Thursday, December 31, 2009

Post #365

Happy New Year from Everyone at Learning in Maine

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cursive Handwriting Is Obsolete

It is time that we finally stop teaching cursive handwriting in schools. It deserves no place in the curriculum. What is the point of taking up so much valuable time in teaching a skill that will not be used. Instead, why not get serious about making sure children develop effective touch typing skills?

How many schools in Maine still require that cursive writing be taught?

What are your thoughts? Disagree? Agree?

Wikipedia: Cursive, Penmanship
Touch Typing - Cursive - Why?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Edublog 2009

Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers blog wins again! He is a social studies teacher at Oxford Hills High School. Congratulations, Richard!

The Edublog Awards 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Nation's Report Card - Math

By Pam Kenney

The results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in math were released December 8, 2009. 18 school districts across the country participated in the study, and the scores allow the public to follow over time the progress of our students' math achievement.

At Nation's Report Card, you can view national, state, and district results for grades 4 and 8. The graphs and tables are excellent and allow you to compare scores from 1990 through 2009. You can look at the information adjusted according to gender, race/ethnicity, type of school, family income level, student disability status, and English language learners. Also, there are links to a press conference about the TUDA Mathematics report card and a narrated presentation on the major findings.

Everyday Mathematics is credited by Washington, D.C. public school teachers and Chancellor Michelle Rhee as one reason why students there have made significant gains in math achievement at both the 4th and 8th grade levels since 2003: "... an increased focus on the use of games, calculators and written responses -- to help students demonstrate their reasoning in solving a problem -- helped drive the gains in scores in the national assessment, known as NAEP." While I agree that deepening children's concept grasp and understanding of problem-solving is vital to success in math, I continue to be unsettled by the relative unimportance of practice and mastery in "reform math" curricula like Everyday Mathematics. My questions, then, are these: Are schools, such as those in D.C., using supplemental materials to fill in the gaps in EDM, thus contributing to the rise in scores? Or - are tests like the NAEP also so focused on the "whys" of math that even studying their results won't tell me whether my fourth grader knows 6*7=42? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm going to find out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MLTI Webinar: "Getting to Know VoiceOver"

Announcement from MLTI Team:
There is still time to register for Thursday's (December 10th) webcast:
Getting to Know VoiceOver, facilitated by Cynthia Curry. VoiceOver is known as Apple’s built-in screen reader, but can be better described as an accessible interface for everyone. Not to be confused with text to speech, VoiceOver provides voice description of all onscreen elements, features a caption panel, and allows users to control their computer using only the keyboard. Our guest, Steve Sawczyn of AT Maine, will demonstrate why VoiceOver is a tool that all educators should get to know. Most importantly, we’ll discuss how we can improve our UDL practices by understanding the unique learning needs of students who are blind and have low vision. You can find a link to registration at

Registrants will receive a link to the WebCast as well as login information.

WebCasts will be held each Thursday at both 3:15 pm and 7:15 pm. To learn more about these webcasts, please visit:

Google Chrome Browser for Mac

Monday, December 7, 2009

Everyday Math Revisited: Parents Stand Up

By Pam Kenney

About three weeks ago I posted a commentary on this blog critical of the math curriculum Everyday Math. I was prompted to write it because I was receiving an increasing number of calls for help from parents whose elementary-age children were struggling in math classrooms using Everyday Math, and parental attempts to assist them at home were frequently not successful. The post generated more than 20 comments from both parents and educators. From the strong feelings expressed in those comments and from subsequent independent reading and research, I have become aware of a grassroots movement among parents anxious to become an integral part of the debate about how math is taught in our schools. For the first time in many years, parents are so frustrated by and angry about the trend by our nation’s school systems to adopt “reform” math curricula, they have banded together to stand up and fight for the kind of elementary math instruction for their children that will provide the concept grasp and computation skills necessary for success in math at high school and college levels.

One group, the United States Coalition for World Class Math, is made up of “an ever-growing group of state coalitions comprised of mathematically literate parents, many of whom are scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and educators who want nothing but excellence in Mathematics Education for the students of our country, the United States of America.” The focus of its mission is to urge each state’s department of education to develop core curriculum content standards in math, using as guides the curriculum standards from countries with the highest scores on international math tests as well as those from the U.S. states with the highest math rankings. Calling for standards that will prepare children for success in college and beyond, it recognizes the importance of input from research mathematicians and university math professors as well as from K-12 educators and professors of math education.

