Cate Tolnai is the Director of Member Engagement for CUE and is in her 15th year in k12 education. She taught middle school and worked as a district TOSA as well as district and county level administrator. She is dedicated to making the lives of teachers and administrators in California a little smoother, safer and engaging.
Cate Tolnai loves to talk digital badges, gamification, personalized PD, web tools, and all things awesome. I’m so fortunate to have known Cate for some time through CUE and so lucky that we found time to have a conversation. Below are resources and a few excerpts from the podcast with Cate.
About Cate, her family, and background
I’ve been married for eight years to a great guy named Chris and have two kids, a five-year-old and two years old. We have a Chihuahua mix that is 22 pounds. We live in San Jose, CA. My son started kindergarten this year and I am so unprepared to be a kindergarten parent to figure out this homework stuff and all of it.
This is my 15th year in education teaching mostly English and History in middle school. In 2011, I was in a webinar about TCI (Teacher Curriculum Institute) on how to become a teacher. After that, I started my professional Twitter account in January 2011. The resources that came into my world through Twitter and the connections I made completely changed my approach to education and teaching. Then next thing I knew is that I uncovered this passion for education technology. Through Boise State, I took their technology specialist certificate program and took two courses from Dr. Jackie Gerstein @jackiegerstein and my world was changed. I realized this was it and what I want my world to be. I then pursued leadership positions and that’s when a TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) position became available. We moved to Sacramento, CA and became a TOSA. After two years, that lead to my role in Santa Clara.
I then became a Technology Specialist for the Santa Clara County Office of Education where we called ourselves Super TOSAs and moved to San Jose. The team is amazing who have passion and dedication for the work they do with educators in the Silicon Valley.
[This is Barbara: Here’s a picture I took of a slide from the SCCOE team presentation at the Badge Summit June 2017]
Director of Member Engagement (CUE)
In my role as Director of Member Engagement for CUE, the team allows so much flexibility and room for passion. I was brought on specifically to take the lead on marketing and communication which means I’m the point of contact for independent contractors, graphic designers, supporting the blog, or redesigning the website. The line I love is that I am the protector of the CUE Story. That was part of the application that I have always been so intrigued about finding their why and telling their story. Knowing that that is my major role for CUE is such an honor. But I am still on top of professional learning and doing presentations for CUE. I’m rethinking and re-imagining what professional learning means for CUE.
I always have been a doodler and when you move to digital, I lost touch of doodling. Now that I have the digital tools that allowed me more freedom accessibility with my processing. I’m pretty good at copying other people’s ideas and then make it my own. When I saw the influx of sketchnoting, it played a huge role that it made the environment safe to share. At ISTE in 2016, I was part of a session with Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth on sketchnoting and asked her questions about sketchnoting. With practice comes improvement and I love sharing someone’s session live with something that visual that resonated in the office.
Sketchnote Army Podcast with Mike Rohde: Sketchnoting in Education
#Sketch50, #ConnectedTL, #badgechat
When I started as a TOSA, in 2013 I uncovered a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that anyone can take on open source learning. I was intrigued and that we can learn from each other. There was no way for me to show what I learned. What if there was a micro-credential or badge to show my informal learning? I submitted to do an Ignite on Digital Badges.
ISTE Ignite 2014: 18 Must Have Digital Badges for Every 21st Century Educator
I not only went to the first Ignite in the huge auditorium and then they asked me to share my Ignite in the vendor hall. ISTE thought digital badges were linked to vendors and products. But no, I was showing eighteen types digital badges that educators can earn. One was that you could tweet a 1000 times with 250 followers. Another was that you led Open House with laptops open. Push forward three years and look at where we are now. I was so in love with the fact that digital badges can help an educator and a learner document their learning as it happens. Here’s a sketchnote I did of Noah Geisel’s @SenorG presentation on digital badges:
Gamification to Increase Engagement in Learning
I like make it clear that digital badge and micro-credentials is one part of gamification. I had the opportunity to have a podcast with Brent Coley. What if we give teachers a choice in their professional learning, they receive points, we laugh when someone fails. We can embrace gamification at the professional level. Higher ed and teacher education is not at that point. There is a disconnect but it will happen.
Blog post and Podcast Interview with Brent Coley:
A possible new hashtag that Cate is thinking about: #teachersneedit
I am totally inspired by Adam Welcome @awelcome and Todd Nesloney @techninjatodd that I get that kids deserve it. How do we wrestle that teachers deserve it too? Being the chief storyteller so all of us are telling the stories. The divide between administrators and leaders who are willing to try it with the ones that are not ready yet. It is okay to be okay with that. If kids deserve it than teachers need to have it. Teachers need to be valued.
Cate Tolnai is the Director of Member Engagement for CUE focusing on Lead Learners, a member at large, Learning Networks, Social Media, Press Relations, and Communications. She has been an Academic Technology Specialist for the Santa Clara County Office of Education and been researching and advocating for gamification of professional learning since 2013. She supports teachers and administrators in their efforts to integrate competency-based professional learning and digital badges at their school sites, fosters industry and community partnerships, and stays connected to the badging community through social media, conference presentations, and consulting.
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDD36S2FxFT6fiKwimkM_cg
EdTech Badges for All: https://sites.google.com/site/etbforall/