Innovation and Quality in Higher Education

Much is changing in higher education.

Most fundamentally, students themselves are changing. After long decades of exclusion, college access has expanded opportunities for minority students, first-generation students, and low-income students. In 2015, students are more likely to attend community college than any other postsecondary option, and more likely to be older, living away from campus, and may be attending part-time while balancing work and family.


The iconic picture of an 18-year-old high school graduate walking across a leafy campus toward her dorm room no longer reflects the reality of today’s college student.


Institutions of higher education are responding to these changes, in part by making course delivery more flexible. Technology has made this even more possible, introducing teaching and learning that is less constrained by time and place. Technology is also making new kinds of embedded assessment and adaptive curriculum possible, allowing instructors and students to discern with greater accuracy a student’s mastery of material or skills.

The demand for higher education is increasing, well beyond the capacity of traditional institutions. It’s easy to see why. As President Obama has said, the time when a high school diploma could lead to a good middle class job is gone. In today’s economy and tomorrow’s, some kind of postsecondary degree or credential is essential. That’s why we are committed to policies that increase access to high-quality programs, to keeping those programs affordable for all, and to ensuring quality outcomes for students.

Outside of the traditional colleges and universities, a vibrant marketplace for learning is emerging, whether through stand-alone MOOCS, “boot camps” that focus on training students for particular skills like computer coding, online skills courses, and institutional experimentation with competency-based programs and degrees. We applaud this wave of innovation and believe that the innovators are leading the way to a system of higher education that is more open, often less costly, more customizable to the needs of students, and more transparent in terms of its outcomes.

Many of the programs now offered outside of traditional higher education are of high quality and many earn learners access to new knowledge, new skills, and new opportunities. Some, however, are not. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that we have few tools to differentiate the high-quality programs from the poor-quality ones. The normal mechanism we use to assess quality in higher education, accreditation, was not built to assess these kinds of providers. Moreover, even if they were, even the best programs and those serving low-income students would not, under current rules, be certified to receive federal financial aid because they are “programs” or “courses,” and not “institutions.”

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is interested in accelerating and focusing the ongoing conversations about what quality assurance might look like in the era of rapidly expanding educational options that are not traditional institutions of higher education. We are particularly interested in thinking about quality assurance through the lens of measurable student outcomes and competencies. We have no stake in supporting one or another specific set of learning outcomes. Rather, we are interested in the fact that outcomes matter and ought to be the centerpiece of any kind of quality assurance. Outcomes, in this vision of the future, are clear claims for student learning, move beyond mere statements of knowledge to what students can do with that knowledge, and are measurable.

Join a Conversation

Over the coming weeks and months, we seek to engage broadly with the field to help deepen our understanding of how to recognize high-quality non-traditional programs. We think that a new set of quality assurance questions will need to be developed to ask hard, important questions about student learning and outcomes. These questions will help students, taxpayers, and those evaluating educational programs separate programs that are high-quality from those that do not meet the bar. Such a quality assurance process will rely much less on inputs, where the emphasis of much accreditation still rests, and will instead focus on outputs and evidence.

Based on some preliminary input we have received, we have identified several general categories in which questions should be asked:

  • Claims: What are the measurable claims that a provider is making about student learning?  Do those individual claims combine into a coherent program of study?  Are they relevant and do they have value; how do we know?
  • Assessments: How is it clear that the student has achieved the learning outcomes?  Are the assessments reliable and valid? Do the assessments measure what students can do with what they have learned?
  • Outcomes: What outcomes do program completers achieve, both in terms of academic transfer or employment and salary, where relevant?  What are other outcomes we should ask about?

These quality assurance questions are designed to focus on student learning and other critical outcomes at a much more granular level. We welcome feedback and sustained dialogue on how to foster and improve quality assurance, particularly in this moment of tremendous innovation and change. We seek to convene, participate in, and hear the results of many conversations with diverse stakeholders.  To join those conversations, please fill out the form below, or send us your thoughts, questions, and ideas for engagement at collegefeedback@ed.gov.

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Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education

Secretary Arne Duncan Joins Medium

Secretary Duncan on Medium

Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne joined Medium, a new self-publishing platform that encourages people to share ideas and stories that matter.

In his inaugural Medium post, Secretary Duncan discusses how technological tools can “empower students to become who they want to be, and who we need them to be — the kind of children and young people who ask, ‘What can I improve? How can I help? What can I build?'”

“Technology can just as easily widen the lead for those who already have every advantage. If the technology revolution only happens for families that already have money and education, then it’s not really a revolution.”  

Read the Secretary’s full post and follow us to keep the conversation going.

We’re always looking for new ways to connect with the public, which is why you can also follow Secretary Duncan on Facebook and Twitter, too.

How We’ve Improved the Customer Experience for ED’s Grant Opportunities

Providing information on the Department’s grant opportunities is one of the core functions of our website, ED.gov. The ED team works year-round to share relevant, timely details about grant opportunities. We recently made some improvements to how we publish grant information on some of our most popular webpages, using technology solutions to speed up the process.

Now we can post the most recent numbers every day. 

We used Sharepoint and developed an automated process to gather and transform data from Grants.gov in an accurate daily update on ED.gov. This change significantly reduces the amount of time that our program office and Forecast staff must spend to update information and prominently displays the eligibility criteria and application link for each grant opportunity. This means more frequent and timely forecasts as well as a better overall experience!

What’s next? Our Web Team is working to improve the internal and external customer experiences for ED.gov program information. We are re-engineering, streamlining, and automating publishing grant information and related documents. Here’s what’s in store:

  • Improve management of program information and update the look/ feel of program pages.  
  • Provide an API (application programming interface) for developers and others to easily access our program data.Offer a program-finder tool that matches customers with opportunities in their area of interest and eligibility.
  • Align with the Digital Government Strategy initiative and Open Data Policy.
  • And much more!

Stay tuned!

Kate Devine and Alan Smigielski are both members of the Web Team in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Innovation in Action

Secretary Duncan at Cardozo

A student shows Secretary Duncan a program she created at Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC. (Joshua Hoover/U.S. Department of Education)

Yesterday I had the chance to visit the amazing students at Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The students, teachers and school leaders at Cardozo are making big gains through an all-hands-on-deck effort to help every student graduate prepared for college and career, and ready to achieve their dreams.

With incredible leadership from its educators, smart community partnerships, and the help of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Cardozo has seen double-digit gains in attendance; reading proficiency is up 10 percent; suspensions are down; and 54 percent fewer students failed math last year.

This year, the entire Cardozo community is working overtime to keep up the progress, and bring new solutions to persistent challenges. Cardozo’s TransSTEM Academy and Project Lead the Way are creating hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The Diplomas Now team is making sure that all students stay on track through 1:1 supports. And Cardozo students have designed a nationally acclaimed app to boost student attendance and academic achievement in their school.


Across the country, schools like Cardozo are leading a groundswell of innovation in education. Local educators are working hard to do things better than we have in the past—and also to share what they’re learning so that more students, educators, and communities benefit from their efforts. That’s what innovation is all about: smart investments that can expand opportunities for all students.

In Washington, there is an active debate about whether or not to continue supporting the kind of innovation that is helping educators get results for the students who need us the most. Now is not the time to turn back on investing in innovation. We need to support students, educators and their communities as they continue to drive innovation, so that all students have the opportunity to live out their dreams.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby is the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

One District’s Quest to Transform Learning through Technology

What does it mean to be a “Future Ready” school district?

More than 160 teachers, parents, students, and business and district leaders from across Tennessee recently gathered at the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ Martin Center to discuss the answer to this question and talk about the upcoming Future Ready District Pledge.

The Pledge establishes a framework for districts to achieve the goals laid out by the White House ConnectED Initiative. Some of these goals include: upgrading high-speed Internet connectivity, providing access to educational devices and digital content, and preparing teachers to use technology effectively to improve student learning and their own professional development.

The event – part of the U.S. Department of Education’s fifth annual back-to-school bus tour – was hosted by Kecia Ray, Executive Director of Learning Technology for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Richard Culatta, Director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.

Some of those who attended the event demonstrated what #FutureReady meant to them. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Some of those who attended the event demonstrated what #FutureReady meant to them. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

During the discussion, teachers, students, administrators, and community leaders talked about their roles in shaping the way technology can transform learning.

One teacher from the MNPS Virtual School said his staff was already “rockin’ Future Ready but could certainly use the infrastructure attention, as well as community involvement.” Other educators emphasized the importance of professional development and training. One MNPS teacher said teachers needed professional development on how to use devices for specific instructional purposes, while another teacher suggested, “Our perception needs to change from technology being ‘another thing’ we need to learn, to being ‘the way’ we teach and learn.”

The educators expressed the importance of building the right infrastructure, imagining the classrooms of the future, ensuring teachers are ready to utilize and benefit from technology, and bringing into the work parents, community members, school board members, and others . District leaders also recognized the value of mentoring other districts, noting, “The only way to be successful is to collaborate, just like we expect our teachers to do.”

Parents talked about blended learning, which combines classroom and online instruction, noting that without consistency across the country, individual districts would need to clearly define this learning approach for their teachers and students. Some parents also emphasized the importance of understanding what was going on at school, suggesting that “if parents knew what was happening in the classroom, they would know the right questions to ask their students.”

Students also gave their points of view.

Tenth-grade Big Picture High School student Jarred Enyart facilitated a conversation with nearly 30 middle and high school students. The teens expressed excitement about incorporating Future Ready into their learning experiences.

One student wondered, “If students had 45 minutes of rich learning online, would they have more motivation to succeed and learn?” Another offered an example of the personalized learning available in Future Ready schools, noting, “I had maxed out on AP classes and was interested in medicine. I was able to access a variety of opportunities because of the internet.”

As the event concluded, one student offered some excellent advice, urging the participants to use technology “as a tool, not a crutch.”

We will continue to bring you details about the Future Ready pledge. Follow the hashtag #FutureReady on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

James Liou is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Ed Games Week Highlights the Emergence of Video Games in Education

collaborate

Ed Games Week wrapped up with a 48-hour Education Game Jam that brought together over one hundred veteran and independent game developers, teachers, and students. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Games and play are a central part of childhood and can stimulate creativity and learning. As technology grows as a tool for teachers, one question has been: what role might educational video games play in the classroom?

Today, increasing numbers of teachers are incorporating games to supplement and enrich classroom instruction. In addition, students of all ages are developing their own games, as showcased in competitions and hackathons in communities across the country.

Ed Games Week brought the discussion on educational games to Washington, D.C. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) collaboratively planned a series of events including the Ed Games Expo, the Ed Games Workshop, and the White House Education Game Jam.

The Ed Games Expo

The Ed Games Expo showcased 25 newly developed learning games developed with funding from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at ED’s Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR) and other federal programs. More than 150 attendees met face-to-face with the developers and played games that covered a range of topics – from STEM, history, and foreign languages – and used a wide variety of genres for gameplay. For example:

  • Addimal Adventure challenges children to solve mathematical equations with support of friendly characters.
  • Zoo U helps grade school students navigate a series of challenging social situations.
  • Reach for the Sun encourages deep understanding of photosynthesis as students grow a virtual sunflower from seed to full plant.

For more, check out the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:

Ed Games Workshop

The Ed Games Workshop brought together the Expo game developers and a team of federal experts. Workshop collaborators strategized exciting possibilities to create regional, national, or even international STEM game competitions featuring games that motivate as well as teach, such as through an X-Prize model. For more, see this article on the Clinton Foundation blog.

The White House Education Game Jam

Ed Games Week wrapped up with a 48-hour Education Game Jam that brought together over one hundred veteran and independent game developers, teachers, and students with the goal of creating educational games that make challenging K-12 topics easier for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Organized by the White House and Department of Education, developers were challenged to develop playable prototypes during the event. On Monday, Sept. 8, Game Jam participants presented videos of their games and demonstrated the prototypes at the White House. Twenty-three educational games were developed over the weekend including:

You can find videos of all the game prototypes on the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:

ED is committed to tracking the emergence of technology-based games in education as a way to enrich in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students. Follow @OfficeofEdTech and @IESResearch on Twitter for the latest!

Ed Metz is a developmental psychologist and the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Russell Shilling is an experimental psychologist and the Executive Director of STEM Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.

Mark DeLoura is Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Fueling Innovation through First in the World

Last August, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in higher education and help the U.S. once again lead the world in college attainment rates.  Among his priorities, which include developing a college ratings system and ensuring that student debt is manageable, innovation remains a central theme.  The President called on the Department of Education to spur innovation, foster constructive competition, and remove barriers to empower college and universities in developing and testing new strategies to enroll and graduate more students.

In response to the President’s call, the Department announced a new $75 million grant competition called First in the World that will provide funding for innovative strategies and approaches to improve college attainment and make higher education more affordable for students and families.  The program will invite colleges and universities across the country to submit innovative proposals to help students – particularly underprepared, underrepresented, or low-income students – to access, persist in, and complete higher education.

We know that innovation to improve student outcomes can take many forms, from new educational programming and resources on campuses to technological innovations that enhance learning and student supports.  For example, some institutions are developing programs of study using competency-based education, which allows students to progress based on student mastery of learning.  Other institutions are working to improve student learning and student supports through adaptive learning and personalization.  The President is calling on all institutions to provide us with their best thinking on how to make college more accessible and affordable for all students, and through the First in the World program, the Department welcomes a wide range of promising, creative ideas to help more students affordably access and graduate from college.

In addition to stimulating innovation, another key goal of the FITW program is to increase the evidence we have about what works in higher education.  As part of their applications, FITW applicants must describe their programs and the theory of change they seek to enact, and will be awarded additional points for providing supplemental evidence of promise around the project they are proposing. Additional, institutions receiving funding will be required to implement a robust evaluation that will provide evidence of its effectiveness so that other colleges and universities can learn from successful strategies and scale them up to reach more students.

The Department hopes to receive applications from an array of colleges and universities that serve a diverse range of students, and up to $20 million of the $75 million available in FY2014 will be set aside to fund innovations at Minority Serving Institutions.  This funding will build on the important work that institutions all across the country are engaged in to continue to expand and evaluate promising practices for serving underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income students and empowering their success. The Notice Inviting Applications, which contains additional details about the competition, is available on the Federal Register website and the Department will host webinars for potential applicants on the FY2014 FITW competition in the coming weeks.

The First in the World program gets its name from the goal that President Obama set for the nation early on in his Administration – that by the year 2020, the United States will again be first in the world in college completion. With this vision, we are excited to ask colleges and universities nationwide for their most promising ideas to improve college attainment and affordability, and we look forward to unleashing a new wave of innovation when awards are announced this fall.

Mary Wall and David Soo are both senior policy advisors in the Office of the Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

The White House Hosts Its First-Ever Student Film Festival

Film Fest

President Barack Obama speaks with students in the State Dining Room prior to the White House Student Film Festival in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Back in November, we asked K-12 students across the country to create short films on the role that technology plays in their classrooms. We asked them to tell us why technology is so important, and how it will change the educational experience for kids in the future.

And they responded with nearly 3,000 films.

Today, in collaboration with the American Film Institute, we hosted more than a dozen of the young filmmakers at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival, where we presented our 16 official selections. Special guests included Kal Penn, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, along with Conan O’Brien who addressed the students by video.

To kick things off, President Obama addressed the attendees and told the young filmmakers how great their movies were:

[I]n my official capacity as President, let me just say these movies are awesome. Like all great movies, yours do something special — they tell a story. They help us understand, in this case, the amazing things that are going on in classrooms and how technology is empowering our students and broadening their imaginations and challenging them to dream bigger and reach further.

The President also talked briefly about his ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to next-generation, high-speed Internet over the next five years. He announced $400 million in new commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students, helping introduce creative learning materials to America’s classrooms. Coupled with the $750 million in commitments that the President announced earlier this month, private-sector leaders have pledged – in February alone – to invest more than $1 billion in America’s students.

Read his full remarks here.

Lights, camera, action!

If you missed the livestream of the event, don’t worry – the film festival’s official selections, as well as the videos that received honorable mentions, are below for your viewing pleasure:

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS:

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Promise Zones Launched in Five Communities

Obama announcing Promise

President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zones,” at the White House yesterday. (Photo by Philadelphia Mayor @Michael_Nutter)

On Thursday, Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zones,” where local communities and businesses will work together to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety. Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zones Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class.

The first five Zones — in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma — have put forward plans for how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity. Click here for a fact sheet on the Promise Zones Initiative and the key strategies of each of the five Zones.

“In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity,” said Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz in a White House blog about the new initiative. “The government can’t fix this on its own, but it can be a much better partner in helping local leaders develop policies that improve education, protect the most vulnerable, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.”

In three of the Zones, the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Promise Neighborhoods will play an important role as one of the added community tools resulting from the Administration’s place-based investments. In Los Angeles, for example, the Promise Neighborhoods initiative will be instrumental in expanding a full-service community schools model from seven schools to all 45 Promise Zone schools by 2019. The other Promise Neighborhoods playing integral roles in the new Zones are in San Antonio and Southeastern Kentucky.

This post originally appeared on OII’s homepage.

Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is Finalist for Innovations in American Government Award

Last week, The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, announced the finalists for the Innovations in American Government Award. From a pool of more than 600 applicants, the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is one of five finalists being recognized for the positive impact it is having on neighborhoods – and people – across the nation. Neighborhoods like Minneapolis’s Northside, which has the city’s highest rate of crime and can be a dangerous place to live, work, and go to school, but the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and its partner in the North4 program are working to change that. With assistance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the community is countering the pull of gangs and crime with job training, paid internships, and wrap-around support for gang-involved youth ages 14 – 21.

naz-connector-bruce-murray

Bruce Murray a NAZ Connector who helps students and families in the Northside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Since receiving its Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant in December 2011, NAZ has enrolled more than 500 families into its cradle-to-career pipeline of services and family supports and is reaching more than 1300 kids. Each family is assigned a NAZ Connector, someone from the neighborhood, who works with the family to identify needs and barriers, set family goals, encourage behaviors that support academic outcomes, and connect them with promising and proven strategies to support success.

In addition to the Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Northside community is receiving support through the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, DOJ is helping NAZ increase public safety in the neighborhood with a $320,000 supplement to the original grant. This investment is being used for a multi-year expansion of the North4 program for young men like John, a high school senior with a history of gang involvement. The first year of the North4 expansion has provided John (and 32 other youth from North Minneapolis) with job training, paid work experience, and skills development. After graduating from the North4 program, John was automatically enrolled in NAZ. With the help of Bruce, his NAZ Connector, John has secured stable housing for his family and is setting academic, career, and financial goals for himself. But the benefit doesn’t end there – John’s mother, toddler son, and sister are all NAZ connected now and they’re getting the support they need to for a brighter future.

Jane Hodgdon is an education program specialist at the U.S. Department of Education

Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

studentIn talking about the need for a well-rounded education, Secretary Duncan has consistently invoked the importance of keeping arts in the mix. Over the past three years, researchers at Northwestern University have teamed up with the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program based in Los Angeles, as well as public charter schools in Chicago, to investigate just how important the arts are to learning.

