Maine education chief visits Freeport Middle School

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FREEPORT — Stephen Bowen, the new commissioner of education, visited Freeport Middle School on Monday as part of his statewide tour of Maine’s nine superintendent regions.

He said the listening tour gives principals, superintendents and teachers an opportunity to talk to him about programs that work and those that need attention. The tour also gives Bowen the chance to familiarize himself with schools around the state.

At Freeport Middle School, Bowen visited an eighth-grade math class lead by Alex Briasco-Brin. He learned more about the school’s implementation of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, the state program that equips all seventh- and eighth-graders and most high school students with laptop computers.

Briasco-Brin said that in his 10 years at the middle school, he has never used a textbook to teach his students. He said he uses the laptop when it makes sense, and finds it more interactive than having students reading and repeat problems in a textbook.

Briasco-Brin will leave Freeport Middle School next year to work with Jeff Mao, the learning technology policy director of the state Department of Education. He will provide the lesson plans he created for students at Freeport Middle School as an open education resource.

He said will return to the school after the year “to champion the program” and continue to teach.

Principal Ray Grogan said Briasco-Brin is a dynamic teacher who creates his own lesson plans. He said the middle school is one of the model schools in the state when it comes to laptop computer use for education.

“The teachers have been successfully integrating laptops into the curriculum for years,” he said. “Students use it for literacy and technology, math and science.”

Bowen said he will take the information gathered from his visit to the school and assess the goals for the state. 

“There’s been a lot of discussion about the laptop initiative and what to do moving forward,” he said. “We will use this information to assess the needs of the state and determine what the next steps will be.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Eighth-grade math teacher Alex Briasco-Brin, left, teaches students while Maine Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen watches Tuesday at Freeport Middle School.

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