"IF I could offer any advice to others like myself it would be to strike a balance between offering high quality IT support in the workplace and providing much needed outreach in the community," said Stephanie Castilla, technology-integration specialist at the Providence-based Highlander Institute.
Stephanie Castilla, technology-integration specialist at the Providence-based Highlander Institute and co-founder of Metrx LLC, talks about her Tech10 overall achievement award, the best tech-tools out there and the future of Providence's technology industry.
PBN: As a recently named Tech10 award winner, what advice do you have for other IT professionals?
CASTILLA: I believe many people are drawn to the field of IT because they truly enjoy solving problems and this can be a tremendous asset to any organization. For this reason, IT professionals tend to be very busy people and there is usually no shortage of work to go around.
If I could offer any advice to others like myself it would be to strike a balance between offering high quality IT support in the workplace and providing much needed outreach in the community.
Mentoring others can be an highly rewarding way of expanding one's knowledge-base and nurturing the next generation of IT practitioners.
PBN: Why do you think you were chosen for the Tech10 Overall Achievement Award?
CASTILLA: It is a tremendous honor to be presented with this award, and I am very grateful to the Tech Collective for recognizing work being done in education.
When I first set out to get involved in the "edtech" space, I knew I wanted to help teachers solve everyday problems by raising technological awareness and discovering new ways of implementing the latest and greatest tools in the classroom.
The community has been very receptive and I have had the opportunity to get involved on many fronts, including running professional development workshops and launching my own startup, Metryx, in which my partner Shawn Rubin and I are developing a mobile application that supports classroom assessment.
These activities have given me the opportunity to connect with teachers all over New England and learn from their experiences.
PBN: What are some of the best tools you've encountered in your work both at the Highlander Institute and at Metryx.
CASTILLA: I love working with tools that are flexible and demonstrate a completeness of vision.
When a developer or designer has thought through the user experience (from initial use to full implementation), I feel satisfied to see that technology is being used to support current practice not supplant it.
Some tools, such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps have become an invaluable part of my team's workflow and help us collaborate remotely and keep things organized in the day-to-day.
At our workshops, we passionately recommended these tools to teachers since we believe they have the power to make their work more efficient and manageable.
For purposes of instruction, I believe the myriad of content-rich applications available on the web and on mobile devices are helping educators differentiate their instruction to meet individual student needs.
One of my favorite tools is Educreations, an app that lets users record a video as they draw and speak into the iPad and publish it immediately online.
This tool provides an amazing way for teachers to explain key concepts and for students to show their work as they solve problems.
PBN: How do you view the Tech community in Rhode Island?
CASTILLA: I feel that the tech community is really thriving in Rhode Island and that we are only at the beginning of harnessing its full potential.
RI attracts people working in IT due to its strong academic community and its inherent culture of collaboration.
I love working in Rhode Island because I have found that many people feel deeply invested in their work as the effects and outcomes are so tangible in such a small state.
I feel inspired by my colleagues at the Highlander Institute and Highlander Charter School on a daily basis and look forward to seeing more interdisciplinary collaboration between tech professionals and the communities they serve.
PBN: How do you think that community will grow or change in upcoming years?
CASTILLA: I hope that as the Rhode Island IT community grows stronger over the next few years and more high tech startups come to the area, we will see a larger number of our talented graduates choosing to call Rhode Island home.
I finished my studies in Providence, RI and I truly feel this has been a great place to grow professionally.
Looking towards the future I am excited to see what new innovations will spring forth from within our borders.
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