MassCUE is pleased to announce this month’s Featured Educator, Laura Cahill. As one of Worcester’s go-to educators for learning with technology, Laura is an artist at assisting educators in designing tools that will “engage-and-educate” a diverse population of learners. For the past two years, Laura has served as a district technology coach in the Worcester Public Schools. But there is more to her story. Prior to her current role, she was an art teacher for twenty years, bringing creativity and artistic talent to so many students throughout the years. She has been described by colleagues as “an artist who looks for inspiration to create her next project, with resources that are colorful and useful to everyone.”
In just two years, Laura has supported her district in the shift to GSuite for Education, in addition to collaborating with teachers to create engaging learning experiences for their students. “My district offered the chance to participate in a cohort of educators to earn Google Trainer Certification and I jumped at the chance to learn something new,” said Cahill. Since hired in this new role, she has also earned her ISTE Educator certification. “This plays a huge part in being able to support the teachers in my district to incorporate technology meaningfully into their curriculum.” This support includes listening to the needs of teachers and working with them to help transform their practice. Cahill uses a variety of ways to make this happen, from surveys to one on one meetings with staff. One of just four coaches for the entire district, Laura believes good communication is the key to keep things moving forward. “The migration to Google was a huge challenge and required good organization and planning from the whole team,” she said. This project coincided with Cahill’s first year as a district technology coach and required tactful coordination in her day to day work.
Her practical approach to technology integration focuses on pedagogy more than just tools. “I have seen simple technology tools completely change the course of a student’s educational experience,” said Laura, who with 22 years of teaching experience can say that technology has given voice and choice to more students than ever before. “My tendency is to use tools in a way other than the original intention,” states Cahill, who often learns a new tool and immediately thinks ‘what else can this do to help students and teachers?’. “I like to push the limits of tools and ideas to meet the needs of more people.” To this end, Laura created the Podcast PD for her district because so many teachers found it hard to attend face-to-face PD outside of the school day. “I created an option to listen to podcast episodes and then discuss them via Google Classroom,” she said. Read more about it here.
Laura’s network of support extends beyond Worcester Public Schools. As the publisher of her own blog, as well as an active participant on social media, she has connected with others and has made guest appearances on John Sowash and Kim Mattina’s podcasts.
On Chromebook Classroom with John, she discussed her blog post on using a locked Google Form to create a distraction-free lesson. On The Suite Talk with Kim, she discussed her blog post on using a Google Classroom to document students’ progress towards learning standards. Since being contacted, these educators have become valuable members of Laura’s PLN and people she learns so much from. “I am also a regular listener and contributor on Jake Miller’s Educational Duct Tape Podcast where he mentions things I share or audio recordings from me, such as this episode. I have learned so much from Jake and he, again, is someone I met first on Twitter before meeting him in person at ISTE.”
When asked what is most rewarding to Laura as a coach, she without hesitation will tell you it’s the relief on people’s faces when they learn something new. “It’s is the same as being a classroom teacher!” Laura loves to see teachers get excited and think of ways they will use something with students. “Although I miss classroom teaching, I am driven in my new role to support teachers to use these tools, giving students every advantage to learn the skills they need to move forward,” she said. She reflected on the impact for teachers, but more importantly on how many students will benefit. “It’s unbelievable! Having that ripple effect is exciting!”
MassCUE is proud to recognize Laura Cahill as our October Featured Educator. Congratulations from MassCUE on a job well-done!
Laura Cahill is a district technology coach and former visual art educator in the Worcester Public Schools as well as a lecturer at Assumption College. She is a Google Certified Trainer and ISTE Certified Educator, who is an advocate for equitable access to technology for all students. Laura is also the proud mom of two college students and enjoys blogging and reading about educational technology topics. You can find her at engageducate.com or on Twitter at @engageducatePrint this post