DAILY INSIGHT: Random musings from the 2013 TCEA Conference

By Steve Young, CIO Advisor

We are blessed in Texas to have one of the premier instructional technology conferences in the world hosted here in our state. The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) put on a fantastic event in early February in Austin. For me, the conference is a wonderfully exhausting set of meetings, vendor interactions, and presentations. So I thought I would share a few things that highlighted the event for me…

I started out the conference with an all-day meeting of about 100 of Texas’ premier education CTOs, CIOs, and technology directors. The Texas K-12 CTO Council (part of CoSN) is full of high-energy, collaborative, and super-intelligent educational leaders from around the state. If there was one common thread throughout the day, it is that we are all facing a rapidly changing technology landscape. BYOD, tablets, online learning, and mobile devices are here to stay, and we all need to embrace this change and figure out very quickly how we are going to leverage them for learning, lest we become irrelevant.

Another significant amount of my time at TCEA was spent off site meeting with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), about how the agency can help districts authenticate staff and students through its Project Share gateway, allowing single sign on (SSO) for all state-sponsored curricular applications. While this may not seem exciting, it is a huge first step and one that potentially will save districts thousands of hours of lost instructional time, as students and staff struggle to remember one more set of login credentials. While this is in the early planning stages, I want to applaud the TEA and Associate Commissioner, Anita Givens, and her staff for listening to the needs of districts, and following up by launching this long-overdue initiative. We all want our staff and teachers doing SOMETHING other than managing user credentials. I can only hope that other states are this forward thinking in helping out overburdened districts.

So you may be reading this and wondering if I got to see any cool stuff or good presentations. I had the pleasure of presenting with two of my awesome team members to a packed house on developing mobile applications (anyone can do this—I promise). School districts having apps may be a new thing now, but I promise you, in a few years if you do not have one, you will be in the minority. Almost everything on the floor revolved around mobile devices, and we all know that apps rule the roost on mobile. Our presentation is freely downloadable on Slideshare.

A couple of neat things intrigued me as well. Certainly there were some great devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, which—when bundled with Samsung Smart School—looks like a great start on a fantastic manageable eco-system, where bundled with MDM, might make this a compelling investment over other tablets or devices.

Finally, one software system that caught my eye, because of its emphasis on BYOD, was DisplayNote. While this is not an inexpensive solution, it looks like a great way to unify a non-homogenous room of BYOD devices for teachers and students sharing content and collaborating. While the app may seem teacher focused, from what I have read, it looks like you could easily use this app and have students share their work and teach the class or collaborate together in small groups, using whatever device they have!

While I have barely scratched the surface of a great event in this post, I promise if you look through this list of the 2013 TCEA convention session handouts, you will find some great things as well. If you had the pleasure to attend, please tweet your favorite finds or sessions to @atemyshorts.

Steve Young is CTO of Judson ISD in Texas and founder of the San Antonio Area Technology Directors group. He blogs at CTO Technotes, where this is cross posted. Follow him on Twitter as @atemyshorts.