Finding our place: Supporting K12 education in rural Texas

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

We review our process for developing a role in supporting distance learning and educational technology in rural independent schools in Texas. We share results from our survey questionnaire conducted with members of the Texas Rural Education Association, and outline our action plan for moving forward as a partner with K12. 

Presenters

Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. I am also an Associate Professor in the M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership program. I take life-long learning seriously, and recently completed a second doctorate. My research focuses on transformative learning through high impact practices, and the history of higher education.

Additional Authors

Ms. Laresa Trusty is an Instructional Designer in the Technology-Enhanced Learning (T-EL) division. She is involved in creating training and providing assistance to faculty in building their online courses. She has a M.S. in Instructional Design and supports the Canvas organization component of the University Mentoring Project.

Extended Abstract

Description:

This presentation reviews our process for developing a role for our university in supporting distance learning and educational technology in rural independent school districts in Texas.

We are relatively new to the state (independent in the Texas A&M System in 2009, independently accredited in 2013). We were first approached by the Texas Rural Education Association (TREA) last summer about presenting our services and resources to their member superintendents and principals at their fall leadership conference series, with the end goal of leading a professional development workshop next summer for their member teachers.

In this presentation we share results from our IRB-approved survey questionnaire conducted with members of the Texas Rural Education Association, and outline our action plan for moving forward as a partner with the K12 community at large.

Our initial challenges included where to begin this process and how to reach all of the stakeholders. Our main focus was an emphasis on respect for those state agencies who are already invested in meeting the needs of rural students and educators. We reached out to the Texas Education Association (TEA), formalized our standing as professional development providers, and researched the role of the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN) in public education. From there we were referred directly to the TxVSN Coordinator for more detailed conversations.

We were also concerned with quality, so we contacted the Quality Matters folks directly about the K12 rubric, and iNACOL about their work in Texas specifically. Here again, the emphasis was on respect and collaboration. The Chief Operating Officer graciously gave us permission to use some of the language from their 2011 needs assessment survey instrument when we constructed our survey for the TREA. Unfortunately, another challenge we faced was a very low survey response rate. We had to amend our IRB-protocol, revise the survey to reduce the number of questions to decrease the time on task for participants, which resulted in the elimination of a number of the iNACOL-based questions.

Through conversations with the TEA, TxVSN, iNACOL, QM-K12, and the members of TREA, we listened carefully to what they told us K12 districts needed and to what is currently available to them. Through the online, anonymous survey questionnaire, we received a range of responses from the leadership of rural ISDs. The conversations and survey data have enabled us to create an action plan for determining an appropriate role for Texas A&M University -Central Texas to support distance learning and educational technology in predominantly rural independent school districts in Texas.

Session Outcomes:

  • Research Data: Presenters will review and lead discussion of survey results and interpretation of data
  • Action Plan: Presenters will share action plan and next steps
  • Activities: Attendees will participate in discussion and online polling during the presentation
  • Literature: Presenters will lead discussion of current scholarly literature supporting training, quality standards, accessibility, and copyright in online education aimed at K12
  • Experience: Presenters will share experiences with collaboration with state agencies and multiple regions

Handouts:

  • Attendees will leave with a full reference and resource list
  • Attendees will leave with a summary report based on the survey questionnaire data

Session Agenda:

  1. Introduction
    • Brief background of A&M-Central Texas (who we are)
    • Texas Rural Education Association (TREA -who they are and why they approached us)
  2. What should our role be? What can we offer to rural K12 in Texas? Review:
    • Conversations with: Texas Education Association (TEA), Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN), International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), Quality Matters (QM-K12)
    • Presentations to/conversations with: TREA leadership conference series (superintendents and principals of Regions )
    • Survey Questionnaires:  IRB-approved, for TREA membership [long and abbreviated versions]
  3. Share survey results (what we learned)
  4. Our new role in working with rural K12 Texas education (action plan)
    • Professional education
    • Resource portal
    • Grant writing for educational technology and training opportunities
  5. Conclusion
    • How are you working with K12 – or with universities in your state or region?
    • Who is interested in collaborating with us?

Institutional Context

Texas A&M University-Central Texas is an upper-level and graduate university, focused primarily on teaching with developing research programs. Independent within the Texas A&M System since 2009, it was independently accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges in 2013.  The Technology Enhanced Learning department provides consultation and support services aimed at improving and extending the teaching and learning experience at Texas A&M University-Central Texas through the use of state of the art technologies both in the classroom and beyond. We also provide specialized technology support for institution-sponsored events with our Central Texas community partners that foster the exemplary teaching, learning, and outreach goals of the university.

References:

Texas Rural Education Association 

The mission of the Texas Rural Education Association (TREA) is to promote quality educational opportunities and experiences for all children from rural public schools in Texas which enable them to compete in a global society.

Texas Education Agency/Texas Virtual School Network 

The Texas Education Agency provides online courses to eligible students through the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN). The TxVSN is made up of two components - the supplemental course catalog and the full-time online schools. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators can rest assured that courses offered under both TxVSN programs meet the state’s rigorous standards for teaching, learning, and college‐readiness. 

iNACOL 

The mission of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success.

Quality Matters K-12 Program  

Quality Matters (QM) offers a total solution, based on research and best practices, that helps to empower teachers, schools, and districts to design their own online and blended learning courses, or improve existing offerings.