope you're teaching your children better.
  • by ajuda ( 124386 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:13AM (#5439800)
    I'm sure everyone would prefer to read the article here [nytimes.com] since it doesn't require a username or password.
    • by cyb97 ( 520582 ) <cyb97@noxtension.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:19AM (#5439833) Homepage Journal
      or just log in with
      username: secret
      password: secret
      and for some strange reason this tends to work a lot of places that stupidly enough require registration to read otherwise free[tm] information...
      • Or, as someone pointed out a while back, use:
        username: slashdot_coward
        password: slashdot_coward
      • by pbur ( 88030 )
        Hmm, I bet that "free" information cost a newspaper buyer at least 50 cents U.S. in New York. Just because you come in on a web browser doesn't mean that information is just "free".

        But also, the registration is free, but that helps them get demographics to help get advertising which is how newspapers have operated since the beginning of time or at least modern times.

        Just remember that advertising has paid for the newspaper and magazine industry, not subscribers or daily buyers. Their payments probably don't even cover the cost of paper.

    • for those who would prefer to go to the FIRST PAGE of the article instead of the second page, here you go [nytimes.com]
    • Or, you could just fill out the registration form and let it store a cookie on your machine so that you can happily ignore karma-thirsty posts like the parent in the future and just jump straight to the article.

      If you don't want to reveal personal information, then lie. At least then the Times can sell more expensive advertising because your privacy-obsessed self falsely claims to earn six figures.

      By the way, if you have filled out the NY Times registration with accurate information, then I hope you have realized by now that they are the ones who are causing the voices.

  • by acehole ( 174372 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:13AM (#5439804) Homepage
    we'd end up having a bunch of kids with 3rd degree burns on thier laps.

    • we'd end up having a bunch of kids with 3rd degree burns on thier laps

      That would be from AMD processor laptops you insensitive clod...

      "Class, does anyone know why Johnny just burst into flames?"

      "Yes Teacher, He overclocked it."

      Oops. and dont stone me, I love AMD.
  • $37m! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:15AM (#5439810)
    Does anyone think that if you had $37 *million dollars* to spend on education, then there might be better things to spend it on than ibooks? Like some more teachers, perhaps? Or a library? Each ibook is going to have a finite life and a cost of ownership so they'll have to keep spending money hand over fist just to keep them running. Kids have learnt just fine without a laptop in the past: just because we *can* educate with a PC doesn't necessarily mean we *should*. Ric
    • Each ibook is going to have a finite life.
      Where I'm from so do teachers!
    • Build a library instead? With these iBooks each kid have their own personal library at their fingertips. In this age it's so important to learn how to gather information using the internet.

      Ciryon
    • Makes you wonder how big of a role Apple played in this...
  • by pummer ( 637413 )
    just think howit would have been if the state had given out top-of-the-line PC Laptops. Sure, the grades would be through the roof, but every once in a while, you'd get a failure.
  • by NexusTw1n ( 580394 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:16AM (#5439821) Journal
    "We were struggling with construction issues: schools needed to be built; there were leaky roofs and not enough books."
    Employees are also facing 4 day working weeks to cut costs.

    OK attendance is up - at least until they have to give the machines back at the end of the year.

    But really shouldn't the money have been spent on basic infrastructure like paper books, new ceilings and full time staff ?
    • by Grayputer ( 618389 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:00AM (#5440054)
      OK, Since I was at least vaguely 'in the loop' on this at the time it started ...

      The issue was a State initiative to increase higher salary high tech jobs in Maine. Diggin potatoes, pickin blueberries, and selling tourists McDogchow and T-shirts are basically minimum wage jobs. Data entry, programming, WP, and the like are usually more than Min wage. In a review of WHY Maine wasn't attracting more high tech the result was: little infrastructure and unskilled workforce.

      Result, a 'bold' plan to increase workforce skill level over the long haul by integrating computer skills in the standard school curiculum and hopefully haul some fiber into the state, at least the southern part to start.

