Sunday, July 31, 2011

Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in your district? #edtech

Has anyone successfully created special interest groups (SIGs) for the teachers in their district? This is a project I want to try this year, but I am wondering if anyone else has tried it already. And if so, how did it turn out?

I would like to create different SIGs for specific technology topics. Like say an iPad SIG, or a collaboration SIG. The SIG could meet monthly, or every couple of months. Not so often that people get burned out, but enough that people can get regular information on the topics.

I want to run the meetings in an 'un-conference' style. Where we can run short concurrent breakout sessions which are driven by the requests of the crowd. I think we could start out with our technology specialists running the breakout sessions, but my hope would be to eventually have the teachers (and possibly students and community members) take over the presenting.

Is anyone already doing something like this? How would you feel about participating in district PD run this way?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Allotment gone for Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN)

New legislation from the 82nd Texas Legislature, First Called Session, 2011 introduced changes to funding for students taking online courses through the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN). A student enrolled in a course offered through the TxVSN enables the district to earn funding under Texas Education Code Chapter 42 in the same manner as a student who is enrolled in a traditional classroom setting. Separate TxVSN allotment funding is no longer available to Receiver or Provider Districts.

TxVSN will continue to offer quality online high school and dual credit courses for Texas students; however districts and open enrollment charter schools will be responsible for the course cost beginning with fall 2011. Schools may use a variety of sources of funds, such as Foundation School Program (FSP) funds, the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA), applicable state and federal program and grant funds, or local funds.

For additional information, visit

SBOE Approves Standards for Technology Applications

Because of the changing nature of computer technology and the digital environment, the State Board of Education gave final approval to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications for kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as to 19 high school courses.

The revised curriculum standards will be implemented in 2012-2013. These replace standards in use in Texas classrooms since 1998.

Some of the courses for which curriculum standards were approved are Robotics Programming and Design, Game Programming and Design, Mobile Application Development, and Digital Design and Media Production. AP Computer Science A, IB Computer Science-Standard Level, and IB Computer Science-Higher Level were all included in the new Subchapter D, which was approved by the SBOE in April 2011.

At the board’s July meeting, standards for six high school courses were approved. Those courses are Fundamentals of Computer Science; Computer Science I, II, and III; Discrete Mathematics; and Web Game Development.

All the Technology Applications courses are organized around six strands: creativity and innovation; communications and collaboration; research and information fluency; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts.

More information about the curriculum standards update is available at

Monday, July 25, 2011

Merit Pay: What should it be based on? #education

Merit pay is a constant thought that is always bouncing around in my head. Sometimes I think it could be the key to education reform, and sometimes I think it could very well destroy the education system. With all the news coming out of Atlanta with their cheating scandal, it seems to look like the bad guy right now. However, I have always believed that merit pay, when tied to test scores would ultimately lead to cheating. Why then are we still talking about tieing pay directly to test scores? Because the question remains: What else do we tie it to? I have thought about this for years, and I have never come up with a good answer.

However, today I had an idea. I haven't decided if it is a good idea, but it is an idea none the less. I am wondering if it would be possible to tie merit pay to student projects. We want our students to create. We want them to learn 21st Century skills and become responsible digital citizens. We also know that by participating in exciting projects our students will be more engaged. And we know that anytime there is a story involved (which a project can become) it is easier for our brains to recall information. All this leads to the fact that quality projects are good for students.

So what if we create a way to measure the quality (not quantity - we don't want to just give out rewards for volume) of student projects that are produced throughout the year. Is that even possible? Does anyone do that now? Educators could create a portfolio of the work that their students produce, and submit that for review at the end of each year. We could build a review process that encourages improvement through the creation of student projects, and rewards those that are succeeding in that area.

In theory this style of learning should lead to improvement in student performance. But would it? What are your thoughts?

60 Seconds on the Internet #edtech #infographic

This is a great infographic that I came across in Google+ and wanted to share:

60 Seconds - Things That Happen On Internet Every Sixty Seconds
Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

You can view the web page here:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shared Evernote notebook

I finally took the time to figure out how to share an Evernote notebook this morning. Here is the link to my EdTech Articles notebook. It seems pretty neat. It looks like you can even subscribe to the notebook via RSS. Then as I add new articles they will show up in your reader.

When you go to the link you can also sort by tags. So if you want to look at all of the BYOT articles that I have collected you can just pick that tag and there you go.

Pretty neat stuff!

Here is the Evernote blog post that I used to help me get this setup.

New look and feel for Google products #googleapps

Hello Apps EDU Administrators,

Google is rolling out a new look and feel ( across Google’s products, and these interface changes will also be released to Google Apps services, such as Gmail, Calendar, and Docs, over the next months. Following is information about the new rollout and steps to take for your account.

How will this affect my Google Apps users?

We’ll release interface update an ongoing basis initially to consumers, with some services offering an opt-in/opt-out option for Google Apps users, before the changes become permanent for all users. For example, you can start to preview the new Gmail look this week.

The rollout will follow the Google Apps Release Track process ( Administrators can choose the Rapid Release track to move to the new look at the roughly same time as consumers. Or they can choose the Scheduled Release track to receive changes later and take more time to prepare for the transition.

What do I need to do now?

See what’s new: The first updates to Gmail ( and Calendar ( were released this week. We encourage you preview the new look over the next few weeks to gain familiarity with upcoming changes. See the What’s New ( site for instructions.
Review your current release track settings. Administrators who choose the Scheduled Release track will have more time after the Rapid Release date before changes become available to their users. Depending on your needs you may want to update the release track setting your Google Apps Control panel. (

How can I keep up to date?

On the Google Apps What’s New site (, you’ll find information about the release process, and instructions on how to try the new designs for Gmail and Calendar. We’ll keep this site up to date with information on the new look, how to give feedback, and resources for you and your users.

The Google Apps Team

You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Apps account.

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