TCEA TechNotes 05.14.13
TCEA Technotes
Give Students 20% Time to Explore and Create
When you're hired at Google, you only have to do the job you were hired for 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, you can work on whatever you like, as long as that work advances Google in some way. This has been incredibly successful for Google (think of all the amazing innovations that they are making). 
If this works in the business world, might it work in education? As educators, we know that we are more likely to learn when the topic is one that we are passionate about. So could you implement 20% time in your classroom and still ensure that students are mastering all of the curriculum? Some teachers have tried, and they say "yes."
How educators implement the 20% time varies. But the concept is simple: Give students 20% of their class time to learn what they want, as long as it's related to that subject area. Some teachers call it "Genius Hour," while others embrace a "free project on your choice of topic" or "Curiosity Fridays."
What are the results? Teachers report the following:
  • Students are able to go in depth on a topic that interests them.
  • Because students are trying to solve a problem that they are interested in, they work for a solution and not just a grade. There is also increased peer pressure to be successful as they share their results with each other.
  • The teacher doesn't have to worry about differentiating the curriculum as that is handled by the students themselves.
  • Learning is retained longer because students are more actively engaged.
  • It's the perfect way to model life-long learning.

If this is an idea you're interested in for next school year, here are some resources to help you get started:

Congratulations to David Jacobson
TCEA Vice President Records and Finance David Jacobson David Jacobson recently graduated as part of the Leadership Fort Bend County program. Leadership Fort Bend is a nine-month program designed for those seeking to learn more about their county, foster community relationships, and to enhance their community-building skills and involvement.


"I wanted to learn more about the community I serve and where I live and work," said Jacobson, whose administration at Lamar CISD was supportive of his participation in the program. David is the chief technology information officer there.


The Leadership Fort Bend Class of 2013 completed an opening retreat at Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center in Navasota, sessions on infrastructure, education, city and county government, judicial system, state government, Fort Bend county history, health and social services. The program was developed in 1986 by Jeff Council, Fort Bend County Treasurer, and his wife Ann.


Ingleside ISD Adds Digital Learning
Ingleside ISD in Region 2 has announced a new digital learning initiative through which all students in grades 7-12 will receive Android-based KUNO tablets for the 2013-2014 school year. Working with Engaging Solutions of Katy, TX, Ingleside will be implementing a district-wide curriculum management system (CMS) called CurriculumLoft, that integrates with the tablets so students can work anytime and anywhere, even if they don't have Internet access.


"One-to-one learning is about much more than just giving kids devices," said Superintendent Troy Mircovich. "It's about delivering rich, relevant content that truly engages students in their learning, both in and out of the classroom. All curriculum and most textbooks will now be pushed wirelessly to each student's tablet where they can work on their assignments in the classroom or at home. Ingleside ISD is committed to providing our students the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century society."


"Ingleside ISD has also been selected by CurriculumLoft to be a Champion District in Texas," said Erica Steitenroth, CEO of Engaging Solutions. "Under the Champion Program, Ingleside teachers and administrators will receive extensive staff development and training on how to incorporate this new technology into their classrooms."


As a Champion District, Ingleside will also be part of a multi-state collaborative with school districts in North Carolina and New Hampshire. Teachers and technology teams will be sharing ideas, materials, and best practices as each district builds-out the CurriculumLoft Cloud and deploys tablets to their students.


"Everyone is extremely excited about this initiative," said Mircovich. "It's going to truly transform instruction and open up many new ways for kids to learn and interact."

Learn and Grow at the Beach! 
You've worked hard this year for your students and you deserve a vacation. But you also need to "sharpen your saw" and master new best practices for next year's kids. Accomplish both of these goals by taking part in Tots and Technology, THE summer conference for educators in PreK-5th grade.
Held across from the beach in Galveston June 9-11, you'll be able to relax, recharge, and renew your dedication to teaching and children. Learn from your elementary colleagues and leaders, see best practices modeled, and research the latest technology for young learners. And enjoy the relaxed atmosphere found only at this fun conference.
Your registration includes two breakfasts, two lunches, a networking reception, a t-shirt, and more fun and excitement than you can handle. TCEA members pay only $174 for two days' of learning, and non-members can attend for just $214, which includes a complimentary, one-year membership.
What are you waiting for? Register today and let the innovating begin!
Join ATPE and Save on Summer Fun
You're invited to join the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) as a 2013-14 member before this school year ends and receive an ATPE Fun Pass, bringing you mega-savings on summer fun!


The details:

  • Join ATPE as a 2013-14 member between April 1-May 31, 2013. Your membership will be effective Aug. 1, 2013, which means you'll have access to ATPE's renowned insured benefits when school starts.
  • In the meantime, enjoy the privileges associated with your ATPE Fun Pass, which you'll receive two to three weeks after the state office receives your application. With your ATPE Fun Pass, you'll save big on hotel stays, car rentals, theme park admissions, back-to-school shopping, and more!
  • You can earn CPE hours all summer long through ATPE's professional learning opportunities, and you'll also receive the summer issue of ATPE News.
Join now!

Congrats, David Jacobson
Digital Learning in Ingleside
Tots at the Beach
ATPE and Summer Fun
Newspaper Activity
Interactive Storytelling
iPad Math App
PD Toolkit

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Have your students create short stories about what they've learned this school year using the Newspaper Clipper website. The free site allows students to decide the name of their newspaper, the date, and the headline and story for the front page. Once entered, students can download a JPEG  image of their story as if it were in newsprint. The image could then be posted to a class website or printed out for a portfolio.

Zeega is a free website that allows users to create interactive web-based stories. The stories can contain photos, music, animated GIFs, and videos. Once a project is completed, viewers click their way through each story, one web page leading to another. A free account is required. Zeega is best used with secondary students.

Math Champ offers a fresh approach to classroom math tests by mixing real-time content, gamification, friendly competition, and a unique but collaborative learning environment. To use Math Champ, a teacher "generates" a game using the SERVER or HOST app, which has an existing bank of questions aligned around the Common Core Curriculum Standards (currently for grades 4-7). Students who have the Client app installed on their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch use their device like a "clicker" to answer questions on their own device. 
The teacher's app tracks valuable student metrics, including data over a number of quizzes. This happens silently in the background while students are slogging it out in a battle of the brains to win the "Math Champ" belt. Math Champ can also be used in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard or an Apple TV. 

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) have released the latest addition to the collaborative Closing the Gap: Turning Data into Action project. The "Closing the Gap Professional Development Toolkit" is a step-by-step curricular plan and set of professional resources intended to help teachers and administrators use educational data to improve instruction and student achievement.


According to CoSN and AASA, the Closing the Gap project "provides schools with best practices for reviewing and implementing student information systems (SIS) and learning management systems (LMS) solutions to become a more data-rich culture." The free toolkit is designed for educators at all levels and can be implemented at the district, school, team, or individual level.


The training curriculum is divided into five sections:

  • Building a Culture for the Effective Use of Data;
  • Establishing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs);
  • Supporting Evidence-Based Practices Through the Use of Educational Data;
  • Analyzing Data; and
  • Identifying and Selecting Technologies That Enable the Use of Data.

Each section includes videos, case studies, suggested readings, teaching tools, and other resources.