Saturday, December 29, 2007


"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." ~ Robert Fulghum

"There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings." ~ Hodding Carter, Jr.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Parenting Education
Parenting 101
Center for Effective Parenting
One Tough Job
Medline Plus: Parenting
Wikipedia: Parenting
Mainely Parents
Maine Parent Federation
Access Maine: Parent Resources

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Maine's Common Core of Learning Revisited

"Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric."

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was published when this year's graduating class was born . . . 1990. Whenever I'm ready to throw up my hands in complete frustration at the present federal/state NCLB-induced technocracy, I return to this beautifully written, concise, and straightforward document which possesses so much wisdom: Maine's Common Core of Learning. To me, it gave a vision that has been decimated by the policies of the "little boxes" crowd. It was opening our schools to new possibilities rather than crippling them with added mandates and mindless paperwork.

My well-worn, dog-eared copy of this gem resides within hand's reach of my home office desk. This morning I gently took it from the shelf and have been taking in its wise message one more time.

Although there doesn't seem to be a full digital version of Maine's Common Core available on the web, here is the breakdown of learning that it promoted to give clarity and meaning:

Personal and Global Stewardship

Responsible citizenship requires awareness and a concern for oneself, others, and the environment. It involves interactions not only within the self and family, but between the self and friends, the community, the nation, and the world. It includes the knowledge and care of all dimensions of our selves as humans, an understanding of the group process, and a willingness to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Stewardship also includes the study of current geography and foreign language and an appreciation of pluralism and human rights.


The ability of human beings to communicate through a variety of media with a high degree of specificity is one of our most remarkable achievements. In a rapidly-changing world, communications skills will become ever more essential to our students' future success.

Reasoning and Problem Solving

Knowledge is power. We must help students want to gain knowledge, show them how to get it, and encourage them to use it to reach a new understanding or to create a new product. We must help students learn to reflect on their processes of learning, regardless of their field of study.

The Human Record

The study of the human record not only includes the actions and events of the past but also the constructs of human thought and creativity as they have evolved through time. The human record includes works of literature and the arts; scientific laws and theories; and concepts of government, economic systems, philosophy, and mathematics. In fact, much of what we now think of as "subject matter" in today's curriculum belongs in this section.

Neil Postman in The End of Education (1995) speaks of the need for common narratives (stories, gods) to give meaning back to education. He claimed that our present narratives of economic utility, technology, multi-culturalism, etc. are false gods and not capable of giving meaning to education. Instead he proposed these new narratives:

"Spaceship Earth" (the notion of humans as stewards of the planet); "The Fallen Angel" (a view of history and the advancement of knowledge as a series of errors and corrections); "The American Experiment" (the story of America as a great experiment and as a center of continuous argument); "The Laws of Diversity" (the view that difference contributes to increased vitality and excellence, and, ultimately, to a sense of unity); and "The Word Weavers/The World Makers" (the understanding that the world is created through language — through definitions, questions, and metaphors).

Now while Neil Postman and Maine's Common Core don't agree exactly on the narratives, they do agree that what is missing in education is meaning that comes from making connections.

What do you think?

Science and the Story that We Need - Neil Postman
Book Review of Postman's Book
Neil Postman: A Study Guide

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Iron Spring Farm

Last week I had the opportunity to shadow my daughter at her work at the Iron Spring Farm in Coatesville, PA. Melissa is responsible for the health and well-being of the horses. After Lissa gave me the grand tour, we dropped into the heated barn space where a visiting vet was preparing to do a series of x-rays on one of the horses using a portable x-ray device about the size of a VHS Camcorder which was connected to an ordinary laptop. Now this wasn't because the horse had any particular health issue; it is now simply standard practice at this farm to periodically do a series so as to have a history of any changes over time and to be able to catch any problem early on. When the veterinarian took a shot of some region, it took only 6 seconds for the x-ray to render on the laptop. He would check it out right on the laptop . . compare to an earlier picture if needed. . .and then go to the next region. I would guess he probably did about 3 dozen shots. All these images are archived with backups and can be accessed quickly in a variety of combinations when they are needed.

The veterinarian said that he had purchased the unit two years ago, that it was initially quite expensive, but that it had paid for itself in a very short time in helping him to diagnose issues earlier. Of course, I would not expect our students to use potentially dangerous x-rays, but don't you suppose it is a valuable skill to understand how things change over time and that time-lapse photography can be a tool to make this understanding more obvious?

With digital photography so inexpensive these days, shouldn't we use it more in our schools?

Online Tools for Creating Text Images

CoolText Graphics Generator
Text on Image Generator
Sign Generator
Dynamic Images
Make Your Own Custom Text on Images

Monday, December 24, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Gadget

by Betty Wright

You are invited to check out a Google Gadget I made (I am not certain this link will work, but you can copy and paste it :-)

The blog link is:
Mrs. Wright's Tech Corner,

I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Have you tried the iSEEK search engine? Targeted search with natural language queries similar to (Jeeves has retired).

