ORONO – The University of Maine has taken the lead in ensuring that the teachers it graduates are ready to appropriately and creatively use technology as they take on their own classrooms and increasingly computer savvy young pupils.
The UMaine College of Education and Human Development is the first teacher preparation program in the state to require that students working toward Maine teacher certification have a laptop computer and specific educational hardware as part of their tools for learning. The college’s teacher education faculty recently approved the new policy, effective with incoming students this fall.
With Maine public schools wired for Internet access and laptops provided to seventh- and eighth-graders and their teachers through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, the state has made the commitment to build technology-rich classroom environments and instruction for its public school students, said college dean Robert Cobb.
Education Week, the national newspaper for K-12 educators, noted in its Technology Counts report that Maine is one of just three states that have a state-sponsored student laptop program in place. The other two are Michigan and New Mexico. The report also ranked Maine among the states that require technology coursework for initial teacher certification and that have technology standards for teachers and students.
“Nothing in our history has energized educational reform like the opportunities and possibilities of technology, and Maine is setting the standard,” said Cobb. “Clearly, it is essential that aspiring teachers understand and know how and when to use wireless laptop technology in the teaching and learning process.”
The teacher education faculty has chosen Apple iBook as the designated computer and software because of Macintosh’s commitment to technology designed for educational use and innovation, and to align with the laptops available through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. In addition, education faculty members say the Macintosh package is less vulnerable to viruses.
Beginning in the fall, first-year students entering the college and planning to major in elementary education, secondary education, early childhood education or the kinesiology and physical education teacher certification option, will be required to have the designated computer and software before the beginning of the 2006 academic year. Incoming education majors in the fall of 2006, including master’s degree students, must have an Apple iBook and specified software as first-year students.
The college has worked to gain a substantial iBook purchase discount for students. As a required component of the education program, computer purchase qualifies as a “cost of attendance,” and various loan options exist through the Office of Student Financial Aid.
Students also may apply for low-interest loans from the University of Maine Credit Union. The purchase discount on the Apple iBook also is available to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the college’s non-certification programs.
“The teacher education faculty, in recommending Macintosh products, believes they are best designed to fit the professional education needs of our students and literally to link them to the type of technology that seventh- and eighth-graders and many other students and practicing teachers in Maine public schools are successfully using,” said education faculty director James Artesani.
The college initiative also has a built-in professional development component to ensure that faculty integrate technology into their instruction and have the ability to assist students in using technology, according to Artesani. Students will use laptops and Apple software in many methods classes, for conducting research, creating instructional plans and investigating curriculum, as well as for teacher candidacy portfolios and other functions, he said.
A recent survey of students in the college shows that 97 percent of respondents own a computer, and 39 percent own a laptop. Fifty-one percent responded that the college should require students to have a computer, and 61 percent said they would purchase a Macintosh laptop if a significant discount were offered. Thirty percent of undergraduates and 13 percent of graduate students in the college responded to the online survey.
More information about the laptop initiative is available at www.umaine.edu/edhd.