Friday, January 29, 2010

Maine Broadband News

Check out this new blog by Karl Beiser that gives updates on broadband networks in Maine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Featuring Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Passion-Based Learning

21st Century Collaborative

Sheryl's Blog

On Educational Social Networking

Sheryl on EdTechTalk

Teacher Guide for Finding Technology Professional Development


HP 1198 LD#1697 Public Hearing

Jan 27, 2010, 1:00 p.m., Room 211, Cross Building

Link to Bill

Earlier Posts

Everyday Words

In my capacity as a MARTI trainer, I just got back from working with Joan Parker and a group of Oxford Hills Adult Education students on a new English class that focuses on personal stories. It is a diverse group with unique individuals who will be sharing, collaborating, and publishing in many ways, including online. Check out our fledgling Google website here.

Everyday Words

Monday, January 25, 2010

Private Reader, Public Reader

By Pam Kenney

I've been asked many times to join book clubs, and my initial reluctance, and final decision to decline, have always surprised friends and acquaintances. After all, I love to read, spend much too much time in libraries and bookstores, and am not shy about expressing my views about the war in Iraq or healthcare legislation.

I've thought a lot about my hesitation to discuss books publicly, and I believe I don't enjoy the discussion format because I find it uncharacteristically difficult to articulate and communicate my thoughts about a book to a group. For one thing, a book's "theme" sometimes becomes secondary to me when I'm reading. I love language and words and frequently find myself so caught up in the way the author writes that I ignore the story line altogether. I can spend ten minutes mentally celebrating a turn of phrase by Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro, for example, marveling at their ability to use the English language to express the exact nuance of meaning they intend.

Discussing a book as part of a group interrupts and disturbs my inner dialogue, too. The books I most enjoy allow me to ponder at length, and often revise, my personal value system. When I read Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, I spent hours re-evaluating my beliefs about right and wrong and the importance of self-respect. Somehow, talking with others about the feelings associated with such insights makes me uncomfortable.

Book clubs can help many people find meaning in the monthly selections they might not have gleaned on their own. For me, however, private contemplation is more satisfying, so I'll continue my love affair with books on my own.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lubec: Google Applications for Education

I spent yesterday at the Lubec School with Ed Latham and Dawn Fernandez in an initial training for using their new Google Apps for Education network. Lubec has 1-to-1 laptops for grades 5-12 and now is focusing intensely on providing the necessary professional development. Dawn, the regional mentor for Downeast, will be doing at least 5 additional sessions this year with the whole staff on helping leverage this hardware to be optimally used in meeting the school's learning goals. She'll also work with teachers in their classrooms to assist in the process of integrating with classroom goals.

By the way, the people at Lubec School are incredibly welcoming, friendly, caring, and enthusiastic. I love small schools! :)

Being a user of the many excellent Google tools, but not having seen the special "Educators" version that allows local administration, I probably learned as much as I taught, thanks to expertise of Ed, Dawn, and Larry (the amiable and extremely helpful local technical guy). I was impressed at the incredible free opportunities in this package for school systems. I drove 4 1/2 hours home to Western Maine wondering why all schools didn't make use of this user-friendly and powerful set of tools. With their well-integrated web applications, the good people at Google have done away with the clunkiness of many of the learning environments that I've experienced . They have done away with much of the top-down control issues and put the ubiquitous system directly in the hands of teachers and principals. Why would anyone use anything else?

What other Maine SAU's are using this in their school?

See Google Applications at LIM Resources

Google Apps for Education

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

National Standards: Alfie Kohn Challenged - Part I

By Pam Kenney

A few years ago Time magazine described Alfie Kohn as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores." He has written extensively about the current push for national standards, and, for the most part, he doesn't like it. In fact, he labels the standards an "accountability fad." A link to one of his recent articles, "Debunking the Case for National Standards" appeared yesterday in a post on "Learning in Maine."

