Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pigs at Fryeburg Fair

"Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise." ~ George Orwell

What a beautiful day! My brother, Mike, and my sister, Susan, visiting from Bellingham, Washington, spent some time with me enjoying the Fryeburg Fair today. We casually toured the buildings and events. We did the the classic hot sausage and onion sandwich and washed it down with fresh lemonade.

But it was the pigs that caught my attention. It occurred to me that seeing pigs almost always connects me with two of my favorite books: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and Animal Farm by George Orwell. Both stories have pigs as main characters, and both offer a great deal of wisdom on the human condition.

I highly recommend them for read-alouds. Good for just about any age, in my humble opinion.

Other than the many variations of the Three Pigs, anyone know of any other good pig books?

Charlotte's Web Resources

Animal Farm Resources

Don't forget MARVEL! Maine's Virtual Library. Check out NoveList and NoveList K-8 for information on Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Go to Maine ASCD

Have you been to the Maine ASCD site? There is a wealth of resources and up-to-date information there. It is about time that I send in my dues for a membership! :)

For starters, check these out:

Cyber Resources for Maine Educators

Maine ASCD Weblog

Friday, September 28, 2007

21st Century High School MacBook Resources

I just found a site at Deer Isle - Stonington Schools that has a great compilation of information on the new MLTI initiative in Maine high schools.

21st Century High School Teacher Tools and Resources at the Deer Isle-Stonington School

Check out also the MacBook Resources in Resources for Maine Teachers

Do we have others that we could add to the list? Or perhaps suggestions for the DIS site?

Regional MLTI Meeting at UMaine Farmington

I'm at the Western Maine Regional Meeting for the high school 21st Century Skills initiative.

Play by play. . . .stream of consciousness review of the session:

Bette Manchester of MLTI starts off the day, giving an overview of the project, which is followed by introductions.

• The group is introduced to Noteshare, given a short lesson . . . and then Ruben Puentedura does an overview of the the agenda.

• Viewed "Did You Know?"

• Puentedura points: The world has changed. The jobs are different. Deep media skills are needed. Students need the intellectual tools to succeed. The world IS globalized today . . already . . . isn't something that is going just happen in the future.

• Doug Snow, Maine Apple Projector Manager, gives a short introduction to Apple OS X and the applications that are on the MLTI MacBook. How to add applications to dock. Globalization has happened. Chat being used daily in many schools. Introduces and demonstrates iChat. Question and discussion on acceptable uses and how AUPs are written. PhotoBooth demonstrated. Address Book demonstrated . . .how to import address files from other programs. Demonstrates Numbers, a new spreadsheet app in iWork. Intro and demonstrates Pages . . . which is in iWork. Help menu is available.

Noteshare as spiral-bound notebook metaphor. Word Processor included . . .sections, pages, entries. Audio, quicktime movies, website links and embedded, and much more. Wow! Can share notebooks over local networks and over internet.

• Break

The Roadmap. Transformation, Technology, and Education ~ Ruben R. Peuntedura

• Bette Manchester gives history of MLTI: First Five Years. Using computer and writing process makes a difference in student writing skills. Focus on Math . . . literacy . . .and digital literacy. Skowhegan an example of digital literacy. MLTI not a technology project . . . instead a teaching and learning project . . .leadership team important. . .crucial . . . technology supports the learning. Grand effort for what is happening in Maine high schools. Literacy is going to be a focus . . . a.k.a. Literacy Across the Curriculum.

• Lunch . . . quick trip to Reny's

• Ruben Puentedura introduces StudyWiz. Overview. A tool for collaboration. (aside: See also blogs, wikis, Ning, Google Tools for Educators and Moodle).

• Grouped as principals in one room. . . . teachers and techies in other room. Discussion on how to use tools and building capacity. Question: What is the role of the lead teacher? What is the process? Technical questions . . where do technical people get support/help? Importance of principal and building leadership team.


Sir Ken Robinson and Creativity.

Richard Florida and the Rise of the Creative Class

Final Word: Have fun with the machines. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


According to Wikipedia, 71% of the earth's surface is ocean. Do you suppose that is accurate . . . or do I need to check another source?

Maine certainly has a close connection with the Atlantic Ocean.

Question: How do we share and investigate the salt-water connections with our kids?

One Example: Bill Caddigan, Telstar Regional Middle School science teacher, was able to connect to his students in a very novel way last Spring through his Teacher at Sea adventure.

What other examples can we add here?

More Resources:

Ocean Resources

Oceanography Resources

Maine Teacher at Sea

Oceanography Search Using Custom Content-Specific Engine

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

School Culture

Every Wednesday morning at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico, Maine, is "late-arrival" teacher workshop time. This is a valuable time when everyone is fresh to work on ways to improve the school. One session a month is devoted to a literacy initiative with the Western Maine Educational Collaborative, as previously posted. Today was focused on school culture. MVMS has an enthusiastic committee called the MVMS Improvement Committee (formerly the Student Climate and Culture group). Not only have they created some areas to focus on each month, but they provide hands-on training for staff during the professional development time. In other words, there are some strong capacity-building activities that promote implementation, not just words alone.

Today we worked on team-building, cooperative learning activities and conflict resolution skills in small groups that could be used with students during flex-time. Congratulations to the team for excellent leadership. :) Good stuff that I'm sure will make a difference! You see. . . there is a double function here . . . teachers working as a team in order to promote teamwork with students.

Lindsay MacMillan, teacher at MVMS, created a Noteshare notebook called Flex Time with many great ideas. Here is the Web Notebook version. MVMS Librarian, Amy Ryder, added the library resources available to teachers and students.

Process Skills Resources
Student Aspirations: Eight Conditions

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

FOSSED Attendee/Presenter now writing about education in Maine!

by David Trask

Deborah White of the Asa Adams School in Orono, Maine is now a columnist with the Bangor Daily News! She has been asked to write about issues and trends in education and how they apply to all of us. Not only that, Deb is also FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) user! Deb has been using FOSS in her own classroom for a couple years now. She wrote an excellent column on Software Freedom Day. Check out her below.

Deborah White, Bangor Daily News Columnist

Customized Search Engine

Ever want a search engine that will only search the sites you are interested in? No problem . . . just create a Google Custom Search Engine.

The search engine below was created to search just the following sites to gather content specific listings for teachers:

• eThemes
• K12 Station
• 42eXplore
• Resources for Maine Teachers
• Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators

Check it out. For example, try doing a search for "simple machines." Note that the results are from the five sites listed above.

See any advantages?

Taming Email

Ever feel overwhelmed with the proliferation of email and other demands? Check this video out from Google Central. Merlin Mann of 43 Folders shares his observations and strategies on the issue.

How do you tame email?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Telstar eMINTS Groups

I just returned from Bethel where year 2 of the 1st eMINTS group has started up with our first gathering at the Crescent Park School. This group is made up of 15 diverse educators who are enthusiastic and most definitely life-long learners. I love the mix of levels and perspectives as it tends to keep us all more honest. Here's this evening's agenda. In creating web pages we stuck with free, open source Nvu . . . much to my delight. There is a "portable" version as well, which can be operated off a flash drive. Nifty. Find Nvu tutorials here.

We came up with a schedule that we could all live with for the school year and finished the evening with a little Chinese cuisine. It's a pleasure working with this delightful group of people. I'm looking forward to Telstar's 2nd group which will be starting year 1 of eMINTS Custom soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Twenty-First Century Skills

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler
Twenty-First Century Skills seems to be all the buzz these days . . . but is anything really changing?

Maine Launches Statewide 21st Century Skills' Education Initiative
Twenty-First Century Skills Resources

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eight Conditions

The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations has a list of 8 conditions that it argues is important in the lives of students.

"• Belonging means that a student is a valued member of a community while still maintaining his or her uniqueness.

Heroes are people with whom a student can connect. They have a positive influence and listen to and value students’ ideas.

Sense of Accomplishment is based on being recognized for different types of success, including hard work and being a good person.

Fun and Excitement as a condition means students are inspired. Students are actively engaged and emotionally involved in their schoolwork.

Curiosity and Creativity become evident when students ask “why” or “why not” about the world around them.

Spirit of Adventure is experienced when students tackle something new without the fear of failure or pressure of success.

Leadership and Responsibility as a condition happens when students can make decisions and accept responsibility for their actions.

Confidence to Take Action is the extent to which students believe in themselves and are encouraged to dream about their future, while being motivated to set goals in the present." ~ Russell Quaglia
What do you think? How important are these conditions in our lives? How do these conditions relate to character education and expeditionary education?

