Mt. Blue Regional School District RREV Pioneers Share Progress on UMaine Pilot Course

For Mt. Blue Regional School District educators Jake Bogar and Travis Tierney, the concept of innovation in education was front of mind long before the pandemic disrupted their classrooms in 2020. Bogar is a pre-engineering instructor at the Foster Career and Technical Education Center (which serves students from Spruce Mountain High School, Mt. Abram High School, and Rangeley Lakes Regional School, in addition to Mt. Blue), while Tierney teaches high school English at Mt. Blue and, outside of school, facilitates the Youth Expedition To Ignite (Y.E.T.I) outdoor experiential recreation program. Both already were recognizing gaps and challenges in the traditional education model when the pandemic laid those issues bare in schools across the country.

That desire to drive positive change inspired both to sign up for the very first innovation course offered through the Maine Department of Education’s Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) program. Hosted by the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Innovation, the birthplace of an innovation curriculum that has been adopted by companies and other universities around the world, the first Innovation for Educators course brought together 40 teachers and administrators in two sections, representing regions across the state. UMaine’s course (one of a number of innovation courses being offered by higher education partners throughout the state), is a prerequisite for Maine educators to apply for awards under a transformative $16.9 million CARES Act grant intended to inspire educators to creatively reimagine how we deliver education in Maine. 

Tierney and Bogar are seeking a RREV award to bring an outdoor leadership and recreation program, building on the Y.E.T.I. model, under the umbrella of the school. 

What does innovation in education mean to you?

Tierney: “A few years back, it was a lot of that Ken Robinson Changing Education Paradigms stuff that kind of awakened me. I jumped into project-based learning, which, for me, was a real eye-opener as far as how passionate kids were. The days where they came to present were easily my most exciting school days. The experiences I was having with my kids outside in my Y.E.T.I. group were really, really meaningful and deep, and they were happening outside of the classroom.”

Bogar: “My background is in mechanical engineering. For me, innovation is providing the opportunity and the environment for kids to really research and explore, create new ideas, test them, not be afraid to take those risks. That’s what I’ve been trying to build over the last decade in this pre-engineering program that emerges out of the science program at our school and that has tons of tools and opportunities for kids to realize their ideas and then test them out in a place that’s safe where they can take academic risks.”

What are some of the opportunities you’re seeing emerge from the challenges of the pandemic?

Bogar: “I think one thing it showed is that we can take decisive actions and try things, and that kids are incredibly resilient, and so are educators. I’ve had some of my students reaching out to experts [in different fields] and finding that people are really open and willing to [connect]. Realizing those opportunities, and using communication technologies effectively, to bring people closer together is great. And, again, just that idea of taking some action and trying some stuff. Hopefully not sliding back into the inertia of traditional schooling.”

Tierney: “I’m an opportunist. We have all these amazing tech programs on our campus, and just because I’m an English teacher it doesn’t mean I don’t want to expose kids to those types of things. It was a little bit maddening that kids were going on these trips [through Y.E.T.I.] and learning all kinds of amazing things that didn’t directly relate to school in the old school [model]. RREV seemed very much like a foot in the door when it came to introducing that for a credit system within our own school where kids could do the same types of things. We have a small pilot class that’s starting up next year. It’s in the course book, and I’ve already had a lot of interest from students. Hopefully that expands — we’re looking forward to that, as well as to building a space here on the actual campus to house that program out of. We have some amazing opportunities on our campus for interdisciplinary collaboration and I hope that pushes forward [here] and in education in general.”

What did you take away from the Innovation for Educators course at UMaine?

Bogar: “Speaking from my perspective, because I am an engineer, I feel like [the innovation course] has kind of made some of the technical tools that engineers use to solve problems more accessible to teachers. The course teaches systemic thinking for problem solving, and that is a super useful tool if you want to realize any ideas in the institutions that we’re in. To really frame stuff as a system and start to tackle that, to understand where your death threats are and your opportunities are, that’s helpful and useful.

“I love the PDSA cycle, that is: Plan, Do, Study, Act. That is really useful for kids to just do one small thing, and then ask yourself, what did you learn? I used that with a lot of my kids in their projects this year. And meeting other people from around the state and interacting with some great mentors and instructors, it just felt really awesome to be involved in something like this during this time.”

Tierney: “For anyone who has tried to introduce innovative ideas or new things, you often run into a lot of roadblocks. Oftentimes, they’re financial. Oftentimes, it’s a mindset. We’re not ready to do that or scheduling is an issue — all these things that can get in the way of doing things in a new and interesting way in big schools like this. The quote that stuck with me [from class] was: ‘A system will assert itself. Whether it’s a good system or a bad system, it will assert itself.’ 

“This course in particular has been really, really helpful to have you prepared to pitch ideas to students or to other teachers, or to parents, administrators, school board members and to be prepared to answer all the questions that will come at you. Not to mention the networking that went on — we met a lot of really fantastic people through the course who are doing similar innovative things around the state, who I did not know prior to taking the course. I didn’t expect to meet that many people, so that’s been kind of awesome. We were given a license to dream, and it’s been hard to dream over the past year, so that felt good. It felt really good to do it with other people who were doing the same thing.” 

This article was submitted by University of Maine Office of Innovation and Economic Development in collaboration with the Maine DOE as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Seeking Maine Educators to Create Learning Modules for MOOSE

The Maine Department of Education is seeking educators to create learning modules for MOOSE, Maine’s Online Opportunities for Sustained Education. MOOSE is an initiative that is grounded in innovation and made possible by technology. Learn with MOOSE is committed to creating learning experiences for students that are accessible and inclusive of all learners, and serves to provide anytime, anywhere learning options and resources for educators, students and their families. Integrated across subject areas and project-based, these asynchronous modules ensure that learning is active, engaging, and continuous.

