CIOProfile: Rick Cave
Age: 54 Title: Tech Director District: West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, NJ
What are your big-picture
We are trying to transform instruction and feel
that instruction has to change to better prepare
students for the 21st century. We want them to
use tools effectively and appropriately, but if we
want to truly transform instruction we have to
address the instructional side.
We are moving from traditional, teacherdirected
instruction to a more student-centered
model, giving children more ownership. They
already have tools available to them, which is why
BYOD is so appealing to us. At the same time we are
also training teachers so they will be comfortable
with BYOD so they can take off and run with it.
What changes are you
taking to achieve these
In terms of instruction, last year we started
with a new evaluation system for our teaching staff
based on Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for
Professional Practice. We are training our teachers
to provide a more student-centered environment.
Teachers want to transform instruction and
we’re adding in technology to support that
mission. We have also defined 21st-century
competencies throughout our curriculum. Our
teacher evaluations are now based on Danielson’s
Framework and tied to competencies.
It’s taken a long time to get to this but
we believe that technology will not reach its
instructional potential unless we modify our
In terms of technology, we are building out
the infrastructure, putting everything online and
pushing to have all resources online.
What are the biggest
challenges in your day-today life and how do you
It’s culture, hands down. We’re a successful
district as defined by traditional methods; most
of our kids graduate and go to college. But as we
introduce new things, our parents are concerned
that their children aren’t going to get into Ivy
League schools. They see high school as a
stepping stone. We need to make changes without
undermining the status quo. The ironic thing
is, that from a tech perspective, our community
is inundated. Our parents are techie people,
university people who use technology all the time.
At the same time, our parents can be very resistant
to changing the curriculum/instruction.
How do you get buy in on
edtech from the school
The community is very supportive of
technology and the students are interested as well.
At the high school, 200 kids take programming
each year. The community wants labs and
networks, but when we talk about integrating
technology into instruction they are hesitant. It’s an
interesting problem. The community is very tech
savvy, but getting people to buy into combining the
two and changing instruction is a challenge.
Every other year, we have a showcase to
demonstrate how tech is being used in our K
through 12th-grade classes. The students present
projects that incorporate the use of technology.
The project does not have to be a tech project
and the point is not to show how great you are at
using PowerPoint but to show how technology
allowed you to achieve a deeper understanding.
Two years ago, we started doing an 8th-grade
exit assessment. It’s an end-of-year, weeklong
project. Students are broken into teams of four
or five and assigned a third-world country. They
pick one of the UN Millennium Goals, develop a
way to address the goal in their assigned country,
and do a presentation on the fifth day to a panel
of community members who judge them.
What currently has you
We’ve been trying to get teachers to utilize
technology for a long time and I’m starting to
see signs that our staff is starting to understand.
Instead of us having to always come up with
integration ideas, they are coming up with
them on their own. We’ve hit a tipping point;
teachers are recognizing the role tech can play in
instruction and are eager to give it a try.