One small step for a man, one giant leap for ISDs state-wide

For those that follow my blog, you realize I have had an ongoing debate (mostly with myself and a few awesome commenters) about the fact school districts have to pay to receive TEA updates via the TETN video conference network. I have even started working with a few connections within the legislature to find a way to make this change. Well, things changed yesterday.

I returned a call I found in my school voicemail from Carol Willis, TETN Manager. Let me say right off the bat, it was a joy to spend an hour on the phone with Carol. She is very open-minded and understands where I am (we are) trying to go with this. She has already put some processes and inquiries into motion inside the TETN system to gain feedback from its membership and governing board to decide the best route.

She also asked a favor of me. There is this underlying question of what consitutes a session that should be deemed free from TEA. It is a good question. I have made it clear that I do not want the student class offerings done this way. All I am asking for is that the updates from TEA (grants, policies, laws, textbook adoptions, etc) be offered as a free download from one archived point.

So here is what I need. Please feel free to blog about this if you are a Texas educator.  Let me know that you have so I can look at the comments on your site as well.  I need you to leave in the comments answers to this question: “What consitutes a TETN session that should be a free download on the TETN site from a TEA?” Keep in mind that there are tons of TEA TETN sessions. Not all would be notable to download since they have a very limited audience. (i.e. one district or region of districts). Please take the time out to consider this and post your thoughts ASAP. I plan to talk with Carol again after Thanksgiving so we can see where we are at at that point. Remember, you do not even have to agree with me. I appreciate the opposing views I received in some of the comments. According to Carol, one of them was very well informed. It is great to debate with knowledgable folks in this manner, as J wrote in the comments.

The one thing of importance that came out of my conversation was that Carol took the time to read my blog postings on the subject and understands the goal. That says so much for her, considering she has bigger fish to fry, and I truly appreciate that. Her call to me was a proactive step to find a solution that benefits all the school districts in Texas. You cannot ask for any more than that from one of the state’s leaders. It was also cool to find out a little more about her political background. She is a wealth of information who probably has some great stories to share with grandkids one day. I wonder if she will Skype into one of our history classes to discuss Texas politics from a few years back?

Also, TETN has rebuilt their website. It is now showing a side of TETN that few knew existed. There are links to future uses of Web 2.0 tools. Imagine being able to subscribe to TETN’s blog to know what is happening on their network from one of the staff directly instead of an email forwarded to a person that was forwarded to a person…… For instance, they just went through a network upgrade that will be a tremendous boost to offerings. This is fantastic news. Carol has even more Web 2.0 ideas she would like to utilize that network for, but I will let her share that on her blog once it gets running.

Sp, pleas join us in moving this project forward. We need to hear from you. “What consitutes a TETN session that should be a free download on the TETN site from a TEA?”

I interrupt the regularly scheduled post to bring you…. Me.

Photo Credit: Darren Draper

This has been stewing in ScribeFire for awhile, and I guess it is time to post it.  Having seen Brian’s call for a vote, I decided to be more open in my request to become the TCEA Area 7 Director and offer a few thoughts.

I shared in an earlier post that I was asked at an SOS-SIG meeting recently why I wanted to spend my personal time working on the board of TCEA. I expressed a few of my thoughts with him and the group, and his reply was that at least I was passionate about it. That is the key, I think. Passionate. You have to be passionate about the change you want to bring about. People see through ulterior motives, but passion is obvious and productive. Seeing as the three most popular posts on my blog right now all relate to the direction TCEA, TEA, and TETN are headed, I think my passion is obvious. What shold be known is that I do not just gripe. I back it up with action. My face is seen many times at the Capitol during the legislative session both walking the halls to talk with legislators (not just mine) and in committee meetings testifying on behalf of public education in Texas. I visit them between sessions as well to inform them and to be informed by them. Wait until the legislative session starts up here in Texas. You’ll see more than one post updating the progress of legislation and the political process from this educator’s point of view. 😉

Over the summer I began reading a new book, Influencer. A number of items it discusses as vital to the process of change are discussed throughout, but two stick out in my mind: surpass your limits and change the environment. They are two key elements needed in TCEA to advance it toward the goal of being THE premier technology association. The great thing about pushing the limits is learning from the failures. The successes take care of themselves.  If we create an environment where our leaders feel safe in trying new things, we will grow as a collaborative organization. If TCEA grows, Texas educators and students benefit tremendously.

I encourage you to go back and read my posts on the direction I feel TCEA and our state should be taking in the very near future. You will find them here and here
and pretty much any other post on this blog. If you need to know who I am a little more, read through the archives. Google me and read my work elsewhere. Follow me on Twitter. Read through the comments on this blog to see I do practice the art of discussion with folks that visit me here. Email me. Call me. Know that it is always a two way street to make progress. I want to be a part of that progress. But, for a short list of priorities of things I think should be reviewed, consider this:

  • By-Laws – The current set are outdated and full of holes. It is hard for an executive director and board of directors to govern like that.
  • Transparency – TCEA has a site. Use it to post minutes, audio files, budget, or other supporting files to let the members see inside the system itself. Communication is key!
  • Elections – There are a number of issues here, but let’s say the by-laws can fix most of them. Again, transparency is imperative.
  • SIGs – Why we have SIGs is beyond me. I love them and find them very helpful to me as an educator, but TCEA does not take advantage of them. SIGs dangle out in the wilderness with little to no connection to the organization as a whole. Why TCEA does not utilize the vast resources and talent found in the membership of these groups is puzzling. Why the leadership fails to join in the conversations found on the list serves leaves me wondering if the SIGs are just spinning their wheels. Read Miguel’s post about one such recent example.
  • Website – Wow. There is just so much here. Let’s just say there needs to be a direction for the best utilization of this resource that opens up more to the members to collaborate, gather information, and become truly a part of the organization. If it means leaving expensive software and hardware and a move to opensource, then it needs to be considered. Consider the VAST amount of support offered via the SOS-SIG. Let’s not run this like a choked-down school network. Collaborate. Get input. Make progress. Be transparent. Practice what we preach to our members. Be forward thinking. Be subscribable. Be visible.
  • BOD Meetings – This really falls in line with the transparency item above. Not much is known about how, how often,  or when these occur because the information from them is simply not available.  There should be open mic times that do NOT require any approval process. Give a twenty-four hour notice to reserve a three-five minute block of time at any board meeting, and that should be adequate. Why should the board have the authority to turn down the request at a regular meeting? The list goes on.
  • Legislative Advocacy – This is one of the most important as TCEA is the ONLY organization in Texas to solely represent students and teachers in tech funding, initiatives, and policy. Recently, there was an advocacy committee formed. Can we post their positions on current issues? How were those created? Who was a part of that process? Who is the point person in TCEA for the legislature to talk to? How were these people trained about the political process? How will they interact with Capitol decision makers? When will they interact with Capitol decision makers? How/when will they report back to the members to gather support for current issues? We need a voice in Austin. We need an experienced, focused voice in Austin. Does this become the job of the new executive director? If so, it should be a key element of the interview process. No time for OJT.
  • Area Leadership and Organization – The by-laws list information for this, but where does one find the actual make-up of these area groups? Is it even being done in any Area? Is it optional? Mandatory? It needs to be clear and followed or take it out. We want to collaborate with other districts in other areas. Contacts are crucial to make that work.
  • Executive Director – This decision can set the direction of our organization immediately and long-term. A full board (read as vacancies filled) should set aside time to discover the mission, goals, and tenets of TCEA and purpose them into the driving direction of the search for the next ED of TCEA. Start the conversation virtually if need be. Keep it private so board members feel safe in throwing all ideas on the table without repurcussion. Mold those ideas into a finished product only after meeting in person and creating a unified front.  Until those things are done, interviews should not be held nor a new leader chosen.
  • Fiduciary Duty – Learn it. Live it. Love it.

If you are a member of TCEA and considering voting in Area 7, I would appreciate your vote. Click HERE to go to the voting site.  Remember to choose Area 7.  Voting closes Novemeber 17th.  If you are not a member and are interested in joining TCEA, click here. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will work where I’m allowed to help move some of these items forward in the hopes of improving the organization as a whole.

And now a plug for my buddy, Brian. If you live in Area 19, please consider voting for him. He’s a good guy with great intentions. We need more people like him on the board.

Can you hear the passion in my writing?

Open Season for Opensource

I have the opportunity to co-present with Michael Gras and Miguel Guhlin at Tech Forum Southwest on Friday. Find below the session summary and the slideshow I prepared for the roundtable discussion. It is pretty cool to be asked to present at the same one day conference as David Warlick, Miguel Guhlin, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Who knows? Maybe the bandwidth will play nice and we can UStream the session.

Open Source Goes to School
Christine Weiser (moderator); Miguel Guhlin, Scott Floyd and Michael Gras
Is education ready for free, open source solutions to education problems? According to our presenters, the answer is YES. They will share examples of how open source technology is allowing for open knowledge sharing—the creation of a global table at which student and educators share ideas—while saving money that can be used for staffing and other much-needed resources. Learn how students, teachers and administrators in their districts are using open-source software, including Moodle, NeoOffice, OpenOffice, WordPress and Joomia, to create an online world compatible with but outside the bounds of costly, proprietary software.

Miguel Guhlin

Scott Floyd and Michael Gras

Tech Forum Southwest

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: scott_s_floyd techforum)

I’m Proud of Our Country

Photo Credit: coolgates

Partisanship aside, I’m proud of our country. We have arrived at a point many people thought we would never reach. Forget my generation. Generations before me fought for this moment and did not live to see it. Yet, their hard work has finally paid off.

My son is living in a time where barriers to leadership positions are falling to the side. Regardless of the election turnout, he is going to enjoy history firsthand. He sees and hears people who inspire him, and they come in the shape of many voices without color or gender.

While some sulk today by the loss of their candidate, I prefer to look ahead, excited at what the future holds. Working so hard to win an election, one has to wonder if the victor can embrace this moment, seize this opportunity, and lead our nation like no other has. We move into a time where evolution of ideas creates revolution of technologies.  May our country be prepared.

When we gather once again four years from now to elect a leader of our great country, one can only hope that citizen participation is anywhere near what it was on this day. If one can inspire the people to move away from apathy and nearer involvement, more power to him/her. Let this become a trend of tremendous involvement in our political system by passionate people and it spread among our youth as a lifetime habit instead of a fascination that passes.

Partisanship aside, I’m proud of our country. We have arrived. Mr. President, take the lead. Where shall you have us go?