Nemitz: Revolutionary idea triumphs over skeptics | Portland Press Herald

The e-mail landed recently in the inbox of former Maine Gov. Angus King.

It came from Jeff Mao, the state’s director of learning technology policy. He wrote to tell King that two old computers from Maine’s school laptop program – an iBook G3 from 2002 and a G4 circa 2006 – had just been “enthusiastically” accepted by the Maine State Museum as part of its permanent collection.

“I think this means we’ve all officially made history!” wrote Mao.

Indeed.

Ten years ago at this time, a task force appointed by King had just begun to get its collective head around what was a radical concept in public education: Provide each student and teacher from seventh grade on up with their own laptop computer and – voila! – watch Maine’s horizons expand.

Thanks to a $50 million surplus in the state’s general fund, the money was there.

Still, it was by no means an easy sell. the time the dust settled, the Legislature agreed only to fund laptops for seventh- and eighth-graders and deal with the high schools another day.

“I remember one legislator telling me at the time, ‘In my district, I’ve never seen an issue that stirred up this much controversy – on both sides,’” King said with a chuckle last week. “He said this is abortion, gay rights and clear-cutting, all rolled into one.”

Click for the rest of this column by Bill Nemitz in the Portland Press Herald.

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