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Meet Larry Cocco – SETDA State Leader of the Year

nw_lcocco2Laurence Cocco from the New Jersey State Department of Education recently received the SETDA State Leader of the Year Award, given annually to recognize an active SETDA member who has exhibited outstanding leadership by advancing education in his/her state through the use of technology.  Larry also currently serves on and was former chairperson of the THIRTEEN Educational Services Advisory Committee.

We caught up with Larry to ask him about his work and thoughts about educational technology:


1. You are Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the NJDOE Division of Innovation – Describe a key initiative you’ve had the opportunity to lead.

We’re actually working on two exciting initiatives right now. We’re supporting the creation of regional purchasing cooperatives for schools to buy more bandwidth at less cost, through a partnership with the Middlesex Regional Educational Service Commission and Bergen County Technical Schools. We expect to triple the amount of bandwidth available to New Jersey schools, while simultaneously cutting costs in half. We are also rolling out resources and support for the recently revised New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standard for Technology, which for the first time includes a strand on computational thinking, and includes computer coding and educational gaming. The Standard goes into effect in September 2015 and we’re looking forward to working with educators in that implementation.

2. You’ve hosted webinars for the online community G.A.M.E. (Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education), which connects proponents of gaming strategies in teaching and learning. What are the most important aspects of implementation that both educators and game developers should consider?

I’m most excited about the potential for game-based learning to incorporate assessment into a student-centered educational experience, hopefully transforming how students learn and are assessed. This can also allow students to advance at their own pace, discover their own learning paths, and maximize their potential.

I’m not talking about “gamification”, or simply adding a point system to “drill and kill” exercises in an attempt to motivate students, but a thoughtful integration of intelligent game-based critical thinking and knowledge building exercises with built in assessments that create a continuous and simultaneous educational experience of learning, assessment and academic advancement.

G.A.M.E. is a great free resource site for folks interested in game-based learning strategies, at http://g.a.m.e.shivtr.com

3. Where do you see the direction of technology and innovation in education heading in the next decade?

I won’t pretend to have a crystal ball, but when you look back 10 years and see all the technologies that have developed in that time it’s pretty safe to assume that the pace of innovation will only increase in the future.

“…it’s pretty safe to assume that the pace of innovation will only increase in the future.”

To be honest, sometimes I wonder if the most important skill we can teach students, beyond nurturing their creativity and critical thinking, is how to process the tsunami of information we are experiencing. I think within a decade we’ll see the development of better Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, perhaps personal avatar assistants (digibuddies?), to help students and educators manage the volume of data that apparently will just keep snowballing for the foreseeable future. I expect that neuroscience research in brain-based learning will lead us to ever-better teaching and assessment methods, supported by technology. Virtual collaborative problem solving and networking capabilities and processes will continue to grow. Blended learning will become the norm. And, of course, game-based learning will evolve to be more effective and prevalent as the research and practices improve.

What I ultimately hope will happen is that all students, no matter where they are on the learning continuum, will get opportunities to learn unfettered by lack of access and resources, and that their learning experiences are self-directed through their own creativity, passion, motivation and imagination. I also hope that all educators will have the tools and support they need to help all students discover their love for the adventure of learning. Technology and innovation are necessary factors in supporting that vision, not ends in themselves.

And, semi-seriously, when will we have flying cars already?

4. You have 10 seconds to deliver an elevator pitch for why Ed Tech matters. Go!

Human knowledge will infinitely expand. Like it or not, we must all become Infinite Learners, empowered by educational technology and digital access to the human experience. All students need tech tools in order to be successful in such an explosively expanding universe of opportunity.

What are your thoughts on Ed Tech?  Let us know in the comments section below.