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TCEA: 40 Years Young and Growing

by Lori Gracey

It was the 1979–1980 school year, and across the state of Texas, some new technology began appearing by ones and twos in classrooms: personal, desktop computers. Whether they were Commodore 64’s or Apple IIe’s, they were new territory to teachers and leaders who had lots of questions and few answers.


There Was a Need

A number of educators were interested in investigating, or already involved in utilizing the new computers that had started to appear on campuses. Several of these educators decided they needed to take some instruction in programming as that was one of the main ways to interact with a computer at that time. So they enrolled in a night course at North Texas State University, taught by Dr. James L. Poirot.

Two of these educators, Vicki Smith and Diana Radspinner, stayed after class one night and initiated the thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to share ideas and network information among the teachers in the state using or interested in technology?” Dr. Poirot responded that he would be willing to organize a meeting to discuss this if they were willing to do a “little” paperwork. The paperwork soon became an immense undertaking as these two educators from Dallas ISD mailed out fliers to other educators, sketched out a logo (see below), and created an organizational name.


On May 3, 1980, an organizational meeting took place and was attended by 135 educators from around the state. Those attending the meeting joined the new Texas Computer Education Association. And that was our beginning. A few months later, on October 4, 1980, TCEA held its first official conference at North Texas State University. A constitution was adopted and the first board of directors was elected. After that, the first newsletter was published and the organization formally exhibited with its first official booth, table, and handouts at the National Education Computing Conference (now known as ISTE) in Denton in the summer of 1981.

TCEA Grew Quickly

TCEAFrom early Saturday meetings where educators were encouraged to bring their own floppy disks (and disk notchers) and make legal copies of MECC software to use in their classrooms to conferences with sessions like “A Plan for Improving Education through Computer Use” and “The Word Processor and the Teacher” to time learning the new communication system TENET, TCEA quickly became the go-to expert in how to best use technology for learning. Fast forward 40 years and TCEA is still that resource for more than 34,000 educators around the world.

That growth is directly attributable to two groups of individuals. The first group is composed of all of the absolutely amazing leaders we have had over those 40 years. From our founding father, Dr. Jim Poirot, through to the current board of directors, from the SIG leaders to the Champions, dedicated educators have willingly served countless hours to provide extensive planning, professional development, and resources to anyone interested in educational technology. They’ve helped TCEA grow from doing just one professional learning event to an organization that provides more than 200 opportunities to grow in a wide variety of formats each year.

The second group that has helped TCEA grow so much, and without whom we could not even exist, is our members. To those of you who present at our events, to those of you who share our mission and vision, to those of you who answer questions in the Community, we thank you. We appreciate those of you who put on programming contests and train students to take part in robotics events. We thank the CTOs and technology directors who plan and implement technology initiatives. Our thanks go to the network guys and the technicians who keep everything connected and working and to the library media specialists who often act as front-line ed tech experts. We applaud the C&I staff and campus and district leaders who help everyone to integrate technology into learning. And we especially thank all of the front line teachers who use technology make a difference for students every single day. All of you have had a big role in helping TCEA grow and prosper and achieve so much.

Where TCEA Is Headed

While none of us can predict the future with 100% accuracy, I think we all can agree that the importance of technology for learning can only increase. The recent crisis with remote teaching and learning is just one indicator of the need for continued development in the use of technologies today and those coming tomorrow. And TCEA will be right there with all of you as that future comes closer.

Happy Birthday, TCEA!

The first 40 years were unbelievable. I can’t wait to see what the next 40 have in store for us. Tremendous thanks go to each and every one of you who has been a part of our journey thus far. What can’t we accomplish together????

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