Saturday, September 1, 2007

Multi-Touch Devices

It sure looks as though all our present-day electronic whiteboards and tablet PCs will be very obsolete very soon. Anyone have a time-line on when this technology will be cost-effective? The iPhone seems to have a variation (two-finger) of this technology. Any other devices presently using it as well?

Microsoft Surface

Pogue Post on Multi-Touch

Multi-Touch Screen

The educational implications?

Getting Involved! “The Beginning of the End? “ or “Making the End a New Beginning?”

Jim's comments below and my other post about certainty and uncertainty have made me want to write again. As we begin the new school year, we realize that this year is going to bring some big changes to education in Maine.

Yesterday, August 31st was the deadline for school districts to file their Letter of Intent of whom they want to merge or “reorganize” as DOE puts it, to form the new Regional School Units or RSUs. From now until the end of 2007, school districts will be forming Regional Planning Committees to help form the governance of the new school districts.

As teachers, we are not supposed to be effected by the process and “business as usual” is supposed to continue in the classroom. As a teacher, I am, and probably many of you are also, concerned about this process and what it will mean to Maine schools. Will schools eventually be closed and combined? Will positions in teaching and other areas be eliminated? Will my school or town be given less resources to work with? Will I be given less or more of a voice in decisions about my school or town?

The doubts lay in the back of my mind about the unpredictable future. Some say we can wait for the future to happen. Others say we can seize the future and make it our own. My own belief is somewhere in the middle. We can influence events and try to make a difference in the short and long term.

This year I urge you to get involved in the process of forming the new school districts in two ways. The first involves helping to form the governance of the new districts. If you are asked to serve on a Regional Planning Committee either as a teacher or a citizen, do it. Try to be sure that the governance model created is fair to both your school and the town that you live in. If you don’t want to serve on a Regional Planning Committee, then try to stay up on events that are going on and be sure to give your input. This is for both the school that you teach in and also the town or school district where you live. We have been given the opportunity to create the new districts and participate in the process. We need to be involved. This is democracy!

The second way to get involved is networking. Getting to know colleagues in the other schools and other districts you may merge with is a good idea. Try to find a person or persons in the other districts that teaches the grade level or subjects that you teach in another school that might be in your new district. These will be people that you will be working with in the future and it may give some new insights into teaching.

The next year or so will be a rocky road for teachers. We can depend on things that are certainties in our lives, but we also can try to influence the future. We can change and influence “the beginning of the end” to “making the end a new beginning!”

Things to Think About:

What do I want to see for my school in the future?

What factors help make a good governance of schools?

Who do I know in another district that does a similar job to mine and how can I get to know them?

What do I like about how my school works? What don’t I like about how my school Works?

Web Resources
Information and links to School Reorganization and Newspaper Stores from All Over Maine! A Great Site

Maine DOE Page on School Reorganization

List of “Letters of Intent” of School Districts that are Discussing Merging
(This is a Microsoft Excel File) As of 8/31/2007. Will be updated next Tuesday.

The Whole Child

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

— William Butler Yeats

Check out "The Whole Child" at the Maine ASCD Weblog.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Awhile back, George Crawford, teacher at the Jonesboro School, posted an article titled
Change: Certainty and Uncertainty in the School Year Ahead and the Future.

I think George has hit upon a key issue in the world in which we are living. Complexity - and the chaos that comes with it - can have a detrimental effect. More and more I see us reacting to events in a crisis mode. Whatever happened to deliberate planning and implementation? Whatever happened to patience, consistency, and thoughtfulness?

George's point was that in a chaotic world, we need to have some rootedness, some things that we can depend on. I am thankful that the most teachers still, at some level, understand this. What some see as resistance to bureaucratic demands, is merely a need to maintain sanity in the presence of a flood of data and directives.

We all have many roles and only so much time and energy. The question is: How do we strike the right balance for ourselves and our family and friends? How much time do we allocate to relating to our students on a personal level? What is important?

To this end, there is a need to simplify. What is essential? Too often, our tools become increasingly complex, sapping our limited energy from the more human elements of our existence. Too much information (data) is as incapacitating as not enough. Where do we draw the line?

I would suggest that the reason Google is growing so fast, is that it understands this. It understands that we don't have to know anything about automobile mechanics to drive a car. The simplicity is on the surface, the complexity within. And the motivation, to get from point A to point B, is clear. Likewise, it engineers its online applications to be easy to use and clear in purpose.

Check out Kern Kelley's Description of the Google toolbox at the Tech Curve.

Also this: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

What do you think?

Spelling problems...where is the blame?

I am not sure if I have some sort of brain malfunction or if I might have missed some critical years of schooling during a tramatic time in my life or maybe I just have an incredibly lazy brain, but I can't spell! I have always loved to write just as much as I have always had deficiencies in spelling. As with most Americans, I need someone to blame. Currently my targets are English teachers and the FCC.

Back in the early 80's Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and a host of other geeks were setting the world on fire with all of their new computers and the host of posibilities that could change the world as we know it. The common man sat back with that, wait and see attitude that usually slows down traffic so much when someone rolls their car off the freeway. Everyone looses concentration, slows down a bit, hopes to see something exciting, then lacking any excitement, picks up speed and heads on their way resuming their life. The FCC did not slow down as much as the rest of us. The FCC oversees communication networks and aims to keep rules and regulations so that communication channels do not get confused, clogged up, or interfered with. The FCC threatened the major modem companies at the time. Each modem company had a different way of communicating the same information over the phone lines. With so many different menthods for the same information to be running around our precious phone lines, the FCC dictated that the modem companies MUST come up with one protocol by X date or they would be kicked off the phone lines. Battles and negotiations ensued with the end result that the companies finally ended up with one format to transmit all those special packets that give us the Internet. We the consumer, simply went out and bought the new product that was necessary for our cumminication to continue.

If the FCC is so concerned with communication protocols as illustrated in the story above, then why has the FCC not stepped into Education to say, "Hey all you English teachers, come up with one set of spelling rules ... or else"? Evidently, the FCC only cares about communication that directly could affect someone's profit margin.

So now what about all you English teachers out there. I have never met a teacher that did not acknowledge that many students suffer with spelling and that the different origins of the words may help to add to the confusion. See, the argument goes that different words came from differnt languages and to keep the cultural heritage of that language we spell the word in some way that reflects that orgin. That is a silly rational. Think about America. We come from all sorts of countries and cultures, but we all have to conform to sets of rules and laws so we can all get along and have some order. So why can't SOAP and ROPE be spelled the same way? I have yet to hear a logical reason for why a culture, that is so into assimilating the best of everything from it's peoples to come up with new standards, can not come up with a standard way to spell it's words. English teachers, the people most responsible for teaching the basics of spelling, seem to be in the correct position to (lead, leed, lede) the charge for a standard set of rules that do not change.

They say Latin is dead as is the greek language. Ironically, I can spell almost any word that has a latin or greek root. Is it possible that these two dead languages are the only ones out there to stay consistent with the spelling of it's phonetics? Hmmm, maybe that is why they had to die, di, or maybe it's dye? As long as I have to write science terms, I feel comfortable. When doing "normal" writting, I can only say "Thank God for spell check!!!!!" I know it has limitations, but I feel the limitations of spell check are far fewer than all of the various reasons out there for spelling our words the way we do.

I keep looking for those forces out there looking to standardizing our spelling. Looking to the Feds I see nothing, teachers... nada, common person...we can't even remember those silly rules from school, how about the kids...well, I can actually point to kids being able to do something all of us adults have not been able to do for so many years. Kids are helping to create a language through their online chatting that is consistant, efficient, and has it's own natural beauty to it. Is there a different way to spell lol? How about brb? Using the symbols of our language, these chatters are creating a language designed to keep up with the incredible pace of technology and learning. This language allows people to state an entire sentence in only a few characters. Why then, should a student care about all those silly spelling rules and stuff especially when the rules are not consistant and the language itself is so much slower and inefficient? If we were all in the same room right now I can guarentee that we could identify all the English teachers in the room based on how many veins were sticking out at the mention of chatting. English teachers, and teachers in general are charged with teaching the language we use. One could question who "we" are. Yes, in our adult lives we have experienced standards that have sort of been accepted for many years. There is a generation that is looking to the future of our communication and that "we" group can not understand why the language we use has to be so slow and lacks consistent rules. There is definately a comunication divide in our classrooms. Teachers want kids to be able to communicate and kids think they have a better way to communicate.

So until the powers that be can spell soap and rope the same, I guess I will have to roflmao irl w/ :) cos 2M imho f2f will b way diff f/ chatspeak. Iac I gtg. Cul8r + hand.


For those of us needing translation, you may find most of this new language online at sites like

Maybe you need a translator?

Remember: f we dun chAng lngwij 2 b mo efficient, it wil chang 4 us.


The following post does not represent the views or beliefs of anyone. It is simply the musings of an aging man as he wakes up one morning. Have you ever woke up in the morning with a thought running through your head and you have no idea where the idea came from. That seems to happen to me a bunch. If it does not happen to you, I apologize if this post seems "out there".

I woke up this morning thinking about all of the areas of our life we have to have a license for. Of course some of the big items jump right at us like a driver's license. The rational for having a licence for driving is a good one. Driving can be dangerous and can negatively impact other people's rights or safety. Therefore, many countries around the world developed their standards for when someone can get a driver's license and how individuals can get a license. Paper work was created, agencies were established to issue the licenses and of course our wonderful friends in blue with the nice flashing lights were given yet another responsibility. O.K., so we have that idea of licenses, what else do we have?

Well, there are professional licenses. Plumbers, electricians, lawyers, some farm workers, pilots, and so many others. You even need a license to take apart cars for recycling purposes. I think it can be agreed that each of these professions can have a negative impact on the safety of others if left without any licensing requirements.

Recreationally, we have to have licenses as well. We require hunting and fishing licenses among other recreational licenses that may not be necessary in every state. Hunting, I can see as fitting our rational for needing a license. Some one just running around with a gun firing at things with out regulation can be a bad thing for sure. But how about fishing? When was the last time someone was threatened by an old guy standing up in his dingy waving an unlicensed fish at someone? Not sure that has happened and I don't really think fishing falls into our "protect others" license policy. Instead, fishing license and some hunting regulations seem to be set up to preserve a species or to maintain a quality of life for that species. We go to great lengths to protect different forms of life in our country and we have many laws and regulations.

So from the above conversation one could conclude licenses exist to help protect and to regulate. Nobel ventures that can really help increase the quality of life. So what about those things in life that are not currently licensed? We have a practice in our society that is responsible for making thousands of people miserable. This activity has the potential to ruin family lives, professional lives, can help contribute to starvation, can financially ruin people and may be the number one reason our social problems seem to increase every year.

The one thing we don't regulate, we don't license, and most people shudder to think about ever licensing is the creation of life. I know, I know there are many issues that rub people the wrong way in this discussion, but lets look at how creation of life compares to the above licensing rational.

As most people know, there are no skills needed to create life. There is no study involved, no training, and in many cases very little time. Can this result in a threat to the quality of life? I am sure people that become parents at a very early age can attest to the hardships and difficulties. We have tons of documentation of abuse and neglect from people that have become "parents" without really wanting to. Even if the new parents want the responsibility of raising the child there are many sacrifices made, especially with our teen parents.

Lets look at the regulation side of things. Every year the data from our agencies point to increases in the number of homeless and destitute people. More and more there is a portion of the population running around uneducated with no employable skills. With the drop out rates in school rising as fast as the number of single parent families, one might draw some correlations there as well. Regardless of people's views on life, I think most can agree that there is a portion of our society that is discarded or not cared for. Sure there is some help out there for them, but for people that can not read and have no home, that help is similar to trying to show each fish caught your fishing license.

What would it be like to have to take a parent certification course in order to conceive? We have to get a marriage license, but not one for making a baby? Who would do certifications and to what standards? Of course the big question would pop up, how the heck would you think of regulating this? I am sure there are great minds in China, India and other heavily populated ideas that have thought of different ideas. Maybe even a technological option of having a chip installed at birth. That chip could shut off the possibility of creating life and could be turned off after the license is issued. Of course we wouldn't want to take away the ability to practice, where's the fun in that.

I am not advocating the licensing of baby making. I am simply wondering about society and the rational for changes used by society. I wonder how much increased regulation and licensing can be taken before people start to really rebel? All though history, we have rebellions against agencies that wish to limit rights. The pattern is the rebellion builds up steam, explodes in violence, people in charge begrudgingly alter their proposal a bit and the compromise seems to end up with a new law or regulation. So what is going to be the next big regulation?

Waking up in the morning with such thoughts brings up a better question. What the heck is our brain doing all night that results in waking up with such silly thoughts? I can't be the only one out there that has woke up in the morning with some crazy thought or idea, can I? Can others share some of the wild thoughts that pop into your head at times? I find the process of our thoughts and how our brain work fascinating. Without the electrodes and other fancy tools, the only way we can study our thinking is to hear other's thoughts. What have you been thinking about lately?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why does some fruit grow ugly?

Want a great inquiry-based lesson idea? Well apple harvest time here in Maine is right around the corner and anyone who has ever been to an orchard can tell you that there are quite a few variances in apples even from the same tree. This year seems to be a very good year for apples, at least up in my neck of the woods in the county. What helps to determining a good apple year from a bad year? Is there a cycle these trees go through? If so can we alter that at all to get better apples every year? Speaking of better apples, why is it that some apples look like they started doing yoga and got stuck? These "ugly" apples look so mutated that one can wonder if some little alien may pop out of it at any moment. Yet, right next to this freak of nature will be a perfectly symmetrical specimen that gets you drooling before you pick it. Same tree, same branch, but completely different product.

Well this is a selfish request. I have trees all over the back woods where I live. Some of these trees were planted as far back as colonial times, and from what I hear, there are some unique varieties running around out here. I have started learning a bit more about these trees and how to care for them. Last year I learned that you can prune too much from a tree in one year. Well, think about it, branches look like hair and we can trim those pesky hairs right down to a bald spot, right? Evidently, the same does not apply to trimming trees. So I need some class of students to help set me straight on this ugly apple dilemma. I am not biased against ugly apples. In fact some may even taste great if I can ever figure out how to eat the darn things. But if there is something I can do to prevent these mutants from gracing my trees, or if there is some way to naturally encourage bumper crop apples each year, I would love to know.

If you do have students take on this challenge, and the students can post their results online somewhere, could you please plop a post here? In the meantime those ugly apples will feed the deer well as I look forward to another great fruit season in Maine.

"You sank my battleship!"

I had the pleasure of working with a 4th grade teacher the other day. This teacher is very enthusiastic about having the students learn technology, and she wants to integrate technology as much as she can. Unfortunately, she lacks confidence that she can do it alone right now. I think she is doing just grand.

As I come into class she is pulling apart a battle ship game in order to get the plastic matrix out to show the students. She places the board on the overhead so students can clearly see the letters and numbers and proceeds to teach about coordinates and numbered pairs. Students play a class game trying to sink their teacher's battle ship (fortunately for her ship, the class still needs to learn much about logic). Students would take turns calling out coordinates and everyone would be compiling the coordinates down. All good things must come to an end at some point, so with some moans and groans, the teacher asks students to get out the chart they had made in math the day before. The students had surveyed the school to find out the favorite types of ice cream in the building (chocolate won .. but of course you already knew that). The class compiled the data into a chart the day before. Today the teacher introduced the class to a spreadsheet and showed how referencing cells uses the same coordinates. She led the class into determining how to transfer their data chart into the spreadsheet. Careful attention to teaching students how to save was addressed as this was one of the first experiences the kids have had on their computers. Students then learned how to make some graphs using the graph wizards. Instantly, the room erupted as students were commenting, "That is so cool." "This is so much easier than doing it out by hand." "Hey, look what happens when you change the graph like this"... As so often happens in exciting classrooms, the bell threatened to ring way before the class was eager to start packing things up. As the students were putting their computers away, the teacher and I talked about the questioning strategies that might be used tomorrow to help students reflect on their learning and solidify the connections they made between battleship, spreadsheets, and some simple graphing.

Yes, I think this teacher is doing just fine! She still has insecurities, she still has questions, and there are definitely limitations aplenty. Instead of concentrating on the negatives, this teacher is doing what many teachers with support are starting to do. She concentrates on the excitement of learning. Learning the kids are doing and learning she is doing, and everyone is having a blast. Her 4th graders will be performing great works by the end of this new school year, I have no doubt, due in large part to their teacher's excitement and eagerness to "take a chance" to try something new.

What a way to start off a morning...

Yesterday, I started off my morning walking into a fellow teacher's room to check up on how things were going. He had a bit of a peculiar face on, so I asked if everything was all right. He abruptly answered "No, it's not alright". As this was a close friend, I knew I could press on for more information. He shared with me that he had a student come in this morning and he did not have a clue how to work with the kid. The student was not belligerent, was polite, was eagerly into the work in the class, but he was incredibly somber. The student had stopped in to see my friend in the morning before school to explain the circumstances.

The day before this student had walked home from school as he always does. It was unclear from my friends rendition what the family structure was, but he seemed to imply that the boy and his father may live alone. As the boy approached the front door to his house, he started to feel all shaky for some reason. He opened the door at the same moment his father pulled the trigger on the shot gun that ended his father's life. The boy went into graphic detail as to what it looked like and according to my friend, the boy still looked like he was in shock the next day as he entered the school and came to my friend's classroom "to talk".

At this point my friend and I just looked at each other for a few seconds in silence. As one, we both mumbled "...and he is in school today?" A few more seconds followed by, "Well where else has he to go?" I hugged my friend as a way of saying "good luck" and had to head off to one of my many meetings that day. I have since checked in to find how how this young boy is doing. Obviously, things are in all sorts of turmoil for the boy, but not at school! In school, he finds a reason - a purpose.

