Tech de Mayo: Imperial County Office of Education

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Tech de Mayo
Imperial County Office of Education

Tech de Mayo, an annual teaching and technology conference in Imperial County, is preparing educators for continuous growth and success in the ever-changing workplace.
 
Hosted by the Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE) and Imperial Valley College, Tech de Mayo helps foster innovation and inspire new ideas for educators by showcasing how technology can improve teaching and learning.
 
Event organizer Alan Phillips, coordinator of educational technology for ICOE, said Tech de Mayo is designed for teachers, administrators and IT staff. “We firmly believe that technology is something that can benefit everybody and make them more efficient and effective at their job, no matter what it is.”

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Tech de Mayo was launched six years ago around the same time as Cinco de Mayo, so Phillips said the event name plays off of the holiday. More than 90 percent of Imperial County students are Latino.
 
Response to the event, held this year on May 7th, was “amazing,” Phillips said. So many educators wanted to participate that registration had to be cut off at 200 due to space limitations.
 
Participant Jessica Ortega, a teacher in the Heber Elementary School District, said the event has empowered her “to use a variety of tech tools to enhance the way I teach and transform learning experiences for my students.”
 
“Tech de Mayo provides an opportunity for educators to connect, share best practices, discuss challenges and inspire innovation,” Ortega said.

The one-day event kicked off with the 3rd Annual Imperial County Student Film Festival Award Ceremony. The awards go to top video teams in their respective grade levels and video categories. Almost 60 teams in grades five through 12 participated in the competition.

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Tech de Mayo also featured 28 breakout sessions that covered topics such as apps for home-school connection, STEM education, augmented reality, digital portfolios, assessment, security, project-based learning, apps for learning, games and manipulatives, robotics, online games, video creation and more, as well as a prize raffle thanks to the generosity of the Imperial Valley College Foundation.
 
A STEAM Maker Zone showcased projects created by the De Anza Magnet School’s seventh-graders. Participants met the students and got to try hands-on activities including robotics, coding, 3-D printing, and virtual reality using 3-D goggles. Ascension Reyes, Technology Resource Teacher at De Anza Magnet School, spearheaded the STEAM Maker Zone and was pleased to see teachers eager to incorporate these types of authentic learning experiences into their own classroom.
 
Keynote speaker Alice Keeler, author of the book, “50 Things you can do with Google Classroom,” closed the day by challenging participants to elevate the importance of searching for information and asking driving questions to build understanding and create meaningful learning experiences.

Phillips said one reason for the strong interest in the tech conference is the introduction of Smarter Balanced assessments and the accompanying funding for technology, which has led to a “proliferation of devices in the classroom. Teachers have this equipment and are now interested in using it.”

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Imperial County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Todd Finnell said that 10 years ago these technology events were only relevant for the early adopters, and it used to be the tech leaders and county office staff leading the workshops.
 
Now, he said, “individual teacher leaders have taken ownership of the event. They haven’t had the opportunity to see how the teacher in the classroom next to theirs is using technology, but here they can.”
 
Dr. Finnell said they have learned that rather than having the event led by the county office, “We play a behind-the scenes, supportive role while districts and teachers take ownership. It’s not a county office of education event, it’s K-12 and the community college working together to invest in our teachers and students.”

What’s unique about this event, Dr. Finnell said, “is that it’s instructional leaders who have learned how to use technology – but aren’t necessarily technologists – who are sharing their practices. This makes it very accessible for our teachers and allows them to embrace the new strategies more comfortably.”
 
Virginia Piñeda, special education teacher in El Centro Elementary School District, said students in her fifth- and sixth-grade Special Day Class are now able to learn and express their understanding with individualized iPads, Google tools, and other digital programs she learned about at Tech de Mayo.
 
“In addition to the higher levels of rigor I can apply to the learning objectives, I’ve seen levels of engagement and participation increase significantly,” Piñeda said.
 
Dr. Finnell said that ultimately, the goal of Tech de Mayo is “to build a network of people who can always lean on each other, and continue working together all year long.”
 
“I believe by developing attitudes about technology and building capacity, great things are happening for our students,” he said. “Events like this get that process started for some teachers, and for others it is a re-energizing experience.”

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For more information:

• Learn more about the 2016 Tech de Mayo breakout sessions, keynote speaker and student film festival here.
• To view some of the winning videos from the 2016 Imperial County Student Film Festival, click here.

 

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