Reneé Cassuto is CEO/Co-Founder at OT App Design, LLC, a research and development company that creates meaningful and reliable evidence-based screening and assessment tools. She is a licensed pediatric school-based occupational therapist with an actuarial sciences and software development background.
Research interests: Machine Learning, Outcomes research, Handwriting
Fun fact: Mom to three super wonderful and amazing boys (one of which is an English Mastiff).
What makes you wake up every morning and want to work on emerging technologies for teaching and learning?
As a school-based pediatric based occupational therapist, I am often referred students for difficulty with handwriting skills. Unfortunately, many of these students are referred for occupational therapy services in later grades, significantly reducing the window of opportunity for maximal benefit of services. Being able to develop, and ultimately distribute nationwide, a technology capable of identifying students earlier and offering them an opportunity for optimal success and maximizing their potential is a great passion for me and my team.
If your project succeeds, how will learning be transformed? If I walked into a learning environment that was using your innovation, what would be different?
Our product aims to transform the learning environment by supporting and creating opportunities for all students to reach their potential. Our universal screening tool will be deployed at a district level and use AI and machine learning to allow teachers and staff to get rapid real-time feedback on their students’ handwriting, one measure of motor and cognitive skills. Our tool is focused on addressing the equity needs of learners, especially during pandemic recovery, and making the job of teaching easier. Currently, the referral process for response to intervention (RTI) and supportive services are primarily reliant on parent and teacher referrals. By improving the early identification of students that may require services, our product aims to save school districts money and improve student outcomes.
What would you like policymakers (e.g., Congress) to know about your work? What would you recommend they understand about technology in learning and teaching?
While handwriting proficiency is not a component of the Common Core, it is still a fundamental education and life skill. Unfortunately, without standardized curriculums or screening programs in place, many students with handwriting deficits may go unnoticed. Handwriting proficiency is a skill that requires visual motor, memory, sensory awareness, coordination, and fine motor aptitude. These are important for many aspects of a student’s day including using and implementing new technology. Incorporating universal handwriting screening can help to identify students that require an individualized curriculum or additional support earlier.