Friday, January 15, 2010

Lubec: Google Applications for Education

I spent yesterday at the Lubec School with Ed Latham and Dawn Fernandez in an initial training for using their new Google Apps for Education network. Lubec has 1-to-1 laptops for grades 5-12 and now is focusing intensely on providing the necessary professional development. Dawn, the regional mentor for Downeast, will be doing at least 5 additional sessions this year with the whole staff on helping leverage this hardware to be optimally used in meeting the school's learning goals. She'll also work with teachers in their classrooms to assist in the process of integrating with classroom goals.

By the way, the people at Lubec School are incredibly welcoming, friendly, caring, and enthusiastic. I love small schools! :)

Being a user of the many excellent Google tools, but not having seen the special "Educators" version that allows local administration, I probably learned as much as I taught, thanks to expertise of Ed, Dawn, and Larry (the amiable and extremely helpful local technical guy). I was impressed at the incredible free opportunities in this package for school systems. I drove 4 1/2 hours home to Western Maine wondering why all schools didn't make use of this user-friendly and powerful set of tools. With their well-integrated web applications, the good people at Google have done away with the clunkiness of many of the learning environments that I've experienced . They have done away with much of the top-down control issues and put the ubiquitous system directly in the hands of teachers and principals. Why would anyone use anything else?

What other Maine SAU's are using this in their school?

See Google Applications at LIM Resources

Google Apps for Education

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

National Standards: Alfie Kohn Challenged - Part I

By Pam Kenney

A few years ago Time magazine described Alfie Kohn as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores." He has written extensively about the current push for national standards, and, for the most part, he doesn't like it. In fact, he labels the standards an "accountability fad." A link to one of his recent articles, "Debunking the Case for National Standards" appeared yesterday in a post on "Learning in Maine."

One of Kohn's concerns is that the adoption of national standards would signal a concomitant shift in the focus of learning from one where students develop and use high-level thinking skills to exchange ideas, grapple with complex viewpoints, and solve problems to a routinized one of memorization, drill, and objective tests. The dismal picture Kohn paints is typical of many critics of national standards, and it's not accurate. To refute Kohn's criticism, I will draw examples only from the mathematics area because I am currently reading math standards from individual U.S. states and five foreign countries.

Yes, all the documents I have studied have objective, measurable standards that require children to memorize addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, and most mandate that students learn standard algorithms. In addition, however, they contain standards that delineate the understanding of concepts through the application of high-order thinking skills; they concentrate on problem-solving strategies that stress reasoning, demonstrating understanding using several methods, cooperating, and communicating ideas among peers. The national math standards being proposed today are not trying to re-capture the pre-Sputnik philosophies of rote learning and drill and test; they are an attempt to balance understanding and the acquisition of specific skills that are necessary to daily life.

My question is this: Why are the arguments against national standards by writers like Alfie Kohn so black and white? This isn't an "either/or" or "us versus them" debate. Of course, we want our children to have a deep understanding of math concepts. Certainly we want them to reason well mathematically and to solve complex problems. But when a sixth grader in Maine is still looking at a chart to solve 6*8, then perhaps a national standard will force his school district to realize it's just as important for him to learn his multiplication facts as it is for him to draw a picture to explain why the answer is 48.

Tomorrow: Part II: "Who Should Determine the Content of National Standards?"

Student Technology Showcase

You are cordially invited to the 7th Bi-Annual Student Technology Showcase. Located in Newport at the Sebasticook Valley Middle School on Saturday, January 16th. This event features the technology projects of fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from throughtout the year.

From 10:00 to 1:30 please tour the school and experiment with many of the technological tools our students use every day. Watch digital animated movies, view galleries of skateboards and hand built artwork, see a computer lab custom built by students, try your hand at anchoring in our News Studio, assemble and program robots, scan through student blogs, wikis and web portfolios, or take a virtual tour of the school.
If you are unable to attend physically, please consider attending virtually. You can use Skype in and get a personal live tour of the events going on during the showcase. The Skype name is studentshowcase and you can sign up here:

The awards ceremony begins at 1:30 where participants can win prizes of iPod Touches or a MacBook. Please come and see the work of some amazing students! If you have any questions or want more information, please check out the website: or contact Kern Kelley at / 368-4592.

