Archive for the ‘Prof_Development’ Tag

2009 MLTI Spring Institute: Pictures Sounds Numbers Words…Teaching and Learning with Technology

Logo for Spring InstituteThis year’s MLTI Spring Teacher Institute will be completely online! The dates are May 4 – 7, with interactive sessions delivered in the mid- to late-afternoon, as well as between 7:15 and 8:15 pm. The kickoff is a keynote by former Maine governor and MLTI visionary Angus King on Monday at 3 pm. Each session will be archived, so if you miss any of the live events, they will be available for later viewing.

The institute is free and registration is open to anyone. Not a Maineah? Even bettah! Come learn from the pioneers of statewide 1:1.

Learn more at

Update and Summer Course

A plan is in the works for this blog to move. With support from the MLTI, this should happen in the coming months. In the meantime, I think I’ll endure the invasion of advertisements in my content and continue on here at edublogs. Knowing a better home is ahead, I’ve psyched myself into it. I hope you, too, can put up with those vexing hyperlinks that contaminate my blog!

Another reason that I wanted to hop back on my blog is to shamelessly promote my annual summer course at USM. Formerly known as “Teaching and Learning through Universal Design,” the title is now “Putting It All Together: Your Curriculum, Your Learners, and Technology.” The ultimate course goal remains the same: To support teachers in meeting the needs and preferences of the widest possible number of learners without need for accommodation or modification. With some free advice and marketing consultation, I decided to drop the reference to UD because the term – although I believe it has broken ground in Maine – tends to conjure up references to disability, which is certainly the origin of UD but not it’s purpose. Most importantly, I am a general education teacher myself, and the course approaches teaching and learning within the context of content area curriculum.

Here are some excerpts from just some of the USM course evaluation comment forms from Fall 2007 and Summer 2008 (the shameless promotion goes on):

“…I came away from this course (as I did every time after each class) with an overwhelming desire and inspiration to become a better teacher by incorporating the ideals of UD. I feel I have gained a better perspective and more resources to help me achieve my goal of teaching more, if not all, of my students.”

“…I will be forever grateful to Cynthia for her teachings and guidance throughout this session and beyond. Her understanding, nurturing personality as an instructor, motivated all of us and inspired us to go beyond our ‘comfort zones’ while using technology.”

“…The impact of the methods and means by which I now design, format, and present my lessons is making a significant positive difference in the enthusiasm and motivation of my students.”

“…(Cynthia) helped us all think about our curriculum in new ways, and she included opportunities for reflection, collaboration, and peer feedback to assist each of us in thinking about how to implement change in our curriculum. She also modeled for us the ways in which we could utilize technology in our own courses through her own instruction.”

“This is an excellent course that should be part of the required courses to be certified in Maine…”

“…I am very happy that I took this course. I would recommend this to my colleagues.”

So, that’s my call out! Please join me and/or refer colleagues. For more information and to register, visit the Web site of USM’s Professional Development Center

PLCs on RTI… Do I see UD?

The MLTI staff has been delivering leadership meetings across several regions of the state for the last two weeks (remaining destinations are Farmington tomorrow and Aroostook County in early November). A running joke has been the continuous spewing of 2-, 3- and 4-letter abbreviations during these sessions (we’ve even come to debate whether any given combination of letters technically constitutes an abbreviation or acronym…or is it an initialization??).

A PLC (I believe that’s an abbreviation) has been called upon as a model of how leadership teams might continue their work beyond the regional meeting. PLC stands for “Professional Learning Community,” and we’re promoting it as a way for leadership teams to return to their schools with a structured approach for moving forward with effective and meaningful initiatives that impact student learning. The term PLC is often used to describe any number of ways that teams of educators come together to problem solve, but a true PLC differs from a committee, workgroup, and even a Community of Practice (CoP – I believe that’s an acronym).

A PLC is grounded in student learning. That may not sound profound, in fact it may appear downright obvious. But when we really think about the roads that we go down when we meet as groups of educators within a building, we realize how often the focus diverges from student learning and winds it way to more indirect topics and priorities. Those topics and priorities are important, but if your group’s work is not immersed in student learning, you’re not in a PLC. In fact, it can be argued that discussions of teacher practice, without being centered on an artifact of student learning, don’t belong in a PLC. Again, discussions of best practice are important, but the purpose of a PLC is to uncover how and why specific kids are or are not learning.

One last critical characteristic of PLCs that make them unique is the necessity of consensus-building. Members of traditional groups often agree to disagree in a way that stifles a compromise and disables progress. You know you’re in a PLC when – after all voices have been heard – the will of the group is recognized and each member, even those most opposed, agrees that the group move forward in a common direction.

In the MLTI’s leadership sessions, the TPCK and SAMR models have provided the context of the need for PLCs. Indeed, looking at student work (yet another abbreviation – LASW) through these lenses can be highly revealing – “Is there evidence that the student has learned what was intended? If so, what is the combination of Technology, Pedagogy and Content (TPCK model) that promoted it? At what level (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, or Redefinition – SAMR model) is technology being used to make this learning possible?”

Although not introduced in our MLTI meetings, I’d like to suggest that a broader framework for a PLC to adopt is RTI (that’s an abbreviation). RTI stands for “Response to Intervention.” I’ll continue a discussion of RTI in my next post, but I’ll say here that the RTI framework is a perfect complement for a PLC because, in and of itself, it forces the focus on student learning. The determination of whether or not students are learning is the paramount purpose. Please understand that “students are learning” refers to the outcomes of general education – content area – teaching. RTI is rooted in student learning within general education. So, the second question becomes, “What is or is not working in the core instructional practices in the classroom?” This brings us full circle to UD (that’s an abbreviation, too): Is the disability within the learner or is it within the curriculum?

Fifty Ways

I had the pleasure of presenting at the Student Tech Team Conference at UMaine last week. I had the additional pleasure of the description of my presentation being written for me…something I could get used to! Jim Moulton did a great job of identifying what I could contribute and topped it off with the apt title, “There Must Be 50 Ways to Show You Get It!” You know…

“…just post to your blog, Rob; add to the wiki, Nicki; create a media file, Lyle; read the digital text, Rex; choreograph a dance, Nance…”

I obviously caught right on to where Jim was going and ran with it! I began the presentation by providing students with an overview of a variety of accomplished people who have made important and lasting contributions to their fields…and also happen to have disabilities. A short list of names includes Jack Horner, Stephan Jenkins, Ann Bancroft, Muhammad Ali, and many scientists and inventors, past and present. Although some of these folks may have had less than stellar K-12 experiences (Ali speculated that he was granted a “D-” rather than “F” upon graduating in 1960 because it was the same year he won the Olympics), they used their passions and strengths to their (and our) benefit.

While my immediate objective with this particular discussion was to arouse student’s perceptions of ability, the primary goal of my presentation was to guide students toward an appreciation for their own ability to advocate for themselves. How might they approach their teachers – respectfully and intelligently – with new ways of “showing that they get it.” How might a student-teacher partnership improve teaching and learning with technology?

How synergistic! Teachers have what students need – expertise in content and pedagogy – and students have what many teachers need – intuitiveness when it comes to figuring out new technologies. Put such minds together and you get progress in advancing classroom learning. Now, I have no illusions about students becoming pedagogical masterminds, but I do think that education needs to embed opportunities for students to understand how they learn…that metacognition that research has proven to be oh so critical across the continuum of lifelong learning.

Many schools are currently using the “tech team” or “iTeam” model for making students available to teachers who, for example, need a hand with setting up a projector or problem-solving technical issues with a software program. This is highly useful and can be very effective when it comes to deploying the “just-in-time” support that teachers need.

But how about taking this to the next level? What would it look like if we had students and teachers collaborating on getting technology “really going” in teaching and learning? How about convincing students that they have something to market to their teachers and coach them on how to sell it…and get something intangible in return? How might we find time for purposeful and meaningful conversations among educators and students – conversations that are galvanized when students do what comes naturally to them (demonstrate the ins and outs of the most contemporary technologies) and teachers respond naturally (discuss and evaluate how same technologies might advance or even transform their curriculum)?

I get really excited about this prospect – envisioning the lively exchanges between and among students and educators in the same room at a time when we can stop all of the action of our classrooms and think forward. Perhaps at times set aside during staff meetings or inservice PD days. Or transcend time and space and take it online.

Among many rewarding outcomes for all, students gain an understanding and appreciation of how learning happens by witnessing how teachers take and dissect a tool to determine if it is an appropriate and effective means by which kids can show they get “it” (whether a first or a growing number of 50).


TPCKI’m writing this from the Houlton Higher Education Center, where several of us from the MLTI and Apple are delivering the 9th of 9 regional leadership sessions. These leadership sessions are on the tail of the teacher leader sessions that Rob Munzing, Jim Wells, and I facilitated in February and March. The current sessions have been an opportunity to review what we learned from the roadshow with teacher leaders – particularly what’s working and not-so-much as we close in on the first year of the high school deployment of MacBooks. This time around schools are arriving in teams and being given time to talk among principals, tech leads, librarians, and teacher leaders, among others.

Something that we learned from the earlier discussions we led with teacher leaders is that we overly focused on the technology itself. On the surface this seems logical. After all, we’re coming together as a result of a deployment of devices. What we failed to do is to set the discussion in a framework of teaching and learning. So, this time around, we adopted the TPCK framework as a model on which to focus the sessions. This was at the suggestion of Bette Manchester. She was right. Here’s why.

T, P, and C represent 3 of the common and shared knowledges that 21st Century teachers need:

T = Technological knowledge

P = Pedagogical knowledge

C = Content knowledge

You can learn about this framework in detail by visiting, but we’ve only introduced it in each session. What we like about it is how it demonstrates the complex interplay among even more complex knowledges. Since the beginning of schooling, teachers have been on a professional journey of mastering how to integrate their content knowledge with best teaching practices (i.e., getting our P and C in sync).

As any teacher knows, this is circumstantial and situational – this we learn from being required to teach a subject outside of our area of training. You may have P under your belt, but suddenly your C is unfamiliar (even foreign if you’re teaching Spanish and haven’t spoken it since you were a sophomore in high school…uno, dos, tres…?).

Alternatively, it’s not uncommon for P expertise to be under-appreciated. For example, as the U.S. experiences a shortage of math and science teachers, we’re seeing an increasing number of people who are trained in math and science entering classrooms with insufficient preparation to teach. Doesn’t necessarily make them bad teachers, but it does compromise the P-C interplay.

Within my own conceptual framework of good teaching, which requires the integration of universal design principles, P and C are foundational. We’ve got to have a strong grasp on both what we’re teaching and best practices for teaching it. Takes time and perseverance. Personally, I studied science in college, practiced as a scientist for five years, and then went on to be certified to teach secondary science. From that short history, you can probably guess that I weighed more heavily on my C than my P skills (3 preps didn’t help). Took some catching up on my part to compensate for that…I’ve probably overcompensated at this point but more by choice than chance.

On to the T in TPCK: In a graduate course on educational research a few years ago, I chose to study why some teachers are early adopters of technology. I conducted a search and review of existing studies and also interviewed several teachers in southern Maine who had a reputation as effective integrators of technology. It became clear to me that early adopters weren’t motivated by administrator encouragement, professional development, or even funding. What they were motivated by, however, was not so obvious. At the time, I think I explained the motivation as simply intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation was part of it, but doesn’t alone explain the confidence with which these teachers made technology work in teaching and learning.

Looking back on it, I think the answer is embedded in TPCK. The teachers I learned about in the studies and those I interviewed had their P and C “goin’ on.” They were well trained in their content areas and were skilled at the pedagogical execution of it. Because they had a strong foundational grasp, they were equipped to identify technologies that are relevant to their content area and their curriculum and to integrate them in relevant, compelling, and meaningful ways.

As we continue to strive to help ourselves and one another to become stronger and more skilled technology integrators, I think it behooves us to return to this framework. Before we can effectively and appropriately use technology to teach or to support learning, we have to go wwwaaaayyy back to the beginning – to our content and our pedagogical knowledge. Get that right and the power of our technological knowledge suddenly becomes boundless.

UD on the beach

Cs on beachIt’s that time of year when we longingly reach for the relief of summer…long warm days that draw us to the out of doors – lazy days of hammock swinging mixed in with more ambitious adventures of hiking, camping, boating, swimming, biking, and…err…well… learning! As much as we protect our summer vacations from the intrusion of the demands of our profession, it can be an ideal time to stop, focus, and reflect on our practice.

Sooo…I’m self-pitching my course, Teaching and Learning through Universal Design. It’s offered by USM’s Professional Development Center for graduate credit during the week of July 14 – 18. It’s customized for the MLTI and focuses on the development of a unit that will be taught during the 2008-09 school year – from objectives to essential questions to alignment with assessment. Throughout every stage is the critical consideration of how universal design informs teaching and learning: differentiation, usability, accessibility, and appropriate and effective integration of MLTI and other educational technologies, including Web 2.0 tools.

I often hear from teachers who are looking for meaningful ways to integrate their MLTI laptops into their teaching – not simply learn an application at a time. This course is designed to do just that. Come on over to USM during the week of July 14 – better yet, bring a colleague with you!

Check out the syllabus posted here and please contact me with questions. If you wish to register, visit

EPC 502 Syllabus as PDF

EPC 502 Syllabus as TXT