April 07, 2020
BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE

Three Ellsworth boys are giving another shove to their lobbying effort to promote Gov. Angus King’s proposal to give laptops to seventh-graders.

Tom, John and Dan McClellan , students at the Bryant E. Moore School, are mailing the governor petitions bearing the 200 signatures they gathered at school in support of the proposal. They are sending him one of their special T-shirts, with the name of their lobby, the Mouse Brigade, and their slogan, “Kids for Laptops.”

The three brothers traveled to Orono earlier this month and testified on closed-circuit television before the Task Force on the Maine Learning Technology Endowment. Their pitch was that laptops would put all students on an equal basis in using the new learning tools. Tom and John, fifth-grade twins, argued that some parents don’t realize how responsible their children are and that some teachers may be afraid to deal with computers. Dan, a fourth-grader who is legally blind, said a home computer would help kids like him read what they write when doing their homework.

Task force members have been hearing from teachers and librarians who would like a share of the income from the $50 million endowment for database licenses and other needs. Some witnesses have seemed unenthusiastic about the laptop proposal.

The task force also is hearing from business and industry representatives who are eager for a new program that they believe would help build a high-tech Maine work force for the future.

Those various constituencies, some pro and some con, have been making their cases. The Mouse Brigade represents still another constituency, the one that would be most directly affected by the laptop proposal.

As the task force begins to wind up its work and prepares a report for the Legislature, it is wisely going beyond a survey of the various other contenders for a piece of the endowment-income pie. It will do well to pay close attention to the governor’s original plan and consider how it could be implemented, what type of computer would be best, whether or not the students should take their computers home at night, and what new teacher training would be needed to make the plan succeed.

Above all, the task force should try to devise a system of improved learning technology that would put Maine out in front of the rest of the country.


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