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Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Maine's expanded MacBook program the 'largest of its kind'

The Maine Department of Education said Tuesday that it plans to expand to high school students a program that has provided Apple notebook computers to all of the state's middle school students for the past 7 years, creating "the world's largest educational technology program of its kind."

As part of the deal, the Maine Department of Education announced it has placed an order for more than 64,000 MacBooks for students and faculty in grades 7 through 12, and will place an additional order for up to 7,000 more notebooks in the coming weeks.

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), so it's called, has provided Apple notebook computers to all Maine middle school students since 2002 – making Maine the first and only state with a statewide implementation of notebooks for every student. The high school expansion will see the initiative become the world's largest educational technology program of its kind.

"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," said Maine Education Commissioner Sue Gendron. "Apple has been a great partner and consistently demonstrates that it understands the need to provide a complete solution that puts education first. We're very excited about the new school year."

The notebook package provided by Apple includes a wide array of educational software, professional development, repair and replacement and technical support. In addition to learning how to use technology, students do research, write and edit, conduct online simulations, and take online tutorials.

The high school expansion is an extension of an existing contract with Apple, which competed for and won both MLTI contracts to date, the Maine Department of Education said.

“This expansion is helping Maine close the digital divide,” added Jeff Mao, director of learning technology for the Maine Department of Education. "About 2,000 public high school students in Maine attended high schools with laptops for all students this year. Next fall, the number will be 22,000 to 28,000."