Last week over 50 visitors from “away” came to Maine to learn about the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). Our 7th and 8th grade 1:1 technology integration program is the longest running and most successful large scale project in the world. When school districts or municipalities begin to explore the possibility of implementing a 1:1 approach to teaching and learning, their research leads them to Maine.
An interesting fact about these study tours is that public officials accompany the educators. Last week there were deputy mayors, school board officials, and town councilors in the groups. So each group views the project through a variety of perspectives. Our visitors also experience Maine seafood at its best!
What do the visitors look for when they come to Maine? There are several areas of interest:
- How has teaching and learning changed?
- What kind of professional development is necessary?
- What are the keys for a successful implementation?
- What kind of infra-structure is needed to support such a project?
The Maine International Center for Digital Learning coordinates these visits. Last week the Canadians and Swedes visited schools, heard presentations by Maine educators and their students, and listened to talks by leaders of the Maine Initiative. Several common themes were evident in all of the experiences.
- MLTI is about teaching and learning, not about the computer hardware and software.
- Students are more engaged in their learning when the laptops are integrated into the instructional process, and teachers report they cannot imagine going back to teaching without them.
- Leadership is key to a successful implementation. When the principal is disinterested in the project, problems occur. When the school leadership models using the technology, provides time for staff to collaborate, and is clear about expectations, the Initiative thrives.
- Professional development and support for teachers is a critical component. Those schools that have moved from a teacher in the lab to an instructional technology integrator who collaborates with teachers have seen innovative uses of the technology.
- Implementing 1:1 should not be seen as a scheme for raising test scores. Rather, the Initiative provides opportunities for students to develop the skills necessary for the 21st century–accessing & evaluating information, collaboration, and critical and creative thinking. The devices also allow all students to access a rich curriculum.
Fortunately there is no shortage of wonderful examples of student engagement and learning across our state to share with visitors. Below are a few descriptions of what the Canadians and Swedes saw and heard:
- At Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, Mike Arsenault set up a speed dating scenario. Visitors sat down with individual students to learn about specific projects they were working on. After a few minutes, the visitors moved on to a new student. Everyone got a chance to hear at least three students explain their work. The energy in the room was palpable, and the guests loved the opportunity to interact with students 1:1 about 1:1 technology. This model would work in a lot of situations–with parents, school board members, or town councilors. The seventh grade teams (Amanda Blaine, Morgan Cuthbert, Mike Hagerty, Mark McDonough, & Marsha Newick) were also on hand to share their experiences. They emphasized that with the laptops, learning is a two-way street. Sometimes the teachers become the students, and the team thought this role-reversal was an important aspect of the learning process.
- In Alex Briasco-Brinn’s math class (Freeport MS) students were actively involved in learning and applying mathematical concepts. He designs learning opportunities for his students using freeware BASIC interpreter Chipmunk BASIC and by creating applets with the freeware GeoGebra. Demonstrations by students was another component of the stop in Freeport. Projects ranged from a Dipity.com multimedia timeline project to book reviews created in Garage Band and Photobooth. Shawn Favreau’s students also shared sophisticated social studies projects using iMovie.
- Rosetta Stone was being used at Bath Middle School to help students learn a world language when the Swedes visited. They also talked with students using Sketch-Up to design a house and observed other students hard at work writing and revising an essay. Later in the week, David Silvernail shared research that linked the use of the laptops in all aspects of the writing process (start to finish) with improved writing scores. You can read that research at CEPARE (Maine’s Middle School Laptop Program: Creating Better Writers) .
- Auburn Middle School also hosted visitors last week. Technology integrator, Carl Bucciantini, orchestrated this stopover to include a variety of classroom visits. These observations included students (1) using Wikispaces to participate in an interactive book discussion, (2) collaborating through Google docs on an integrated SS/LA project, (3) creating podcasts to share with incoming sixth graders, and (4) designing a floor plan to scale for a business that would eventually become a 3-D model using Sketch-Up.
Some schools are just too far away to travel to within the time restrictions of the visits. Therefore Maine educators and their students came to the Harraseeket Inn for a “Show and Tell”.
- Craig Hemond and two of his students (Noah and Ryan) shared the capabilities of NoteShare for providing incredible support for student organization and scaffolding as well as helping to make the classroom almost paperless. They are from the Middle School of the Kennebunks. Accompanying them was Hillary Brumer, the district’s assistive technology specialist. She shared apps for the iPad that are helping students of all ages learn.
- Laura Richter and Scott Bosworth from Skowhegan Area Middle School shared student projects that focus on real-life financial skills and connecting with the community. Audio walking tours of the area, commercials for local businesses, and collaboration with the local historical society are examples of the ways students are learning to be participatory members of their community.
- Kelly Grantham and her students Sam and Justin from Massabesic Middle School shared the ways they are using their laptops in their standards-based learning initiative. The boys spoke articulately about their learning targets and how they use different programs (iMovie, Garage Band, and Omnigraffle) to provide evidence that they have met their targets.
Bright Futures Core Practice # 4 reads “Students have access to one-to-one computing technology integrated throughout the curriculum allowing them to acquire the critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.” Our Canadian and Swedish visitors saw ample evidence that Maine’s middle school students are using their laptops to think, create, and demonstrate.