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Maine Chooses Preferred Contractor for School Tech Effort

Maine officials have announced that Hewlett-Packard will be the state's preferred vendor in providing laptop technology through the next iteration of the its one student, one computing device program, which is one of the most ambitious ed-tech efforts in the nation.

HP's designation was announced in a statement from the office of Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Despite conferring that status on HP, the governor's office said that local school officials will still be able to choose from any one of five proposals originally selected by the state, which came from three companies: HP, Apple, and CTL. Maine's previous contract had been with Apple.

I'm playing a bit of catch-up here, because LePage's announcement was made a couple weeks ago. But any developments in Maine, which was a pioneer among the states in launching its 1-to-1 effort about a decade ago, are worth watching. We reported earlier this year on Maine joining with two other states, Hawaii and Vermont, to make an unusual, multi-state purchase of educational technology and sevices. The states worked together in putting together a solicitation for bids from companies.

Companies were not only asked by the states to provide devices, such as iPads, tablets, and laptops, for teachers and students, but a relatively broad range of products and services, including wireless tech, professional development for educators, and the ability to support and repair of devices.

Maine's decision to choose HP as a preferred vendor will have no direct effect on the others states, which still have the right to make their own decisions about vendors under the parameters of the states' original compact, said Jeff Mao, the learning-technology policy director for Maine's department of education, who has helped coordinate the project.

In a statement explaining the decision, LePage suggested that the selection of HP's ProBook 4440 laptop, running Windows 7 software, was made in part because it reflects the kinds of tech tools students would be using outside of school.

"It is important that our students are using technology that they will see and use in the workplace," LePage said. The laptops "will provide students with the opportunity to enhance their learning and give them experience on the same technology and software the will see in their future careers."

Middle schools in Maine will be able to choose any of the five proposals awarded, the governor's office said in that statement, at a cost up to the amount of the HP proposal.

One advantage to having multiple companies working in Maine is that state officials will be able to better compare and judge how effectively different kinds of technologies, including laptops and tablets, are working in different districts.

In that sense, "it'll be informative and useful to have different platforms," Mao said.

We'll be following the implementation of HP and other platforms in Maine in the time ahead.

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