More Alabama Schools Encouraged to Go Digital

A new, free online tool is available for educators who want to better utilize innovative teaching tools. Through a national initiative known as Digital Promise, educators can harness more benefits of the latest technology in classrooms.

Digital Promise is a project authorized by Congress in 2008 as a bipartisan effort to advance education through technology. According to its website, it was established as an independent nonprofit organization with the goal of designing a “roadmap to harness advanced learning technologies to address America’s urgent need for quality education and training in the digital age.” The program was designed through a partnership with The Learning Federation of the Federation of American Scientists – a group that includes most of the nation’s Nobel laureates in science.

Adam Frankel, executive director of Digital Promise, recently sent out a mid-year update on the activities the organization has launched to support “accelerating innovation in education.”

On its newly-launched website, stakeholders can find the most up-to-date news on innovative schools around the country — including Alabama’s own Piedmont City system, which is one of 25 systems selected nationally as a member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.

Digital learning is important to Alabama teachers and students. At a recent meeting of the A+ Board of Directors, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice shared Plan 2020, a strategic plan which encourages innovation in all Alabama schools for ensuring that every student graduates — and graduates with 21-century, college and career-ready skills.

When describing his visit last year to the “world’s highest performing school system” in Finland, Dr. Bice said he was approached by its minister of education who exclaimed, “I don’t understand why you’re here. We used U.S. research to reform our education system. The U.S. is the only country not using its own research!” The use of technology as a tool for student learning is a key ingredient in Finnish schools. This increased Dr. Bice’s motivation to focus on innovation in Alabama schools as a key strategy in the State Board of Education’s Plan 2020.

Among the objectives in the plan specifically for schools and systems, the state will grant public schools “flexibility to innovate and create 21st-century learning environments,” and resource systems to support innovation. Using model systems such as those spotlighted by Digital Promise can help provide ideas or roadmaps for other systems.

The digital advancement of ACCESS, Alabama’s distance learning initiative, enables students in rural Alabama to take courses previously not available to them. Districts and schools are also using online learning tools that better engage students and make learning more relevant and fun.

Beth Sanders, a second year social studies teacher at Tarrant High School uses tools like Schoology — a learning platform modeled after Facebook, Twitter, and Evernote to open up the world for her inner-city students. Recently, Beth and her students participated via SKYPE in a conference sponsored by a Connecticut University.

Click here to access the Digital Promise website for news on more model school systems.