      Running one off worker retraining was seen as too short sighted, the school plan ensured a 'steady stream' of skilled workers. The fiber issue was thought to eventually resolve itself but a one time kick in the pants to start it rolling was considered.

      Unfortunately, I was 'out of the loop' by the time this thing actually started forward so I have no clue on the actual implementation, or where the initial discussions actually wound up.
    • OK attendance is up - at least until they have to give the machines back at the end of the year.

      So you're worried about attendance dropping after school is over? Isn't that the idea?
  • by ajuda ( 124386 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:17AM (#5439822)
    and kids are more excited, it does not necessarily mean that they are learning any more than they were before. Wouldn't the money be better spent if Maine used it to attract more/better teachers with higher salaries [cmonitor.com]?
  • This is actually really good news. Finally something that seems to be working for school districts and getting kids more instred in learning. Secondly it helps to have a new generation of kids who can be more *nix awair (OS X still has that *nix terminal) and more importantly can learn to grow up without needing Microsoft to do all their work. Is having Apple except for Microsoft better. I would think so just because if they really get interested in using the system in more "geeky" ways. They will learn some of the *nix commands and be more willing to use Linux and other *nix systems in the future without having it has to be MS or it is out of date mantality,
  • ... and the other success is that wide open wireless networks were installed at every school in maine. yay.

  • by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:18AM (#5439830) Journal
    no kidding! I swear, kids are quick to adopt to everything. Maybe their brain is still empty so cramming stuff in is easy - or there is some osmosis going on that just sucks all the "how to use computer" knowledge right in with a swishing noise.

    Heck, I swear if you taught a kid some assembly on an X86, and they found it remotely fun, they will be hacking out FFT algorithms under three monthes.

    This afinity of kids with technology is amazing. It is a wonder why most of them don't apply it to piano lessons, though.

  • by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:19AM (#5439834) Homepage Journal
    I am a born and raised Mainer, thus I must:

    beginRant() {

    Maine's education system is in terrible shape. Many schools are too small, many teachers are underpaid, and there's little funding for books and repairs for any of the counties here.

    Gov. King was not a bad Governer, but his insistance that the state pay money so that middle schoolers could have laptops even stupified my liberal mind.

    Those students do not need laptops! They need good teachers! They need nutritious food programs! They need cultural programs! I've spoken with many students who could care less about their laptops. They're in frickin' middle school. Their homework is algebra, not write a ten page research paper.

    This was simply a program put in place to show that the state cared about it's education and pretend that their children weren't tools because they could use a laptop, basically a 'I don't know what to do so let's buy something exciting' move.

    }

    Thank you for your time.
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:38AM (#5439944) Journal

      You know, the tools that you provide do not really matter until you reach a certain maturity when you view them as just that - tools. And middle or highschool is hardly the time when you'd view them so.

      The idea that giving a bunch of laptops or palm PDAs or whatever sounds more like a political move than anything that would truly help an educational system.

      Kids during middle and high school should be taught to work with pen, paper, their heads and their hands. Solving and analyzing puzzles and problems on paper. Thinking up innovative methods. Building stuff. Get them a million Rubik's cubes, Chess sets, puzzle books and yes, even Lego Mindstorm kits.

      I have said this before and I'll still say this - by giving a computer at a very early age, you are curtailing their abilities to think all by themselves. Take something like graphics programming - the best ones that I know still do everything in their head and solve it on paper, before they sit and start coding. And in the process, they learn and discover new stuff. By giving them access to computers at this early age, you're not letting them do that! Its far too easy to sit down and use ready made tools.

      Like the parent said, get good teachers! Get them good books, teach them to build things, to take part in science fairs and apply what they learn. On a board or on paper dammit.

    • When I was in 6th grade (1991) a new school opened up a couple blocks from my house. It was heralded as a new era of education, and with a special deal from Apple, there was basically a computer for every student.

      I continued going to my original school, but many other students transfered to this new one. They were taught how to make multimedia CDs with Hypercard along with other "new" things to do with computers. I thought it would have been the greatest school to attend.

      Well, 12 years have passed and with a little foresight I have been able to form an opinion on this kind of news. While they had more fun in school, and I'm sure for those first few years attendance was up, they still received the same education I did. Those students that transfered attended the same high-school as I did and had no apparent advantage over the other students. Now that "new era of education" school is severely out of date. Attendance and enthusiasm is basically the same as any other school in the area.

      So what I'm saying is that for the first few years this program will seem cool to a lot of people, but in the long run it is pointless.

      In other words, I couldn't agree with you more.
    • While it sounds like I am pulling this out of my butt because I can't quite remember what magazine I am quoting from, last week my g.f. and I were looking over a list of occupational salaries. The average teacher in Maine makes $47k per year. That's better than Massachusetts, where the costs of living are significantly higher.

      I agree that there are problems in the schools. Better food and exposure to arts is important. higher pay for the teachers in this case does not appear to be a need.
    • by rootrot ( 103518 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:57AM (#5440393)
      [I have posted this generally, but repeat it here as well:]
      I'm sorry, there are just some very *wrong* things being said about this program both by people who claim to be from the state and via those from "away." So to clarify a number of things that have been said elsewhere:

      1: The money for this program was privately generated and tagged specically for this program.

      2: No general fund tax dollars are involved in this project...that is, no money that would otherwise go to other educational goals was diverted fund this.

      3: Apple absolutely loss-lead this project...there is no doubt where the future is heading and a successful project here in Maine will pay off when NY or CA rolls out the same thing.

      4: There is money being spent on teacher training and on technology integration into daily education.

      5: This is an issue of equity of access and equity of opportunity. As Gov. King so eloquently explained, [paraphrasing] "My family was wealthy, when I was in school my father bought an Encyclopedia Brittanica for the house. Every other student in my class had to share the dog-eared one in the school library. Did this give me an advantage, absolutely. As of this moment, every single 7th grader in the State of Maine has their own World Book Encyclopedia because there is one on every single laptop." This program is about putting the single greatest educational TOOL since the printed book in the hands of those who need it most. It is about creating a structure within which those tools can be utilized to their highest and best use. It is about, frankly, the future of education.

      6: The argument that kids can not be responsible is bunk...they are the exact same arguments that were being made when the debates about whether kids should be allowed to bring their textbooks home in the '30-40's...they were wrong then and wrong now.

      I, for one, am very proud of this program. A decade from now, kids having laptops as part of their education will be a non-issue...like not allowing kids to bring books home, we will wonder what all the fuss was about. Will it go smoothly at every turn, no...is it the right path to go...absolutely. Maine's motto is Dirigo..."I Lead." Welcome to the future of education. /rr
      --
      I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.
      - Isaac Asimov
  • by rotor ( 82928 )
    I've looked at this quite a bit. This is probably one of the largest wastes of money that this state has ever put out. While out school children are given laptops, the school buildings are falling down, the teachers aren't trained on how to use (let alone teach the use of) the computers, and the state's credit rating has now tanked. On top of it all, ex-Govenor King got us into a contract with Apple that has high fees if we back out within 5 years - without the support of the mojority of the people of Maine. Oh, and now I'm hearing from the parents of the students that their kids aren't even allowed to bring the ocmputers home. Why didn't they just upgrade the computer labs with nice cheap desktops? It would have been just as effective.
    • by daoine_sidhe ( 619572 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @11:01AM (#5440432)
      I'm amazed that this got moderated up. First, can you point out any schools specifically that are falling down? Because I haven't seen any, and my company was the one that installed every single wireless network in the state. That covered every middle school. Second, training; they actually instituted a comprehensive training program for all of the teachers, which you would have discovered had you really "looked into it quite a bit." Third, why would we back out of the program in within five years? Apple bent themselves over a table for the pricing on this, and it was quite a gamble on their part. We asked them, they did it for us, and then some people in the state legislature asked about the possibility of backing out of a signed contract. After it had been approved and passed. And finally, laptops going home; each school is allowed to set their own policy on that. It is entirely up to the school administration, so rant at them. I do have one further question for you; was your spelling a clever political ploy to try to demonstrate to /. readers the state of education in Maine? Or was it legitimate?
    • by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @12:00PM (#5440817) Homepage Journal
      This is probably one of the largest wastes of money that this state has ever put out.

      At least your state isn't building the world's most expensive underground freeway for over $20 billion. I think that EVERY state should build an underground freeway in their largest city, just to keep things "fair".

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:29AM (#5439890) Journal
    It's kind of like giving them a set of dental tools. Teach the basics! I dont' want my children using a computer until they are (at least) teenagers.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:23AM (#5440187) Homepage
      I dont' want my children using a computer until they are (at least) teenagers.


      so you want to raise very stupid children? this idea of yours is the stupidest I have ever heard.

      I started my daughter (now 11) on computers at 18 months of age. I wrote a simple mouse program so she could click on familiar objects and the computer would say with recorded speech what it was. she loved this, and eventually found my invisible spot that quit the program. so I started her on a kids paint program to understand selecting tools, and it continues to this day where she is better at using the computer than the CS teacher in the local high school. She was tought programming with logo (by me) then I started her on basic for advanced ideas. This year I am starting her on perl and perl::GTK to introduce using GUI's before dropping her into C later if she wants to continue it.

      My 11 year old has a better understanding about computers, operating systems and computing than 90% of the population. she has an advantage that will be with her forever, even when she becomes a Vetranarian (that's what she said she wants to be)

      So if you want to breed residents for the trailer parks and slums feel free to. I take my spare time to teach my child Computer Science, Physics, Astronomy, and even play her games with her (Go ahead and laugh, but I'll bet $20.00 that none of you laughing can keep up with her or me on Dance Dance Revolution Max!)

      My child is ahead of every other child in her district and is happy, she play's like a kid and has a kids life.... it's that daddy, instead of lying around like a lump on saturdays and sundays watching worthless things like football, basketball or car racing. He spends 3 hours with his child teaching, and 8-12 hours playing (you gotta keep up on the house and spouse/GF also)
      • Good points.

        But I find you last couple of statements rather humorous.

        >instead of lying around like a lump on saturdays and sundays watching worthless things like football, basketball or car racing.

        > I watch DVD's on linux

      • by bigmouth_strikes ( 224629 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @11:37AM (#5440658) Journal
        Well, where else but on /. would being less knowledgeable of computer languages be considered being stupid ? I'm sure you're among those who blame security problems on "stupid Windoze users that deserve it anyway!".

        I find your post very short-sighted and it is obvious that you have little understanding for how children learn and develop intelligence. There is no need to train kids on computers, just like there is no need to train them to use TVs or eat candy. They will learn it anyway, trust me,

        With child-obesity at record levels, what we need to learn our children is to play outside, exercise, socialize and eat healthy. Maybe she should go horse riding if she's interested in animals - it's a great learning experience caring for a horse plus it practices empathy.

        > My 11 year old has a better understanding about computers,
        > operating systems and computing than 90% of the population.

        That's great if you want your daughter to become a computer blue collar worker in 2010, you're doing fine. She'll make a good code-monkey or sysadmin perhaps. A computer is a tool, not a purpose.

        What children need to learn is learning, not specific proficiencies. Maybe that's the good part of what you are doing, you're learning her to learn. But don't focus on the tools, they're irrelevant toys just like the ones she had when she was a baby. They are for learning, not for skills.

        > He spends 3 hours with his child teaching, and 8-12 hours playing
        > (you gotta keep up on the house and spouse/GF also)

        There is no point in putting a child through 3 hours of school after school. And spending 15 hours a day with your daughter... I think you should put her into a real school and yourself into a job, just to give her a break! ;)

  • Thin clients (Score:2, Informative)

    by arvindn ( 542080 )
    they were originally considering custom-designed thin client machines - probably a good idea to go with off-the-shelf systems

    But you can get thin client machines with COTS systems! Check out the linux terminal server project [ltsp.org]

    You can use it with laptops. [sourceforge.net]

    It can be a HUGE cost-saver. Schools have shown time and again that students can be very quick to adapt to new environments/OSes. I hope some advocacy group takes up the cause to get schools to consider this option.

  • by macthulhu ( 603399 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:31AM (#5439895)
    Here's an idea... Keep the laptop program, as it seems to be improving the system, and start funneling money away from some of the sports programs for a change. Three years' worth of my junior high and high school experience was hobbled by austerity budgets. Art students were forced to buy all of their own materials, books had to be shared, busing was cut back, and the music program was forced to fund itself. In the meantime, the sports programs, who were not exactly cranking out championship teams, flourished. They got new equipment, more trainers, upgraded facilities, and even a new team bus. At some point, we need to get that spending ratio back in balance. Kids are there to learn. Though I think sports are important for a well rounded development, I think the emphasis on and rewards for them are too great. The current state of education marginalizes anyone who doesn't want to be "Like Mike". The laptop program in Maine is an excellent way to level the playing field and raise the bar at the same time, if I may mix my metaphors and sling a few puns... I will now climb down off of my stump and allow the flaming and trolling over the fact that they were Macs to begin... LLLLLLET'S GET READY TO RRRRRRUMBLLLLLLLE!
  • by davew666 ( 555119 )
    The pupils gave the teacher an apple. Looks like it's the other way round now.
  • Couple of months ago, there was an article about these kids getting caught with mountains of pr0n on their iBooks. Is this the same kids? The other article said when the network admins collected the iBooks to add memory en masse, they found a glorious pr0n collection to rival my friend Dale's. A Beowulf pr0n cluster, a distributed P2P pr0n heaven, a MMORPG-D (Massively Multipr0nner Offline Relational PornoGraphic Database)...

    What happened since then, or is this a fluff promotional piece? Where's the Pr0n? And if these computers were funded by public money, that pr0n should be freely shared online.

    BTW, my school gave us Windows laptops, and you can see what happened if you watch the movie Bowling For Columbine. Damn blue screens.
  • From a Mainer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by barspin ( 585641 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @09:42AM (#5439966)
    I'm a lifelong Mainer. These articles touting the success of the Maine laptop program are only slightly substantive than an Apple press release.

    The laptop program might be working in pockets in Maine, but it's akin to putting a new paint job on a delapitated vehicle that doesn't run. Maine's educational system is broken, and has been for quite some time; test scores are low, there isn't a standardized method of assesing performance of students throughout the state (don't tell me about the Maine Educational Assesment exams - they're fundamentally broken), and teacher pay and morale is low in almost all schools. Angus King, the previous governer, left the state holding the bag for the $37 mil proce tag, not to mention training for teachers, and a new curriculum to support the laptops. The state's education program is in dire need of funds for basics, such as books, buildings that aren't falling down around the students, competent teachers, etc. The news here in Maine for a while now has been how to get out of this laptop contract as cheap as possible. I'll give credit to Seymor Papert, and folks who would like to implement similar ideas, but until the most basic needs of students are met, laptops shouldn't be integrated into the curriculum.

    I've spoken with a few teachers who deal with the laptops on a daily basis, and it's clear to them that the support network for the hardware itself is severly lacking. The issue of what to actually *use* the systems for seems to have been overlooked.

    Bottom line: the money could have been better spent elsewhere. It's a valiant and forward-thinking idea, but not very pragmatic at the moment.

