Posts Tagged ‘MLTI’

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,

Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


Does Technology Improve Learning? No!

May 13, 2012
Students with laptops

From the very beginning, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative received a lot of attention across the country and around the world. One of the most frequently asked questions was and is, “Do laptops improve learning?” Even when Auburn published their research on 1to1 iPads in kindergarten, we were asked if it were the iPads or if it were something else.

1to1 advocates readily recognize, however, that technology does not raise test scores or improve achievement. The answer to the question of technology improving learning is a resounding “NO!”

Only good teachers and teaching improve learning.

But technology is an amazing tool for teachers to leverage for their students’ learning. Educators are finding that technology, especially when students have access to it anywhere/anytime, is a powerful tool that allows for improved teaching and learning.

This isn’t a contridiction, it is simply placing credit where credit is due. A classroom full of laptops or iPads which aren’t being used, or aren’t being used well, will have no benefit to students and their learning. Only when teachers are using them well does learning improve. Handing technology to students is insufficient for improving learning.

In fact, the research on technology initiatives indicates that when schools put too much focus on the technology (ie treating their initiative like a “tech buy”) there is no significant benefit to achievement. And even if laptops and iPads are a relatively new phenomenon, the importance of distinguishing between a focus on technology and a focus on learning, is not. Analyzing over 700 studies, Schacter concluded in 1995 that technology initiatives have to focus on teaching and learning, not the technology, in order to be successful: “One of the enduring difficulties about technology and education is that a lot of people think about the technology first and the education later” (p. 11). Studies that show a negative impact of technology often indicate that the initiatives themselves focused on hardware and software, or teachers taught about the technology instead of using the technology to enhance learning experiences.

Maine recognized from the beginning that MLTI could never be about laptops alone, a position that Auburn continues with their iPad initiative. Both initiatives recognize that the real value of technology in schools lies not in learning to use technology, but in using technology for learning. You cannot separate the technology, and learning and teaching, and the professional development in MLTI or other 1-to-1 initiatives. The initiatives are all those things together. Intentionally. You can’t just say, “well then it was just the professional development and the technology doesn’t matter.”

In fact, the technology matters a lot. You have to remember that many students are doing things with their laptops that aren’t convenient/possible without the laptop. Sure you can write with pen and paper, but research shows that the quality and quantity of writing improves because of the perceived ease of revision and editing. Sure you can look up extra facts in the library after class, if you want to go to all that trouble. But it’s a lot more likely to happen when a student can just flip open the laptop, open the browser, and do a search. The technology extends our capabilities as teachers and as the engineers of students’ learning experiences.

Only when technology initiatives focus on teaching and learning (includinng well supported teachers) do the initiatives impact achievement.

“Do laptops improve learning?” is not, nor should it ever be, the right question. The right question is “How are teachers using technology to improve learning?”


Reference: Schacter, J. (1995). The impact of educational technology on student achievement. The Milken Exchange on Educational Technology.


MLTI, The Next Generation: Share Your Ideas! An Invitation From Jeff Mao

March 3, 2012
Learning Technology Policy Director for the Maine Department of Education.

An Invitation To All Middle Level Educators from Jeff Mao

HI Everyone, MLTI affects all middle level stakeholders in Maine. Here’s your chance to communicate directly with us, online, and in a totally transparent and public setting. Please visit and share your thinking. We will continue to post new questions here seeking feedback. Please share this link with your teachers and your students–even the parents! The idea here is that we want to have conversations and get feedback from all constituents to help us inform the next MLTI RFP. The next RFP will be released in December of this calendar year. It may seem a long way off, but from where I sit, I have very little time left to rewrite the RFP document. I need your help and the help of others in your schools and communities so that the next RFP reflects your needs. As always, please remember that the RFP has to be descriptive and not prescriptive. We can’t ask for a specific device, software title, online service, etc. Its OK to mention them on the site, but what is more important is for us to understand the functionality or characteristics of the specific tool or title that you need and like. So, just saying that you want a software X doesn’t help. What we need to know is what are you doing with software X. What functions does it provide? Why are these functions and capabilities essential? If we are talking about support and maintenance…its OK to use MLTI-specific language like “Buffer Pool” but remember that the Buffer Pool as we know it today is a construct that was provided based on Apple’s last response to the RFP. We didn’t ask for a Buffer Pool, but it was Apple’s response to providing the a protection to schools and the State for expected loss of equipment due to accidents, theft, etc. So in discussing that issue, what are the ! challenges? What works? How would you like to be able to get help/protection? So far, we haven’t asked all the questions because we want to focus attention on certain topics…mostly just to make it easier than for us to dump a ton of questions all at once. However, you can provide feedback on anything at anytime by responding to the appropriate section of the historical 2006 RFP language which is provided on this site. Remember also that we will be seeking input from outside of Maine too…so how we discuss things and how we present ourselves on this site is a direct reflection on Maine and your schools. Let’s make sure we show the world how far we’ve come! Please feel free to tweet this link, share it on your social media channels, etc. thanks everyone! Jeff Mao

Middle School Students Impress Commissioner Bowen With MLTI Laptops

June 14, 2011

Student presenters w/Jim Moulton at student conference in May

Among the students mentioned in Commissioner Bowen’s latest newsletter is Telstar Regional Middle School eighth grader Mike Rodway who proved that, with the help of his MLTI laptop, he’s become a master filmmaker. He electrified the crowd during a presentation that involved him interacting with a filmed version of himself on stage.

Joe Lien demonstrated his penchant for playing the guitar, and told us he probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to play before a large crowd until he used his MLTI laptop to create a multimedia presentation of his life story.

Commissioner Bowen is commonly asked about the future of MLTI — most frequently about the program’s future technological foundation. Will the next iteration of MLTI involve more laptops, iPads or some other technology that doesn’t yet exist?

He says it’s too early to know the answer to that question, especially given how fast technology changes.

What we do know, though, is that we don’t want to return to the days when technology wasn’t an integral part of a student’s learning. To the days when Mike Rodway wouldn’t have otherwise discovered he’s an immensely talented filmmaker. To the days when Joe Lien wouldn’t have overcome his nerves to perform in front of a large crowd.

That would be a disservice to the students we’re trying to educate to be innovative, resourceful, entrepreneurial and prepared for the 21st century.

Maine is already ahead of the pack when it comes to putting laptops in the hands of its students. Let’s stay ahead, keeping focused on how technology can transform our students’ learning. For the rest of the commissioner’s newletter go to

MLTI Draws Canadian and Swedish Visitors

May 10, 2011

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!

Enjoying a Maine Lobster for the First Time!

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.

Conversation About Learning

  •  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 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.

Scott and Laura

  • 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.

Vote on Laptops for Students

April 25, 2011

Do you think the Laptop Program has been beneficial to Maine students?

That is the question that WABI TV5 is asking on their website. Click on this link, scroll down and on the left hand side you will see the question. I think you, middle level educators, could certainly voice your opinion on the topic! So, please take a moment to cast your vote. There is also a spot for you to add comments if you’d like!

Free MLTI WEbinar Superintendents and Principals – It’s ALL about Leadership!

March 21, 2011

When it comes to educational initiatives such as the MLTI, how important is the principal’s involvement? That’s the topic of tomorrow’s MLTI webinar. If you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in a webinar, here’s your chance! It’s friendly, free, and tomorrow afternoon at 4:00. Grab your principal and colleagues and log on. Read on for details.

Superintendents and Principals – It’s ALL about Leadership! facilitated by Chris Toy

Join Chris Toy Tuesday, March 22nd from 4:00 – 5:00 PM for what promises to be a most interesting webinar. The topic is Superintendents, Principals, and MLTI, It’s All About Educational Leadership! We’ll be joined by superintendents Don Siviski from RSU2 and Jerry White from MSAD31. Mark Hatch, Principal at Messalonskee Middle School, and John Armentrout, tech director at RSU #2, will also be with us. So grab a colleague and join Chris and guests for a great conversation.

To register for this webinar, select the Webcasts tab at the top of the page, find Principal Webinar in the March webinars list and select the desired time to be directed to online registration.


Keep in mind:
– All of MLTI’s webinars are free and contact hours are available.
– Webinars are recorded and made available for viewing on the Maine121 Archives page.
– The current schedule of MLTI’s 2010-2011 Webinar Series’ can be found by going to and clicking on the WebCasts tab at the top of the page.

MLTI, Leadership, Librarians, and School Change

October 30, 2010

Guests for First MLTI Principals Webinar

Just a quick note to thank Teri Caouette, Pam Goucher, Eileen Broderick, and Nancy Grant for graciously serving as guests for our first MLTI Principals webinar of the 2010-2011 school year! We had a good turn out for the 4 PM session with 26 participants from all over the state and even from Arizona! While we had a great conversation about ways principals, school librarians, and technology leaders can collaborate to support best practices around integrating learning and technology the chat pod was perking along as participants shared their insights, ideas, resources, affirmations, questions, and advice! Here’s a small excerpt from the chat window as an example:

Peggy George: did any of you get to see this presentation by David Lankes called Focus on Connection management and not collection management-he made excellent points related to connecting with people and content and curriculum!

To read the rest of the chat window, hear the conversation, see the powerpoint slides, and access the list of online resources head on over to:

And just a reminder, We’ll be gathering more guests on the 4th Tuesday each month at 4:00 PM. We are in the process of planning out the MLTI principals’ webinar topics for the remainder of the year. If you have a topic or two that you think should be taken up just let me know! You can respond by commenting below, or email me at I hope principals make a point of gathering their leadership teams and/or staffs to join in on these conversations, Because as we know, when it comes to school improvement…It’s all about leadership!

%d bloggers like this: