Massachusetts has taken a cue from Maine’s statewide laptop program and is piloting a much smaller initiative of its own.
The Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative is a three-year pilot project in which middle school students and their teachers in three public schools and one private school in the Berkshire region of the state will receive their own Apple iBook laptop computers. An estimated 2,125 students and 175 educators will take part in the program, with the first group of students slated to receive their laptops in fall 2005. Teachers already received their laptops this school year.
The state has dedicated $2 million to support the project. It is targeting an additional $250,000 for the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams to supply ongoing professional development in the use of the computers for participating teachers.
For the 2004-05 school year, the state allocated $2.7 million for educational technology, most of which is for the laptop program.
Connie K. Louie, Massachusetts’ instructional-technology director, says that schools in the state spend most of their available money on updating equipment and maintaining computer networks, which has been a growing need as more students take part in online and computer-based learning. The 1998-99 school year was the last time the state provided schools with a substantial amount of money for those purposes.
Massachusetts continues to add tools to its Virtual Education Space, or VES, a Web portal with curriculum resources for students and teachers. One such resource, the Technology Self Assessment Tool, or TSAT, was put in place during the 2003-04 school year for teachers to assess their technology-related strengths and weaknesses. School and district leaders can then use the information to determine professional-development needs. According to the state’s fall 2004 annual technology data collection, about 30 percent of districts used the tool last year.