From Paper and Pencils...

July 15 2016
Category: Academics

Summer is here and for many Elmira College students, that means internships. Throughout the summer we’ll highlight some of the internships our students are completing, including Alli Woodard ’18, who is working at the Maine Department of Education. 

From Paper and Pencils to iPads and Laptops: Enhancing Maine’s Technological Resources

On May 31st I began my twelve-week, full-time internship at the Maine Department of Education as a Learning Technology Intern. I was one of 39 people who was selected out of 112 applicants from over 40 Colleges and Universities for the Margaret Chase Smith Institute’s Summer Government Internship program. I work directly for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) Project, a program started in 2002 by former Governor (now Senator) Angus King. The MLTI was the first program in the country that implemented a 1:1 technology initiative, and today it remains the country’s largest. When the project began, it gave each student in Grades 7 and 8 a MacBook in each school in Maine. Today, it has expanded to other grades as well as for teachers with more than 80,000 laptops and iPads being distributed in all of Maine’s schools.

Despite its small population, Maine faces enormous economic challenges. As the second most rural state in the country, many students live in areas where the quality of their education is severely hindered by teacher shortages and scarcity of key educational resources such as books and high-speed internet. Additionally, many students have to travel over fifty miles a day to and from school; leaving retention rates lower the more rural parts of the state.  As we continue into the twenty-first century, it is imperative that students become well-equipped with technology skills in order to transition into the job market. For students in rural and impoverished areas, this poses a challenge. However, by integrating technology into Maine’s schools, it allows students to academically thrive despite the barriers that they may face economically. The MLTI project gives students in the more disenfranchised parts of the state the same technological resources as those in the more affluent areas of the state. Giving students access to the internet allows them to not only conduct academic research, but it gives students a way to connect with students all across the country. Furthermore, it gives high school students the opportunity to take AP courses via the internet that may not be offered in their school.

As an intern, my day-to-day jobs include organizing technology plans for schools, reimaging laptops and iPads as well as assisting with project advancement as we shift into professional development for educators throughout the state. I will also be helping facilitate a statewide conference at the end of July for school administrators and faculty. As a Political Science major, interning in State Government has given me a more tangible perspective of intergovernmental policy implementation. The public education system faces numerous obstacles, and it only faces more complexity when political agenda from the state legislature is rifled in. As a side project, I have been working on a research presentation that I will present to state law-makers about the importance of technology integration in Maine’s low-income schools, as well as suggestions on ways that we can make that a reality.

Written by Alli Woodard ’18, Learning Technology Intern at the Maine Department of Education

Alli Woodard