Monthly Archives: March 2011

Writing Without Touching the Keys

I just posted about testifying to the Education Committee on a bill that I hope passes. But there is another part of this story…

I do a lot of public speaking and usually just work off an outline (I love having a Keynote or PowerPoint when I present because it’s my outline). I never write out what I’m going to say in it’s entirety.

But I got an email just a couple hours before I was leaving to head to Augusta. “Please bring 20 copies of your testimony,” it said.

20 copies…? It occurred to me that maybe I should write it out…

But writing can take a TON of time…

But I had this app that had sat on my iPhone and iPad forever, and some folks said it was cool, but I don’t think I’d ever used it before.

I just didn’t know how cool it was.

So, I fired up Dragon Dictation on my iPhone and started talking my testimony. And there it showed up as text!

It wasn’t perfect… And I need to to get better at using the commands that add punctuation and line breaks…


I ended up with the most amazing first draft in just a couple minutes!!!

I do a fair amount of writing and it is clear that Dragon Dictation will be a great way for me to pound out drafts! (Although I have to admit that I did write this one using the keyboard…)

And now that I have a long commute each day, I’m anxious to see how Dragon Dictation might work in my car (a little worried about the background noise of studded snow tires – but those won’t be on much longer this season – I hope!).

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Schools Trying to Solve Challenges Creatively – My testimony on LD 938

Tough times for schools (not even counting the current anti-labor climate). Budget cuts. Struggling to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. Under-motivated students.

Some schools are trying to work on some of those challenges creatively. What if we could make some interesting educational opportunities for our students by recruiting some out of state students or foreign students to participate in our online learning programs while bringing a revenue stream into the district?

That’s the idea behind Maine LD 938 An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students.

Today, I testified to the Education Committee at the State House. Below Re my comments.

Hello. My name is Dr. Mike Muir. I am the director of Maine’s virtual project-based program for at-risk and dropout youth, and soon will be Auburn School District’s Multiple Pathways Leader, responsible for working with staff to find ways to better engage students and customize learning opportunities. I am also Director of UMF’s Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning.

We live in interesting times.

If we start by looking at the student context, what probably jumps out at us first is the degree to which technology is integrated into students lives, and how technology impacts how they do their everyday work, learning, and socializing. Educators are struggling to catch up with young people so that we can teach in ways that match the world they live in outside of school. Many students “power down” to come to school, and even though we have technology in the schools and are using it in our classes, our struggle is trying to figure out how students use their technology so that we can avoid that potential problem of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of these young people.

Technology also opens up the world to students. We can give them virtual field trips, and they explore the country and the world on their own. They make friends the whole world over. Even a student who has never been south of Portland can get a feel for the world beyond their home in a way our contemporaries who never traveled south of Portland never could.

And in these interesting times, educators have a better understanding of how students learn. We understand that students learn at different times, at different rates, and in different ways. Education has had a system that forces everyone to learn the same thing, at the same time, and at the same pace for so long, that it is a challenge for us to uncover how to become flexible, and better meet the needs of students (including, of course, through online learning opportunities).

In terms of interesting times in the school context, there is enormous pressure to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. We have a system that has always worked well for a portion of our student population (even a large portion), but for only a portion. That may have been fine when there were plenty of jobs for people without a high school diploma, or even a college degree, but not today. Educators realize that we need to develop ways of reaching other students.

All this within the context of enormous budget cuts. We have had repeated years of huge budget cuts, followed mid year by one or more curtailments. Schools are struggling to do more with less.

In the context of the economy and job market we also live in interesting times. Jobs are changing and employers are looking for students to be educated for different skills. At least one small part of Proctor and Gamble calls Auburn home. One of their employees recently told school officials that they are hiring differently than they ever have before, and that they have much better luck hiring outside the US than they do in the US. That’s because US schools train students to know facts or have skills, for example, to be an electrician. But Proctor and Gamble doesn’t want to hire electricians. They want to hire someone who can learn to be an electrician to accomplish that one project, and then can learn to be something else for the next project.

In the past, it may have seemed that schools have had what they needed. But that wasn’t at a time when schools needed to be successful with more students, when students are different, the job market is different, and there is less and less money to make big changes and accomplish more goals.

For the first time educators are forced into trying to be entrepreneurial in several ways:
• Inventing ways of reaching more learners:
• Inventing ways to teach the skills employers want;
• Inventing ways of teaching so that they more students can succeed;
• Inventing ways to overcome budget cuts.

This Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students is one way the State can support schools being entrepreneurial:
• It provides students the benefit of enriched learning experiences, interacting with students from across the country and around the world.
• It provides schools the opportunity to try to recoup funding lost in numerous cutbacks and budget cuts.
• It removes an unfair competitive advantage that private schools have had, having been able to recruit and charge nonresident students for years.

This bill has several vital components:
• It allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-state students, similar to how the law currently allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-district students.
• It allows entrepreneurial schools to use the funds in an entrepreneurial fashion by not counting it again state funding for residential students.
• It allows the direct contact to students to be a learning coach working under a certified teacher, instead of requiring only a certified teacher, since most of the work is learning progress management, not curricular design.

So I implore you to please consider recommending and passing An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students. Thank you.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

What does make a great teacher?

I first got to know Audrey Watters when she worked for ISTE. Now she’s a freelance writer and blogger. Today she wrote a tribute to her favorite teacher, Mr. Callahan. Audrey goes so far as to say that Mr. Callahan is the best teacher she ever had.

In reflecting on this wonderful teacher, she repeatedly makes the point that what made Mr. Callahan a great teacher was not the kinds of things that officials are talking about using to measure the greatness of teachers.

What if we were going to make our own rubric for measuring the greatness of a teacher… What are the criteria we would measure? What makes the best teachers we ever had the best?

Please leave your thoughts as comments.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Transitions and New Beginnings

I’ve been lucky and have had quite a career so far, having had great opportunities to do interesting work. High school and middle school teacher, technology integrator, professor, teacher educator, educational consultant. I’ve worked a lot in the fields of technology integration, 1to1 learning with laptop initiatives, middle grades education, motivating underachievers, and project-based learning.

The last three and a half years, I’ve been working with a small educational development organization. We’ve co-written a federal Magnet Schools grant for a large urban district (which we were awarded!), and supported the program for the life of the grant. We created a career academy, and a couple non-traditional middle school and high school programs, and a virtual project based program for at-risk and dropout youth. Frankly, it was like getting another graduate degree, this one in the business of education, and educational organization and leadership!

But now I have a new opportunity.

Auburn School District (ME) had been a partner in helping us get the virtual project-based program going. A couple months ago, they began working with several groups of students, educators, and community members to develop a broad-based vision for learning for the high school. They realize that if they want to reduce their dropout rate and help more students graduates, then they need to pursue multiple pathways to graduation, something few districts are working on in systemic way.

And a couple weeks ago, they asked me to help the high school and middle school and the extended educational community on developing their strategic vision of multiple pathways for all learners to be successful, exploring possibilities on how to implement that vision, and then put options into practice.

How could I say, “no”?!

So now starts a new adventure! I’ll let you know now it’s going… 🙂

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad