Aiming to accelerate the ways in which technology is used and adopted to help drive next generation learning outcomes in K-12, the newly chartered “League of Innovative Schools” framed up last week in Mooresville, North Carolina. A new group emanating from the recently announced White House-backed Digital Promise team – the League met to review core challenges, establish a charter, and get after answers to tough questions on how to streamline “outcome difference-makers” in school technology identification and deployment.
The result? A promising beginning, as 30+ superintendents from around the country, US Department of Education personnel, foundations, funders and vendors coalesced for a tough, issues-oriented two-day launch. Lead vendors attending included Apple, Cisco, Discovery, Intel and Pearson.
“Digital Promise is off to a strong start with the first meeting of the League of Innovative Schools in North Carolina. Bringing superintendents together with cutting-edge researchers and entrepreneurs to develop the next generation of effective learning tools is exactly the kind of initiative we were created by Congress to spur,”
Adam Frankel, Executive Director of Digital Promise,
Former Speechwriter for President Barack Obama
The Mooresville Graded School District, which has driven massive improvements (+25%) in test scores over the past five years with an innovative 1:1 approach, was the host for the session. Districts attending included New York City, Washington DC, and Houston on the large enrollment side – all the way to smaller districts from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas.
The meeting kicked off with an honest identification of the top challenges schools face today as they set about to embrace more technology:
- Lack of evidence on “what works”
- The disaggregated nature of the market – districts not working together
- How can districts change the way they buy technology products to lower the friction in the market?
- How to present a new model for 21st century learning so that’s its compelling for students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards?
- What are the best practices for change management to drive adoption into the unique segments of the K-12 market?
- No system today that allows software products to work together, making better sense of data and access
- Lack of common goals – need bold challenges to get at a large return for students and schools
- Transforming teaching – who owns this? Need to incentivize risk-taking to adopt new technology at the school and district level
- Scaling technology leadership from one district to many
Each superintendent then spoke of their experiences, positive & negative, on the topic. Discussions moved toward how to develop a system to identify & share what’s effective – say for example in blended instruction, content, professional development, so that other districts can get help and support. Some spoke of the group creating a digital portal to see what’s happening in different districts around the country, say for example in delivering teacher-based tools to help students self-manage in the classroom.
The group moved on to tackle three core related issues:
- How to create & gather research and data on what works, & how to disseminate?
- For the district, what are the “hallmarks of leadership” in beginning to attack this opportunity?
- In the overall US K-12 technology market, some estimating at $20B, how do we work together to create “smart demand?”
The highlights of this 3-point discussion will be covered in next week’s blog.
The road ahead? Dr. Mark Edwards, MGSD’s Superintendent and the host for the meeting, stated: “Our first meeting of the League was exciting and valuable. Great dialogue and participation from all with a sense of responsibility beyond immediate roles.
“I believe we can build on the meeting in Mooresville and create some synergy and energy around the effort to promote innovation, collaboration, and get some acceleration on leveraging schools technology to help prepare students for our next generation economy.”
Supporting a comprehensive R&D program, harnessing technology to enable our students to compete in global economy, and creating public & private funding as a 501(c)(3) sitting at the intersection of government, private sector, and academia – the League and Digital Promise are looking at new tools and ways to combat a stubborn set of challenges. Going back to President Obama’s comments in his January, 2011 State of the Union speech – it will be exactly these types of initiatives – led by local districts themselves – that can create positive change.
In education, we know new technology such as video and collaboration have the capacity to unlock time & constraints regarding our physical classroom norm of 33 kids + 1 teacher. If we commit as a society, with new technology, curriculum, time & location, an expanding role for teachers, and new research, we can all multiply new solutions – and student engagement – the most powerful force in learning – can flourish and thrive.