We’ve moved

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

We’ve moved the hosting of this blog to a new home in Maine. You can now find us at http://www.maine121.org. Please update your bookmarks!


The MLTI Team

Categories: Uncategorized

Building Ladders: Part II – SAMR & TPCK

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Now that folks have been introduced to SAMR and TPACK, its time to talk about how practitioners can apply what we know. The question might be, “How can I look at my curriculum and put SAMR and TPCK into practice in my classroom?” And, of course, we will ponder how technology can aid in the improvement of teaching and learning by giving a closer look at the tools that MLTI and the web have to offer. Finally, we will check out one more example of “building a ladder” of classroom practice and discuss how it might be applied to revamping lessons or units you already use.

Categories: Uncategorized

Notes for April 7th Webinar – Think, Play, Learn

It was in the late 70’s and early 80’s when Atari came out with the Lunar Lander and Asteroids games. I was “stoked” that these games represented an environment for understanding inertia and the other laws of motion, and wondered how I could bring that into my middle school classroom. But they were…games, not lessons, so it didn’t happen. Now that so many Maine 7-12 classrooms are 1:1 and kids have very sophisticated gaming systems, that type of environment has become almost second nature to our students.

So, what is it about gaming that engages the gamer? Our own Ruben Puentadura has offered a whole bunch of podcasts available from the Maine DOE iTunes site entitled “Game and Learn.” He suggests the motivators are these:

Cause and Effect – immediate feedback for effort, seeing results of action
Long Term Winning vs Short Term Gains – Tactics, strategy and problem solving
Order from Chaos – Isolating variables
Complex Systems Behaviors – Systems thinking
Obstacles Become Motivation – Accepting challenges and taking risks

If we look over the standards and pedagogy of successful science classrooms, these same motivators are definitely learning goals, as well.

So how can we leverage the tools that we have to enhance the learning of science? And, for that matter, what tools exist on the MLTI MacBook that can apply that leverage?

To begin with, Games Launcher offers Wolfquest, which has been covered briefly in another webinar. Also, ME Explorer has been explained in a webinar and a series of iTunes podcasts. And we could consider the student interaction with Data Studio and Logger Pro to address some of the motivators mentioned above.

Two applications on the MLTI image from Concord Consortium have been included on the image this year that pack a giant science punch by incorporating the immersive environments and concretizing of abstract concepts found in the gaming world. The Concord Consortium folder may be the most powerful and underutilized resource center for science that teachers need to discover.

Geniquest starts off with a fairly simple and engaging premise of breeding dragons…yes – dragons. Students move on to investigate more and more complex genetic concepts that build an amazing learning progression that develop a deeper understanding of the big ideas of heredity.

Molecular Workbench is both a library containing hundreds of models and activities in chemistry, biology,  and physics and it is also a toolbox for building your own custom-made activities with a good how-to manual.

Another MLTI tool that has remained fairly dormant is NetLogo. It, too, has an extensive library of models that support deeper understanding of science concepts through inquiry and interactivity. The models are set up using the mathematical constructs of various phenomena, stripping away some of the fuzziness of the real world, so users can focus on the basic interactions. My personal favorite is “Wolf-Sheep Predation” that models the predator-prey relationship. Students can adjust variables like initial populations, reproduction rates and energy accumulation to see what effects become apparent. The results are displayed in pictures, graphs, and numbers, following the good practice of multiple representations.

OK, those are a few of the tools on the MLTI image. What about teachers searching the web for appropriate standards-based activities that are appropriate for their curricula? There are a couple of websites that collect and review science resources and align them with learning goals, National Science Education Standards and Project 2061 Benchmarks. One of the is PRISMS from Maine Math and Science Alliance. Another is the National Science Digital Library Science Literacy Strand Map.

