CUE’s 40th anniversary provides a rich opportunity to examine how one function of the organization has evolved over time. This analysis explores CUE conferences from the initial event in 1980 through Fall 2017. Two conferences were held each year except during 1990-91 and 2005-09 when only one annual conference took place in Southern California. Conferences were held in high schools through 1988, augmented by some off-site hotel space as needed. Beginning in 1989, convention/conference centers hosted each event in both Northern and Southern California venues to facilitate the growing number of participants. In 2010 after a five-year hiatus, the fall CUE conference was held at American Canyon High School in Napa, where it has been hosted since.

Session descriptions from conference programs were imported into Dedoose version (2017), a web application for managing and analyzing qualitative data. In most cases, multiple codes were assigned systematically to the text of each session overview to reflect the described content. A total of 107 unique codes were created and applied. For example, the session “Lit Circle Reboot—Using Google Classroom” had the following description:

Take a deeper dive into your novel with Google Classroom providing the engine to give your traditional literature circles a reboot. This is a make-and-take class that will provide you with the tools to start your own googly book club.

Four codes were applied to this text: hands-on, reading, LMS (Learning Management System, [Google Classroom]), and general teaching with technology.

Conference Overview

Figure 1 indicates the number of sessions was relatively stable from 1983-88, took a brief dip from 1989-91, and trended upward through 1994. The session count deviated only slightly each year from 1995-2005 before decreasing during the one-conference per year period from 2006-09 and increasing sharply since then. Vendors have delivered a fairly constant portion of the sessions each year.

Figure 1: Total number of presentations and the number of commercial presenters

Figure 1 also tracks the number of sessions noted or described in the program as being hands-on sessions or workshops. There does not appear to be much deviation throughout conference history. However, the coding of hands-on sessions is masked by one factor. Beginning in 2010, the entire conference venue had wireless internet access, meaning all presentations could potentially be hands-on sessions even if not noted as such in the program. Since 2010, the actual number of hands-on sessions is likely larger than the number shown in Figure 1.

Participant engagement in the conference changed drastically once wireless internet access was available. Participants could select and manage sessions online; by Fall 2017, paper programs were no longer available. Wireless access also enabled presenters to post-conference materials online to eliminate hard copy handouts and to extend the conference material to CUE members who were not able to attend sessions. In addition, the use of social media prior to, during, and after conferences has changed the conference dynamic and opportunities for professional growth over the last decade.

Conference Sessions: The Role of Technology in Teaching

Conferences tend to reflect general educational trends and initiatives. State standards and frameworks have guided instruction in California since 1997 (CDE, 2017) when session descriptions that included the word “standard” increased (see Figure 2). The graph rises sharply from 2001 to 2005 when educators were tasked with using technology in a No Child Left Behind era. Then, standards are mentioned only sporadically in session descriptions until 2012 when Common Core State Standards (CCSS) started to be discussed in schools, peaking in 2014 when 19% of sessions included “standards” in the description. Subsequently, as teachers became familiar with the CCSS, the word appeared less frequently in descriptions and, when present, often related to International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards.

Figure 2. The percentage of session descriptions that included the word “standards”

Wireless internet availability at the conference paralleled access trends in K-12 schools. Since 2010, sessions in which presenters discussed 1:1 models, mobile technology, and various tablet-based hardware were plentiful. It is likely that a combination of increased student access to connected devices and the emergence of both the CCSS and the 21st Century Learning Initiative has provided teachers with the flexibility to use technology in ways that are not directly tied to student achievement on standardized tests. Recent conference offerings appear to reflect the use of technology as an integral part of teaching and learning and to address ISTE’s revised Standards for Students (2016), which outline skills and knowledge that are critical in today’s increasingly global and digital world. Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework acknowledged the interplay between content knowledge (CK), pedagogical knowledge (PK), and technology knowledge (TK).

Analysis of conference sessions indicates a higher percentage of sessions over the past decade devoted to technical pedagogical knowledge (TPK) compared to those in earlier years (see Figure 3). In addition, the analysis indicates more recent conferences hosting sessions involving technology at the transformation levels of Puentedura’s (2006) SAMR model—another indication that teachers collectively are rethinking the way technology is used in their instruction. Substitution and augmentation (the “S” and “A” in SAMR) focus on the use of technology to enhance a lesson. Examples of sessions addressing these stages in the model include the use of discipline-based software packages, teacher-created slide shows, internet searches, and Google forms for formative assessment. Sessions addressing the modification and redefinition (the “M” and “R” in SAMR) levels of the model comprise those introducing teachers to project-based learning via the creation of graphics, videos, and podcasts, as well as examples of student collaboration related to solving real-world problems.

Figure 3. The percentage of sessions focusing on the technology itself, teaching with technology, and generally managing students (including use of an LMS). Percentages do not total 100 since multiple codes could be applied to each session.

Another interesting conference trend is the prevalence of sessions since 2013 that were focused on broad pedagogical ideas, such as maker spaces, gamification, genius hour, and design thinking. While speakers could have and likely did discuss technology in these sessions, session descriptions emphasized the concepts and not the technology. The recent rise of this type of session suggests CUE conferences encourage and support innovative teaching regardless of the role technology plays in that endeavor.

The terms STEM and STEAM started to emerge in session descriptions in 2009 and appeared in 7% of the text in 2016 and 2017. Likely related to the STEM and STEAM emphasis is a re-emergence of sessions related to programming, coding, and robotics. Figure 4 shows that in the early years of the conference, programming was a very popular session topic that steadily decreased in the 1980s and was nearly non-existent for many years until it started trending upward again in 2009. In 2016 and 2017, 9% of session descriptions mentioned programming, coding, or robotics.

Figure 4. Percentage of sessions focusing on programming, coding, or robotics


What the analysis of CUE conference sessions suggests is that in the past decade, even more specifically since 2010, conference presenters and attendees have changed their instructional methods in ways that make technology more than just a delivery medium. McKnight, O’Malley, Ruzic, Horsley, Franey, and Bassett (2016) suggested that while access is important, even more important is how technology facilitates teaching and learning. If the CUE conferences represent trends and patterns in California schools, it appears that technology is now more than something teachers and students “do.” CUE conferences have been and continue to be instrumental in helping educators consider how they can effectively empower learners. The increase in attendance and number of session offerings indicates that technology has become an integral part of the resources teachers have at their disposal and that all levels of educators are interested in continuing their quest to become more skilled.


California Department of Education. (2017). Content standards. Retrieved from

Dedoose [Computer software]. (2017). Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from

McKnight, K., O’Malley, K., Ruzic, R. Horsley, M. K., Franey, J. J., Bassett, K. (2016).Teaching in a digital age: How educators use technology to improve student learning, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 48(3), 194-211. doi: 10.1080/15391523.2016.1175856

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Puentedura, R. R. (2006). Transformation, technology, and education. Retrieved from

Dr. Dawn Poole is a Professor of Educational Technology at California State University, Stanislaus. She can be reached at


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