Feb 11 2013

TCEA 2013: The State of Ed-Tech in Texas

Recent report to state government leaders outlines how schools are leveraging technology to promote academic excellence.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Preparing students for future success is the core mission of any school, and as any school leader or educator will attest, failure isn’t an option. But as technology’s role in students’ lives has grown, so, too, has the need for schools to determine how best to integrate such tools into the learning process.

The state of Texas understands this all too well. In fact, the Texas Education Agency — the branch of government responsible for primary and secondary public education in the state of Texas — first drafted a long-range plan for educational technology in schools more than 20 years ago. The plan, as TEA explains it, offers recommendations for various stakeholders in the areas of teaching and learning; educator preparation and development; leadership, administration and instructional support; and infrastructure for technology.

In December 2012, TEA submitted to the state legislature a progress report on the latest version of that plan, which was adopted in 2006. According to the TEA, the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020 “supports an engaging, relevant, and future-focused system of education for young Texas learners, preparing each student for success and productivity as a lifetime learner, a world-class communicator, a competitive and creative knowledge worker, and an engaged and contributing member of our emerging digital society.”

Texas Education Steps Forward

In a session at the TCEA 2013 convention, held last week in Austin, Texas, Karen Kahan, TEA’s director of educational technology, shared highlights from the 2012 Progress Report on the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006–2020, including state and school accomplishments from Sept. 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2012.

Here are five interesting things to know about the state of educational technology in Texas:

1. Since the last progress report, the Texas legislature advanced the use of technology in schools in several ways.

The 81st legislative session, which convened from January through June 2009, passed open-source and electronic textbooks bills and made available funding to support students taking classes through the Texas Virtual School Network. The 82nd session passed a bill to extensively modify the process of adopting and purchasing textbooks, electronic instructional materials and technological equipment. Specifically, the bill replaced the word “textbook” with “instructional materials” throughout the Education Code, and the State Instructional Materials Fund provided a per-student instructional materials allotment to districts and open-enrollment charter schools.

2. The Texas School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart and Texas Campus STaR Chart have been aligned with the aforementioned key areas in the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006–2020.

The report summarizes progress across all four areas and offers forward-thinking recommendations for TEA; the State Board for Educator Certification; the state’s Regional Education Service Centers and Local Education Agencies; Texas higher education institutions; and the state’s parents, communities and private sector.

3. Leaders from a number of Texas districts share insights and successes in the report. Participants include the Blanco Independent School District, McAllen Independent School District, Coleman Independent School District, Eanes Independent School District and Klein Independent School District.

4. The state launched Project Share, a collection of Web 2.0 tools that provides high-quality professional development courses and interactive student lessons. Resources were rolled out to educators in phases, beginning in spring 2010. As of August 2012, more than 1 million teacher and student accounts had been created.

5. Texas public school districts, libraries, education service centers and other eligible entities have received approximately 10 percent of all E-Rate discounts available over the lifetime of the program. State entities had received nearly $104.6 million in E-Rate discounts for 2012, as of Aug. 31, 2012.

To read the full report and plan, visit the agency's official site.