Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Maine's Common Core of Learning Revisited

"Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric."

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was published when this year's graduating class was born . . . 1990. Whenever I'm ready to throw up my hands in complete frustration at the present federal/state NCLB-induced technocracy, I return to this beautifully written, concise, and straightforward document which possesses so much wisdom: Maine's Common Core of Learning. To me, it gave a vision that has been decimated by the policies of the "little boxes" crowd. It was opening our schools to new possibilities rather than crippling them with added mandates and mindless paperwork.

My well-worn, dog-eared copy of this gem resides within hand's reach of my home office desk. This morning I gently took it from the shelf and have been taking in its wise message one more time.

Although there doesn't seem to be a full digital version of Maine's Common Core available on the web, here is the breakdown of learning that it promoted to give clarity and meaning:

Personal and Global Stewardship

Responsible citizenship requires awareness and a concern for oneself, others, and the environment. It involves interactions not only within the self and family, but between the self and friends, the community, the nation, and the world. It includes the knowledge and care of all dimensions of our selves as humans, an understanding of the group process, and a willingness to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Stewardship also includes the study of current geography and foreign language and an appreciation of pluralism and human rights.


The ability of human beings to communicate through a variety of media with a high degree of specificity is one of our most remarkable achievements. In a rapidly-changing world, communications skills will become ever more essential to our students' future success.

Reasoning and Problem Solving

Knowledge is power. We must help students want to gain knowledge, show them how to get it, and encourage them to use it to reach a new understanding or to create a new product. We must help students learn to reflect on their processes of learning, regardless of their field of study.

The Human Record

The study of the human record not only includes the actions and events of the past but also the constructs of human thought and creativity as they have evolved through time. The human record includes works of literature and the arts; scientific laws and theories; and concepts of government, economic systems, philosophy, and mathematics. In fact, much of what we now think of as "subject matter" in today's curriculum belongs in this section.

Neil Postman in The End of Education (1995) speaks of the need for common narratives (stories, gods) to give meaning back to education. He claimed that our present narratives of economic utility, technology, multi-culturalism, etc. are false gods and not capable of giving meaning to education. Instead he proposed these new narratives:

"Spaceship Earth" (the notion of humans as stewards of the planet); "The Fallen Angel" (a view of history and the advancement of knowledge as a series of errors and corrections); "The American Experiment" (the story of America as a great experiment and as a center of continuous argument); "The Laws of Diversity" (the view that difference contributes to increased vitality and excellence, and, ultimately, to a sense of unity); and "The Word Weavers/The World Makers" (the understanding that the world is created through language — through definitions, questions, and metaphors).

Now while Neil Postman and Maine's Common Core don't agree exactly on the narratives, they do agree that what is missing in education is meaning that comes from making connections.

What do you think?

Science and the Story that We Need - Neil Postman
Book Review of Postman's Book
Neil Postman: A Study Guide

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Iron Spring Farm

Last week I had the opportunity to shadow my daughter at her work at the Iron Spring Farm in Coatesville, PA. Melissa is responsible for the health and well-being of the horses. After Lissa gave me the grand tour, we dropped into the heated barn space where a visiting vet was preparing to do a series of x-rays on one of the horses using a portable x-ray device about the size of a VHS Camcorder which was connected to an ordinary laptop. Now this wasn't because the horse had any particular health issue; it is now simply standard practice at this farm to periodically do a series so as to have a history of any changes over time and to be able to catch any problem early on. When the veterinarian took a shot of some region, it took only 6 seconds for the x-ray to render on the laptop. He would check it out right on the laptop . . compare to an earlier picture if needed. . .and then go to the next region. I would guess he probably did about 3 dozen shots. All these images are archived with backups and can be accessed quickly in a variety of combinations when they are needed.

The veterinarian said that he had purchased the unit two years ago, that it was initially quite expensive, but that it had paid for itself in a very short time in helping him to diagnose issues earlier. Of course, I would not expect our students to use potentially dangerous x-rays, but don't you suppose it is a valuable skill to understand how things change over time and that time-lapse photography can be a tool to make this understanding more obvious?

With digital photography so inexpensive these days, shouldn't we use it more in our schools?

Online Tools for Creating Text Images

CoolText Graphics Generator
Text on Image Generator
Sign Generator
Dynamic Images
Make Your Own Custom Text on Images

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Gadget

by Betty Wright

You are invited to check out a Google Gadget I made (I am not certain this link will work, but you can copy and paste it :-)

The blog link is:
Mrs. Wright's Tech Corner,

I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Have you tried the iSEEK search engine? Targeted search with natural language queries similar to (Jeeves has retired).

For a kid-friendly search engine, Kern recommends . I like it! Thanks, Kern.

Literacy Across the Curriculum: Skimming, Scanning & Summarization

PLC work at MVMS this past Wednesday was on skimming, scanning & summarization in the content areas. Laura Robb's book, Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science and Math is being used as a source for some practical techniques to develop these skills.

Summarization Resources
Skimming & Scanning Resources

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is the Internet Shrinking?

by Ed Latham

If you have gone to any tech presentations in the last year, you must have seen some of the Web 2.0 tools and other cool things that seem to be opening up possibilities for anyone with an Internet connection. Even if you have not attended any of the almost evangelical presentations extolling the virtues of this cool techie tool, you have probably heard about some of the possibilities from some peers, a relative or maybe even through the media. The new, expanding Internet seems to be engulfing our culture and leaving corporations in a frenzy while they figure out how they all can get a piece of action if everything is "free".

I love some of the tools out there. I work with many different teachers that all could benefit in some way, personally or professionally, by learning about the options that seem to be growing exponentially. With all of this expansion going on, I have seen a trend that is bothering me.

For the at-home users, the options keep flowing and expanding, but in School Systems the Internet is Shrinking! Many schools have allowed teachers some freedom to experiment with some of these new technologies. That freedom is awesome, but without good training or practice, some student somewhere in the system messes things up and the tech coordinator blocks that tool off for everyone else that was doing quite nicely. Lets face it, many teachers interested in learning technology lack the time or resources to get well trained in how to use some of these technologies in safe, productive ways. The lack of time and resources for teachers to learn how to best use these tools is one factor contributing to the increasing blockage of areas of the Internet by local IT people.

A second contributing factor is poor student choices. Students often have access to computers at home and have "been there done that" many times, but their teacher never checked in to see where each of her 100 students in her case load were at with that particular skill. The teacher was excited to be able to do some "meaningful technology", but for the student that had already experienced something similar, the meaningful part is missing. The student gets bored or wishes to find some distraction from the droning on that seems to be coming from the front of the room somewhere. This is when the students need to make good choices as to how they handle boredom and distraction. Many students can not get around the temptation to check out what is on that site, or maybe I can fix that part of my Yearbook page so my friends can see my finished work. Now the teacher catches them not following the program and jots down the source of the distraction and hands it over to the IT execution squad. Computers can be broken down for weeks, but it is amazing how few minutes are required for the IT crew to get a site shut down.

I have worked with teachers in a dozen school districts this last year. In almost every system, I have heard stories from teachers of how she used to use this tool but that got blocked a few weeks ago when... The stories may differ in detail, but the cause is often something like, "Some kid did this or that so they shut down the system." Shutting down resources because of student delinquency is a lazy way of dealing with discipline! In fact it is not even dealing with the discipline that is necessary. The student can not handle boredom or distraction any better by getting caged in more and more. What is there to be distracted by if all distractions are removed? Additionally, by shutting down a resource that all could be using because of delinquent behavior, we are rewarding those delinquent with power over the system. The student, who probably has a computer at home in his bedroom, does not really care about the entire school loosing access. Instead, he can brag to his online friends how he managed to bring his entire school down simply by going to his Yearbook during math class. It becomes a joke and even a status symbol for these individuals and yet we see the stern teachers and IT people as they state, "Well, that aught to teach them to respect school property." The delinquent student must be in heaven with all the power schools are allowing them these days. How long before one says, "How much you want to bet I can get them to shut off access to Google by next week?"

This has got to stop. Techie trainers often travel from school system to school system around states and sometimes even around the country. If you asked them, as I have, you will find an increasing frequency of schools locking down resources that are parts of the presentations people are paying to have brought into their areas. It is getting to the point that one may not even be able to share the virtues of something because it is easier to shut down any access to the resource instead of dealing with the problem.

So, how do we deal with the problem? I have asked many administrators if their school has any policies in their handbooks against vandalism. So far, 100% do. I have asked if there are policies about non-compliance with school rules ... again 100% do. I asked if Computer User Agreements are in place ... of course they are. The problem then comes down to either faulty school policy or a lack of ability to follow through. Many propose that you take the computer away from the student. This is ridiculous behavior on two counts. If you value the tool to be used in productive ways and feel that the tool expands the classroom experience to new levels, then taking it away is actually depriving the student of the right to learn as others do in your class. An argument could be made that violators of the laws loose some rights and I could buy that. The second reason removal of the computer is silly, is that it teaches the student nothing about how to channel the energies that got them in trouble in the first place, especially because I will be giving it back to you in a few weeks.

Any law or rule is set in place for safety. How we follow through or enforce those rules is critical to how often we face infractions of those rules. If our reaction is to take things away, people will never learn appropriate behavior because the environment does not even exist any more. Instead the discipline has to include the behaviors leading up to the infraction and solutions to avoid that choice in the future. I thought we were here to teach people folks, not to lock them up and take away their food if they are naughty prisoners. The fact that others in the system should be punished as well by denying them access is absurd. If I go on a bus and and post all sorts of inappropriate pictures all over the inside of the buss does that mean we should shut buses down? How about denying students from bringing any printed material on buses? Should everyone show their empty pockets on the way into the buss now? OF COURSE NOT! The bus driver follows school rules, that have been discussed over many years by many people, and the offending student is disciplined, not the rest of the bus. I am sorry, but if we can figure out bus safety and can not figure out computer safety for our systems, we have a serious problem. For some the Internet may be expanding, but for most, it is clear that their Internet is shrinking at an alarming rate.

If your school system has positive ways of dealing with inappropriate student abuse of technology, could you please, please post some of the ideas your school uses? We have to spread around working systems that deal with the problem without avoiding it by shutting things down. I also urge you to quickly respond as more and more people are not going to be able to access this blog for much longer as blogging is getting shut down in many schools as well.

It is sad to think that society can get access to all sorts of tools, but education can not keep that access because of poor policy. This could become yet another way that students feel a disconnect with their real word and the ever more prison like educational sentence they may feel they have to endure for 12 years. We may be forcing students more and more into believing that education is out of touch with their world and therefor not worthy of respect, effort, or their time. Our teachers will also continue to wither as they are denied access to legitimate tools. These adults have to be treated as the students do simply because it is so much easier to keep that Internet shrinking. If they can't access it, they can't cause problems with it. This motto in IT has to stop now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Moodle Training

Today there will be four ATM distance learning sites throughout Maine connected for a look at how to use the MeVL Moodle. This is a free training. Additional Information on Moodle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Taking a Closer Look at WebQuests

Our Bethel Group 1 session convened on Monday for a look at constructivism, instructivism, and the WebQuest model. The idea was to get a taste of what is out there and to understand the philosophical underpinnings. You can find the agenda here.

Friday, December 7, 2007


by Joe Makley

Here at Jay School Department, we've been teleconferencing, and I told Jim I'd report on it! We received some pretty fancy Tandberg MediaPlace units through a R.U.S. (Rural Utility Services) grant, and have held several sessions so far with places like the Smithsonian, etc. Today we took three fourth grade classes and brought them together to attend a virtual lesson from the Columbus Zoo, "Ocean Explorers." (It was the same lady as in the picture at the link.) Great lesson! (Yes, I know there aren't many coral reefs in Ohio. It didn't matter!) She could hear kids' questions and responded to them by name across a cafeteria. When we contracted the lesson, they mailed out some materials, which they used during "class." Teachers were very impressed, and kids were engaged. These were veteran teachers who can see right through razzle-dazzle. They were looking at the pedagogy, and the gears were turning. After eight years of ATM (essentially the same technology) this stuff is finally taking off. Providers are popping up and there are databases where you can see them rated. We are having fun, and the concept has grown beyond the expensive hardware. In January, we are doing an IChat between our first graders (3 sections together) and a group of first, second, and third graders at a school in Belem, Brazil. Based on how simple the testing was for that, I think we are going to be doing a lot more IChats! I am working on the high school teachers to connect with Global Nomads, and would like to hear from anyone who is working with this group. I put up a brief resource page for our staff. My sense is that we are really breaking out of the school door with this stuff. After all these years of half-starts, it seems too good to believe. As soon as they hear about something happening in the world, kids will say, "Can we talk to them?" They will expect it. And you don't need the fancy stuff to do an IChat. These are genuinely exciting times, and I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing to bring live exchanges into the school routine.
(This project includes Bingham, Dexter, Lewiston, and in the second round recently announced: Rumford, Bethel, and Dixfield.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Media Literacy: Advertising

Do we teach our kids to be discerning consumers? Can they identify advertising techniques? Can they create their own ads using these techniques?

Classic Ron Popeil clip:

Resources for Media Literacy: Advertising

Batter Blaster?

Mr. Coffee I-V

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christopher Dunham, Unprofessional Genealogist

I just happened upon the incredible web work of Christopher Dunham. Interested in local history and genealogy? Find a wealth of information on Chris's blogs. Living in West Paris and having spent my entire life in Oxford County, I was particularly interested in his Oxford County Genealogy Notebook.

Looking for great primary sources for Maine? Look no further. This is a goldmine.

The Maine Event

Courtesy of David Trask, check out this article about the utilization of technology in Maine Schools: Pp. 30-33 in Technology & Learning.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tech Sherpas in Maine

Check out the Christian Science Monitor for an excellent article on Maine students helping teachers.

Related Links:
MSAD#48 Tech Club

Incidentally, check out Dan Viles's google pages website to see an excellent example of what is possible using this extremely user-friendly format. Dan also makes great use of Google Blogs and Groups and Docs for organizing content and collaborating with his students. Be sure to check them out. Wow!

Question: What do other online learning environments such as Studywiz and Moodle offer that free Google Apps doesn't have available?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Missed Christa McAuliffe? - no worries

by Sharon Betts

If you missed the CMTC this year - we are beginning day 3 as I type - don't worry.
How can you reap the rewards from home?

check out the handouts from the presenters - or look for the as you browse all the presentations.

Visit other bloggers - like BitByBit (where podcasts and videos will soon be posted)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kindle or OLPC?

Here's the deal: You have just received a $400 certificate with the limitation that you can redeem it for either the Kindle or the OLPC laptop. Which would you choose?

Thank you to Barbara Greenstone for bringing up the discussion on books and the Kindle in an earlier post. Thinking about the difference in the experience in reading from the extremely long-lasting technology of the book to the portable digital version brings up a series of issues.

A number of people have not missed the point that the OLPC device and the Kindle can be had for the same price. The discussion that has ensued is fascinating. Check out these discussions:

The Future of Reading

Do Not Fold, Bend or Kindle

Think Macro . . .Kindle vs. XO

More on Kindle/OLPC

So . . . which would you buy?

Teampedia: Tools for Teams

Here is an excellent wiki that is collecting activities to use in helping to grow teams: Teampedia: Tools for Teams

Additional Process Skills Resources

Monday, November 26, 2007

Choosing, Doing & Sharing

I just got back from our Telstar Group 1 session this evening. I've been working with this group of 15 diverse participants for about a year now and couldn't ask for more interesting and friendly humans beings. The title of tonight's session was "Choosing, Doing & Sharing." The agenda essential question: What are the implications of choice and freedom in our society and classrooms?

To kick off the discussion, we watched two contrasting videos. One was the trailer for Pleasantville and the second was Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice talk.