For a kid-friendly search engine, Kern recommends . I like it! Thanks, Kern.

Literacy Across the Curriculum: Skimming, Scanning & Summarization

PLC work at MVMS this past Wednesday was on skimming, scanning & summarization in the content areas. Laura Robb's book, Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science and Math is being used as a source for some practical techniques to develop these skills.

Summarization Resources
Skimming & Scanning Resources

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is the Internet Shrinking?

by Ed Latham

If you have gone to any tech presentations in the last year, you must have seen some of the Web 2.0 tools and other cool things that seem to be opening up possibilities for anyone with an Internet connection. Even if you have not attended any of the almost evangelical presentations extolling the virtues of this cool techie tool, you have probably heard about some of the possibilities from some peers, a relative or maybe even through the media. The new, expanding Internet seems to be engulfing our culture and leaving corporations in a frenzy while they figure out how they all can get a piece of action if everything is "free".

I love some of the tools out there. I work with many different teachers that all could benefit in some way, personally or professionally, by learning about the options that seem to be growing exponentially. With all of this expansion going on, I have seen a trend that is bothering me.

For the at-home users, the options keep flowing and expanding, but in School Systems the Internet is Shrinking! Many schools have allowed teachers some freedom to experiment with some of these new technologies. That freedom is awesome, but without good training or practice, some student somewhere in the system messes things up and the tech coordinator blocks that tool off for everyone else that was doing quite nicely. Lets face it, many teachers interested in learning technology lack the time or resources to get well trained in how to use some of these technologies in safe, productive ways. The lack of time and resources for teachers to learn how to best use these tools is one factor contributing to the increasing blockage of areas of the Internet by local IT people.

A second contributing factor is poor student choices. Students often have access to computers at home and have "been there done that" many times, but their teacher never checked in to see where each of her 100 students in her case load were at with that particular skill. The teacher was excited to be able to do some "meaningful technology", but for the student that had already experienced something similar, the meaningful part is missing. The student gets bored or wishes to find some distraction from the droning on that seems to be coming from the front of the room somewhere. This is when the students need to make good choices as to how they handle boredom and distraction. Many students can not get around the temptation to check out what is on that site, or maybe I can fix that part of my Yearbook page so my friends can see my finished work. Now the teacher catches them not following the program and jots down the source of the distraction and hands it over to the IT execution squad. Computers can be broken down for weeks, but it is amazing how few minutes are required for the IT crew to get a site shut down.

I have worked with teachers in a dozen school districts this last year. In almost every system, I have heard stories from teachers of how she used to use this tool but that got blocked a few weeks ago when... The stories may differ in detail, but the cause is often something like, "Some kid did this or that so they shut down the system." Shutting down resources because of student delinquency is a lazy way of dealing with discipline! In fact it is not even dealing with the discipline that is necessary. The student can not handle boredom or distraction any better by getting caged in more and more. What is there to be distracted by if all distractions are removed? Additionally, by shutting down a resource that all could be using because of delinquent behavior, we are rewarding those delinquent with power over the system. The student, who probably has a computer at home in his bedroom, does not really care about the entire school loosing access. Instead, he can brag to his online friends how he managed to bring his entire school down simply by going to his Yearbook during math class. It becomes a joke and even a status symbol for these individuals and yet we see the stern teachers and IT people as they state, "Well, that aught to teach them to respect school property." The delinquent student must be in heaven with all the power schools are allowing them these days. How long before one says, "How much you want to bet I can get them to shut off access to Google by next week?"

This has got to stop. Techie trainers often travel from school system to school system around states and sometimes even around the country. If you asked them, as I have, you will find an increasing frequency of schools locking down resources that are parts of the presentations people are paying to have brought into their areas. It is getting to the point that one may not even be able to share the virtues of something because it is easier to shut down any access to the resource instead of dealing with the problem.

So, how do we deal with the problem? I have asked many administrators if their school has any policies in their handbooks against vandalism. So far, 100% do. I have asked if there are policies about non-compliance with school rules ... again 100% do. I asked if Computer User Agreements are in place ... of course they are. The problem then comes down to either faulty school policy or a lack of ability to follow through. Many propose that you take the computer away from the student. This is ridiculous behavior on two counts. If you value the tool to be used in productive ways and feel that the tool expands the classroom experience to new levels, then taking it away is actually depriving the student of the right to learn as others do in your class. An argument could be made that violators of the laws loose some rights and I could buy that. The second reason removal of the computer is silly, is that it teaches the student nothing about how to channel the energies that got them in trouble in the first place, especially because I will be giving it back to you in a few weeks.

Any law or rule is set in place for safety. How we follow through or enforce those rules is critical to how often we face infractions of those rules. If our reaction is to take things away, people will never learn appropriate behavior because the environment does not even exist any more. Instead the discipline has to include the behaviors leading up to the infraction and solutions to avoid that choice in the future. I thought we were here to teach people folks, not to lock them up and take away their food if they are naughty prisoners. The fact that others in the system should be punished as well by denying them access is absurd. If I go on a bus and and post all sorts of inappropriate pictures all over the inside of the buss does that mean we should shut buses down? How about denying students from bringing any printed material on buses? Should everyone show their empty pockets on the way into the buss now? OF COURSE NOT! The bus driver follows school rules, that have been discussed over many years by many people, and the offending student is disciplined, not the rest of the bus. I am sorry, but if we can figure out bus safety and can not figure out computer safety for our systems, we have a serious problem. For some the Internet may be expanding, but for most, it is clear that their Internet is shrinking at an alarming rate.

If your school system has positive ways of dealing with inappropriate student abuse of technology, could you please, please post some of the ideas your school uses? We have to spread around working systems that deal with the problem without avoiding it by shutting things down. I also urge you to quickly respond as more and more people are not going to be able to access this blog for much longer as blogging is getting shut down in many schools as well.

It is sad to think that society can get access to all sorts of tools, but education can not keep that access because of poor policy. This could become yet another way that students feel a disconnect with their real word and the ever more prison like educational sentence they may feel they have to endure for 12 years. We may be forcing students more and more into believing that education is out of touch with their world and therefor not worthy of respect, effort, or their time. Our teachers will also continue to wither as they are denied access to legitimate tools. These adults have to be treated as the students do simply because it is so much easier to keep that Internet shrinking. If they can't access it, they can't cause problems with it. This motto in IT has to stop now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Moodle Training

Today there will be four ATM distance learning sites throughout Maine connected for a look at how to use the MeVL Moodle. This is a free training. Additional Information on Moodle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Taking a Closer Look at WebQuests

Our Bethel Group 1 session convened on Monday for a look at constructivism, instructivism, and the WebQuest model. The idea was to get a taste of what is out there and to understand the philosophical underpinnings. You can find the agenda here.

Friday, December 7, 2007


by Joe Makley

Here at Jay School Department, we've been teleconferencing, and I told Jim I'd report on it! We received some pretty fancy Tandberg MediaPlace units through a R.U.S. (Rural Utility Services) grant, and have held several sessions so far with places like the Smithsonian, etc. Today we took three fourth grade classes and brought them together to attend a virtual lesson from the Columbus Zoo, "Ocean Explorers." (It was the same lady as in the picture at the link.) Great lesson! (Yes, I know there aren't many coral reefs in Ohio. It didn't matter!) She could hear kids' questions and responded to them by name across a cafeteria. When we contracted the lesson, they mailed out some materials, which they used during "class." Teachers were very impressed, and kids were engaged. These were veteran teachers who can see right through razzle-dazzle. They were looking at the pedagogy, and the gears were turning. After eight years of ATM (essentially the same technology) this stuff is finally taking off. Providers are popping up and there are databases where you can see them rated. We are having fun, and the concept has grown beyond the expensive hardware. In January, we are doing an IChat between our first graders (3 sections together) and a group of first, second, and third graders at a school in Belem, Brazil. Based on how simple the testing was for that, I think we are going to be doing a lot more IChats! I am working on the high school teachers to connect with Global Nomads, and would like to hear from anyone who is working with this group. I put up a brief resource page for our staff. My sense is that we are really breaking out of the school door with this stuff. After all these years of half-starts, it seems too good to believe. As soon as they hear about something happening in the world, kids will say, "Can we talk to them?" They will expect it. And you don't need the fancy stuff to do an IChat. These are genuinely exciting times, and I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing to bring live exchanges into the school routine.
(This project includes Bingham, Dexter, Lewiston, and in the second round recently announced: Rumford, Bethel, and Dixfield.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Media Literacy: Advertising

Do we teach our kids to be discerning consumers? Can they identify advertising techniques? Can they create their own ads using these techniques?

Classic Ron Popeil clip:

Resources for Media Literacy: Advertising

Batter Blaster?

Mr. Coffee I-V

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christopher Dunham, Unprofessional Genealogist

I just happened upon the incredible web work of Christopher Dunham. Interested in local history and genealogy? Find a wealth of information on Chris's blogs. Living in West Paris and having spent my entire life in Oxford County, I was particularly interested in his Oxford County Genealogy Notebook.

Looking for great primary sources for Maine? Look no further. This is a goldmine.

The Maine Event

Courtesy of David Trask, check out this article about the utilization of technology in Maine Schools: Pp. 30-33 in Technology & Learning.