Posts Tagged ‘TA TEKS’

Making a Case for Information Literacy

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Author:  Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Technology & Library Media Services

Information literacy. What is it? Quite simply, it is the ability to sift through an abundant quantity of information to find what you need to accurately answer a question you have. It is knowing how to refine an information search to get a smaller but more accurate selection of resources to answer your question (i.e., “puma NOT shoes”). And it is knowing when one source (National Geographic) may be more reliable than another source (Bob’s Blog About Cool Science Stuff).

So why does it matter? The information landscape of today’s digital world is changing at incredible rates. According to Gonzalez (2004), the “half-life of knowledge,” or the time between acquiring knowledge and the obsolescence of that knowledge, is shrinking. Effectiveness in today’s workforce requires knowing how to stay current on the most up-to-date information possible. “As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses” (Siemens, 2005). Knowing how to find out is rapidly replacing knowing. Information literacy is knowing how to find out.

We are seeing more and more digital devices being included in classrooms to facilitate the learning process. This creates perfect opportunities to make sure we are integrating information literacy skills into our content area instruction. Fortunately, some common threads of information literacy are already woven into the process standards of the four major content area TEKS. Consider the following TEKS examples:

 ELAR Research Strand

Students are expected to know how to locate a range of relevant sources and evaluate, synthesize, and present ideas and information.

ELAR Figure 19

Students are expected to apply deep comprehension strategies when reading such as:

establish a purpose for reading,

ask questions of the text,

make connections (text to self, text, community),

make inferences and support with text evidence,

summarize, and

monitor and adjust comprehension.

 Social Studies Process Standards

Students are expected to use a problem-solving process to identify a problem, gather information, list and consider options, consider advantages and disadvantages, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

Science Process Standards

In all fields of science, students are expected to analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student. In addition, students will evaluate the accuracy of the information related to promotional materials for products and services such as nutritional labels.

Mathematics Process Standards

Students will use a problem-solving model that incorporates analyzing given information, formulating a plan or strategy, determining a solution, justifying the solution, and evaluating the problem-solving process and the reasonableness of the solution.

In creating learning activities around these standards, teachers can incorporate opportunities for students to search the web and databases of scholarly resources to find information to support their content understanding. When Google searches produce information that is inaccurate or too broad, the opportunity exists to teach students ways to refine searches or access more scholarly sources to yield more effective results. With the return of state funded database access through teachers in Texas public schools and open enrollment charter schools will have free/low cost access to digital academic resources to support information literacy integration. Your campus librarian can be a fantastic resource to assist teachers in integrating information literacy skills into instruction, but it is important that information literacy skills integration is occurring regularly in classroom activities and not just on occasional library visits.

As the “basis for lifelong learning” (ACRL, 2000), information literacy is one of the greatest skills we can instill in our students. The increasing availability of technology in our classrooms makes integrating information literacy skills into instruction an attainable goal.



ACRL. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, C. (2004). The role of blended learning in the world of technology. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from

The Genius of Genius Hour

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Author:  Leslie Barrett, Specialist:  Technology & Library Media Services

Image courtesy of


Genius Hour is an education trend that is getting a considerable amount of buzz lately.  It is a concept inspired by Google’s 20 percent time, a policy that affords Google engineers 20 percent of their work time (one day per week) to pursue “passion projects” related to their official job duties.  This encouragement of choice and innovation has resulted in the development of many of Google’s products, including Gmail and Google News.

Translated to a classroom setting, Genius Hour is a small chunk of time – the hour part is arbitrary – where students are allowed to investigate any topic of their choice.  While the topic does not have to be related to any specific content area, there are guidelines and checkpoints that teachers and students should adhere to in order to maximize the educational benefit of the experience.

While student choice is key, topics must be presented to and approved by the teacher.  This helps provide structure for students in crafting a topic that will result in deep exploration, and not just questions that can be answered by a quick Google search.  It also sets the tone that although this project will be fun, there are still expectations around topic acceptability and student learning.

Students are expected to present their investigation findings at the conclusion of their research.  This accountability piece communicates that Genius Hour projects are not just goof-off free time, but a project to be taken seriously.  Additionally, presentations give students experience communicating to an audience and designing a presentation with an authentic audience in mind.  It also creates a platform to inspire new ideas and thinking about future projects among classmates.

Genius Hour project timeframes can vary based on individual teachers’ schedules.  Some teachers choose to do projects with prescribed timeframes (i.e., a 6 week cycle), while other teachers find it better to allow each individual project to conclude naturally.  Even the “hour” designation of Genius Hour is just a suggestion.  Some teachers, particularly secondary teachers who are subject to finite class periods, allow one class period a week to be devoted to Genius Hour projects.  Some teachers incorporate Genius Hour time as part of daily activity options when students are finished with their assigned class work.  Other teachers, particularly at the elementary level, may choose to implement Genius Hour in lieu of Fun Friday activities that have little academic value.  The key is to mold the idea to what works in individual classrooms.

A key component of Genius Hour projects is regular teacher-student check in conferences.  This is how teachers help students stay on track, and how they can address misconceptions or guide learning.  Teachers can offer mini workshops during Genius Hour time to help groups of students who are struggling with similar issues.

Through the course of Genius Hour topic exploration, students are developing a myriad of skills in an authentic, student-directed learning environment.  The most obvious is information fluency.  Students are driven by a need to locate accurate and reliable information about a topic that is meaningful to them.  Students will need to organize and summarize the information they are locating, and it’s a perfect platform to reinforce the digital citizenship skills of avoiding plagiarism, fair use, giving attribution and citing sources.  While investigating information students are naturally applying the reading and writing skills being taught in the content areas.  As they learn more about specific topics of interest they are expanding and internalizing content knowledge in various areas.  In preparation for their final product students are synthesizing the information they have uncovered and reassembling it in a new and creative way to showcase new understanding.

With so many educational advantages, it’s easy to see why many teachers are making room for students to explore their passions through Genius Hour activities.  To learn more please access the following links:

Eight Pillars of Innovation by Susan Wojcicki, Google Think Insights

The Google Way:  Give Engineers Room by Bharat Mediratta, NY Times Job Market

Instructional Materials Selection & Adoption

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author: Jennifer Jordan-Kaszuba, Education Specialist



During the 2013-2014 school year districts will be selecting instructional materials for K-5 Math, K-12 Science and K-12 Technology Applications.  This selection is different than adoptions in the past in that districts will purchase materials they select using their Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA).  The State Board of Education (SBOE) is scheduled to release their list of materials in November of 2013.  To qualify for the list, materials must align to at least 50% of the TEKS for the subject/grade level/course that they represent. Materials under consideration for state level adoption may be print, electronic or a hybrid of both.



Gone are the days where a textbook system covering 100% of the TEKS, complete with ancillaries and more, was selected without thought to cost (as long as it qualified for the list), and books for every student showed up in August.  Instead, districts must now weigh the cost, quantity and TEKS coverage of all materials and make hard choices about which materials to purchase.   Districts will need to, if they haven’t already, form a committee to prioritize spending of the IMA.


Committees face the daunting task of deciding which courses and grade levels receive new materials: both to what extent as well as what internal preview processes and systems need to exist. District technology staff must also work with the committee to make sure any online materials will work with the district’s infrastructure. Math has new K-8 standards taking effect in 2014-2015. Science has new standards that were adopted in 2010 for which no long-term materials were adopted.  Technology Applications TEKS are also new and require updated materials.  More materials were submitted to the SBOE for consideration than ever before, with 50+ submissions for 8th grade science alone.  These considerations are in addition to the normal questions regarding quality, ease of use and suitability of materials for students groups with regards to differentiation.


Materials Preview

Districts should be actively reviewing materials as soon as possible.  ESC Region 13 hosts free ongoing preview opportunities on alternating Wednesdays during regular service center hours of operation.  District personnel may preview materials only – no vendors or publishers are present.  Pre-registration is required and space is limited for these sessions. For more information about dates and registration, click here.


We will also be hosting three days of Instructional Materials Preview where vendors will be present to exhibit their materials and answer questions.  These free sessions will be done in an exhibit hall format and you are welcome to come and go throughout the day.  Pre-registration is not required but on-site sign-in is requested. (Register now.)


January 7, 2014         K-5 Math and Science (SP1425307)

January 8, 2014         6-8 Math and 6-12 Science (SP1428091)

February 21, 2014    K-12 Technology Applications (SP1428092)


Information about Proclamation 2014 and the SBOE process is available online from TEA.


Information about the Instructional Materials Allotment is available online from TEA.

6 Reasons Your Students Need You to Read This Article (and Take Action)

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Lannon Heflin – Program Manager for Instructional Technology

Consider the six skills categories listed here and ask yourself, “How prepared are my students to excel in each of these universally important strands of living and learning?”

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Communication and collaboration
  3. Research and information fluency
  4. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Technology operations and concepts

There is no doubt you agree that your students deserve a well-rounded educational experience that prepares them to be “world ready.” Fortunately, new standards for Technology Applications (TA TEKS*) have been approved and passed into law and they provide an excellent framework for educators to build truly transformative learning experiences.   The question is how prepared do you feel to integrate skills in the six strands mentioned above into daily instruction as you ensure you are meeting your obligation to teach the required technology applications curriculum for your grade level (specifically grades K-8)?

