Santa Ynez Valley students got Monday off to celebrate Columbus Day, but many of their teachers chose to spend the day working — learning to put technology to use in the classroom as well as innovative ways to fire up students’ passion for learning.
About 175 teachers from the area’s seven school districts gathered at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School for the seventh annual All-Valley Schools Conference.
In addition to a keynote speaker, the conference included breakout sessions and a chance for teachers from the same grade levels to share ideas and procedures on specific topics.
The conference is organized by the district superintendents with input from the teachers in a process that takes an entire year, said Jim Brown, superintendent of College School District.
“We get all the teachers in Santa Ynez Valley together,” Brown said. “They choose a theme, and we have a keynote speaker who focuses on that theme. This year, it’s using technology to enhance the curriculum.
“Kids live in a digital world, a technology world, and we have to take advantage of that,” he explained. “We have to use it as a tool.
“The idea is to challenge (teachers’) thinking and strengthen their teaching,” he added. “It’s all about collaboration, critical thinking and communication. There is less reliance on published textbooks and more on innovative lesson design that will prompt student involvement.”
This year’s keynote speaker was Jon Corippo, director of academic innovation for CUE, or Computer Using Educators.
Corippo is a Google-certified innovator and a lead learner for a Google Teacher Academy and has been a superintendent of curriculum and instruction and director of technology at the county level.
Like many top educators, Corippo used humor — like comparing classrooms to food trucks — to hold the teachers’ attention and get his points across about eliminating worksheets and tossing out textbooks in favor of project-based learning.
“‘School of Rock’ is the granddaddy of project-based learning,” Corippo said, referring to the 2003 movie where Jack Black portrays a musician who is kicked out of a rock band and becomes a substitute teacher in a regimented school.
By moving students around and applying his lessons to the things that interest the students, he turns them into avid, high-performing learners.
“I don’t want to be a content deliverer,” Corippo told the teachers. “I want to be an educator.”
He projected such sayings as “You never want to get on a plane where the pilot learned to fly from worksheets” on a large screen and explained how projects like the Mullet Ratio can interest students in math.
“Math is a 13-year tryout for something no one wants,” he said. “King of Algorithms. Who wants to be King of Algorithms?”
He also punctuated his breakout session — “Rock Star Lesson Design” — with historical facts about education.
“Schools were built to prepare students to work in factories,” he said, noting schools today are still based on a model developed in 1912. “The most common job in America today is a Walmart cashier. So schools are still preparing students to work in factories.”
As for technology, he advised teachers to use Twitter to stay connected with other teachers and share ideas and having students turn in art projects through Instagram.
Meanwhile, a separate breakout session called an Edcamp was led by Matt Zuchowicz, director of educational technology for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Teachers formed groups of nine or so at various tables based on their interest in such topics as Student-generated Curriculum, Robot Tools and You, Cellphone Tech Toss, Digital Field Trips and Going Gently Into That Tech Night.
The teachers took notes, which they posted on a shared document so everyone could see what was discussed in other groups.
“So if someone wanted to be in the Project-based Learning (group) but ended up in the 4Cs, they can look on here and see what was talked about,” Zuchowicz said.