Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "TExas"

May 8

Project Share Texas: Nail in the Coffin

Project Share Texas, the much maligned and mocked set of collaborative and professional development tools AKA Epsilen has, via it’s parent company ConnectEDU, informed districts throughout the state that they have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In a stement from the Agency sent out to all districts on May 8, the state said:
"The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently confirmed news that ConnectEDU has filed for bankruptcy protection. ConnectEDU is the parent company of Epsilen. Epsilen provides the learning management system (LMS) used by Project Share and hosts the ESTAR/MSTAR and TxAIR systems.

TEA is working to ensure safekeeping of all Texas-owned data and will share additional information as it becomes available. As a precautionary measure, anyone who has content saved in the Epsilen LMS is encouraged to ensure the content is saved elsewhere.”

Sadly, many school districts have invested much time and money on Project Share content, from professional development to complete courses, as has the state agency.

There is no word yet, on the fate of the content, of the future of that portion of Project Share Texas, however, any hopes of encouraging more users to use the service may have been dealt a serious, if not fatal blow by this latest news.

Overhauling education curriculum the next battle for Texas Legislature

What is missing here? For decades, the state has underfunded, or mis-funded education. Multiple lawsuits have been filed over the years, and every single time, the courts have ruled that the state does not fund education properly. Now the politicos running for office are upset that the results are not what they wanted? Amazing. Look for lots of Charter school laws, lots of privatization laws and more.

Hudson ISD - Message From the Superintendent

The cracks in the dam are beginning to show up after decades of over testing:

From the Link


HISD has embraced a “New Vision” for the district.
This vision will focus on 5 key goals:
(1) digital learning,
(2) 21st century learning standards (academic and career),
(3) multiple forms of assessment,
(4) accountability that is not focused on one state test, and
(5) transforming our school into a 21st century learning organization.

We will no longer purchase banners or plaques that imply we are a state recognized or exemplary campus based on one state mandated test! Parents will not see STAAR worksheets or test preparation materials. Teachers will not be referencing the tests in their classrooms. Rigor, purpose, interest, talent, creativity, problem solving, innovation, real-world application, digital access, collaboration will transform classrooms into centers that promote students owning their learning rather than learning for a test!

What about “the test”? It has not disappeared, it is now on steroids! During the 82nd Legislative Session, the state assessment system, TAKS, was retired and STAAR was born for grades 3-8. STAAR is elevated to 15 End-of-Course (EOC) exams for high school students, with 15% of the test score impacting the student’s course grade. These new tests are not basic knowledge skills tests. They are designed to measure college readiness for all students. Ironically, colleges and universities never consider these tests as part of the admissions requirements. Colleges, as well as the business community, continue to report our students are not prepared to enter either pathway. Students are lacking work ethics, technical skills, problem solving, collaboration, inquiry skills, research, etc. Why is the state increasing the focus on this state test when the past reflects the tests were not preparing our students for the future?

Sadly, these tests have become punitive instruments to evaluate teachers, campuses, districts without consideration of available resources, children’s interests or talents, the impact of poverty on closing academic gaps and the real world demands critical to the nation’s economy. Campuses and districts have been designated as low performing based on the performance of one sub-group on one test (math, reading, science, writing, OR social studies) in one grade level. That same sub-group could have performed extremely well in another subject area in that same grade, having no impact on the campus/district rating. All other sub-groups in other grades could have achieved exemplary performance, yet the campus would retain the rating of that “weakest link”! Voucher legislation that will be proposed during the next legislative session will be greatly influenced by the misrepresentation of these tests and ratings on our schools.

Hudson ISD will continue to expect students to meet the state standards; however, the state assessment will no longer drive our curriculum or instruction. We have not lowered our student expectations; we have changed the focus, a quality education for the 21st century. We are asking the community to support this new direction. The quality of our schools should be based on the many varied accomplishments of our students and the exemplary programs provided by our exemplary staff, not a state accountability rating based on state assessments administered prior to the end of the school year. Our accountability should be determined by our local communities, not the state or federal government. Our vision has become the HISD mission - to “foster a community of life-long learners by providing an environment that builds self-worth, integrity, and respect for diversity while striving for academic and social excellence!”

Mary Ann Whiteker


Texas to allow Graphic Calculator Apps on State Test

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has advised superintendents he will allow districts to satisfy a requirement to use graphing calculators for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) grade 8 mathematics assessment with either a traditional handheld graphing calculator or a graphing calculator application available on an electronic tablet. The Commissioner’s decision marks the first time an electronic calculator application has been authorized for use by students in a Texas state assessment. Use of calculator apps on electronic tablets will be allowed on a pilot basis for the 2014-2015 administration of the 8th grade mathematics assessment only. For the pilot year, the Texas Education Agency will still prohibit the use of smart phones.

“After extensive feedback from superintendents across our state coupled with conversations with agency staff, I am allowing a broader array of technology to meet the 8th grade calculator requirement,” said Commissioner Williams. “While I recognize this revised policy will not address all concerns and may still require some districts to purchase additional technology, I am hopeful this policy will enable us to provide some flexibility.” Commissioner Williams originally wrote to Texas superintendents in February regarding the required use of graphing calculators for the STAAR grade 8 mathematics assessment. Beginning in the 2014–2015 school year, districts must ensure that each student has a graphing calculator to use when taking the STAAR grade 8 mathematics assessment. Calculators are now necessary for grade 8 mathematics because the State Board of Education significantly increased the algebra content in the grade 8 TEKS requiring the use of graphing calculators – not only in classroom instruction, but also on the state assessment.

In his letter to superintendents, the Commissioner continued to express concerns about ensuring test security and preventing cheating. For districts that choose to use technology other than a handheld graphing calculator, there will likely be additional test monitoring and security measures put in place to ensure that the integrity of the test is not compromised.

“Depending on the success of this pilot, especially as it relates to test security and any confirmed testing irregularities, I will make decisions about either continuing and possibly expanding the use of additional technologies or prohibiting their use moving forward,” said Commissioner Williams in his letter. “The future viability of technology like this during state assessments will largely depend on the success, vigilance, and integrity within your districts.”

Districts choosing to meet the calculator requirement for the grade 8 mathematics test using technology (other than a handheld graphing calculator) should note that all other major standardized tests – including the PSAT, SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP) exams and Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment – do not permit the use of calculator applications on tablets, smart phones, or other electronic devices. As a result, Commissioner Williams advised districts that they may want to keep in mind the policies their students will need to follow for these tests when deciding which technology to use for classroom instruction.

Some school districts may elect to have students use a graphing calculator application on a tablet or other mobile device during routine classroom instruction and homework, with an actual graphing calculator available for use during the assessment. In these instances, the calculator application should have the same functionality as the calculator to be used on the state assessment to ensure that students are familiar with the calculator. However, students are not required to use the exact same tool during routine class work or homework and the state assessment.


o view the Commissioner’s letter sent to school districts and charters, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/taa_letters.aspx.

When Private Firms Run Schools, Financial Secrecy Is Allowed

Buyer beware.

In Texas, commercial entities cannot run public schools. But when a school’s management — including accounting, marketing and hiring decisions — is contracted out to a private company, the distinction can become artificial. Such an arrangement raises questions about how to ensure financial accountability when the boundary between public and private is blurred, and the rules of public disclosure governing expenditures of taxpayer money do not apply.

Such agreements are not limited to charter schools. They can also be found in partnerships between traditional school districts and online course providers, particularly at schools where students receive all of their instruction online.

“The big issue is having some transparency,” said Bruce Baker, a Rutgers University professor who studies public school finance. “Then we can better evaluate the quality given the cost.”

Private companies operate in four of Texas’ six full-time virtual schools and enroll all but a fraction of the state’s more than 8,000 students who take online courses full time, which they can begin doing in the third grade.

