New DOE Tech Czar Promises "Transformative Agenda"
Cator: new technology plan due next month
Karen Cator is expected to hit the ground running in her new position as DOE director of education technology. After all, as Apple's former director of education leadership and advocacy, she certainly knows the ed tech landscape. What has amazed her, she said in an interview this week, is how the entire department is pushing to show accomplishments.
"I was surprised to find how action-orientated everybody is," she said in her first interview since taking the new job in November. "It's a leave-your-ego-at-the-door atmosphere. Everybody wants to make progress."
Speaking at the Software & Information Industry Association's Ed Tech Business Forum on December 1, Cator promised a new draft technology plan by January. The plan is her first priority and she expects it to clearly articulate how technology is critical to the four assurances of the Obama education stimulus plan: learning, teaching, assessment, and productivity.
In mentioning one specific point, Cator called for finding effective teachers in every zip code. "We need to leverage the best of technology to have access to that high level of teaching," she said.
The education veteran said the challenge was to create "student-centered learning" that pays attention to individual goals and aspirations while still allowing students to collaborate and leverage their prior experience. "We need to connect formal and informal learning to raise efficiency and save costs," she said. She also called for the creation of a digital portfolio for each student that can be shared with parents and mentors.
Responding to questions after her talk to 200 ed tech industry people in New York City, she said her office will look for funding across all levels of the DOE to help implement this plan. She said she didn't expect the new plan to carry a mandate with it, but cautioned everyone that with just three weeks on the job, they couldn't hold her to any sweeping proclamations yet.
Getting back to her theme of creating effective change quickly, she said the department was looking at some kinds of intensive research and evaluation "so in three years we don't say [of our plan], it looks nice, it smells nice, kids are happy" but there's no proof it works. "We want the coolest, most innovative platforms and strategies to make it through the morass of government and school boards."