Lucio Padilla Jr. has spent the last 19 years bringing innovation, EdTech, and CUE to the Imperial Valley in Southern California.
Padilla first became acquainted with CUE when he and several of his colleagues attended the Fall CUE Conference in 2001. He – along with co-worker Fernando Arguelles – had the opportunity to attend the conference as part of a grant program through the Imperial County Office of Education. This grant provided both men with laptops, software, and ongoing trainings – which included the Fall CUE Conference.
“It made sense to be involved with technology – it’s a very powerful tool. It would be something I’d learn – it would be part of my work with students,” Padilla states of how he first got involved with CUE. Similarly, Arguelles, an Educational Technology Coach in Calexico Unified School District, says he gravitated toward technology. “Lucio and I were neighbors at the time and our conversations were always related to learning and technology. We were sharing what we were doing in the classroom. Lucio was very innovative at his grade level. It made sense to jump on board with CUE and get all of that training that made me more relevant as a teacher with the technology I had at that time.”
Padilla mentions that the Imperial Valley CUE affiliate has waxed and waned over the years. It was about three years ago when Padilla, along with Arguelles and a small group of dedicated educators, reapplied to get their local affiliate up and running again. The Imperial Valley CUE serves the cities of Calexico, El Centro, Heber, Imperial, Westmorland, Holtville, Calipatria, Seeley, Brawley, and Palo Verde in Southern California near the California-Mexico border.
Padilla works for the Calexico Unified School District as the Director of Instructional Technology. As the Director of Instructional Technology, he works closely with his district’s Educational Services Department to ensure that the district’s 8,800 students get what they need in terms of technology. “We have established technology goals – goals providing access, professional learning, robust infrastructure. These are really the main components that guide my day to day work,” Padilla states.
“The professional development part of it is big right now – and we’re trying to create systems where everything works together. We try to make sense of how technology can be a big part of teaching and learning in our school district. We’ve been able to send a device to every student who needed. We’ve been able to provide internet at home to every student who needed it. We’ve been giving professional development regularly since the very first day we were out,” Padilla says proudly.
With the onset of remote learning, Padilla wanted to ensure that his team were continuing to connect with both staff, students and families – sometimes in new and unconventional ways. His CUSD Loves to Cook videos was a product of these times. “We’ve been having a really big component on professional development with our school district and Fernando has been a major part of that. Fernando, Jesus [Huerta] and myself have predominantly lead most of the PD sessions. We were having a conversation – how about we start exploring non-academic events where we can bring in the community? How can we engage the community in new ways that are fun? I reached out to Fernando. We brainstormed it and planned it out.”
With the help of Arguelles’ son and utilizing his daughter as a co-host, Arguelles filmed the first episode of CUSD Loves to Cook from his own kitchen. The team that produces the videos start promo-ing the featured cooking lesson the week before so that families can get the necessary supplies ready. “We invited all of our staff through an email and sent a Remind message to our parent community. Then we had [the session] over Zoom – a few hours before, we sent out the video and encouraged people to get a head start to show during the event. During the event, we went live and I interviewed Fernando. We played the video and came back and some people had their crepes made and some would send us photos later.” The team plans to continue this series and Padilla reports that they already have the next four videos planned out and ready to be produced. Not only will these amateur chefs have their own custom-created CUSD aprons but Padilla also plans on utilizing Flipgrid as a platform for sharing their families cooking creations.
Padilla attributes these more creative efforts to the organization he is now heavily involved with as a CUE Board Member. Padilla states, “CUE is so dynamic. I have always been impressed with how creative CUE has been as a whole organization – it has this who creativity and fun culture to it. When we think about the cooking session – it was part of that. How can we create something fun and creative? What would CUE do right now? We’re working on a project right now we’re calling the Masked Reader. [It involves] community read alouds, judges, a host. Mystery readers would come on and read books aloud and we’d have the student community vote for their favorite.
“The Masked Reader, the CUSD Loves to Cook, and a couple of our projects come from being part of a culture that values creativity, excitement and engagement. Having been a part of that [with CUE] for many, many years, it’s definitely influencing us now. We take a lot of what we see from CUE and it has impacted our staff development days. It has become really natural – a whole culture of creativity, fun, engagement, community and family,” Padilla states.
Arguelles, an IV CUE Board Member and their Director of Member Engagement, agrees with his CUSD colleague and friend. “There is such a big, creative drive behind CUE and what CUE does. Twitter has been such a big thing – such a platform to grow and [allows us to] connect with other CUE affiliates. We get so many ideas. Even if it’s not a direct imitation of what someone else is doing, it influences new ideas and grows exponentially. Lucio has been a force behind that for our district. We’re pretty isolated and Lucio opens doors for the rest of us and [gives us] exposure. Calexico has connected with big names in education and the EdTech field – and it’s inspired teachers within their own classes.”
Padilla was so inspired by CUE and the EdCamp movements throughout the region that he started his own production on Friday afternoons called “Lucio and Friends.” “We have trainings throughout the week and we end the week on Fridays with a special guest. It’s been more social – which is a big part of CUE. It’s been fun but at the same time learning, same time networking.” Padilla mentions that the IV CUE Board, Jon Corippo and Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez, and Ann Kozma have all been guests on his show. “Everyone is invited – administration, classified, teachers. It has been more therapeutic – it also adds perspective. People have really enjoyed ending the week like that – it’s been more social, more fun,” Padilla states.
To see more of what CUSD has been producing during this remote learning period, check out their website: www.bit.ly/CUSDremotelearning