Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Legislative Panel at #TCEA2011

Panel Members:
Rep. Scott Hochberg - Houston
Rep. Mark Strama - Austin
Thomas Ratliff - SBOE - Mt. Pleasant
Scott Floyd - Technologist - White Oak
Melanie Pritchett - Compass Learning - Austin
Frances McArthur - Superintendent - Lexington

Question: Vision for online textbooks (and technology), and what are the challenges/barriers to accomplishing that vision?
(I kind of spaced out at the beginning so I missed the exact opening question and part of Hochberg's response...)

Hochberg- Digital content readily available. Get content at 20% cost via open source providers. A state repository that can be loaded on an iphone and then content can be more accessible from there. Funding will be a challenge as well as equitable access at home for all students.

Pritchett - A vision where choice is critical. Communities need to feel that their schools are the center of the community and that they can make the choice that fits their community. Challenges are how to provide equal access to all children.

Strama - We are teaching the subject, not the children. The only way to customize education to meet every student's needs is through technology. Challenges are along an adoption path. Phrase in the 90s was 'Killer App' - Email. What is going to be the killer app for schools? Probably the conversion of textbooks. This is not the vision he has described, but it might be the killer app that helps you to move along that path. Fund 1:1 programs through the savings of online textbooks, and that solves the equitable access issue. Other challenges, bandwidth, the right hardware, content, and the killer app. Diagnostically deliver the right content to the right kid at the right time, that is the vision. Final barrier is teachers. We can't make it happen from legislative policy. It has to come from the ground up through teachers. Government can support it and help to facilitate it, but can't make it happen. Project Share is the right direction in order to allow teachers to share content so they aren't continually reinventing the wheel.

Floyd - How you deliver the content doesn't change the instruction side of it. If we keep assessing the way we are assessing, then we will keep instructing the way we are instructing. Why do we keep paying the same amount of money every couple of years to repackage and receive the same content? Challenges are in the current system. Be more open with our instructional styles and move towards authentic assessment. Find the content to support those instructional models.

Ratliff - Need the SBOE to evolve because they are living in an 8-track world. Kids have to power down when they come to school. In multiple or ubiquitous formats so that there is equitable access. Universal delivery. SBOE has forgotten that ISD stands for Independent School District. SBOE needs to pull back and give ISDs the resources they need and then get the heck out of the way. If the state can give the content, parents will find the way to get the device to support it. The big elephant in the room is the financing.

McArthur - We are losing teachers and students that are having to power down before class because they aren't engaged and they aren't interested. The range of learners in our classrooms is incredibly diverse. How do we get teachers and students excited about learning again? Diagnose student need, and then effectively place, monitor and adjust instruction based on a daily review of progress. Social media will be a game changer. Challenges are bandwidth, and hardware issues as well as getting access to all students. Textbook adoption processes are also a barrier as they were built with a paper based textbook in mind. We also have issues with teacher training and what technology integration really means and looks like.

Hochberg and then Strama - Asking for feedback on the type of hardware that we should be be using? The legislature is in a fog and not sure where should be going with hardware.
Ratliff - my kids at home only have access to a hard set list of sites, can we do that at schools?
Strama - That can lead to cutting off the magic of the internet by filtering to much.
Floyd - Challenge every teacher in Texas to try to find something they need that is not available in iTunesU or YouTube.
Ratliff - biggest barrier: how do we get a laptop in their hands tomorrow. The device doesn't matter, if we can get you the content the parents or the district can find the way to get the device, and it doesn't have to be the same device. Internet access at home is not a show stopper in terms of the textbook discussion.
Hochberg - We have to be careful. Things that are supposed to be temporary in the legislature tend to hang around. Spending another billion dollars on textbooks will not get us any closer to where we want to be.

All in all I was surprised (in a good way) by most of the thoughts shared by the panel. I was concerned however, that there was a lack of understanding (by the elected officials) with respect to CIPA and E-rate. These are pretty major components of Edtech. This definitely reinforces the idea that we need to continue to find ways to reach out to our representatives and help to educate them on the issues that we are dealing with. The reps on this panel definitely seemed to want more information.