Tag Archives: MLTI

Shared Visioning in Action

I recently started a new job: Policy Director of the Learning Through Technology Team (LTTT) at the Maine Department of Education. It’s essentially the state tech director position, and its largest responsibility is managing the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI – 1to1 in 7th & 8th statewide – since 2001! – and making it easy for districts to buy in at other grades), and supporting schools as they think about how technology can support learning.

I have a small (but awesome!) team of 7 colleagues that help make all this happen. If you follow this blog, you already know I’m a strong believer in “Leading Beside” which includes both shared leadership and working from a shared vision. So it won’t surprise you that one of the first things I did with my new team was set aside a morning for us to build a shared vision.

We used the same process that Bette Manchester introduced to districts at the very beginning of MLTI: To think of a preferred future for young people we care about (the Preferred Future), then think about about what students need to start doing today to get ready for that Preferred Future (the Vision for Learning), then think about what teachers, schools – and the Learning Through Technology Team – need to do today so students can do what they need to do (the Strategic Plan). (A process Bette would credit to Bruce Wellman’s work.)

Building a Preferred Future

We started by thinking about a young person we care deeply about. Then thought out into the future, beyond middle school, beyond high school, beyond college or job training or military, and then a few more years, until that person was getting settled in their jobs and, perhaps, their family.

And then we thought about three questions:

  • Where would we like them to be able to work?
  • Where would we like them to be able to live?
  • Where would we like for them to be able to learn?

Here’s what the team generated:

These charts represent the Team’s Preferred Future.

 

Identifying Our Shared Vision Vision for Learning

The next step was to think about these same students today. If the charts above represent our preferred future for these young people, what do they need to do today to get ready for it?

Here is what we generated:

So, these charts represent the Team’s Vision for Learning.

 

Creating Our Strategic Plan

So, if this is what we believe students need to start doing today to get ready for the Preferred Future, what do do we believe teachers need to do, so students can do what they need to? Our thoughts:

 

And then, what do we believe schools (principals, tech directors, district administration, etc.) need to do so teachers and students can do what they need to? The Team’s lists:

These charts represent what we hope teachers and schools might adopt as their strategic plan.

But they also lead us to think about our own work and responsibility for making our Vision for Learning a reality. What does the Learning Through Technology Team need to do to support the work of students, teachers, and schools?

 

Prioritizing

Accomplishing 3 pages of strategic steps is a daunting task! (Actually, self defeating! We need a little focus!) I gave each Team member 6 dots to place on the charts. The prompt was, “Which are the most important pieces for us to work on right now.” All of them are important, and should be tackled as some time, but we needed to identify where to start. Team members could distribute their dots in an way they wanted (all 6 on one item, or spread out across items, etc.), but they each only had the 6 dots.

You can see where they placed their dots above.

That translates into the following as the Learning Through Technology Team’s Strategic Plan for the coming year:

  • Collaborate with our Vendors/Partners to give life to our Vision
  • Foster Postive Collaboration with School Leaders
  • Know the Field – where are their successes and challenges?
  • Improve Communications (Organizations, Schools, Partners)
  • Capturing data / Evidence of Impact

 

Where We’ll Go Next

It’s not enough to capture a Vision on paper. It needs to be used as a filter and a compass.

In order to do that, we’ll have to polish our Vision for Learning into a shareable document (it’s a little too rough for sharing in this current form), and create a mission statement. Then we can put together a “Compass and Filter” document (that includes our vision, mission, and strategic plan goals). We will use it to help us decide how to prioritize and do our work, and help us decide which new opportunities to take on. We can also share it with the schools, organizations, and other partners we work with (or might start working with) to see where there is alignment between our work and theirs.

But I’ll save that for future blog posts…

 

Multiple Pathways Blog: Top 5 Posts From 2013 and the 5 Most Popular Posts

Top 5 Multiple Pathways posts written in 2013:

#5 – The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning – This year, Maine's 13-year-old learning with “laptop” initiative offered schools a choice of devices. This series describes the change in approach to the state initiative, why Auburn chose iPads, and what we still hope to get from our technology, despite the changes.

#4 – The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning: The SeriesOne lesson our district has learned from working with other districts further along with implementing Customized Learning is “not all at once!”

#3 – Life-Long Habits of Mind: Curriculum for Customized Learning – Districts in the Customized Learning Consortium have expanded their curriculum model beyond simply content knowledge. Life-Long Habits of Mind is the third domain of our curriculum model.

#2 – We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not! – While some believe that schools should buy keyboards to make iPads useful, lessons from experienced iPad schools suggest the opposite.

#1 – How Does Auburn Select Apps? – Ever since we started Advantage 2014, our primary grades 1to1 iPads initiative, we’ve had educators and parents ask us what apps we’re using.

 

The 5 Most Popular Multiple Pathways posts in 2013:

#1 – What Makes for Good Learning Experiences?

#2 – 10 Key Components of Customized Learning

#3 – Tone of Voice Matters (In Surprising Ways)

#4 – Motivating Students: Focus on 5 Strategies

#5 – Student Motivation: What Level of Engagement Are Your Students At?

 

The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning

Maine has long had the first (and, unfortunately, only) 1to1 learning with technology initiative: MLTI.

The MLTI contract was up for renewal this year, and, for the first time, Maine is allowing each district to choose from 5 finalist proposals, producing a lot of conversation about the choices and how to choose.

Below is the series of blog posts I have written about the MLTI renewal, Auburn's choice and choice process, and my interest that MLTI selection focus on learning:

 

Strengths of the Early MLTI Program – Let’s Keep Them Going

Maine's learning with technology initiative (MLTI) is going through changes this year:

  • The contract renewal framed it not as a Maine contract, but as a multi-state contract, in hopes of making it easier for other states to do their own statewide initiatives.
  • When our governor announced the new contract award, it wasn't for our 12-year partner, Apple, but rather for HP.
  • The governor is allowing districts to select from any of the 5 finalist (Apple is included).

I'm not sure how all these changes will play out. My hope is that Maine's educators will rise to he occasion and take MLTI to the next level. My fear is that this will eventually kill what has been an internationally recognized learning program.

But it has made me think back on MLTI and what we identified that made the early MLTI such a powerful initiative. I found a couple old articles that address that question:

What we identified then as the strengths of this initiative include:

  • Access to technology
  • A focus on learning
  • A focus on leadership
  • Context-embedded professional development
  • Technology as a tool, not a curriculum area
  • Thinking how technology can change/improve teaching and learning

I hope Maine's educators, including the DOE and MLTI staff, continue to place an emphasis on these areas, and, despite the changes to program, MLTI continues to be the strong impactful initiative we had 8-10 years ago.

 

Is the iPad a Viable Solution for the High School?

As districts are deciding which MLTI solution they would like to choose, there have been a lot of questions asked about if the iPad is a viable solution for high schools.

Note 1: I'm not trying to convince folks to choose iPads, but there have not been the same kinds of questions about viability for the HP laptop or the MacBook Air, so I am simply trying to address the question at hand.

Note 2: For folks outside of Maine, MLTI is primarily focused on 7th & 8th grade (the State pays for those two grades), but districts can buy into MLTI for other grade levels at their own cost, most commonly at the high school level.

Two high schools, recognized for their 1to1 iPad initiatives, would seem to be evidence the iPad is a viable device for high school:

 

What Did Auburn Choose for MLTI and Why?

Auburn chose the Apple Primary Solution (iPads for students; MacBook Airs and iPad Minis for teachers) for MLTI.

Here is a two-page FAQ document we prepared for our teachers and community. Among other things, it explains our rationale for making this choice.

(Again, we aren't asking anyone to choose what we choose, but rather we're trying to share about our process and how we chose.)

 

Schools Have MLTI Choice, But Compare the Solutions!

When Maine's Governor announced that he was awarding HP the contract for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), and not to Apple (who had been Maine's partner in MLTI for the last 12 years), he also told schools that they could choose from any of the 5 finalist proposals. Schools had flexibility to decide which solution matched their needs best.

But many of the discussions that have followed seem to have focused almost exclusively on the device (mostly the HP laptop, the MacBook Air, and the iPad). I think because of the focus on devices (and the passion techies have for their devices!), the conversations seem to have bordered on “Platform Wars” at times (with the vim and vigor that all religious wars have!)

But MLTI was never supposed to be about platform, nor the specific device, and not even “job skills.” It was always supposed to be about tools for learning. And I wish schools would discuss learning tools more, and less about device, OS, and job preparedness.

Not even the proposals are about the device. The device (laptop or tablet) is only one component of a whole solution: device, network, software, tech support, projection, professional development, etc. (Supposedly, in support of learning…)

So I'm hoping that schools are looking hard at their school visions for learning, thinking about technology supporting teaching and learning, but also doing a side by side comparison of the solutions as they work to make their decisions.

Any of you who are involved with Customized Learning may have participated in the Complex Reasoning training. In that training, we learned that Decision Making happens effectively when you identify criteria, rate the possible choices against those criteria, and then choose based on the ratings and analysis.

I encourage each of us, as we think about what direction we are going to go, to think not primarily about our preferred OS or device, or “job prep,” but rather about comparing the full solutions:

  • How does the PD compare? (And is it focused on teaching and learning, or on the device and the software? Does it focus on leadership for implementing 1to1 and for school change?)
  • How does the software compare? Is it just productivity tools or is it a good set of software for teaching and learning (including productivity tools)?
  • How much technical support can we expect? Repairs? Imaging? Set up?
  • What about data storage? How much? How easy? What happens after the contract?
  • What about the device? Appropriate for student use? Battery life? Quality of network? How well does their projection solution work, not just for teachers, but for kids?
  • What is the provider's experience with education? (Not simply providing tech, but in helping schools use their tech for teaching and learning – how well do they understand teachers' context?)

Auburn has a good idea of what choice we are selecting, but I'm not arguing that you choose what we choose. I am arguing that you look closely at comparing the 5 solutions against all these criteria. If you and your decision makers do that, and you choose something different that we did, that's great! At least you compared all elements of the solution.

I would just be disappointed if you chose based on “one criterion” (e.g. OS, favorite platform, or “it's the device I use”) or used criteria that don't match the vision and purpose of MLTI (e.g. used “job prep” instead of “learning tool” for your purpose), even if you end up making the same choice we do.

The State has provided a side by side comparison document (available here).

You don't have to use the point scores from the Review.

Do your own rating, but compare the solutions against all those criteria.