As a content creator of the Learn with MOOSE initiative, you will embark on an innovative instructional design journey that will push the bounds of your professional skillset. Grounded in inclusive design, MOOSE modules are created to meet Universal Design for Learning and to be accessible for all learners, regardless of ability.

Participants must be Maine educators, including but not limited to teachers, curriculum leaders and Maine educational community organizations such as museums, libraries, and educational centers. The module creation work begins April 19th and concludes on July 2nd. Each participant will be trained in a-synchronous instructional design by Maine DOE digital learning specialists, as well as supported in their content by Maine DOE content specialists. Stipends of $1000 will be provided for successful completion of the project.

To register click here.

For more information please contact Beth Lambert, beth.lambert@maine.gov or Page Nichols, page.nichols@maine.gov.

Are you a teacher or parent using MOOSE modules with your students? Share your story with us! @mdoenews #LearnwithMOOSE 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Partners with T-Mobile to Provide Increased Internet Access to Maine Students

The Maine Department of Education has partnered with T-Mobile to expand efforts to provide internet access and devices to Maine students through their Project 10Million initiative. If they choose to participate, the program provides mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices directly to school districts for student use.

“We are thrilled to partner with T-Mobile to continue providing opportunities that allow Maine students to stay connected to their teachers, peers, and school communities,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “The partnership helps to expand our own Connect Kids Now! initiative which supports Maine schools by providing internet connectivity through the pandemic.”

The Connect Kids Now! initiative began in the spring of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic when it became abundantly clear that technology resources were critical in closing the equity of access gap for continued learning for Maine students. In line with this these efforts, T-Mobile’s Project 10Million initiative provides the opportunity for districts in Maine to participate by signing up and choosing from three tiers of service which they can pass on to students at no cost: up to 100GB per year per device for free, or low-cost options for 100GB per month or unlimited data. Part of the commitment of the partnership will be to provide additional devices from T-Mobile over the next five years. T-Mobile will distribute these devices directly to districts and all student households with at least one student participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for the program. The Maine DOE will look to include districts based on economic factors such as Title 1 schools, National School Lunch Program eligibility rates, and distressed county designations. Districts can complete an online interest form to participate in the program.

“Partnering with the Maine DOE helps us identify districts and students that will benefit most from Project 10Million and get them the devices and connectivity required to fully participate in school,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are grateful to be a part of the solution that Commissioner Makin and her team have put in place to make sure ALL students can access the resources they need to succeed.”

Districts that are interested in participating in T-Mobile’s Project 10Million can fill out the interest form on the project’s website.

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Available to Eligible Families in April

The FCC recently adopted a Report and Order that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits of the program include:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband services;
  • Up to $75/month discount for broadband services for households on Tribal lands; and
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per eligible household.

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The FCC expects the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to be open to eligible households before the end of April, 2021. Please check the FCC’s website, www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, regularly for the latest information. Once up and running, eligible households will be able to enroll through participating broadband providers or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

Many types of broadband providers can qualify to provide service in this program. The FCC is currently setting up the systems needed for providers to participate. Contact information for the providers participating in the program will be posted on USAC’s website: https://www.usac.org/.

For more information, the Report and Order along with the rules governing this program can be found here: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-report-and-order-emergency-broadband-benefit-program-0.

Art Educator Bridges Divide Between Remote and In-person Students Through Digital Communications Artist Showcase

13 Series of 7’s 

A Remote Digital Communications Artist Showcase

An educator reflection written by Melanie Crowe, Visual Arts Educator at Hampden Academy.

This school year has presented some unique challenges, engaging students who are remote with the in person school community has been a central focus for me as an educator. The journey to find ways to showcase remote student work and learning has created wonderful collaborations between departments and spaces here at Hampden Academy. Working in conjunction with Leslie Rosenblatt, HA’s Library Media Specialist, she and I have found a way to bridge the spatial divide between the remote students and the in person students. Using the Library’s garage as a “gallery” space, the quarter 3 remote Digital Communications students created a movie of their digital photography that will be on presentation for the month of February.

Students in the Digital Communications course curated their work and selected, what they believed to be, their most visually engaging and compositionally successful photographs. Over the course of the semester, students in the remote Digital Communications course learned how to use their cameras on their phones like a digital SLR camera. They learned how to manipulate and control settings beyond the typical point and shoot of a phone camera. Students focused on how to manipulate and change their depth of focus, shutter speed, and ways to enhance their work using photo editing software on the web.

The students chose their best seven works from the quarter, used vocaroo (a web based voice recorder) to record an artist statement reflection. The video is shown during the day on a loop at HA for those interested to view during their study hall or during their visit to the library. This opportunity provides students in the building a way to hear and see the work created by students who are learning remotely. We hope that students will engage with the work and enjoy the works created by their peers.

Future collaborations are in the makings to showcase more of the amazing artwork our students create here at Hampden Academy. The featured thirteen student photographers are: Nikyla Bidler, Graceann Brinkworth, Madison Burns, Owen Cross, Isaac Cruz, Rebecca Demmons, Ryan Dudley, Tesa Kneeland, Gabriella Moore, Sophia Pereira, Sara Reynolds, Cameron Robichaud, and Zachary Robichaud.