Governor Paul LePage on Wednesday issued an executive order directing the Maine Department of Education to develop a plan for expanding the digital learning opportunities available to Maine students.
The executive order, "An Order to Expand Opportunities for Digital Learning," coincided with Digital Learning Day, a nationwide celebration meant to highlight the rich and personalized educational experiences available to students through smart use of technology and digital media in education.
"Our students must be engaged in school, and they need to gain the skills essential to success in the 21st-century economy," said Governor Paul LePage. "With widespread access to digital learning opportunities, and with teachers who are experts in bringing digital content into daily instruction, our students can gain the preparation they need for college, careers and civic life."
Governor LePage's executive order directs the Department to consult students, parents, educators, technology experts and others in crafting a plan for expanding access to digital learning statewide and training educators to leverage the power of technology to offer students engaging, customized educational experiences.
Among other topics, the plan will likely address how students can access online classes as part of their educational experience, how schools can leverage online resources to allow students to study topics schools might not be able to offer in-house, and how students can learn to use online resources effectively when conducting academic research.
"Maine has been a leader for more than a decade in providing students with laptops that they use to personalize and enrich their educational experiences," said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. "Now it's time to think about how we want Maine's digital learning program to evolve so more of our students can use technology to learn anytime, anywhere and in ways that are meaningful to them. We also need to have a plan that addresses how our teachers can stay on top of the most effective practices for integrating technology into everyday instruction."
Maine's decade-old, pioneering laptop program now equips all seventh and eighth graders, about half of high school students, and all teachers and administrators in grades 6-12, with personal Apple laptops. Many of the state's school districts have made a commitment to providing students with ready access to technology at all levels of learning.
The Maine Learning Technology Initiative, the Department of Education office that oversees the laptop program, also provides frequent professional development to educators on maximizing the benefits of technology in the classroom.
Governor LePage's executive order directs the Department of Education to consider the future role of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative in crafting the strategic plan for digital learning.
Commissioner Bowen said Maine schools' experience in equipping students with laptops is a solid foundation for expanding the role technology plays in their education.
The executive order text is as follows:
AN ORDER TO EXPAND OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIGITAL LEARNING
WHEREAS, education in the digital age must provide students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and challenging 21st century careers; and
WHEREAS, the Maine Department of Education has developed a plan to transition education in Maine to a model in which students have more of a role in organizing their education and more choice in deciding how they master academic standards; and
WHEREAS, digital learning, which is learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace, has the power to transform education into a student-centered, proficiency-based system of learning, and
WHEREAS, the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning, as defined by the Digital Learning Council in 2010, provides a framework for reform to advance opportunities for digital learning, and
WHEREAS, Maine will benefit from the development of a strategic plan to adopt and implement the policies defined by the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Paul R. LePage, Governor of the State of Maine, hereby order as follows:
1. The Maine Department of Education shall develop a strategic plan to expand digital learning opportunities for Maine students.
2. In crafting the digital learning strategic plan, the Department shall:
a. Consult students, parents, teachers, school administrators, experts in educational and information technology and other persons, groups or entities that have an interest in digital learning.
b. Review and consider digital learning policies and practices adopted by other states and jurisdictions.
c. Consider the role of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative and other Maine-based digital learning efforts should play in the advancement of digital learning opportunities.
d. Develop policy recommendations consistent with and organized around the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.
e. Include any suggested statutory or rule changes.
1. No later than January 4, 2013, the Department shall present the digital learning strategic plan to the Governor and the joint standing committee having jurisdiction over education and cultural affairs.
The effective date of this Executive Order is February 1, 2012.