You Know You’re in Maine When…

Portland Head Lighthouse (HDR)

Haddock Stuffed with Lobster, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots (chocolate cake not shown)

Wordle of Twitter Backchannel Feed

Stitched Panorama of General Session

On Wednesday evening, I enjoyed a great dinner and warm fellowship with ACTEM’s MAINEducation conference committee (ACTEM is Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine).  They were celebrating their 25th conference and the 10th anniversary of the state’s celebrated 1:1 initiative.  We met at Slates in Hallowell, as I had not yet gotten to my hotel –– having meandered up from Portland, looking for lighthouses to photograph.

Leaving the restaurant, after a satisfying meal (code for filling), I dashed across the street to my rented Kia, remounted my Garmin GPS, typed in the address of the hotel and started driving.  It was dark, wet, and black, the blackness that comes with wet streets that swallow light rather than illuminate what’s in front of you.  So it was one of those slow drives that had me focused primarily on Lady GPS saying,

“TURN RIGHT – HERE!”

or

“TURN LEFT – HERE!”

I’d gone through about twelve of these, only three of which resulting from missed turns and the machine’s ,

“RECALCULATING!”

.. and It had gotten blacker.  I’d felt that I had entered a residential area which might have concerned me anyplace else.  But I’d glanced at a satellite view of the area, and knew that it was surrounded by homes.  What was alarming, and what you REALLY don’t want to hear at a time like this, was,

“TURN LEFT – HERE and NAVIGATE OFF-ROAD!”

I said, out loud, “No!” did a U-turn and found my way to the hotel with my iPhone, my face lit up from the glow of that 3.5 inch display.

My point in telling this story here, and to the 800 Maine educators gathered in Augusta yesterday, is to say that this northern state did not say, “No!”  They’ve been courageously and inventively navigating off-road for ten years, and in no small way paving new avenues to learning –– and too few of us are following.

The last time I keynoted the ACTEM conference, I composed a list of conditions that indicate that you’re in Maine. I don’t think I can improve on that list, which I’ve included below. But I would add one item.

You know you’re in Maine, when you believe that you have a firm and compelling vision of where education needs to be going, only to find yourself struggling to re-frame that vision, simply to catch up with the conversations around you.  A Wordle of the Twitter backchannel feed illustrates this beautifully, where students and learning stand out, and you have to struggle to find mention of technology.

Here’s my list from 2006, most of which is still true.

You know you’re in Maine when…

  1. The first thing attendees to your workshop ask is, “Do we have WiFi?”
  2. Teachers are checking their students work, during the workshop, on their comput’a.
  3. When you insist on tech support for your hands-on workshop and none was needed.
  4. When, in a workshop, everytime you ask, “How many of you have done this before…?” and nearly every hand goes up.
  5. When two members of your workshop organize their own workshops in the back of the room.
  6. They don’t give out a conference bag at conference registration, because everyone’s going to be carrying a computer bag anyway.
  7. The former governor of the state is attending an education conference.
  8. Nearly everything that people say, in an easy-going, slow, mumbly sort of way, carries wisdom!
  9. When you had to fly in a little soapbox derby sort of plane to step into the future.
  10. When you start to feel optimistic, and think, “You know, we may just be able to turn this thing around.” 

..then you know your in Maine!

I’d add that if you fly into Portland’s magnificent new airport, you can avoid the soapbox derby plane.

Future Classrooms from the Past

Front Cover of August T.H.E. Journal

Brenda just laid the August issue of THE Journal on my desk.  Glancing over at it, I saw the headline, “Not Your Father’s Classroom,” with a photo of “modern” classroom, evidently from the Columbus Signature Academy.

What strikes me about the room is how much it reminds me of the classrooms I visited back in the 1990s down in Beaufort, South Carolina, where they were instituting one of the earliest 1:1 initiatives that I was aware of.  It seemed that the ubiquitous access to information and information tools (I do not believe that they had Internet) demanded that students face each rather than facing the teacher.

This is not to say that the teacher was not a central character in the classroom.  It’s just that they were not, necessarily in the middle of the classroom.

I’ve got some reading for the flight to St. Louis tomorrow.