Monday, June 30, 2008

EdTech Action Network

by Becky Ranks

Today I am writing very briefly. For those of us who care about technology and its connection to teaching and learning in our schools in Maine, it’s time for political action. Here at NECC they have made it very easy to voice our opinions about the need for continued federal funding for technology. I am including a message from the ETAN website that explains their mission.
Join a growing number of educators across the nation who are “Making Their Voice Heard” in support of education technology. ETAN provides a forum for educators and others to engage in the political process and project a unified voice in support of a common cause – improving teaching and learning through the systemic use of technology. ETAN’s mission is to influence public policy-makers at the federal, state and local levels and to increase public investment in the competitiveness of America's classrooms and students.

So, all who read this go to the ETAN site and put in your zip code. It is so easy. They have written a letter for us that will be sent to our Maine legislators, and all you have to do is fill out a quick form and send. It’s a small thing to do that will have a large impact on our schools. I am also including a photo here of the Blogger’s Café, a very busy and thriving environment in the middle of NECC.


by Deborah White

If you missed this year's FOSSED 2008 (Free and Open Source Software in Education), you might want to check out my impressions of the sessions I attended. Hopefully, it will inspire you to register for FOSSED 2009!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Constructivist Consortium at NECC

by Becky Ranks

Today I am in San Antonio, Texas at the first day of NECC. I am attending an event that really is not connected with NECC, but is a very wonderful opportunity to work with teachers from all over the country and the world. It’s called the Constructivist Consortium with Gary Stager. One hundred twenty five teachers are crammed…and I mean crammed into the little Casa Rio Restaurant in downtown San Antonio. We are about to embark on a journey of constructivist learning. At this point of the day we are watching a video of Seymour Papert debating school reform and defending the use of technology in classrooms. His vision has long been in the forefront of our discussions of professional development opportunities in Maine. He sees technology as a medium for learning…comparing it to the arts and clay as a medium for the sculptor. It makes it possible for learning to happen in a creative expressive way especially in the areas of math and science.

Some of the wonderful software we are using today: Kidspiration, Inspired Data, Microworlds EX,Animation-ish, and Stationary Studio from FableVision. At ten o’clock we are handed all of this great software and set loose to construct and create. Everyone is doing something wonderful and different. We have all day just to play and learn….what an opportunity. Could we use this as a model for professional development in Maine? Sometimes I think we do too much talking and do not give teachers the time to “construct” and “create”. But in doing this we then have to think does this kind of learning fit every learner? Some people need more direction and purpose for what they are doing, while others would flourish and thrive in this open-ended environment. Lisa Foster, Gardiner Regional Middle School’s Technology Integrator is my partner today and we are spending this 100 degree day inside in a room buzzing with creativity.

Everyone, at some point in time, should attend a national conference as it refreshes, enriches, and inspires. A whole day to just think, construct, and create is a gift worth giving. Next year NECC will be held in Washington DC…a much closer venue to New Englanders. I would highly recommend thinking about attending and do it early as this event, a pre-NECC event, sold out in two days. I hope to add another post or two this week. See you then!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Car that runs on water .... GREAT... or is it really?

by Ed Latham

I stumbled across a bunch of videos lately when I was searching for alternative fuels. I would offer links, but if you simply go to You Tube and enter in "Cars that run on water" or "h20 cars" you will see a bunch of videos. In one of the videos from Reutors, a Japanese model has 1 hour of run time at 80KM (50 mph) on one liter of water (roughly 1/3 gallon) which would equate to 150 miles per gallon. On the surface this sounds great! Many of the videos suggest that the water does not even need to be cleaned. Water is everywhere right?

Those of you over 40 years old, could you please think back to your teen years and quote me the price of bottled water? Unless your family was in the rich upper class, you did not even see bottled water on standard supermarket shelves. In fact, the industry only started bottling water in plastic bottles in 1968 and that really started things off. Buying bottled water instead of drinking tap water really only took off in the late 80s and early 90s. Effectively, we might say that buying bottled water 20 years ago was a joke or novelty.

Look around you now. Go to any park in any city and you will find a good chunk of people toting around some water. Go to any professional conference and bottles of crystal clear water are usually present. Certainly, bottled water is increasing it's importance in much of American culture. After all, both Coke and Pepsi companies report that sales of bottled water continue to reach record levels through 2006.

How about our gas consumption? Before the gas crisis of the early 70s many people considered gas to be inexpensive and plentiful. In 1973 when things exploded, oil was up to a whooping $12/barrel and our country felt like it was being strangled. I know inflation has a role in comparing prices from one time period to another, but look at the price now for oil. Just do a quick search on internet for today's price. At the pump we can see the direct cost for us to drive around, and currently that is running around $4 US / gallon. People are complaining everywhere in America about the prices while Europeans sit back and sort of chuckle thinking it is about time for us to pay for our consumption rates. I do not mean to slip into a US consumption bashing (later article maybe) but I did want to highlight that people are starting to feel some anxiety about gas prices. Do we feel the same about water?

Lets do the math that no one thinks about. A 16 oz bottle of water sells for approximately $1 US on average. 16oz is 1/8th of a gallon. Some simple math gets us to $8 a gallon for water!!!! Something must be wrong with my math ... let me double check ... hmmmm. Nope, everything checks out. We pay $8 a gallon to drink water and no one complains at all, but almost everyone complains about $4 a gallon for the ability to drive around?

I would like to note that bottled water prices in the last 5 years or so have started a growth pattern that is far from a linear growth. This implies that we will be paying tons more for water if current trends continue. And we want to take this resource and put it into our cars?

Some would argue that water is everywhere and it is free to scoop up. Try that at your local town water reservoir and tell me how much the fine was. Couldn't we collect rain? Well, people could currently cut down on their water taxes in many cities by collecting rain, but how often does that happen. Even if we did, is your region experiencing droughts more and more each 5 year increment?

I love the idea of a cheap renewable fuel source. I worry about water, the key to our survival, being one of those sources. With the voracious appetite of the Amearican consumers and an apparent lack of concern where the products come from, I can envision us driving ourselves into some scary situations.

I don't think we talk much about water in this country. I would like to hear other's thoughts about water. Is it something we need to be aware of? How many were aware of the political tensions between Canada and American in the last few years of the issue to access fresh water? Are we aware of how others around the world view water as a resource? I would love to hear from different parts of the world about their culture's views on water. After all this typing, I think I need to go get a drink.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Death of Carlin

by Ed Latham

George Carlin was a comedian that people seemed to love or hate. He died recently and I have been reflecting on all of the educational things I have learned through his humor. I admit that I love his humor because of his creative way of looking at our language. In so many ways, Carlin was able to teach me more about English than my formal education. Sure, the formal education provided me the grammar, syntax and format, but Carlin got me thinking about the social usage and implications of the language we all try to use.

George often used language in his presentations that has been considered uncouth, rude, obnoxious, and just plain vulgar. If you can put up with his style of presentation, he has many valid educational elements that are great to share with students. I am not proposing you have students listen to Carlin in class (oh boy would the notes from home fly). For those masterful teachers out there, the ability to adapt the questions and philosophies and rational into classroom discussions can help create incredible discussions. For example, one of Carlin's most famous skits involved "The Seven Words" that you can not say. Sure the words he lists are disturbing and unacceptable to many, but he raises the issues of who controls speech, why do is it done, what are the effects. If you can look by the irony that a land that has Freedom Of Speech has censored words, the conversations students can generate is valuable!

Carlin challenged many thoughts and publicly aimed at causing dissonance in order to get people thinking and reflecting. How much dissonance is caused in our classes? Would it help or hinder student though or discussions? How do teachers add "challenging thoughts" without fear of pressure from parents, peers, or administration? In his humor, Carlin established an attitude that everything can and should be challenged. I have personally found questioning everything to be a very rewarding experience that has taught me many things I might otherwise not have learned. Unfortunately, challenging things can get you in some difficult situations as well, but everything is a learning opportunity, right?

If you are looking for points of view to create conversations in your classes, I would encourage you to look into his humor. My encouragement does have some warnings. If you are easily upset by conflicting points of view, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you are easily upset by inappropriate language, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you are not comfortable with things that challenge what you know or believe, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you celebrate the fact that we are all creatures capable of creativity, emotions, and perspectives you may really enjoy George Carlin.

Are there comedians that you feel have something to offer education? I do not ask specifically about comedians that you can present in class, rather I question if you have any comedians content you feel has educational importance? Comedy is a reflection of life usually warped by an exaggeration. If we want students to learn about life, discussions and studies about our humor may be transformational. How do you use professional humor in your class?

Digital Storytelling, Flip & iMovie

Today and tomorrow, we will be investigating the uses of the Flip Video Camera, iLife apps, web 2.0 tools, and digital storytelling at Gardiner.

Essential Question: How can we tell stories using digital media?

Digital Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Effective Practices for Leading Middle Schools - No Matter What Your Job

by Martha Thibodeau

Chris Toy, former principal in Freeport and now an Educational Consultant, presented at the Middle Level Education Institute on June 22nd. His topic - the title of this post - intrigued me since I don't "belong" to any one school or faculty, but I can and do have an impact in the schools that I serve.

We did an activity that used synectics. Hundreds of pictures were strewn about the floor and we had to choose one that spoke to us in general and about leadership. We then got into a triad and shared our thoughts, and had a chance to speak about every picture. Then we had to look at all three pictures and come up with some thoughts on how they were alike or how they were different, or how they had a common thread. We then had to look at how this would transfer into our work lives with a partner. The last part was reflection:

What did I learn or realize again about good leadership during this activity?

I realized that the prompts that were given have to be open-ended, engaging, and provide an opportunity for learning for the participants. I realized again that choice is a great motivator. When I selected that picture, I had some ownership over making it make sense to my colleagues.

Here are some excerpts from others in the group: Good leadership has many facets. Good leadership means different things to different people. The path will be difficult at times, but the building momentum will be worth it in the end. As a leader you can't do everything your self. Allow choices to make a lesson your own. There are different types of leaders. Great leaders don't remain stagnant they are willing to change as needed.

Chris did a great job of modeling facilitation techniques.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Technology Integration Standards

Many of us know about the ISTE-NETS, the Maine Roadmap, and a myriad of other overviews for technology integration, but have you seen the Florida Center for Instructional Technology's Technology Integration Matrix? I like it because of its simplicity and that it gives real-life examples for each category.

Might a similar site for Maine be a good format for sharing our stories? What do you think?

Florida's Technology Integration Matrix
Technology Standards Resources at LIM Resources Wiki

Photo Credit

Monday, June 16, 2008

Exit Strategies

Airborne for Beyond Creativity

Integrating Technology Creatively in Teaching & Learning

2008 MLTI Summer Institute at Castine
July 23, 24 & 25, 2008 (Wed. - Friday)

Information and Registration

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

"Prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect the emotional state of a speaker; whether an utterance is a statement, a question, or a command; whether the speaker is being ironic or sarcastic; emphasis, contrast and focus; and other elements of language which may not be encoded by grammar." ~ Wikipedia

How we express the printed word makes all the difference in making abstractions come to life. That's where the art of prosody comes in. Do we put enough emphasis on prosody in our schools?

Wikipedia: Prosody
Prosody on the Web
Prosody Guide
Listen to Prosody Online

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thinking Critically

"Critical thinking is not just a matter of applying the rules of logic (much less scientific method). It is a matter of thinking and feeling empathetically with others, of engaging one's imagination, of having access to a wealth of facts about the possible effects of alternative actions, of discerning patterns of meaning in experience, of looking at the world from different perspectives." ~ Warren Nord
Critical Thinking Skills
Mission: Critical
Reflective Thinking
Logical Fallacies
Propoganda & Advertising
Cognitive Dissonance
List of Newspeak Words
Scientific Method
Who(m) Do We Trust?

"If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be;

but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."--Lewis Carroll

Are we teaching our kids to think critically?

Photo Credit

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Power of Words

No question about it, words carry connotations as well as literal meanings. Beyond that, they also can convey meaning based on the manner in which they are said and the way they are pieced together in sentences.

NPR: Power of Language

Words . . .

  • Can be used to clarify or confuse.
  • Can be used to pull us together or divide us.

Care to add to the list?

Photo Credit

How Groups Work

I was reflecting on the nature of groups last night and found these sites to be helpful in better understanding group dynamics.

Group Dynamics: Basic Nature of Groups
Groups That Work
A Guide to Group Work
Small Group Dynamics: Groupthink
Wikipedia: Groupthink
Team Building at LIM Resources
Process Skills at LIM Resources

What are ways of making groups work better?

Photo Credit

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Listening, Really Listening

"To respond is positive, to react is negative."
~Zig Zigler

With all the distractions in modern life, are we able to really listen and to give the person talking to us our full attention? How important is eye contact and our undivided attention? Can we get beyond reacting from our own perspective and really put ourselves in the shoes of the other person in order to understand who they are and where they are coming from? In short, can we be comfortable enough with ourselves that we can let go and listen?

Listening Skills and Active Listening Skills at LIM Resources

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing about" ~ Kenneth A. Wells

"Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirit soars." Jiddu Krishnamurti

"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

"Only when the clamor of the outside world is silenced will you be able to hear the deeper vibration. Listen carefully." ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

"I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying." ~ Charles C. Finn

"The little child whispered, "God, speak to me." And a meadowlark sang. But the child did not hear. So the child yelled, "God, speak to me!" And the thunder rolled across the sky. But the child did not listen. The child looked around and said, "God let me see you." And a star shone brightly But the child did not notice. And the child shouted, "God show me a miracle!" And a life was born. But the child did not know. So the child cried out in despair, "Touch me God, and let me know you are here!" Whereupon God reached down and touched the child. But the child brushed the butterfly away and walked away unknowingly. Take time to listen. Often times, the things we seek are right underneath our noses. Don't miss out on your blessing because it isn't packaged the way that you expect." ~ Anonymous

How can we be better listeners?

Island Learning

North Haven, Maine has a unique K-12 school that might be a model for schools on the mainland.

North Haven Community School

Edutopia - "Treasured Island: Giving Students Real Skills and Real Responsibilities"

Edutopia - "How To: Raise the Educational Stakes with Project Learning"

NPR - Maine School Bind Isolated Island Together

What other models of project-based learning are there in Maine?

Photo Credit

Monday, June 9, 2008

Effective Teams

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

~ Goethe
Essential Question: What matters most?

How to Be an Effective Team Member
How to Build a Team
How to Build a Great Team
Team Building: Organizing a Team
The Leaders Institute: Efficient Meetings
Team Building at LIM Resources
Trust Building at LIM Resources
Active Listening at LIM Resources
Learning Styles at LIM Resources

Where to Draw the Line

Wicked Decent Learning Episode 22

School Discipline is the theme.

WDL Archives
WDL Blog

Behavior Management and Classroom Management at LIM Resources Wiki. Feel free to add your ideas, wisdom and resources to this community wiki page.


Friday, June 6, 2008

A Lasting Friendship: Maine and Argentina

Forwarded by Dave Perloff

In 2001 high school students from Auburn, Maine and Avellaneda, Argentina began a correspondence and a friendship that continues today.

Spanish teacher Pam Davis and English teacher Claudia García found each other through, an online service that matches teachers and classes around the world, and with a grant from the Perloff Family Foundation, the Edward Little High School students began studying Argentine culture and exchanging emails, pictures and mementos with their pen pals in Argentina.

At the end of that first school year, the American teacher traveled to Argentina to meet her new friend and visit the Argentine students and their school. With her she took a new laptop computer, a gift from the students at Edward Little High School. The Argentine students had so many questions, both about American life and about their pen-pals back in Maine. The next September, a new group of students continued to write and share experiences, and with another grant from the Perloff Family Foundation, the Argentine teacher was able to visit Maine and teach at Edward Little High School for two weeks. Claudia was the first Argentine the students had ever met, and a very real connection to their new friends there.

Both teachers have traveled to each other's countries again since, and several of the American "alumni" of this experience have gone on to major in Spanish in college and to travel to Argentina.

This past year, with a new group of students, the correspondence has taken a new step: video tours and letters. (With two cameras supplied by the Perloff Family Foundation and lots of support from the school systems involved, the American and Argentine students can see one another's schools, hear jokes, give the latest news and finally see and hear each other as they communicate.)

Both teachers and all students involved in this correspondence would like to thank the Perloff Family Foundation and especially Dave and Sandy Perloff for their interest and their support of new ideas in public schools!