Also check out the September 2007 issue of American Association of School Superintendents on Personalizing Schools.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Operating System Debate

by Martha Thibodeau

Here I am at the Leadership Meeting for the High School deployment of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. Although I should have expected it, I was surprised at the fervor with which one person broached the PC vs. Mac OS divide. Although Doug Snow tried to be diplomatic, the rest of the room lit up with tension.

Several folks talked about the fact that this is "not about the technology." Other ideas:

*Leadership will play an intregal role in setting the tone for faculty and students.
*Jigsawing the applications is a good way to introduce the different applications to staff.
*Mechanics don't use mac or windows.
*Our teachers are in such a flux now going between windows and linux that it's a good time to throw other stuff at them, too.
*There will always be Mac bigots and PC bigots.
*We have to model the ability to change.
*The students will not have a problem with the platform.
*I wish people would get over that.

For myself, I started out as a PC person, in college, doing programming. Then I started working at Lawrence, and through the help of Brian Barrows, I learned about Macs. To be honest, I am bi-platform. I will use whatever I have on hand. If I want to make a movie...I will only use my mac. Although I would rather use iWeb, now that I've discovered it, I can manage with DreamWeaver on my PC. If I want to do anything else, it doesn't really matter to me, I can adapt to the machine in front of me.

Isn't that what we really want our students to be able to do...adapt?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I love libraries. Always have. Today the eMINTS mentors had our monthly meeting in the ATM room at the Bangor Public Library. Both Olga LaPlante and the Bangor Public Library Blog suggested VideoJug as a place to find video How-To's. Here's How to Make Creme Brulee.

Other How-To Sites:

How Things Work
How Stuff Works


RefDesk: Do-It-Yourself

Skype as a Tech Tool (or more Joys of Skype)

by David Trask

Following up on the recent post on Skype, today I had a Skype experience that was worth sharing. One of my colleagues at another school was having difficulty with getting something to work correctly with ARD. At first we tried the cellphone route, but holding on to the cellphone (even with a headset)...typing...and problems with a weak signal forced us to try another means of communication. I have a SkypeOut account with unlimited calling in the US and I simply called his classroom phone. This worked well for a bit when we realized that it would be even easier to do a direct Skype to Skype call to his laptop. (a Macbook Pro) Talk about the ultimate speakerphone! I was able to talk him through the issue and even send some screenshots through the chat feature while we talked. Skype allowed us to bridge the miles and get some quality work done troubleshooting a computer problem. Imagine the ramifications for kids working collaboratively on a project from afar. If you haven't checked out should!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Character Series: Courage

"Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character." ~ Margaret Chase Smith

Question: What place does courage have in schooling?

Courage Resources

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Moving On

by Olga LaPlante

I had a workshop today with middle school teachers. Two of them were from King Middle School which is an expeditionary learning school. I haven't been in it, or observed lessons, but one thing is very obvious - they are enthused. They are talking passionately about their classes - expeditions - and are quite creative. It's also possible that I was lucky to meet this particular kind of teachers by pure coincidence, but it was very encouraging anyway. You hear so many controversial things about Portland Schools. However, working with adults has proved that there are great teachers, and great things continue to happen.

So, as I said, that was middle school - with all the buzz around the high school piece, middle school initiative has lost a great deal of its novelty, and has gone to the background. Which actually may be a blessing in disguise - don't I know about that phenomenon!!! - and now middle schools who are savvy in many cases, may go on focusing on their local smaller scale professional development, and this is where the MLTI/eMINTS mentors are invaluable.

Well, thanks to Jim for sending me an invite to write here - I guess I needed a special note to start contributing! :)

Expeditionary Learning Resources

King Middle School - Kelly Fitz Science Blog


“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible - the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family” ~ Virginia Satir
How do we learn to appreciate other people?

Who Resources

Diversity Resources

Resources for Writing Biographies

Biography Resources

Character Series: Responsibility

"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." - Abigail Van Buren
How do we develop a sense of responsibility in our children?

Responsibility Resources

Monday, September 17, 2007


I'm attending the ACTEM meeting this morning. For those who might for some reason know nothing about this wonderful organization, let me say that the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine has had a powerful impact on the use of technology as a learning tool in our state. Just a couple of their services to check out:

MaineEducation Technology Conference 2007 - "Learning in a 2.0 World"
Great Deals on Software from ACTEM

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

From Noob to Leet

by Kern Kelley

For those follow the Learning 2.0 conference, a new Web 2.0 toy that's making the rounds is called Animoto. Basically it's a template driven video producer, you provide images and select music, then click finalize. It does this rest. The following video took me about 3 minutes from creating an account to completion. Here's a quick look.

