Saturday, August 18, 2007

ACTEM MAINEducation 2007 Technology Conference

ACTEM presents "Learning in a 2.0 World" on October 11-12, 2007, at the Augusta Civic Center. Details

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21st Century High School Teacher Tools & Resources

There will be a series of MLTI regional leadership team meetings on the new high school laptop initiative. Details

2007 MAMLE Conference

Highly recommended for all: The 2007 Maine Association for Middle Level Education Conference. October 18-19 at Sugarloaf. Details

"Building Bridges: Creating Change for a Common Good"

The 41st Annual NEEEA Conference, Sept. 14-16, 2007 at Camp Matoaka in Smithfield, Maine. Looks fascinating! Details

Friday, August 17, 2007

Building Bridges

"Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention. This is what 'End of education,' is all about." ~ Neil Postman

Building bridges that last is a complex matter. A great deal of knowledge, testing, and trial and error often come into play. But in the end, we all want bridges that will endure and be dependable. This is true with physical bridges, such as the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge, as well as metaphorical bridges, the kind that link people and ideas.

How do we build bridges from 20th Century learning to 21st Century learning? Between the past and the future? How do we really connect - with respect, integrity and long-lasting collaboration - to come to terms with the changes that are taking place?

I would suggest that a start might be for us to take time to reflect on education metaphors. Beneath all our words, how do we really feel about the learning process?

Got a good metaphor for education?

What else is needed to build a good bridge to the future?

Neil Postman suggests in The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School that we need new "narratives," that the old ones worked fine in their time, but that new ones are needed for the future. He offers 5 possibilities and argues that we need a context in order to have a coherent system that is not to being driven by technology, but rather by people.

Can I sell you a bridge?

Speaking of building bridges, check these resources out:

Bridge Building Resources

Collaboration Model

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” ~Ryunosuke Satoro

I just completed four days at the SAD#43 and SAD#21 Technology in Curriculum Workshops and thoroughly enjoyed it. Evidence of collaboration was everywhere. It was a time when two districts combined their resources and allowed teachers to choose from a cafeteria menu of tools, but more importantly, allowed them to work on curriculum projects that might be enhanced with technology. There was plenty of technical support and expertise to provide the partipants with the help as they needed it. Kudos to Technology Director Wally Devoe, Curriculum Director Gloria Jenkins and others for making this a powerful event. The enthusiasm was evident.

These districts respect their teachers by allocating funding for staff development that builds capacity and encourages conversations on classroom practice.

Where else is this happening?

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Kids love survival stories, and they love to have someone read to them as well. You really can't go wrong with these books:
Lost on a Mountain in Maine
Island of the Blue Dolphin

Check out Novelist and NoveList K-8 at Maine's Virtual Library (MARVEL) for a wealth of information on books, authors, themes, and activities.

Here are some related resources:

Wilderness Survival Resources

Survival Video

Read Aloud Resources

Children's Literature Resources

Book Report Resources

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I live in the Town of West Paris, population around 1700. In the village is very small library that is in the form of a miniature castle made from fieldstones found in the area. Although the space is severely limited within the library, thanks to the MSLN it has the capability today to access information that very few big city libraries had just a very few years back. We have many to thank for this wonderful availability of resources. Strike a blow for equity. Anyone can drop in to make use of the wired computers as well as the wireless connection. Add to that the wonderful resources of MARVEL (Maine's Virtual Library) and even our poorer citizens have the potential to be empowered by the immense knowledge provided by our tiny community space.

Do we appreciate it?


"It takes a village to raise a child" - African proverb

My nephew will be a sophomore at UMO in the college of engineering this coming year. This summer he has worked for a Maine firm with about three dozen engineers specializing in automation. An example of their work is the automation of a small hydro-electric dam north of Rumford. The owner of the dam can now completely control all aspects of the dam from his laptop as he travels the world. There are many sensors that tell him exactly what is going on and allow him to make adjustments from wherever he is.

They have asked my nephew to return next summer, work on school vacations, and even work on projects as he might have time during his studies at the University. What the owner found especially beneficial about him is that he not only had excellent computer skills, but that he had very effective people skills.

The point that I want to make is that my nephew got an excellent, well-rounded education in the Mountain Valley Schools.

Beyond family support and not to dismiss his hard work and perseverance, he had great mentors, such as Wally Devoe, MSAD#43 Technology Director, who offered opportunities to be involved in the school networks, and others in that district who encouraged him in music and sports. This influence cannot be overestimated. Josh had the opportunity to work with laptops his entire time at Mountain Valley High School and just might be a precursor of the talent that will be unleashed from Governor Angus King's vision for creating a new economy in Maine.

In the same vein, I visited Marie Keane's elementary classroom at the Crescent Park School in the Telstar School District where students were powerfully involved with the Lego Mindstorm program. While there are some who might think of it is just playing around, it was instead a process that involved incredibly high-level thinking skills in order to solve real problems. Students created machines with sensors and used the software to build programs to direct them. Good Stuff! Where might these students be in the years to come from this top-notch influence?

Links to check out . . .

Logo Resources

Ed Latham's NetLogo Workshop & Resources

Robotics Resources

Artificial Intelligence Resources

Taking it a bit further . . . .

Some Ethical Questions:

Should we create intelligent robots?

Is the creation of an intelligent robot an act that only God should do?

Will there need to be some regulation about the creation of robots?

Will intelligent robots take away all forms of human employment?

Where are humans to derive their meaning and purpose in life?

If in the future machines have the ability to reason, be self-aware and
have feelings, then what makes a human being a human being, and a robot a robot?

If you could have a robot that would do any task you like, a companion
to do all the work that you prefer not to, would you? And if so, how do
you think this might affect you as a person?

Are there any kind of robots that shouldn't be created? Or that you
wouldn't want to see created? Why?

Automation and the development of new technologies like robots is
viewed by most people as inevitable. But many workers who lose their jobs consider this business practice unfair. Do you think the development of new technologies, and their implementation, is inevitable? What, if anything, should we as a society do for those people who lose their jobs?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Change: Certainty and Uncertainty in the School Year Ahead and the Future

The 2007-08 school year will bring many certain things. As a teacher, I will walk into my classroom and see the students on the first day. There will be assignments given then graded. Kids who need extra support and those who don’t. Realizing how much taller the some of the returning students are or how they have grown up. I will certainly have some first day jitters. I have had them in other years during my 18 years of teaching at the same school.

This year brings many uncertainties as a teacher. Uncertainties I will see such as getting to know my new students, knowing their abilities and interests. New challenges and also unknown success and failures will come this year.

This school year will be different than many others because of the uncertainty of the change in school governance. As districts select their “dance partners” and begin the process of merging and consolidation, as a teacher I wonder where it will all go.

All of the terms I have learned about school governance such as School Unions, School Administrative Districts, and Consolidated School Districts will be gone by 2009. I will have to get used to Regional School Units. RSUs for short.

The way of doing things is about to change and be developed. I am excited as I can watch the process unfold with Regional Planning Committees setting up the new district. I would like to see teachers be a part of the process and help to set the new district in a good direction. Hopefully, the product at the end of the road is a good one for students, teachers, schools, and education in Maine.

Items about the process also scare me. Will my small school be closed in a few years? Will the final product be a fair and effective system for education? Where will it all go?

The certainties of teaching and of life help us to manage the uncertainties. As a teacher, I hope other teachers get involved in the creation of their new districts. Hopefully we can let the long term uncertainties of the future of Maine education be balanced by the day to day certainties and challenges that we face as teachers. What certainties and uncertainties do you see for this school year? Where do you think educational change in Maine will go or where do you want it to go?

For information on changes in Maine School Governance check out: is excellent to get links to newspaper articles and resources from around the state over consolidation.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Walk Beside Me and Be My Friend

"Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend."

Albert Camus

Is it too early to start seeing a payoff for the investment in the 1-to-1 MTLI? Perhaps. But I'm sensing that huge transformations are about to take place. Nope, I don't have a shred of scientific evidence, only an ear to the ground in the various schools I visit. I tell you, this old digital immigrant can feel the vibrations. A take-off point is about to occur!

The most significant indication is that we all now know that it ain't going away. I am hearing from even the most skeptical educators now that they're getting on board. There is no question in our minds that the train has left the station, is slowly picking up speed, is not going to reverse direction, and that we'd better run fast to catch up and jump aboard.

Many of us who have had many years in education have seen more than our share of bandwagons in which everyone gets swept up in the enthusiam, only to see a swing of the pendulum, with everyone then running in the opposite direction.

This is different. This is deep. This is revolutionary. This is a time to find our colleagues where they are and gently bring them along.

Our major issues now are ethical. How are we to treat one another? What is important?

Change Can Be Hard

As the new school year rapidly approaches, I want to ask something I usually begin my workshops with. Do you know where the layout of your QWERTY keyboard came from?

No? Well, the placement of letters comes from a time when people could type faster than their typewriters could keep up. Keys would get jammed in a terrific mess of metal and ink. By placing frequently used keys, like vowels, in harder to reach places, users were slowed down.

Now, examine keyboard in front of you.

The placement of the keys has been the same since 1873. There are newer, redesigned keyboards that allow faster typing such as the Dvorak keyboard. Introduced in 1936 it arranges the keys for the greatest efficiency. But, overwhelmingly we use what is given to us.
What we have always known and are comfortable with.

Sound familiar?

Many teach how they were taught, and I won't belabor the point, but the world is different. It's flat right?

If I handed you a new keyboard, it would undoubtedly take time to unlearn how you type and relearn the new positions. During that time, productivity would down and frustration would ensue. Yet, with the understanding that ultimately, speed and accuracy will improve with time and practice until you have surpassed what you were capable of before.

Such is all new learning.
Don't let only what you're comfortable with limit where you can go!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back-to-School Resources

I've always loved August. There is fullness to it that I don't feel any other time of year. There's always that native harvest of vegetables of every sort. But especially delightful is nature's orchestra of sound all around as I spend some time in the yard. Heady stuff.

For teachers, August also means preparation for new beginnings, an opportunity to reorganize and rethink approaches and methods. There's the anticipation of that very first meeting with new classes. Here are some online resources that might be helpful:

Back-to-School Resources
Classroom Environment Resources
Free & Inexpensive Software
New Teacher Resources