Education Resources

Digital Promise Develops 'Map' to Help Schools Face Common Challenges

Digital Promise Challenge Map

The Digital Promise Research team worked with school districts in its League of Innovative Schools to create an online tool that suggests resources for helping address common challenges found in education. The "Challenge Map" covers 36 different challenges, including supporting English language learners, assessing 21st century skills and addressing social-emotional learning.

Among the major themes for the Challenge Map are teaching with technology, helping prepare students for college and career, and addressing opportunity gaps.

For example, in the topic of technology and network infrastructure, challenges cover procurement and adoption, tech access, data interoperability and open educational resources. For tech procurement, "ideas from the field" mentioned such practices as districts using analytics "to track and assess ed tech product usage, and then conducting cost-benefit analyses from those data"; and working with teachers "on both the effectiveness of current programs and to identify gaps where new products could be useful." Links go to an "ed tech pilot framework" developed by Digital Promise and a "Learning Assembly piloting toolkit."

Over the next year, the organization said it expected to keep "refining and strengthening" the map, by gathering feedback and insights from those who are tackling the problems within League school districts.

The Challenge Map is openly available on the Digital Promise website.

The nonprofit also announced that it has won a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to "design, study and improve" the computational thinking pathways in 12 school districts.

The three-year NSF grant will allow Digital Promise to "work deeply" with members of its league to figure out better ways for students to learn "critical skills for solving complex problems in an increasingly computational world," said CEO Karen Cator, in a statement. While numerous districts have integrated computer science into their curriculum, districts still face obstacles in getting everybody on board.

The emphasis of the project will be on defining pathways that "engage girls, low-income and other underserved students" in computing, from kindergarten through grade 12, added Jeremy Roschelle, executive director of Learning Sciences Research at Digital Promise Global and principal investigator.

The project will work most closely with three "core" districts, representing some 50,000 students, 29 percent of whom are low-income and 26 percent are Black or Latinx:

The remaining nine districts will work with the core school systems to improve their work and use what they learn to address equity and access in their own target groups.

Among the areas of interest:

  • Defining competencies for each grade band;
  • Identifying curriculum to support learning;
  • Laying out teacher competencies, professional development needs and educator learning resources;
  • Articulating formative assessments for teachers and students; and
  • Developing guides that will help teachers adapt and integrate computational thinking and computer science in their instruction.

The topic has a landing page on Digital Promise's website.

About the Author

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