One of Kohn's concerns is that the adoption of national standards would signal a concomitant shift in the focus of learning from one where students develop and use high-level thinking skills to exchange ideas, grapple with complex viewpoints, and solve problems to a routinized one of memorization, drill, and objective tests. The dismal picture Kohn paints is typical of many critics of national standards, and it's not accurate. To refute Kohn's criticism, I will draw examples only from the mathematics area because I am currently reading math standards from individual U.S. states and five foreign countries.

Yes, all the documents I have studied have objective, measurable standards that require children to memorize addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, and most mandate that students learn standard algorithms. In addition, however, they contain standards that delineate the understanding of concepts through the application of high-order thinking skills; they concentrate on problem-solving strategies that stress reasoning, demonstrating understanding using several methods, cooperating, and communicating ideas among peers. The national math standards being proposed today are not trying to re-capture the pre-Sputnik philosophies of rote learning and drill and test; they are an attempt to balance understanding and the acquisition of specific skills that are necessary to daily life.

My question is this: Why are the arguments against national standards by writers like Alfie Kohn so black and white? This isn't an "either/or" or "us versus them" debate. Of course, we want our children to have a deep understanding of math concepts. Certainly we want them to reason well mathematically and to solve complex problems. But when a sixth grader in Maine is still looking at a chart to solve 6*8, then perhaps a national standard will force his school district to realize it's just as important for him to learn his multiplication facts as it is for him to draw a picture to explain why the answer is 48.

Tomorrow: Part II: "Who Should Determine the Content of National Standards?"

Student Technology Showcase

You are cordially invited to the 7th Bi-Annual Student Technology Showcase. Located in Newport at the Sebasticook Valley Middle School on Saturday, January 16th. This event features the technology projects of fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from throughtout the year.

From 10:00 to 1:30 please tour the school and experiment with many of the technological tools our students use every day. Watch digital animated movies, view galleries of skateboards and hand built artwork, see a computer lab custom built by students, try your hand at anchoring in our News Studio, assemble and program robots, scan through student blogs, wikis and web portfolios, or take a virtual tour of the school.
If you are unable to attend physically, please consider attending virtually. You can use Skype in and get a personal live tour of the events going on during the showcase. The Skype name is studentshowcase and you can sign up here:

The awards ceremony begins at 1:30 where participants can win prizes of iPod Touches or a MacBook. Please come and see the work of some amazing students! If you have any questions or want more information, please check out the website: or contact Kern Kelley at / 368-4592.

Hope to see you there!

For an additional viewpoint, please check our Cheryl Oakes' blog post from last year's event:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Featuring Maine's John Howe: Sustainability

DSP: John Howe's Plan
MOFGA: The End of Fossil Fuel and a Plan for Sustainability
Firewood from the Sun

Sustainability at LIM Resources

Why We Need Interpersonal Communication Literacy

by Bob Keteyian
Communication Styles

Teaching literacy skills is fundamental to our educational system. Literacy skills are traditionally defined as reading and writing. We now teach kids to have computer literacy as well, and to some extent we extend that to math and science, though using the word literacy is more loosely attached to each of these.

Communication skills are generally not discussed in terms of literacy, although they are acknowledged as important in curriculum and educational standards. Many states, including my state of Maine, have developed a set of educational standards that include communication skills. These standards, representing skills deemed essential, are part of what we call the Learning Results and serve as guides for educating our children in today’s world.

On close inspection we discover that communication skills as defined by these standards generally mean learning to write clearly and coherently and to present reports orally. Both are important. Arts educators have broadened the definition of communication to include other forms of expression, namely visual art, music, drama, and dance, which are equally important forms of communication.

However, there is still an essential missing ingredient: interpersonal communication. While many colleges have communication departments that offer courses in this area, the art and science of interpersonal communication is not a subject in our public education system, which does not seem to recognize the fundamental importance of this type of literacy. Why are interpersonal communication skills missing from the mix?

