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Home | Tag Archives: holtthink

Tag Archives: holtthink

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.

Op-Ed: What If Educators Had To Face The Press After Testing?

After every professional football game, a press conference is held, where the coaches and select players go in front of the sports reporter and do a dissection of the game.

This happens as well in collegiate sports, and most any professional sports as well.

It is a time honored tradition.

The coaches, even if they are in a bad mood because of a loss, must take questions from the reporters:

  • “What was the turning point?”
  • “What went wrong?”
  • “If your quarterback Billy Bob hadn’t broken his arm, do you think you might have won?

Conversely winning coaches go through the same post game ritual and answer essentially the same sets of questions.

  • “How will you prepare for next week’s game?”
  • “How are the players feeling now?”
  • “Tell us about Billy Bob’s groin injury.”

It is a public exercise in metacognition. Players as well are asked to participate in the press conference.

  • “How did you prepare for the defender?”
  • “What will you do differently next week?”
  • “Do you still think you are performing at a high caliber?”
  • “Tell us about your groin.”

Sometimes, these are painful to watch, especially when the coach or players know that they should have won but did not. It is very interesting to see them, in real time, try to explain what went wrong or what went right. For many, they have data at the ready, can reel off numbers of interceptions, yards per passing play, etc.

Sometimes, the coach and players make up excuses, blame the referees, or rattle-off clichés about the better team winning or this not being their week.

If you have never watched one of these, you should.

That got me thinking, what if educators had to face the press like coaches do, but after the standardized test scores come in for their schools?

Can you imagine it: A principal would be like the coach, and the teachers would be like the players. They would have to explain to their community why the scores are the way they are. What they plan to do to fix the scores, and then take questions.

Principal Smith: “Before I take any questions, I want to thank you all for being here today. As you know, this year was a difficult year a lot of changes to the rules, a lot of personnel changes at the beginning of the year. We lost a few veteran teachers, we had to bring in some rookie teachers, and of course, the poor results from last year’s scores had a lot of people thinking we would not have a winning test season this year. I believe we proved them wrong as most of the scores clearly indicate. We are moving in the right direction and look forward to next season. Are there any questions?”

Reporter 1: “Tell us Mr. Smith, what was the turning point in this year’s test scores? Who were your bright spots?”

Principal Smith: “Well, we could have done better. We always are trying to do better. Our Third grade teachers really stepped up this year, but it looks like the Fifth grade fumbled the Math portion of the test. The fourth grade held the line and pretty much did what we expected them to do.”

Reporter 2: “What will you be doing differently next test?”

Principal Smith: “We need to be looking at maybe shuffling around our personnel. Our Fifth grade needs stronger support in Math, so we will be looking to bring in a stronger math teacher. Also, we need help in our Special Ed secondary. Too many dropped questions, not answered questions. Not quite sure why that is happening. We need to look at the film, er the data.”

Reporter 2: “Does that mean you are going to fire a Fifth grade Math teacher?”

Principal Smith: “ I am not a liberty to discuss personnel matters at this time, suffice it to say that we need help in Fifth grade and our current players are not picking up the ball and running with it. So we may move, we may shuffle, we may bring in a specialty teacher.”

Reporter 3: “Who was your standout player this season?”

Principal Smith: “Without a doubt, it was Ms. Lopez. She went 4 for 4 with all of her students passing all of the tests. Here she is to talk about it.”

Ms. Lopez: “ I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity. And the students, they did an outstanding job.”

Reporter 4: “Ms. Lopez why your students do better this year than last year?”

Ms. Lopez: “I think it had to do with how we changed out Math and reading techniques this year. We personalized the learning experience, we moved to new digital books, and we spent more time working on the basics.”

Reporter 4: “And you plan on doing that next year?”

Ms. Lopez: “We need to have a hard look at our data, then make decisions. But we seem to have done something right this year and we want to replicate it next year as well. Thank you.”

Principal Smith: “Thank you all for being here. No more questions. Thank you. Thank you.”

Questions would be shouted out by the reporters, pictures would be would all be very exciting. But we don’t treat education like we treat sports.

We don’t ask educators to publicly explain their results. Maybe we should. Maybe we should begin a new ritual of having educators explain to their public exactly what happens at they schools.

And maybe, we need to treat education with the same importance that we do sports.


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: Remembering the Kiss

I bet, if you thought about it you could remember your first real kiss. I am not talking Tia Maria pecking you on the cheek. I’m talking that someone that you were so hot for back in the day. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were worried. Even if it happened decades ago you probably remember the place, the time, the person, everything about that first, real, slobber-rama of a kiss.

I bet you also can remember your driver’s test. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were worried. Think back now, to all of your science classes. What was the one lab you remember to this day? I bet that it was the frog dissection. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were grossed-out. Yuck!

Now, think back to the kiss you had, oh say, fifteen kisses ago. Where were you? Why did you kiss? Were you saying goodbye? Hello? Were you nervous, or excited, or sweating, or worried. Probably not.

And I bet you that you had a harder time remembering kiss # 12458 than you did kiss #1. You still remember kiss #1. Kiss #12458, not so much.

Where did you drive Saturday evening three weeks ago? Were you nervous, or excited, or sweating, or worried. Probably not. And I bet you that you had a harder time remembering drive #10458 than you did your driver’s license test.

Funny how the brain works isn’t it? We can remember something from three decades ago, yet we can’t remember something that happened three weeks ago, or maybe even three days ago.

So what is the difference between what happened all those years ago and what happened just a few days ago?


There was emotion attached to that learning process. I am not saying you were not emotionally attached to the person that you kissed fifteen kisses ago; I am saying that you probably weren’t as emotionally attached to the ACT of kissing fifteen kisses ago.

I was first introduced to the idea that in order for long-term, deep learning to take place, the “brain has to make an emotional connection” idea by a gentleman named Bill Stepien.

Bill was a slight man, white hair and white beard, who is one of those rarities in education: A researcher who actually practiced what he researched. At the time Bill was doing some professional development for my school district on the concept of Problem Based Learning or PBL.

While the concept of PBL was very interesting, it was his thoughts on the emotional connection to learning that really made me think about how we need to change how we teach.

Bill would say “It doesn’t mean you have to make students laugh all the time. Or cry. It just means that you have to get some type of reaction out of them. Make them make an emotional attachment to what is being taught.” Any reaction to learning I think Bill would agree, is better than no reaction at all.

That was why Problem Based Learning was so interesting to me. The context of problem caused students to become real-world problem solvers and, if done correctly, would allow them to make emotional attachments to the learning. They would remember the kiss or learning.

PBLs put kids into real-life situations. For instance, a first grader learning about animal habitats, might be put into the role of a wild animal expert, and have to determine if the animal hanging in grandma’s tree was a good thing to bring to school. (The animal was a bat but the students didn’t know that.) They were given the adult role, presented with a problem, in the form of a letter from “Billy” asking if he should bring the animal, which he didn’t know what it was, to school for show and tell.

The kids were given minimal information and not only had to determine what the animal was using “Billy’s” blurry picture, they had to come up with what questions had to be answered in order to solve the problem. PBLs always ended with some type of product, in this case, a letter back to “Billy” explaining their answer on why or why not he should bring the animal in Grandma’s tree to class.

The best PBLs are taken right out of the headlines or what is happening in a city. For instance, in a unit about first amendment rights, the students might be asked to be on a committee determining if Robert E. Lee school or Street, should be renamed.

Students act as different members of the community, a civil rights activist, a history professor, a person that thinks we should never destroy “our history.” Real world, real connections, real learning. They would remember the kiss of learning the First Amendment.

The PBL process, where kids were given adult roles to solve real-world questions, almost automatically lends itself to creating the emotional attachment to learning scenario. That in turn, leads to long-term learning. They remember the lesson. Just like you remembered the kiss. It’s all about the emotions.

So what does this all have to do with my forte, Education Technology? Recently I have noticed that there are a growing number of adults saying that all that ed tech that we spend billions of dollars on and throw in front of children in schools doesn’t amount to a hill of beans with learners. Recently, even the New York Times recently ran an editorial about how taking notes on a laptop was a not effective during lectures. (Ironically, I read that article on my laptop.)

The implication of course, is that technology in schools is a waste of time and money. And of course it is, when it is used to do the same

Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball

thing that we have always done in a classroom. Why use technology simply to do exactly what has always been done?

Drill and kill worksheets on a computer are no different than drill and kill on paper. I once saw a set of slides where the presenter showed a research paper assignment on a blackboard (1940), the same assignment on an overhead projector (1975) and the same assignment on a PowerPoint slide (2010).

The point was, that the teaching had not changed with the times. The message and the delivery was stuck in 1940 while the kids, and the world, were in the 21st century.

Are we allowing technology to give students an emotional attachment to learning by using the tools in ways we have never done before, or are we just teaching the same things in the same ways with more expensive equipment?

I once had a teacher tell me “The kids really got excited when I brought out the digital cameras to record our experiment.” “Then then why the heck aren’t we bringing out the digital cameras every day?” I asked “Oh, I’m too busy.” she said without the slightest thought about how the learning should be about the students, and not the teacher.

I have seen how learning with digital tools gets kids excited. It is real and it happens everyday in classrooms. But not in enough classrooms. Why aren’t we allowing multimedia science fair projects? Why do we still have kids glue papers to cardboard backboards?

Why aren’t we saying “You know, I think a movie instead of a research paper is called for here?” PBL’s are ripe with opportunities to integrate technology into the learning. The final projects can be commercials, movies, songs, cool SWAY presentations, web pages, anything! And the technology becomes secondary to the learning process, not “instead of” the learning process.

Long-term-in-your-gut learning has to be emotional, has to be real, and has to be “authentic.” We have to present learning, and especially learning with technology, as something that will forge the long-term neuron-bonding that leads to life long understanding.

The literature is full of examples of the emotion/learning connection, and now the literature is beginning to say there is a connection between proper technology use and learning.

Perhaps the connection is there between technology and learning BECAUSE of the emotional connection the kids have to the technology. I think adults only show emotional attachment to technology when they lose their cell phones, or their satellite TV goes out during the big game. Other than that…

Are we teaching for the kiss from fifteen kisses ago, or are we teaching for that first kiss?


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.

Op-Ed: You Now Have No Excuse Not To Learn

Recently, a local opinion columnist wrote that he had “…no appetite for anything modern.” In 600 words he was able to castigate modern movies, sports, music, women who are “no longer coy,” the #takeaknee movement, and basically anything that has happened in the world after say, 1955 as being culturally irrelevant, vulgar, or corrupt.

Beethoven: Okay.

Roll Over Beethoven: Not Okay.

Shakespear: Okay.

Shakespear in Love: Not Okay.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup: Okay.

Warhol’s Tomato Soup Can: Not Okay.

Women silently playing tennis: Okay.

Women making noises while playing tennis: Not Okay.

You get the idea. Some older people are like that. The “good old days” will always be better than today in that fog of memory that reminisces on the good and expunges the bad.

“Never mind we had polio and segregation, dammit women stayed at home and wore dresses!” Such as it has always been with older people. But like Carly Simon once sang “…I’ll stay right here, cuz these are the good old days.”

Years from now, some grumpy columnist will write about how back in 2017, things were better that they are now. (The irony of course is that his “I hate everything modern” screed was delivered over the internet.)

It is too bad that he has that idea of “everything new is bad, everything old is good.” Actually, by almost any matrix he could think of, the world is far better off today than at anytime in the past despite all of those ungrateful, kneeling, grunting athletes.

According to Our World in Data, right now, the world has the lowest levels of people living in extreme poverty, illiterate citizens, childhood mortality, people living in totalitarian societies, the number of children per mother, and the amount of education each person on the planet is receiving.

Those are not numbers from the last fifty or one hundred years. Those are numbers across all of human history. EVER. You and I are literally living in the greatest time in mankind’s history. Really. You may feel it is a Dickensonian worst of times, but on the big picture level, it really is the best of times.

One sign of the “things are better now than ever before” is the availability to almost anyone on the planet of free educational materials that had never been available before. Because of advances in technology, complete courses at the high school and college level on almost any topic are readily accessible to anyone with a connection to the internet.

Would you like to take a course on Classical Mechanics from Stanford University with Professor Leonard Susskind? Just click here. How about a Public Economics course from Harvard?

Apple created iTunes U several years ago as a repository for free courses from postsecondary schools from across the globe. Since then, literally thousands of complete courses have been uploaded.

Got an iPad or an iPhone? You can go to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Open University, even NMSU. Hundreds of universities participate. All for free. You don’t get the college credit, but you can take the course at anytime, at any age.

A 15 year old interested in Aerodynamics can challenge herself with by taking a free course from Harvard.

In addition to the free courses in iTunes U, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are giant online courses open to anyone in the world that wants to take them.

In 2011, Stanford University opened a MOOC on Artificial Intelligence that had over 160,000 students from all over the world attending, all for free.

Since then, organizations like EdX ( have created hundreds of courses, most for free, all online, for anyone anywhere. There for the taking, like a giant buffet of learning. All you have to do is load your plate.

I pity anyone that has no appetite for “the modern.” “The modern” has allowed us to bring learning to anyone, anywhere for little or no cost. The playing field, where once only the elite or the chosen had access to knowledge is quickly being leveled because of “the modern.”

You can afford free. You can make time for anywhere, anytime learning.

You are out of meaningful excuses. You have no excuse not to learn, to improve yourself, and at the same time your little slice of humanity.

I have a great appetite for that kind of modernity.


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.

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