1,100-plus celebrate MLTI at UMaine

ORONO – When Hannah Potter returned from a summer camp that joined American teenagers with their Iraqi counterparts, she wanted her classmates at Yarmouth High School to share in the experience.

Chris Jones began middle school as someone not all that interested in technology. By the time he moved onto Oak Hill High School, he was a one-stop source of technical support for his classmates and teachers, and was getting started on collaborative ventures with computer programmers from around the world.

Mike Rodway began middle school without ever having made a movie. That changed when his response to a class assignment in sixth grade at Telstar Regional Middle School was, “Why not make a movie?” Rodway’s filmmaking passion and skill have taken off ever since.

Article image: Students hold up their laptops for the camera, filling an auditorium.
Student laptops fill the Collins Center for the Arts auditorium at the University of Maine during the 2011 MLTI Student Conference.

And Joe Lien wouldn’t have thought to ask for the chance to play the guitar at his Poland Regional High School graduation until he started telling his life story in the form of words, pictures and videos.

What do these students have in common?

They’ve used the resources of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, or MLTI, to realize their passions and deliver on their goals ever since they were given Apple laptops in middle school.

They also delivered presentations styled after those featured on the website TED Talks to more than 1,000 students and teachers on May 26, the day of the 2011 MLTI student conference, held on the campus of the University of Maine.

The student presenters kicked off a day dedicated to celebrating MLTI, the nearly decade-old initiative that’s put laptops in the hands of all Maine seventh and eighth graders and a majority of high-school students, and made technology an integral part of their learning.

The student conference offered a full day of learning that involved students and their MLTI laptops:

  • The conference featured a number of breakout sessions that offered students tutorials on music production, movie production, book publication, online privacy and an array of other topics.
  • The culminating afternoon “Über Session” involved all 1,100 students in the auditorium collaborating — through a specially set-up, high-density network — on a word cloud that described artistic images that came across their laptop screens. The session was led by Anthony Shostak, education curator at the Bates College Museum of Art and developer of the Thousand Words Project, an initiative aimed at improving students’ writing skills through art.
  • The day was designed not only to celebrate MLTI, but to train the student attendees’ focus on college. Students attended sessions located throughout the University of Maine campus and ate lunch at campus dining halls. Raffle prizes included scholarships to the University of Maine’s colleges of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Education and Human Development.

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