Annenberg Media: By Becky Ranks

If you have not checked out the Annenberg Media materials, I would add it to my personal professional development goals for the summer. I am including a description below found on their website:

Annenberg Media uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. This mandate is carried out chiefly by the funding and broad distribution of educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for the professional development of K-12 teachers. It is part of The Annenberg Foundation and advances the Foundation’s goal of encouraging the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.
Annenberg Media’s multimedia resources help teachers increase their expertise in their fields and assist them in improving their teaching methods. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroom and viewers at home. All Annenberg Media videos exemplify excellent teaching.

As a former classroom teacher and a lover of literature, I found a video in minutes that took me right into classrooms with students and teachers interacting with literature. The video modeled best practices in using literature with young students and it was as if I were given the time to visit someone’s classroom and see these best practices in action. I had to do a quick sign up, but once I did I was given an array of choices and could do a search within the site by grade level and content area. What an amazing resource…I am not sure how I missed this one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The trouble with kids today . . .

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners,
contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders
and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now
tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no
longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict
their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their

~ Socrates, 5th Century B.C. Google Answers

There seems to be a perpetual lament throughout history
about how the young do not measure up to their elders.

Here's the latest complaint:

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupifies
Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future?

Podcast Interview with Author, Mark Bauerlain, at Intended Consequences. - Are We the Dumbest Generation?


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Video in the Classroom, The easy way

by J Charette

Using digital video in the classroom has always been viewed as a very time consuming undertaking. The typical scenario included using expensive video cameras, microphones, downloading video typically in real-time, then editing the video, followed by exporting the video back to the camera or burning DVDs. Getting it online was a whole other issue that most teachers don’t want to tackle. It appeared daunting to say the least.

Thanks to Dave and Sandy Perloff, the idea of making videos in a classroom is no longer daunting. The equipment involved includes a Canon Powershot digital camera, a couple of SD memory cards, a card reader, iMovie (found on the MLTI laptops), and a program that converts the files to flash. All that’s needed can be had for a minimum investment, no big expenses, no fears of students breaking that expensive equipment, and most importantly no huge time requirements!

My project was a Step Up Day video. The basic idea was to take a 7th grade Language Arts class and ask them to provide information to the 5th graders who will be coming to the school next year. We brainstormed topics, formed into teams of 3, chose a topic from our class list and then began the real work of putting together a scene of approximately one minute. Each student chose a role, writer, director, or editor. The writer was responsible for taking the script through the writing process. Each student had ideas that needed to be meshed together so they develop a rough draft, conferenced with the teacher, made revisions, and put together a working script. The director was responsible for all filming, setting up shots, and coaching the “actors” which were team members, teachers, and friends. The editor was then responsible for downloading video into iMovie, working on editing, arranging effects and exporting video. Even though they chose roles it turned into a collaborative effort that required give and take to produce the final product.

Before the start of the project I laid the groundwork for the project. In class we looked at scripts, learned how to set up scenes, practice speaking to an audience, and viewed other student produced videos. In this way, I was able to generate excitement among the students about the upcoming project.

At the start of the project, I practiced the technical aspects of converting video to flash, set up the video player, and posted the video to a server. This part of the project required a little technical knowledge but with the assistance of Dave Perloff, I was able to learn the process (through e-mail conversations!) quickly and easily.

The only other piece was training the students to use the camera. This was done through an in-class “workshop” with the directors from each team. We practiced with the camera and discussed basic filming techniques. I laid out a time line from start to end of about 10 class periods from start to finish. This was shortened to eight because Step Up Day was moved forward due to a scheduling conflict. This didn’t prove to be a major problem as we had it completed on time and premiered it during the morning to the enthusiastic 5th graders! The video was posted online the same day and has been viewed many times by students, parents, and community members! The students were thrilled to say the least! Although we may not challenge Iron Man at the box office, the students have the satisfaction of creating, producing, editing, and premiering their “first” video. It used many different skill sets they had been learning about in the classroom. The final product was for someone other than the teacher which proved to be the most motivating factor.

I can’t say enough about how easy this process was. It actually was simple, effective, and fun!!! Please check out the video.

Video in the classroom doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be simple, effective, and fun. It has the advantage of being real world, as well as opening up your school, your classroom, and your own teaching. I plan on this being a yearly project, with several possibilities of expanding video use in next years Language Arts classes. I encourage others to try using video in the classroom!

Meta Cognition

Essential Question: How do I learn best?

Universal Design in Maine