Category Archives: mlti

Art on the brain

A few weeks ago we devoted a professional development day to the performing arts. It was a great day with a mix of a keynote (Ellen Winner, professor at Boston College), mini workshops, and a panel of alumni and professionals. The day was designed to raise awareness about making more room for art in the academic day. I came into the day with thoughts that we should be integrating more art into the traditional curriculum but I left with thoughts on how the traditional curriculum (english, math, science, history, language) should take some lessons from the way we teach art. In general, art classes focus more or depth rather than breadth; reflection and collaboration are routine; and effort and risk-taking are central to assessment. I would like to see more of these attributes in other classes.

Speaking of art, there is a great conference in April put on by the Maine Dept of Ed. It’s called “Arts, Innovation, and Creativity.” There are loads of workshop offerings; here’s a quote from the conference write-up:

Workshop sessions will include:

  • over 30 hands-on creative and imaginative professional develop opportunities;
  • interdisciplinary connections between the arts and creative thinking in other Maine Learning Results content areas utilizing technology;
  • innovative instruction, curriculum and assessment;
  • a link between at least one arts discipline (music, dance, theater or visual art) and at least one other content area from the MLR’s (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, World Languages);
  • unique learning opportunities for educators utilizing technology to impact teaching and learning for all students.

Check the website for details on the workshops. And best of all, you get to spend 2 days in beautiful Rockport, Maine and the cost of the conference is only $45!

Downeast article

There was a good article in Downeast Magazine about the MLTI program in Maine. Jeff Clark did a good job emphasizing that training and professional development made a difference in the implementation of the program. Real results were seen in classes that used the laptops for more than just a “finishing tool”:

Silvernail compared students in classrooms where laptops were used as a working tool to those in classrooms where the computer was essentially a finishing tool, used as a fancy word processor rather than an integral part of the writing process. “Kids using them as instructional tools significantly outscored kids who were not using them that way on the Maine Educational Assessment test,” Silvernail concludes. “The powerful thing is that they are becoming better writers, not just turning in better [papers] because they happen to be using a laptop equipped with SpellCheck.”

Silvernail is also working with math teachers to help them learn how to use laptops more efficiently. Compared to teachers who don’t receive the training, “the differences in math scores are significant,” he says. “It really emphasizes the importance of professional development for teachers, and it reinforces the idea that the laptop is a tool and needs to be used wisely.”

This can’t be said enough to the nay-sayers who are canceling laptop programs or prohibiting student use of laptops during classes.  Computers are tremendous tools that can help teachers create and extend a learner’s experience in their classrooms.  A laptop can’t do that alone; a teacher needs to be innovative and adjust their pedagogy to take advantage of what this tool can provide.