Maine rings in a new school year with iBooks

Maine rings in a new school year with iBooks

The 18,000 seventh-graders in Maine will begin class this year with new Apple iBook notebook computers, as the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative begins its first full year of providing the systems to students.

Maine Gov. Angus King has pressed for the program since 2000. Last winter, prospects for the initiative dimmed as state legislators called for a raid on the program's trust fund to defray a looming state budget deficit. But backers of the program prevailed and the state's Education Department in January awarded a four-year, $37 million contract to Apple Computer Inc. to provide the notebooks as well as training for teachers and other services [].

The initiative's fund is now about $25 million, said King's spokesman, Tony Sprague. Under King's plan, regular appropriations will support the program after the trust fund is exhausted in four years.

The project will supply 239 schools, some of which opened in mid-August; all the schools will be open by the end of this week, Sprague said. Next year, the Education Department plans to extend the program to the eighth grade, with the purchase of 18,000 more notebooks. The department has made sure that about 1,000 notebooks will be bought each year for teachers.

Sprague said schools that participated in a pilot program involving about 700 students in the spring semester reported reduced absenteeism and fewer discipline problems. Teachers in the pilot reported that the notebooks helped students become engaged in their studies, Sprague said.

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