Smart Classroom

Digital Promise Network Encourages District Innovation

The Utah Schools for the Deaf & the Blind, led by Superintendent Joel Coleman, has added summer STEM opportunities for its students in maker activities, such as building hovercrafts and kayaks. It's also delivering virtual classes to students in isolated areas, running a 1-to-1 program and providing iPad-based "virtual interpreters" for deaf students.

Stephenville Independent School District in Texas, led by Superintendent Matt Underwood, is making decisions based on data gathered from teachers, students and parents through BrightBytes surveys. The district is also deploying instructional technologists to work with teachers in helping to identify digital resources, co-teach lessons and model the use of technology during a three-year "iChampion" digital transformation initiative.

Kokomo School Corporation in Indiana, led by Superintendent Jeff Hauswald, has recruited community partners to provide STEM activities and homework help in an after-school program for students in grades 2-5.

Along with 16 other districts, these have become the latest members of Digital Promise's League of Innovative Schools. The broader network of 87 school systems in 33 states brings district leaders together at bi-annual meetings and in working groups to share how their schools are improving student outcomes. As the League charter states, "We've found there's no single pathway to get to those outcomes. Rather, League districts' success is the result of shared leadership and smart decision-making through a variety of innovative learning practices. The League's goal is to find the leaders pioneering these practices, connect them with each other, and amplify what they do best so others can learn."

Digital Promise is a non-profit organization founded five years ago with the goal of promoting innovation in education by sharing what's working in schools, with learning technology playing a major role.

Members of the League commit to certain activities, such as participating in its professional learning community, supporting the organization's research projects and trying out new education technology products and services.

"Ultimately, it's a network. We're trying to connect best practice and great ideas. We're doing things to make public education in this country better," explained member Michael Nagler, superintendent at Mineola Public Schools in Long Island, NY, in a video about the League. "If you're doing something innovative and you want to change public education, the League is for you."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.