Saturday, May 31, 2008


It is almost time to start reflecting on the school year.

End-of-the-Year Resources

Photo credit

Maine Holocaust Education Network

Ernie Easter of the New Sweden School has created the Maine Holocaust Education Network which is a network of educators and students sharing and collaborating with each other in order to understand the Holocaust and work towards preventing future holocausts, genocides, and other human rights atrocities. Join them here.

Holocaust Resources at LIM Resources Wiki

Wicked Decent Learning: "Work with Me Here"

Listen to Episode 21
WDL Blog
Cooked on Education Blog

Co-Teaching Resources at LIM Resources Wiki
Interdisciplinary Learning Resources at LIM Resources Wiki

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Who(m) Do We Trust?

We live in a world that has a flood of information. How do we decide which information is true? How do we sort out what is most reliable? Let's look at some handy tools and ideas that help to make sense of it all. Click here.

Essential Question: '"How do you know information is true?"

Digital Video - Getting the Word Out

by Dave Perloff

Thanks for your post, and your encouragement regarding our foundation's work. We've had excellent adoption of by key Maine technology integrators, including David Grant, Laura Richter and Bob Sprankle, but it's been challenging to get the word out more generally. "Learning in Maine" is certainly one avenue for addressing that.

Jay Charette at Madawaska Middle School has been especially active in using our approach to digital video. His work was cited in the article written about Fast Track Grants in the current ACTEM news letter (p. 5, Perhaps you could encourage Jay ( to contribute a post concerning his "Step Up Day" video project, which is now on-line at .

Recently, I've been focusing on the use of the media player for accessing and archiving audio podcasts. Check out the following link for examples:

This page provides instant access to more than 250 audio tracks. All of the .mp3 files reside on their own servers. They can be downloaded by clicking on the symbols at the right of the playlist item.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fast Track Grants

Dave and Sandy Perloff have been giving back to Maine schools. Have an innovative or important project that you need help in implementing? Check with the Perloff Family Foundation.

The following schools and districts are now eligible to apply for grants for the 2008/2009 school year:
  • Biddeford School District
  • Connor Consolidated School
  • Edmunds Consolidated School
  • Ellsworth School Department
  • Kingman Elementary
  • Madawaska Elementary and MS/HS
  • MSAD 27 (Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Saint Francis, Wallagrass)
  • MSAD 60 (Berwick, Lebanon, North Berwick)
  • Sinclair (Therriault Elementary)

Find more information and background on the Fast Track Grants at the Maine Community Foundation.

Have a video project? Check here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Teaching Tech: Using The Internet In Language Learning

The internet has made it much easier for "foreign" language teachers to make their subject more relevant and interesting to their students. A few applications include 1) accessing primary resources in the target language, 2) establishing pen pal relationships with people who speak the target language, 3) practicing language using games, 4) practicing language through internet writing (discussion boards, blogs, chat rooms, etc.), and 5) using internet assessments.

One issue about using the internet in any classroom is whether a teacher should allow students to look for their own websites or whether to direct them to sites. I have seen first-hand that student-found sites are often superficial; they may be the first sites off a Google search or they may even just got straight to Wikipedia. It is important that students have the opportunity to do their own web research, however, teachers need to discuss the evaluation of websites with students. It is important to note that even sites from reputable sources may contain (or may link to) false information.

To give students structure to do internet research, I would give them several (3-4) good websites to look at on the topic of interest. In addition to the given websites, I would have students research another website on the same topic and pass in the web address along with a brief description of the site as part of their class or home work. By giving the students several examples, 1) They will have more starting points for their research, 2) They will see examples of good websites and 3) If one link doesn’t work, the whole project won’t be in danger. As students find more and more different websites about the topic, 1) the teacher will save time looking up new websites and 2) new websites will be found to replace expired ones for a project. When I monitored an AP internet class, the teachers of those classes always gave students the web addresses of sites they were to use. When they didn’t, straight to Wikipedia they went.

Of course, this implies there is some work to be done beforehand by the teacher to compile the links but once compiled, the resources will self-replace on the part of the students. I worked under a Hughes Education grant for a teacher doing this very work for about a month the summer of 2003. I imagine funding would be available for teachers wanting to undertake this sort of project, providing the work would be shared with other teachers.

In providing some web addresses for students and giving them guiding questions or an activity, teachers structure contexts for using the internet. Teachers can not send students on the internet to play a game (or do anything else) without a purpose. Internet resources, like any other instructional technique, can only be used after making assessments and constructing objectives. Making assessments and objectives would also help teachers figure out what types of web technology to use. For example, if I want to assess students’ knowledge about “Clauses with si” on sight, I would send them to play the battleship game at If I wanted students to know how to write different clauses or know the answer without a list, however, I would want to assess them in another way.

When you start collecting web addresses, the amount will become overwhelming very quickly. If I was going to organize myself for the internet for the semester or year, I would begin structuring web resources by making an outline of the topics so that websites could be organized by topic. By doing this, I would be able to see which topics are well covered by websites and which are not. I would also see when movies, simulations, video games, or other special internet resources are available for the unit. By knowing what isn’t on the internet, I know what I will have to provide for in class so students have access to the information.

The best uses of the internet for learning another language are accessing primary resources and communicating with native speakers. On the internet, students can listen to French music, read French newspapers and magazines, and watch French movies. Students could for example listen to “Cap Énrage” by Zachary Richard and look at the lyrics at the same time. They could then write a paragraph about what they think the song means. In addition to exposure to media, students can communicate directly with native speakers of a foreign language on the internet. Through personal communication, students get the unique opportunity to hear another voice (literally and figuratively) besides the teacher speaking the target language. If a friendship is formed, students also have new motivation to learn the language. With the internet, students can go beyond canned conversation and outdated issues discussed in textbooks. (Before I went to France, I often thought the people there lived in the 1980s based on the culture written about in the textbooks!) The internet has made language learning more exciting and more relevant than ever. The plethora of internet resources and uses makes knowledge and application of internet resources an essential part of teaching and learning in the language classroom.

It would be great if teachers would post their favorite French (or Spanish or any language that is not English) learning sites. It’s been a few years since I’ve done this so there is probably a lot out there I’m not aware of!

Nicole will post "Teaching Tech" (formerly Tech Tuesday) about internet resources for your classroom whenever she thinks of it, which is incidentally never on a Tuesday. She doesn't teach anymore but has her own personal finance blog and web communication business:

Friday, May 23, 2008

K -12 Education Jobs in Maine

A list of places to search for education positions in Maine. Any others that should be added to the list? Serving Schools
Info Maine - Maine Teaching Jobs
Maine Department of Education - Jobs

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Handy Tool from Google

I just discovered another handy tool from Google that seems to be a very user-friendly way of working with groups. It is called Google Sites and is of the wiki persuasion. Feel free to play with the one I set up here. What do you think?

* Oops . . . it appears that an invite needs to be extended in order to edit although viewing can be private or public. Thanks for the heads-up, Sarah Sutter.

OnTIME - Episode 6

Link to latest ACTEM Podcast

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Google Apps Reprise

Why Google Apps?

Google Apps Quick Tour

What Students Think of Google Apps

Question: Are there any reasons that K-12 schools should not use Google Apps?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who would ever think pain can feel this good?

by Ed Latham

I am not a masochist, but I am a boy scout leader which some may mistake as the same thing, at times. This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a district scout camporee with 7 fine individuals from our small town of Frenchville Maine. Our crew ranges from 6th graders through high school juniors with most of our scouts falling on the younger range of the scale. Our scouts are not gifted athletes and half of them are not academically outstanding. In short you may say our troop is a typical sample of students you may have in class in any rural area.

One event at this camporee was the tug of war. With the lack of physically dominant kids, I figured this would be one of the events that our kids dreaded. In fact, it was one of their favorite. The leaders in charge of the camporee threw the tug of war event in more as a time filler as opposed to any serious intent of competition. When boys were finished other events, they would come over to the rope and just start pulling each other around the field creating grass stains that any laundromat owner has nightmares about. The boys had an official pull that they did very well at and then continued trying different permutations to test themselves. At one point only two of our boys were taking on an entire troop of younger, smaller boys. The testosterone was in the air and I have to admit I caught a good whiff of it as I watch the boys preening and strutting their stuff.

I got up off the grass and started sauntering over to the rope as I pulled up my sleeves getting ready for a major lesson. The two scouts that had been dominating were whooping and hollering nervously as a "real challenge" was coming in their mind. I weigh in close to 250 pounds and these two boys totaled 350-400 total. Still everyone was all charged up and eager to see this old man take on the young studs. When we started, everyone was dead quiet and you could actually hear a few joints in my legs "adjusting". We pulled and held each other. They had mass but I had leverage, experience and a confident attitude. The boys learned quickly that if they tugged together, simply weight ratios demanded that my body would be lifted off the ground. I would gain an inch, they would lift me 4-5 inches before I could land and pull back another inch or so. I saw the end coming and started laughing as I bounced on my butt as they dragged me across the line. I knew the pull was unfair. I knew the competition was in no way balanced and I knew I had little chance of winning. The boys did not know that last part of course. Still I congratulated the boys on a fine pull and everyone had a blast with no excuses. I think I pulled a groin muscle or something as I started experiencing a good amount of pain about an hour or so later. Ah, old age catching up with a young mind.

Fast forward a few hours. At the evening bonfire, the leaders had determined there was enough interest in the tug of war earlier to have a pull offs between the two top teams. Our troop was one of the finalist. Our 7 were up against 8 other boys that were marginally bigger than ours. Our team was able to pull on a downhill grade which I figured was to account for the more mass on the other side. The pull was very tight and only after a couple min of pulling did our boys succeed. Then they switched sides! More mass going down hill, I was a wreck. The boys quietly took their new post and gave it their best. They were dragged with ease. They got up proudly as it was pronounced a third pull would decide it. Evidently there was no call to change sides. The boys did not complain once, but dug in to do their best. They held a few seconds then proceeded to get dragged easily away.

All the way back in the crowd they never once hung their head, and never offered an excuse. They were proud of what they did in spite of everything being stacked against them. When they got home and parents asked about the weekend, the tug of war topped every boys list of cool things.

I started walking through the halls of a school today and those part of my body that chose to not keep up with my mental youth were reminding me of my group of scouts and how their learning experience this weekend was so much different from what they may be experiencing in class today. I look to almost any school vision and I see words like perseverance, courage, creativity and so many other positive habits of mind. Until this weekend, I had never seen what the attainment of those traits actually looked like in a group of students. I have seen glimpses in individuals in school, but never the entire group sharing the experience and the learning. In the scouting program, many of the skills and habits of mind are programmed into their activities and merit badges. Watching these boys tackle very clear challenges, failing, and still relishing the experience helps to show me how much is missing out of a student's typical day at school. I have four adolescent boys and between the four of them I might hear of one thing each week that one of the boys might have experienced at school and he thought everyone should know about in a positive way. School just seems to be happening to them with little involvement or personal action.

I limped back to my room at school with my problem solving brain in high gear. Thoughts of Competency Based Education models, Mastery Teaching, and the Scouting Model bounce around my head as I start looking over the revised Maine State Learning Results. Why can't our curriculum look more like these models? The inner puppy in me was barking like crazy that it was time to play with possibilities and revisit hopes and dreams for education. Although, I am sure the muscles will be reminding me of my foolishness for days to come, the aches will help remind me of what real learning can look like. My legs, back and other parts of my body may be quite uncomfortable, but the feeling in my head and heart is oh so good!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Featuring McFalls Elm Street School

The Elm Street School is a K-8 school about 10 miles from Lewiston/Auburn. It is located in Mechanic Falls and is part of Union 29. The good people in this school need to look at every possible avenue to stretch their small budget in order to provide the very best possible learning environment in a caring, community school. Though I haven't worked with them this past year, I had the opportunity in previous years to see their dedication to grabbing every opportunity that might enhance their school. On an earlier post, we looked at the importance of classroom web presence. Check the links below to see a small sampling of the free/inexpensive solutions that Elm Street 7-8 teachers made use of:

Laurie Callahan - Social Studies

Mrs. Callahan's Portaportal

Dan Knott - Science

Mr. Knott's Portaportal

Cathy Wood

Mrs. Wood's Homework Hero Assignment Page

Gigi Lee

Mrs. Lee's Math Website and Weather WebQuest

WDL Episode 19

Award Ceremonies Podcast
Wicked Decent Learning Blog
Maine Ideas in Education

Straight out of Western Maine, Jeff Bailey and Dan Ryder continue their famous/infamous weekly podcasts on issues and opportunities in education . . . with a focus on Maine.

Direct Audio Link to this Week's Podcast

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is it on the test?

Not on the Test
FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing
Process Skills

What is not on the test?

What should be on the test?

Doing Research at OHMS

I'm working with Bev Yates' classes today on looking at ways of finding information and determining whether it can be trusted or not. Link.


Monday, May 12, 2008

TelstarToo: Images

Creating Using Images Agenda - How can images be used to improve communication?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Just the Facts, Ma'am

One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with. ~ Marshall McLuhan
The question is this: What should we know in our own heads and what should we simply leave to a machine's storage device?

Joe Makley has a fascinating post on this very subject titled, "Platitudes and Orthodoxy in Web 2.0." But Joe goes beyond whether a fact is completely necessary to learn. He speaks to the issue of focus and contemplation in this world where we are bombarded by so much information that we often operate on an instant-to-instant crisis basis rather than through deliberation and thoughtfulness.

Are we in danger of losing both our roots and our wings? Our souls? Any thoughts about taming the technology beast?

Taming the Beast - Choice & Control in the Electronic Jungle by Jason Ohler.
The Idea of Global Collective Memory
Artificial Intelligence at LIM Resources Wiki

In Your Shoes

I received a link to this video from Anne Ireland today. I've been thinking of it in terms of school culture and the top-down, little boxes model that public education has increasingly experienced. Thank you, Anne.

Earlier Post on Respect
Listening to Others
Operation Respect
Don't Laugh at Me

What do you think?

Reconsidering Acceptable Use Agreements

Many Maine schools are reviewing their acceptable use agreements/policies in light of new developments in utilization of the internet. Rather than each school reinventing the wheel, why not share the wealth by listing your school's agreements here?

LIM Acceptable Use Policy Wiki Page

Thursday, May 8, 2008

MARTI - Blogging in Adult Education

The adult education staff at Oxford Hills and I will be working on how blogging might be used with their students. Click here to view the agenda.

Essential Question: How can classroom communication and collaboration be enhanced with the use of blogs?

Margie's Maine Blog
HartfordGarden Blog

Sunday, May 4, 2008


"People want the attention -- no one likes to feel like an underappreciated cog in an overworked machine."
~ Vicki Davis
Vicki was commenting on a post from Ed Tech Trek titled "I'm beaming". In the post, Caroline Obannon was expressing her joy when working individually with a teacher who saw clearly and enthusiastically how a tool could be used in his classroom.

The moral of the story is that teachers are very, very busy people and need to be treated with respect. It is so very easy for people who don't spend every day in the classroom to pontificate by throwing out elaborate schemes that in the end are not workable given limited time and energy. I saw it many times during my 32 years in the classroom. Those who work on making changes in our schools must do so without arrogance and self-righteousness. It is time to start trusting teachers while giving them our support.

The ultimate irony is for an outsider to give a lecture to a crowd of teachers on a professional development day on how teachers should be using collaboration, teamwork, constructivism, project-based learning, and interdisciplinary teaching with their students. And yet, how often does it happen? I know I've been guilty of that approach. Not good.

Coincidentally, thanks to Michael Richards' Notes from Millie D blog, I discovered the following:

An Ode to Study Groups

By Folwell Dunbar

From the early Neolithic or late Pliocene
To just yesterday afternoon around half past four
The professional development most often seen
Had participants screaming and running for the door!