  • The problem with technology in education is that the technology often duplicates what is already being taught with textbooks (and taught pretty well).

    If the laptops could displace the purchase of expensive textbooks, it might put a dent in the $37m price tag

    The private sector spends on technology to increase productivity and decrease costs.
  • by dusanv ( 256645 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:00AM (#5440055)
    will be turned into nerdy geeks. It is well known that geeks don't reproduce. Biological existence of Maine is in question. Are they nuts?
  • by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <vasqzr.netscape@net> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:02AM (#5440066)

    State of Maine purchased $37 million worth of iBooks from Apple


    Just 4 days later, Apple offered the same laptop with double the memory, 100MHz faster CPU, AND a SuperDrive for $100 less

    • They would have received a discount for the bulk purchase, naturally. I don't know precisely what the State of Maine was told at time of purchase, but chances are they got a better deal than any individual consumer could have. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple told them of the planned upgrade and gave them pricing to correspond since delivery on such a large order can't be done overnight. Just my $0.02.
  • A great big DUH. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:04AM (#5440073) Homepage
    Yeah well after all the fluff let's see the real stats.

    Test scores are up 20% right? the students are learning at a faster rate? more? better? ratio of students failing to succeeding is getting better?

    what other gains on the children are there? Reading higher? Math higher?

    funny how the "sucess" is very thin on any real details or statistics that make it a sucess and not just a PR job.
  • by Neologic ( 48268 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:43AM (#5440306)
    So a bunch of kids get new computers to use, but what about competent teachers to teach the kids how to use these machines? Even more fundamentally, learning to use a computer is a great skill, but if you can't read or write, its value is greatly diminished. Maybe I am just being cynical, but I imagine that many of these kids sit in class all day, with the computer on, playing whatever free games came with the iBook or sending instant messages to each.
  • by rootrot ( 103518 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:53AM (#5440363)
    I'm sorry, there are just some very *wrong* things being said about this program both by people who claim to be from the state and via those from "away." So to clarify a number of things that have been said elsewhere:

    1: The money for this program was privately generated and tagged specically for this program.

    2: No general fund tax dollars are involved in this project...that is, no money that would otherwise go to other educational goals was diverted fund this.

    3: Apple absolutely loss-lead this project...there is no doubt where the future is heading and a successful project here in Maine will pay off when NY or CA rolls out the same thing.

    4: There is money being spent on teacher training and on technology integration into daily education.

    5: This is an issue of equity of access and equity of opportunity. As Gov. King so eloquently explained, [paraphrasing] "My family was wealthy, when I was in school my father bought an Encyclopedia Brittanica for the house. Every other student in my class had to share the dog-eared one in the school library. Did this give me an advantage, absolutely. As of this moment, every single 7th grader in the State of Maine has their own World Book Encyclopedia because there is one on every single laptop." This program is about putting the single greatest educational TOOL since the printed book in the hands of those who need it most. It is about creating a structure within which those tools can be utilized to their highest and best use. It is about, frankly, the future of education.

    6: The argument that kids can not be responsible is bunk...they are the exact same arguments that were being made when the debates about whether kids should be allowed to bring their textbooks home in the '30-40's...they were wrong then and wrong now.

    I, for one, am very proud of this program. A decade from now, kids having laptops as part of their education will be a non-issue...like not allowing kids to bring books home, we will wonder what all the fuss was about. Will it go smoothly at every turn, no...is it the right path to go...absolutely. Maine's motto is Dirigo..."I Lead." Welcome to the future of education. /rr
    --
    I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.
    - Isaac Asimov
  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @10:59AM (#5440415) Journal
    ...at River Oaks Public School in Oakville (near Toronto), Canada.

    River Oaks is a K-8 elementary school with a student population of about 800. A little over a decade ago, the new school was built, fully wired, and loaded with technology through partnerships with Apple (among others). There was one computer for every three students and a computer for every teacher.

    I was a student in Oakville during River Oaks' heyday. I attended a less well-funded school in the same district, but was bused to River Oaks once a week to use their shop and kitchen facilities for classes. The school had some neat toys, there's no doubt about it--instead of paper sketches in shop class, we were using proper CAD software. We also did some work with computer controlled Lego Technics sets.

    Did we actually learn any more? Nope. Was the technology overkill? Probably. I typed my papers on a Commodore 64 until my parents bought their first 386 when I was in Grade 8--but there I was, surrounded by all these shiny new Macs. (I thought that flying toasters were just the coolest thing...)

    Now, River Oaks can't afford to upgrade or even maintain the technology they have in place [cbc.ca]. I imagine that other school districts face similar problems. After the 'gee whiz' wears off, what do you really need computers for in a school environment? Typing assignments. Doing research on the net. Preparing presentations.

    How do you do these things? Have a few well-maintained computer labs in the school. As for those students who don't have a computer at home--they'll get by. I've been without a home computer for a month because I haven't gotten around to ordering some parts to repair my old clunker. I do my computer work on campus, and life goes on.

  • Immersion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Queuetue ( 156269 ) <queuetue@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @11:08AM (#5440479) Homepage
    I live in Maine, on the coast - there's nothing inland.

    The idea isn't to teach them about computers, but to immerse them in progress. To the average Mainer technology is a complete mystery. A favorite passtime is laughing at New Yorkers and thier cell phones -- when they're not getting drunk and lamenting about the employment problem.

    Many people are living below the poverty level trying to eke a living out of industries that were essentially destroyed by unsophisticated people coping with a progressive world.

    The laptop initiative has many detractors - most ask the question "How will we pay for it." The bigger issue is: If Maine doesn't get progressive pretty damned fast, how long will it be before we're the first state to declare bankruptcy? How much will this 3o-something million save in welfare money over the lifetimes of these kids?

    This laptop "boondoggle" by the great Governor King a shotgun approach intended to provide a long-term "modernity" shot in the arm at the expense of short-term comfort and stability.

    People will probably starve in Maine before this recession is over. Hopefully the next generation will take that hardship they grew up with, combined with a love of technology, and go further than this "lobster and tourist economy" could ever take them. Immersion is the key, and this crazy plan was the only step that a lame duck governor could mak ehappen. So he did it, and stuck the next bunch with the check.
  • by drix ( 4602 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @12:41PM (#5441124) Homepage
    I think they need to better refine the metric by which they measure "success". If guess if you're in a public school, at least in California (and maybe Maine too), higher attendence would be considered a success since schools are essentially paid for every individual day that each individual student comes to class. As to whether or not the kids are actually learning more, the article is tellingly vague.

    I think the answer is probably no. We had an almost identical program at my high school when I was there, except this was during the peak of the bubble when everything Internet was A Good Thing. Thus, the district had no problems or detractors when it decided to drop a couple of million on a program to give laptops to freshmen. Fancy IR-based networks were installed in the classrooms, teachers went off to some training program to learn how to harness the Internet in education, and 550 shiny new laptops got distributed to the incoming freshmen.

    I should add that part of that cash-laden spending spree created a bunch of new opportunities that I and some nerd friends were able to take advantage of. We got jobs which paid the cushy-for-high-school rate of like $12/hr fixing the laptops as the idiot freshmen (why on Earth they gave them to the freshmen as opposed to the seniors, e.g. us at the time, I don't know) broke them. And boy did they ever. There's no way to quite describe the pained look my face acquire as I walked down the halls and saw the short freshmen who were unlucky enough to have score a high locker, turning the damn computer on its side and using it as a stepping stool. One time we got one that had been microwaved; the kid swore up and down that it was an accident. I swapped out screens that had been shot with BBs, I replaced keyboards where the keycaps had been rearranged to say "FUCKWHORE69". If my nose was not deceiving me, one time a kid shorted out his motherboard by spilling bong water on the laptop. This is to say nothing of the hours spent reimaging porn-, mp3- and virus-laden harddrives. Laptops that had been bad or karmically deficient in a previous life, they got sent to my high school the next time around.

