Featured Geek: Reina Cabezas. She's Geeky About Tech in Education.

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What is your full name and tell us about where you are from.

#LatinaGeeks - Featured GeekMy full name is Reina Sofia de la Concepcion Picado Cabezas. Whoah! I am not usually asked for my FULL name and am not used to giving that out. I feel naked or like I just gave up my social security number.

I was born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1975 a few years before the Sandinista revolution came down into the cities from the mountains in ’79. Since my father was a pilot in the Guardia Nacional for the Samoza regime at that time, we were exiled to the United States. We arrived in Miami, Florida in 1980, then emmigrated to California in ’81.

My dad was quite a visionary even at that time; he understood the role the sciences played especially in the Bay Area, and that coupled with all of the high quality, higher education institutions in the region was why he decided to bring us up here.

Tell us about your Latina background and your family. What does your family think about your geeky passions? 

My family is multi-generational as are a lot of immigrant families. That means my family consists of my mom and dad, my two siblings and I, as well as my maternal grandmother and maternal aunt. There are wonderful benefits having elders in the home but there are/can be emotional costs for them too.

What I mean is that because I was raised with 4 adults, at least 1 of them had time to spend with me or either of my siblings. We were given a lot of attention; some of us more positive than negative, vice versa.

Since I am the oldest child I was given a lot of positive attention with the caveat that I understand I was the example for my little siblings. I was taught to read and write in Spanish with the Bible, which also means I was exposed to thinking about philosophical and historical questions early on.

So there’s a whole discussion about gender and Latin American tradition there, but I’ll answer the question.

My family is supportive of my geeky passions, but I would have to say they get the entrepreneurial aspect more. My geeky passion is not really a geeky passion either, its more of a vehicle of self-empowerment as an educator that I’m in edutech. The tech is fun but its not the center of my drive. I’m not really sure that anyone really gets that either, because that’s not something that’s typically addressed.

Tell us about your geeky passion. What are your interested in and why? 

While I am a fan of most geeky things, that is not my first passion.

I just got into the education game, about 6 years ago. When I started I realized, without knowing the complete historical context of public school education in the U.S., that technology in education was going to be the “next big thing”.

As I began to implement it in my classroom I also experienced how it had great but also disempowering potential, like to further dominate learning for students and teaching for teachers as do/did paper scripted curriculum. In other words, I saw programmers and designers, though well-meaning, creating learning apps without necessarily consulting educators to make sure their tools were tools that educators and learners alike would find meaningful.

I decided then, to become an active participant in teams that were creating these tools to make sure my teacher voice was not silenced. Now, I am very interested in business models that honor the expertise of teachers and hope to bring this way of thinking into the startup and edutech world more and more.

Are you bilingual? If so, how does it help you in your career? 

I am bilingual. I was fortunate enough to be taught how to read and write Spanish at home by my grandmother. She build a relationship with me while teaching me how to read and write in Spanish which I think is why I was able to become fluent.

Being bilingual in life has been a blessing because it does further my understanding of ways of seeing the world that can sometimes just not be translated. It makes me wish I had grown up in another part of the world where people learn at least 3-4 different languages.

In my profession, being a Spanish speaker has helped because I can literally speak the language, but there will always be cultural barriers between myself and other Spanish speakers. Spanish speakers have become a large percentage of the world’s population and we come with many different cultures, so speaking Spanish is like the tip of the iceberg.

Tell us about the gadgets you have in your purse right now. What top 3 gadgets do you need to have in your purse to help with your day-to-day tasks?

Funny thing is that as I’ve become more aware of where my gadgets come from and the process of creating and “recycling” just one electronic device, I have tried to stay away from acquiring too many. So currently I only have one smartphone that I need for my life to function smoothly. And its not even in my purse, I’m quite dependent on it for communication, documentation, and quick information gathering so I literally pick outfits that will allow me to carry my smartphone without needing to lug my purse. I almost wish I could just implant a chip in my brain and take cybernetics to the next level.

What is your website and/or blog? What does it focus on? 

Since I’m a technology teacher of grades K-5 right now I can’t possibly keep up with my own personal website. I use an online social learning network to post and keep up with all of my classes. This is what most of my world revolves around inside and outside of the classroom since I also need to write lessons.

For sleek-geek, inc. we also have a website you can find here. This focuses on our products and their development. But thinking about it, we should author more posts on our blog about the current adventures of sleek-geeks.

Where can we find you online? Please share your social links with us!

My LinkedIn Profile and Twitter profile.

As a teacher I am a vehicle for social justice. As a life-long learner and educator I’m passionate about cultivating critical thought and transforming it into meaningful action inside and out of the classroom. My passion guides my app design which strives to collaborate with students, families and fellow teachers toward self-empowerment. This also drives my advocacy for educational justice.

What else would you like to share with us? 

As I mentioned before, I would really love to create relationships with thought partners around innovative business models that will serve to empower teachers rather than alienate them in the edutech start up world.

I am really interested in learning how to leverage open source business models that are still lucrative but create more equity.

Please feel free to contact me if you are also working on developing a business model with that same lens.