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Karen Cator Stepping Down as U.S. Ed-Tech Chief

Karen Cator, a vocal advocate for the use of technology in education and a familiar face at virtually every major ed-tech conference or event in the past four years, told Education Week in an email today that she will be stepping down in 2013 from her post as the director of educational technology for the U.S. Department of Education.

Cator was a passionate and vocal advocate for schools to use technology more effectively, and a believer that evaluating the impact of technology based only on test scores was an oversimplified way of determining its effectiveness. Beyond that, she encouraged schools to do a better job putting ongoing professional development programs in place to help teachers learn how to integrate technology into learning. In this video interview with Education Week Digital Directions, she talks about the importance of quality professional development:

Cator's term in the Education Department has centered largely around priorities outlined in the first national education technology plan, released by her office in 2010, which called for not only more infrastructure and hardware for schools, but also more personalized learning, better data, and content tools for teachers that are easier to use.

To that end, during her tenure the Education Department launched the Learning Registry, which aims to help teachers find, remix, and reuse content. In addition, the national education technology plan opened the door for government officials to collaborate with industry leaders, which took shape at the end of September in two different initiatives: the Internet Essentials program, in which Comcast agreed to provide families of students who receive free school lunches access to broadband service for $9.95 per month, as well as the Digital Promise center, which is a congressionally authorized clearinghouse aimed at identifying, supporting, and publicizing the most effective education technologies. Although the Education Department provided about half a million dollars in startup funds for Digital Promise, the idea is to link the initiative to organizations such as the National Science Foundation that can fund new learning technologies to scale.

No word yet on who might replace Cator, but we will certainly be keeping a close watch to see who might emerge as the next director of education technology for the Obama administration.

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