A visit to PRISMS gives the user a choice of science topics. A click will take you to a page that lists a set of Learning Goals. Pick one, and you will see the review that covers  information that parallels lesson planning, and a link to the resource. You get to see the strengths and weakness and suggestions for the teacher to integrate the activity into a lesson. I would promote PRISMS as a way for middle school science teachers to construct well crafted, technology-rich units that offer deeper understanding than textbooks alone.

The NSDL Science Literacy Strand Map uses the maps from the AAAS – Project 2061 Atlas of Science Literacy. The Atlas was designed to map out the ideas and skills that lead to literacy in science, mathematics, and technology might develop from kindergarten through 12th grade. NSDL has made the Atlas intereactive, allowing users to choose a major content area, pick a subtopic, and focus in on a particular content topic. Then the map is shown on the screen, with lines linking the specific 9-12 standards, showing the relationship among them and the progression from K to 12 of the content topic. If you click on one of the boxes, you get a list of links to resources about it, as well as references from NSES and Benchmarks. Also included on the map is a tab that opens up to explain the various student misconceptions about the chosen topic. Science teachers and departments would benefit greatly from using the Strand Map to design curriculum that aligns with standards and is sensitive to K-12 learning progressions.

Second Life (SL) and other virtual worlds deserve a good look, too. Scilands in SL offers a area that has islands devoted to NASA, NOAA, Exploratorium, genetics, astronomy, and many other science related themes. In many cases, the environment offers novel and interesting ways to interact with science concepts, like walking through an animal cell and learning about the different organelles. EduSim and Science Sim are a couple of other virtual worlds.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention PhET as a great resource for ready made, interactive science activities. Users can choose from an amazing number of java applets that can be accessed on the web, or downloaded to be included in NoteShare notebooks or teacher web pages. All of the resources are great, and many include a full lesson plan that can be adapted to individual lessons and units.

Good classroom practice demands that any of these resources need to exist in an appropriate learning context. As a teacher, you are responsible for addressing a number of factors to ensure that learning is taking place. Think of the questions you ask in a lesson plan:

What standards are being taught/learned?
What are the prerequisites needed?
How can the activity be differentiated appropriately?
Will this be part of an introduction, practice, homework, extension, or elaboration?
Will the students engage as individuals, small groups, or whole class?
What is your role as a teacher, facilitator, or Socratic coach?
How will the learning be assessed?

April 7 Webinar Think, Play, Learn – Games, Models, and Simulations for Science

Seymour Papert once said that learning should be “hard fun.” Teachers now have the opportunity to integrate games, models and simulations into their science curriculum, while implementing the 5 E’s (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.) This webinar includes demos of GeniQuest and Molecular Workbench and review other important apps on the MLTI image. In addition, the PRISMS website from MMSA, and the interactive Science Literacy Strand Map from the National Digital Science Library will be shown as valuable platforms for finding relevant web resources aligned with standards. The renewed emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) challenges teachers from all grade levels to examine ways to foster learning and understanding of esential science concepts. Join us as we investigate new avenues to the development of important science skills and content using the integration of technology. (3:15 & 7:15 PM EDT)

Categories: Uncategorized

Feb 17 Webinar -Visual Literacy – Seeing Meaning

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

This episode is a follow up to last year’s Visualization webinar. While there are myriad definitions of “visual literacy,” we can distill it down to creating and obtaining meaning of visual representations. As our society becomes more and more immersed in information, educators need to help today’s learners gain the skills necessary to get a handle on the most efficient and meaningful transfer of knowledge and understanding. We will look at more imagery, and some specific tools available to teachers and students for improving visual literacy.

Categories: Making Meaning

December 2nd Webinar: Strategies & Tools for Tier I Instruction

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

"Scaffolding" by Brett Weinstein used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

Tier I instruction refers to Response to Intervention (RTI), which is a method of supporting student achievement and preventing failure. Through a school’s RTI plan, instruction and interventions are matched to student need, and are adjusted in relation to student response as measured by assessment of learning. Tier I instructional strategies and interventions are those selected and used by general education teachers, and applications on the MLTI laptops can support teachers in implementing effective practices for content area learning.

