EDC’s Pam Buffington works in Gardiner, Maine, a small town at the head of the Kennebec River. As state liaison for the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory, a federally funded research center at EDC, she advises Maine decision-makers on education policy. She has years of classroom experience, most recently working with teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. Buffington spoke to us about her work supporting elementary school teachers in Maine School Administration District #11.
“Maine is in the process of consolidating its school districts, which has been disruptive locally. Most of the state is rural, and schools are the center of the community in these small towns. The perception is that local schools will lose some of their autonomy through the consolidation. I don’t think that will be the case, but I try to bring that perspective back to decision-makers at the state level.
“The benefit of working as I do at the school, district, and state level is that I’m able to see how each of these systems operates independently and in relationship to each other. It is a valuable perspective to have.
“I love working in classrooms. Sometimes teachers have a perception that some students just don’t engage with school—but I find that inquiry-based technology can engage students in ways that other lessons just don’t. It’s great to see those students connect with math and technology.
“For a number of years, I’ve been working with elementary school teachers in Gardiner on integrating technology into their mathematics lessons. Rural districts don’t always have a lot of capacity and support for math and technology. This project provides them [with] someone with expertise and helps them connect the dots—classroom goals, school goals, district goals. Sometimes in standards-based reform, the ideas aren’t real for teachers until they can see them in the classroom.
“I collaborate with the math specialist as well as with classroom teachers to develop lessons that use technology in ways that meet district goals. Then I model the lesson in classrooms, while the teacher and the specialist observe. After the class, we meet to discuss how the lesson went and develop ideas for the next lesson. Sometimes, the math specialist will lead the lesson, and the teacher and I will observe and again give feedback.
“Working this way creates a new level of discussion between teachers, content specialists, and administrators. At one school last year, the curriculum specialist and the principal sat in on one of our lessons, and we had a great discussion afterward about the role of technology in the classroom. This program gives us a chance to bring important ideas about technology and mathematics to life.”
Originally published on January 1, 2008