A 2002 article from the Livermore Falls Advertiser reports on the first laptops coming to Livermore Falls Middle School (now a part of Regional School Unit 73 as Spruce Mountain Middle School). Current RSU 73 Director of Curriculum and Technology Chris Hollingsworth said the time before technology-integrated education is unrecognizable. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

LIVERMORE FALLS — Past predictions of what 2022 would look like didn’t always pan out – some predicted weddings in space, civilizations on Mars and artificial moons.

An article from the Livermore Falls Advertiser’s archives managed to hit the nail on the head.

Twenty years ago, the Livermore Falls Advertiser reported in its Aug. 22, 2002, edition about the first laptops coming to Livermore Falls Middle School (now a part of Regional School Unit 73 as Spruce Mountain Middle School, serving Livermore, Livermore Falls and Jay).

The Advertiser reported that the middle school acquired 104 laptops for seventh graders through former Gov. Angus King’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI).

The MLTI was a statewide program launched in 2000 that provided seventh, eighth grade students, and teachers with laptops in order to prepare “youth for the future economy … on the premise that technology and innovation will play key roles in Maine’s economic future,” according to a study from The University of Southern Maine’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation.

USM’s Dawn M.M. Lane posed in 2003 the initiative “dramatically increased the use of technology in schools,” “increased [student] interest in their school work … the amount of work they are doing both in and out of school,” and changed “the nature of student learning.”


At LFMS, teachers spent the summer of 2002 training to use the laptops and planning lessons for students to utilize the new technology.

Teachers told the Livermore Falls Advertiser they saw the new program as a way to bring its students into the 21st century and “provide an even playing field for students with no computers at home.”

Spruce Mountain Director of Curriculum and Technology Chris Hollingsworth, who began as Jay Elementary School’s Principal in the mid-2000s, said MLTI was a groundbreaking initiative that rapidly changed the playbook in education.

“We felt as though we were ahead of the rest of the country,” said Hollingsworth, who became the director of technology four years ago. “And then, [technology usage in RSU 73’s education] just increased and increased.”

Livermore Falls Middle School teacher Denise Acritelli told the Advertiser in 2002 educators were planning “to use [the laptops] all the time” and that she didn’t expect students would “take long to catch on.”

All teachers interviewed for the story predicted the program would change the face of education at the middle school. And right they were.


“It’s hard to even imagine what it was like before because we’ve come so far,” Hollingsworth said.

Following 2002, Spruce Mountain students’ access to technology “ramped up,” he said.

Very quickly, laptops were provided to more and more grades. Now, there’s one laptop for every student in grades two through 12 and iPads for all in kindergarten and first grade.

Hollingsworth said technology usage has expanded to all areas of education at Spruce Mountain, particularly in the way that teachers are able to educate, as well.

“Computers used to be a tool to do typing or email, things like that,” he said. “Now you’re seeing whole curriculums that are online.”

Textbooks and lesson plans are accessed electronically. This, he said, provides stronger visual, interactive learning for students and better engages them.


And, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools shifted to remote learning, technology was key.

“The use of remote technology and being able to have the 1-1 computers for all kids helped us get through the pandemic all that much easier,” Hollingsworth said.

Even so, access to technology is still a challenge in the region – though in different ways than 2002, perhaps.

Present-day issues are less about acquiring technology. Rather, it’s now the ability to access internet connection at home that poses “the biggest barrier” for students and their educators, Hollingsworth said.

This was a particular challenge at the beginning of the pandemic when all learning was taking place at home.

Nevertheless, Spruce Mountain found workarounds. With grants RSU 73 was able to provide students mobile hotspots at home and in the parking lots of local schools and libraries.


And akin to what U.S. Sen. Angus King did back in 2000 as governor, current Gov. Janet Mills is focusing her attention on expanding broadband access across the state, particularly in rural areas.

Hollingsworth acknowledged every innovation can come with some downsides.

Educators are now trying to drive home that you can’t “believe everything you see on the internet,” Hollingsworth said.

“It’s about trying to teach kids to mine through what is and isn’t accurate on the internet,” he added.

Even so, Hollingsworth believes the positives far outweigh the negatives. And he’s astonished by both how quickly things changed and how unrecognizable education’s past is.

“Technology has integrated into every part of schools now,” Hollingsworth said. “It would be hard to think about what we’d do without [technology] now.”

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