During the 3:15 to 4:15 PM delivery of this webinar, Hillary Brumer, Assistive Technology Specialist, and Jamie Jensen, K-12 Technology Integrator, both of RSU 21, are our guests. We will discuss and demonstrate targeted strategies for supporting students with diverse learning needs.

Between 7:15 and 8:15 PM, Robyn Bailey, science teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Portland, will be our guest. We’ll discuss and demonstrate targeted strategies for supporting students of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Both sessions will be delivered on Thursday, December 2nd. For information and to register, please choose the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

Follow-Up to Nov 4 Webinar – RtI, Numeracy, and Tech Integration

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s important to realize that student learning in numeracy is not a “one size fits all” proposition. We need to move beyond teaching to the middle, top, or bottom of the bell curve. In addition, many students wound up receiving special services when they were not appropriate. Response to Intervention (RtI) is a research-based system designed to address those students who have historically fallen between the cracks

The main features of RtI involve universal screening 3 times a year, with targeted interventions given to those students diagnosed as at risk of falling behind. Tier One interventions occur within the core curriculum, in the regular classroom, for 80% of all students. Tier Two uses small groups to address that 15% who need extra help, but not special services. Finally, the 5% who need the intensive intervention of special services get individual help. In all tiers, constant progress monitoring of student progress informs schools as to any adjustments needed in the interventions.

Often overlooked in the universal screening are behavioral issues that affect academic progress. One important behavioral problem is the “I don’t care” syndrome when students take the test. These students can wind up getting inappropriate targeted academic interventions as a result of their disaffection or disengagement. This can further disengage them leading to worsening the problem. What’s more, researchers have found that we often do these kids a disservice by not letting them engage with meaningful and challenging content by “dumbing it down” due to their behavioral problems. This may also be true for those students who just need another way to deal with content in order to catch up with grade level work.

Fortunately, technology, in the form of the MLTI 1:1 laptop initiative, offers a powerful advantage. Seymour Papert back in 1980 stated that computers have the potential of “concretizing the abstract.”   Applets (little applications) can help with the RtI numeracy strategies outlined at the US Department of Education’s “Doing What Works” website : 1) Examples and Explanations, 2) Higher Order Questioning, 3) Appropriate Spacing of Learning, and 4) Concrete – Abstract Connections. This can make a big difference in how students learn math, because they are visual, interactive, and engaging. Students will often persevere longer with an applet than they would with paper and pencil.

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) is a vast collection of math applets for K-12 students covering the NCTM clusters. Students and teachers with MLTI devices are fortunate to have the NLVM applets as part of the NoteShare application. This provides access to the entire library and documentation directly without the need for the internet. In addition, teachers can provide context for the applets and monitor progress, and students can write their strategies, reflections and also monitor their progress right in the notebook.

Teachers need to use all their skills to design the best environment in which students learn with applets. There will always be questions about where in the curriculum stream an applet should be applied. Will it be for introduction of a concept, perhaps using a projector? Maybe it could be used to provide examples or further explain the concept. Perhaps it could be used for skill building or remediation – or even extension for some kids. And what are the prerequisites needed or what kind of teacher facilitation is necessary to make the conceptual understanding deeper and richer? An applet without context has little efficiency.

In the larger picture, technology can offer the opportunity to provide more relevance to a math curriculum, especially for at-risk students. Recent research has indicated that small group work, rather than individual or whole group activities work best. Some of the advantages of technology are lost if all that happens is basic skill building, but large gains can be made when technology is used to approach real world applications involving research, design, analysis, composition, and communication.

One promising curriculum approach is Challenge-Based Learning. This study found that challenge-based learning (CBL) is extremely effective with 9th grade students, including those most at risk of dropping out. Apple has worked to make CBL available with resources, as well.

Finally, EDC in Maine offers a bunch of GeoGebra resources that can be helpful. Also, MLTI offers podcasts to help teachers learn more about GeoGebra at our iTunesU presence.