When showing this to one of my Video Production students, he commented:

"It makes a Noob look like a Leet."

My Immigrant to Native language dictionary tells me this roughly translates to,

"A inexperienced user, (a Newbie) can quickly and easily
produce something that looks like a power user (an Elite) made it."

Some edu-bloggers like David Warlick and Wes Fyer are pretty excited about it, while others like Gary Stager lament on his blog: "Animoto lets you create meaningless PowerPoint-like slideshows without all of that pesky, editing, creativity or thinking. I won't even mention the discipline, knowledge and sense of history required of artistic expression. "

I have to agree with Gary's description, EXCEPT that it does have educational value. It raises the bar.

To recreate the effects that effortlessly appear in one of these productions in any flavor of video editor you'd like would take a substantial amount of time, but because they are so easy to create, it makes those production values into vanilla. It's like the first time you play with GarageBand. You create a song, that really sounded like a song you'd actually want to listen to in a few minutes - wow. There was magic there. Then you play it for others and they start nodding their heads and tapping feet. More magic. But soon, the more you listened to what other made, using the program, all those loop diven tracks start sounding the same. To the point where, it's cliche, and boring.

What this has done, for students is that they have to produce better stuff. Don't get me wrong, I think that GarageBand is a fantastic tool and fun way to create quick songs, but if everyone's sounds the same - it begs you to be different.

As students create content and productions like Animoto become the baseline. It makes the quality of work of those trying to stand out have to be that much better. Our expectations increase, and educationally that's not a bad thing.

The Joys of Skype

Want a free download that allows computer-to-computer phone calls, chat, video, conferencing, and more? For a small fee you can add the ability to call regular phone numbers. If you don't have it yet, go here to download the Skype client. I would love to add "Learning in Maine" participants to my
Skype list. Very handy indeed.

My handle is adagio10. My email address is .


Who is already using Skype?

What wisdom can you share on that experience?

Skype Download


"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a LISTENING ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." ~ Leo Buscaglia
How well do we listen?

Listening Resources

Active Listening Resources

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Students and Grief: What is a teacher to do?

by George Crawford

The second week of school is now over. Once again I am faced with a task that all teachers have had to deal with. Helping students learn to deal with grief. A girl in one of my classes has a grandparent that is not doing too well. She has been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis isn’t good. This middle school age student is on the edge. She is trying to deal with the aspects of her grandmother in the back of her mind. She also has to deal with the issues of schoolwork and the daily life at school. She is sensitive and sometimes comments from her classmates don’t help.

As a teacher, I try to offer support, caring words, and share some of my own experiences. I also try to tell her that if she needs to talk that I will listen and the other teachers in the building will listen also. As teachers, what are we to do?

Every year across Maine, teachers and school staffs have to deal with the issues of grief. Sometimes the grief comes from the family of the students. At other times it comes from within the school community. Grief is something that teachers, students, and everyone have to deal with.

Things to Think About:

How can I help my students deal with grief?

What are some resources for dealing with grief in schools?

Does my school have an approach or plan for dealing with grief?


Maine Field Trips

An excellent resource for Maine Field Trips can be found at the Central Maine Self-learners Homeschool Group.


How could this listing be improved? Are there other local possibilities you are aware of that could be added to it?

Maine Field Trip Resource

Friday, September 14, 2007

Literacy Across the Curriculum

Mountain Valley Middle School is involved in the Literacy Initiative of the Western Maine Educational Collaborative. Using the materials of Darlene M. Bassett, the good people in that school will be focusing on different reading strategies every month in all subject areas. This September the focus will be on text structures and text features. Along with the monthly school-wide emphasis, students will have the opportunity read books of their choice during designated times in the spirit of SSR, FRED, DEAR, etc.

Want to know more about this program? Check with new principal, Ryan Casey, at

Literacy Across the Curriculum
Book Report Resources

Character Series: Humility

"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature." ~ Joseph Campbell

Where does humility fit in K-12 education?

Humility Resources

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Adult Education in Maine

Yesterday I was introduced to the world of adult education. I'll be doing some work with Oxford Hills Adult Education under a federal grant to encourage student "persistence" through a variety of ways . . . including home distance learning.

Jane Courcy and Ramsey Ludlow graciously gave me a crash course in philosophy, structure, buzzwords, and acronyms used. We also passed notes and understandings of how the grant might be implemented. I have a lot to learn. :)

One document they gave me that I had never seen before is "Equipped for the Future Content Standards," which I understand is the bible for structuring adult learning. This publication has its roots back in the early 90's and yet it seems so current. I'm impressed with its view of learning and education.

I was also pointed in the direction of Project Ideal which has a handbook for adult ed distance learning.

I'll be working with Ramsey on her U.S. history course using home computers of the participants. We looked at a variety of solutions for making the connection, including FirstClass, Moodle, and other online environments. We settled on Google online services because of universality, ease-of-use and dependability. See Kern Kelly's description of the Google options here.

Yup, I have lots of cramming to do . . . but I'm fascinated with the possibilities and also on how this model might be applied to K-12.

Maine DOE - Adult Education

Adult Education Association

Adult Ed Online

Google Tools for the Classroom

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Maine Native American Studies

In 2001 there was a piece of legislation called "An Act to Require Teaching of Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine's Schools." Since then I haven't heard much about it. Does anyone have any updates on how it is being implemented in Maine schools?

Maine Native American Studies Resources

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Follow up On Time vs Pay

Nancy Hudak wanted to post a response to the "Time vs Pay" post, but she encountered some problems and asked me to post her response. The following is her post:

As the union representative (MEA UniServ Director) for Aroostook County area local Associations, I appreciated Ed's comments and responded to him off-list because I only have dial-up service at home and posting a comment is problematic, at best. Today, I am at a hotel for a conference and have high-speed access (yay!) and so thought I'd try again.

What I told Ed was that under Maine law, local Associations are not permitted to negotiate planning time as part of the student day. Oddly enough, the Maine Supreme Court determined - many years ago - that planning time (as shorthand for any sort of collegial, collaborative professional interactions during a teacher's work day) is "educational policy", not "working conditions". As such, most language (if it exists) in local contracts regarding planning time is not legally enforceable. There are some exceptions and if anyone wants a short course in Maine labor/education law, let me know!

However, the problem as I see it is that if teachers are going to have regular professional conversations as part of their work, either the law (26 MRSA 965) itself has to change, the interpretation of the law has to change, or some other new law has to be put into place. Otherwise, teachers must count on local school boards/committees to see the need for professional time and put it into place. After that, teachers can only hope that no new board/committee members get elected who think planning time is unnecessary or that the new superintendent believes that s/he needs to "get tough" with teachers!

If you have a chance, you can check a new law which was enacted this past legislative session (LD 1859, which has not been incorporated into the online statutes as of yet) which does mandate some preparation time at the high school level only "to work collaboratively to design high-quality curricula, instruction and assessments [in specific areas]. It may be a start, but I haven't heard much about how it's being addressed around the state.

Thanks for the opportunity to make my pitch!


Monday, September 10, 2007

A Wow! Moment in a Classroom

I was helping out in a high school science class last week. The teacher wanted to have a tool that allowed her to post a question to her students, and get immediate feedback with students' comments showing up quickly without having to get an e-mail approval. We were going to use a blog, but then I remembered that our school had a Think.Com account. The Think site is supported by the Oracle Foundation and has been around for a while. It has built in protection against inappropriate comments being made, and in order to get an account, the administration of your school must request it. It has a somewhat cutesy interface, but the students don't seem to mind that.It also has a lot of tools built into it, many of them like the ones on Moodle or Studywiz. Well, the teacher decided to give it a try, so she posted the following question. "What do you think the most pressing environmental problem is today?" The students immediately posted their ideas, but one among them was having some difficulty. This class contained a Spanish speaking foreign exchange student with limited English. She was having some difficulty with the language. In a few moments, one of her peers who could see that she was struggling, quickly accessed Google Translator and translated comments into Spanish so that she could participate fully. What a moment! The power of the internet.....Posted by: Becky Ranks

Character Series: Compassion

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." ~ George Washington Carver


How do we encourage compassionate behavior?

Compassion Resources
Diversity Resources
Prejudice & Intolerance Resources
Tolerance Resources
Bullying Resources

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Diffusion of Authority

"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength
— is the development of our institutions within the concept of
individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and
support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and
local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental
element of the American public school system — local direction by
boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of
children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school
districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the
educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take
away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our
children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but
a basic right of our citizens. "

~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Was Ike right or are his ideas outmoded?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Character Series: Perseverance

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." ~Japanese Proverb

There are many words for it: perseverance, obstinacy, stick-to-it-iveness, persistence, pigheadedness. Each word carries a connotation with it, depending on the value we place on the task at hand.


How do we encourage perseverance in accomplishing worthwhile goals?

How do we determine what a worthwhile goal is?

Perseverance Resources

Friday, September 7, 2007

Learning to Type

Voice recognition might very well come around to be the most effective input mechanism, but at the moment, our ability to type fast and accurately controls much of what we enter into computers.


Should typing be the number one essential instructivist skill taught in our schools?

Should it be "just-in-case" learning or "just-in-time" learning?

Should we be learning the Dvorak layout instead of the standard QWERTY?

Typing Resources

Dvorak Keyboard Layout - The Benefits and Drawbacks of a More Efficient Layout

Dvorak Keyboard Touch Typing

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Time vs Pay

In many states, there is a concentration on raising the base starting wage for teachers. As a teacher, I love the idea of being paid as a trained professional with incredible responsibilities. I think it is so nice to see at least some token respect for teachers is formally materializing as some form of financial increase.

I don't know too many people that would complain about getting more money, except for those right on the bubble for receiving state assistance services. Fortunately most teachers are not near that bubble, and can embrace the idea of getting more pay to help offset the annual increases in health care that seems to have become an annual event here in Maine.

I wonder though, if you were to ask teachers from all over the state what one aspect would improve their ability and love of teaching, I bet money would not be the majority answer. No, if you know anything about teaching, you already know that many teachers would die for more time. Yes, time is the currency in teaching now.

The family units have been in decline in our society for many years and more and more the responsibilities that used to be family responsibilities are now thrust on our teachers. Teachers are getting pushed to now train kids to take tests that help the school and community look good rather than work on assessing what students in his or her class may need help on most. Most teachers have never had training with all of the great new practices and tools available to them, but cannot get out of the classroom in many cases for various reasons. Even those teachers that do get out and get some training, can never get the time to set up some of the new stuff they have learned in their class. Add in the current anxieties about consolidation, and is it any wonder that many teachers want to close and lock their doors? With all of these pressures and increases in responsibilities I propose that almost every teacher could benefit most from an increase in purposeful time.

Some very forward thinking schools have already realized the value of giving time to teachers and I would LOVE for those schools to post their findings here and elsewhere to share with others how much more teachers can accomplish with some adjustments to how their time is used. I have talked to so many principals who have extolled the virtues of having teachers work together on curriculum, work to develop cross curriculum activities, work towards learning new technologies and many other aspirations I think all can agree will help many teachers. Strangely, almost every one of those principals does not have any time set up in the teacher's day to get these things done. Sure, many have stipends to attend training or to attend weekend seminars, but the day to day time teachers have to work with other teachers or on personal growth is non existent.

So all you teacher union people out there, all you politicians, all of you local school board members, and anyone else that is in a position to positively help promote a much needed educational change, WE NEED YOU! Teachers are too busy trying to "survive" in our current classrooms, to have time for any of that "other stuff" I once brought up the concept of teacher time to a friend that was on a school board. To my horror, this friend of mine shared that there was a view on that particular board that "teachers are little more than over paid babysitters". I am so hopeful that this was an isolated view, but with many taxpayers looking at the percentage of tax money going into education and the negative news we hear about how our schools are all failing...well I fear that many may be ignorant of the incredible work that teachers accomplish every day. They do this extraordinary work as professionals who are trained, fingerprinted and certified. They do this with a pay scale that is one of the lowest of any profession that requires at least 4 years of schooling and certification. The do their incredible work, teaching and filling in for family responsibilities that are still in rapid decline, with huge hearts and phenomenal stamina. And they are doing all of this, with almost no TIME available in their day to improve anything.

If your school has recently changed things around to afford teachers more time during the day, could you PLEASE post some of your experiences, thoughts, insight here? It is out there somewhere that only 1 in 9 people that read a blog will respond to something even when it hits a chord. Many of you are in a position to help educate others on the need and methods of adding in structured time in the teaching day. We need YOU to help the rest of us hear the troubles, see the effects, and to offer strategies that work. All it takes is a little courage, some basic typing ability, and of course, a little of your valuable time. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Really Simple Syndication

This is a follow-up to Becky Ranks previous post on Google Reader.

