Archive for the ‘Curriculum and Instruction’ Category

Empowering Students: MAMLE Annual Conference

September 5, 2013

MAMLE’s annual conference is coming right up!  A flyer and registration materials were sent to all schools this week.  Mark your calendars!

Dates:  October 17 & 18

Location: Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center, Northport

Flyer 3

Highlights of the conference:

  • Two inspiring keynoters: Al Miller & Jack Berckemeyer

Al Miller

Al Miller will be speaking Thursday: “Theater in the Classroom: Creative Energy”

Jack Berckemeyer will be speaking Friday: “Middle Level Education:

Living It, Loving It, Laughing About It”

BerckemeyerJack

  • 35 + concurrent sessions
  • Featured presentations related to literacy with Dr. Kevin Perks
  • HP & Apple are both presenting and will have Help Desks for individual questions
  • Annual Thursday evening social, Meet Me in the Middle networking get-together, and exhibitors

Highlights of Point Lookout

  • Overlooks Penobscot Bay
  • Trails, ocean beach, kayaking & fitness center
  • Cabins on site for those staying overnight
  • Internet everywhere
  • Delectable meals
  • Great breakout rooms
  • Easily accessible via Rt. 1 or Rts. 95 & 3

For current information about the specifics of the conference check out the conference page at MAMLE’s new website: http://mainemamle.org/conference/   You can download registration and housing materials as well as read a preview of some of the sessions!

MiddleWeb Smartbriefs – Tips for the New School Year and More

August 10, 2013

Do you know about Middleweb.com? If not you should!
MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades with a sharp focus on teaching and learning in grades 4-8. Here’s a description from their website.

• Resource Roundups: short, link-laden essays built around a theme. Browse here or search for keywords.

• Guest Posts: Just what you might expect…first-person articles.  The voices of middle grades education stars and many lesser known teachers and school leaders up on the front lines who have stories to tell and good practice to share.

• Book Reviews: Reviews of professional books of interest to educators working in the middle. If you’re interested in becoming a MiddleWeb reviewer, let us know. We’ll share a list of what’s available and some basic guidelines for review writing. You pick what you’d like to read, write the review, keep the book. We publish your reviews, make you famous.

• Interviews: We’re talking with interesting people who have expertise around middle grades education — or just do great things for middle grades kids and schools. Peruse our Five Q Interviews for ideas, insights, and plain good chat.

Middleweb SmartBrief

As part of the new MiddleWeb experience, we’ve formed a partnership with the SmartBrief Education news team to produce the twice-weekly MiddleWeb SmartBrief e-newsletter. You may be familiar with the nation’s premier professional newsletter organization, which also publishes ASCD SmartBrief, Accomplished Teacher SmartBrief, SmartBrief on Ed Tech and other education reports.

MiddleWeb SmartBrief specializes in Grades 4-8 news and resources. We work with SmartBrief editors to shape the content and also contribute our own news and resources to every issue. Subscriptions are free, your address is kept confidential, and you can unsubscribe anytime with a single click.

Here’s some of the latest items from the MiddleWeb Smartbriefs.

Tips on preparing for a good school year
Educator and author Julia Thompson in this blog post offers a laundry list of ideas to prepare for the first day of school and set the tone for the rest of the school year such as planning lessons to engage students’ readiness and planning an icebreaker to help students get to know each other. “Teach your first lesson as if it is the most important one you will teach all year. In many ways, it is,” she writes. Education Week Teacher/Classroom Q&A blog

How teachers can avoid decision-making fatigue and remain productive
Teachers can make as many as 5,000 decisions in a school day, leading to what award-winning educator Brian Page calls “decision fatigue.” In this blog post, Page offers five tips to help connected teachers and administrators remain productive, including doing creative work first, setting an automated e-mail response that lists a later time when a response can be expected, along with scheduling time for social media. He also suggests making the most of downtime and completing one task at a time. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education

“A gift to preservice and practicing teachers that will be hard to keep on the shelf” (Teachers College Record). 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know is a comprehensive guide to teaching any genre or form in grades 3-9. You’ll get a rich collection of mentor texts, tips, and launching points. Preview Chapter 1: Getting and Keeping Writers Motivated.

So check out Middleweb.com

Summer off? Yeah, right! I’m already excited for next year!

July 1, 2013

So what does a middle school teacher do with his/her extra time now that school is over and he/she is getting antsy?  I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about how I can rearrange my classroom for next year.  I’ve checked out ideas on Pinterest, checked in with other teacher-friends, and have pretty much figured out how I’m going to do it.

So, what’s next, you ask?  Hmm, professional development!  I love to learn new things, which is good, since I will be teaching two different subjects next year than I taught this year, and I’ve never taught of them before.  Though I have a bit of anxiety about the switch, I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m also really lucky to have two other math/science teachers at my grade level who are willing to share their knowledge and materials with me.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Besides the TON of reading I’ll be doing during the next two months (and the school year), I’ve also chosen to immerse myself in STEM activities.  And here’s the coolest part…there’s a week-long STEM Collaborative Educators’ Camp that is absolutely FREE to Maine residents (and they provide housing too)!  There are varied classes being offered focused on teachers of grades 6-12.  I’ve looked through the brochure of courses (ranging from origami to and am torn about what I will attend, but having heard feedback from some who attended last year’s camp, I know I’m going to walk away with a toolbox full of new techniques, strategies, and knowledge for me to apply to my teaching.  Also, beyond classroom (both inside and out) learning, there are fun, experiential activities for those who want to participate, ranging from ziplining to swimming.  I just know that is something I should attend because of this quote from their website:

“Our hope is to encourage Maine STEM educators to share their passions and talents with one another to form a                   community vested in improving student learning in STEM topics across Maine.”

Doesn’t that tie into the Bright Futures Report beautifully?  A focus on collaboration and learning sounds perfect!

You can register right at the website I’ve linked above.  Hopefully I’ll meet some of you there!

Thank you to Lisa Smith for her permission to write about the camp.  She’s the Outreach/Camp Director and is happy to answer any questions you may have!

P.S. Bring your insect repellant and sun screen for those outdoor options!

June 15th Deadline For MLEI

May 31, 2013

NOW is the time to register for the Middle Level Education Institute at Bowdoin College on July 29-August 1. The June 15th deadline is fast approaching and we don’t want you to miss out! No matter what challenges or opportunities your school, team, or classrooms are facing, MLEI is the perfect venue to bring a team together and work intensively and extensively over a period of three days on one or more key projects for September. In addition to large blocks of team time, and the company of enthusiastic MLEI participants, you’ll have access to internationally recognized middle level experts Nancy Doda, Mark Springer, Jill Spencer, and Chris Toy throughout the institute. We are also in touch with the folks providing training and resources for MLTI who will be on campus to support you with preparing for the fall. Teachers and principals who have attended past institutes consistently report that time together at MLEI has paid huge dividends throughout the school year and beyond. So head on over to the Middle Level Institute website and register NOW! We look forward to seeing you in July. Oh, and be sure to spread the word by sharing this information with your middle level colleagues. Thanks!

Lessons learned at the 2013 MLTI Student Conference

May 28, 2013

LessonsLearnedIn2009The annual MLTI Student Conference is an incredible learning opportunity for students and their teachers, Maine teacher educators, and the dedicated MLTI team. Every year I marvel at the enthusiasm, passion, interest, and knowledge of the middle and high school students attending. As the conference director, Jim Moulton, likes to remind us, “This will be a day dedicated to fun—to hard fun!” I certainly had fun again this year and I learned some “hard” lessons as well. Here are three of them.

#1—The best lesson: MLTI promotes amazing student learning in many ways that aren’t reflected in student test scores. Excellent workshops, outstanding mass learning, scholarship awards, but the highlights each year for me are the student speakers,  middle and high school students from Maine schools, who use technology for learning and for doing good. Their stories are powerful. In past years, Hannah Potter, Chris Jones, and others have spoken about their personal journeys through learning with technology.

This year’s speakers were outstanding as well. Izzy Labbe and Julia Bluhm, 9th graders in central Maine, spoke of their work as bloggers and activists for SPARK. Julie and Izzy led a successful campaign to encourage Seventeen Magazine to stop using Photoshopped images of young girls. Both young women are now active bloggers and speak widely about their work. Watch their excellent presentation at TEDx Women 2012 to hear their full story.

The second student speaker was Yuval Boss, Orono High School senior, a web designer who also got his start with his 7th grade MLTI laptop. Yuval took advantage of many opportunities—”play around” with Sketch-Up and other software that caught his interest, join his high school’s student technology team, attend MLTI Student Conferences, teach himself HTML and other programming languages, and perhaps most importantly of all, “…find out that kids like me are doing all of this.” It wasn’t long before Yuval interned at a local web-design firm, free-lanced for other businesses, and ultimately used his skills to give back to organizations like CISV. Watch Yuval’s presentation here.

These students are amazing. Now I would like someone to deconstruct the skills these Maine students have developed largely because they had the tools (their own MLTI computer and Internet access) and the support of parents and teachers. These young people are self-learners, they are go-getters, and they make significant contributions to their communities and society. The learning they are so passionate about has little to do with learning measured by standardized test scores. (And it certainly has nothing to do with learning to use a computer that businesses currently use or having a computer to take tests on.)

#2—The hardest lesson: The elephant in the room is sitting on my computer.  What will happen to MLTI and technology and learning in Maine? The recent decision about the next MLTI phase has caused consternation everywhere as schools struggle to determine the impact in their communities. Is this really about “choice”? Will the “level playing field”, a key component of MLTI since the beginning, endure without continuity across the state given different devices, networks, professional development opportunities, and aspirations arising from the selection made in each district? And what about everything we’ve learned about technology and learning in the last 11 years? Are we throwing that out to start over? Ultimately, the decision must be about what choice(s) provide the best opportunities for student learning and not the least expensive cost.

#3—The most baffling lesson: Did you see the news coverage of this year’s MLTI Student Conference? Neither did I, nor did anyone else. Outside of one short paragraph I found in an online newspaper, I saw no TV or major newspaper coverage of this event. Evidently, 1200 students and 200 teachers in one place learning from each other is not news. (Sarcasm intended!) I’m convinced that at its core, this paucity of media coverage for such a significant event has more to do with a fundamental lack of understanding about the role of technology in learning than from obvious disinterest. This story is much more complex than students using computers to do interesting things in the classroom…and that may be the problem. But that is a story for another day! Fortunately, MLTI schools and students made and recorded their own news. See this short YouTube video from Gorham Middle School about the experiences of the 19 students and 5 teachers they sent to the conference.

Three lessons…do any of them resonate with your experience?

Photo by Brian Snelson, http://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/

Ready to Stretch Your Thinking?

May 17, 2013

Summer is made for days at the beach, hiking spectacular trails, and reading a good book in a hammock.  It is also the one time during the year when educators have the leisure to pause, reflect, and review their beliefs about teaching and learning. New learning in courses and institutes help stretch, clarify, and reshape the way we think about our classrooms.  For over 25 years the Middle Level Education Institute (MLEI) has provided Maine educators and those from away with ideas that are innovative and effective.  This year will be no different.

I have learned many important aspects of instructional strategies.  Of most importance is the fact that it is not about the teacher, but rather it is about the student learning that takes place.

2012 MLEI Attendee

Join us July 29-August 1 on Bowdoin College’s beautiful campus in Brunswick, Maine to continue the journey toward more powerful learning for our students. We invite you to join the quest to re-envision schooling in a bold way that systematically models as well as promotes the essential capacities students need to successfully confront the challenges of their futures and the future of our world.

In many ways it is indeed a hero or heroine’s journey to pursue powerful teaching in today’s social, political, and economic climate. We believe, however, that spirited middle level educators want to explore…

  • Empowerment and engagement
  • Community and collaboration
  • Content with meaningful context
  • Assessment for reflection and growth

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Are you ready to pursue this bold vision that…

  • Cultivates learning that is engaging, challenging and meaningful?
  • Shifts the classroom environment from teacher-centered to learner-centered?
  • Incorporates student voice and choice in a substantive way?
  • May rock your vision of teaching and learning?

This Institute has given me hope and the courage to take the full journey.

2012 MLEI Attendee

The journey continues July 29 – August 1 at MLEI on the Bowdoin campus.  All of the details and registration information can be found at http://mleimaine.net/home

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Middle Level Education–21st Century Style! Empowering Students to Take Charge of Their Learning

April 21, 2013

Jack Berckemeyer

The Young Adolescent Learner

Al Miller

Creativity in the Classroom

Dr. Kevin Perks

Literacy in the Content Areas

Bea McGarvey

Customized Learning

Where Can You Meet All of These Experts in ONE Place?

Plus over 30 concurrent sessions

MAMLE Annual Conference

Point Lookout, Northport Maine

October 17 & 18, 2013

For more information email or call Dr. Wally Alexander, Executive Director of MAMLE

wallace.alexander@umit.maine.edu
207-649-1576

Techno Wizards: Students Model Good Digital Citizenship

April 3, 2013

2013-01-159507.54.52Recently Warsaw Middle School’s Techno Wizards presented to elementary and middle school students and their parents on various aspects of digital citizenship. Eight students from Warsaw’s (WMS) new student technology team shared research, insights, advice, and tips on several critical topics—digital natives and immigrants, private and personal information online, password security, digital footprints, cyberbullying, and intellectual property. The students were professional, cool, and knowledgeable while presenting information and answering questions posed to them. But this was not their first public presentation.

The Techno Wizards have been busy since last September under the able direction of advisor and mentor, Ms. Lori Stevens, Warsaw’s technology integrator. Key functions of the Warsaw student technology team are to provide technology and learning assistance to teachers and fellow students, to assist with needed technical repairs and set-up, and perhaps most importantly of all, to serve as positive digital citizenship role models for both their school and their community. Digital citizenship refers to understanding and knowing how to navigate the digital world responsibly, safely, and ethically, obviously a set of skills that are becoming more important everyday.

