The MLTI Conference is now a very fond memory in my life. My brain is on overload as I try to process everything I have done and learned over the past three and one-half days.

  • Did it live up to my expectation?  Absolutely, positively!
  • Did I do everything that I wanted too?  Absolutely not!

There were so many workshops that were happening simultaneously that I couldn’t attend all the sessions that I really, really wanted to go to.  If I had accomplished everything I wanted to, I think I would have be disappointed today, because I would have initially aimed too low.  I accomplished much more than I thought I would.

The only complaint that I have about the MLTI conference was that there was not enough time to do everything – I guess that was a great problem to have.

I got to meet face-to-face with Alice, Sarah, Jim, Tom and so many others that I can’t remember everyone’s name now.  I also got to re-connect with Craig, Mary and of course Rich.  This to me was the absolutely greatest part of the conference – getting to meet and talk with the people who are attending who I talk with onTwitter or other places on the web.

The other thing that I will take away from this conference is my personal paradigm shift about Digital Storytelling.  Before the conference I had heard of it, but just never had any time find out what it really was about.  After Jason Ohler’s Keynote presentation, his workshop yesterday morning and the hands-on session that I did this morning, Digital Storytelling will find its way into my teaching.  Talk about a change in attitude – going from not knowing much of nothing about a subject, to in less than three days wanting to incorporate it in my curriculum and to create a small digital story for myself.  That to me is a successful learning experience.

During the conference we also learned of the difficulties that the new image is causing with the MLTI Macs interacting with Google – it would not let us access their Google accounts when we used the MLTI MacBook.  Not good if we are going to be using Google Apps in the classroom.  I am hopeful that the MLTI project people and Apple/Google are able to work this issue out before school starts or I am going to have to make some pretty significant changes on really, really short notice.  Which I really don’t have time for.

This MLTI Image issue really reinforced to me why it was important for me to have my own computer, not just the MLTI Laptop.  If I want to do something with my computer, I can.  I am not reliant upon “permissions” from someone else regarding what I can do with or on my laptop.

The only constructive suggestion  is to forewarn participants that we need to bring “briefcases” since backpacks were banned from the cafeteria.  Many of us use backpacks/slingpacks as our briefcases.  I just didn’t feel comfortable with leaving my MBP & MLTI Laptop (I brought both), plus the other accessories I have in my briefcase (backpack), I like my extremely portable and expensive property where I can see it. Just a thought.

I really want to say thank you to all the organizers of the MLTI Summer Institute, who provided the participants a first class conference that exceeded my expectations in every way – I think I gained a couple of pounds too (the food was good too).  A special thank you goes out to Juanita Dickson, she seemed to be everywhere and doing so much to make sure that everything was going smoothly.

This conference is the new standard that I will judge conferences by.  Now if they could have broken my string of zero for all trainings/conferences for getting a conference goodie in the usual ending raffle, it would have been the perfect conference.


The World of Digital Storytelling – MLTI Session


Image via Wikipedia

Wow it is the last morning of the MLTI conference and I am officially on brain overload, this morning.  But I am going to make it through the day.
This morning’s session was:

Take Your Writing Into the Digital World: The World of Digital Storytelling
Official MLTI Session Description

Presenters: Maggie Skafidas, Marshwood Adult & Community Education & Lorraine Robida, COMPASS

“Join us for this fun, hands-on experience as we explore how to useiMovie and digital storytelling in an adult education setting. Once you learn to use iMovie, the ideas for implementing it are endless.

Don’t let limited computer skills hold you back from teaching with Digital Storytelling – basic computer skills are all you need. iMovie is a fabulous tool to actively engage learners of all ages in the process of developing, writing and editing their own digital stories. Use this creative tool to develop autobiographies, reports, narratives, and a variety of other projects. You will leave this workshop with a working understanding of digital storytelling and iMovie. Bring a flash drive if you would like to take your work with you (or even better bring your own Mac laptop with iMovie to use.)”

We started out with an overview of what the presenters had done with digital story telling.  The story they showed was from an eight year old woman who had learned to read in their program.  The story was very powerful.
They discussed that digital storytelling can be:

  • Autobiographical
  • Reports
  • Poems
  • Poetry project

Summary of a field trip taken
and the process that they used was

  • Research
  • create written piece
  • storyboard
  • find pictures/movies
  • record voice and/or sound piece

Potential project: Pair students with Senior citizen/grandparent to tell that person’s story and we discussed how powerful that could be.

The best part of the presentation was the hands-on piece, where I got to try iMovie.  I had seen it and have used Movie Maker in the past, but I just hadn’t had a chance to get in and play with iMovie. 

Below is my first iMovie movie and although it is rather rough around the edges, it gave me an idea about how powerful iMovie will be in my classroom. wouldn’t let me do a direct upload from my computer to my blog, so I uploaded this video to YouTube (never done that before either) and then used the embed code from YouTube to put it in my blog.
Wow two firsts in the same morning.

The more I learn about digital storytelling, the more that I want to use it in the classroom, it will be interesting to see how that works out.



Jason Ohler – provided the MLTI Keynote presentation last night, he provided an introduction (from me at least) to Digital Story telling. I have seen the sites and even downloaded some PDF things on Digital Story telling, but I have not taken the time before, to see what it actually is about.
Ohler’s keynote really made me think about what I have missed AND what I could be doing. He started with a couple of stories about two of his teachers that “knew” each student had different ways to learn and show what they had learned. That these teachers used the right keys and opened doors for him to learn or show what he had learned.
He challenged us to think about what we would think as being more important: “gee I wish I had said more at meetings” or “did I open all the doors that I could as a teacher for my students?” As teachers we hold the key to the doors and if we don’t use them to open or unlock the right door for our students – they can’t get in through the door to learn or show what they have learned. Our students do want to be let in we just have to find the right key and the door it fits to bring our students in.
Ohler discussed that our students live 2 lives not 1. The one outside of school and the one where they power down while in most schools. He asked do we want them to live 1 life or 2? “They unplug when they show up to school and then get back on when they leave.” A majority of teachers or schools either do not, are not able or will not interact with these students at this level for whatever the reason.  If we want to stay relevant we have to engage these students, not force them to power down.
No matter how much students can use technology, they will always need us (teachers) to set and maintain standards that they may be too lax with for themselves.
Ohler stated that the baseline to show literacy – was the ability to use words, now literacy can defined as a media collage that includes words. We now only test for the words part of the media collage.  While we are starting to teach pieces and parts of the media collage, we hope that what we teach in the collage covers it covers what will be on the test so our students will show what they learn there as well. It is now part of the Teaching Art (because teaching is an art) to know how to choose which part of the media collage to use (my addition here: and that is very scary to many teachers).
It has gotten to the point that talking about digital/media issues are like talking about sex in the 60’s, it’s just not done in “mixed” company (in this case students or teachers).
When students say “It’s too hard, I’m bored”, they are looking for the story in what we are teaching…how they can relate to what a teacher is teaching when the teacher is just presenting facts and figures.  No matter what subject you teach there is a story that you can use to teach it.
The 80/20 rule, media does not always need to be perfect.  For most people and students the first 20% of time gets 80% of the work done, then the remaining 80% of the time, is used to finish the last 20%.
Teachers have to be “tough” when assessing students digital work, if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t good, it means it doesn’t makes sense or isn’t good enough. Maintain the standards and evaluate all of a student’s work, not just the glitzy technology piece.  Don’t be swayed because a student is able to use technology, is the story a good story?  Good stories lodge in our memory when graphs, etc. may not. Stories without transformation or growth are not memorable and THERE NEEDS TO BE A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED.
In meetings when a peer has a concern about using technology turn that concern into a goal, all a concern is, is a negatively stated goal.
Overall the Keynote speech by Jason Ohler was one of the better ones that I have listened to. I really liked that he encouraged listeners to Tweet, Blog or whatever while he was speaking. He was sure enough of his ability to engage his audience that people doing other things did not bother him. I tweeted and wrote notes for this blog entry during his presentation, but at the same time I was engaged in what he was presenting and noted that most of the other listeners were as well.
This Keynote piqued my interest in Digital Storytelling enough that I want to learn more. That is al you can ask of a Keynote speech.



jason ohler's story telling framework
Image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr

Presenter:  Jason Ohler

I was so impressed by last night’s MLTI Keynote by Jason Ohler that I decided to attend his morning session on New Media Narrative in the Classroom at the MLTI Summer Institute in Castine, what many are calling Digital Storytelling.  The ideas he presented last night just simply intrigued me and I wanted to learn more.

I rather liked that he didn’t go through the regular routine of finding out who everyone was or doing an icebreaker, when I am attending a session I don’t really care who the people are in the room so much as what the presenter has to say and I don’t want to waste a lot of time for that person to get started.  As it is if the presentation is good, there usually isn’t enough time to get all the information anyway.  He jumped right into the presentation and took off!

According to Ohler – to use Media correctly you or the student has:

  • intimate with the Content
  • have a certain “professional” detachment

Using media is a commitment to perspective and the creator can explain why they used a particular image, piece of music or words, it is not just slapping some images and music together and calling it a completed project. That is not good enough and as I paraphrased in my blog post about his Keynote address last night

Teachers have to be “tough” when assessing students digital work, if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t good, it means it doesn’t makes sense or isn’t good enough. Maintain the standards and evaluate all of a student’s work, not just the glitzy technology piece.  Don’t be swayed because a student is able to use technology, is the story a good story?

Equipment needed is pretty simple:

  • A computer with the ability to use iMovie or MovieMaker.
  • Digital Video Camera with external audio output for wireless mike
  • Wireless microphone
  • Tripod
  • Green screen, wall – because it does not naturally occur on the human body

He said something during the course of this really resonated with me, “Do not let the perfect defeat the good.”  I sometimes get so caught up in attempting to get something just so that I am sometimes very disappointed if it isn’t perfect.  This saying will remind me that we are not professionals and that we are not aiming for perfection.  We need/want it done well, but imperfection is okay.

The #1 media infraction is the overuse of music, and that the music will always trump what the image is.  He used the example of an image of Bambi in an idyllic scene in the woods and the theme song to “Jaws” playing in the background.  You just know what is going to happen next.

He discussed the negative use of Story Boarding vs Story mapping or using a Story Arc/Story Spine by Kenn Adams – which show the flow.  These function as part of the pre-writing for the project.  Below is a screen shot of the Story Arc that I put together in Google Draw.  I didn’t use paper because I didn’t have anything but my Mac and 90% of the other people in the room did not have paper either. (A rather telling statement on the make-up of people in attendance to this presentation)


Although no paper and pencil, I understand the process and was able to tell my story and have a problem and thought about what the resolution was.  The next step would be to get the story more in order, I would probably use the Story Spine by Kenn Adams to do this and then use a 3 column formal paper to clarify the story, describe the images/music needed to clarify the story even further.  All the writing is accomplished before any collecting images or shooting video.

According to Mr. Ohler Digital Storytelling all about students going from expressing themselves to caring about what the audience thinks & sometimes dragging them over that line when it is necessary.

I know that I have not given a complete run-down of the presentation, but I have tried to give a quick overview of what he presented this morning.

My Take-aways from this presentation”

  • “Do not let the perfect, defeat the good.”
  • 80/20 – 20/80 Which makes so much sense to me and I will probably write a blog post on why it does make so much sense to me in the near future.
  • That Jason Ohler is a phenomenal presenter and that he has provided me with the beginnings of another tool in my teacher tool kit to engage my students in the classroom.

Here is a link to his website and I strong recommend if you can attend a presentation by Mr. Ohler I strongly recommend that you do so.

I might just have to give this digital story telling a try in my classroom and see what happens.



The name of the afternoon session at the MLTI Summer Institute by David Patterson was “Shoot Yourself”.  The name is rather misleading, but the content was not!  I have always wanted to learn more about Photography and I learned more about it in the 3 hours with David yesterday afternoon than I had previously on my own.

I love to take pictures, but most of them are really not all that good.  I learned:

  • How the different settings on the camera affect how your picture turns out.
  • What to look at before taking the picture, so that there is less cropping afterward.

For me the best part of the class was being able to go out and “try” to look at things differently.  Here are a few of what I consider my “best” shots yesterday.

The last one – a picture of a canon with trash in it tells its own story about us.

This is one of the best sessions I have ever attended at any conference and some of my photos will improve a great deal from what I learned in it.

We also discussed Creative Commons, which made think and then go and check this blog to see what re-use license I had put on it…I had forgotten to add my Creative Commons license to the sidebar or page, so I took care of it.

The most important thing that I will take away from this session was “you don’t have to worry about the copyright issue in your class, if it is their work.”  I do know that I will focus a lot more on attribution and copyright issues this year than I did last year and this session really cleared up that issue for me.

Great session!  Thank you David.



Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

The second half of the Introduction to Google Tools Day 2 of the MLTI Summer Institute has been been great!

This morning’s first session was with Rich Byrne on Blogging, Google Books and Custom Search Engines.  Rich used the Commoncraft Blogger video to show what is blogging and did a great job going over the features of Blogger in the short time that we had available.  He had everyone setup or review how to setup a blog, using widgets and how to embed video’s, etc. into a post.

He quickly went over Google Books.  I did not know that they could be embedded into a blog post; this is could be a big help in my class when I get my reading lists for my class next week.  Looking at gBooks with someone providing training gave it a different perspective than I had held earlier, which made me look at different ways of using it – which was a good thing.

Google Custom Search I knew it existed, but I had never had the chance to really see what it does or is about.  After Richard’s presentation I can see now some of the possible uses in the classroom and why someone would take the time to put together a custom search.  I don’t know if I will use at this time, but it is nice to have in the tool belt “just in case”.

The second session was with Alice Barr on using Google Docs.  It was an introductory based session.  Alice went over the “how to use” gDocs.  She discussed emphasizing the different icons to each student, how they are color coded for quick and easy identification of the particular type of document i.e. Spreadsheet, Doc, Presentation, etc.  Alice showed the participants how to share a document, setup folders and how powerful gDocs could be in the classroom.  Alice did a wonderful job providing a lot of information on gDocs in a short amount of time.

So far the MLTI Summer Institute is exceeding my expectations as far as meeting people and reinforcing the knowledge that I already have.  I know that I am having a hard time, finding time to post my notes into the blog. But I am taking to heart something that Richard Byne said in his Advice for Those Attending Google Teacher Academy when he reflected on his Google Teacher Experience

What you can’t do on your own, is make connections and brainstorm with 50 other really smart educators. So go ahead and play with some of the new technical things you’ll learn about Google Apps, but don’t let that get in the way of making personal connections.

I may not be at GTA, but I am really making an effort to not just go back to my room, isolating myself and working on computer stuff.  I  attended the keynote, the social gatherings afterward, (I tend to skip both at conferences).  I am actually attempting to be social and meet new people, not just the ones that I already know.

That is actually a pretty hard thing for me to do, because it would be a lot easier just to go back to room or sit at the lunch room with a computer in front of me, than it is to “mingle”.

Now I just have to get caught up on the afternoon session and opening Keynote speaker blogs.

Google Tools Workshop – MLTI Conference Castine – Day 1


Maine Maritime Academy
Image via Wikipedia

The first day of the 2010 MLTI Summer Institute – Digital Citizenship

Raising the Flag – Learn about Google Tools is over.  It was a great day!

At the start of the presentation the presenters discussed with us about the issues with Google not working well with the new MLTI image due to the new parental controls.  When I tried my MLTI computer I could not access my Google Account or other Google products, which if we are going to be using Google Apps is going to cause significant issues for many schools until it is resolved.

My plan is to use Google Apps a great deal in my classrooms and if we are not able to use this product due to these issues it will mean a great many changes to what I plan to do in my classroom.  But I am sure that these issues will be fixed before school starts.

The session that I attended was:

Google Sites/Calendar session led by Sarah S. alias @edueyeview on Twitter.  It was the basic intro to Google Sites, which I really needed last week when I started my first website.  It would have made my life a lot easier knowing the information she presented, on how to create a Site and enhance it, instead having to go the trial and error process.  During the session I was able to work on my Class Portal, got feedback and help on “how to” do things easier than what I was attempting to do on my own.

Based on the feedback and things I learned in the session I worked on my Class Portal site for several hours last night and believe that it is better than it was before  the session.

The best part of day 1 is that I got to meet face-to-face many of the people that I have talked with on Twitter.  @alicebarr, @edueyeview @ernieeaster and of course reconnect with @rmbyrne.  I also enjoyed meeting with several other educators from around Maine who also are passionate about technology in education.

So day 1 was a great learning experience for me



The Home Depot in Knightdale, North Carolina.
Image via Wikipedia

Last Sunday, I replaced the front storm door.

Before I go any further I want everyone to know that I am not a carpenter!

During during this 6 hour ordeal, I got frustrated, tired, swore a bit (a lot actually), walked away, swore some more and then eventually “goober carpentered” it together.  If I had to do this type of work every day, whether I wanted to or not, at some point I would have a huge meltdown.  It wouldn’t be a pretty sight – me throwing a temper tantrum.

What does this have to do with education?  Quite a bit actually.

In school there are students who get frustrated, are or get tired, swear, walk out of class, try everything but what we want them to do and manage to get through the day – most days anyways.  Why?  They simply are not interested in what we are doing at school.

Can you imagine walking into the school building day-after-day feeling all those negative things and then being told daily that you need “remedial whatever” because the school says students have to be interested in this narrow band of subjects or sports that defines success in the school.  Now look again can you see many of those same students with carpentry tools in their hands putting in a storm door or being part of a crew that builds a house, working on a car, wiring a light, cooking or doing some other job we need to have done.  I can.

How do we engage these students?  Most of them have interests that lie in directions that are not traditional academics. When do we start tying their interests in the trades, the arts, computers or whatever is their interest is to their academics. Using real life “stuff” instead of the things they know they will never use, because their parents, relatives or older friends have already told them they don’t need a lot of that stuff that “they” teach in school.

Do we need two tracks in education one for those who know they want to be in a trade and one for those who want to prepare for college, with the ability move back and forth between the program as a student’s interests change? I strongly believe that we do.  I know that tracking is a “bad” word in education, but we still need carpenters, mechanics, repairmen, cooks, tailors, and all the other trades that our so-called new “knowledge based” and college ready society depends on and these jobs can not be farmed out overseas.

Getting back to my storm door story, on Saturday  when I was at Home Depot getting my storm door, one of my students from last year came up to me and talked for a while.  He said he was doing carpentry work this summer and loving it, he hadn’t missed any days of work, that he was making “lots” of money and learning a lot about what he would probably be doing after high school.

He looked at me and then at the door, he asked if I was any good at putting in a door and I told him I was a lot better teacher.  He teased back saying then that door ain’t never gonna work right – you want me to do it for you?  I answered back only if you are a better carpenter than he was a student.  There were a lot of smiles and laughs going back and forth.

As we parted he yelled back to me “Remember I still owe you that Pizza and now that you are not my teacher, I can buy you a Pizza for lunch, so we can sit down and talk, while we eat that pizza.

That’s when you know you are making a positive difference, even if you can’t cut a straight line or hammer a nail without the nail being crooked.  I may not be a good carpenter, but I hope that I am a pretty good teacher.
You know I wish that I had hired him to install that door, it would have been done quicker and look better.  Who knows maybe next year, he will stop by with that pizza and maybe I can help him with his homework.

Now I just wish I could wave my magic wand and …



Cover of "Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techn...
Cover via Amazon

I finished reading Teach Like a Champion (TLAC) a couple of days ago and needed to reflect a bit lot before actually writing this post.  In my opinion the model presented in TLAC is very heavy into a Behaviorist, Teacher-centric model of teaching i.e. what has been characterized as the “Factory Method”.

A method that relies on “external locus of control” of students, to bring order and subsequent learning to a classroom.  TLAC does focus, define and suggest improvements to that model of teaching.

I am basing a lot of this post from my personal experience, not on anybody’s research, so bear with me.

I worked for almost eleven years in a Private Special Purpose School called Good-Will Hinckley (GWH), that relied heavily on a similar behavioral model when I was there. Our population was mostly those students who didn’t succeed in the public schools, special education identified or probably eligible and those coming out of the legal or mental health systems.

I was a Certified Behavior Technician and a Special Education Teacher. With my military background, I did very well in that environment and scored consistently in the top 5 in our monthly program reviews, so I have a bit of in-the-classroom experience using similar strategies to what Lemov describes in his book, especially the behavior parts.

GWH had a token economy, (which Lemov alludes to their use in a couple of places in TLAC), scripting of how to address student behaviors, among other key behavioral components. Reading through Teaching Like a Champion was like going back in time to where it was expected that the staff “had to be in charge”, “control the classroom”,  you are “in charge”of students while in class, an obedient student is a good student, etc.

On page 148 of TLAC Lemov states “In fact, my definition of control is “the capacity to cause someone to choose to do what you ask, regardless of the consequences.”

Pg 176 “Command obedience not because you can or because it feels good but because it serves your students.”

Yes I cherry-picked those statements, but they are a general reflection of the tone that is present throughout TLAC.  This tone towards how teachers should view students is what I believe caused many teachers or administrators who have a different philosophy, to stop reading TLAC.

The methods in Teach Like a Champion can and do work for many teachers, administrators and some students.  I believe that the a behaviorist teacher-centered model or some variation is still officially or unofficially the preferred educational philosophy/system in the majority of schools or classrooms today in the United States.  It is not always as successfully implemented as it is shown TLAC, but that is what many teachers, administrators and even parents expect. So for that reason this book remains pertinent.

However, as I have become a more experienced teacher, I noticed that a small but significant number of students either didn’t respond to these methods, chafed after initially making significant progress or simply just didn’t “fit” within the constraints of  the constant rules and controls that were in place, to control negative behaviors in the classroom and in the schools.

At GWH we tended to believe that the behavior modification system worked reasonably well for many of our students, so something had to be “wrong” with the student, not the system, when a student failed or was asked/told to leave.

Looking back I wonder if that was the case or was it that the “system” was failing a larger number of students than we believed and the positive results that we had, were skewed by the very high-end behavior student population we served and it was the personal relationships that they forged with the staff became the turning point in their lives, not the “system” that was in place.

I don’t think that numbers told the complete story there, just as they don’t tell the whole story in many instances.

Personally, I now want my classroom to be an inviting place where they will want to learn and grow as independently as they are able, I want to make lasting relationships with my students.  However, I also realize that until the students learn the school’s and my classroom expectations, that I will use pieces of my behaviorist background to provide initial guidance and stability in the classroom.  As students show they are ready, offer opportunities for more responsibility and independence to allow my classroom to become their classroom.

Isn’t that our objective to have our student become more in charge of their own learning?  I know that it is my goal.

Teach Like a Champion is in my opinion worth reading and I did learn some new techniques that will help me in my classroom.  Lemov also provided names to techniques that are similar to what I (and many others) have used in the classroom, which provides us a common language, instead of a vague description of a strategy.  I will also refer back to this book when I am struggling with certain academic issues to let me reformulate or refine different techniques that I can use to help me teach my students more effectively.


I may not agree with all of Lemov’s underlying philosophies, but that does not mean that I will not take what will work for me from this book and adapt them to a more student-centered viewpoint.

I would give the book 3 stars.




I am just a bit excited, I got my final confirmation email yesterday for the Digital Citizenship: Raising the Flag, the 2010 MLTI Summer Institute and the Google Tools Pre-Institute (sponsored by ACTEM) at Maine Maritime Academy inCastine, Maine.

Why would something as relatively minor as going to a summer institute be exciting, especially when it is work related?  

First, I don’t get to go to too many conferences and I love the opportunity to learn new things in an atmosphere besides my dining room or school.  Second it is my first conference that is “dedicated” to technology.  I will get a chance to see many of the people who I follow on Twitter, face to face and have real conversations with them. I think that I am more excited about that those opportunities than the actual conference.

I would love to go to some of the bigger conferences outside of Maine, but costs (registration & travel), distance and time away usually make it difficult to attend them.  So I get to be one of the “newbies” at the MLTI conference.

This is the link to the Agenda for next week.  It looks pretty amazing to me and I plan to take the opportunities to learn and run with them.

So here is it to meeting new people and learning lots of new things next week. By the way if you see me suddenly disappear and go for a walk or be by myself, when I am around a lot of people for a while – I am not being rude.  It is how I react to sensory overload. 🙂

I get to be around other techie types for four days, how will I manage it?

Oh by the way did I tell you that I am excited about…