Episode 143: Richard Culatta, Chief Innovation Officer of Rhode Island

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Richard Culatta shares what he’s trying to do as the Chief Innovation Officer of Rhode Island in redefining how government works and how it functions to serve the people, and what it means when innovation is infused in K-12 and higher education.

Guest Bio:

Richard CulattaRichard Culatta is a leader in innovation and education, and has worked in government, non-profit, and the private sector.  

Prior to becoming the Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Rhode Island, Culatta was the Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education where he focused on using technology to close equity gaps in schools across the country.  Prior to joining the Department of Education, he served as policy advisor to US Senator Patty Murray and as Chief Technology Officer at CIA University.  

Before his work with the federal government, Culatta was the learning technologies advisor for the David O. McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University and the Director of Operations for the Rose Education Foundation.  He began working with instructional technology at the University of Rhode Island where he co-taught the university’s first technology integration workshops for faculty.  Culatta is a certified Spanish teacher and active in promoting bilingual and arts education in public schools.

(source: http://www.innovate.ri.gov/)

Show Notes:

(02:36) When you hear the word “success or “successful,” what’s the first thing or person that comes to mind?

(03:37) It really comes down to innovation or being progressive.

(04:21) Richard’s background

(07:25) I found it interesting when I was doing preparation for the interview, that the role is actually a collaboration between the RIC Foundation and the administration. Can you talk through how the role came about and just the process there?

(09:43) You have this natural testing ground for some of these ideas… Can you give an example of some of the initiatives you’re working on that you’re leveraging the resources you have at your disposal in higher education?

(12:52) The Highlander institute talks a lot about how the fact that the state (of Rhode Island) is so small allows you to really get buy-in from a lot of different areas. Whereas if you’re in California, it’s a much different story, it’s much more localized.

(14:23) Your appointment says a lot about the administration’s emphasis on education and the impact it has on state innovation. I’m interested in your thoughts, given your experience in K-12 and higher education, on employability. What can we do in K-12 and higher education to make sure that we’re setting our students up for success with the skills that they need to get jobs that are going to be important for the next 10, 15, 20 years?

Shadow A Student

(19:54) In your role, are you focusing on innovation outside of schools as well but with business?

(21:17) I was going to bring up some of the historical state reputation issues that we’ve had in Rhode Island. And you just mentioned rethinking government. How are you addressing those problems, and how do you continue to move the ball forward so that we can continue to grow?

(24:16) I’m thinking about an app. Have you heard of Waze? The more people that get on Waze, the more people ending up helping out other people on Waze. That could scale hugely in the state if you have it on a citizen basis.

(24:57) You mentioned public-private partnerships. Are there any ways that companies, that entrepreneurs can become a much larger part of building the skills that are needed, of students coming out of high school and college?

Tech Hire

(28:30) In your last post, when you worked down in Washington DC, you obviously focused on technology’s role in enabling education. How are you thinking about leveraging technology in solving these big state-level problems?

(31:40) What book has most influenced you, and why?

The Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers 

Disrupting Class by Michael Horn

(34:35) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

Steve Jobs


Twitter: http://twitter.com/rec54
Website: http://www.innovate.ri.gov/
YouTube: http://youtube.com/rculatta


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