Transforming Education through technology

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Technology will be one of the guiding forces behind transforming America’s school systems.

The Education Department’s National Education Technology Plan includes a sweeping focus on technology from mobile to digital content to social networks.

Karen Cator, director of education technology at the agency, told Federal News Radio we have some ground to make up.


One of things that we’re seeing that we’ve kind of missed in education technology is the fact that technology is very personal and we need to ensure that teachers and students have it for their own personal learning. We’ve had a lot of shared devices, a lot of labs down the hall and those sorts of things and we’re really looking for the opportunity for each student and each teacher to have the technology they need with them at all times so they can do the act of learning and teaching.

Even social networking plays a role, said Cator. “We haven’t even begun to harness the power of people connections across learning,” she said.

Another important reason to include more aspects of technology, said Cator, is to instill the concept that the use of is isn’t just about being a tool.

All people today need to grow up and need to really exist with a sense of digital literacy. Really understanding information, understanding media, understanding the behaviors and the kind of citizenship requirements to participate in an online, globally networked world. We want to shine a big spotlight on that in our schools rather than shutting it down so that people can grow up understanding their voice is amplified and their voice is persistent when it’s online.

Education employees may be concerned that a shift in focus to include more emphasis on technology may mean needing more training or more work. Cator said she doesn’t see it that way.

I see technology as actually a productivity boost rather than a productivity drain, and the opportunity for people across the Department of Education how are thinking about learning, thinking about the best programs they can implement for learners of all ages whether they be early childhood, school age, higher education, adult education. So the opportunity to leverage the technology that we talk about in the plan, and leverage the kinds of learning that we talk about in the plan – those are the kinds of things that will provide opportunities for the folks across the department regardless of the program that they’re in.

To hear the entire interview with Education’s Karen Cator, click on the player at the top of the page.