There is now an active state chapter of the national group, the Maine Coalition for World Class Math. Maine parents who are concerned about their children’s progress in math and the suitability of the math textbooks chosen by their school districts will find not only a sympathetic ear at this site, but a wealth of information, too. One particularly interesting and thought-provoking link provides visitors with the coalition’s “Design Principles for K-12 Mathematics Standards” that “address the major deficiencies and defects that currently plague far too many of our state mathematics standards.” One pertinent complaint of the Maine Coalition for World Class Math is that today’s math reform movement has led to the widespread adoption of curricula like Everyday Math. Many critics of Everyday Math argue that it attempts to teach children the conceptual “hows” and “whys” of math in such depth and in so many different ways that it fails to do a good job teaching the computation skills necessary to ensure the mastery of basic arithmetic. Its spiral approach (a method that moves from concept to concept and back again without clear mastery goals built in), a scope that is too broad and a sequence that is not logical, an over-reliance on calculators, too many confusing ways to solve simple problems, and little requirement for practice are common criticisms. Parents are concerned, too, that many of the Everyday Math methods have not been explained well to them, and they feel removed from the vital school-parent partnership.

The Coalition for World Class Math has had its share of criticism. Many educators feel it, and other groups like it, are advocating a return to the teaching methods of the 50s and 60s that emphasized rote drill at the expense of conceptual understanding. I don’t believe that perception is accurate, however. What thoughtful parents are desperate for today is a balanced approach to teaching math. They understand well that their children need to internalize the whys behind long division, for example. But they want their youngsters to know instantaneously that 6*8=48, too, and that takes practice. I believe their plea to schools is this: If it helps kids understand the process of long division better, teach them initially using a partial quotients method. But, also, teach them the long division algorithm that they will be required to use throughout their school careers. Don’t do away with drill; require enough basic facts practice to guarantee mastery. Parents know it takes diligence for children to become excellent math students, and they want their kids to work hard.

Please give parents more credit. They, just like teachers, want the best possible math instruction for their children. They are not uninformed or hopelessly out of date. In fact, the parents I work with would love to help schools improve their math instruction. The current reform vs. back-to-basics math debate shouldn’t be seen as an “us vs. them” movement. Parents have a lot to offer, they know their children better than anyone else, and their views deserve to be heard and thoughtfully addressed.

Senior Exhibition/Projects in Maine and Beyond

Morse High School (Thanks to Michelle Gabrielsen)

Noble High School: Senior Exhibition Support Site

MDI High School: Maine Exhibitions Assesment Project

Other States: Assessing Through Senior Exhibitions & Projects

Riverdale High School Senior Exhibitions

Northeastern High School Senior Project Guidelines

Graphic Credit

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fairy Tales

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed." ~ G. K. Chesterton

Fairy Tales @ LIM Resources

"For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul - its depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles" ~ Bruno Bettelheim

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." ~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Local Government Issues

@LIM Resources

Photo Credit

Mrs. Deraps at Mt. Blue High School

Literacy and Technology Pilot in Western Maine

It was a pleasure to discover the Literacy and Technology Pilot site this afternoon. It is sponsored by the Western Maine Educational Collaborative and facilitated by Darlene Bassett, educational consultant, BPI.

It is accompanied by Darlene's blog, Literacy and Technology Pilot, BPI and WMEC.

Power of Pets and Laughter

by Ed Latham

I was having a fairly rough day this week. I was on the road long hours and had many teachers I was working with in a very short time. I returned home the other night and my son noted that I was looking worn out and a bit bummed. I agreed with his assessment. He told me to wait right there and then brought over his computer. He challenged me to not laugh and not smile at all while watching this video. I was unsuccessful in meeting his challenge and even a few days later have to laugh and smile at something so simple. Have a look ...

Pets and how they play are so positive on human emotions and outlooks. Watching a playing kitten can help to completely change a person's mood. Think about some of the horrible stories we hear in schools and in student lives. Don't you think some of our students need little videos like this more often. Heck, we adults probably need stuff like this much more. Do you have any quick feel good videos you can share?

Literacy in Maine

@LIM Resources Wiki. Feel free to edit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

PLC North "The Joys of Google"

Session #4 @ 3:00, Dirigo High School