We are in, more or less, a constant state of interpersonal communication—relating person to person around the ordinary and complex human transactions in our daily lives. Talking and listening are so natural that we take them for granted. We learn to talk and listen by cultural osmosis—we simply absorb the language in our environment through a predisposition for language in our brains. However, we also know how profoundly complex the process really is.

Learning effective interpersonal communication skills is not about having a broad vocabulary or solid grasp of grammar. Both are helpful but not essential for achieving understanding between individuals. I grew up with people speaking what is commonly called broken English. That’s an old- fashioned term when English is a second language. In spite of this limitation, many people in this category are very effective communicators because interpersonal communication is a complex, multi-dimensional process involving words, feelings, gestures, images and much more.

I believe it is imperative that we take the issue of interpersonal communication more seriously as it is the life blood of human relationships. We are social, relational beings. We require effective interpersonal communication to transact the business of our daily lives at work and at home, to nurture our children, and to develop emotional intimacy in our most personal relationships. All these areas are vastly improved with more knowledge about ourselves and more skill in listening, observing, organizing thoughts, accounting for emotion, developing rapport, and using words effectively.

Should interpersonal communication be taught as a discreet subject or should it be infused into virtually every subject? What are the core competencies we would expect? How would we go about teaching something so ordinary? Many questions need exploring if we take this issue seriously. It is a false argument to question whether effective interpersonal communication is more important than effective written communication. But right now writing skills are getting far greater attention in our education system.

So let’s, yet again, broaden our definition of developing literacy and communication skills to include interpersonal communication.

There really is no question about how important a matter this is.

Bob Keteyian is an interpersonal communication consultant and counselor. He is also the author of Do You Know What I Mean?—Discovering Your Personal Communication Style (2009).

National Day of Listening
Bob at Bangor Daily News

See also Non-Verbal Communition at LIM Resources

The Story of Stuff

Thinking about National Standards

Debunking the Case for National Standards

One-Size-Fits-All Mandates and Their Dangers

By Alfie Kohn

Monday, January 11, 2010

Featuring the Work of Melissa Prescott

This film was created by the Film class at Telstar Middle School in Bethel, Maine, and was directed by Visual Art Teacher, Melissa Prescott. It was created to educate the public about the "G.O.T. Farms?" service-learning project and inspire people to get involved. This project, a collaboration of Telstar Middle School and Telstar High School, is focused on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. For more information about this project, please visit:

"G.O.T. Farms?" from Melissa Prescott on Vimeo.

G.O.T. Farms Website

"Wagon Wheel" - Telstar Faculty
Melissa's "On Using Wordpress"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One to One Schools

The Maine Thing About 1-to-1 Computing

1 to 1 Schools Blog

One to One Institute (Ning)

District Administration: Are One-to-One Laptop Programs Worth the Investment?

Steve Hargadon: The Truth about 1:1 Laptop Progams

The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change by Mark E. Weston and Alain Bain

Personal Information in 2010

Digital Natives
Steve Hargadon: Facebook's Data About Us: Mind-boggling and Scary


Should Education Be a Race?

"The economic motive has always figured in the spread of mass education in the United States, but recently it has predominated, edging out all the other reasons we send kids to school: civic, social, ethical, developmental." ~ Mike Rose

There is big money involved in the federal education grant program, Race to the Top (RttT). States across the land, including Maine, are scrambling to pass legislation that will put them in contention for an infusion of funding. The requirements are:

--Turn around the lowest-achieving schools.

--Create competitive academic standards and tests that prepare students for college and the work force.

--Build data systems to track students from grade to grade.

--Connect teacher and principal salaries to student performance.

--Loosen caps on charter schools.

Question: Are we selling our souls for money?

President Dwight Eisenhower had the following to say about local control of education:

"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength — is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental element of the American public school system — local direction by boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but a basic right of our citizens."

In the end, does more data ever improve our lives? See Neil Postman's "Informing Ourselves to Death."

" . . . It is all the same: There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory." ~ Postman

Do we want corporations and technocrats to determine how and what our children learn? See the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Check out who is - and who isn't - on the boards.

