Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tandberg: Are You Using It? By: Becky Ranks

Today I went to visit my niece, Jaime Steward, at the Garrett Schenck School in Anson. Having heard so much about the Tandberg equipment provided by the RUS grants, I wanted to see a video-conferencing session in action, and also wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. Jaime is a technology specialist with RSU 74 and a real risk taker and role model for the rest of us as she single handedly put all of the equipment together and then scheduled video-conferencing sessions with an aquarium in Alaska, an all girls' school in Tennessee, and NASA. Today Kindergarten and First Graders talked to NASA and asked questions that ranged from; "What do astronauts eat?" to "How long does it take to get to Mars?" At the end of the session the NASA official switched the screen to a live feed of the Space Shuttle just after it had landed in California. Students were able to ask questions and view wonderful images provided by NASA. The NASA official talked and joked with them, and made them feel comfortable. It was a wonderful experience and thanks Jaime for inviting me. One session was featured on the front page of the Waterville Morning Sentinel. So, my questions are: How many schools with Tandberg equipment are using it in a similar fashion and having success? What are the obstacles if they are not? Many resources about video-conferencing and Tandberg can be found here: Especially check out the KC3 contest. Thanks to Jaime for being an exemplary leader in technology at a time when budgets are being whittled down to almost nothing especially in the area of equipment and other extras like field trips. She is taking students on virtual field trips and giving them experiences they otherwise would not have.

MLTI Student Tech Conference

by Sarah Sutter

students presenting at MLTI tech conference

MLTI Student Tech Conference 2008

Tomorrow morning at 5am I will be on a bus with 40 7-12th graders headed for the largest student tech conference in the state. The kids are excited to go and be part of the 1000 participant event, learning from and with students in workshops with topics like Scratch with an MIT Scratch team member, internet radio streaming by kids, Legos & robots, Alice, Google Earth & Maps, and so much more. Most of the workshops are led by the students and a teacher or two, sharing what wonderful things they’ve been doing with technology in the classroom this year.

MLTI student tech conf 2009

Final Session with 800+ students with laptops. Photo by Alice Barr

The final session is after lunch, and involves all 1000 student participants and the chaperones. This year the focus is on social action and global connections, and one tool we’ll be using is Now, I know many of you have used this with students already, but this time we’ve got a stand alone Free Rice site built just for the MLTI conference. It will be reset to zero tomorrow at 1:00, and then we’ll begin accumulating grains of rice to address world hunger. This is where you come in! The site is open to all, and your grains of rice will count as long as you start after 1:00 EDT (-4 UCT). The details are below, but the key is to go to: and participate with the 1000 students in Maine as we see how quickly we can raise the rice totals.

The MLTI Student Tech Conference is a wonderful event for Maine students. I hope you will lend a few minutes of your time, and perhaps that of your students, to participate in this one small step to addressing world hunger. – Thanks — Sarah

From Jim Moulton:

(PLEASE NOTE: Though the site is now live, rice “earned” via the site in advance of the 1 PM EDT (5 PM GMT) start time for the Conference session will not be “counted.” Once the conference session begins, the site will be re-set, counting of contributions will begin fresh, and the site will remain live until the amount of rice available for donation has been exhausted.)

Maine students and the World Food Programme invite you to join in helping to feed the hungry around the globe via

On May 27, 2010 at 1 PM EST (5 PM GMT) during the 7th Annual MLTI Student Conference, students from across Maine will be going to as a body – working in a wireless environment that has been fine tuned by network technicians of the University of Maine System and Cisco to facilitate 1000 simultaneous connections. But in 2010 purposeful use of social networks has to be a part of taking on any major effort, and so Maine educators are reaching out across their state-wide, national, and worldwide human networks to invite others to join us in donating rice via a customized version of

To learn more about the 7th Annual MLTI Student Conference, please head here:

To join us in helping to fight world hunger, go here:

To help fight hunger in Maine, go to

To help fight world hunger beyond the conference, head to

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Texas, CCSS & Corporate Political Control

I'm so glad I live in Maine and not Texas. After doing a bit of research, I realize how much political control there is in determining how schooling is delivered in that state. And the sad part of it is that there seems to be increased collusion between corporate textbook publishers and politicians. There even seems to be an attempt to shut down any use of open source materials in teaching unless it has been approved at the State level. From my perspective, this is big government and corporations mandating what parents and teachers should think and say. How did this happen in a state known for the independence of thought and the self-reliance of its citizens?

Sadly, what is happening in Texas seems to be happening to the rest of the country as well through the Common Core State Standards in which politicians and corporations are determining what is to be taught in our local schools in an attempt to commodify and standardize as though people were simply widgets and cogs in a machine rather than complicated, but warm human beings.

Oddly enough, some Texans are speaking of the CCSS as being a plot by progressives to indoctrinate children. The truth of the matter is that CCSS is being promoted by conservatives and liberals alike. It is being pushed by the Business Round Table, politicians, and many conservative think tanks and foundations, as well as huge textbook publishing companies.

Who should control education in the United States? Local citizens, educators, and school boards . . . or rich and powerful state and national entities and interests?

What do you think?

Cartoon Credit

Sunday, May 23, 2010


by Robert V. Keteyian

As a young child, my grandfather would often greet me with outstretched arms—a welcoming and warm expression of his love and acceptance. But before giving me a hug, his hands would cradle my jaw, one hand on each side, firmly holding my head. Then I would collapse into his legs where he would envelope me and say in his Armenian accent, “How is the Bob?”

I have done the same with my grandchildren. Yet, I wonder at what age this will feel uncomfortable to them. When will they outgrow this type of physical contact and feel too mature to accept it? I lament that we ever outgrow this kind of affection, for I still feel the impulse with my closest loved ones—my wife, our children, brothers, nephews, nieces, and in-laws.

In the Armenian American community where I grew up, cradling the face was common among people of all ages. Cultural differences in expressing affection don’t easily translate, just like many words can’t literally be translated. What does it mean to have this kind of physical contact?

It expresses the nature of the relationship, the bond of family (whether by blood or choice), and undying affection. We are one. We are inseparable by geography. We touch the faces of those who are emotionally and spiritually closest to us. This behavior is about utter devotion. It is not like a hug or grasping the shoulders of a friend. It is more intimate than a kiss on the cheek. It reaches us in a deeper place.

Touch is powerful—more powerful than we often imagine. I still remember a time in college when I was touched on the arm by a faculty member during my internship at the university counseling center. One day, I was standing in the hallway looking out a window near his office, as he was hustling by. In that moment, as he stepped into his office, he put his hand on my upper arm, squeezed gently, and said, “How you doing?” I can still feel the sensation on my arm and the feeling inside me forty years later. He touched a place in me, communicating something kinesthetically that moved me.

Touch is not an auxiliary form of communication meant to enhance words. It is primary and can result in immediate changes in how we think and behave. Couples who touch more tend to have higher relationship satisfaction. Children receive touch as the first form of communication in their lives. Yet the amount of touch we receive as we grow older diminishes, often dramatically.

Touching is a complicated matter in our current culture. So often we are afraid to touch one another, yet it is natural; and I hope the grandchildren will continue to accept the old country legacy of cradling the face. Perhaps as I grow older they will indulge me and continue to intuitively/kinesthetically understand my love and devotion without embarrassment.