Most every Thursday afternoon, Teresa Magpayo Castro and Ricardo Recinos sit in their respective home offices, turn on their laptop cameras, flip the switches on their mics and lights, hit record and start livestreaming their webinar “TRansformational Tech.” (Capital T for Teresa and R for Ricardo.)
The pair are friendly, fun and have an easy rapport with each other and their audience – with whom they chat and answer questions via multiple social media platforms. Their professional development sessions for educators cover such topics as “The Inclusive Classroom: Cross-Language Communication Tools,” “Enhancing Student Learning With AR and VR” (augmented and virtual reality) and “Engaging Students Through Design-Based Learning.” Sessions that address social emotional learning and student engagement are especially popular.
“It’s about access and equity for our kids,” says Magpayo Castro, who, like Recinos, spent years as a classroom teacher. “That is ingrained, no matter what we do. For us, it’s not just bland tech. Tech is a vehicle to provide meaningful instruction.”
While the webinars focus on using tech to support students who might otherwise be left out – English learners, students with exceptionalities, etc. – they’ve drawn a broader audience beyond educators to include students, parents, school administrators and board members, and ed tech fans around the country and globe.
“It’s about access and equity for our kids. It’s not just bland tech. Tech is a vehicle to provide meaningful instruction.”
—Teresa Magpayo Castro, HLPTA
Both Magpayo Castro and Recinos are teachers on special assignment with Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, and members of Hacienda-La Puente Teachers Association (HLPTA). The district enrolls 16,500 students, 77 percent of which are Latinx and 16.5 percent Asian; more than 12,000 students receive free/ reduced-price lunch.
“There is a huge need for professional development to reach all students,” says Recinos. He and Magpayo Castro both learned English as a second language and understand the needs of ESL students.
“With tech, every student can show mastery, no matter their background,” Magpayo Castro adds. In July 2021, TRansformational Tech became a pilot project of CTA’s Instructional Leadership Corps (see box). ILC provides training and support for teacher-led professional development, such as helping the HLPTA team secure a grant used to purchase production gear and fund small “thank you” gifts for webinar guests. Magpayo Castro and Recinos had been training educators for years as district TOSAs when the pandemic, school shutdown and distance learning necessitated a quick shift online to help teachers transition and deliver instruction virtually – a quick shift that most districts were not always able to make. That’s where the union stepped in with the ILC opportunity for training on demand.
Just prior to the pandemic, new HLPTA President Billie Joe Wright had been making plans to engage chapter members as well as community, including setting up an equity team and leveraging member expertise for professional development opportunities. He saw that Magpayo Castro and Recinos’ work dovetailed with his chapter objectives.
“It was those two things combined – PD by our members that reflected the equity component,” Wright says. “I wanted Teresa and Ricardo to lean into that equity part” – mentioning LGBTQ+ examples, mental health topics, etc., that could attract a wider range of members. “HLPTA represents nurses, speech language pathologists, counselors, as well as classroom educators.”
HLPTA and CTA supported Magpayo Castro and Recinos’ attendance at relevant conferences and trainings, and promoted TRansformational Tech on its social media platforms and in communications with parents and community, among other things. Even when schools went back to in-person instruction in 2021, there was an urgent need for more PD – for example, teachers wanted to know what tech was worth bringing back into the classroom.
The webinars have gained a solid following. “It started with 10 people watching the livestream at first,” Recinos says of the pair’s passion project. “Our loyal watchers still tune in live, but teachers want PD on demand. We noticed our audience would grow to 300 or more who viewed webinars later.”
“We’re always trying to think of what teachers need from us,” he continues. “And we think about the broader audience and how to bring in parents, students, community. We survey viewers about what topics they want to see, or they tell us.”
Recinos and Magpayo Castro have presented at conferences, such as CTA’s Good Teaching Conference, and hope to develop a more intensive training session in the future, such as an AR/VR bootcamp. Meanwhile, they continue to volunteer their time for the weekly webinars, often planning and preparing late in the evening after their children have gone to bed and their day jobs are done.
“We’re trying to be purposeful about TRansformational Tech,” Magpayo Castro says, “because we care about student voice and choice.”
Find Transformational Tech on YouTube.