Magazine article Talent Development

Richard Culatta: Chief Innovation Officer, State of Rhode Island Providence, Rhode Island

Magazine article Talent Development

Richard Culatta: Chief Innovation Officer, State of Rhode Island Providence, Rhode Island

Article excerpt

Richard Culatta is constantly looking for ways to reimagine and redesign learning experiences, as well as how to bring innovation to large organizations. Prior to becoming Rhode Island's first chief innovation officer in January 2016, Culatta served as a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and director of the Office of Educational Technology. He also was an education fellow for Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), and part of a team that helped transform learning at the CIA after 9/11.

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN THE FIELD OF LEARNING?

I view learning as the most powerful tool we have to tackle the hardest problems that we deal with as a society. Whether we're talking about challenges of inequity, opportunities for innovation, or personal satisfaction with life, all of those tie immediately back to our ability to be effective learners.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE WORK OF THE RHODE ISLAND OFFICE OF INNOVATION.

It's very exciting. We're essentially making Rhode Island into what I would call a lab I state for innovation-trying new approaches to tackling longstanding challenges. Examples range from making college more affordable by using open-licensed educational materials instead of copyrighted textbooks, to using technology to personalize learning, to rethinking how to create a culture of creative problem solving in government.

We're leveraging the fact that Rhode Island is a small state, making it relatively agile compared to our larger state peers. That gives us a chance to pilot and test out new approaches quickly that can be scaled and adopted more broadly by others as we share along the way.

HOW CAN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS BEST WORK TOGETHER TO TRANSFORM EDUCATION AND LEARNING IN THE UNITED STATES?

If I had to pick just one area, I would say we need to work together to develop better approaches for helping learners be in control of their own learning experiences and their own learning progression. There aren't many tools that do this today, but it's something all learning organizations need. And it's something we're beginning to pilot in Rhode Island.

I love the idea of learner autonomy, but we really don't do a good job of providing learners with the tools they need to be autonomous learners. Think about the types of tools we have in other parts of our lives. A great example is the GPS in my car. As I'm driving, it shows the destination that I say I want to go; it plots a course for me to get there. …

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