Wednesday, December 2, 2009 

ED's new tech chief previews national plan

Wed, Dec 02, 2009 

ED's new tech chief previews national plan 
Learning, teaching, assessment, and productivity will provide the framework
for the National Education Technology Plan scheduled for release in January 
By Gregg W. Downey, Editor 


Primary Topic Channel:  Federal Policy

Technology is essential to the nation's education reform, said Karen Cator,
lifelong educator and ED's new director of education technology.

As America's brand-new director of education technology, career educator
Karen Cator underscores the determination of President Obama and U.S.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan to develop "a transformative agenda" for the
nation's schools and colleges. She said the U.S. Department of Education
(ED) will unveil the first draft of the administration's National Education
Technology Plan next month.

"Technology will be in play in every aspect of the education-reform agenda,"
she said. 

In a speech at New York's Princeton Club on Dec. 1, Cator--a lifelong
educator, technology executive, state school official, and education
advocate--gave a preview of the plan to more than 200 ed-tech providers and
investors at the Ed-Tech Business Forum, a program presented by the
Education Division of the Software and Information Industry Association

In broad terms, Cator said in an interview with eSchool News, the
administration's ed-tech plan will seek to bring to fruition the president's
vow to make the United States first in the world in the number of college
graduates by 2020 and to give every willing student at least one year of
postsecondary education.

The plan will address the imperatives of global competition, Cator said, but
also will stress the importance of global interdependence. It will focus on
ensuring effective teachers are present "in every zip code," on seamlessly
bridging the gap between the wide array of technology students use outside
of school and the more limited technology available to them in the
classroom. She said America's ed-tech plan will promote careers in science,
technology, engineering, and math--but now will add an emphasis on the arts,
because, as Cator explained, creativity is essential to lifelong success in
the age of technology.

Cator indicated the unveiling of ED's national ed-tech plan might roughly
coincide with the release of the national broadband initiative from the
Federal Communication Commission. The dovetailing of those two elements of
the national agenda, she said, will provide the best chance in decades for
genuine, technology-driven, systemic reform.

Although Cator had been on the job less than four weeks when she spoke at
SIIA, she noted that work on the nation's ed-tech plan has been under way
for months. According to those engaged in that work, the plan will involve
these four focus areas:

"Learning: Enabling unprecedented access to high-quality learning
experiences. Everyone, including English Language Learners and students with
disabilities, should have increased access to meaningful, well designed, and
readily available learning experiences, throughout their lives.

"Assessment: Measuring what matters and providing the information that
enables continuous improvement processes at all levels of the education
system. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators should have access
to the kinds of data that can enable better instructional decisions and
provision of educational resources.

"Teaching: New ways to support those who support learning. Technology can
enable mentors, coaches, and peers to better support learning both in and
out of school. Teachers can benefit from resources provided through
technology and from anytime-anywhere professional interactions, including
collaborations to share and refine effective techniques and resources.

"Productivity: Redesigning systems and processes to free up education system
resources to support learning. In an era of scarce resources, education
systems need to take advantage of new technological and content solutions to
reduce spending tied to inefficient systems and processes. This effort
includes more effective approaches to education R&D to increase the pace of
innovation and the scaling of effective practices."

More information from the national ed-tech plan working group work may be
found at, Cator said.

As a result of early community outreach and public input, seven elements of
the plan already are emerging. These will have to do with international
benchmarks, new assessment strategies, longitudinal data, "effective
teachers in every zip code," a rethinking of time and space (what students
and teachers do and when and where they do it), how to apply the insights of
neuroscience to education, and personalized, student-centered learning.

"The biggest hole," Cator said, is in research, development, and evaluation.
It's critical, she explained, to go beyond anecdotal observations that
students "look happy and seem to be learning." The question for any ed-tech
application, she said, should be, "How do we know it works?"

A key for educators in these challenging times, Cator said, will be to
persuade policy makers that education technology will allow schools and
colleges to make more efficient use of existing resources.

Educators, Cator suggested, should reflect on how to ask students questions
in an era of ubiquitous information and on how to ensure that technology
helps teachers teach what matters. According to Cator, other pertinent
questions include these: How do we sustain and scale up promising practices?
How do we create conditions to learn about best practices, products, and

For the education reform agenda to take hold, she said, "we need to identify
and disseminate success stories."

A unique window of opportunity exists right now, Cator pointed out: "We have
a genuine chance right now to transform education." This opportunity likely
will be available only once in our lifetimes, she said.

Here are some highlights of the education and experience of the new director
of ED's Office of Educational Technology.

. Received a bachelors degree in early childhood education from
Massachusetts' Springfield College,
. Received a masters degree in school administration from the University of
. Worked with Apple Computer beginning in 1997 and left the job as the
director of education leadership and advocacy,
. Chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Skills from 2006-07,
. Lead technology planning and implementation in Juneau, Alaska, where she
also served as special assistant for telecommunications to the lieutenant
governor, and
. Served on the board of directors of the SIIA Education Division.


Software and Information <>  Industry
Association Education Division

Office of Educational <>  Technology, U.S.
Department of Education




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Veterans Day 2009:


Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is
it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks
the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a
position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it
because one's conscience tells one that it is right. (Martin Luther King,

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)


To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer
(b. 1929)    [Benjamin would be proud, I think.]


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