If the rest of the world is looking for a model of teaching kids tech literacy, they should look to Auburn, Maine—population 23,055. Auburn made headlines this year when the school system launched Advantage 2014, an initiative to buy an iPad for every kindergarten student. And since 2001, when former governor Angus King used state funds to buy laptops for every seventh-grader, the state has been at the forefront of the tech literacy movement. Now every Maine middle schooler—and the majority of high school students—has their own laptop.
The investment in technology has boosted student achievement in reading, math, and writing, so Maine schools are used to hosting educators from around the globe seeking to replicate the state’s success. To make sharing best practices easier, Advantage 2014 hosted a three-day workshop earlier this week to teach teachers, principals, superintendents, and other education policymakers how to "learn, plan, network, and share" ways to use technology to support student learning.
Maine schools officials emphasized that their success wasn't as easy as handing students a laptop or iPad—educators had a clear, holistic plan for how best to incorporate technology in the classroom. In Auburn, for example, school administrators knew they wanted to use iPads specifically for reading and math lessons, which enabled them to focus their efforts.
And Maine recognized that teachers are a key component to any education technology plan. If educators don’t receive ongoing professional development and support for using iPads—or any other kind of technology—they’re not going to see results with students. And because the devices represent a significant financial investment for budget-crunched schools, it'd be a serious misstep not to maximize their potential.
So will Maine’s pioneering effort spark high-quality one-to-one laptop and iPad programs across the country? Let's hope so. Tech literacy is an essential 21st-century skill, and the state has used the tools as an integral part of student achievement rather than just shiny toys. Now they need to share their secrets with the rest of the world.