Harmony Project works with students, such as Fatima Salcido, who enrolled in group violin classes during middle school.  Since then, she has been a high achiever. Through diligent practice, Fatima earned her way into private lessons and membership in the Hollywood Youth Orchestra, one of Harmony Project’s most elite ensembles. In addition to these activities, during her last two years of high school Fatima gave weekly private violin instruction to a less-advanced musician as a volunteer peer mentor. Fatima has gone on to earn a full four-year scholarship to Tulane University, where she is currently a neuroscience pre-med major and a member of the Tulane University orchestra.

Looking at Fatima’s success and that of others in Harmony Project, Northwestern is conducting a longitudinal study that investigates the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development. In particular, neuroscientists are evaluating how music education affects learning skills, communication abilities, and biological development in underserved, grade-school-aged children participating in Harmony’s mentoring program.

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Reimagining Learning in Philadelphia

Jeff Scott and Students

Engineering doctoral candidate Jeffrey Scott instructs students during the workshop on Music Information Retrieval at Drexel University in Philadelphia

It’s “full steam ahead” for Philadelphia area high school students participating in Drexel University’s Summer Music Technology program focused on connecting technology with the arts.

For the past seven years, more than 150 aspiring young engineers and musicians have participated in hands-on, multi-media workshops funded in part with a National Science Foundation grant and housed in the College of Engineering. This year, with continued support from private funding, 28 students attended a week-long session at Drexel’s new Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center. The Center is a hub where teams of faculty, students, and entrepreneurs collaborate on multi-disciplinary projects in a variety of fields.  It’s part of a nationwide effort to enrich teaching and learning in the science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – fields, by adding a focus on the arts. Supporters have dubbed this approach STEAM.

Students at Drexel

Students Brandon Tran and Chia Chen, with Dr. Youngmoo Kim, demonstrate musical instruments produced in a 3D printer at the ExCITe Center.

“Our goal here is to explore the benefits of arts-integrated research and learning, or STEAM education, for everyone, from ‘K to gray.’ We especially work with young high school students and hope that the things they learn here will help them make good career choices,” said the Center’s director, Dr. Youngmoo Kim.

In one workshop led by Jeffrey Scott, a doctoral candidate in engineering, students learned about Music Information Retrieval (MIR) and worked in groups to develop playlists, label and tag features of songs, and create a collaborative filtering system. MIR is a growing field that develops efficient and intelligent methods to analyze, retrieve and organize music. Dr. Kim hopes this kind of targeted, experiential learning will develop future engineers.

The workshops aren’t just for fun: the approach has attracted several aspiring engineers to pursue higher education and the STEAM fields.

Seth Nicosia, a current sophomore at Drexel’s College of Engineering, attended the summer engineering program in 2010, and attributes his decision to major in engineering to that experience. “I have always been interested in music, and the Summer Music Technology program showed me how I could apply my musical knowledge in new and practical ways,” said Nicosia. “The program motivated me to enroll in college and major in engineering.”

Drexel’s ExCITe Center is a feast of fun for anyone interested in innovative, engaging research in technology and the arts.  There’s a magnetic resonator piano that allows the piano to create sounds that were previously impossible on the instrument. There’s a life-size robot that students program to play percussion.  There’s Darwin, a soccer-playing robot. And, there’s a 3D printer that students use to make musical instruments.

This May, at a conference titled, “Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in the 21st Century,” Secretary Duncan emphasized the need to create a bold new vision for our classrooms. “Our students need to experiment, engage, and create in the areas they find truly exciting. Schools are a crucial part of that vision, and better access to technology and the worlds that technology puts at our fingertips, is an essential part of this work,” said Duncan. “To accomplish this, we need mentors, employers and artists working together in new ways to get all of our students involved and interested in their own learning.”

Clearly, this vision for high-quality STEAM education is helping to power Drexel’s ExCITe Center, as it fast-track students to academic and career success.

Elizabeth Williamson is a supervisory education program specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach in Philadelphia.