Regardless of how you answered this question, you will want to take advantage of a unique, free and high impact professional development opportunity.  Here is what you need to know.

The Texas Education Agency has released, through each Education Service Center, three facilitated online courses designed to get you successfully planning with the new TA TEKS quickly and with great confidence.  The courses are provided in grade bands K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.

Quoting from, “The courses are free and will be offered to ISDs and Open Enrollment Charter schools that have Project Share accounts. They will be delivered completely online and the participants will earn 6 CPE hours.  Each Regional Education Service Center (ESC) will have at least one facilitator to offer these courses online through Project Share.” Additionally at this link you will find the appropriate contact information for your ESC (for non-ESC Region XIII schools).

ESC Region XIII schools and systems can find all the enrollment details and passwords at this link.

A few important details to remember:

  • For ESC XIII the facilitated courses enrollment window is August 1st – August 30th and enrollment is capped at 30 for each course.
  • Course work begins on August 30th and ends on October 11th.
  • Course activity includes interacting with other educators and creating, sharing and teaching a technology integrated lesson in your classroom.
  • Non-classroom teachers are welcome to enroll, but it is important that you partner with a classroom teacher to complete the activities.
  • Additional offers for these courses will be made in late fall, spring and summer.



*I wrote about the transition to the new TA TEKS in last August in the very first In-Sight Newsletter publication (  This August, I want to kick off the new In-Sight Newsletter season and new school year with this invitation. You can view the TA TEKS here

Technology – New TEKS for the 2012-2013 School Year

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Technology Applications TEKS – New TEKS Ready for the 2012-2013 School Year

The Integration of Technology Applications TEKS (Chapter 126, Subchapters A – D) is required by Texas law. In grades K-12, it is common for this to be the shared responsibility of the core and enrichment area teachers.   The TA TEKS are a framework for curriculum that should be added to your written curriculum and included in best instructional practices.

In order for teachers to be successful, considerable professional development is needed to assist in authentic integration, documentation, and assessment of technology applications TEKS.

The TA TEKS have been significantly updated. It can be considered a re-write, not just an update. The updates are reflected in grades K-8.  Additionally, high school course choices are impacted.  School Year 2011-2012 is the year to familiarize staff with the new standards and prepare for the required implementation in school year 2012.  Additionally, Proclamation 2014 and the Instructional Materials Allotment approach to acquiring textbooks and instructional materials plays a significant role in how resources will be selected and purchased for the new TA TEKS.


For all grade levels:

  • Knowledge and Skills Statements and the Associated Student Expectations are:
    • More challenging
    • Appropriate to this generation of learners
    • Generic enough to scale and shift with technology changes over time
    • Specific enough to allow for accountability

This chart is an overview of the changes from the 1998 standards and the 2011 standards

  Technology Application TEKS 1998-2010

1998 Standards


Technology Application TEKS 2011-?

New Standards


Strands Original Four Strands

Foundations, Information Acquisition, Solving Problems, Communication


6 New Strands

Technology Operations and Concepts, Digital Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Research and Information Fluency, Communication and Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation

Middle School Changes in bundling at Middle School

Subchapter B 126.12


Grades 6-7-8 Bundled

Middle School is now Subchapter
 B 126.14, 126.15, 126.16 Middle School

Now separate by grade, creating more clarity in responsibilities for grade level teachers

High School Changes in Courses at High School

Subchapter C

High School originally included: 7 Courses + Independent Study

Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Desktop Publishing, Digital Graphics and Animation, Multimedia, Video Technology, Web Mastering, Independent Study In Tech Apps



Subchapter C, High School – Updated

Significant changes in Student Expectations

New Courses Authorized + Independent Study (BOLD)

Fundamentals of Computer Science, Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Computer Science 3, Digital Forensics, Discrete Mathematics, Game Programming and Design, Mobile Application Development, Robotics Programming and Design, Digital Design and Media Production, Digital Art and Animation, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Digital Communications in the 21st Century, Digital Video and Audio Design, Web Communications, Web Design, Web Game Development, Independent Study in Tech Apps, Independent Study in Evolving/Emerging Technologies

Subchapter D, High School

Other Technology Courses

Advanced Placement in Computer Science, International Baccalaureate (IB) Standard, International Baccalaureate (IB) High


This year, school systems can begin to form local PLCs and committees to discuss:

  1. Course Catalogs  for High School Courses (perhaps Middle School as well)
  2. Curriculum/Technology Integration
  3. Professional Development
  4. Who will participate in reviewing instructional materials