    Anyways, so I became pretty familiar with what these kids were doing with them. And I'll be damned if they were studying or learning anything. If attendence improved, it was only because kids were coming in to download more Kid Rock and nude J-Lo cutouts off our 3 T1s. The teachers didn't really use them, thought it was a waste of money that should have gone into their anemic salaries, and said so. In fact the only times I ever heard the word success used in conjunction with the program were at the same School Board meetings where the whole affair was conceived in the first place.

    As a final thought, I ask you, when was the last time you really learned something on the Internet anyways? I'm not talking about delving into source code that you wgetted or reading math PDFs, but just plain old high school grammar, geography, history, etc.? Quality sources of that are few and far between, and many of them are of the "The Holocaust is a Jewish conspiracy" variety. In other words, worthless crap. If you're like me, all my friends, my family, all their friends, and, I think, about 99% of the surfers out there, you spend your time on the internet in a sort of subdued mental haze, not really thinking, not really learning, just being, possibly being entertained. Really, it's just like marijuana, or television. Now imagine what would happen if Maine gave 7th graders $37 million worth of Trinitrons and pot :) One wonders if the NY Times would be as effusive.
  • by gentgeen ( 653418 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2003 @04:13PM (#5443235) Homepage

    Last year I was a teacher at a school in the Richmond VA area, and we were the first school to have the "Apple iBook initiative". At the end of the summer, every HS teacher was given his/her iBook (The clam shaped ones), then at the beginning of the school year every HS student was given an iBook (the white square ones) [NOTE: The teacher books were bought by the SD, the student books were leased]

    The first half of the year was a MESS. The students were originally given stock iBooks. We had students file sharing, piracy, missing and deleted apps, you name it. Since the school had purchased an anti-virus program from a company that went belly-up shortly afterwards, we had viruses running though-out the schools wireless network. A lot of the kids were using their iBooks in school to listen to music, share porn that they got while at home and play games. Then when they were caught, the iBooks would be confiscated. This made things very unreliable from the teacher perspective. I can not count the number of times I made a lesson that was going to use all this wonderful technology we had, only to find that over half the class did not have their iBooks cause- 1) they were being fixed, 2) been confiscated, 3) low battery, 4) missing apps, etc. This became the norm, so at the time when the teachers were the most "gung-ho" to use the iBooks, they were unreliable. I should note here that, as with everything else in life, there were many students (and teachers) used the iBooks as planned, and acted very respectable towards the entire project. But we had enough "bad apples" (excuse the pun) to ruin the experience.

    The second semester saw a lot of improvement as the SD learned from the mistakes. They bought new anti-virus software and "locked down" the student's iBooks so that a lot of the non-educational things were not available. But by now, most teachers had returned to using standard methods of teaching. The use of the iBooks became equivalent to use of a computer lab. Yes, we used the iBooks more then a lab since we did not have to sign-up 3 wks in advance or waste time moving class, etc. but I do not think that was what the SD really wanted.

    I have mixed feeling toward laptops in school. I think student should be able to use as much technology as possible, BUT only when it is better then, and supplements the standard methods. I think that laptops should be limited to the HS, were students are more mature (for the most part). I think that teachers should be heavily trained on how to use the computer as a supplement to their teaching. Schools should have "test groups" before issuing out laptops to the entire school. And these test groups MUST be a mix of the school population, not just the "good students".

    If it is done right, I think it can be a great tool for education, but I have seen/read too many times it is quickly implemented so that the politicians (both government and school board) can get a new feather in their caps.

    Just my 2/100 of $1.00

Quark! Quark! Beware the quantum duck!

Working...