Making EdTech Better with Research, Data and Networks

A discussion with Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh of Microsoft

I had the pleasure to catch up with Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh, who recently rejoined Microsoft as the Principal Program Manager for Learning Research and Analytics after working abroad from the Middle East to Australia. Dr. Cavanaugh will be presenting at FETC 2019 at the end of January, so it was a perfect time to address the application of edtech globally and here in the U.S.

Cathy sees a shift of attention away from the classroom-centered individual student use of technology toward a greater emphasis on organizations. Although it’s widely recognized that a classroom or a school can accomplish a lot on its own, the achievement multiplies when added to a powerful organization or network.


The work she completed internationally over the past couple of years provided a great example of the need for a networked approach. Working with schools, many of them very small and remote across a million square miles of Western Australia, Cathy quickly came to realize the power of organization. It took a vast collective effort to accomplish all they were attempting to achieve.

“It’s not that we’re leaving classrooms and students behind,” she says, but rather “more attention is being placed on organizations and systems.” It’s thinking about what technology brings people together beyond classrooms and schools, and finding a foundational underlying backend technology that can help everyone working in education become more effective while using data in a much more holistic way.

About two years ago, Microsoft had a shift in thinking about education. Rather than concentrating on what technology people were using, it shifted its focus to the outcomes derived through the use of technology. By adding researchers and better communication with the product services team, the results had data attached. According to Dr. Cavanaugh, “When we say that a particular product is effective for students with reading difficulties, for instance, we’ve got some evidence to back that up, and it’s not evidence that comes from us; it’s evidence that comes from the field, from the world, and researchers.” Read more.

Featured FETC® Speaker

Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh recently rejoined Microsoft as the Principal Program Manager for Learning Research and Analytics after serving as the Head of Digital Transformation for Catholic Education Western Australia, which provides quality, faith-based learning and teaching to approximately 77,000 students in 163 schools and colleges.

Cavanaugh’s research and publications focus on technology empowered teaching and learning in virtual schools, online and blended learning, teacher development, mobile learning, and devices integration. Cavanaugh held faculty and leadership appointments in U.S. universities and a college in the Middle East, and was a Fulbright Senior Scholar advancing e-learning in Nepal. Her education includes a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and master and bachelor degrees in education.

Follow Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh on Twitter

Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh will be presenting at the following sessions at FETC 2019:

$W189 | Bigger Data: Understanding the Growing Importance of Analytics in Education

  • Room: SOUTH 331C
  • Session Number: $W189

Tuesday, January 29, 2019: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

$W204 | Data Mashup #1: Leveraging Cloud Analytics for Outcomes and Impact

  • Room: SOUTH 331C
  • Session Number: $W204

Tuesday, January 29, 2019: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM