Earlier this week, the Texas Education Technology Network (TETN) broadcast instruction about how administrators were going to be expected to submit a Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) aligned assessment. The very worthy and important mission of TETN is as follows:
The mission of TETN is to facilitate communications among educational entities throughout Texas to improve student performance and to increase efficiency of educational operations via an effective telecommunications network. –TETN Policy Manual
Yet, recent actions by TETN call into question the REAL intent of this espoused mission. I was shocked to read the following at Tim Holt’s Intended Consequences blog:
When I got to work this morning, I opened an email from my local ESC technology director, saying that I was in trouble…well, she actually said “Hot water” So what else is new eh? I wondered what I did this time. Apparently, yesterday I innocently recorded a presentation on the Texas Education Technology Network. The presentation was about new Title II D reporting requirements that the state was rolling out. Pretty boring stuff actually, but pertinent to some people on my staff and some others that I knew could not attend. I posted the video on this site . Innocent stuff I thought. Share the information. Let everyone see what is expected of them.
Apparently not. I got a letter asking me to tear down my podcast from Carol Wallis at TETN.
Read the rest
I was shocked to read this, and had already pulled my audio recording of the TETN session off-line because it was alleged to be a copyright violation…so, I pulled the links to the audio down and removed it, even though the notes I took got over 500 hits in the space of a few hours. Simply, LOTS of people in Texas found it useful information to have. While it bothered me to pull it down–actually, in retrospect, cowardly on my part (I’ll explain why in a second)–I was disappointed that the fundamental mission seemed to be at odds with the clear need to share NCLB Technology Report assessment information so that data could be collected. Wouldn’t an organization like TETN want to see this information disseminated as far and wide as possible, as quickly as possible?
Tim makes those points in his post. My initial comment was this:
Tim, it would be great to know if audio of the TETN could be shared. I applaud your sharing this as a blog entry and increasing transparency.
This is an excellent example of disruptive technologies and their power to disintermediate traditional “middle men” organizations–in this case a regional service center (don’t they have those in every state?). There’s no reason why any organization cannot share the original broadcast via SkypeCast/uStream or one of the newer technologies. Actually, there is ONE reason–revenue-generation for an outmoded technology (e.g. satellite broadcasts).
Again, I applaud your transparency in regards to this. In reviewing the mission, it seems that there is a more important mission at stake here–generate revenue. It’s not inappropriate, evil, or bad…rather, it just needs to be stated more directly in the policy.
In the meantime, my notes endure online.
Then, the more I thought about it, this seemed like a Shirky moment. I meditated about it and then wrote this:
In my home, I’ve been stunned to watch the damage caused by Hurricane Ike. I’m hungry for more information and realize that many of the folks who are off-line can’t respond. I was shocked by the photos I saw. But I didn’t get those photos from the news, but instead, via Flickr…from people who are/were there.
Watching the morning news, I was surprised to see the News sharing a broadcast from hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas. How were they doing it? Using Skype and portable video equipment. “The new technology is reliable enough that we can broadcast from out in the field,” shared the newscaster. Much cheaper than the technology they were using, much lighter, too, one would think.
When we consider what a revolutionary role TETN has played in the last 10+ years, juxtapose it with the situation Tim writes about, one has to ask, Is this an example of folks clinging to a technology that has outlived its usefulness? Is it criminal–or even a reprimandable offense (you know, someone calling up your superintendent to express distress about asking questions like these)–to ask these questions?
Questions to ask:
- Are we using the best technologies to swiftly facilitate communications and disseminate information among educational entities throughout Texas?
- How could we leverage newer technologies–like podcasting, vidcasting, blogs, and wikis–to better achieve our need to get information in the hands of people who need it quickly?
- How can MORE stakeholders be involved in the conversation?
I haven’t asked these question, and only offer these as examples of possible question we might ask if we were having a conversation. And, it’s clear that these conversations ARE important to have, not just avoid because it might not be politically correct.
One of my favorite quotes from Clay Shirky (author of “Here Comes Everybody”), and I think you’ll see the connections pretty quickly, is this one below:
Now that there is competition to traditional institutional forms for getting things done, those institutions will continue to exist, but their purchase on modern life will weaken as novel alternatives for group action arise.
What a great quote that is. Our institutions continue to exist but novel alternatives for group actions–such as Tim’s blog with video of a broadcast ALL of us need access to quickly–have arisen. Yet, these novel alternatives present threats to the status quo.
Clay Shirky is essentially letting us know, by publishing a book about this, that this is something we have to face as adults in the world…and what once was a service now is a bottleneck. In Tim’s example, TETN has content but it’s not available for wide-dissemination UNLESS you meet certain criteria (e.g. you pay for it, show up to be present, whatever). In that way, it becomes an information bottleneck.
What a fascinating conversation that we ALL need to have, not only in our districts with each other but also at the state level. The question is, will it take Clay Shirky or some keynote speaker have to deliver this presentation several times in Texas BEFORE it becomes acceptable to do what Tim Holt did for Texas educational organizations?
And, one has to ask this question, Is this technology use–shown to be not as nimble, perhaps, as new videocasting that Tim has done and that we all saw modelled at NECC 2008–need to be re-considered? What can districts do to support the transition from service (the past) to bottleneck (possibly, the present) to reconfigured service (the future)?
Now, when one works at an education service center, it appears one forfeits the right to write like this…this kind of writing would get folks fired! I still remember the SAVE TENET days when executive directors were calling ed-tech specialists at the ESCs to remind them, “TEA has spoken…no objections!” In fact, blogging is probably a “no-no” for those who fear dissent and open conversation and it is not allowed. The next thing to fear is whether TETN or TEA would file a complaint with an employer because they disliked what one wrote here. To those, it is worth remembering the words of Patrick Finn, author of Literacy with an Attitude:
First, there is empowering education, which leads to powerful literacy, the kind of literacy that leads to positions of power and authority. Second, there is domesticating education, which leads to functional literacy, literacy that makes a person productive and dependable, not troublesome.
Must troublesome go along with empowering education? Obviously so…asking hard questions is what America prizes above all, because if you can’t ask tough questions, then you never have the chance to measure up with awesome solutions. Imagine if The Alamo defenders had said, “No, we better toe the line and take direction from the people who own Texas!”
Tim is afraid of getting a pink slip, but I bet so are most people who choose not to discuss this issue. Isn’t it time we broke the bottleneck? But if they did, they would still fail to silence the essential truths that Clay Shirky has pointed out. Not only do we need to support disruptive technologies that disintermediate organizations using older technologies, we also need to ask ourselves, Should we be concerned about those organizations? Our society is caught up trying to answer the question, How can you be a maverick if the organization you’re a part of IS the status quo? If we cannot see the possibilities for reform from within in government, how could we expect it from education organizations and state agencies?
As one watches the financial fiasco happen, like a train wreck, you have to ask, should we bail out our education organizations with out-dated approaches to communicating and collaborating, bail out organizations who have failed to envision and learn NEW ways of achieving the fundamental tenets of their mission?
And, should we provide that support to people who say “yes, we know what our mission is, but we need to revise our policy, so in the meantime, take down the content” to Texas leaders in ed-tech (like Tim Holt)? Leaders who are facilitating effective communications to increase the efficiency of educational organizations is wrong when they use modern technology because they have chosen to embrace new technologies?
Seems simple to me. You?
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