Lead, follow, collaborate, or get out of the way.

Photo Credit: notanalternative

[Background: For some insight into the argument presented below, let me
share this. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) uses a government subset organization called Texas Education Telecommunications Network (TETN) to share TEA updates and other material via a distance learning network. School districts must pay to receive those connections. As budgets have been crunched due to continued shortfall funding by Texas leadership, school districts have had to trim away even the important things. You know, the things you should be getting for free like state mandated updates. This is not a plea for TETN to be free for all of their services. They also offer DL sessions for classrooms that many find very useful.]

Notes from TECSIG, October 2 & 3, 2008:

TEA – Let me begin by saying, I truly respect Anita Givens. Her work on behalf of public education and technology has been tremendous. We are lucky to have her in the new position she now holds. But I believe respect between two professionals is appreciated most when there is some honest pushback and not just a bunch of agreement. (It is the reason I like Gary Stager and the work he does.)

While TEA may rest on the idea/reason/excuse of cash-strapped and man-power lean, the rest of us are in the same boat but are utilizing the free technologies that are out there for us. Government is not thinking that way. Government wants to place a high price tag on what it does because it makes it seem more important, I presume. As a public school district employee, I find it extremely important to have timely policy and program updates from my governing body. Cost should not be an inhibitor.

A few years back I blogged about how another state passed a bill requiring all government offices to consider free, opensource options when looking at alternatives. Texas does not do that. For too many years we have listened to our state’s leadership talk about how transparent school districts need to be. Texas government doesn’t do that either.

So, to TEA, my suggestion is a simple, classic line heard many times: Lead, follow, or get out of the way. And let me add one more to that. Consider this turn of that phrase: Lead, follow, collaborate, or get out of the way. If you cannot make the system better for any of a long list of reasons, let us help. Somehow we are able to harness the free resources that are out there for our schools and classrooms. Let us use those same systems to get the word out about new programs, policy changes, and important deadlines. Don’t claim some false statement of copyright (which you do not have in this instance anyway thanks to Texas Sunshine Laws) and slow down the information superhighway. We are not talking about private conversations here. We are talking about large group policy and program updates. You know, the stuff you and the tax payers expect us to live up to.

While we can go ahead and repost the information without repercussions, it would be nice for TEA to step up and applaud the fact that Texas educators care enough about their state system and local school districts that they are willing to be a part of the solution to make it the best it can be. Why anyone would think or do otherwise is incomprehensible. We do not extend our personal learning just to aggravate the state. We’ve better things to do.

As an aside: Please don’t tell me that TEA has been “telling you for eight years” about a tech literacy assessment. We both know that is a cop out. Sure, NCLB came out then and it is a part of that, but there has never even been a hint of holding anyone accountable until May 9th when you folks shared it with the limited number of people in attendance that day. Even still, the limited funds that MIGHT be lost by ignoring the mandate is not enough to move many districts to act. Why districts would choose to defy assessment now in as an important area as any is ridiculous, with our without the consequences. But I digress. I know it was a statement made as more of a defensive measure than one that was thought out.

TETN – These folks are in a bubble of sorts. They want to be relevant. They need the money stream to stay afloat. Yet, they have become an old version of what we use now with online tools. They are the land line compared to the cell phone. The HBO to NetFlix and iTunes. The post office to email.

What if you propose to place Marco Torres’s decision-making self-reflection on it: “Complain, Innovate, or Quit.” TETN is in the Complain stage. The problem with that? They’re a vendor. How long will they survive in that spot? Relevance is a limited state of being. Remember that. Go for Marco’s second option in that list. Please.

Yes, there was more to those two days in Austin than TEA and TETN, but let’s face it. We all go there to hear what is expected of us next. Yes, Apple did a fine job of professional development the first day. Maria Henderson is always pure genius (even if her old links are dead due to the Mobile.me upgrade. Sigh.). So, if you want to know more about them, go to one of their offerings for school district administrators.

But, if you want to be a part of TEA opening the virtual doors to their massive amounts of information, become part of the solution. If you want to stand in the way because you have nothing productive to do, you’re wasting your time. You cannot hold up progress. The Texas Legislature meets in January. I’ve started my game plan. Have you?

12 thoughts on “Lead, follow, collaborate, or get out of the way.

  1. Scott, I appreciate your honesty in this post.

    I was in the audience when TETN and TEA were sharing with the SIGgies and I felt like I had interrupted an ongoing battle. I blogged about this a little on my site and I do see how both sides have points to their arguments but I am more impressed in the fact that you are pressing for solutions. It would be easier to just come back here to work and hope someone fixes the problem and then tells me about it at the next SIG meeting. Maybe I will get a memo, a video, or a podcast from someone in our group about it. πŸ˜‰ Or maybe it will be on the agenda at the next meeting down the line.

    So how do we start this? Another NING? Another wiki or blog or Google Document? I’m starting to fill out on those. Would it not be easier to work in an environment of the old “round table” conference? I think for something as grandiose as redefining older methods of communication in areas of TTWWADI it helps to take it out of the blogs and wikis until resolution is made that works for everyone. Or else it gets too emotional and too hurried.

    The blogs and wikis add that extra element of emotion, bias, and commentary that these other systems are not used to in their communication. I can understand their fear of this and the trouble they feel it may bring. And with the new technology tools, it also comes to them to learn to use them and to use them appropriately.

    All of this feels like the day to day conversations I have with teachers and staff transitioning to new technologies. I want them to jump in and I get frustrated when they don’t! You aren’t asking the 10-15 people in that department to change. You are asking the entire state agency to change.

    I think the conversation should be offline until they are comfortable going there. They do need the push. I agree! They do need to lead the way – absolutely. We need our information sent to us in a timely way that makes sense too.

    I believe we can all work together to make this happen. We all just need to be willing to give up something to make it happen.

    I am putting my hat in to help as well (and not wait for the memo).

  2. You bring up some great points, Joel. We are in the early stages of working through this. I want to sit and talk with Anita personally so that she can understand our goal is to get the information out and that is it. We do not care if we agree or disagree with the information. It just needs to be shared unedited freely.

    I feel like there are many more like us (you’re included in this group) that are willing to help TEA in any way possible to move into the new technologies. It is an odd position to be in to have the “underlings” training the leaders. Yet, we do this every day in the classroom, so why not in our every day business with the state agency? I would gladly use personal time and money to drive to Austin to work with the staff in training. Again, I know there are more out there like us willing to do the same. They just have to get to the point where they accept that and are open and willing to try these new things out. We’ve had enough of the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. We are getting nowhere with it. Then again, we are moving much further ahead while they remain in the starting blocks. Hopefully, things will change.

    Thanks for the great comment and willingness to join in the conversation. I’ll keep you up to date. It will be a great day to have our state education office as advanced technologically as our 8th grade students. πŸ˜‰

  3. Scott,
    thanks for keeping this conversation going.
    I truly continue to be amazed at the thought that this person or that person can actually “own” public information, or even the access to that information.

    Maybe I cannot understand the complexities of the situation.
    Maybe I am too far away geographically to be aware of the discussions.
    Maybe I am too removed or too new to the political implications.

    But if I am al of these, wouldn’t being able to share information move me closer?

    (Or perhaps that old saying about “they treat me like a mushroom: keep me in the dark and feed me sh*t” is how they want to treat their subject.

  4. Tim,

    It is an odd place to be. I generally try to work with the legislature to change things. This is the first time I have had to work so hard just to get the state leader (TEA) in education to catch up. They are easily five years behind the schools. Is it because their IT department has successfully blown off any changes? Is it because everyone is fighting change? Or is it because there simply is no vision or plan in place to stay up with the technologies? I hope it is not the last. I know they say funding is an issue, but it is for us as well in the schools, yet somehow we seem capable of staying ahead of the curve and at least even with the mandates (that we hear about).

    I agree with you. Regardless of the reason why the site/system/etc is behind, it only makes sense to make good use of honest help. It isn’t like you are editing the video before you post it. You are posting it full length, as is. That is the best way to do it. I appreciate you trying to help out. I know others do as well.

  5. Pingback: I interrupt the regularly scheduled post to bring you…. Me. | A Piece of My Mind

  6. Scott:

    You knew someone had to take the other viewpoint, right? I thought I might add my two bits to the conversation. Sometimes, without knowing it, we exist and view things from our own particular vacuum. I understand your passion but I think you are overlooking or not aware of several significant points as well as the immense and negative impact some of your “suggestions” could have on other districts and other areas of the state.

