Sunday, May 31, 2009

MLTI Conference 2009

by Cheryl Oakes

A few months ago, I along with Kern Kelley, Alice Barr, and Sarah Sutter, were asked to be part of a presentation to 800 MLTI students at a student conference on the University of Maine campus. After several sessions on SKYPE and planning with conference organizer Jim Moulton, the 5 of us, were going to present to an auditorium of 800 participants in an interactive fashion. How can 800 participants interact with the presentation? With Google online tools! Wait a minute! I know we have a hard time when we get 20 students in a classroom using a wireless access point in one room, we freeze up, have slow speeds getting to a website, but with 800, oh my!

Jim assured us that the University would get their best thinkers and doers working on this. Dr. Bruce Seegee and the fine engineers from CISCO took on this mission and would actually join us in the session to watch the bandwidth use and troubleshoot if necessary. This would be a perfect opportunity for all the conference participants to observe what happens behind the scenes to make things work at their schools and for all to see that when using technology we always have a backup plan.

Our presentation was the final session at the end of a very busy and productive day. Our session was titled (

Block 3 - Only Google is big enough - Everyone, all together, one room, one session!
    • In 2009 Good Questions are More Powerful Than Good Answers - Google Super Session (Alice Barr - Yarmouth High School; Kern Kelley - MSAD #48; Cheryl Oakes - Wells Ogunquit CSD; Sarah Sutter - Wiscasset High School)Maine's own team of Google certified educators will be leading the whole gang through a series of activities that will demonstrate the power of the Google Toolset. Sure, we all use Google, but wait till you see what you can do when you understand how to leverage Google's power to go beyond getting answers and learn how to use Google to ask your own thoughtful questions of people in your class, in your school, around your state, or even around the world!
As part of the preparation, the five of us, created a series of questions in a Google Form, and sent the questions out to our worldwide networks, in 10 days we collected information from all our personal networks, and after some clamoring this information is published for all to share and use. Thank you to all who participated in our survey. We hope you will create a survey that we can participate in at some point in the future.

Here are the data points distributed on the global map.

We had over 550 respondents answer our survey. You can see the points on the map indicating the participation that spread throughout the world. Our personal learning networks reach far and wide. A take away points:
  • Collaboration is a tool which will leverage the learning and opportunities for our students.
  • The data we collected will serve to make our students more global and appreciative of the power of all of us versus the power of one individual.
  • The process of collecting the data is viable for all types of projects.

Here are the questions:

The survey is no longer available for more responses! Please check out the data that you were part of in this collection! YOU now are part of this historical collection.

  1. How many hours a day do you spend at school for academics?
  2. How many days a week do you go to school?
  3. What time does school start for you in the morning?
  4. What time do you get out of school at the end of the day?
  5. What would be your ideal time to start school?
  6. What would be your ideal time to end your school day?
  7. Do you attend tutoring or other academic content classes outside of the school day?

  8. If Yes, how many hours do you spend in this additional class each week?

  9. Are sports or other club activities available outside the school day at your school?
  10. If sports or other activities are available at your school, when do they occur?
  11. Does your country provide free public education?
  12. At what age do children begin formal schooling in your country?
  13. At what age does public education typically end in your country?
  14. Where is your school?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Free Curriculum Materials from the SEED Archive

"If we represent knowledge as a tree, we know that things that are divided are yet connected. We know that to observe the divisions and ignore the connections is to destroy the tree."

- Wendell Berry

At this time of Spring planting, 143 Packets of seeds developed through the Maine SEED model are still available and amazingly viable for promoting learning. I came away incredibly impressed after coming back to them once again this afternoon. Chief Horticulturist Jenifer Van Deusen explains how the program worked here.

Anyone for starting a new garden?

"Gardeners must dance with feedback, play with results, turn as they learn. Learning to think as a gardener is inseparable from the acts of gardening. Learning how to garden is learning how to slow down. Wise is the person whose heart and mind listen to what Nature says. Time will tell, but we often fail to listen."

- Michael P. Garofalo

Photo Credit

Friday, May 29, 2009

Games for Change at Student Tech Conference

by Ed Latham

Today in Orono, Maine over 800 students and teachers from around the state gathered to learn and share technical innovations and ideas in education. Olga LaPlante and I offered two sessions introducing lessons designed around using educational games published on the Games for Change organization.

The first of our sessions walked participants through a sample lesson that would begin a unit of study on energy policy. Participants were invited to use a sample simulation to play with different energy generation possibilities that all had potential to create stresses on the economic, environmental, and security aspects of the simulation city. Based on participant choices the game will provide a score and ranking. Students will then develop a brief energy policy based on the simulation and post their recommendation in a blog. The Resources and activity can be found at

Our second session introduced a scenario that had local school board officials soliciting input from participants as to which game might be best to incorporate into the curriculum this next semester. Participants were asked to assume one of four different perspectives while they explored 3 different games. Each group of four students would then post their recommendation to the school board on a blog. The session resources and materials can all be found at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help to bring about change

Now it's your time to help bring about change: bring good games to school! What is your recommendation?

Energy Solutions

Please offer your solutions that you as mayor would propose to sustain your city energy needs.

Games for Change

Please select one question to reply to, and submit your response as a comment.
    1. What are local energy initiatives in the different communities?
    2. What alternative resources are available in Maine?
    3. Should all cars be electric?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube"

Michael Welch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University, studies the effects of social media and digital technology on global society. Tonight we have the opportunity to join him in an Elluminate session at 8 pm Eastern. Click here to join the room a few minutes before the starting time. (Be patient . . . let Java load and then click trust). More information can be found here at the Future of Education ning.

You might want to check out here before attending the session:

More related Videos and here as well.

Digital Ethnography Blog

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kite Flying

I just got back from camp at Worthley Pond in Peru, Maine, where besides the usual campfire, fishing, swimming, and feasting on smoked ribs and Beth's delicious Filipino creations, we more often than not also fly kites out on the lake. These days we generally pick up our kites at Marden's or the Christmas Tree Shop, where good nylon kites can often be purchased for less than the price of a greeting card. Today my nephew, Josh, a 4th year engineering student at UMO, successfully flew a large dragon kite out in the middle of the lake in a 12 foot aluminum rowboat. As is our custom, we cheered and teased from the shoreline as he sailed down the lake from the energy of the wind.

Back in my days of teaching 5th grade, we made our own kites out of newspaper, trash bags, string, pine sticks, and a bit of masking tape. Amazingly enough, they actually flew! I suspect that these days, in light of the bubbles and boxes of the NCLB mentality, this might no longer be permitted without some heavy campaigning . . .but I might be wrong. I mean, what on earth can be learned from flying kites?

Well *cough* for starters, kite flying is both an art and science:

Kite Flying can be an interdisciplinary or thematic unit that engages students and unifies learning:

NASA: Beginner's Guide to Kites
Education World: Kites
Webtech: Kites
Kite Day Theme (Pre-school)
Let's Go Fly a Kite (K-2)
The Physics of Kites
Welcome to the Adventure with Physics and Kites!
The Fun and Physics of Kite Flying
WebQuest: Flying High with Kites (10th Grade Geometry)
Wikipedia: Kite
YouTube: How to Make a Traditional Kite
More YouTube Videos on Making and Flying Kites
Kite Threads at VoiceThread

The Human Side: "Let's Go Fly a Kite" at Sunshine and Momma blog.

VacationLand Guide: Where Kites Go to Soar

NorEasters: The Kite Site for Maine Kite Flyers

Kite Flying has practical application:


I just recently viewed this delightful series of animations on Voicethread:

Some resources for animation in the classroom:

Amazing Animation Lessons on the Web
Be Very Afraid: Animation for Education

I Can Animate
Blender (Open Source 3D Animation)

The Animator from Alon Perry on Vimeo.

What are some other tools available to do animation?
Who is doing animation in Maine classrooms?

What can be learned from doing animations?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Photo Editing with GIMP

A video tutorial, "Gimp: Basics and Photo Editing," by Conor Sullivan at MSAD#60

Twenty-five GIMP Video Tutorials to Get You Started

10 GIMP Video Tutorials Online

Other Tutorials

Place to Download GIMP

VoiceThread in the Classroom

VoiceThread is one of those simple-to-use web tools that is so powerful in providing a variety of solutions for diverse purposes. If you haven't had a chance to view how it is being used by all ages, take a few minutes here.

100 Ways to Use VoiceThread in Education:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

7 for 7: Ubiquitous, Open & Simple Tools

"It's not about the tools, it's about the learning."

I find it amazing how far digital technology has come in 7 years. Prices have come down and power has increased in just about all areas. There has been a proliferation of new hardware and software (residing both on the devices and in the cloud), with manufacturers and programmers scrambling to find the sweet spot that will entice us to purchase their products and/or services.

Most applications are like automobiles: The buttons and levers might be in different places, but the basic skills needed to operate them are increasingly consistent. Grasp how to run one word processing program and you can probably figure out the basics of others quite quickly.

Questions: Given the above, is there a need for everyone to buy the same car . . . or is there a need for everyone to use the same digital tools? In our learning adventures, does everyone need to travel to the same place to be educated, to be enlightened, and to share and collaborate with other inhabitants?

Certainly there is something to be gained in the cost-effectiveness of group purchasing, but where is that sweet spot that will leverage the most learning for dollars spent in purchasing, supporting, and maintaining these digital tools? That is the big question that is being asked and debated very frequently in Maine and beyond during these days of recession.

We do know that we want digital technology that is easy-to-use. Simplicity is important.

David Pogue: When it comes to tech, simplicity sells . . .

Here are some of the ubiquitous, open, and simple-to-use tools that I find appealing:

1. Wikis. The mothership, Wikipedia, which humbly first appeared about 7 years ago, is a massive repository of knowledge, democratically gathered, which has proven itself over time. And, of course, we all can easily create our own free personal or institutional wikis using a growing number of online sites. Each wiki user can easily and personally configure the wiki to his/her liking without having to deal with bureaucratic barriers. I am using Wikispaces and Google Sites for my own work. Wikis are both simple and powerful at the same time. Albert Einstein: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

2. Skype. Started in 2003 with the motto, "P2P telephony that just works," Skype has proven itself to be the kind of tool that is simple and effective to use in sharing voice, chat, video, and files. Check out Jim Moulton's blog post, "Using Skype with Students" at Edutopia on Skype's virtues. By the way, my Skype handle is adagio10. Hans Hofmann: "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."

3. Blogs. Weblogs were first utilized as personal journals, but they have become so much more. Again, the user can shape and control the space without having to go through bureaucratic hoops to get it done. There are blogs on every conceivable topic now. It is a superb tool for educators who desire a read/write digital presence. Combine them with wikis and you have a powerful combination. E.F. Schumacker: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction."

4. Nings.
Want to make your own free public or private social network with minimal aggravation? Nings allow you to sculpt your digital space, allowing forums, file storage, individual participant pages, video, audio, and so much more. Confucius: "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

5. Facebook.
I've had an account on Facebook for a couple of years now, but only started using it regularly about three or four months ago. Its power to connect people with one another is outstanding and, again, it is very simple to use. The user has full control of who he/she chooses to be connected. Leonardo DaVinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

6. Google Menu of Products/Services. So many easy-to-use possibilities!
Elbert Hubbard: "The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed - it is a process of elimination."

7. OpenOffice. An open source productivity suite which includes word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation, drawing & formula. I do a newsletter for my church. Initially I used Appleworks drawing, then Pages. Now I use OpenOffice Drawing. It meets my needs as a desktop publishing app. No, there aren't a lot of fancy templates built in, but I like to start with a white canvas anyway.
Frank Lloyd Wright: " 'Think simple' as my old master used to say - meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.

What ubiquitous tools do you suggest?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Essential Question: What is our role in nurturing curiosity in children?

I've always believed that children were born with innate curiosity, and that this was an extremely imortant gift in creating life-long learners. I've also worried that the means we structure their lives might very well diminish this propensity.

But now I'm looking at my unchallenged assumptions to see the issue in more depth.

I started by reading "Considerations for the Study of Curiosity in Children" by John Keller. It seems that the definition of curiosity isn't as clear as I thought it was. It means different things to different people. For example, is distractibility a component of curiosity, and if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Then there is the viewpoint that children aren't born with natural curiosity:

"The curiosity and creativity of children is very superficial . . . it is mostly a low order curiosity concerned with immediate gratification of a particular desire to know, and mostly oriented toward immediate practical results. There is no persuasive evidence that any societies have ever had a high proportion of people who were deeply curious in a systematic, disciplined way.”

~ Steven Dutch

Steven Dutch: Why is there Anti-Intellectualism?

Curiosity and Creativity in Children, Perhaps Not Quite as Sir Ken Robinson Suggests?

Curiosity at the LIM Resources Wiki

So . . . what are your thoughts?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Setting Sail - Call for Proposals

2009 MLTI Summer Institute

Maine Maritime Institute ~ Castine, Maine

July 29 – 31, 2009

Call for Proposals and “Save the Dates”

From MLTI Team:

Mark your calendar for the summer’s most reasonably priced, high quality professional development opportunity. Present to colleagues and come for free!

If you are interested in attending, keep watching our website for updates on sessions and registration information.

If you are interested in presenting at the Institute, then please keep reading!

Workshop topic proposals should include:

Hands-on creative and imaginative professional development opportunities;

Interdisciplinary connections between the arts and creative thinking in other Maine Learning

Results content areas utilizing technology are preferred;

Innovative instruction, curriculum and assessment;

Encouraging links between at arts disciplines (music, dance, theater or visual art) and content areas (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and

Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, World Languages) to promote differentiated instruction and universal access;

Unique learning opportunities for educators utilizing technology to impact teaching and learning for all students, and

Open Education Resources (OER) that support the content/curriculum areas addressed.

Collaborative presentations are encouraged!

Important information:

  • Sessions will be half-day sessions including a mid-point break.
  • The major focus is on 7-12 educators but all are welcome.
  • Participants are required to have a laptop, preferably a Mac with either the middle high school MLTI image or similar software.
  • The planning committee encourages you to seek out a colleague you’ve been thinking about developing curriculum ideas with and make it happen to share your creati work with at this conference!

Registration, food, lodging are waived for presenters. Mileage is reimbursed and 24 contact hours awarded for presenters.

Email proposals and questions to Juanita Dickson at Proposals need to be submitted by May 22, 2009. Presenters will be notified by June 1, 2009.

Proposals must include ALL of the following information. If you are submitting a collaborative presentation proposal, please ensure you include the name, email, role etc for the additional presenters.

Presenter(s) Information

  • Name of presenter
  • Email addresses – school and summer
  • SUMMER contact phone number
  • Position – i.e. teacher, grade level and subject
  • School name

Session Information

  • Title of session
  • 1-2 sentence description of session including content area and grade level
  • Brief description of session (approx.100 words)
  • Presenter biographical information (50 words max)
  • Equipment needs, room arrangement required for session

Communicating with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels

Barbara Greenstone presented a superb webinar last week titled Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels. The recorded session is here.

Web Notebook by Barbara: Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels.

Barbara's Blog: Teaching with Comics

Earlier Posts on LIM

Thread on LIM Online Community: "Digging Deeper into Comics"

LIM Wiki Resources on Cartoon Creation

Scott McCloud on comics in his life:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Talking Laptop

Cynthia Curry is our resident expert on universal design and getting our laptops to talk to us. Check out her recent blog post on the topic here.

Cynthia's Recorded Online Workshop

Video Tutorials from YouTube:

High School Textbooks

With 1 to 1 laptops in our high schools, will there really be any reason to keep buying paper textbooks?

I submit that these sites alone would be more than adequate for replacing U.S. History content information found in expensive commercial paper textbooks:

Lessons at Hippocampus
Open Digital Textbook at WikiBooks
American History Digital Textbook
Digital History
Best History Sites
MARVEL - Maine's Virtual Library

Similar online textbooks and quality content can be found in other subject areas.

Questions: How much does your school district budget per student annually for high school textbooks? Anyone have numbers to share?

Your Thoughts?

Earlier Post on Algebra Textbooks
Earlier Post: Textbooks vs. Open Source Learning

Monday, May 11, 2009


The Story of Stuff

Worldwatch Institute

Wikipedia: Conspicuous Consumption

Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth at Teachers' Domain
Exponential Growth Calculator

The Crash Course by Chris Martenson

How It All Ends

Technological Singularity

Algebra Lesson Plan: Skeeter Populations & Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth Lesson Plan

ALEX: Exponential Growth & Decay

WebQuests on Exponential Growth

TrackStar on Exponential Growth

Digital Media for the Classroom

Check this site out for some excellent resources on using digital media in the classroom and PD.

Featuring the Work of Paula Vigue

Today we are featuring the work of Paula Vigue of Winslow Junior High School. Paula is a second year teacher who came to teaching after a first career in the business world. Her enthusiasm for teaching science shines through in her moodle pages and blog posts.

Paula explained to me that the moodle page was started a few years ago by her mentor, Gene Roy, and that she has added, deleted, and modified resources and activities since that time. Her blog was started during a course at the UMO Maine Technology Institute.

She would also like to add that she has been fortunate enough to have some wonderful professors, most from Thomas College, a very supportive staff at WJHS, friends, and a supportive family (her boys are the ones that talked her into teaching). Without them, and the "listserve" that has provided many ideas and links to look at, she says she would not be where she is today.

Paula states:
"The most important part... the students. They make the teaching all worth while. I want to make learning fun and engaging for them so that they will want to continue learning. The smiles and the "aha" moments when students finally understand something is such a reward. A teacher at Karlsruhe American High School in Germany was the person that got me into the "I want to continue learning" mode. He was the first teacher I had that really made me enjoy learning. I still love to learn myself, and every day has a learning experience for me."

It's always a delight to see good use of free tools by an enthusiastic classroom teacher.

Winslow Junior High Moodle Front Page

WJHS Noteshare Server

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Vision for Schools of the Future

You might not agree with all of Marion Brady's suggestions, if any of them, but I hope it is a starting point for thinking about what is important for schooling in the future. Check the article out below, and if you wish, comment on what you would like to see. What will make better schools and communities . . . short of more money? ~ Jim

*Originally published in the Orlando Sentinel. Published here by permission of the author.

Cheaper by the dozen
12 ways to save money at high schools

By Marion Brady
May 7, 2005

"Everybody wants the schools to be better; but almost nobody wants them to be different." ~ Joe Graba

Cheap! Maybe that's the key that'll open the door to educational change!

The appeal of lower taxes almost always trumps the appeal of higher-quality education, so the trick is to figure out how to educate better with less money -- a whole lot less money -- so much less money that state legislators won't be able to resist removing enough bureaucratic barriers to allow experimentation. High-school reform is on the front burner right now, so let me suggest some ways to save money at that level. Those who think quality lies in doing better what we're already doing will be appalled by the suggestions, but I agree with Joe Graba, former Minnesota deputy commissioner of education: "We can't get the schools we need by improving the schools we have."

So, starting with a clean slate, and thinking cheap, here are a dozen proposals:

No. 1: Take the phrase "neighborhood school" seriously and design around it. Choose local adult-student steering committees to locate, rent or lease centrally located community centers, churches, houses or other facilities.

No. 2: Set maximum school size at 30 to 40 students for morning classes, another 30 to 40 for afternoon or evening classes.

No. 3: Hire a three- or four-person teacher team, based on interviews and the team's written program proposal.

No. 4: Right up front, spend whatever is necessary to test and fix sight and hearing problems. It's a waste of money to try to educate kids who're functioning at less than peak potential because they don't hear or see well.

No. 5: Find out who each kid really is. It mystifies me how, with straight faces, we can simultaneously sing the praises of "American individualism" while forcing all kids through the same narrow program. For a fraction of the cost of present standardized subject-matter tests, every kid's distinctive strengths and weaknesses can be explored using inexpensive, proven inventories of interests, abilities, personalities and learning styles.

No. 6: Eliminate grade levels. Start with where kids are, help them go as far as they're able, and give them a diploma describing what they've done and can do.

No. 7: Eliminate textbooks. They're relics of a bygone era, cost a lot of money, the day they're printed they're out of date, and they're the main support of simplistic ideas about what it means to teach and learn.

No. 8: Stop chopping knowledge up into "subjects." Knowledge is seamless, and the brain processes it most efficiently when it's integrated.

No. 9: Push responsibility for teaching specific skills and knowledge on to users of those skills and knowledge -- employers. Specialized, occupation-related instruction such as that now being offered in magnet schools will never be able to keep up with either the variety or the rate of change. Employers will resist, so sweeten the pot with subsidies as necessary. (A bonus: Apprenticeship and intern arrangements will go a long way toward smoothing the transition into responsible adulthood.)

No. 10: Eliminate school buses, food services, athletic departments, athletic fields, cops on campus, non-teaching administrators, attendance officers, extracurricular activities. (And add into the tax savings much of the $50,000-plus it costs each year to keep poorly educated kids locked up in prisons.)

No. 11: Strip away all the non-academic roles and responsibilities state legislators piled on schools during the 20th century. Create independent municipal support systems for neighborhood-level, multi-age programs for art, dance, drama, sports and anything else "extracurricular" for which a local need or interest is apparent.

No. 12: Drastically shrink central administrations. Have them coordinate the forming of teacher teams, and relieve those teams of paper shuffling, resource acquisition and other non-instructional tasks.

School doesn't need to take all day every day. Suggestions 5 through 9 will make it possible to accomplish more in three hours than is now being accomplished in six. The special-interest, personal-learning project, which every student should always have under way can be done on her and his own time.

Not incidentally, I'm concerned with matters in addition to functional schools -- the creation of a sense of neighborhood and community, the expansion of community-service activities, and vastly increased contact between generations. Cutting out all the non-academic responsibilities will open up time for all kinds of fascinating, new, growth-producing activity.

Don't like my proposal? Dream up your own. But keep another Joe Graba insight in mind: "Everybody wants the schools to be better; but almost nobody wants them to be different."

What do you think? Have a dream of your own?

Earlier Post on Marion Brady's Views

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Okay - I'll admit it - I had my doubts. It was to be an online conference in real time for Maine educators and just about anyone who wanted to drop in. The vehicle: Adobe Connect Pro. That was the proposal, and all I could think of was what might go wrong.

Let me tell you this: This naysayer has been converted to an ardent believer! I have been awed by the organization and execution of the conference by David Patterson and his crew, and I have been inspired by the presenters as well as the participants. Well done!

I will even go so far as to say that this online experience has been even richer than a face-to-face conference might have been. The opportunity for interaction - at least in text, audio, and visuals - has been superior to being in the same physical space . . . and certainly a vast improvement over the ATM video system. Now don't get me wrong, physical connections need to be part of the mix in ongoing learning, connections right in the classroom and school, but gosh, this digital platform was superb. And to beat it all, I could enjoy it in my own home with a cold beverage close at hand.

Besides that, the conference will live on with recordings of each session. Here's a list in case you missed the real time experience:

Keynote – Angus King

Second Life – Rez your Teaching

iTeam Project-based Service to the Ambassador Actors

Enablemath 360 – a terrific web-based program that is to numeracy what Read 180 is to literacy

Vital Signs – Developing Student Understanding and Application of Inquiry using GIS technology to Monitor Invasive Species

When Essays Move – Bringing Content-Area Writing to Life through Multimedia

Mathematics in Design - An Investigation using GeoGebra

Low cost interactive whiteboard and EcoBeaker Maine Explorer (EBME)

Literacy and Technology across the Curriculum with a Graphic Novel

Visualizing Numbers

Rethinking Presentations – Prezi and Dynamic Narrative

Maine is My World GIS!

Blogging it Up!

PowerPoint Based Portfolios – Sharing a format that can be used in any content area for students and instructors to build portfolios

Applications of Calculus – A Resource Wiki

BackChannel Chats as Classroom Tools

Rural Voices Radio

Art Meets GIS!

Let Your Laptop Do The Talking

Creating a tessellation screen saver

A Wider World: Google Earth for Research, Writing and Sharing

American History – Family Narrative

Exploring Cultural Differences

GeoGebra – Redefining Math Instruction and Learning

Why Wait For the Science Test?

Using podcasts in the classroom to engage students and improve student comprehension

Google Earth, Ancient Rome, and the 21st Century

Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics and Graphic Novels

The conference was a winner!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

21st Century Learners and Professional Development

by Ed Latham

If you missed it, people from all over Maine have been participating in the first MLTI Spring Technology Institute that is completely online. If you click on the workshop link you will not only see the resources each presenter had, but a recording of the session is there for your learning pleasure.

Online professional development typically consists of a presenter with a presentation that allows for some chatting in a chat box and a few Q&A sessions sprinkled in. This type of presentation has many merits and is firmly established as a norm for synchronous distance learning at many educational levels.

I had the wonderful pleasure of working with Olga LaPlante on the creation and presentation of an experiment in online distance learning. We worked many hours to create a hands-on activity that has participants taking active rolls and sharing their results and experiences. The materials and activity we prepared for this one hour session were very well done and required participant participation. Looking over the recording of the session, there is much room for us to process improvements in the delivery of sessions that require participants to DO, POST, REFLECT.

While participants had work time, it was impossible for presenters to see what people were doing, where they were at, and to hear from each individual to check in with each person as a teacher might do in a face to face classroom. The presentation tool has the capability to allow for some of this, but I suggest everyone would benefit from training on how to teach and learn online. I know there were participants that were stuck or had problems. A few were confident enough to be able to ask questions either in the chat or by voice. There were some that just felt like watching which may have bored them to tears because half the time was designed to have people working individually.

Distance learning is going to take a much bigger role in professional development if this MLTI Spring Institute is any measure. Many are very satisfied with the sessions they have seen and I am sure those that have attended many sessions can attest, for a first run, this has been a very big success so far. Potentially, we will have thousands of teachers looking for PD help next year. If PD is to be simply logging in, sitting down and listening and looking for an hour or so and asking questions then I do not feel participants would need much for training. However, if we want to create interactive or collaborative experiences online, participants need skills to be able to get the full effect of those presentations. Those skills could easily be offered in small chunks all year long at all sorts of hours throughout the year then by the end of the year we will have created a community ready for real digital interaction and collaboration.

So, what skills are necessary? Denise Ouellette (Media specialist in Fort Kent) shared with me a wonderful document that I believe all people need more than most of the content on standardized tests. She shared the American Association of School Librarians document entitled Standards For The 21st-Century Learner. I know that if the participants and presenters that attended our session were fully proficient in all of the skills offered in that document, the learning experience would have benefited so much more for all. We can't get people to that level unless we start with simple things like how do you chat, how do you do video, how do you do sound, how do you post an image or document, how do you private chat with others and so many other "basic" skills that are required for online engagement.

Suggestion: A group of people work together (Google docs is so great for this) to create short (1 hour) sessions that teach the curriculum of basic online communication and interaction skills. I have worked extensively on program development online with peers and something like this would be easy for readers of this blog to get done in short time. With the sessions outlined with resources and set to go, would it be far fetched to be able to offer these sessions once a month to all educators in a digital format? With all the prep done already, volunteer presenters would not have much work to do to facilitate. If sessions were offered at all kinds of hours teachers and administrators would more easily attend these sessions. If the collection of 1 hour sessions only drew 100 educators each month, that is 1200 people more able to participate in online learning experiences and joining the growing community of great teachers innovating and adapting educational practice to take advantage of technology available.

If there is interest, I would love to work with others on this. If others start up a google doc please add me ( If others want someone to start things up, fire away with email addresses and I can get a doc going for us.

Thoughts? Is it worth we, as a community creating an Intro to online learning sequence? Does it exist already so we can adapt it?

Friday, May 1, 2009


Dynamic Mathematics for Schools

Download to Your Desktop
Wikipedia: GeoGebra

David Bowie explains how to use it on Maine iTunes

Judy Chandler presents Mathematics in Design - An Investigation Using GeoGebra at the 2009 Online Spring Institute on Tuesday, May 5, 3:45 - 4:45 PM.

David Bowie presents GeoGebra - Redefining Math Instruction & Learning at the 2009 Online Spring Institute on Thursday, May 7, 3:45 - 4:45 PM.


"What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out."

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

"We teachers - perhaps all human beings - are in the grip of an astonishing delusion. We think that we can take a picture, a structure, a working model of something, constructed in our minds out of long experience and familiarity, and by turning that model into a string of words, transplant it whole into the mind of someone else. Perhaps once in a thousand times, when the explanation is extraordinary good, and the listener extraordinary experienced and skillful at turning word strings into non-verbal reality, and when the explainer and listener share in common many of the experiences being talked about, the process may work, and some real meaning may be communicated. Most of the time, explaining does not increase understanding, and may even lessen it."

~John Holt, (1923-1985) American Educator, How Children Learn

Washing Hands

BrainPOP: Washing Hands
MayoClinic: Hand Washing
Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands?
Wikipedia: Hand Washing

World Wide Web

What Is the World Wide Web?

Wikipedia: World Wide Web

Video Creation Tradition

An eight year tradition continued last night with the Oxford Hills M'iMovie Film Festival. Complete with donated fancy cars and red carpet, students, parents, and volunteers joined together once again for the culminating activity of a year's worth of video creation.

This is an email we received from a parent this morning:

"Dear Devoted Directors,

It is with much gratitude to you all that I write this letter. As a novice to your tradition, its history, and flair - I was amazed and impressed by how neatly and warmly the event occurred. Everyone seemed so happy to be there, not just the filmmakers and their family or friends, either. Every volunteer we encountered seemed to have some inner joy, some inner glow of pride that she or he carried around with them: the chauffeurs, the interviewers, (yes, the directors, of course!), even the ushers who had the dubious position of keeping the mass of parents out of the auditorium were delightful (and entertaining!)

I sincerely hope that my daughter enjoyed her first foray into the world of film, because I would love to see what she could make for a movie next year - but also because of the powerful experience you created for her and her peers.

Thank you for providing this opportunity for children of the area.

Bravo! I cannot wait to see the encore.



For resources, forms and more information, go here.

And an email this morning from a teacher:

"Just so you know-Most of the Otisfield sixth graders are wearing their medals today and they are still aglow from their fame! I know it is a lot of work but the festival really makes the kids feel special and CREATIVE!"