Saturday, January 10, 2009

Incidents of Prohibited Behavior

Question: Should Maine local schools be forced to send names of students who commit incidents of prohibited behavior to the State?

Village Soup: SAD 40 opposes reporting student names to state

Maine State Budget Plan Calls for Cuts

Village Soup Article

Ellsworth American: Education Funds Defended at Statehouse

Bangor Daily News: Maine Budget Eliminates 219 Jobs

Kennebec Journal: Baldacci Explains Latest Package of Cuts

NoteShare Express

NoteShare from AquaMinds is a staple on the MLTI laptops here in Maine. Every educator 7-12 has the app on their laptops . . . and every 7-8 student in Maine as well. The notebook metaphor it uses makes that connection with past technologies which helps many to easily move on to the new powerful digital functionalities. NoteShare is one of those applications which allows new learners to use it quickly initially while at the same time having many additional powerful features under the hood for those wishing to explore further. (More Info)

For example, it allows created notebooks to be shared in many different ways. Notebooks can be shared and edited easily between teachers and students on their local networks as well as world-wide through IP addresses. Notebooks can also be published with a single click as an html document for the web. In addition, notebooks can be stored on a server for access. (More Info)

The one drawback had been that only people with Macs that had the NoteShare application could edit the documents. No more. Now we have NoteShare Express which opens up editing capabilities to anyone anywhere through a simple web browser . . . just about any web browser. This new feature can be experienced at the ACTEM server. Simply go to this address and use "actem" as a password. Choose the MaineEd category and then pick Demo_Playground to go to the sandbox. Feel free to mess around there, trying out this wonderful new feature. Add a new section, page or entry. Add and move text. Upload images and links. Discover the possibilities. (More Info)

Maine's educational technology association, ACTEM, is probably the best place for Maine schools and educators to go to acquire the necessary software to implement these enhanced capabilities. Craig Dickinson is the fine gentleman who will help you there.

Crystal Priest, president of ACTEM and keeper of the ACTEM NoteShare server, among her many, many other duties (where does she find the time?) is the resident expert on NoteShare servers and Noteshare Express. She can also point you in the right direction to individual school systems in Maine that have set up their own servers.

Scott Love, AquaMinds CEO, is unique, in my experience, in his approach to customer service. He works directly with his customers and users, always going that extra mile to answer questions, troubleshoot, and constantly improved his product based on user needs and requests. He listens and follows up. See AquaMinds Weblog. (Where does he find the time?)

Barbara Greenstone and Phil Brookhouse, statewide MLTI mentors, as well as many others throughout the State, provide excellent training in making the best use of NoteShare, focusing on student and teacher needs. Check out some of their own notebooks (toward the bottom of the sidebar list, password: "actem") at the ACTEM server.

What else should we know about NoteShare?

Earlier NoteShare Posts
NoteShare Resources at LIM Resources Wiki

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Big Question

by Ron Smith, MLTI/eMINTS Region 3

I was excited to read this article in Education Week outlining Maine’s involvement in an effort to work with three other New England states in examining how to best meet the changing needs of secondary education. The goal of the consortium states:

"The New England Secondary School Consortium aims to create high schools that are "flexible, borderless, multidimensional community learning centers" in which students would have the chance to study at the secondary and postsecondary levels, do research in their communities, build real-world skills through internships, and immerse themselves in technology..."

It’s refreshing to hear educational and political leaders discussing real reform that doesn’t involve increasing the number of and reliance on standardized testing. Perhaps the revolution *is* just around the corner.

In my experiences as a middle school teacher and in working with educators in professional development, I have come to believe a couple of things:

(1) American education is in a great need of a massive retooling. I am not smart enough to really know exactly what American education should look like - but certainly what we have now is not serving our students and society well.

(2) At a time when this real reform is so sorely needed, the direction of national education policy as prescribed by NCLB has totally missed the mark.

I guess instead of dwelling on what’s not right, it’s time for us in the education community to start focusing on what will work for our students. So what are your ideas?

~ Is the New England Secondary School Consortium a bold step in the right direction, or just another empty effort at the illusion of reform?

~ What must K-12 education in American look like?

~ What will be the role of technology?

~ What about accountability - how do we know our students are gaining the skills needed to be successful citizens of the world?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Predicting Weather

Essential Question: How do we predict weather?

I was a fifth grade teacher for 18 years back in the 70's and 80's in a small rural school in Maine. During that time, we always created a weather station with a combination of store-bought and "home-made" instruments to make daily predictions. Now, of course, in addition to the local news weather and the Weather Channel, there are numerous places to find detailed predictions on the Web based on the very latest technologies. There are tons of webquests. My question is this: With all the instant ways of finding a prediction, why bother getting our hands dirty to create these tools?

My answer, on reflection, is that the wonderful digital resources on the web simply don't allow us to experience at a gut level the joy of creating and manipulating these hands-on tools. Experiencing the natural world directly gives us roots while at the same time offering us the opportunity to feel capable and self-reliant.

What are the limits of information technology in growing kids who feel connected, loved, and capable?

Make Your Own Weather Station
Making Weather Tracking Tools
Building and Using a Homemade Weather Station
Weather Wiz Kids
Web Weather for Kids
Weather Basics
Weather Resources for Students
Lesson Plan: Weather Tools of the Trade
42exlore: Weather
Kathy Schrock: Weather Resources
eThemes Search
K12 Station: Weather (Grades 3-5)
K12 Station: Weather (Grades 6-8)

Maine Weather Notes (John Briggs)
MLR for Science & Technology

Monday, January 5, 2009

Electronic Whiteboards - A Wise Choice?

by Ron Smith, MLTI/eMINTS Region 3

As a educator who currently has the opportunity to work with staff members in schools across Washington and Hancock Counties, I receive many requests to deliver electronic whiteboard sessions. I always enjoy these sessions, as they tend to be rather fun, fast paced, and hands-on. Educators typically come away excited about using the whiteboard with students.

I recently read this blog post by Wesley Fryer and it’s accompanying comments (by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, among others) that reflected a lively debate about electronic whiteboard use. The overall tone of the debate (particularly by Stager) was very anti-whiteboard. Some of the more interesting points expressed were:

(1)An electronic whiteboard, by its very nature, promotes a very teacher centered classroom environment. Essentially, from a pedagogical standpoint, there is no difference between a electronic whiteboard and a chalkboard.

(2)The cost of the whiteboard is simply not justified. Limited resources most certainly could be spent in a wiser manner.

(3)Purchasing an electronic whiteboard represents an easy, highly visible, and ultimately unwise representation of creating the illusion of a 21st Century learning environment. Decision makers can quickly point to this purchase as a way of demonstrating their commitment to promoting technology in their schools.

What are your reactions to these assertions? What are some ways in which electronic whiteboards can be used in a true student-centered classroom environment? Are they a good investment for our schools?

Finding and Organizing Internet Resources

Telstar 3 at CPS Library, 3:30 - 7:30 Agenda

"Thinking about using Internet resources in the classroom is like . . . "

"Asking students to conduct Internet searches is like . . . "

"Let me tell you what keeps me up at night . . ."