Click on the title to go to the article.
Jan 8

Convert Your Overhead Projector Into an iPad Stand for less than $2!

Okay, there are tons of old overhead projectors out there.
For 2 bucks and a few minutes, you can convert them into nice little iPad stand.

Here is how:

Originally seen here

Texans for Education Reform Mobilizes for 2014. Battle of the Billionaires.

Follow the money..I bet a bunch of it leads right back to Jeb Bush.

An education advocacy group that became a lobbying powerhouse during the 2013 legislative session with the backing of Texas tort reform heavyweights is now turning its sights to the upcoming election cycle. Texans for Education Reform, whose legislative package included measures to encourage the growth of online education and charter schools, has formed a political action committee, according to filings with the state ethics commission. The new committee will allow the group, which spent at least $645,000 on a team of 16 lobbyists during its first legislative session, to put some of its resources toward political candidates.

Jan 5

Texas library offers glimpse of bookless future

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Texas has seen the future of the public library, and it looks a lot like an Apple Store: Rows of glossy iMacs beckon. iPads mounted on a tangerine-colored bar invite readers. And hundreds of other tablets stand ready for checkout to anyone with a borrowing card.

Even the librarians imitate Apple’s dress code, wearing matching shirts and that standard-bearer of geek-chic, the hoodie. But this $2.3 million library might be most notable for what it does not have — any actual books.

Click on title to go to link.

Jan 4

Mythbusters: My iPad Can’t Do That. Yes, it can.

“I think it’s common for us to look at digital devices and how they can best support what we’ve already been doing in class and with students, rather than thinking about how they could transform what we’re doing… into even better practices and activities.” Wes Fryer via Facebook, January 2014

Online discussions by Miguel Guhlin and others have come up with lists of “things” that students should be able to accomplish using technology in class. Miguel’s list looks like this:
  • 1. “code” or program.
  • 2. engage in desktop publishing.
  • 3. use GoogleApps for Education tools.
  • 4. engage in advanced image editing.
  • 5. do video recording, editing and remixing.
  • 6. complete Pearson compatible state assessments
  • 7. complete drill-n-practice and/or tutorial programs like the TexasSuccess program activities (e.g. iStation, Think Through Math), as well as others like Scholastic Math and Reading Intervention Programs, Adobe Flash-heavy projects*, etc.
  • 8. create a variety of rich multimedia products using multiple media-rich web sites and/or apps
  • 9. participate in video/audio-enhanced conferencing using web-based or app-based tools (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, etc.).
  • 10. Provides on-board or easy access to cloud storage to facilitate saving and sharing with others.

Miguel, along with some other ed tech bloggers are using these “lists” to create matrices in which to judge technology equipment before purchase. They then will rank before they purchase. It is a good starting method of trying to look before they leap. For instance, in Miguel’s list above, the iPad scored 7 out of 10. A Chromebook, 8 and amazingly enough, a Linux device of unknown origin or manufacture had 9 out of 10. Miguel’s list is rather “Texas-centric” of course, because he is a Ed Tech director in Texas. Other states or countries have differing needs. Of course, anyone can create a list that slants a prospective purchase one way or another. For instance, in the list above, one could have easily have added “mobile” to the list which would have wiped out any desktop computer from the running. Adding “Runs Linux” would wipe out a possible iPad purchase.

The fantasy of course, is to come up with something that people claim is “software agnostic” meaning that whatever they are looking at can run everywhere anytime. Steve Jobs tried to push this idea when he forced iPads to NOT run Flash with his now famous “Thoughts on Flash declaration, claiming it was a battery hog and that HTML5 could do just as much. (Of course, at the time, people went into spasms claiming that Flash was the only way to go. Now, three years later, Flash is dying , and HTML5 is doing pretty much everything that Flash could do.)

There are of course, issues with these lists. Every list I have seen so far has one or more of the following errors in them:

Districts in the same state or schools in the same city might have differing needs. For instance, a school that is an Arts magnet school might have differing needs than say a technical school, or a traditional school. Grade levels have differing needs.

