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From IBM to Education: Using Tech Expertise to Improve the Classroom

A conversation with award-winning education technology leader Lorrie Owens

Part one in a two-part series

Lorrie Owens, President of the Board of Directors for the California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CETPA), will be facilitating sessions at the 2020 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) on the topics of organizational change and transformational leadership.

Owens started her professional career at IBM, working there for over 14 years, but eventually left to follow her passion for education. “I taught in a vocational college that is now defunct here in California. I fell in love with teaching and fell in love with the power of instruction and how lives can be changed and how students can be impacted through that experience,” she reflects. “The vocational college was in an inner-city area, so most of my students were young people between 18 and 20 who chose not to go to a four-year college; they were trying to fast track their way into a professional career.”

Not only did Owens teach the curriculum, but she also witnessed a need for behavioral and professional learning. “Many [students] were a little rough around the edges and never taught anything about business ─ how to carry themselves in the business world, interview, or write a résumé. Some of them weren’t sure whether a résumé was a cover letter,” she explains. “I took extra time before and after class to help them. The ones who took advantage, hearing their stories after the fact, helped them move forward and get started in their professional careers. It was life-changing for me.”

Owens always knew she wanted to use her technical experience and expertise to support education as a career. Her educational pursuits continued to expand over the years, resulting in a variety of educational positions. She entered consulting, became a school district director, and eventually arrived at her present position as President of the Board of Directors for CETPA.

In terms of edtech, there’s a wide array of sophisticated technology systems available in education. But Owens sees a need to do a better job of educating people as to what is happening in the classroom. ”I think part of it is educating the general public. There are a lot of failures, and [a need to know] the true successes. There are many examples across the nation.” 

Establishing a more even playing field is essential. Inevitably there will always be the “have” and “have not” districts, but as Owens points out, it takes an increased focus on the disadvantaged districts to have a lasting impact. She asks, “How do we get classrooms and districts that do not have the same resources as the more affluent ones, up to the same place where phenomenal things are happening with education technology in the classroom?”

About Lorrie Owens

Lorrie Owens is the President of the Board of Directors for the California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CETPA). She is also the Administrator for Information Technology Services for the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE). The SMCOE supports 23 school districts, with over 94,000 students enrolled. Mrs. Owens is very involved in educational technology issues in California.

In addition to her roles at CETPA and the SMCOE, she also serves as a steering committee member in the CETPA-sponsored Chief Technology Officer Mentor Program. She both taught and served as a mentor in the program for many years. Mrs. Owens is also the past chairperson of the California Technology and Telecommunications Steering Committee (TTSC).

In 2014, she was awarded the CCSESA STAR Award, for her work in educational technology in California. Mrs. Owens also runs a non-profit created to support increased technology access for under-served children and adults.

Follow Lorrie Owens on Twitter

The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)

FETC 2020 40th Anniversary

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