Love.Read.Learn Baby Journal

June 8, 2013 by

Great opportunity!

IMG_3402On September 6 First Lady Ann LePage put a call out for student artwork to be considered for a book called “Love.Read.Learn!™ ” Baby Journal. The book will be presented to new parents at all the hospitals in Maine during the next year. Over 800 pieces of artwork were submitted. It was a difficult decision to determine which ones would be included in the book. However, the First Lady and a representative from the Barbara Bush Foundation worked side by side with three art teachers to select the pieces.

Earlier this week several people attended a celebration of the newly published book! Invited to the reception were two Westbrook Middle School students whose drawings were included in the book. Emma Lombardo, grade 6 and Kelsea Fuller, grade 8, their parents, principal Matt Nelson, art teachers Nancy Goan and Abby Jacobs, and Art Director Carol Connor were in also attendance.

The other special guests included former First Lady Barbara Bush, First Lady Ann LePage, and Doro Bush Koch. The first Lady’s presented books to three new mom’s. The books sponsors were Maine Families and Harold Alfond College Challenge. The journal will be distributed as a gift to new parents at hospitals statewide during the next year.

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Community Service at Mountain Valley Middle School

June 6, 2013 by

What are 130 eighth-graders doing in the communities of Byron, Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury and Andover? This is the third year that the Mountain Valley Middle School students fan out into the community to lend a hand by painting signs and picnic tables, raking, planting flowers, and a variety of other projects. You can read the article in today’s newspaper, River Valley Sun Journal written by Matthew Daigle by clicking here.

Many middle schools across the state alter the schedule and create opportunities for students in their communities. Please tell us about your activities by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ at the bottom of this post!

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

June 4, 2013 by

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

 

June 15th Deadline For MLEI

May 31, 2013 by

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 by

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/

Spring Middle Link Digital Newsletter

May 21, 2013 by

MAMLE publishes a digital newsletter for its membership three times a year.  The spring Middle Link has just been sent to member schools and individual members.  Please encourage your administration to forward it to all staff members!

Here is a preview of what is in the current Middle Link:

Scholar-Leader Dinner

Effective Practices Around the State

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Who Are These People?

Read Middle Link to Find Out!

Al Miller  Kevin Perks

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If your school is a member of MAMLE, your principal received a digital copy–remind them to forward it to staff!  If your school is not a member, ask why not?

Ready to Stretch Your Thinking?

May 17, 2013 by

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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Give my regards to Broadway

April 29, 2013 by

Pemetic School Show Choir I love to watch Maine’s middle (and high school) show choirs perform. This year’s state competition was held at Ellsworth High School several weeks ago and as always, all schools brought their best work to the stage. As a sports guy whose musical career ended badly in third grade, I’ve learned to admire and appreciate the singing and dancing talents of middle school students. In fact, show choir may be the perfect activity for young adolescents in middle level schools.

Here’s why: It gives large numbers of students—many show choirs have 20 or more students—opportunities to participate. And these students have a wide range of abilities and interests; some like to be out front as soloists as singers or dancers while others like being part of the ensemble. Still others bring their unique skills as musicians, floor managers, costume and  set designers, and assistant directors. In show choir there is a place for everyone. I also like that these young adolescents take a chance by putting themselves out front. Bravo for them and their hard-working mentors and teachers.

Show choirs absolutely require collaboration, very, very strict attention to detail, with everyone striving for excellence. There are few stars here as everyone recognizes the importance of working as a team. But it isn’t all about winning. You can readily see the joy and excitement on the faces of 11-year-olds or 14-year-olds as they begin a routine scared to death and two minutes later realize they are having the time of their lives.

Middle level schools believe in exploration, giving every 10-t0-15-year-old opportunities to try out different experiences. From volleyball to foreign language, drawing and painting to creative writing. Show choir offers young adolescents outstanding chances to find potentially life-long interests,  a place to be a part of a team,  and the satisfaction of doing something well and receiving instant feedback about it.

Isn’t this what life is all about?

If you haven’t seen any of Maine’s middle school show choirs in action take a look here and here. Or go online to see if your favorite middle level school has posted its routine for you to enjoy.

(Full disclosure: My daughter is the director of the Hermon High School Show Choir. I am also an avid Glee and Smash fan!)

Photo permission by PKHomer and Pemetic School, ME.

Maine Scholar Leader Nominations Due This Week!

April 24, 2013 by

What: Maine Scholar Leader Dinner

When: Thursday May 16, 2013 5:30 – 7:30

Where: Augusta Civic Center

This is Maine Middle Level Education!

This is Maine Middle Level Education!

This is the perfect opportunity for schools, students, and their families from across the state to gather and celebrate what’s great about middle level education in Maine.

Here are 14 key reasons schools have given for participating in the Scholar Leader program:

  1. positive recognition for students as role models
  2. promotes scholarship and leadership for students
  3. recognition and appreciation of families
  4. recognition of and appreciation middle level educators
  5. the only statewide recognition open to all middle schools
  6. recognizes students beyond the school community
  7. brings recognition to our school
  8. students, parents, school officials and administration all sit together for a great evening of fun and recognition
  9. it reflects well on all middle school students, not just the two that are recognized
  10. it supports our school goals
  11. promotes dignity and respect for all
  12. a way to show pride in our students
  13. lets student scholar leaders see they have peers across the state
  14. it helps support the mission of MAMLE and NELMS organizations

Information: http://www.nelms.org./pdfs/2013/sld13/ME%20Invite%20Letter%202013.pdf

Nominations: http://www.nelms.org./pdfs/2013/sld13/ME%20Registration%20Form.pdf

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

April 21, 2013 by

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


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