They require a specific tool or tools that binds them to a specific technology. (How many RFP’s have gone out with the phrase “Must run Windows XP or later..?)

They are not aligned to actual curriculum.

They are not aligned to any kind of educational technology standard.

I think a better way of deciding what technology to purchase, or how to construct a matrix to decide, would be to start with the standards that the students are supposed to learn, followed by the district created (or purchased) lesson plans.

The Six Strands for the Texas Technology Application TEKS are:
  • 1. creativity and innovation;
  • 2. communication and collaboration;
  • 3. research and information fluency;
  • 4. critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making;
  • 5. digital citizenship;
  • 6. technology operations and concepts

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the ISTE NETS-T will think these are familiar. Indeed, a closer look at these strands for grades K-8 will reveal that students are asked to do such a wide variety of things as:

Word processing, creating spreadsheets, create original products, use proper graphic design, research topics, pick appropriate tools to do digital work, evaluate appropriate tools, create multimedia products, use a variety of digital tools to measure, explore and create, as well as of course use digital citizenship skills and basic computer skills, manipulate audio and video files, use models, simulations communicate results of data analysis, create collaborative work and more. Of course not all of these are at each grade level, but the idea here is that tech purchasing should not ignore the standards.

I created a video a while back on the standards:

So with the standards in mind, I think that any type of purchase should be looked at in much the same way Alton Brown looks at kitchen appliances: They should not be purchased with a single task in mind, but should be able to accomplish multiple tasks. (Take the Hutzler 571 banana slicer for instance. That tool can do one thing and one thing only.) The more versatile a piece of technology is, the better. The less you have to spend on OTHER pieces of technology.

When purchasing technology for students one should look to the tool that is the most versatile, not simply the one that is the “least expensive.” For instance, no one, I think, purchases digital cameras anymore that cannot also record video and even audio. The camera is both a camera and a camcorder. You are getting two devices for the price of one. Savvy tech buyers look for the greatest amount of utility. Can this piece of equipment do more than one thing?

One of the overlooked capabilities of the iPad (and perhaps other tablets) is the ability to replace other pieces of classroom equipment. The iPad EASILY can replace document cameras, camcorders, cameras, even interactive whiteboards and student responders. That ability cannot be understated. No matter the low cost of devices like Chromebooks and Netbooks, they simply cannot be used as camcorders, scanners, camcorders, document cameras and more. The value add of the tablet device must be taken into account when doing any kind of calculation. I wrote more about it here.

So with that information in mind, let’s rework the 10 criteria for technology purchase for students to match the standards and the idea of versatility.

Any student device should have the following capabilities:

1. Create graphically correct collaborative documents from single page to multiple page, up to book length 2. Access online collaborative spaces, such as Google Docs, iCloud, or Moodle. 3. Be able to be used as a presentation tool 4. Be able to be used as a data collection device using built in sensors.(The more built-in devices available the better.) 5. Imbedded audio, still and video recording capabilities 6. Have audio, still image and video editing capabilities. 7. Has basic computer commands such as “save file” built in. 8. The ability to be used as a web based research tool 9. Can be used as a video collaborative device using such applications as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Webinars 10. Can change it’s interfere to meet the needs of the user.

If we change the CRITERIA to meet the needs of students and not the needs of the IT department, then the scoring changes a bit.

Score: iPad: 10 PC/MAC: 7 Chromebook: 8

Some may ask why I left off the Texas Success initiative materials that Miguel mentioned. These are supposed to be used as RTI (Response to Intervention) and not meant for every student, except those that are struggling in specific areas. I will assume that the hundreds of thousands of laptops and desktops already in place can meet the needs of these students.

One might also ask why I left off “ability to program or code.” The answer is simple: Not every kid needs to code. It is like saying every kid needs to learn to play a musical instrument. That is a fad movement that is making lots of noise right now but will die as sure as the sun comes up in a year or so. (And yes, the iPad can do that…)

Perhaps we need to also redraw the triangle that Miguel created:

to more closely match how we should be looking at ed tech purchases where the standards and the ability of the device to adapt are more important than whether or not a device can use this or that website. (With the advance of HTML5, this is a non issue mostly, but not completely.)

I started this post with a quote from Wes Fryer that he left on Facebook: “I think it’s common for us to look at digital devices and how they can best support what we’ve already been doing in class and with students, rather than thinking about how they could transform what we’re doing… into even better practices and activities.”


f you believe what Wes is saying, you HAVE to ask yourself what device do you think actually transforms the learning environment. What device would lead to “better practices and activities?”

Well, which one? So what do you think? Agree or disagree? Add your thoughts in the comments section.

TCEA teams with MyOn Reading

The State of Texas is participating in an exciting opportunity that will allow your children to read engaging digital books on computers, tablets and other devices, wherever they are over the holiday break.

Readers will be able to choose from a collection that includes thousands of digital books in a variety of genres and formats. They will be able to read the books independently or activate audio and text highlighting to support their reading. An embedded dictionary provides help with pronunciation and definitions for words they may not know.

There is no limit to the number of times your child can read a book or to the number of children who can read the same book at the same time. All books are available whenever your child chooses to access them: during the day or evening, weekdays and weekends, and holidays.

We are delighted to make these books from myON, a business unit of Capstone—the nation’s leading publisher of school library books—available to our students.

Please encourage your child to read independently or with you and other family members during the winter break.

It takes only a few simple steps to access myON books:
• Go online to: www.myon.com
• Click the Log In Now button and enter the following information:
o School Name: TCEA
(Begin entering the first few letters and then select from the drop-down menu)
o User name: read
o Password: read
• Click on submit, select a book and start reading!

Equity, Testing Madness, and the Ongoing School Wars

Click on title to go to article.

From the article

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Texas chose a different path for its most vulnerable children. In his book, Kuhn exposes how the testing movement has, over time, defunded money from the least-resourced schools and poorest students with the greatest needs and redirected those dollars to a testing-industrial complex that has made management and lobbyists for companies like Pearson incredibly wealthy. The culmination of this movement led to a Texas legislative session in 2011 that cut school funding by $5.4 billion while simultaneously increasing the funding for and number of mandatory test that Texas students were required to take and pass in order to graduate from high school to an astounding 15 separate tests per child.

If I were Selling a K-8 Technology Apps Textbook in Texas

If I were selling a K-8 technology text in the state of Texas, I think I would do one thing that none of the other publishers do:

I would align my technology lessons to the other guys Math, Science, ELA, and Social Studies textbooks.

Here is why:

Say for instance I have a technology lesson where I am asking students to create a chart and a graph using a spreadsheet. Now usually, if I am JUST teaching technology applications, that type of lesson would be taught in isolation. A random technological event. A drive-by technology lesson if you will. It would not be related to anything actually going on in the classroom other that it was another lesson in the classroom.

However, if my technology applications textbook were aligned to say the Math textbook of another publisher, then as a teacher, I would be able to take that isolated spreadsheet lesson and plop it right into the time when I am teaching graphs and charts in my classes. Same with science. When the Pearson book or the McGraw Hill book calls for us to be collecting data and creating graphs, then I would know exactly when it is done not only in my science lesson but also in my technology lesson as well. I wouldn’t have to do a lot of searching and waiting. It would be done for me already.

So for the students, the technology lesson would not be a discrepant event. It would just be a natural part of the science or math lesson cycle. For the teacher, the technology would make more sense as a tool.

It would not be THAT hard to do:

I would find the top ten adopted core curricular textbooks for grades K-8 and then align my lessons to those in the books.

I would put the page number, the standard and the lesson title of each book right next to mine.

Of course, my idea is not totally original. The folks at NROC, the creators of Hippocampus.org have taken all of their online courses and aligned them to the top textbooks in the US for years.

Check it out:

As you can see, the book, the page numbers and the lesson are all aligned.

Pretty sweet. Makes me wonder why the other Tech Apps publishers haven’t thought of it.

All the Videos from the YISD Textbook Fair in one Place

This past Saturday I filmed a few of the vendors at the YISD textbook adoption fair.

Here are all of the videos:

FOSS Science

CPO Science

Sapling Learning


Pearson Learning

Lab Aids


An Open Letter to the Texas Education Agency Education Technology Staff

To: John Lopez
Managing Director of Instructional Materials and Educational Technology

Dear John,

Recently, I have had the opportunity to review some new textbooks that are up for adoption across the state. While my main interest is in the Technology Application K-8 adoption, I thought it might be interesting to look at the Math and Science offerings that are also up for consideration. My interest is in how the publishers are addressing the integration of technology into their books.

Here is what I have noticed:

The publishers of the core curricular areas, for the most part, are oblivious to the Technology Application TEKS at any grade level. I asked every publisher representative at a recent textbook adoption fair (see the videos elsewhere in this blog) how they get students to use the 21st century skills that we in the classrooms across Texas are supposedly trying to get our students to learn. Without exception they were ignorant of not only the 21st Century skills (perhaps because none of them are part of the 21st Century Partnership ) , but also the NETS-S as well as, and more importantly, the mandated Technology Application TEKS, K-8, which, if I understand correctly, are our state’s methodology for producing “technology literate” students.

“Technology integrated/infused lessons” to most of the publishers I spoke with involved allowing students to go online and play simulations, to view online videos or to provide teachers with interactive whiteboard lessons. While those have their place, they are, for the most part, low on the SAMR model of technology integration. Students are not asked to communicate, collaborate, connect, or do many of those TA TEKS skills that are required by the state.

This is disturbing on many levels.

First, since the Technology Application TEKS are still separate from the core curricular TEKS, the publishers (and by extension the districts and teachers) view them as, not something to be embedded into a course, but something to be outside of a course. Education technology is not being used as a tool for 21st Century learning, but as a course add on, something more to do, and more importantly, to be avoided because it is not a mandatory part of the core curriculum.

Secondly, if the textbook publishers are allowed to ignore true technology integration, then this will no doubt filter down to wherever those books are adopted. District curricula already have time management issues due to testing and other constraints.

Thirdly, to a publisher, I was told that they “concentrated” only on the core TEKS when making their product. If that is truly the case, and book publishers get their direction from the state offices, who is dropping the ball when it comes to tech integration in the core curricular areas? Who is telling the publishers that true technology integration is not essential enough to be part of a proclamation?

Finally, since the publishers are defining what technology integration is to them and ignoring the TA TEKS, they are essentially driving the car when it comes to how technology is used in the classroom. If they say interactive whiteboard lessons are “technology integration,” who is to argue, since they get their direction from the state? Districts wont. Publishers can say “We are meeting the criteria of the proclamation” and with that statement include classroom technology by implication.

Might I suggest the following:

It is time to move away from the Technology Application TEKS K-8 as separate standards. There should be Tech Apps for Math, Science, English Language Arts and Social Studies. That way, we will assure that these are addressed by publishers and districts at all grade levels. We have seen, and still see, what happens when the TA TEKS are separated from the core. Quite frankly, they are ignored. The time has come to intertwine the different TEKS. If they are important to you then they should be important to everyone.

Part of any State proclamation should include the TA TEKS as part of the proclamation in all core subject areas. This should be a non-negotiable for every single publisher doing business in the state. If the TA TEKS are important enough to create as part of a student’s overall Texas education experience, then they should be important enough to embed into the core curriculum.

If the TA TEKS are truly part of the core area TEKS, not something that districts, publishers or teachers can opt out of because of convenience, then we will go a long way towards actually making our students true 21st Century Learners, something your department has been advocating for as long as I have known you.


Tim Holt

Lab Aids discusses the technology component of their science adoption.