Blended Learning

To the future and beyond: A new class of innovative schools joins a growing network of educators who share best practices

What will the future of education bring? It’s hard to say. That story is still being written by teachers, students, principals and parents.

But we can get a glimpse by studying the high achievers, to learn how they are innovating. And the future might involve electric toothbrushes, CDs and markers. That hodgepodge of items can be combined to produce automated drawing robots, aka “draw bots.”

Kindergarten students in the Avonworth School District near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, showed their draw-bot creations Monday to an awe-struck group of visitors who toured the school during a fall meeting of educators from districts that are leaders in using education technology. Several schools in the area work with community partners, like The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, to create engaging, high-tech lessons for students.

A report released Monday, the Remake Learning Playbook (produced by Remake Learning, a network of schools, colleges, museums, libraries, philanthropies and other community groups in the greater Pittsburgh area) provides a how-to guide for replicating what’s happening in western Pennsylvania.

The Avonworth School District belongs to the League of Innovative Schools, a national coalition based on a stunningly simple idea: Rather than asking every school to reinvent the wheel independently, why not share best practices with each other? The first question many educators want to ask is whether an innovation worked in a community or school that resembles their own.

The League of Innovative Schools – now with 73 member districts in 33 states – is a project of Digital Promise, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that works to promote best practices in education technology and blended learning. Last week, Digital Promise announced the League’s newest members, 21 districts and one charter school, representing a diverse collection of communities.

They are: Albemarle County Public Schools – Charlottesville, Virginia; Cajon Valley Union School District – El Cajon, California; Duplin County Schools – Kenansville, North Carolina; East Noble School Corporation – Kendallville, Indiana; Elizabeth Public Schools – Elizabeth, New Jersey; El Paso Independent School District – El Paso, Texas; Franklin West Supervisory Union – Fairfax, Vermont; Freehold Regional High School District – Englishtown, New Jersey; Gurnee School District 56 – Gurnee, Illinois; Henry County Public Schools – Henry County, Virginia; Iredell Statesville Public Schools – Statesville, North Carolina; Juab School District – Juab, Utah; KIPP DC – Washington, D.C.; Lakeville Area Public Schools – Lakeville, Minnesota; Mesa Public Schools – Mesa, Arizona; Orange County Public Schools – Orlando, Florida; Oxnard Union High School District – Oxnard, California; San Francisco Unified School District – San Francisco, California; Santa Ana Unified School District – Santa Ana, California; Sitka School District – Sitka, Alaska; Talladega County Schools – Talladega, Alabama; Uinta School District #1 – Evanston, Wyoming.

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The new ideas developed by these leaders could help others as they embark on the process of transforming schools to make the most of technology. But can anyone say for sure what schools will look like in 50 years? Naw. The most successful schools will shoot for the moon and still keep evolving. And no one can perfectly predict the future. Aren’t we all still waiting for the flying cars promised by The Jetsons?

You can keep up with developments in blended learning through my weekly Blended Learning Newsletter. To have a free copy delivered to your inbox each Tuesday, sign up here for a free subscription, and invite a friend to subscribe.

And follow @HechingerReport on Twitter. Email blended learning news tips dobo@hechingerreport.org.

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Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is a staff writer and social media editor. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind/Shift,… See Archive