When it comes to turning around lowest-achieving schools and connecting teacher and principal pay to student performance, have we forgotten about this side of the equation:

What are your thoughts?

Related Links:

How to Create Workers, Not Citizens - the Frustrated Teacher
Bridging Differences: The New Era of Greed
NEA: Race to the Top = The Demise of Teaching
Schools Matter: Calling Out Harvard's Graduate School of Education

Reforms of Least Resistance
All Innovation Short of Charter Schools
Starting to Race to the Top

Monday, January 4, 2010

Comparing State Math Standards

By Pam Kenney

Beginning this month I will be part of a group that will review the K-12 Common Core Math Standards. The standards come from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, “a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief School State Officers.” Their purpose is to delineate the knowledge and skills students should acquire to succeed in both college and workforce training programs. Rigorous content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills, international benchmarks, and an insistence on evidence- and/or research-based criteria are their hallmarks.

To prepare for my role in the review process, I have spent many hours the past three weeks reading and thinking about the K-8 math standards from several states. To date, I’ve pored over standards from Massachusetts, California, Indiana, Washington, and Maine. I chose Massachusetts because it has had the highest NAEP fourth and eighth grade math scores in the nation for the last several years, Maine because it’s my home state, and the others because they were recommended to me as examples of states with particularly strong standards. As I read the state documents, I compared the broad strands that organize their mathematical content, the concepts under each strand, and the more specific skills that guide day-to-day classroom instruction.

All the states have basically the same strands through the eighth grade, although they may be grouped in different ways. The five strands in the Massachusetts document are representative: Number Sense and Operations; Patterns, Relations, and Algebra; Geometry; Measurement; and Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability. The concepts related to the strands are similar, too. For example, the first concept listed under the strand “Number Sense” in California’s Grade Two standards is “Students understand the relationship between numbers, quantities, and place value in whole numbers up to 1,000.” All the state standards I read had a similar concept.

The final and most detailed level of the states’ K-8 standards encompasses the specific skills that students must acquire over a one- or two-year period. And it is here that significant differences among the states appear. Some states write their standards using verbs such as “count’, “identify”, “know”, and “compare”, which allow the standards to be measured objectively. Others employ “understand” and “use.” How states teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts under the “Number Sense and Operations” strand is particularly noteworthy. In Massachusetts, California, Indiana, and Washington students are required to memorize facts through 10 or 12. In Maine, fact mastery is not required by its Maine Learning Results’ standards. In Maine, students learn a variety of methods to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, and the use of standard algorithms is not mandated. In the other state standards I read, children must learn standard algorithms, although several methods for solving problems are taught, too.

The use of technology differs among the states, also. In Maine, for example, calculators are an integral part of elementary school math instruction, and students can use them daily to solve problems as well as on standardized tests. In other states, such as Massachusetts, students “learn how to perform thoroughly the basic arithmetic operations independent of the use of a calculator.” In addition, the fourth and sixth grade state assessments in Massachusetts do not allow the use of calculators.

Overall, I found significant differences among the state standards I read. Maine is intensely focused on its students acquiring a thorough understanding of concepts and procedures, so focused that it allows technology to compensate for the absence of basic fact mastery. Massachusetts, California, Indiana, and Washington have math standards that offer an excellent balance between understanding concepts and fluent computation. Massachusetts has the highest test scores in the nation. Maine’s math scores, though, are higher than California’s, Indiana’s, and Washington’s.

I’d love to be able to write that I’ve drawn some far-reaching conclusions from my reading of the five different state standards. I can’t do that, but I have decided that balanced standards will help our nation produce better math students in the future than we are producing today. Standards that are clear, detailed, rigorous, and measurable and that require fluency in basic computational skills, an understanding of mathematical concepts, and the acquisition of problem-solving skills that focus on reasoning, communicating, and connecting are what we should strive for. As I review the K-12 Common Core Math Standards, that’s what I’ll be looking for.

Verbs for Learning Series: Predicting

Making Predictions at LIM Resources