Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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


Bright Futures, Technology, and Modern Learning

July 29, 2012

About a month ago, the Bright Futures Partnership sponsored an event bringing together veteran and bourgeoning middle level leaders to explore the future of middle level education in Maine. Many of us were starting to feel like the middle had been forgotten with the various “accountability” initiatives that have driven education life for so long (although, Jill certainly believes – and so do I – the middle level concept is alive and well within the Customized Learning work, just under a new set of vocabulary).

But it was a good reminder that perhaps it was time to revisit the Bright Futures Report itself and its core practices. When was the last time you took a good look at the report? Although I reference it often, I know it has been a while for me. Maybe it's time to go back and review…

We blog here about a wealth of topics related to middle level education, but I'm now inviting my fellow Bright Futures bloggers to take one of the BF core practices that is near and dear to their heart (would that be a BFF, A Bright Futures Favorite?) and remind us all what that recommendation is all about.

And it won't surprise any of you that I'm willing to start with Core Practice 4:

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.

It's easy for educators in Maine to take this one for granted, since we've had the Maine Learning Technology Initiative for more than a decade. But no other state is that lucky, and although access to technology, even 1to1, is becoming more widespread, Core Practice 4 ventures to make one key idea clear: technology in schools is not about the stuff, or having access, or being an add-on or elective, but rather about leveraging technology as a modern learning tool integrated throughout the educational program.

As the report says:

Researching, word processing, data collecting, animating, creating multimedia presentations, producing and directing movies, and designing web pages are all tools that the teachers and students use on a regular basis to make learning challenging, meaningful, and engaging.

Which of these are you doing regularly in in your classroom?

What other kinds of technology-rich learning activities are you doing that aren't in that list?

I've started thinking of instruction in two types: for lower order thinking and for higher order thinking.

How are you using technology for lower level Blooms? Are students finding information? Watching instructional videos?

How are you using technology for upper level Blooms? How are students creating with technology? What role is technology playing in project-based learning in your classroom?

Here are some resources to help you with implementing Core Practice 4:


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.


Calling All Arts Teacher Leaders!

March 11, 2012

Regional VPA Assessment Leader Search

Are you interested in leading Maine Arts Education Assessment Initiative: Phase II?

Join us for a GREAT opportunity! YOU’re invited to be part of Maine’s exciting arts education initiative. The initiative is looking for teachers who are interested in participating in Phase II to take a close look at assessment in the arts. If you are selected as a teacher leader, we will provide training in Assessment, Leadership, and Technology, and ask that you take what you’ve learned and share it with other educators in your region and across Maine.

OVERALL PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Create an environment in Maine where assessment in arts education is an integral part of the work all arts educators do to improve student achievement in the arts.

Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team - Professional Development, August 11

Phase I, Timeline:

  • Summer 2010: Argy Nestor, Rob Westerberg, Catherine Ring attended the New England Arts Assessment Institute and formulated initiative plan
  • Summer 2011: Professional Development – Regional VPA Assessment Leaders
  • October 2011: Regional VPA Assessment Leaders facilitate workshop sessions at statewide conference on arts education assessment
  • Winter/Spring 2012: Regional VPA Assessment Leaders facilitate professional development opportunities on assessment by regions
  • 2011-12 School Year: Arts education assessment webinars for Maine educators
  • February 2012: Reflect on the work and determine next steps

Phase II, Timeline:

  • March 2012: Call for Phase II Teacher Leaders
  • Summer 2012: 4 day Professional Development – Regional VPA Assessment Leaders
  • Summer 2012: Phase I Teacher Leaders continue assessment work by going deeper and developing arts edcuation resources of best practices for online access
  • School year 2012/13: Teacher Leaders facilitate professional development opportunities on assessment by regions and across Maine


To read more details and for the application please go to

Phase I Teacher Leaders Allysa Anderson, Jenni Driscoll, Lisa Marin, Bill Buzza - UMaine Museum of Art, Feb. 12, Reviewing work and planning Phase II

Laptops and Introductory Lessons

January 31, 2012

Recently, I wrote on the Multiple Pathways Blog about my reactions to Apple’s textbook announcements and to textbooks in general.

In the process of writing and reflecting, I realized that in Maine we a very different way to introduce a new topic.

Imagine an introductory lesson focused on building a student’s background knowledge. Instead of having students read a chapter on the causes of the Civil War (for example) and then discussing what they read (which, by the way, every single child not only read the exact same description of the causes, but they all have been exposed to only one take on those causes – the textbook’s), have students open their laptops and ask them, “what were the causes of the Civil War?” 

Students could search and share what they found. You could ask, “Did anyone find anything different?” You could even compare sources or discuss approaches to surfing and searching. You could have them find perspectives that would reflect substantially different points of view. You could explore and discuss different kinds of sources and the apparent relative value.

Well, maybe not the first time you do this with students, but certainly the more times you do, the more you model for them, and the more they reflect on the process, the more your “introductory” lessons could look like this. 

And think about the “learning” skills and digital citizenship skills your students would develop!

It’s Your Turn:

How do you leverage technology to reach students in new ways?

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!

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