Friday, October 8, 2010



Over the last two days, technology directors from around Texas met at the TCEA Technology Education Coordinators Special Interest Group (TEC-SIG) Fall, 2010 meeting.

During the meeting, there were several presentations on a variety of topics, including the obligatory presentation from the Texas Education Agency.

By far, Project SHARE, the most controversial topic at TEC-SIG--due to ignorance rather than cantankerousness--induced peaceful folks to grumble, ask tough questions, and generally, express disappointment at the poor communications. I had a front-row seat at both the Epsilen vendor presentation and Anita Givens (TEA) presentation.

Some of the challenges to Project SHARE that arose from TEC-SIG participants included:

  1. Project SHARE is an unfunded mandate. Superintendents are not likely to mandate this initiative because they would rather wait and see what's going to happen. As a result, technology directors are reluctant to implement what their boss fails to recognize as worthwhile.
  2. Why put your eggs in someone else's basket? No district is going to pour its heart and soul into Project SHARE without hope of long term investment by the Legislature and TEA...something that TEA does not control.
  3. "Use it or lose it" attitude from various parties, including both TEA and Epsilen. As Anita Givens put it so succinctly, facing budget deficits, there are NO guarantees. (For those that remember, recall the calls to use Gale Resources...and how failure to use it resulted in the loss of a terrific resource).
  4. Closed, proprietary system. No one wants to put content in a closed, proprietary system like Epsilen when we have open source solutions like Moodle and Sakai that give us complete control over the content.
  5. Is this a technology initiative or a curriculum initiative? Epsilen perceives this as a school district, or curriculum initiative, but technology directors explained that their superintendents perceived Project SHARE as a technology initiative, yet one more thing to foist upon staff focused on raising test scores.
  6. Epsilen lacks the functionality of other systems currently being used by districts. As often as TEA--which is a doubtful judge of what constitutes the defining characteristics of blogs, wikis, social networking sites like Facebook--touts that Epsilen IS like Facebook, folks pointed out exactly how it is NOT like Facebook. Having played with the wikis in Epsilen, little more than web page chunks that are easy to edit, I was not's easy to understand other people's disappointment.
  7. $5 million is a big investment when it could be put somewhere else.
  8. Is Epsilen CIPA compliant? What happens if students use Epsilen to cyberbully?No content filtering system within Epsilen. Epsilen's response at TEC-SIG was to push the task of policing student usage onto Districts and schools. "It's your AUP that students and staff have to follow."
Those are some of the objections that came up at the Epsilen presentation by an Epsilen employee.

On Friday, Anita Givens addressed the concerns of Project SHARE head-on, making the following points appearing further below. Her most salient comment, delivered quite forcefully, as if to embed it in the minds of listeners, tolerated no argument. Project SHARE is not meant to replace what Districts are doing, but to provide the Texas Education Agency with a vehicle to facilitate its own projects and initiatives. Her explanation, long in coming from anyone affiliated with Project SHARE, finally set the matter to rest (IMHO).

I left the gathering with some hope that Project SHARE might finally serve as the long promised, unrealized Texas Education Network (TENET) replacement that bound Texas educators together.

After Anita's presentation, the question that came to mind was, "How could the vision for Project SHARE been so poorly articulated?" If only Anita had made these points sooner, much of the gnashing of teeth around PS would have been eliminated!

Some of the highlights from her presentation include the following:
  1. Points from Anita Givens' Presentation:
    1. To address much of the opposition to the nebulous launch of Project Share (quite a bit of grumbling from TEC-SIG members on this), Anita gave a straight from the shoulder presentation that should have addressed many Project Share concerns. Some of the points include:
      • Project SHARE's future...
        • Integral to the agency’s strategic plan
        • Avenue for implementation of new legislation
        • Included in the base legislative approp request
        • Cost-effective method of delivering products and services
        • Leverages state leadership and protects local control
      • ProjectSHARE web site via
      • Southwest by Southwest SXSWedu - March 8–10 - will feature a Project Share launch. 
      • Since mid May 2010 - over 175000 teachers have been given a username and password to access the Epsilen platform.
      • Almost 3000 groups where teachers are talking to each other.
      • TEA Statewide professional development includes online followup support and online additional training via Project Share.
      • PS offers opportunity for teachers to go back and review materials online time and again. 
      • PS is an umbrella initiative to facilitate a variety of TEA projects, so it will become increasingly essential in the future.
      • Some of those critical projects:
      • By building these platforms in Project Share, these courses are available for teacher PD anywhere, anytime. 
      • Project SHARE includes video of actual classroom teaching and use of strategies.
      • Supporting Students:
        • Teachers will be able to provide additional online resources to support students as they work toward successful completion of coursework
        • Students will be able to access etextbooks and other digital content by linking to state-owned digital instructional materials available through Project Share, and other resources developed through partnerships between TEA and content development partners.
        • Provide students with supports while in high school…using iTunesU. Students might be more inclined to download content from iTunesU to help them help themselves. Reach students in as many ways as possible.
And, coinciding with Anita's presentation today at TEC-SIG, we can see the first online course being rolled out via Project SHARE:

The first Project Share online course, MSTAR Universal Screener Overview, has been released. Math teachers who attended the MSTAR academies this summer (grades 5-8) will be receiving instructions on accessing the course.  You [Epsilen District administrators] may be asked for assistance in creating accounts or joining courses.
Source: Email from Susan Altgelt in ESC-20
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

1 comment:

Tim Holt said...

Thank you for your always great notetaking.

I have added my thoughts on the Project Share discussion here:


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