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Cotsen Foundation Connects with TUSD in Support of Technology and Learning Conference

Friday, March 27, 2015

Update on Tustin's Connect Institute, Co-Sponsored by the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING (an SCG member), showcasing the District's Device Rollout and Highlights its Longstanding Partnership with the ART of TEACHING:

For most students, learning about George Washington, the California missions, and Japanese American internment camps are usually mere whistle stops during the typical history lesson. For students in Tustin schools, however, the methods used to cover these subjects in-depth - as well as mathematics, science, and language arts - are in themselves, historic. 

In February, the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING co-sponsored the inaugural Tustin Connect Institute, a three-day showcase of the technology rollout executed by Tustin Unified School District a year ago. Cotsen sponsored 25 principals and administrators to attend the Institute to help raise their awareness to the possibilities for integrating technology into thoughtful teaching. Highlights of the conference included site visits to TUSD schools that have been successful in their efforts to integrate curriculum and technology, inspired by the Cotsen methods of coaching and mentoring teachers. 

"The Tustin Unified experience with the Cotsen Foundation has helped to shape our District's culture of collaboration, and our faith in the power of coaching," said Gregory Franklin, superintendent, Tustin Unified School District. "Cotsen mentors and fellows have provided the model for our Digital Learning Coaches and commitment to providing on-going support to teachers who attend trainings. The Cotsen Foundation's work in Tustin Unified has reached across all 28 schools, and all grades K-12. We are very grateful and appreciative of our relationship with this powerful organization that changes the lives of teachers and their students." 

The conference was kicked off on Feb. 25 by an address from Dr. Franklin, group work sessions, and a dinner with keynote speaker Tony Vincent, educator and creator of Learning in Hand, a resource for mobile and digital learning. The conference consisted of breakout sessions on topics such as, "We're Sold on Technology - But How do We Pay for It?," "Bridging Technology and Instruction," and "Measuring Success: Program Evaluation Consideration." Most profound were the site visits to "21st Century Classrooms" throughout TUSD, where teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders were able to see $135M - courtesy of Measure S, a bond that was passed in 2012 for classroom technology - in action. 

"The level of learning is beyond what we imagined a year ago," said Tracey Vander Hayden, principal of Pioneer Middle School in Tustin, where members of the "Tech Genius Club" ushered the visitors through engineering, math, and social studies classes complete with smartboards, voice amplification for teachers, and one-to-one iPads. 

TUSD might be among the better-resourced school districts, with nearly one-to-one access of iPads and laptops in 850 classrooms - not to mention students who are allowed to use their own devices. However, providing the means to train teaching staff in handling swiftly-changing technology is a Cotsen-inspired approach. Jerry Harris, executive director for the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING, addressed one of the breakout sessions at the Connect Institute, praising TUSD educators for sharing "a collaborative process." 

TUSD, which has benefited from a number of Cotsen Fellowships throughout the years, achieved the high level of success with the digital rollout in no small way because of a corps of Digital Learning Coaches (DLCs) and tech-savvy teachers who were given release time to aid their colleagues across the district. Utilizing the Cotsen model of coaching, TUSD conducted an aggressive recruitment of DLCs. 

During a working lunch at the Connect Institute, a Cotsen alumni focus group led 25 Cotsen principals and other educators in an exercise to identify what lessons from the TUSD rollout they could bring to their schools. Participants were asked to share their visions for technology-enhanced learning at their particular school sites, what TUSD methods they would like to see implemented at their schools, how the talents of Cotsen alumni could be used to support technology integration at their sites, and what the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING could do to support them in building a bridge between technology and learning. 

"It was wonderful to see educators from Cotsen schools and districts from across Los Angeles and Orange counties come together and to be so thoughtful and open about their work," said Harris. "Bringing and effectively utilizing 21st century learning tools for instruction in classrooms is a significant shift from the way teaching and learning have historically taken place. One of my big takeaways from today is that districts are eager for support in this area, and the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING is pleased to be a part of that support." 

Email the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING with comments or questions at [email protected]

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