Distance Learning Across Texas
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
A Crisis of Content
Regional Service Center networks exist to aid educational entities throughout the state of Texas. Among other services, they provide access to the internet, access to video conferencing services, data center backup, disaster recovery transport, backhauling, and voice over ip. These services enhance regional networks; however, the most important element of these services is their relevance to the classroom. The Strategic Plan for the Texas System of Education Service Centers recognizes this and highlights TETN and the content specialist as key to reaching educational goals (a pdf of the document can be downloaded at
). This focus on content at the State level should be reflected regionally, as well.
Surprisingly at the regional level, many education entities have taken steps to eliminate or combine content positions for their network. In doing so, these entities have eliminated or hindered a direct connection to classroom learning. This connection to the classroom is what sets educational networks apart from commodity networks and defines regional broadband networks as education specific.
Content specialists filter through the huge amounts of information on the internet and direct users to specific tools. They design programs that utilize state specific content standards, deliver events customized to fit the needs of specific districts, manage grant opportunities, and provide relevance for the host of other services available on education specific networks. A regional content specialist acts as a value added for districts struggling in this economy. These specialists facilitate the use of the network for educational purposes and, in doing so, reinforce the significance of the services regional networks provide.
The content specialist is valuable tool. Districts that cannot afford specialists take advantage of the global connections, the statewide collaborations, and the expert knowledge provided by regional content specialists. In Region 14, specialist Tommy Bearden is able provide individualized attention to school districts and seek out valuable RUS grants for distance learning infrastructure. As a result, teachers, district staff, and students receive training and resources that help them to thrive.
The effectiveness of this position at creating constant revenue streams is another unrecognized benefit of the content specialist. It is no coincidence that service centers with established content positions have more active network communities and engage more local school districts. Content specialists help provide a connection to our sometimes sterile technologies, generating customers by engaging classrooms with the educational subject matter available on high bandwidth networks. Laurie Hogle, with RETN in FortWorth, recognizes the content specialist role in helping schools “move beyond boxes and wires,” generating the need for network services while making direct connections with educators.
Programs like Marvelous Mammals, a collaboration between Region 11 and Discovery Education, utilized the national Internet2 network to provide once-in-a-lifetime content to schools throughout the state; service centers like Region 15 connect schools with institutes of higher education for dual credit options; and a host of advanced internet web applications (like those found at
) are available to students that utilize the Education Service Centers’ high bandwidth networks.
The key to utilization of the network services is the content specialist. Content specialists make the connection between education networks and learning blatantly obvious to customers by saying, “This is the service we are providing, and here is how you use it in your classroom.”
The truth is we are distinguished from the commodity internet by the content on our network. We do things like offer lower prices and focused support, but in the end it all has to connect to the classroom. Our technology must be at the service of pedagogy. If we neglect this connection, we are one step closer to our customer asking the question, “Why should we go to you for our network services?”
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 3:54:37 PM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, May 11, 2012 3:32:44 PM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)
I wanted to point out that the service centers mentioned in the article are not the only providers of fabulous content on our network. Numerous regions utilize content specialist to provide great content for student learning. Thank you all for everything you do with the resources you have available.
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