And a great discussion it was! I really believe this is an issue that needs to be brought more into consciousness. With choice increasing at exponential rates according to people such as Ray Kurzweil and other futurists, we need to become more self-aware of the implications. The Pleasantville/Schwartz combo makes a fine springboard for powerful discussion. Give it a try.

How do we deal with making decisions?

Session Agenda

NERC 2008 Conference on Social Studies

The 39th Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies, titled Social Studies: Global and Local Connections, Shared Responsibilities, will be on March 26 - 28 at Yale. More Information

The Maine Council for the Social Studies Conference

On April 2, 2008, MCSS will have its annual conference titled No Citizen Left Behind: Teaching Resources for Maine Teachers. Check it out here. It is still not too late to send in a presentation proposal.

Workshops/Conferences at Maine Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Check out the upcoming workshops and conferences through Maine ASCD here.

Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance Workshops

MMSA has a very interesting series of workshops lined up for the next few months. Check them out here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So, what about the Kindle?

by Barbara Greenstone

eReaders have been around for a while but I've mostly been ignoring them. I keep telling myself that, given a choice, I'd rather read from a printed page than from a screen. In my work, of course, I do read from a computer screen - whether it's emails, chats, web articles, blogs, NoteShare notebooks, or other digital documents. I seldom print anything. But when it comes to reading for pleasure, I'd rather sit down with a book. I've been a reader for more than half a century and why change now?

Having said that, I have to admit that Amazon's Kindle has me thinking... What is it I really love about books? Is it some kind of kinesthetic pleasure from holding it and turning the pages or is it purely the content? Do I prefer print books because it's really a better reading experience or is it a bias from years of habit?

If you walk into my house you will know right away that I am a book-lover. There are bookshelves everywhere. But I don't think of myself as a true bibliophile. I think true bibliophiles love the books themselves. They care whether it's a first edition. They care about the binding and the typeface and the quality of the paper. I don't care about any of these things. I do like seeing my books on the shelves but I'm not sure why. Maybe because scanning my eclectic collection gives some clues as to who I am, or who I have become over the years.

But now I'm thinking about that Kindle and thinking I might like to try it. David Pogue gives it a mostly favorable review in the NY Times and his is an opinion I have learned over the years to trust. I'm also thinking about whether eReaders like this have a future in education. I think many of our students do not have the same print prejudices that I have and might welcome an alternative to those heavy textbooks that fill up their backpacks.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

Barry Schwartz presentation at TEDTalks

Are there any implications for education?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dentistry, Car Maintenance and Online Work

I am sitting in a dentist chair as I write this. The other day I was doing my online work at Rowe Hyundai in Auburn as they changed the oil in my car. When I work late into the evening I can drop into the Market Square Restaurant for a bite to eat and borrow bandwidth, if needed, from the South Paris Public Library across the street. Very quickly access is almost to be expected in public spaces. Hotspots are increasing at a rapid rate, even up in the Western foothills of Maine.

What are your favorite WiFi hotspots in Maine?

Maine WiFi HotSpots Directory
Wifi 411

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Adult Education & Online Learning

One of my side jobs is to work with adult educators and students at Oxford Hills to investigate the possibilities of online (distance) learning for the adult ed student. The idea is to develop some options for students who might have difficulty with transportation and/or scheduling.

I'm working with Ramsey Ludlow on a U.S. History I course. We have been experimenting with the use of Google apps in delivering the instruction, trying to find out what does and does not work in using distance learning with the high school adult ed student.

Of course, as expected, we have had to punt several times for a number of reasons in order to meet the goals of the course. Initially the idea was to meet with students f2f in the evening once per month and do the rest of the course via Google groups and email. The students were very comfortable with the technology, but some had issues with the difficulty of organizing their time, due to a number of factors, to complete the assignments. So now we are back to having weekly f2f classes for that extra encouragement that being in the same room creates. The digital tools are being used within that meeting time.

We did a reflection during last evening's gathering:

Reflection on history online

1. not as independent learners as we thought
2. in class support is helpful
3. online support /discussions don't work
4. more people to respond to is better
5. support/discussion require us to make an appointment at time
6. helpful to work with others-"community of learners"

This is what the students came up with. Of course, there were the usual issues of technology reliablity and access, and all of the students hold full time jobs . . . and some are taking other courses as well. However, I'm not convinced that it simply "won't work." Ramsey and I, as well as other teachers in the OH group, will be chewing on this for the next year as part of the MARTI grant.

We'll be looking at appropriate tools, teaching methods, and scaffolding.

Please do offer your suggestions and wisdom.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

No thought control

by Jenifer Van Deusen

Great line of thinking here! Fits in with the book, A Whole New Mind, that administrators here in Kittery have been reading. The blues tune illustrates some of Daniel Pink's point, that to thrive in this new century we need both our traditional Western logical-mathematical way of thinking AND more intuitive, creative, and playful thought - and a bunch of new resources. Consider/ respond to my reflections on this topic at
and continue playing!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I've Got The Dial Up Blues

by Martha Thibodeau

The Dial Up Blues

Remote is my geography,
So make your photos small.
If it takes too long to load
I may not look at all.

I've got the dial up blues.
My modem's 56 K,
Hardly fast enough for work,
Way too slow for play.

Watch a movie or a vlog?
You've gotta be crazy
Show me a transcript,
Download's slow and lazy.