Earlier this year I read a quote by Dean Shareski who said, "If your website doesn't have an RSS feed, you're dead to me." and I didn't get it then - but now I do and I completely agree.

The use of RSS will change how you use the we, period. Now, we've all heard that before, but this is a large part of what all that Web 2.0 hubub is about. Instead of faithfully returning to your favorite news and blogs to check if there is something new, it all comes to you on a single page. In fact, a number of classes in M.S.A.D. #48 have students post work on their blogs, and the teacher who has the RSS feed of the student blogs, only has to do a quick scan of a single page to see who's 'handed' in their work.

Here's a video from that does a better job than me at explaining exactly how RSS works.

In answer to the question, 'What's the easiest way keep track of my comments and the response to those comments on all these blogs I'm reading now?" The best solution I've found This site tracks all your conversations for you. Keep in mind it's still in Beta so a little quirky, but has served me well.

Google Reader

Teachers are busy....way too busy...but as a teacher I feel that we need to take the time for reflection and intellectual stimulation. If I were still in the classroom, I would find it difficult to find the time to get on the internet and read what people are thinking about and writing about related to education and its many complex issues. Now that Google Reader has come along I can now have the time to do that in a matter of minutes. Blogging has changed the way I think about teaching and learning and the power of the internet. Google Reader, much like Bloglines is an aggregator. It brings the blogs I like to read to my personalized Google homepage. I subscribe to six or seven blogs whose authors talk about educational technology issues. I read them quickly .Sometimes I post a comment, but rarely. I share certain ones with my colleagues who have not discovered blogging yet. A couple of my favorites are: David Warlick's and Techlearning I have begun to get feedback from teachers I work with who have started reading the ones I post. It's encouraging. I am at this time becoming a human aggregator, but I think with time, the teachers I work with will begin to see a need for bringing certain blogs and blogging topics of their own interests to themselves without my help. By sharing these resources we help to enlighten and everybody wins. Students win as their teachers become more comfortable with using the blogosphere, and may even see a use for it in their classrooms. Posted By: Becky Ranks


Basic Handwriting for Kids
Teachnology: Handwriting Worksheets
Donna Young's Cursive Handwriting Practice

Wikipedia on Cursive

The Handwriting Is on the Wall
Why Learning Cursive Is Bad for Kids

What do you think . . . should we still be teaching cursive handwriting?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Philanthropy in the Classroom

"For it is in giving that we receive." - St. Francis of Assisi

Here are some resources that might be useful for classrooms wanting to reach out and help others around the world: Help create a "micro loan" for a small business ~

Heifer Project: Buy an animal for a family in the developing world ~ Heifer Project

Nothing But Nets: For just $10, buy a mosquito net & potentially save a life ~ Nothing But Nets

Making Sense of Data - Visualization Tools

"Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything" ~Gregg Easterbrook

We are close to being overwhelmed with data. What tools can we use to make sense of it?

Gapmind World Beta
16 Awesome Data Visualization Tools
Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths

Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty and life around the world Raw Data at Landmarks for Schools

Thanks for your lead in this, Kern. Anyone else have some suggestions to add?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Online Math Manipulatives

Having physical hands-on manipulatives to work out problems is very helpful. The web gives us a wealth of virtual manipulatives that can carry the ideas to a different level of abstraction. Here is a list of possibilities:

Virtual Manipulatives

Online Interactive Math Resources
MISTM Math Portal

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Water in Maine

I live beside the Little Androscoggin River in West Paris. The small river is relatively clean. Old-timers tell me it wasn't always that way.

I grew up in the Rumford/Mexico area in the 50's and 60's when the large Androscoggin River was at its worst. As a child, I would join my friends, walking barefoot through the slimy residue of the paper mills upriver to reach an island my grandfather owned in the middle of the river. We knew the feel and the smell but had no idea what it might contain . . . nor did we ever even stop to think about it. It was just the way it was. Rachel Carson's ideas had not reached public consciousness. I recall the summer of '65 when the oxygen level in the river became so low that fish would rush up the smaller tributary streams, only to die from over-population. The stench of rotting fish could be smelled for miles along the highway.

Fortunately, native son, Ed Muskie, came to the rescue with the 1972 Clean Water Act. Now the Androscoggin Rivers isn't by any means perfect, but has improved considerably due to that legislation.

Essential Question:
How can we continue the job of cleaning up our rivers and watersheds?

Watershed Resources

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.