Friday, August 22, 2008

Resources for Elections

In an earlier post, I shared a Commoncraft video on Presidential Elections. Today I discovered a great compilation of links on elections that Barbara Greenstone has put together on Portaportal called "vote4me". (I finally "get" Twitter! ;)

Check out also Oxford Hills teacher Richard Byrne's post on the Living Room Candidate. As always, Richard gives a great review of this tool.

Essential Question: How do we inform and engage our students in a non-partisan manner in the election process?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mac Swiss Army Knife

I've always been a fan of the MacGyver series and the Red Green Show. Although different in many regards, in each, solutions are created using the simplest of materials. Enter the Mac. There are three simple, straightforward functions of the Mac computer that I think everyone should know. With these "household" items many problems can be easily solved. They are part of the Mac "Swiss Army Knife."

My list: PDF creation, Stickies & Preview. Feel free to add your own.

1. Everyone should know that PDFs can be created of almost anything on a Mac using this method.

2. Everyone should know the incredible possibilities and deceptive power of the onboard sticky note feature. Don't just casually look 'em over, but do check the help menu for these gems to see the handy-dandy functionality of Stickies.

3. Everyone should know the handy annotation features as well as many other functions of Preview.

What else?

Parental Training in School is missing something important

by Ed Latham

Schools vary quite a bit concerning programs that help educate our youth about parenting. I have seen many schools that offer simulations (the sugar babys, actual life like dolls with computer chips and more). All of these experiences help students to see some of the issues of becoming a parent, but I feel there is something missing.

Where are we educating our children about the potential pitfalls of jumping into permanent relationships for convenience, desperation, and many of the other situations that lead to unstable relationships. Everyone knows the statistics about how many marriages end up in divorce and how that rate seems to be rising every year. Many kids can spout out statistics about unwanted pregnancies or early teen moms and dads. How many can share what happens to kids and parents during some of the crazy confrontations that divorce issues may bring up?

Personally, I have been on both ends of the divorced kid experience. I have heard from divorced parents all sorts of stories that make great soap operas, but the effect of the kids in these situations changes the child's life forever. School is all about preparing students for real life and yet I see a void when it comes to educational forums for students to learn about the impacts of getting married, having kids then divorcing. I know there are students out there living the experience and those kids are going through some horrible situations every day. Even their peers may get glimpses. Are there programs out there that share different stories that help illustrate how things go wrong, why they go wrong, and how our adult decisions affect children in the long term?

In the past talking about sex was tabo in schools. With teen pregnancy running rampent many systems have deemed it necessary for some sort of sex ed to be intoduced. Teen pregnancy has show some declines based on those efforts. We now face increasing numbers of divorces and poor relationships based on fundamentally instable reasons. I contend we need some educaiton programs to help educate students about poor relationships and how future children are impacted by the adults in these poor relationships. The hope is that showing students the complications that often exist, the student would look at their own relationships and think more of the long term implications. Of course with the instant gratification in our society and the natural shortsightedness of teens, it maybe an effort of futility. Maybe it might help some young teens think twice about jumping into relationships that may lead to very difficult lives for their future children.

Do schools have any power to affect social change? I feel we do, but it requires some tough decisions and often some moves that are uncomfortable. Are we making any of those moves out there? What does it look like? Is it working?

York Smartboard Training

I'll be assisting Gregg Martin of the York School Department in his Smartboard Training Workshop on Monday. For me, that means coming up-to-speed this weekend on the new version 10 software. Fortunately there are many resources out there to help.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Today I saw for the first time the iWalkthrough progam developed by the Great Schools Partnership of the Mitchell Institute and heard about its utilization by Mt. Abrams and Mt. Valley.

Print vs Digital: Is the discussion getting nasty?

by Ed Latham

I have been talking with a few school administrators and librarians lately and have been hearing more and more discussion about digital media vs print. There are two sides to this issue but the push for more digital media in schools seems to be adding some more teeth to the argument.

Library media specialists and others have always contended that nothing will ever replace the feel of a book or the experience of reading newsprint. The tactile and visual experiences can not be duplicated and to remove those experiences from society would be killing a sacred cow. The art of print has mutated and matured much in the last 200 years and the fear is that this art form could quickly die out in less than 10 years.

On the other end of the spectrum there are arguments that more, reliable, news sources can be reached on the Internet, digital media is more accessible to those with Internet access, digital media remains accessible for longer periods of time with less resources needed, and lately the cost has entered into the equation. Almost all newspapers allow for free subscriptions to digital copies of their papers. If there is a charge, school systems usually have a very paltry amount needed compared to the cost of all of their students being able to simultaneously access an article. Text book costs to school systems continue to rise on par with increased insurance costs to employees. Unlike the inflation in insurance, the textbook financial drain is being entirely removed in some schools by the usage of online text books or university training resources that are freely available in almost any subject and language on the Internet.

