Meet the Authors

Ira David Socol has served as Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Director of Learning Technologies, and Design Project Manager for the Albemarle County Public Schools. Over his eight years working with this public school system he served as the leader for radical shifts in technology use, space design, and the development of contemporary pedagogies and immersive professional learning experiences, shifts that have helped make these schools among the nation’s most studied, and most honored. Before coming to ACPS Socol led the development of, and Michigan’s statewide adoption of the “Freedom Stick” universal design for learning tool.

Socol’s push, with Dr. Moran, to support school librarians in the change to Learning Commons has received national recognition, as has his support for the multiage learning spaces that have re-imagined elementary education. The development of an open one-to-one digital environment, with children having true control over their laptop computers, has challenged educators around the world to increase choices for today’s students.

Coming to educational leadership from a highly diverse career background – art, architecture, the NYPD, and special education  – Socol has helped to bring new ways of seeing and understanding school environments to Albemarle County, and through prolific social media use, to global education. A 2017 winner of the Center for Digital Education’s “Top 30” award for those transforming schools, he has spoken to groups around the world, and his ‘Toolbelt Theory’ of student technology choice has changed how many children learn to use contemporary tools. Under his leadership, the division  became home to one of the first CoderDojo Academies in a public school division in the United States, teaching computer coding and science skills to students.

Where to find Ira:  Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: SpeEdChange


Dr. Pamela R. Moran currently serves as the Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning. She served as the Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools from 2005 until retiring at the end of the 2017-18 School Year. Pam is a nationally recognized leader, and a globally recognized advocate of an educational model that prepares students for “success in life, not just for school.”  She emphasizes the value of student-led research, project-based learning and contemporary learning spaces that promote collaboration, creativity, analytical problem-solving, critical thinking, and communications competencies among all students.

Niche, a national survey organization, has for several years ranked her school system in the top three of all school divisions in Virginia and among the top two percent of all school divisions in the country.

Among the school division’s flagship programs developed during her tenure are its Learning Commons, AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) and M-Cubed. Both the Learning Commons and M-Cubed have received the National School Board Association’s Magna Award, given annually to the school division in the nation with the most innovative and effective program.  The school division is the only one in the history of the Magna Award to twice receive the association’s highest performance honor.  The school’s Learning Commons, a multi-disciplined, technology-infused learning center model iterated across the school system’s libraries, has attracted visits by MIT, Harvard, the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina, the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Hall of Science as well as from school district teams from across the United States.

Developing a maker culture has been a key component of the division’s project-based instructional model. The division’s focus on maker education has been the subject of presentations by division educators around the country, including at the White House.

A past member of the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, Pam was selected by her peers across the state as Virginia’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year.  She subsequently was one of four statewide superintendents of the year to be selected as a finalist for 2016 National Superintendent of the Year. In 2016, Pam was selected to serve on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development and she has continued in that role post-retirement.

Under Moran’s guidance, the Albemarle County Public Schools were selected in 2015 for membership in Digital Promise/League of Innovative Schools, a nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress to accelerate innovation in education.

Where to find Pam: Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: A Space for Learning


Chad RatliffChad S. Ratliff is Principal of two progressive lab schools in the Albemarle County Public Schools, Murray High School and Community Public Charter School, previously serving as Director of Innovation and Instructional Programs for the district.  With a focus on art and design, both schools function as lab schools designed to provide students with more agency, control, and influence over their education in order to foster intellectual curiosity, social-emotional development, and encourage community impact. He is responsible for the research, development, and implementation of programs that align with the school district’s strategic focus on student-centered learning. Research partners include MIT Teaching Systems Lab, U.Va. Curry School of Education, Princeton, Creativity Labs @ Indiana University, Maker Education Initiative, and Smithsonian.  He is currently Principal Investigator (PI) of the $3,500,000 U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Design as Drivers of Cross-Curricular Change. 

In 2017, the National School Boards Association named Chad one of the “20 to Watch” educational leaders in the country. He was invited to several education-focused White House events during the Obama administration and has been called to testify before the Virginia General Assembly.  He has appeared before such organizations as the American Association of School Superintendents, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National School Boards Association, and at World Maker Faire. He has been an internal workshop presenter at U.S.DOE and National Science Foundation. He was the keynote speaker at James Madison University’s annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference and the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education annual conference in 2016.

In 2015, Chad was appointed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Council for Youth Entrepreneurship. Between 2009-2015, he was a Virginia Board of Education appointee to the State Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Education and has served as the Board Chair for the Virginia Career Education Foundation. In 2013, he was the facilitator for the High School of the Future Startup event for Governor Bob McDonnell’s STEM Summit.  Chad was named one the the “Top Leaders Under 40” by C-Ville Weekly and “Top 20 Under 40” by the Roanoke Times Blue Ridge Business Journal.  As a classroom teacher and coach for Martinsville City Public Schools, he was honored with the student-selected “Most Influential Educator” award three times and received “Wrestling Coach of the Year” honors seven times.

Also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and founder, Chad is active in the entrepreneurial community and has organized several Startup Weekend events. He holds an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech. He is an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute. He resides in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife and their two children.

Where to find Chad: Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: Venture Pragmatist