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Apple Official Named ED's Technology Director

Karen Cator, Apple Inc.'s director of education leadership and advocacy, will head the Education Department's office of educational technology starting today. The long-awaited appointment comes several months after Timothy Magner, who held the post since 2006, left the department.

At Apple, Cator was responsible for the company's Distinguished Educator Program, professional development initiatives, and teaching and learning content on the Apple Learning Interchange. She was in charge of technology planning and implementation in the Juneau, Alaska, school district prior to joining Apple in 1997. Cator is also past chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and was on the board of the Software & Information Industry Association's education division.

Cator was part of a panel at the Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age forum at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., last week, discussing ways to prepare students to be 21st-century learners. During the discussion, she said that "technology offers an opportunity to totally personalize learning."

Students should be given access to personal tech devices and Web 2.0 tools, Cator said. They should also be challenged, she said, to "find their own experts, do their own research, take very complex problems and find out what do we know, what do we need to know to meet this challenge?"

Teachers, Cator said, are critical to helping students learn how to use technology to learn more deeply.

"The role of teachers [in the digital age] becomes much more about creating compelling assignments that leverage personalized learning and that leverage technology" to challenge students to do their best work.

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