Eliminate Elluminates,
My modem can't keep pace.
The video procrastinates
and the voice is in a race.


Even my beloved Skype
sometimes chooses to be bad,
so I drive the 2 miles to my school
for the WAN, of which I'm glad.


I wrote this about equity and access to online educational opportunities in rural vs. urban areas.

Add your own verse....

Reflecting on Sputnik

"The first educational question will not be 'what knowledge is of the most worth?' but 'what kind of humans beings do we want to produce?"

-- John Goodlad, director of The Center for Educational Renewal, University of Washington

Educational reform or educational renewal? Goodlad delineates the difference in the following article. Which approach do you prefer?

Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform
Beyond McSchool: A Challenge to Educational Leadership

Grim Prospects

"We are engaged in a grim duel. We are beginning to recognize the threat to American technical supremacy which could materialize if ___________ succeeds in its ambitious program of achieving world scientific and engineering supremacy by turning out vast numbers of well-trained scientists and engineers...We have let our educational problem grow much too big for comfort and safety. We are beginning to see now that we must solve it without delay."
Anyone care to guess who said this, when it was said, and to what country he is referring?

Hint: It is not China, India . . . or even Japan.


"Playing with Time"

Playing with Time
is a great site for learning about the possibilities in time-lapse photography.

A neat piece of software for time-lapse video is call iStopMotion. Try the demo to see what you think.

Other Links:

Create a Time-Lapse Movie
CreativeTech: Create Time-lapse Videos with iMovie HD
Time Lapse Photography in Education

Monday, November 12, 2007

Will Transliteracy Be Coming to Maine?

by Ernie Easter

I read David Warlick's 2 Cents Worth this morning and was struck by his comment about transliteracy.

From David Warlick 2 Cents on 11/9/07
"I continue to be encouraged by the momentum that seems to be building toward modernizing classrooms with technology, but focusing on the why, and fueling with information and information skills. I opened up my chat program for the workshops yesterday, and someone who signed in as ASaylor started with a comment, “transliteracy is the topic.“ I’m still rolling this one around in my mind, but, according to the Production and Research in Transliteracy group blog,

is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks."
I've always been uncomfortable with the concept of “digital literacy” - feeling that something was missing as I've taught and discussed this concept with my class of 7th and 8th graders. It has always seemed to me that students (and their teachers) need to be more than just literate in today's digital world. It is the concept of the ability to “interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media” that I skirted with without being able to identify or articulate it.

This concept of transliteracy piqued my interest, but will it be the next development that pushes the envelope and causes some teachers to expand their ideas while simultaneously threatening to overwhelm others?

For further reading and discussion about Transliteracy see Production and Research in Transliteracy and Participatory Media Literacy

Ernie Easter
7th and 8th Grade Teacher
New Sweden School
New Sweden, Maine

New Sweden Student Exhibits at Maine Memory Network

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Student-Led Conferences

I've been a fan of student-led conferences since the first time I used it as a fifth grade teacher. Until that time I had no idea of the power of this simple approach. Of course, like anything, preparation and practice make all the difference. Here is some background information:

Student Led Conferences

The Highs and Lows of Parent-Teacher Conferences
Student-Led Conference

What is your experience with student-led conferences?

TLC, itziane's photostream. 7 Mar 2007. 12 April 2007 <http://>.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Read Aloud & Baby Einstein

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read."
— Marilyn Jager Adams

Story 1

I observed a fascinating scene the other day at Mountain Valley Middle School. It was library time for the eight graders in social studies teacher Zack Thompson's class. Students were exploring the books in the library, having the opportunity to choose what they wished to read. I was sitting at one side of the room finishing some work up on my laptop as I caught Zack pick up what I believe was Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, which he started quietly reading aloud to a couple of young ladies. As he read, other students gathered around him, looking on and listening quietly. I was struck by the connection and appreciation that showed in their faces as Zack read. He had them mesmerized with this very simple act. There was enchantment in this scene, with these tall adolescents drinking in this read-aloud experience. Moral of story: We are never too old to be read to by someone else, and it isn't just the "information" . . . it's the human connection.

Story 2

Many parents and grandparents have purchased one or more of the Baby Einstein video series with the thought that these pleasant and colorful presentations would help develop the abilities of infants. I am one of them. When my children were young, I recall reading that new-borns found the colors red, blue, and yellow particularly appealing . . . so wanting my children to develop as optimally as possible, I made sure there were mobiles and other objects that would make the environment as stimulating as possible.

It appears now according to a recent study that perhaps the use of the Einstein videos can actually harm a child's development. Who would have thought? Well actually, in the end, perhaps it has to do more with human closeness or bonding being such an important ingredient in learning. Moral: We can't plop our children in front of machines for endless hours, no matter how colorful and engaging, and expect great outcomes.

How do we stay connected to our kids?

What do we lose by moving learning to machines?

Have any recommendations for read-aloud books?

Read Aloud Resources
Alliance for Children: Computers and Children

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Late Arrival Model for PLCs

Two of the school systems with which I work, MSAD#43 Mountain Valley and MSAD#21 Dirigo, have late-arrival days every Wednesday. In other words, students come to school an hour later than usual and educators have valuable time when they are fresh for pursuing professional development. My opinion: It works very well! I know it is well-spent time at Mountain Valley and Dirigo, at the very least. I highly recommend it for ongoing PLC work. Teachers have an opportunity to share leadership roles to develop skills and understandings in a variety of areas. Mountain Valley Middle School is focusing on literacy and school climate and culture. Dirigo Middle School is focusing on literacy and a variety of other areas.

To me, this is a vast improvement over full day teacher workshops where some keynote speaker or presenter is imported to "talk at" the staff. One of the problems with the full day workshops is that it is not ongoing. And for some odd reason, from my observation, the early arrival time is usually much better organized due to the sharing of responsibilies and the awareness of time limitations. After all, the kids will be arriving in an hour. It just tends to focus attention better and make for a more efficient agenda.

Any other systems doing something similar? What do you think? Is there a downside?

Related Article

"Now I'm Thinking . . ."

At the Mountain Valley Middle School "late-arrival" session this morning, I took part in a simple, yet very effective, activity called "Now I'm Thinking." Donna Morse and Don Fuller facilitated the activity using the mysteries of Area 51 as the content and further embellished it with a slideshow of heavenly bodies and a musical interlude of the Star Wars Theme. This was all part of the ongoing literacy initiative at this school.

The activity included a series of reflections with additional information to read being distributed between reflections. So it was like this:

I'm thinking . . .

(more information)
Now I'm thinking . . .
(more information)
Now I'm thinking . . .
(and so on)

The whole point, of course, was to take a look at information sources and work on evaluating information. When you think of it, what is more important than developing a set of skills for all of us to make sense of the information that bombards us every day from every direction?

Can the information be trusted?
Who wrote it?
What gives them authority?
How do we determine the truth when there is conflicting information?

What do you use in your school to help students question the information that is so readily available?

Evaluating Information Resources
Questioning Resources
Critical Thinking Resources
Who Is It?
Way Back Machine
Logical Fallacy Resources
Propaganda and Advertising Resources

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Noteshare Reprise

I worked with two 8th grade language arts classes Monday morning on the basics of Noteshare in my quest for Oxford Hills Middle School teachers and students to understand the power of this MLTI laptop application. We downloaded Barbara Greenstone's "Reading Journal" at the ACTEM Noteshare Server < > using the Noteshare share menu and shared it on the network. I'm always amazed at how quickly students catch on to the utility of this versatile tool. The sessions culminated with students setting up classroom vocabulary notebooks. Sure wish I had more time to devote to Noteshare.

Any other happenings with Noteshare out there?

Earlier Posts on Noteshare

Monday, November 5, 2007

Alice as a learning tool

by Ed Latham

A good friend of mine totally ruined my level of productivity for most of the day today. Becky Ranks offered up link to Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture". I am so happy that she shared this wonderful link with me. I believe everyone should see what this impressive man has to say. We can all accomplish so much if we can live in such a positive mind set every day.

As I was looking for a way to download his video, I stumbled across the original lecture he presented at Carnegie Mellon. I watched the entire thing and heard him reference a great tool for teaching everyone, even young girls, the art of programming. Pausch was part of the team that developed Alice. Alice is a three dimensional world building program that allows anyone to program without having to know all the nasty technical stuff that the computer geeks need to know. I have always loved programming and feel that many of our students today can learn everything in Algebra, Geometry, AlgebraII and all the other stuffy mathematics courses that students may be forced to endure. It has been my experience that students love to program if you give them the right tools and worthwhile ventures. So I spent most of my morning looking into Alice and I have to say I was impressed and will be downloading that program shortly. You may want to look at their introduction videos here. (2 videos here)

There are many tools out there that can help our kids learn math through programming and I have explored many of them. Each one offers students a simple way to experience the joys of programming without the thousands of hours of frustration that was necessary in the past. What used to take months of programming lists of numbers to get a simple ball bouncing on a screen can now be done by dragging and dropping, a few clicks and choosing some properties. All that power is not available in just minutes and even your grandmother can do it (sorry if your grandma is a computer engineer). Best of all the programs are all free! Yes, you heard me right, free. So much fuss in education over money and lack of resources and yet we have these gems right there for the taking. Most of them have been developed by major universities and educational foundations with the intent of making programming easy and rich. Abstract operations in Algebra finally have concrete examples and a purpose for students when students dive into programming.

I am inspired by Dr. Pausch speech and very interested in exploring Alice some more so I have to get going before my entire day is shot. If there are teachers out there looking for support in bringing programming into mathematics classes please invite me to your discussions. I currently work with teachers and do not have a math class of my own to work with, but I would love the opportunity to work with and support teachers that are in the field that are interested in using these powerful tools in their classrooms.

I have included a list of the programming languages I have used with students and had great success (Alice makes the list even though I have not tried it yet). All of these are free and they run on all operating systems. I have put them in order of easiest/best/ones I like best when working with students.

StarLogoTNG which allows 3d programming using only puzzle like pieces that drag, drop, and click together
Game Maker from Yo Yo Games - an incredible collection of easy to use tools
Squeak, a really neat mutation of Smalltalk programming that puts old Logo to shame
Netlogo - not quite as graphically oriented as the others but is a powerful simulation language that is easy to use.

Currently looking into:
Alice - Looking into it now, but EA Games just donated tons of graphics to help educators and students to succeed in programming

If you teach math and want some way to reach your students that are not successful, please find the time to look at some of these options. If you have looked into these tools and would like to post your experiences, I would love to hear from you as well and look forward to your posts!

I may not have finished up the webpages and hum-drum stuff I needed to get done today, but Becky has helped me get motivated in life and introduced me to a cool tool. Thank you my friend!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

50 Ways to Encourage the Use of Technology by Maine Learners

This is a brainstorming session. Simply add your ideas, feeling free to "piggyback" on earlier ideas. Perhaps at some point the list can be refined and consolidated into a list of 50.

As ideas are added in comments, I'll paste them in this post, giving credit to the originator.

Here's a start:

50 Ways to Encourage the Use of Technology by Maine Learners

1. Connect at where the learner is, not where we think they should be. (Jim Burke)
2. Use user-friendly applications (JB)
3. It is okay to ask for help and to make mistakes (Michael Richards)
4. Use common language not "geek-speak" (MR)
5. Incorporate technology into familiar situations (MR)
6. Provide compelling and meaningful reasons for learning and using technology (Cynthia Curry)
7. Students can become the handy ambassadors of technology usage. (Kern Kelley)
8. Do not be afraid. (Deborah White)
9. Model you own use of tech tools. (based on Will Richardson at ACTEM) (DW)
10. Remember the words of Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series, "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" (DW)
11. Remember what you feel like when YOU learn something new. (Ed Latham)
12. Include an atmosphere of fun and exploration in as many activities as you can. (EL)
13. Never underestimate the power of play. (EL)
14. Get comfortable with students being in charge of their learning with your role being to set things up and assist them on their journey. EL)
15. ?
16. ?
17. . .

50 Ways

50 Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story

Fifty Ways to Take Notes

Fifty Ways to Increase Your Productivity

50 Tools to Improve Your Writing

50 Ways of Solving a Problem

50 Way to Improve Your Life

50 Ways to Leave Your . . . Term Paper or Book Report

Any other "50 Ways" lists to add? Any that need to be created?

Added by Mrs. W. (Deborah White)

50 Ways to Save Our Children
50 Ways to Promote Peace
50 Ways to Do Something Besides a Report
50 Ways Parents Can Help Schools
50 Ways to confuse, worry, or just plain scare people in the computer lab
50 ways to stuff zucchini

Added on 1/5/08

50 Ways You Can Be the Change

Friday, November 2, 2007

MacBook Help Video

by Kern Kelley

Some of the students in our Nokomis Warrior Broadcasting class are working on a weekly technology help show for students and teachers. This was their first outing where they cover the new MacBooks the High School teachers received.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Tool: Dominoes

What can we learn from a set of dominoes?

Wikipedia: Dominoes
Domino Math Printable: Activities and Worksheets
(Can create templates from this site)

eHOW: How to Play Dominoes
Illuminations: Do It with Dominoes
The Mathematics of Dominoes
Math Games: Domino Graphs

A Way of Looking at Technology Integration

A handy tool for looking at where we are in using technology in our classrooms is called Grappling's Technology & Learning Spectrum. A one-page version is here. It divides experience into three categories: Literacy uses, adapting uses and transforming uses.

This is just part of the work of Bernajean Porter. Her down-to-earth approach offers many opportunities for discussion and assessment. Good stuff!

Where do you think your school is on this continuum?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Technology Tuesdays With Nicole: Water Quality Outside and On The Web

by Nicole Ouellette

This Technology Tuesday is all about drinking water. It’s a great time of year to go outside with students. Sometimes, science labs at schools even have water testing kits for pH, dissolved oxygen, algae, or other water quality indicators. (You can also buy testing strips, which end up being fairly economical and easier for littler kids to read.) Record results for one body of water or several bodies of water. Make observations about what lives by and in the water in addition to taking measurements of water quality indicators. I could go into a little more detail about data collection here but the important thing is to collect as much data as you can so it can be analyzed. And now the technology part.

After you’ve collected water data, you can determine water quality based on the results you found. National standards exist for drinking water contaminants and can be found here. How does the pH of your water compare to the pH the US considers safe, for example? Oftentimes, the same contaminant information is available for individual towns as well. To take the analysis one step further, you can also have students look at aquatic macroinvertebrates as a determinant for water quality in addition to the chemical pollution. Here are some handy photographs to help students identify the insects and which species are more pollution tolerant can be seen here.

So take your class outside before everything freezes and you’re stuck inside for the winter!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ubuntu Developers Summit Fall 2007

by David Trask

Well, here I am at another Ubuntu Developers Summit (UDS) where folks from all over the world come and work together to prepare and develop specs/features for the next release of Ubuntu (Hardy Heron or Ubuntu 8.04). You may recall from previous posts on my own blog "Ramblings of a Digital Educator" that I have been lucky to have been able to attend past UDS's in exotic locales such as Montreal, Google headquarters in California, and Seville Spain. Where am I now? The wonderful exotic locale of BOSTON. Ok, for me it's hardly exotic. In fact, I get down here several times a year for business, pleasure, and most of all...Red Sox games! Don't get me wrong, I'm honored to be here and excited about the work to be done. I'm here representing all of you as an educator, making sure that features we need such as user management, classroom applications, easy configuration...etc. are discussed and included. I'm not a programmer, but I understand "programmer-speak" or "geek-speak" so I'm able to bridge the gap and help out in that manner. I'm happy to report that Ubuntu/Edubuntu has matured to the point where most of the features with regard to the operating system, are it's time to focus on creating and implementing GUI tools to make the lives of system administrators and teachers much easier. Tools to manage classrooms, manage users, manage servers, and much more are in the pipeline and slated for discussion and development. It's an exciting time. Linux in education is poised for major adoption. Access to technology will become much more commonplace worldwide...for very little investment. the world what they can do...regardless of where they are and what their circumstances may be. Very cool.

Getting Started with Monday Too! at Telstar

"If my life was a song, it would be ____________because ______________."

Why are we here? What do we know? What would we like to get out of this?

Getting Started Agenda
Western Maine eMINTS

What Do We Care About? What Is Important?

"Real change begins with the simple act of people talking about what they care about." -M.J. Wheatley (2002) Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, (p. 22)

What do you care about?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Technology . . . Friend or Foe?

The Law of Accelerating Returns ~ Ray Kurzweil

"An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The 'returns,' such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light."

We seem to worship technology. The equation seems to be: More Technology = Improved Lives. Yes, we love our gadgets and our systems and our data. We believe that science and technology will provide the answers to our problems.

Will it?

Technological Determinism
Informing Ourselves to Death
Chandler: Technological or Media Determinism
Technological Determinism of Marshall McLuhan

What is worth memorizing?

Most of my own schooling over the years has consisted primarily of memorizing material and then showing, at least in the short term, that I could pull it up at will. Let me confess that my abilities in this area have always been rather marginal, but I was good enough at it (read stubborn) to acquire the necessary documents to allow me to be eligible for my present position.

My awareness of this difficulty with memorization started in a high school English class when I realized that my classmates were able to memorize poetry verses much faster than I was. I noticed how many were able to learn lines for a play or lyrics to a song with much more ease. What they learned by repeating a few times might take me hundreds of times along with use of a multi-sensory approach. And yes, I've tried many of the mnemonic devices.

So you see, it is quite natural that this old digital immigrant has become very comfortable with the personal computer. I don't need to keep everything in my head now that I have almost instant access to it through the Internet.

This raises the question: What IS worth memorizing?

In other words, what are those things that, by keeping in my own head, will empower me, or at the very least, allow me to function in an efficient and productive manner?

For example, knowing my home phone number and social security number seem to be handy things to have committed to memory. I still think that having memorized basic math facts has saved me a lot of agony over the years. I'm not so sure that having to memorize the periodic table in 8th grade was particularly helpful, as I'm not a chemist, rarely use it, and can find several interactive representations on the web, if needed.

So . . . what do you think? What is worth memorizing for those of us who have difficulty with it?

Another question: Should we teach students memorization skills?

Memorization Skills Resources

Memory Resources

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cut & Paste Kids

Hmmmm . . . should this be Copy & Paste Kids?

In this time of instant information, how can we take a closer look at student engagement, inquiry learning, essential questions, and good questioning in general?

Other CyberSmart Videos

I tend to be wary of canned programs of any sort, but I've spent some time this morning looking at the CyberSmart site and think I will now be making use of some of their resources.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Why I Love Maine

Jeff Swanson has done a series of short videos called Why I love Maine.

Might these work as an introduction to video creation with students?

Video Resources
iMovie Resources

School Culture & Climate @ Oxford Hills

Oxford Hills School District devoted their professional development day today to student behavior and school culture and climate. All approximately 600 employees, including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria and maintenance workers, started the day out with an introduction to the PBIS model. Employees later went to smaller groups to hear about ways to identify and deal with harassment and sexual harassment. The day ended with individual building members meeting together to discuss local needs. They had earlier taken a survey using one of the popular free online survey tools.

PBIS Resources

Behavior Management Resources

Rights & Responsibilities Resources
Process Skills
Classroom Management Resources
Character Resources
Bullying Resources

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Creativity, Learning & Jobs

Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind - Moving from the information Age to the Conceptual Age, gives us this advice in a McNews interview:

MCNews: One last question: if you were going to give somebody just one piece of advice about how to be successful in this new age, what would it be?

Pink: The best career move is to find what you love to do, what you’re great at, and pursue that. I think you will be more valuable in the workforce. If you love accounting and you’re great at it, you’re going to be okay.

I worry about the folks who pursue careers because their parents, teachers, or spouses give them outdated advice and they’re dutifully marching into careers they don’t really care about because they think it’s the way to make money. Not only is that bad for their individual self-actualization but I think it’s a bad career move, too.

Steve Jobs gives this advice at his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech:

Sir Ken Robinson at TED tells us this:

Do these views have anything in common?

Little Boxes

I never get headaches . . . but I think this morning might be my first. Anyone remember that song from the sixties by Malvina Reynolds called "Little Boxes?"
"Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same."

Now originally I'm sure it was simply a lampoon of middle class suburbia and conformist nature of our society. But today, for me, it comes to mind when I think about the NCLB-induced professional time that is top-down with a avalanche of data and an incomprehensible amount of "boxes" and "hoops-to-jump-through."

I would like to argue that top-down system approaches are part of the problem and ultimately will fall under their own weight. I hear talk of professional learning communities and capacity-building, but at times become very discouraged by the weighty bureaucracy, mandates from above, and "blue-ribbon" panels of corporate executives and university officials pontificating abstractions unconnected to the realities of the common people.

We need fewer boxes . . . not more.

Is just doing more, faster, really the solution to the issues of our nation?

What do you think?