As Maine is seeking to update its hardware for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative ”“ which provides laptops to public middle school students and many high schoolers ”“ officials are hoping that other states will get on board, thereby reducing the price while increasing the technology options.

The MLTI was the brainchild of then-Gov. Angus King in 2000, and just two years later, more than 30,000 Apple laptops were distributed to seventh- and eighth-graders in the state, according to an Associated Press report. Apple CEO at the time, the late Steve Jobs, was so interested in the program, his company took a loss on the contract to provide laptops to Maine students, according to King.

Now the program has expanded to include iPads and PC products, and thanks to interest from other states, recent bids were submitted by more than a dozen companies to provide their technology to American schoolchildren. The schools get the computers and tablets at a bargain price, but it is paid every year through a lease because the companies also service and repair the devices as needed.

The proposed costs for Maine, Vermont and Hawaii would be $217 per year for an iPad, $273 for the MacBook Air, $254.86 for an HP Probook, $314.28 for an HP ElitePad, and $294 for a CTL 2go Classmate PC with swivel screen and stylus. Retail prices for the iPad start at $499, while the MacBook Air starts at $999.

We’re pleased to see other states interested in this program and some actually moving forward with it.

Back in 2000, when Gov. King announced his idea, many likely thought it would never come to fruition. But today, many Maine students and teachers will tell you that the laptops are an integral part of education in the state. The laptops are provided to all seventh- and eighth-graders, and many districts have leased laptops for their high school students through the program as well.

In addition to the advantages for mainstream students, special needs students have benefited in ways no one could have foreseen.

Last year, Wells High School student Morgan Brewster spoke to the Journal Tribune about her daily use of technology in school and how it led to being featured in a video made by Google ”“ which to date has been viewed more than 3.5 million times.

In the video, Morgan talked about how the Google “voice search” option helped her to find resources for papers and projects in her classes. Special Education Teacher Cheryl Oakes said, at the time, that Morgan has flourished in school, and the technology available to her has aided in her education. It enables Morgan to work independently and accomplish tasks that would have not been possible to complete on her own without the tools available today ”“ provided through Maine’s public schools.

Oakes said Maine is ahead of the curve in integrating technology into its schools, and whenever she attends an out-of-state conference, the MLTI is the first thing other teachers want to know about.

The students of today will also be the inventors of tomorrow, and the U.S. needs to take a leading role in the STEM subjects ”“ science, technology, engineering and math ”“ because countries like India and China are quickly surpassing us in producing the professionals who can do that kind of research and development.

Putting this kind of cutting-edge technology into the hands of our young people will prepare them for college and the STEM careers that will be available in the future. We live in a technology-saturated world, and the sooner we teach our youth to respect it and use it responsibly, the sooner they will adapt to it.

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Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].