The principal would attend a workshop in July,
Buy the hottest new book or some videocassette.
He would come back to school with a twinkle in his eye
And write an S.I.P. teachers could never regret!

A Ph.D. with a huge ego and résumé
Would visit the school two or three times during the year.
And show every last teacher an enlightened way
To make A.Y.P. without even an ounce of fear.

He would stand at the podium and preach to the choir
Bout' NCLB and shared accountability.
"We must raise the bar and then jump higher and higher!
Teach from bell to bell with sense and sensitivity!"

The teachers would leave the cafetorium in glee
With reams of information packed with jargon to spare.
Lugging binders and handouts (at a nominal fee),
They would return to class both in rapture and aware...

Of research-based "best practices" that were tried and true
And lesson strategies that could not possibly fail!
The administration was sharp, knew just what to do:
They had "stood and delivered" the PD Holy Grail!

But as we all know, school change is a tricky business;
It's hard as a tack and never happens overnight.
Workshops don't work, all victims would certainly confess.
It requires blood, sweat, and tears and a terrific fight!

Faculty buy-in and active participation
Are key ingredients for real, successful reform.
To bring about such a meaningful transformation
We have to make the two an essential PD norm.

Embed them throughout the entire training process
To ensure that teachers get both what they want and need.
Create a new culture dedicated to progress
Where everyone has an opportunity to lead.

To accomplish this, there is only one thing to do:
Sound the alarm and rally the much-beleaguered troops;
Get rid of workshops and empower the in-school crew.
Change the paradigm; adopt faculty study groups!

Six to eight people working together side by side
Go explore topics and issues relevant to each.
They travel miles and miles deep and hardly an inch wide,
Until they discover a better, new way to teach.

From crunching numbers to trying a new high-tech tool,
From reading a great book to designing a lesson,
They do any number of things to improve the school.
It is always worthwhile and occasionally fun.

Study groups will increase student achievement and more.
They will earn the school district and state impunity.
But much more important than any assessment score,
You'll be a professional learning community!

Let's hope that the the phrase, professional learning community, doesn't deteriorate to simply mean business as usual. Let's not use language to get in the way of communication . . . but instead to help develop clarity and understanding.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Research-Based Instruction & Reading First

A study of the NCLB Reading First program found that teachers were spending more time on reading instruction but that there was no significant difference in reading comprehension between those schools that used the program and those that didn't.

See interim report here.

Relate Articles:

Washington Post: "Billions for an Inside Game on Reading"
NCTE Elementary Section: "Reading First Called 'Ineffective.'"
Reading First: The Naked Truth
Gary Stager at Huffington Post: The Surge Against First Graders

What do you think? Are there any lessons to be learned here?

Standardized Testing in Maine

Listen to Episode 18 - "Stop. Put Your Pencils Down." at Wicked Decent Learning

DOE - Maine High School Assessment - SAT
Maine Educational Assessment (MEA)
Wikipedia: SAT

What are your thoughts on standardized testing in Maine?

Free Technology for Teachers

Western Maine's own Richard Byrne shares a wealth of free technology resources and how teachers can use them on his daily-updated blog, Free Technology for Teachers. His reviews are based on carefully checking out the latest developments and concisely reporting on how they might be used in the classroom and elsewhere. I find that dropping into his blog saves a great deal of time in sorting through the plethora of new applications . . . Richard does it for us.

Maine Sheet Music Source

An incredibly rich resource of Maine sheet music and more . . . a Maine gem. Click here and get ready to make some music! Did I mention that it is free?

Crazy or Stupid?

"We are told accountability is essential — by people who refuse to be accountable for underfunding schools, who fail to address the social needs of children created by inequalities and who think simple answers exist for complex problems. Accountability flows both ways. I may be crazy, but I am not stupid."

I regularly check out AASA's excellent monthly online publication, The School Administrator, for articles on education. A visit to Paul Houston's column is always a must. This morning I read his "Crazy or Stupid?" offering in which we speaks to issues of accountability and blame.

Recent Issues: