Innovative School in Our Backyard

I just finished watching this video about Project Based Learning at King Middle School. King is right down the street from us and they do incredible work with kids. I often wonder if we can do some of the projects they do with our students. Why not? Take the time to watch this video – it’s worth it.

TLC in the News

Our TLC work has gotten a lot of good press this year.  First, with our use of iPads in the Early Childhood program; then with hosting EdCamp Maine; and now our TLC work specifically was highlighted in this recent news story from Channel 6:

Click here for the full story from WCSH. Both of our TLC groups have worked hard to advance the use of technology in our classrooms.  Even though we never seem to have enough time to accomplish what we want, everyone involved has contributed in some way – having thoughtful conversations, taking chances in changing curriculum, challenging their students to do more, taking time to learn something new, and so much more.  Thanks TLC for bringing the conversation to a new level and making the school more aware of the exciting opportunities available to us.


As a fellow introvert, I enjoyed this NY Times essay by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which led me to her TED Talk:

Cain brings up some good questions.  Do the extroverts get the positions of leadership because they are extraverted or because they are leaders? Is it always the squeaky wheels that get the attention?  I think the issue is similar in the classroom – just because a student is quiet, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning.  Some students (people) take a little longer to process ideas and cannot respond immediately in a discussion; some are better at writing their ideas; some are better at expressing ideas in ways that are not verbal or written.  Everyone has a different style – learning, leading, processing, etc. – and hopefully, everyone will have the opportunity to see and understand where they strengths lie and how they can use them.


cross-posted at the Waynflete TLC Blog

It seems like it is a pretty good time to be a math teacher.  Every week, I see several new resources for math problems, math projects, and real world math applications on Twitter and various websites.  These resources along with the potential for programming online and game access at the click of a mouse could produce a much-improved, more relevant math class.  Ahhh – if it were only that easy!  I’ll save that for another post.

I thought I’d share a few resources that I’ve seen in the last few weeks:

  • Bedtime Math – – I read to my two boys before bed.  We cuddle up and read a few pages from a book before bedding down for the night.  But, being a math geek myself, I have also added something additional –  just before I leave their room, my son prompts, “Math problem please…”  Music to my ears – I give him a quick multiplication (or now, we are moving on to division) problem for him to figure out before I leave.  The site, Bedtime Math, picks up on the idea that we don’t just have bedtime stories but we can throw some math in there too.  The site provides a math word problem everyday broken into different age levels, like this:

Wee ones (counting on fingers): If 2 cars, 2 trucks and 1 bicycle drive past your home, how many vehicles is that?

Little kids: If 32 cars and trucks drive by in an hour, and 12 are trucks, how many are cars?  Bonus: If half the cars have a dog riding along, and half of those dogs are sticking their heads out the window, how many dogs are hanging out the window?

Big kids: If 47 cars, 15 motorcycles, 4 buses and 2 ice-cream trucks drive by, how many vehicles is that?  Bonus: How many wheels is that in total? (Assume the trucks and buses are 4-wheeled like the cars.)

  •  NCTM Twitter Feed –!/nctm – While we are on the subject of daily mathematics problems, check out the Twitter feed from NCTM (the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).  The provide a challenging problem everyday (except for Mondays, I think).  What a great way to start off class or challenge those students who seem to always finish before the rest of the class.  Here’s a sample:

  • Finally, you can now touch algebra.  Algebra Touch is an app for the iPad/iPhone and it allows you to interact with algebra equations.  The app takes advantage of the “touch” of the iPad and you can swipe, tap, slide, and move terms and equations around the screen.  I know there are some students who will be relieved to use this app.


It’s official – there will be an EdCampME (Maine) this March and Waynflete will be hosting!  Our TLC (Technology & Learning Cohort) came up with the idea after a bunch of us attended EdCampKeene in August.  We all enjoyed the “camp” and came back thinking that it would be a great thing to put on at Waynflete.  That enthusiasm did not die so we began laying some groundwork to bring EdCampME to Waynflete.

I had several initial conversations with the Head of School and Director of Finance and Operations and they both gave me the go ahead to find a date.  Finding an open date was a little tricky as our facilities are used a lot on the weekends for Admission events, athletics, and arts.  I found a few options in March which is a good month overall because it is between sport seasons, it is just before the “end of the year” craziness begins, and stress levels seem to be in check.

After a few more conversations, I found a date that would work and got full approval for a weekend in March and reserved the space.  Before I left for the weekend, I decided to post the date on the main EdCamp website and reserve a website wiki –  (Seem to make it even more official). On Saturday morning I woke up and checked my twitter feed and found that the “edcamp guy” (@dancallahan) had tweeted that he was looking forward to EdCampME in March (yay – instant press). Then he followed up that tweet a little later telling me to check in with @jaimesteward who (along with @alicebarr) was also planning an EdCampME. I checked the edcamp site and sure enough, she had put an entry in for EdCamp Maine for March 17th.  What are the chances?

