A New Story: Reflections from a Veteran #TCEA Participant

Can you believe it? It's been 24 years since I attended my first TCEA Convention and Exposition in 1996 to present, "Accessing the World through TENET" to a packed room of educators (I also presented, "Publishing via the Net"). By then, I had already published EIGHT pieces, of which one appeared in TCEA's TechEdge (Vol 15 (1)) in August, 1995.
Disclaimer: This is an OPINION piece. While I now work for TCEA as a  Director of Professional Development, this blog entry reflects my own thinking and insights about an organization that has done so much for educators and students in Texas. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing and would join the organization today if I were starting my career. 
Now, we are ready to transform the world with a new message, to tell a new story. . .I am proud to be a part of that new story with you.

TCEA CONVENTIONS COME AND AGO BUT...

...the family experience remains. If I have one thing to say, it is that we are all on a journey of learning about how technology can best enhance teaching, learning and leading. Let us forgive our earlier enthusiasms, our false steps, and focus on what we may yet learn from the rich relationships TCEA Convention engenders.

While I have attended many TCEA Conventions, served as a TCEA Area 20 Board member, as well as steering committee member under Barbara Brown as Convention Chair ("Dare to Soar" was the theme), I have begun to see a shift in how we approach technology integration in schools. It was a shift I had no idea about until December, 2018 when Lori Gracey shocked me out of my edtech funk with Hattie's research. Now, after a year of scholarship, I can see the power of evidence-based instructional strategies and technology. At last, the pieces are coming together.

Have you read Tim Holt's Thoughts on TCEA 2020 blog entry?

In his blog entry, he writes:
By now, the host organization, TCEA, has this event down to a science, having done this for 40 years in a row. Everything pretty much runs like clockwork, save for a glitchy online app and a few dead spots of wifi in the exhibition hall...there was not much logistically to complain about. The event pretty much went as planned, at least from the user perspective, and truthfully, that is all that matters in the long run.
Yes, I have to admit that TCEA runs like clockwork. You can focus on the relationships, the hugs, and simply, powerful learning conversations and sessions. While some focus on 50 digital tools in 50 minutes, the truth is, it has gotten a lot more serious than that now. There's a new story about to spring from the ground...we have tilled the soil, planted the seeds, and I suspect the Dallas 2021 event will be incredibly transformative in ways we only imagined at previous conventions.

But back to logistics. I can honestly say that each TCEA has been better than the last. I LOVED the 2019 event in San Antonio (and as a native San Antonian, I pray for many more to come), and found the 2020 event to run even smoother.

While, as Tim points out, the app caused a few hiccups, who can't help but expect a few thousand people using an app to experience a few small issues? For the most part, those issues affected iOS users at the start of the conference but tapered off as staff worked fast to resolve the issue with the app vendor, I observed.

"We did something amazing," is high praise when you realize all the moving pieces of a convention serving about 8,000 attendees, not to mention exhibitors, etc.

We Did Something Amazing

For a few years, it seemed like workshop sessions at TCEA were focused on digital tools, and what Tim calls stories of "We did something amazing." The truth is, yes, that was the case. TCEA IS the place to share amazing stories of success. I can't tell you how many times I longed for someone to share their story of how they made something amazing happen, and blazed a trail. I love the stories of failure, too, the exhortations to continue fighting the good fight. We learn from each triumph, each misstep.

Since Tim may have spent so much time in the Exhibit Hall recording video, he may have missed some of the incredible sessions that could be summed up with "EdTech=No Significant Difference. Now what?"

For my part, I facilitated or participated in sessions that each introduced the work of Dr. John Hattie, showing the power of high-effect size instructional strategies. I had someone say to me from one district, "I notice that all TCEA presenters are bringing in Hattie's work. Thank you, since I studied that myself and was looking for it here."

What is it that's amazing? TCEA's PD staff (hey, did I mention I'm one of those) is presenting on the work of John Hattie and how it can connect to technology.
Yes, so-and-so district raised scores or got kids involved or did this or that, by using their edtech wonder tool, but every single one of the presentations I attended could have only happened if there had been a support system in place to nurture such a transformation. Someone at every level in the organization had to support the effort, either financially and/or logistically. Source: Tim Holt
As Tim points out, we are called to unity. We are called to reinvigorate our approach to edtech with research-based strategies that rely on the work of John Hattie.

A New Story

As I read Tim's thoughts on TCEA 2020, a part of me is also singing a glorious song of joy, a song that says, "We have found the truth of our work and it is good." The truth? EdTech doesn't make a difference in classrooms who don't use high-effect size instructional strategies. Combined with an effective strategy, the digital tools in classrooms today become learning spaces of rigor and relevance in today's world.

I feel we have reached a significant turning point in 2020. It's no longer more of the same, but rather, a new story that David Warlick sought to find so many years ago. Let us tell the new story, one that is based on solid, scientific research of strategies that work and how technology can maximize the impact.

Let us tell a new story that brings curriculum and technologists together for ONE purpose, to accelerate student growth with "strategic technology integration" (a la @Wes_Kieschnick).

While Tim makes other points in his blog entry, I can honestly say that the most inspiring conversations came in hallways after I presented. They came from individuals who shared their journey, their insights, and affirmed the work we were both about. I enjoyed the keynotes, but it was the chats with friends and my TCEA family that brought smiles to my heart and face.

Words fail to express the joy of the conference that I experienced. I hope we will meet again in 2021 and renew our commitment to the new, evidence-based story of educational tech in schools.

Now to put up those sore feet...I don't remember that from 1996. ;-)


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

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