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Home | Tag Archives: edu

Tag Archives: edu

Op-Ed: Teaching With Technology Should Not Be An Option: It’s The Law.

In Texas, the law requires schools to integrate technology into lesson in every curricular area in grades K-8. Period. The law is the law.

And after 8th grade, it is assumed that all grades in all content areas 9-12 will just continue the work of their K-8 colleagues and integrate technology into almost all lessons as the students should be “technologically literate” by the end of 8th grade.

Required by law you say? How can that be true? Well, since 1996 Texas has written education technology into the state standards of education. These standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are written for every single course taught in the state, from Algebra to Physics, to Yearbook.

Just as schools are required by law to teach students to read, multiply and divide, to understand the genres of literature, and the branches of government, they are also required to teach students how to properly use computers to complete assignments, keyboarding skills, communicate with others and other skills.

The TEKS for technology are called the “Technology Application TEKS” and have been, almost since their inception in 1996, largely ignored to the point where most teachers in grades K-8 could not name a single one of the six strands that make up the TEKS:

  • Be creative and innovative,
  • Communicate and collaborate
  • Research information
  • Think critically, problem solve and make decisions
  • Be good digital citizens
  • Know the proper technology tools, concepts and applications to use

Common throughout all of these “strands’ are students creating digital products using digital tools. Students should not be using computers as glorified typewriters. Indeed, according to the law, the TEKS, our students should be creating products and learning how to problem solve, communicate with each other and post work online as early as Kindergarten.

Kindergarten.

Let that sink in for a minute. Are your children doing that at school? By 8th grade, they should be creating products with a variety tools, working collaboratively with each other both in and outside of their school, working with mentors online, as well as be experts in word processing, spreadsheets, databases and presentation software, saving work online, and solving complex problems using online data,.

The K-8 Technology TEKS are unique set of state standards in that there is no single course attributed to them. Unlike say, English Language Arts, or Mathematics which have their own specific set of standards, the Technology TEKS are outside of any single curricular area, yet are supposed to be taught in all of them.

There are references, obliquely, in almost every single set of standards for almost every single other course, but they are not “required,” giving teachers and administrators an out by saying something like “The student may;” That means the student may NOT as well. Thus, they get swept under the proverbial academic rug, when it comes to curriculum.

No content area says the K-8 Technology TEKS belong “to them” thus many teachers and schools assume some other course or grade level will teach them, giving them the wrong impression that they can ignoring technology completely.  “That which isn’t tested isn’t taught” the old saying goes, and since Technology is a tool not a curriculum per se, it is ignored.

The mantra of “They will learn that in Middle School” has been used by some to completely ignore technology in almost all elementary grade levels at some schools. Sadly, many of our students do not “learn that in middle school.”

Because of this game of “TEKS hot potato,” the Technology TEKS are simply ignored in many cases. Even in districts that have some sort of digital initiative where students receive laptops or tablets, there are no real incentives for teachers to include them in lessons unless they are somehow self-motivated to do so.

Almost all school districts in the state of Texas pay for and use the Texas Resource System or TRS (https://www.teksresourcesystem.net), to provide suggestions and structure for teachers in all of the “core” academic courses.

TRS is used in over 80% of Texas school districts (including all of the local districts save Ft. Hancock) to provide a year long structure for courses, yet one would be extremely hard pressed to find a single instance where the TRS incorporates the Technology TEKS into their “instructional focus documents.”

Even the “standards authority” of the TEKS Resource System, which is a commercial product that districts rely on to provide guidance with what your child is taught, essentially seems to give a pass on the Technology TEKS and leaves it up to the individual teacher whether or not technology is taught and used in the classroom.

Consider this: ONE of the many skills that an 8th graders should be leaving middle school with according to the state law: “Students should be able to…create and manage personal learning networks to collaborate and publish with peers, experts, or others using digital tools such as blogs, wikis, audio/video communication, or other emerging technologies…”

That is just a single example.