    1. Access to information shared on TETN is almost always available to public educators at no charge. Each Regional ESC hosts a room that runs TETN meetings all day, every day. These rooms are open to districts who wish to participate in TETN sessions at no charge. The only exception is meetings held specifically between TEA and an ESC. These are private meetings held only between the people involved and are not open to district viewing (similar to a meeting held between a principal and a teacher in the principal’s office.) Additionally, most the information is also posted on the TEA website (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/taa/sortf.cgi?command=bydate.) While the information is in a different format and does not contain the question/answer format frequently available in TETN sessions, it does contain the information and updates you are interested in. You expressed an interest in receiving information and updates in a timely manner. All of these options are available to you at no charge. The only time a charge is implied is if you wish to have the convenience of having the information delivered to you in the comfort of your office or classroom.

    2. Several years ago a consortium made up of the 20 ESC’s and TEA created TETN. It is supported by these 21 entities and has its own governing board separate and distinct from TEA. TEA is merely a member of the service and as such is bound by the policy’s established by the TETN board. These policies are posted at http://www.tetn.net.

    3. Most, if not all, ESC’s do include TETN as a part of their videoconferencing service package. However, this does not preclude non-member districts from receiving the information. Non-member districts generally have the option of attending the session at their ESC, paying to have the convenience of the individual sessions delivered to them live via video-conferencing at their district, or obtaining a videostreamed copy of the meeting after the event. I understand you object to the “membership fee” but I know that if I want information from Washington DC I either have to pay to receive the newspaper, or pay for Internet service in order to access information online, or pay for Cable or Dish service to view the news. How is paying a membership fee to reany different?

    4. You expressed concerns regarding district budgets. Last year district videoconferencing members in a single region saved over $2,000,000 on TETN services alone by participating in their Regional Network. They were able to save this money by not having to pay for substitute teachers, travel expenses to and from their ESC, and cost associated with lost productivity due to time away from the district. Again, this was in a single ESC…multiply that by 20 for the full effect.

    5.It sounds as if you have never participated in any TETN events aside from TEA meetings. Perhaps you weren’t aware that students also participate in videoconferencing events almost every school day. You made references to some of the schools who provide instruction over videoconferencing but it doesn’t sound as if you are aware of the other opportunities. Again, in a single region – and one who is not a particularly large user ot the technology – over 18,000 students participated in videoconferencing events ranging from interviewing students in Denmark, Wales, Alaska and Taiwan; to visiting a sled dog training camp, to interviewing soldiers in Iraq, to interviewing astronauts as they participated in training at their underwater training facility in Florida, to exploring the Great Barrier Reef underwater, to visiting with authors and artists from around the country; to debating other students in other areas of the state on the electoral college. All of these opportunites were provided at no charge to the districts involved and were made possible due to their district’s videoconference membership and the services TETN provides. I don’t know that the full financial benefit of this service has even been calculated, but I know the educational value has been.

    6. Did you know that TETN has just been accepted as the first K-12 entity to participate in Internet2? The Internet2 IP Network supports IPv4, IPv6, scalable multicast, and other advanced networking protocols. It allows the Texas Educational community to access the non-commodity services available on Internet2, including access to the very latest research and experiments being conducted at leading universities around the world. ESC’s who are participating with TETN on this project are now able to bring video and other high end applications to their districts with must better quality and much faster. Students participating recently in an I2 project were able to simultaneously talk to a conductor at Carnegie Hall, an actor in Detroit, a teacher in Taiwan and a scientist in Australia. Not only could the students talk to each of these people, they were also able to hear the conversations these professional held with each other and to view video and audio from all of these locations – even though none of the four adults was in an acutal “studio.” So….do you really want to compare this type of technology with YouTube and ITunes? Contrary to your opinion, I believe TETN is preparing to leave these technologies in their “virtual” dust.
    8. You may have a point concerning TEA’s ability to copyright, however, there is an additional concern you may want to think about. In order to post a video online, you must have written permission from each and every participant prior to releasing their image through any means of multimedia. While the employees of TEA may or may not be able to claim personal violations, all others participating in TETN’s (Educators from public and private schools, parents, and ESC staff) may very well have the right to pursue legal claims against you (personally) for broadcasting their image without permission. I’m not a lawyer, but a similar issue came up at my church a few years back and the guests at a wedding each received significant money as part of a settlement against a television company who aired the footage without obtaining their permission.

    Having said all this, I do think you have one valid point. It would be nice if TEA could provide their information in as many ways as possible. While videoconferencing is an excellent source, the cost of the equipment alone does make it prohibitive to some districts. If they could find a way to create podcasts, use a Wiki, or explore other means to communicate the information provided via TETN (in addition to TETN), I think it would be an exceptional service for the students of Texas.

  7. I would have to ditto Marie’s comments. I especially liked the closing. TETN is a valuable entity for Texas, but I strongly believe that videoconferencing is not the best medium for a lot of the information that comes out of TEA. In my opinion, video conferencing should be interactive with all sites communicating back and forth. In most case TEA does not even want to hear from anyone until they have finished presenting. Then they open up the mics for questions. I would like to see TEA move to something like Go to Meeting. Anyone could join the session from their computer and if they have questions they could be type them in. TEA could give out the information, answer the questions, and then post the recording for everyone to see. I believe this method would be benefit everyone in the state. Y’all all keep up the decision I think everyone just wants to see things improve.

  8. Marie,

    Thanks for the comment. Let me reply to some of your points:

    1. I am aware of everything you shared. It is the fact that technology has made the process of moving/offering information to the public schools a much easier and financially efficient option. There are several legislators and chiefs of staff I have spoken with who agree with me. The fact that ALL of the policy update videos are not FREELY available for download on the web was a surprise to everyone at the Capitol that I spoke with. They feel it should be mandatory.

    You mention folks get this info as a convenience into an office or classroom. That’s not the case. We need the videos to view after the kids leave the class so our teachers do not have to miss teaching time. Our administrators need the videos to refer back to for important information. To say that TEA provides the same information in print on their site is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Case in point: 8th grade technology literacy assessment information was not posted anywhere in near the detail as the TECSIG session or else we would not have so many school districts not having completed the assessment. Just this week I have had three school districts email me to ask to use our Moodle or Moodle-based assessment to complete this task. They have less than a week before the data is due (unless they work holidays). What took so long for them to get the news? If the data was on the web with RSS abilities, they would have known about it long ago. Heck, our ISD is putting together its own YouTube style server using opensource software with RSS feeds. We are out very little money to do it, so why can’t TEA? The legislature does it (minus the RSS feeds). Maybe the state should look into funding it accordingly (my push right now).

    You should also be aware that our ESC shared the cost to join the video conference package with all school districts over the summer so that the districts could budget accordingly. Our district decided that we wold just pay a per session fee since we only use it for TEA updates. We could also get the DVD for $9 if we could not sit in on the session. When school started back, the ESC changed the pricing schedule, tripling the cost of the per session charge and nearly tripling the cost of a DVD of the session . On top of that, they limited non-members to just two for the year. And this is to get public information. Does that sound fair? Sure, we can put subs in classrooms and pay for vehicles to drive back and forth for the sessions, but that makes us less efficient based on the previous data the ESC gave us. Then to limit us to two sessions?!? When you consider we can get all we want with a public information request, it is obvious they started a fight they cannot win. Who wants to handle all those requests on their end? It was a childish move on their part to force districts to join their program. That just made our decision that much more justified. Other ISD’s we spoke to felt the same.

    You should also be aware that the services offered from TETN are marketed quite differently across the state. Some ESC’s give it away for free. Many offer the recordings downloadable from the web for free. Some districts pay over $5000 a year for the same service. Some pay less. Why is this? It’s the same information. I know the background as to how the ESC’s lost their tech funding. I fought FOR them in the legislature that time, and several others. I was on their side completely, and I still am for the most part. I understand the equipment costs money. I understand the man power costs money. My point is that they should not be in the middle of this. TEA should find a better way.

    2. I am aware of how TETN got its start. I read the policy manual front to back to understand them better before I ever got into this debate back in the spring. Each of the 21 members (ESC’s and TEA) pay about $30,000 a year to keep it afloat via ESC 13. But try to find a copy of their budget and you hit a roadblock virtually, for the record. I just think there should not be a fee to share public policy information. I am not talking about the classroom curriculum material offerings TETN provides. I am focussing on the TEA policy updates. Those are public information, as per many in the Capitol who have Sunshine Law experience have said as well. The legislature can easily foot the bill for the portion that would include the policy updates so ALL districts could get the info for free. I stand by the fact that we should not have to pay for that information.

    So, the legislature adds half of TETN’s operating costs per year as long as school districts get the TEA videos for free. Sound fair? I bet the ESC’s say no. They are going to want the revenue the system creates for pushing FREE information. There is a systemic problem here. I say, let them still charge for the educational offerings, but I wonder how many would still pay the fees associated with them.

    Sure, TEA is bound by the policies of TETN, but they can also be a part of changing them. One thing the TETN policy (or anyone else’s) does not say is that TEA policy updates only occur through a paid system. They are public information bound by public information requests.

    3. Your argument here does not make sense. If I want information about what happens in a government committee meeting at the state level, most of the time it can be downloaded for free. I can receive a personal hard copy for a reasonable amount of money if I just want a copy, but the downloads are free regardless. I get the same service from my congressmen if I ask. Convenience is not what we are paying for. We are paying for policy information that the state mandates we follow. TEA should find a better way to get that information to the districts it serves. The ESC’s have complete control over how they offer access to the information. The policy manual says so. They cannot block anyone from watching it free in person, but that leads to two issues: 1) a teacher not being able to stay in the classroom and 2) the travel time and costs for many ESC’s is ridiculous. We are only about twenty minutes from our ESC, but some folks are hours away. They should not be penalized for that.

    4. Thanks for the math. I think the best thing to look at here is that if the state would foot the bill for TETN providing the TEA policy updates for free, even more money would be saved by the districts. If they made them freely accessible as downloads from their website, the convenience would be even more time efficient for all of our staff, not to mention the public in general.

    5. I have participated in many TETN student offerings. I even had some of my own where Muslim students conferenced with my students about education in their countries and how even they have to have fundraisers if they want new computers. What I think you are overlooking here is the fact I am ONLY addressing the TEA updates. They should be free and easily downloadable to ALL school districts. We have to follow the laws and regulations, so why not let us know what they and the changes are when they occur without an added expense.

    6. I did not know that. That is great. I was in a meeting yesterday where our district was in a conversation to gain access to I2 and the LEARN network in the very near future. We have to wait on a few other entities to finish some upgrades, by we are very near it. Still, all TETN is offering are video conference sessions. We are hoping for the content in general across all disciplines in an on-time process.

    As for the conversation those students were a part of, I can do the same with Skype or ooVoo or DimDim or whatever for free. While TETN may have that availability, it is limited to who wants to pay for it and the time TETN has it scheduled. School district budgets are shrinking, as is state funding for education (when comparing overall current costs to educate an average student). We have to find innovative ways to bring a better education to our students. I can use Skype, for instance, whenever it is convenient for the teacher to bring in a professor, professional, another class, or whatever. I can use iTunes to bring in all kinds of content (video and audio) for my students and teachers both. Self-directed learning is so important these days. We want our students to be lifelong learners. A tool like iTunes (since you mentioned that one) can facilitate this like few other tools. TETN cannot offer such a tool, unless of course they make their content available for free download like iTunes U and most of the podcasts. All our kids or staff need is a computer or an iPod and their off. No video conference equipment needed. I Skype with educators on other continents on a whim. Our kids do the same if they wish. Cisco is working on getting video conferencing up to speed (like their new hologram system), but the convenience and cost is not right for the average person or group.

    So, yeah. I compare TETN offerings with iTunes (I never said YouTube, but that works). I am comparing the usefulness of a tool in the educational setting and how we as a district spend our money on those tools. I just got a $350 laptop that will do more with video (including its built-in camera) than most anything TETN can offer us with its entire network…for free. I can stream anything on the web from my wireless connection at no charge to others. I look forward to the day that TETN leaves those tools in the dust. I just do not see that happening anytime soon. I hope they prove me wrong. Then again, we might be just comparing apples and oranges, and it is time for TEA to choose a new fruit.

    7. (this is really 8, because you did not have a 7) As for permission issues, they can easily grab ONLY the video of TEA staff. That is not that hard to do. Also, since TETN thinks it has the power to put a no recording sign at the beginning of each session, they can also put a sign that says all rights are waived due to recording and reposting. And then the ESC’s turn around and sell a copy of the session on DVD and make a profit from it. I would think everyone in the video should get a part of the profit if that is the case.

    I still wonder if this is a valid argument on your part, though. When I testify before any state legislative committee, no one ever asks me if they can video and repost for downloading. Yet, they do it every time I testify. If it is a state organization in a public meeting, I think the right is automatically waived. We are still only talking about policy updates from TEA. I am not talking about student/classroom offerings. And I am not an attorney, so that is a good question to be considered.

    Thank you for approving of the idea of TETN offering these updates in other formats. I think the legislature can go a long way in making this happen. The TEA policy updates are my only concern. We should not have to pay to find out the laws we are required to follow.

    So, in summary, consider this analogy. I am teaching your child. I make the rules. I change the rules. I apply the rules. I enforce the rules. Unfortunately for you, the rules are many, hard to understand, and posted all over a massive website much of the time in government legalize that few can interpret. Yet you’re in luck. You have the opportunity to hear about the rule changes from me personally and ask clarifying questions, but you have to pay the charge to do that. Since times are hard and the information is public anyway, you decide not to pay. Your kid fails based on the rules and changes you never knew about or misunderstood, but your child still gets penalized. It’s not my fault you did not pay for the convenience to hear me talk about the changes or new policies. It is not my fault you did not pay to get the chance to ask me questions about them when everyone else did. You chose a path that saves you precious money in these lean times and are now paying the price. The information you should have gotten for free was not made clear to you, and your child failed because of that. Whose fault is it? The teacher, the system, or the parent? So is it TEA, the current process, or the school districts? I say the process, and it is time for TEA to work toward a new one.

    Thank you for your comment. I love the fact you took so much time to gather the information to share back with me. I will keep those things in mind as I work through the processes with the legislature this year. I forget who said it, but someone smarter than I once said that when two people stand in agreement, that is one too many. I appreciate the pushback. Keep it up.

  9. Henry,

    Amen! They need to look at better options and ask the legislature to fund it. Since our current leadership is so big on everyone else being transparent, they should help TEA in this endeavor as well. Be on the look out for the legislation to help us move this idea forward.

    Thanks for the comment.

  10. Nice to have an intelligent debate about an important issue. As long as we’re using analogies/allegories to get across a point…

    In the scenario mentioned with the teacher and the rules….let’s say that same teacher has a parent who wishes to have a copy of every lesson that the teacher teaches. Well, they have some options.

    A) They could go up and sit in on class. A time-consuming option, to be sure. Plus, the opportunity cost of missing work, the gas required to travel to and from the school…it adds up to some cost. But it’s allowed; I’ve had it happen as a teacher.

    B) The parents could use their computer (with paid ISP) to look at the teacher’s online lesson plans from home. Many districts utilize this option and many more are jumping on the bandwagon. Of course, if a parent would not like to incur the cost of the ISP, they could go to their local library and view the information for free. Again, I have done this as a teacher.

    C) The parents could request that the teacher record and post every lesson on the Internet. The uploading could either be done during the teacher’s meager conference period or during their personal time. That way, the parent, who would still have to pay for an ISP, could download the video from some free sharing site. Let’s say the teacher actually has time and equipment to do this (IE the ESCs have the equipment and time to do this). Aren’t we also paying for teacher’s salary, which includes all of the other services the teacher provides to the students and thier families? (IE the consumers of the policy updates are also receiving student content and professional development as a result of their membership)

    Bottom line: Yes there is free information everywhere. We all know about the Open Meetings Act. There are just several means of sharing it, some ostensibilty free (like going to Austin to get the policy updates) and some that are more convenient (like IVC, which costs but provides so much other educational opportunity).

    The questions are: How do the districts want to recieve the information?

    NOT ALL OPTIONS ARE FREE. There are costs associated with customer service, which is what all ESCs are concerned with. (Well, professional development, technical assistance, and management of educational programs.) ESCs are businesses afterall. They are not in the business of limiting open access to open records; they will limit access to THEIR recordings of TEA policy updates to those who have chosen the option of being a TETN member, with all its costs and benefits.

    And, how much are districts willing to pay to get the convenience of not going to Austin to get policy updates? If they want it free, then take the free options. Don’t expect all options to be free because the information is open.

    My last rhetorical question:

    Would the blogger like to volunteer his time/resources to be the videographer, bridge operator, and poster for the policy updates coming from TEA?

  11. I like your analogy. For the record, our staff does post their lesson plans on the Internet. Many of them use blogs embedded into our site so the parents can receive them via email automatically. I’m with you. I have been in every one of those situations as an educator. My wife is currently having to make a handwritten note for the parent on EVERY lesson one child does as to how the child did, what was modified, how it worked, etc. It is far more than any one person should have to note for one kid, but she does so without grumbling. She could very easily have to do it for every kid if the parents really wanted to push the issue (at the detriment of instructional time in class).

    You are right. ISDs must choose how they want the information. We want it available to us in every way that TEA chooses to put it out there without us having to pay for it. If they only do PDF’s, then make those downloadable. Audio, then do the same. You get the picture.

    I appreciate your comment about what ESCs are concerned with. Unfortunately, my ESC planned to limit access to the open information. They planned to limit us to two copies of the recorded material for the entire year with no exceptions. It was not until we made them aware of the open records request option that they changed their minds. Then, they just jacked the price up to receive the information that they already had recorded. If the ESC is a business, they are not treating their customers right. We do buy MANY of their other services, so you would think they would take that into account. We are not asking for free DVDs. We just want them at a fair price. Sure, we can drive over there wasting gas and instructional time to get it for free, but that is so out of character of what we are trying to do in education. We utilize the best tools for the most efficiency to get the best outcome for our students. That being said…

    TEA should find another avenue of getting the information out to the school districts at no charge to the district. I understand that the ESCs have a revenue stream to protect with this, but how/why do you commercialize policy updates?

    Here is what it boils down to. TETN is budgeted about $800,000 per year (based on the policy manual and estimated increases for all 21 stakeholders). That is chump change when looking at the overall education budget. It would take very little for the legislature to pony up that much to make the content free to all ISD’s allowing the ESCs and TEA to keep the portion they are paying into TETN to be a part of TETN. Some ESCs would go from losing money on TETN to making all of that money back ($30,000 – $40,000 per year). Some would lose a true revenue stream. Yes, there are salaries involved with taking care of the session connections. Have a small charge for live connections ($10 per session connection or similar). But TETN can post the recordings of all archived video sessions (TEA policy introductions and updates only) for free download. I would still say that TETN and the ESCs should maintain the right to charge for the educational offerings being provided state-wide in classrooms, so they can maintain some semblance of additional revenue here. No school district would balk on a small connection fee like I listed if they want the live TEA session, but ALL districts would get the convenience and efficiency of archived videos for free download. If the state is paying for the system to do it, then why not? They do it for the legislature and all of its committees.

    As to the rhetorical question, I will answer that one. I have a district FULL of teachers who take a $1000 laptop and do the recordings themselves every day of the week. They set it on the front desk, hit record to start and stop when they are through. A few minutes later they have their instruction in video format on the web for parents, students, and other teachers to utilize. Just this week we found a way to do it for under $500 per machine. TEA has enough bright minds to pull this off. Yes, I would volunteer to do that for them but I live five hours away. On top of that, it would be an insult to them since it is so easy to do for themselves. Also, TETN has the system in place to do the recordings, so it really is not a question of can it be done. But, I will volunteer my time to help them pick out a laptop and show them how to do it themselves if they so wish. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the comment. I agree it is nice to have an intelligent debate. I know it is an emotional one for ESCs as they have been under attack from the legislature for years. I stand by what I said. I have fought for the ESCs for many years in the legislature. That does not change the fact that there is an element of the system that needs to change and some might lose some revenue over it to save school districts even more money. It is just a part of change. We can have no sacred cows because that just gives the anti-public school folks more ammo to use against us.

    As an aside, I cannot wait until we can apply the same logic to what Pearson does to the state of Texas every single year at a much higher cost. It would be nice to inject some efficiency in to that system as well, but their lobbyists are far too strong for us to combat under the current leadership.

  12. Pingback: One small step for a man, one giant leap for ISDs state-wide | A Piece of My Mind

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