So I tweeted @jaimesteward and @alicebarr to see what they had planned and asked if they wanted to team up. They said they were working on reserving a space. We all thought it would be silly to have two edcamps so we teamed up.  Not only that, but in the course of the twitter conversation we had about 3 or 4 other Maine educators volunteer to help us – yay Maine.  Here’s the shortened twitter conversation:

Now we have 10 teachers from Waynflete plus an additional 5 or 6 educators from the whole state working together to plan this EdCamp for March 31st.  Now the fun begins.  To get things started I created a Google Doc to share with everyone to begin brainstorming some ideas for the day.  Once we get the big picture down, we can begin to assign jobs.

We don’t have the details worked out yet but stay tuned to twitter (#edcampme) and to our website ( for more information on:


Saturday, March 31

Waynflete School, Portland ME

We hope you can join us!

More iPads

We just got the green light to purchase a few more sets of iPads to use in classrooms across campus. I think we will be buying classroom packs of 15 or 16 for each the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools.  I asked the members of TLC for input on the apps we should load on them: PuppetPals, Pages, Syncpad, GoogleEarth, etc.  I’ll continue to logged the apps as they come.

I am also trying to determine what kind of storage to put them in (and where).  I am looking at a few solutions:

From Bretford:

This one from Uptime Business

And this rig sent to me from @mrtalmadge – his own “home-grown” model:

So many choices….are there other ones out there that I am missing?

On another note, we all (except one!) managed to meet together for a quick photo this morning – what a group!

TLC – Day 2 & 3

We hit the ground running on day 2 – I think we had some good momentum coming out of Day 1.  After we got our fill of fruit, muffins, and coffee we got right to work.  I began by showing them a demo of Syncpad:

Cool, right?  Then we all installed both Syncpad and Pages for the iPad.  I bought licenses through Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program – which seems to work pretty well.

After that, we dove into the Google Calendar – syncing it with the iPad and using it for our classes.  We can bring in our Faculty calendar (from our website) right to Google – a nice feature for all.  It took some time to get everyone synced up – especially those with personal Google accounts – but we did it.

We then took an electronics break and went outside for another discussion.  For homework, we watched the PBS video –

Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

We had a good conversation ranging from

– how do we assess this type of learning?

– how do we get the kids/parents to learn that process is more important than the goal?

– how do we incorporate project-based learning, gaming, constructive learning in a “college-prep” school where parents want their kids to get into good colleges?

– needing to become more a facilitator of learning, rather than the “leader”

The conversation was a refreshing – we all struggle with similar thoughts about adopting new pedagogies in class in a school where many teachers and parents still embrace traditional learning.  I think it is a theme we will come back to again and again but it’s good that we know we can struggle through this tension together rather than alone in our classrooms.

After a yummy lunch of leftovers, we returned to Google and worked with GoogleDocs and Google Sites.  Again, it was good to give everyone a baseline knowledge of Google Docs and its sharing capabilities.  We worked through spreadsheets and Google Forms – which was really good for those math teachers in the room.  Google Sites emerged as a good website for class pages – we have class pages on our website but they are fairly static and boring.  Google sites allows for more customization and its ability to pull together all things Google is unbeatable.

Day 3

We had covered a lot of details and tools in Day 2 and so we all came into Day 3 a little tired and a little maxed out.  I started the morning of with a TED talk from Sir Ken Robinson – Bring on the Learning Revolution:

More good conversation followed including much around “how do we get there from here”?  A great question to ask in this group because we are trying to adopt an attitude/pedagogy/curriculum which conflicts with the norm – we still have 50 minute class periods, we still have kids taking college board tests, we work on a team where other members may not be ready to move forward with us – there are all sorts of hurdle (or obstacles).  What are the small steps that we need to take in order to get us closer to our goals?  I think that is a question we hope to answer as we go this year.

The rest of Day 3 we devoted to individual/group work time.  We took some time-outs to play with and Voicethread.  For the most part our brains were full and we just needed time to sort through the tools, experiment with website, and talk to others about the year and its possibilities.

It was a satisfying three days.  We became a good working group, got to know each other, and had a good handle on what each person brought to the group.   In order to facilitate continued communication and sharing as we moved into the school year, I set up a “dashboard” – The dashboard includes a twitter feed – we agreed on the hashtag #wayntlc.  We have a Diigo group and that feed in on the dashboard.  I also set up a group blog – – a place where we could share resources and share thoughts and experiences and we try new things.  One member decided to begin her own blog – – with a goal of posting (almost) every day.

It will be a challenge finding times for the group to meet face-to-face throughout the year but we will do that as well as use our technology to fill the gaps.  I am really looking forward to growing with this group this year – they are terrific colleagues with a passion for teaching and learning.

What a Start: Day 1, TLC

(I thought I published this weeks ago, but found it in my drafts!)

Whew. I just finished three intense days with the new Technology & Learning Cohort – a group 10 really smart, fun, and insightful colleagues of mine brought together by our interest in and pursuit of good teaching practice. The teachers are from a variety of grade levels from Early Childhood to 12th grade. There are four math teachers from Upper and Middle School, a spanish teacher (upper/middle), science teacher We spent the three days learning tools, discussing pedagogy, watching TED talks, discussing tools, and collaborating on projects.

To prepare for our year together, each member received an iPad to play with over the summer and we all read, The New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, which served as a backdrop to our conversations over the the three days. In addition, seven of us went to EdCampKeene in August and that help get our ideas bubbling.

On our first meeting day, we began with some iPad app sharing. Lots of good interesting apps came out of it, Puppet Pals, sync pad, iChirp, owl pellets, and many, many more. We came to the conclusion that Syncpad would be a good app to invest in to help create interactive whiteboard functionality with the ipad.  So much potential for kids to interact with each other and the teacher.  Another app we decided to invest in is Pages.  We were still drawn to a document creating app and that one seem to work the best in our desktop/laptop world.

That sharing lasted for at least an hour so we decided to put down the electronics and move outside to have a discussion about the book, A New Culture of Learning and what we hoped to get out of our year together.  There was a lot of talk about being given some dedicated time for experimenting with technology, thoughtfully planning for technology, and having support through adopting technology.  The other theme that popped up in this conversation and in a few that followed, was the tension of changing your curriculum to be more project-based, group-oriented, etc. while teaching at a “college prep” school in which the parents and students expect the kids to do well on college board tests, get “good grades”, and get into a good college.  At a private school, you don’t have to worry about the “standards” and state tests, but you do have more pressure in preparing kids for college.

After a yummy potluck lunch and birthday cake, we watched Michael Wesch’s TEDxNYED talk from March 2010.  I really enjoyed the talk for two reasons: 1. he stresses that technology changes us and we have no choice in it; we change, like it or not.  2. We need to work on helping kids be “knowledge-able” not just knowledgable.  In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

The end of the first day, I introduced the group to some tools to help them cultivate their learning community or PLN – Twitter, blogs, Diigo.  We easily tied this in to the book and in our discussion about how to keep up with all of the resources and learning.  It was a great first day – there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I went home really excited to be working with this group for the year.

Launching TLC

There have been some exciting developments in my world lately. The entire K-12 faculty has started a collective professional development focus on learning and the brain; our summer program, SOS, will be piloting the ipad 2; and we have officially launched our TLC program.

After several years of chasing my tail, I have successfully pitched and developed a new course of professional development at my school. This spring we will launch TLC, Technology & Learning Cohort, a group made up of six teachers (two from each division of the school). Here’s part of the description from the invitation sent to faculty:

The Technology & Learning Cohort (TLC) will be a group of teachers who will read about the research, play with new tools, and experiment with curriculum in order to better understand pedagogical implications for classrooms. TLC team members will be charged with exploring and experimenting with ways to apply information technology tools in their teaching, with particular focus on the implications of neuro-developmental research and understanding for effective classroom practice.

We will determine the group from interested faculty later this spring.  We will meet once before the end of school to talk about the expectations and to give out some summer homework (reading, writing).  I am working on a summer reading/watching list for them and, right now, I am thinking about these books: Mindset (Dweck), Brain-Based Teaching in the Digital Age (Sprenger), and Five Minds of the Future (Gardner). There are a lot out there and I need to brainstorm some more.

We will have our first official meetings in August before our week of faculty meetings.  We will have three days set aside for some intensive experimenting with various tools and software, each member will set up a PLN; and we will begin our conversations about the school year. During the year, we will be meeting once a month as a group and probably some one-on-one sessions.  I will be encouraging each member to visit a few schools during the year and making some contacts beyond our school walls.

As you can see, I’m still sketching out this group, its scope and schedule; but I am excited to have some energy and support behind a professional development initiative like this. I hope each member will emerge with some confidence about the tools and the choices they have made; gain some knowledge and first-hand understanding about the transformative power of technology; and I hope each member will serve as a mentor for their department, grade level, and division in the coming years.

If you had a captive audience of teachers for a year, what would you do?