It was the year 2000 and Maine’s governor at the time, Angus King, was excited about the Internet. The World Wide Web was still relatively young but King wanted every student in the state to have access to it.
“Go into history class and the teacher says, ‘Open your computer. We’re going to go to rome.com and we’re going to watch an archaeologist explore the Catacombs this morning in real time.’ What a learning tool that is!”
Fast-forward a couple of years and that dream became a reality. Maine became the first, and still only, state to offer a statewide laptop program to certain grade levels.
Alison King, no relation, was just a toddler when the program launched. Back then, kids lugged big, bulky iBooks around all day. In her senior year at Gorham High School, she says she uses her laptop — now much smaller — for most of the day, “We hardly ever use paper.”
Her American politics class is totally paperless. Alison’s teacher, James Welsch, says when he arrived in Gorham seven years ago, he’d never seen so many computers in one classroom. Welsch says it turned the class into an interactive discussion, “It’s like, we can put the world on the desk of each kid.” His students write blog posts, read each other’s work, and share videos and articles — all online.
Then he started to notice that when some students turned in their essays, the writing wasn’t as fluid as it was when the students were putting pen to paper. “You could also see an increase in copy-and-paste,” he says. “Whether it’s from another student, whether it’s from a piece online, digital sharing is what these guys do.”