One hundred seventy-five school leaders, education experts and other stakeholders from across the country recently convened in Pittsburgh at the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools national meeting to discuss the role technology partnerships can play in enhancing digital learning in schools. The league is comprised of just 73 school districts including three from the Pittsburgh area: South Fayette, Avonworth and Elizabeth Forward.
Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise, told Essential Pittsburgh only .05% of superintendents in the country are part of this league, and that they are challenged to work together to bring innovation and new learning techniques into their respective schools.
“There are a lot of creative ideas that solve problems, but an innovation is actually something that is scaled up, and actually moves forward to solve a big problem,” Cator explains.
Cator also says that by collaborating with superintendents from across the country who have implemented new teaching strategies and technology into curricula, superintendents gain a wealth of knowledge to bring back to their home district, where they work it into their own context.
Dr. Tom Ralston, superintendent of the Avonworth School District, says because technology is rapidly changing, traditional teaching methods are longer applicable. In his district, where teachers implement video conferences with students from around the world, stereotypes are broken, students are provided with a broader perspective, and able to grow, and fail, in the classroom.
“That’s really where most learning takes place, is when you see an iterated process where something doesn’t work out quite the way you want it to the first time. That’s really getting kids to embrace a sense of curiosity,” Ralston says.
Dr. Bille Rondinelli, superintendent of the South Fayette School District, says these new styles provide teachers with more leeway, allowing students to become involved with things that interest them, such as building apps. This program also partners students with businesses to enhance projects.
“It’s an expectation for the global workforce. They want their students and their children to be able to compete. We need to prepare them for their next steps, whatever those next steps might be,” says Rondinelli.
Dr. Bart Rocco, superintendent of the Elizabeth Forward Area School District, says that the mission of the league is to engage children with a broader mission of improving learning for all children.
“The league’s membership probably impacts, I would say several hundred thousand children across the country. Our job should be to try to multiply that every year and as more districts add on, we can have a tremendous impact on technology and learning across the country.”
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