If you had a child in 8th grade in any public school in Texas since 1996, they should have had that skill (among many others) before they left for high school. Did they? Have they? Will they?

If teaching what the law requires wasn’t enough of an incentive, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), the statewide method districts evaluate teachers, specifically mentions integrating technology in classroom lessons. A teacher simply cannot move up the “T-TESS Rubric” without properly using technology in the classroom.

The T-TESS is neither grade nor course specific, thus the state expects all teachers in all courses in all classes to integrate technology into lessons. (Integration means what the students are using digital devices for, not what the teacher is using.)

Of course it is up to each district to provide the tools to students and train teachers, but frankly, it is 100% up to the teacher whether or not technology is integrated into lessons. Even in 2019, twenty years into the 21st century, there are teachers who refuse to use available technology or incorporate it into lessons.

That is unacceptable, illegal, and educational malpractice no matter the reason.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: What’s Your Mindset?

In 1998, a group of professors at Beloit College in Wisconsin created a list of experiences that the incoming freshmen class had always had in their lives that their professors may or may not have known about.

The idea, first thought up by Dr. Ron Nief, was to provide a way for professors to understand the “mindset” of their students. Thus, the first Beloit College Mindset List for incoming freshmen was created.

Since that time, the Beloit Mindset list has been used across the country and world to foster discussions in education about where our students are “at” mentally, and to remind teachers that their experiences are not necessarily those of their students.

The list usually has between 50 and 100 items that are used to give the insights as to where the freshmen are and to remind the older teachers that their life experiences are not the same as the ones they teach.

A teacher making a cultural reference to “Smokey and the Bandit” or how to dial a phone would get blank stares from this incoming class.

The Beloit Mindset List is for students, born in the year 2000, entering this year in college as freshmen, to graduate in 2022 highlights:

  • Iconic figures never alive in their lifetime include Victor Borge, Charles Schulz, and the original Obi-Wan Kenobi Alec Guinness.
  • Outer space has never been without human habitation.
  • They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia.
  • They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school, too.
  • People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
  • Afghanistan has always been the frustrating quagmire that keeps on giving.
  • Investigative specials examining the O.J. Simpson case have been on TV annually since their birth.
  • They’ve grown up with stories about where their grandparents were on 11/22/63 and where their parents were on 9/11.
  • They never used a spit bowl in a dentist’s office.
  • They have never seen a cross-town World Series.
  • “You’ve got mail” would sound as ancient to them as “number, please” would have sounded to their parents.
  • Mifepristone or RU-486, commonly called the “abortion pill,” has always been available in the U.S.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.
  • The words veritas and horizon have always been joined together to form Verizon.
  • Robert Downey Jr. has always been the sober Iron Man.
  • Mass market books have always been available exclusively as Ebooks.
  • There have always been more than a billion people in India.
  • Donny and Marie who?
  • They never tasted Pepsi Twist in the U.S.
  • Films have always been distributed on the Internet.
  • King Friday the 13th and Lady Elaine Fairchild have always dwelled in the Neighborhood, but only in re-runs.

Feeling old yet? Check out the entire Class of 2022 list online.

This year’s Mindset list will be the last one produced by Beloit College, but you can probably find it next year at themindsetlist.com.

This list is great for grandparents talking to grandkids, teachers talking to students, employers talking to employees.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Things Parents Can do to Help Kids with Ed Tech

In many school districts in the area, students are returning to classrooms that not only have traditional textbooks, but also some kind of digital device.

Some districts are giving students low end Chromebooks, while others are deploying higher quality laptops like MacBooks, while others are handing out iPads.

Whatever the device, there are a few things you can do as a parent to help your child use the device wisely. Here are some simple things you can do as a parent to help your child and their teachers with whatever device they have been assigned:

Remember That The Device Is For Academics, Not Entertainment:

These devices are academic devices, provided to your child to help with their classwork. The device is NOT provided to give your child another way to play video games or watch meaningless Youtube videos. You need to make sure that your child understands the difference.

Keep The Device Out Where Everyone Can See It:

Your child should be doing homework out in a common area, such as a dining room table. That way, you can keep tabs on what your child is doing on the device. See a lot of videos being played? Go over and ask to see what is being shown.

 

Know The Warning Signs:

If your child closes the lid to their laptop whenever you walk by, or always answers “Nothing” when you ask what they are doing on the laptop, then chances are there is something they don’t want you to see. Are they sitting in the corner or in their room away from your prying eyes? Not with these devices. If your child doesn’t want you to see what they are doing, that is a big red flag that something is wrong. Remember, the devices are academic ones. There should not be a single thing on these laptops that your child should not be willing to show you.

Learn The Tools The School Provides:

Many districts provide students with a large array of tools, both on the device and online. For instance EPISD provides students with the full set of Office 365 tools: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, etc. Many districts provide students with Learning Management Systems, such as Schoology as well. Learn what the district is providing, then you will be able to tell if your child is using the tools. Have your child show you the tools that the teachers are asking them to use. Ask your child’s teachers what they want their students to do with the devices.

Never Go To Bed With A Device, Charge It:

No student should go to bed with a device. At the end of the day, the routine should be that the laptop is left in a common area (like the kitchen) where it can be recharged overnight for the next day. The device should be ready to go each and every day.

Spot Check What is on the Device:

Periodically, have your child open up the laptop and show you what they are doing. Have them show you their browser history, which shows you where they are going on the internet. No browser history? That is a red flag that your child may be hiding something from you. Have them show you their online storage files. Check their emails. You are not invading their privacy. You are making sure that they are using the tools properly.

Do a Monthly Inventory:

When your child was issued their device, chances are that it also came with some additions as well: A charger, a carrying case, etc. Check every month to see if these are still accounted for. If something is missing, especially if it is the device itself tell your campus administration immediately. Most devices have some kind of tracking software that can be turned on of the device is ever lost or stolen. The sooner the administration knows the device is gone, the better the chance of recovering it.

Learn Something Everyday:

Have your child show you one thing each day that they can do on their device. If you get into a routine of learning from them on a regular basis, seeing the device daily, they will be less reluctant to show you what is not it when you randomly ask.

Be a Good Role Model:

You need to be a good model of responsible technology use. If you ask your child to recharge devices overnight, why not do the same with your devices? If you ask your student to turn their devices off at certain times, you need to do so as well. “No devices at dinner” is a good rule to keep so that everyone can occasionally speak to each other!

Limit Screen Time:

Set limits on the amount of time that your child can be on their devices. If you say 9:00 PM is the cutoff time to stop using devices at home, then stick to that. Don’t hem and haw and change the rules. Remember, you are the boss at home.

Read Those Handouts:

How many times have you received something from school that you just glanced at and forgot about? Chances are, when your child received their device, there was information for parents handed out as well. Did you get it? Did you read it? Can you remember what said?

Although some of these rules may seem a bit Draconian, the proper use of school digital devices is very important for our children’s future learning. You are the school’s eyes and ears when students are away from school.

Only you know if your child is using these laptops properly at home. The school cannot be with your child after hours or on weekends. You have to help the schools with your child’s success. If you don’t help then you are skirting your duties as a good parent.

A friend of mine once explained it this way: The job of parents is not to be best friends with their children. It is to make sure that they successfully make it into adulthood. Sometimes that requires a set of rules and to stick by those rules. You are as much a part of your child’s digital learning as the school. Set rules, set expectations, work with teachers. Student digital academic success takes more than a teacher and school.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Dual Credit Programs – It Could be Better

Last week, our local community college sent out a press release that their Dual Credit and Early College Program was up for a national award. Congratulations. Kudos. Bravo.

For those that are not up on the latest edu-lingo, Dual Credit programs allow high school students to take freshman and sophomore college classes at an associated college or university. The course is taught by a certified high school teacher who has had their course approved by the college they are attending (like EPCC). A college professor acts as a facilitator for the course, and approves the work of the students.

Theoretically, a student could take these courses and graduate high school not only with a high school diploma, but also with an Associates Degree because, as the name implies, the student gets high school AND college credit simultaneously. These programs have been in place for several years now, and each district in the area has some form of it in place for their students.

That’s a big deal.

School districts are essentially paying for your child to attend college. Parents or students could save a ton of money towards a four year college degree. Imagine 2 out of your 4 years of college already taken care of by the time you graduate high school. That is the promise of Dual Credit: Save money, earn college credits.

These programs have proven successful for a number of years, and have benefitted many local community colleges across the nation by increasing enrollment. (All those high schoolers are also community college attendees after all…) Research shows that getting students into higher ed in high school improves their chances of actually finishing a four year degree.

Again, that is a big deal especially for many in El Paso which has a high poverty rate.

After reading the press release from EPCC, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were ways that this type of program could be improved. I think there are.

Saving Money?

Tonie Badillo, Dean of EPCC’s Dual Credit and Early College High School Programs said “These students have the opportunity to save time and money by getting a head start on their college career.” Notice who is saving money: Just the students. The public schools that are sending their students actually are not saving any money, and in most cases, have split their ADA funds with the college.

Teachers have to be certified to teach dual credit, which costs additional money, and the public schools also have to supply college level textbooks to students taking these courses. College textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars for a single copy. The national average cost of a college textbook is $153 per book.

Clearly, the Community College is not losing any money in these transactions. They could, if they so choose, help out the local public schools by requiring all of the professors that teach any of these courses to use Open Education Resource (OER) textbooks. Typically, an average college textbook costs between $125-$250. Multiply that by the number of students enrolling each year in Dual Credit, and the burden placed on the providing public school district becomes prohibitive.

OER textbooks are created in the public sphere, and are free to use and download. And before anyone says “Free must mean bad” consider the Open STAX textbooks from Rice University . These are written by college professors specifically for college classes and have close to 40 college level courses available. For free, for anyone, forever.

The University of Minnesota also has an entire online library of OER college level textbooks, reviewed by college professors for rigor viability in the subject area. Even the State University of New York has an online library of OER textbooks. Surely, if OER is good enough for Rice University, the University of Minnesota, SUNY and hundreds of other institutions of higher education, it might just be good enough for El Paso Community College. The money saved by the public schools could be reinvested in teacher training or student technology.

There is no reasonable argument for paying $200 for a textbook when a OER equivalent is available for free. (This scenario also applies to Advanced Placement courses as well, where students are expected to take college level courses in High School. There is no reason to use expensive college texts when an OER text would be just fine.)

From Free Textbooks to Textbook Free

Another way to pass a savings down to public schools is to simply eliminate the need for a textbook altogether. The University of Texas Austin has an online program called UT OnRamps, which differs a bit from the Dual Credit programs offered in our area.

The OnRamps program is a Dual ENROLLMENT program, where the students are enrolled and taking a high school class AND taking an online college class offered by UT Austin. (Texas Tech has a similar OnRamps program.) The high school teacher acts as a facilitator for the university professor, working closely with the students who take the course 100% online, but have their high school teacher as a guide. Under this model, students receive a grade and credit from UT Austin and another grade from their public school, thus the term “Dual Enrollment.”

Often the grades are different, as the rigor of the college course is more than the that of the high school one. (EPISD offers OnRamps at several of its campuses.) What makes the OnRamps program interesting is that there is no textbook required. All of the material is online in the program’s learning management system. No text, no extra cost. Districts pay only for the cost of enrolling the student.

Like so many programs in education, the Dual Credit program is a boon to students, especially those coming from families in the lower income brackets. But also like many programs, it could be better. Using Open Education Resource textbooks in all dual credit classes would save money for local school districts that could be invested elsewhere.

There is no logical reason, when possible, that this is not happening.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

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