So many professional gurus continually point out to teachers every year that many teachers lack the skills to motivate students by meeting the kids "where they are". Often this is given in reference to technology integration and more relevant curriculum. I would add that teachers may also need help with dealing with the social changing of student environments. Did anyone take a class in their undergraduate or graduate studies on dealing with a child that loses his/her family? How about strategies to work with that little junior girl with the attitude? Sure she gets A's and appears bright, but her attitude gets in the way so much. That is, until you find out that she goes home at night and has to take care of her 5 younger siblings because mom is no longer alive and dad is working two jobs and does not get home until 11 p.m. He leaves in the morning my 3 a.m. leaving this little junior girl to be mom to 5 kids she never birthed.

The point is that teachers, especially this time of year, are starting to learn about their students. During that process it is natural for many teachers to make some assumptions and some judgements. We don't always get to hear the issues facing some of our more challenging students and if we do get to hear it, we may wish we did not. As hard as it is, try to avoid the judgments and instead concentrate on questions. What questions do you ask? I have found the system of 5 Why's to be helpful, especially when the questions and answers are in writing.

In the old days we used to hear teachers or school officials saying that a student was too dumb or lazy. That shifted to being challenged. Now I hear motivation being to blame. Sometimes, it may be that the young person is dealing with issues you or I have never had to deal with.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

U.S. History - Digital Alternatives

Instead of buying the bound version of a U.S. History textbook, how about using some digital alternatives? Better yet, how about the real possibility of having students create their own history book using NoteShare or some other Web 2.0 tool?

WikiBooks: U.S. History

Digital History
1899 U.S. History Textbook

American History 102 - 1865 - Present
American Memory
A People's History of the U.S. - 1492 - Present
Primary Source Resources

Tools for Student Collaboration in Book Creation:

NoteShare Resources
Wiki Resources


Suppose it could work? What would the issues be?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Power of

I cannot tell you how great it is to have a account. Once you have begun to use it you will realize how helpful it becomes to your work. I especially like the feature: Links for You. I am able to "tag" websites that I find for people in my network, and they do the same for me. It's a quick and easy way to share links. You also get to view the networks and links of others in this rich Web 2.0 environment. works best in the Firefox Browser, and now Firefox has added new features. This Bookmarks extension enhances the old Firefox bookmarking system with a new set of tools to help you create, manage and search your bookmarks. By importing your old Firefox bookmarks to you will have "all your bookmarks in one place", and your Firefox bookmarks will now be synced with This means that your bookmarks will be instantly accessible both in your Firefox browser and from the website. To access all your bookmarks from another computer simply go to your bookmarks on delicious. If you wish to use you must download the app into your browser.Then it's right there ready to go. Try it you might like it!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Textbook Moratorium

Wesley Fryer on Infinite Thinking Machine has called for a moratorium on purchasing textbooks. This got me thinking. Where might this be very easy to do in 1-to-1 laptop schools. What subject would lend itself to a transition from hard copy textbooks to digital textbooks and then perhaps to no textbook whatsoever. How about Algebra?

Here are some online Algebra Textbooks:

Totally Free Algebra Book
Wiki Algebra Book
Understanding Algebra
Nutshell Math: Algebra

Some addition Algebra Resources:

Purple Math - Your Algebra Resource
The Math Forum@Drexel - Algebra

QuickMath Automatic Math Solutions
Topics in Mathematics - Algebra
MathTeacherLink - Algebra
ThinkQuest: Math for Morons Like Us

Algebra Resources for Educators
CyberSleuth Kids - Algebra
PowerPoint Study Files
ThinkQuest: Algebra

The Algebra Experience ThinkQuest
Awesome Library - Algebra Resources
101 Algebra Links
S.O.S. Mathematics - Algebra Tutorials
Math Homework Help, Algebra Help, Tutorials by Students
Algebra Homework Help at Algebra.Com
Algebra Story and Word Problems

Add to that the numeracy tools on the MLTI laptop. Do we really still need hard copy algebra textbooks?

What do you think?

2007 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference

2007 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference

"I Touch the Future, I Teach"
Nashua, New Hampshire ~ November 27-29, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Concept Mapping

I've been experimenting with MindMeister, thanks to a lead from Ron Smith on I'm hoping you will be able to see the map that I embedded below. It includes a number of solutions for concept mapping as well as a link to more information. Or it should! :)

Note: I can see it in Safari, but not in my Firefox. Hmmmmmm. If you can view it with your browser, note that each node is linked.

Concept Mapping Resources
Graphic Organizer Resources

Many Literacies

The good people at Stenhouse Publishers, a Portland, Maine company, have some interesting videos and podcasts available at their site as well as opportunities to preview books on education.

David Booth and Larry Swartz, coauthors of Literacy Techniques, discuss the many different literacies that kids encounter today.

Part 1 Audio
Part 2 Audio

Other Podcasts
Other Videos