Archive for the ‘Teaching With Technology’ 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!

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!

Lock Students Out of Applications, Teach Them to Make Responsible Choices, or Both

June 4, 2013

Introducing Guest Blogger, Laurie Walsh: There was a recent discussion on the state list serve for technology-using educators about how to respond when students use technology inappropriately. Do you block it for the offenders? Do you blog it for everyone? Can you really even block it? Do you teach digital citizenship and model appropriate use? I was especially impressed with Laurie Walsh's response and thought others might like to read her views, too. So I asked her to write a guest post for Bright Futures. She is the Tech Integrator for RSU 13, which serves Rockland, Thomaston, Cushing, South Thomaston, Owlshead, and St. George. Mike

 

As educators we often get bogged down dealing with kids using technology in inappropriate ways. Last night's Facebook drama spills over into our classrooms. Skype is used to share too much and someone is humiliated. It is frustrating because instead of focusing on all the innovative work we are doing in our classrooms every day, administrators or parents complain about how this video chat program or that social media site is creating problems at school or at home. They just want it to stop, so they demand we block the website or remove the tool from the laptops.

At the same time, the NETS digital citizenship standard requires that kids “advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology” and “demonstrate personal responsibility for life long learning” and “exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.” How can we expect kids to develop this kind of responsibility if they have no chance to use the tools? How do we help kids grow into these responsible digital citizens and yet keep them safe at the same time?

With skills like research and Internet use, we create a progressively more open environment as kids move through our schools. Little kids need to be kept safe until they have enough experience to make good choices, so kindergarteners may not have access to a browser on the devices they use. As they get older, we introduce kid-safe search engines, MARVEL, and Portaportals or teacher created webpages to keep them safe and on task. In late elementary school we teach students search methods explicitly and walk them through finding and evaluating resources online while we closely supervise their work. Finally, we have to let them prove that they know what to do by allowing them to work on the Web without as much direct instruction or close supervision. Hopefully they've learned enough to stay safe and work productively. If they haven't, we corral the ones who need more instruction and reteach, then try again. And again. And again. Most students seem to achieve responsible independent use at some point.

Shouldn't we take the same approach with our communications applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, chat, and messaging? We could model their use with the little kids by contacting other classrooms and experts through the teacher machines and projectors. We could supervise small groups of older elementary students as they do the same thing but in a more self-directed manner, identifying their own experts, making contact and arranging appointments, and conducting the interviews. Eventually we could allow regular use of these tools by individuals or groups of students as a way to do school work. Through an incremental process they could learn how to use them responsibly.

Maybe under-use of these tools in school is actually the cause of some of our problems. We avoid these tools because they can lead to trouble or because we are uncomfortable with them ourselves. If kids were encouraged and supported as they learned to use them in school on a regular basis, would they be more likely to use them responsibly when they are unsupervised? I think need embrace these tools and make them a regular part of our practice if we want to see or students develop into responsible digital citizens. More practice is the key, not less access.

Laurie Walsh

 

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

“I Pity The Fool!” Leadership Advice From Mr. T

March 2, 2013

Mr. T An opening workshop conversation I often have with school leaders around the world is to share three words of wisdom from a well-known figure—Mr. T. Even people outside the United States recognize the scowling muscular character from “The A Team,” and his signature commentary about his adversaries, “I pity the fool!” delivered in a menacing, rumbling growl. Of course, it’s not this four-word phrase I’m referring to. “Mr. T” is an acronym I use to remind us how to effectively advocate for, support, and sustain the integration of technology and learning in our schools (or any aspect of school effectiveness for that matter).

The “M” in Mr. T represents the need for school leaders to model what they want faculty, staff, and students to be doing in their classrooms. The importance of modeling is echoed in the famous quote “We must become the change we want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Leadership must be seen as leading by example. Albert Einstein stated that “Modeling isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way.” As the lead teachers in a school, administrators must use and integrate today’s tools and resources in their work with colleagues, staff, and students on a regular basis if they want this to happen in their schools. School leaders should learn about and use both online and offline digital tools and resources in daily work and routines. Using hardware such as laptops, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, and document projectors to share and communicate ideas should be business as usual. Principals who use software tools for presenting ideas, facilitating and archiving conversations, and collaborating are modeling what teachers and students should be doing in their classrooms. “Walking the talk” matters!

The “R” in Mr. T represents the importance of taking time in our busy schedules to pause and reflect. Our days, and often nights, are filled with meetings, deadlines, data, and emergencies. We seldom take the time to stop and reflect on the meaning and significance of our activities. Yet, we regularly pay lip service to the importance of being reflective learners and practitioners as we rush from one agenda item to the next. Or we admonish students to stop and think about the consequences of their decisions. We fall into bed each night then get up in a handful of hours and begin again.

Here again, if we want to implement learning technology in meaningful ways we must periodically stop, or at least slow down, and make time to consider what we are doing, why we are doing it, and its significance in light of our overall vision. The great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, advised us to keep in mind that “Learning without reflection is to become lost.” As educational leaders we must model reflection, and we must create space and the expectation that reflection will be a key aspect of the learning process. This can be accomplished as simply as pausing after an activity and doing a simple “think, pair, share” around the question, “What implications does this activity have for our vision as a school?” This can be accomplished in under five minutes, and can be extended using online tools such as a wiki.

Finally, the “T” in Mr. T represents the critical process of transfer. Transfer happens when we take an experience in one setting and actually apply it in a meaningful way in another situation. If we do not figure out a way to transfer and apply an experience in our own lives or work, that experience is soon forgotten. We can all complete the oft quoted aphorism, “If you don’t use it, you…” It is the responsibility to the leader, whether it’s the school leader or the leader of the classroom, to plan for, build in, and facilitate this transfer. Transfer is critical when it comes to integrating learning and technology where the interest is often focused on the novelty of the latest application or tool. The leader must take advantage of the interest and move the work forward by asking and requiring the staff to grapple with and answer the question, “How can we use this in our own work?”

So, take 30 seconds and ask yourself, “Am I like Mr. T when it comes to modeling, reflecting, and transferring what I want to see in my school?” If not, you know what Mr. T would have to say!

This entry is reposted from NASSP at http://tinyurl.com/NASSP-Mr-T

We (still) aren’t getting it!

January 28, 2013

I may have a bad case of the January grumpies, but frankly I’m tired of reading about these kinds of incidents. More than that I am angry that there seems to be little recourse, little discussion, and most important, little action taken. But take a look for yourself…

• Young teen girl is beaten up in her school…two onlookers film and upload video to Facebook.

•  Two high school students take their disagreement online where it inevitably escalates, disrupting a good portion of their school.

• After President Obama’s re-election last November and again after the Inauguration, a slew of racist comments appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

Not a day goes by when the Internet, TV news, and newspapers don’t feature several instances of students (ok, and adults too…and that is a big part of the problem) behaving inappropriately, sometimes badly, and occasionally illegally because of their online actions. Posting before thinking. Responding without weighing the consequences. Speaking without considering someone’s feelings.

We say our teens are tech-savvy, but what does that mean? For many teens it simply suggests they can navigate, use, and are not intimidated by their devices—laptops, tablets, smart phones, games, and of course, the Internet. Primary use of technology for many teens is still connecting with others (texting, social media) and entertainment (games, music, and more).

Far fewer teens than we would like actually take advantage of the technology at their disposal to learn, collaborate with others about bold ideas, problem solve (and particularly, problem find),  and give back to others. Let me say that again…the level of technology use for too many teens stops at texting and Facebook, unless we teach them how to be responsible (digital) citizens. And in this case, that “teaching” involves as much listening and discussing with them as it does about telling!

Here is what I suggest. Parents need to talk with their teens and teachers need to talk with their students about these issues. Our children and teens need to explicitly be taught what their responsibilities are for being good (digital) citizens, and how they can use technology responsibly, carefully, and ethically. (This is no easy task given the many examples of adults who misbehave online.)

But remember, this is not about technology. It is about common sense, using your brain, caring about others, setting good examples, not doing or saying things online that you would not do or say in face-to-face.

Take five minutes to talk to one of your classes today, and tomorrow, and the next day about a tech-related issue that has come up in your classroom, school, community, or in the news. Many of our students are desperate for guidance; they need to hear each other talk about the opportunities and challenges of being a teen in today’s society with the digital devices and tools they have access to. And of course, parents should have the same types of discussions.

Please note…this is not a rant. I’m simply asking teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to take five minutes each day to talk with a group of students about these issues as they arise. You don’t need to be a technology expert, you just need to talk about common sense behavior. Would you do or say this, or this, or this to someone face-to-face, as you have done hiding anonymously behind your computer?

There are tons of excellent resources available for kids of all ages, their teachers and parents. To get started investigate…

Common Sense Media

A Platform for Good

Digizen.org

Please let me know how this works for you and the kids for whom you are responsible!


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