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Home | Tag Archives: education technology

Tag Archives: education technology

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.


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 (, 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.

Tim Holt’s 10 Questions: Rewiring Education

John Couch is a former (and FIRST) Apple VP of Education and has written, along with Jason Towne, an excellent primer for anyone that wants to understand how tech can be used properly to transform learning in our schools.

As my readers know, I only ask authors that I like to answer questions, and I liked John’s book quite a bit, so here are his 10 Questions.

I recommend this book for any educator that still hesitates about the use of ed tech in the classroom, any administrator that thinks tech doesn’t change test scores, and any parent that thinks spending tax dollars on tech is a waste of money.

Q1: Can you give us a 5000 foot view of your book? What inspired you to write it?

Rewiring Education looks at a series of my life experiences, from memorizing my way through high school, to my college days, and my early years working at Apple with Steve Jobs. It’s through those experiences and seeing just how unique and how differently my four children and sixteen grandchildren learned, that I realized how much school needed to change. What I learned along the way was that education is never going to truly change from top down, it needed to happen from the ground up, with parents, educators, and communities demanding change. This is why we wrote the book, to start a conversation and help initiate a call to action for all of these stakeholders to be the change they want to see.

Q2: You use the simile that technology enhances our intellects much like a bicycle enhances our muscles. Can you elaborate a little on that? Should you preface that with “the proper use of technology can enhance…?”

Yes, the proper use of technology can enhance our intellect just like the proper use of a bicycle can enhance our muscles. Technology has the power to transform and redesign education in ways that will benefit all stakeholders, including students, teachers, and entire communities. As I point out in the book, Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model, which is based on his extensive research on the Maine Learning Initiative, says educational technology can be used in four primary ways: as substitution, augmentation, modification, or redefinition. Unfortunately, the primary way it’s currently being used in classrooms right now is as a substitution. What we must do, though things like adaptive learning and challenge-based learning, is to begin moving more towards redefinition.

Q3: I have found that resistance to using tech in schools comes mainly from adults. How do we win over educators that don’t like to use tech in their classrooms?

I have classified people as digital natives, digital immigrants, or digital aliens. All students today are digital natives having grown up with technology, but they’re being taught mainly by digital immigrants or even worse, digital aliens. I think it’s important that we introduce the most relevant technologies to all educators so that they are able to use them in meaningful ways themselves. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People can only perceive what they see,” so unless educators have direct experience with technology and what they’re students can actually do with it, we can’t expect them to get behind it. It’s also important that educators get the training they need to use these technologies in effective and efficient ways.

Q4: Computers have been in classrooms since at least the mid 1990’s yet we haven’t seen the needle move too much on student achievement. What have we been doing wrong?

Again, it comes down to how the technology is being used. When technology is used as nothing more than a substitution for things that can just as easily be done without it, it makes that technology almost useless. For example, if we have students reading from a website rather than a book, that’s using technology, but it’s really not doing anything different. The same goes for watching a lecture on video rather than watching it live or having students take tests online instead of using a pencil and paper. Technology in educatio n must go beyond substitution and start augmenting, modifying, and redefining the learning process.

Q5: You are obviously no fan of the “sit-n-get” type of instruction. When you were with Apple, what did your trainings look like?

It is primarily case studies from various industries that were relevant to the challenges of Apple’s future success. We looked at real-world examples and were then challenged to use critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration to apply what we learned to the things we wanted to do. Rather than memorizing easily found information and being tested on it, it’s imperative that schools learn to adopt this type of real-world learning.

Q6: You state “Rewiring education is all about a series of challenging and relevant experiments that play off pre-existing experiences where an engaging and sometimes unpredictable, learning process ultimately leads to a clear understanding of the results.” Sounds great, but who pays for that complete paradigm shift in how we teach?

First of all, it’s students that are currently paying for it by not being adequately prepared for real-world success, whether that’s in college or in the workforce. Society is also beginning to pay for not making these changes. We must get out of the business of thinking short-term and prepare for longer-term success, and kids can no longer wait for us to get it right.

Q7: How do you see the role of the teacher changing in the future?

The rapid rise in technology is making access to information easier and faster than ever, which means that teachers will no longer be needed to simply regurgitate static information. Teachers will need to play more of a facilitator role than ever before, being a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage. Their role will become much more focused on helping students put things in context and showing them how to more efficiently access the right information, how to critically think about it, and how to best utilize it to solve problems.

Q8: How do we overcome the silos of tech companies trying to sell product to education and actually making things that truly EVERYONE can use?

Not all technology is created equal. Apple Education has always focused on empowering the creativity of students, which is why we made all of our creativity applications free. The choice really comes down to whether educators are more interested in standardization or innovation, but if they want to improve the learning experience in significant ways then only the latter will accomplish this. Students really need to be at the cutting edge of technology if they are to be ready for a changing world of opportunities.

Q9: How do we as a nation, address the equity issue when it comes to Educati onal Technology? Technology can solve lots of educational problems, but if you don’t have access to it, then you are screwed.

All students must have access to a reliable Internet connection and a device of some sort to access it. Several years ago, the federal Connect ED program started to address this issue by providing Internet access to all schools. As Apple’s representative, Apple funded a 100-million-dollar program where we supported 114 96% reduced lunch schools in 29 states with infrastructure, computers, content and teacher training. Research is being conducted and available. We dedicate an entire chapter to access in the book, including some pretty innovate ways that districts and schools are tackling this problem. Financial issues will always exist, so it’s important that we learn to throw creativity as the primary solution to these problems rather than a checkbook.

Q10: Do we suffer in education from a paralysis of choice? Too many shiny objects, too many differing pedagogical choices? So much so that we can’t decide which ones are good and which are not? How do we overcome that?

It’s important that we don’t lose sight of what schools are all about—the students. As Harvard professor and best-selling author, Todd Rose, points out in his book, The End of Average, there is no such thing as an average student and so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reaching and teaching them. Every student is unique and should be recognized as individuals and the only way to do this to scale is with the help of technology. So, when trying to decide which technologies to use over others all you really have to do is ask yourself which of them is most capable of helping students reach their fullest potential as individuals.

Education Today: John Couch, VP of Education, Apple Inc. from SVVSDon Vimeo.

Rewiring Education is available all over the place.

Rewiring Education Website


Barnes and Noble

Apple Audio Books


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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Rhinos 2019/2020 728
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