Maine’s laptop program


Aug 21, 2008

Maine has instituted a bold program in its schools that provides every middle-school student with a laptop. The program is now moving into high school. The question of course is, for all the money, is it effective?

Results seem mixed. The difference doesn’t show up on test scores necessarily, according to this MSNBC article, but students are more enthusiastic about school.

What do you think?

My reaction is that it’s not the technology per se that improves learning, but is instead how you use the technology. Simply cramming computers into existing classrooms–-even in one laptop per child fashion–-doesn’t necessarily change the classroom by itself or allow for customized learning.

This is one of the core reasons we advocate implementing computer-based learning disruptively. This way all it has to be at the outset is better than the alternative—nothing at all— but over time it has its own space to redefine the interactions of learning between students and teachers and improve. It’s a slower process and more organic than the Maine one, but my guess is that it would ultimately be more effective, too.

– Michael B. Horn

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently serves as Chairman of the Clayton Christensen Institute and works as a senior strategist at Guild Education.