The discussions concerning the pros and cons have almost become threatening in the sense that budget people are now starting to say, "We have to cut x, that can be from this source or that source or this other source. Oh yea, we could also cut textbooks and print out and none of those sources would be impacted" Wow! What a choice that now has to be made. Communities will have some tough discussions about whether having new text books and 3-5 newspaper subscriptions is of the same value as, say a teacher's position or an entire "extra" extension course or program.

I feel very much on both sides of this argument. I have learned to read and enjoy books on my little pda and can easily enjoy reading on the Internet for hours. Even with my enjoyment of digital media I can acknowledge that reading a book is a different experience. I am not sure I can say one is better than the other, but I can say they are different. With the financial arguments or "threats" starting to become more prevelant, I find that I agree with the logic behind the switch over to digital media access, especially here in Maine where so many students have equal access to computers. Tie in the need to be able to process data from so many sources and I could make the argument that print may actually hold some people back from exploring other resources because the "instant access" of the Web is not there when skimming a book or periodical.

How about you? What are your thoughts one way or the other? If your school came up to you and said, "Which is worse, loosing that feel of the tactile book or loosing staff members?" what would you say? Is it even possible for the leviathan that is educational change can even adapt to such a concept of digital reading at the same rate that budgetary concerns would like to push things?

So many questions, I am hoping there are people out there talking in their commuities or here on line. I have remained ignorant of online discussions, but at a local level there seems to be tension building. How does it look in your neighborhood?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Loading In"

Direct Link to Episode 32
Wicked Decent Learning Blog

Academy for Powerful Literacy Learning

Today and tomorrow I'm part of a wonderful group of educators from Mt. Abrams and Mt. Valley School Districts at the Granary in Farmington. This is an opportunity for leaders in these districts to look at data, culture, and strategies in order to enhance learning in their respective schools. This time is being sponsored by the Western Maine Educational Collaborative under the leadership of Mona Baker. Gloria Jenkins and Matt Gilbert gave a review of their experience at Mt. Valley High School. George Tucker of DOE gave an overview of the CIPS structure and strategies. We then listed issues of leadership and culture that came to mind and are sorting them in an activity called affinity.

This afternoon Darlene and I reviewed a strategy for summarization and sharing some straightforward digital methods of using the same strategy. Sometimes the simplest of tools end up being the most powerful. We looked at sticky notes, preview, and the ability of the Mac to turn just about anything into a pdf, and then practiced using these in the summarization strategy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Upcoming Conferences

Below find some upcoming conferences in Maine and elsewhere. This is a collaborative list created by many. Can you help to refine it? To add to or adjust the ever-changing wiki list, go here or add to the comments for this post.

Sept 12, 13, 14th Haystack 2008 Fall Conference, Maine Art Education Association

Sept 25, 26, 27th - National Open Source and Education Conference - Open Minds

Oct. 3-5 - New England Environmental Education Alliance Conference, Hancock, NH

Oct. 6 - Maine Digital Government Summit, August Civic Center

Oct. 10, 2008 Maine Science Teachers Association Conference at Gardiner High School,

Oct. 16-17, 2008 ACTEM MaineEducation2008, 21st Annual Technology Conference, "The Way Learning Should Be" Augusta Civic Center, August, Maine

Oct. 16-17, 2008 MAEA Conference 2008: Suzanne Rojas is the 2008 Conference Chair and has a great staff supporting her. Conference dates are Oct. 16-17 at the Grand Summit Hotel at Sunday River in Bethel. There will be a Pre-Conference on College Transitions and possibly another topic.

October 23 and Friday October 24, 2008.Maine Libraries Conference
The Maine Libraries Conference 2008 will be held at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel at Sunday River in Bethel, Maine.

October 23 - 24, 2008, MAMLE (Maine Association for Middle Level Education) Annual Conference, Sugarloaf, USA

Nov. 10, 2008 at Augusta Civic Center, Maine Council for Social Studies Annual Conference

December 2-4, 2008 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, Nashua, NH,

Jan. 23-25 Educon 2.1, Philadelphia

April 3, 2009, Learning Disabilities Association of Maine's 2009 Annual Conference will be held in collaboration with Maine Transition Network/Committee on Transition (MTN/COT). TRANSITIONING to the POST-SECONDARY WORLD: LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, Grandeur Sun Banquet & Conference - Waterville, ME,