All Maine students in grades 7 through 12 will receive free MacBooks for the academic year. The measure is intended to bridge the digital divide, allowing all students access to new technology no matter their socioeconomic position. It is part of the state’s expanding Maine Technology Learning Initiative (MTLI), established in 2002, which provides all middle school students with free computers. Today’s announced expansion brings computers to high-school students. "We have seen incredible success, with our middle schools showing increased student engagement and achievement with (MLTI) in place, and we want to bring this same opportunity to our high schools," Maine Educational Commissioner Sue Gendron said. "This is not just about technology--it's about using the technology to support education," Gendron said.

More than 71,000 students and teachers will be given the computers when the school year begins in September as part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI).

The computers, which remain property of the state, can be used by students and teachers at school and at home during the school year -- like other school-supplied materials -- and come loaded with a full suite of educational software and other tools.

Maine's Department of Education announced today that it had ordered 64,000 laptops from Apple, and is planning to order the additional 7,000 in the next few weeks.

“MLTI continues to focus on using technology to improve student achievement in all content areas,” said Jeff Mao, director of learning technology for the Maine Department of Education.

“Teachers are helping students achieve Maine’s Learning Results standards and we are helping teachers leverage the technology and the Internet to improve instruction.”

Maine is the first and only state to provide free computers to all of its students, paying around $242 for each unit.

By Mark Alvarez