Accelerating Innovation
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Growing Coalition Supports ConnectED

In today’s world, technology has changed and, for the most part, improved the way we do everything from shopping to connecting with friends and family to managing our finances and our healthcare. But for a number of reasons, technology has not yet transformed the way our students learn on a day-to-day basis — at least not on a broad scale. Of course, there are many exciting examples across the country of schools and districts that have harnessed the power of technology to improve student learning, but these are not yet the norm.

One of the main barriers standing in the way is a lack of modern technology infrastructure in our schools that can support exciting and innovative digital-learning opportunities. (Although nearly every classroom in the country has basic Internet connectivity, the majority do not have fast enough bandwidth speeds to support their current needs.) This is why, as part of his ConnectED initiative, President Obama challenged the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the existing E-Rate program to upgrade our schools’ technology infrastructure to support ultrafast broadband speeds.

The Beginning of a Movement

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an action-oriented summit, Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World, co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It was a fascinating event, and I witnessed and participated in what felt like the beginning of a movement.

We know that the world today is more connected than ever. In particular, through advancements in technology, we now can stay connected — to each other, our jobs, our interests, and our passions — essentially all the time. The same ought to be true for our students and their education — students should have learning experiences that relate to and take advantage of their passions and interests. What they learn in an after-school program or activity should inform and relate to what they learn in school. And all of that should extend to what they learn at home with their families. This represents a shift in how we think about learning and education. Learning now happens all the time and everywhere, and we shouldn’t feel bound by narrow conceptions of when and where learning takes place (i.e., in school, during school hours). The challenge going forward will be designing and creating learning experiences for our students that properly match our modern, connected world (both in the literal, technical sense, and the broader, conceptual sense). That was the main challenge tackled by the participants in the Reimagining Education summit.

A New Approach to Learning that’s Better Designed for Our Times

“In order to provide the best education in the world again, we must develop educational opportunities and resources that excite and prepare all our students,” is how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees the challenge for the teachers, school leaders, academics, advocates, and entrepreneurs who attended the Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World conference on May 28-29, in Washington, D.C.

Co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the convening brought together participants from many different sectors to think about and make recommendations for a future in which the latest technologies are available and are an integral part of personalized learning experiences for all students, as well as helping to deliver a major upgrade in teacher professional development and the advanced instructional tools they need. Technology alone won’t solve the challenges the U.S. must meet to be a world leader again in elementary and secondary education, but, as Secretary Duncan noted, “We cannot succeed without it.”

i3 Scale-up and Validation Competitions Commence

This morning, the Department of Education announced the release of the Notices Inviting Applicants to the i3 program’s competition in the Scale-up and Validation categories.

Earlier this spring, the Department began the 2013 i3 competition with the release of the Notice of Final Priorities and the Notice Inviting Applicants to submit pre-applications for the Development category. Nearly 600 pre-applications were received.

Potential applicants for the Scale-up and Validation categories have until July 2, 2013, to submit an application. Click here for more information about the i3 program and competition.

i3 Project Combines English with Science to Meet the Needs of ELL Students in Both Subjects

Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant projects allow school districts and their educational partners to take a good idea and make it better. In 2008, school leaders in California's Sonoma Valley School District launched an initiative to bring not just science instruction to the elementary grades, where it had been neglected, but to also combine hands-on science with English in a novel multidisciplinary approach that they knew had significant potential to help the district's growing population of English language learners (ELLs).

In 2010, the district's partner in this venture, San Francisco's Exploratorium museum, took the lessons learned from their combined efforts at an elementary school in Sonoma with the highest percentage of ELLs, applied for and received a five-year, $3 million i3 Development grant to expand the initiative to all five of Sonoma Valley's elementary schools. With matching funds contributed by two local philanthropies that began their support in 2008, the new collaborative project became Integrating English Language Development and Science: A Professional Development Approach.

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