Hope to see you there!

For an additional viewpoint, please check our Cheryl Oakes' blog post from last year's event:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Featuring Maine's John Howe: Sustainability

DSP: John Howe's Plan
MOFGA: The End of Fossil Fuel and a Plan for Sustainability
Firewood from the Sun

Sustainability at LIM Resources

Why We Need Interpersonal Communication Literacy

by Bob Keteyian
Communication Styles

Teaching literacy skills is fundamental to our educational system. Literacy skills are traditionally defined as reading and writing. We now teach kids to have computer literacy as well, and to some extent we extend that to math and science, though using the word literacy is more loosely attached to each of these.

Communication skills are generally not discussed in terms of literacy, although they are acknowledged as important in curriculum and educational standards. Many states, including my state of Maine, have developed a set of educational standards that include communication skills. These standards, representing skills deemed essential, are part of what we call the Learning Results and serve as guides for educating our children in today’s world.

On close inspection we discover that communication skills as defined by these standards generally mean learning to write clearly and coherently and to present reports orally. Both are important. Arts educators have broadened the definition of communication to include other forms of expression, namely visual art, music, drama, and dance, which are equally important forms of communication.

However, there is still an essential missing ingredient: interpersonal communication. While many colleges have communication departments that offer courses in this area, the art and science of interpersonal communication is not a subject in our public education system, which does not seem to recognize the fundamental importance of this type of literacy. Why are interpersonal communication skills missing from the mix?

We are in, more or less, a constant state of interpersonal communication—relating person to person around the ordinary and complex human transactions in our daily lives. Talking and listening are so natural that we take them for granted. We learn to talk and listen by cultural osmosis—we simply absorb the language in our environment through a predisposition for language in our brains. However, we also know how profoundly complex the process really is.

Learning effective interpersonal communication skills is not about having a broad vocabulary or solid grasp of grammar. Both are helpful but not essential for achieving understanding between individuals. I grew up with people speaking what is commonly called broken English. That’s an old- fashioned term when English is a second language. In spite of this limitation, many people in this category are very effective communicators because interpersonal communication is a complex, multi-dimensional process involving words, feelings, gestures, images and much more.

I believe it is imperative that we take the issue of interpersonal communication more seriously as it is the life blood of human relationships. We are social, relational beings. We require effective interpersonal communication to transact the business of our daily lives at work and at home, to nurture our children, and to develop emotional intimacy in our most personal relationships. All these areas are vastly improved with more knowledge about ourselves and more skill in listening, observing, organizing thoughts, accounting for emotion, developing rapport, and using words effectively.

Should interpersonal communication be taught as a discreet subject or should it be infused into virtually every subject? What are the core competencies we would expect? How would we go about teaching something so ordinary? Many questions need exploring if we take this issue seriously. It is a false argument to question whether effective interpersonal communication is more important than effective written communication. But right now writing skills are getting far greater attention in our education system.

So let’s, yet again, broaden our definition of developing literacy and communication skills to include interpersonal communication.

There really is no question about how important a matter this is.

Bob Keteyian is an interpersonal communication consultant and counselor. He is also the author of Do You Know What I Mean?—Discovering Your Personal Communication Style (2009).

National Day of Listening
Bob at Bangor Daily News

See also Non-Verbal Communition at LIM Resources

The Story of Stuff

Thinking about National Standards

Debunking the Case for National Standards

One-Size-Fits-All Mandates and Their Dangers

By Alfie Kohn

Monday, January 11, 2010

Featuring the Work of Melissa Prescott

This film was created by the Film class at Telstar Middle School in Bethel, Maine, and was directed by Visual Art Teacher, Melissa Prescott. It was created to educate the public about the "G.O.T. Farms?" service-learning project and inspire people to get involved. This project, a collaboration of Telstar Middle School and Telstar High School, is focused on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. For more information about this project, please visit:

"G.O.T. Farms?" from Melissa Prescott on Vimeo.

G.O.T. Farms Website

"Wagon Wheel" - Telstar Faculty
Melissa's "On Using Wordpress"