Fourteen students applied for and eventually joined the Techno Wizards because they enjoy learning about and using technology; they also take seriously “giving back” to their school. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they are emerging student leaders at WMS. The Techno Wizards don’t get paid and they don’t receive academic credit for their work. Those types of external awards aren’t what motivate them! They do meet with Ms. Stevens every Tuesday morning at 7:20 a.m. to prepare for their next presentation, learn about applications of software to learning,  or how to assist their own teachers in using an app or software more effectively.

What else do the Techno Wizards do? Early in the school year they learned about Google Sites, a tool that every student at WMS will use to build his/her own digital portfolio. (A digital portfolio is a “purposeful collection” of a student’s best work in an electronic format, required by more colleges and workplaces.) Techno Wizards learned how to operate Google Sites first so that they could assist their teachers and eventually fellow students. I attended one of the professional development sessions and loved seeing the interesting role reversal as teachers learned from students!

Each week several students assist Ms. Stevens as she instructs fourth  grade students at the elementary school across the street. Every Techno Wizard also offers daily assistance to teachers and students in their classes. This ranges from trouble-shooting computer problems, to showing how to save, find, or send information to others, how to print, or how to use new tools as they are introduced. In short, the 14 Techno Wizards become 14 additional teachers for WMS.

But make no mistake…this is not simply a modern-day “AV Club” focused on computers, tablets, and projectors. Today’s student technology teams, like the Techno Wizards at Warsaw Middle School, use student expertise, leadership, enthusiasm, and an uncanny ability to work with a variety of people to strengthen the learning missions of their schools.

How do students assist with technology and learning in your school?

THERE’S STILL TIME . . . to attend the NELMS Annual Conference

March 25, 2013

It’s a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner.  “Meeting the Multi-Faceted Needs of the Middle Level Learner” convenes next week, April 4 & 5, in Providence, Rhode Island, where there will be green grass and blooming flowers(I hope!).  Don’t miss two days of inspiring, invigorating, relevant professional development.  If you need help or ideas on how to fund this incredible opportunity, contact the NELMS office, and check out the full Annual Conference program.

Inspiring Keynote speakers:

Tom Burton on “Magic, Motivation & Our ‘Sparkling’ Middle Level Students”

Carol Ann Tomlinson on “The Demographics, Research & Ethics Of Differentiation”.

Engaging ticketed luncheons and targeted full and half day sessions (a sampling includes):

“It’s More Than A Name” – Tom Burton

“Listen To What The Students Say: Student Profiles That Invite Differentiation”  – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Student Success Plans + “Cutting Edge, New” Advisory = Student Success – Earle Bidwell

Digital Tools for Project Based Learning – Jill Spencer

How Can We Use Strategies and Assessments to Prepare for the Transition to Common Core State Standards? – Deb Scarpelli

Exploring and Applying Web 2.0 Tools and Resources in the Middle – Chris Toy

Courageous and Collaborative Leadership in the Middle – Lyn Ward Healy

Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner Friendly Classroom – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Timely and relevant concurrent workshop sessions based on the concepts contained in Turning Points 2000 and This We Believe

500 Middle School Students

March 16, 2013

March 14 – 26th Expanding your horizons conference

Looks like today, Friday, will be an exciting day at the UMaine campus when 500 middle school girls converge from all over the state for an opportunity to attend a conference learning more about science and math.

The event is cosponsored by UMaine Women’s Resource Center, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine, College of Engineering, University Bookstore, the Provost’s Office and Maine Girls Collaborative Project.

The day begins at 9:00 AM with a keynote provided by a representative from Hardy Girls Healthy Women in Waterville. Students will select hands-on workshops being held throughout the Orono campus.

Among the selections are:

  • Experimenting with the Natural Flora of Bacteria on Our Hands, led byundergraduate student Jordan Myerowitz, 10 AM, noon and 1 PM, 180 Hitchner Hall.
  • Critter Clues: Studying Marine Animals, led by graduate student Skylar Bayer, 11 AM, noon and 1 PM, 201 Shibles Hall.
  • Colorful, Cold Chemistry, led by professor Alice Bruce, 10 AM and 11 AM , 227 and 228 Aubert Hall.
  • Tidal Energy, led by graduate student Colleen Swanger, noon and 1PM, Aquaculture Research Center.
  • Sustainability Solutions — Working Together, led by staff member Elizabeth England, noon and 1 PM, Mitchell Center, Smith Hall.

Teachers will have the opportunity to attend sessions as well including a Maine Girls Collaborative Project panel discussion about working with girls with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. During the afternoon they will attend a workshop to explore strategies for encouraging Native American girls to pursue STEM subjects in school.

Sounds like a great opportunity for all participants. If you attend, please share your experience with Bright Futures blog readers!


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