“We must stop treating all students as if they are the same even if the intention is to ensure equality. Equity comes from deeply understanding learning variations and identifying the most powerful and helpful supports for each individual”
– Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS /
What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?
During the start-up phase of this project, we have been encouraged by the research community’s support for, and acknowledgement of, the gap that exists in the marketplace with regard to implementing programs and products that focus on how individual students learn best. An advisory committee that includes researchers, entrepreneurs and some of the most innovative district leaders in the country have embraced the approach. We are on track to share initial LPS concepts and frameworks in the first half of 2017 and are exploring strategies for achieving maximum impact.
What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?
Today’s education system is built on a century-old model that, as Todd Rose recently chronicled in his book, The End of Average, caters to the notion of the “average” student. Building new models that not only address myriad neuro-cognitive factors that impact learning, but that can also be executed in the context of an educational system that’s typically slow to respond, is a tremendous challenge that will require collaboration amongst system leaders, educators, researchers and developers. We seek to design concepts and frameworks in ways that compel adoption beyond just the early adopters.
The mission of Digital Promise Global is to accelerate innovation in education to improve opportunities to learn in an interconnected world. Its grant is building its organisational capacity to spur the development of “Learner Positioning Systems” – digital platforms that provide personalized support for an individual learner, including tools and resources matched to her strengths and weaknesses.
Taking first steps toward the development and widespread adoption of research-driven Learner Positioning Systems
ABOUT THE ORGANISATION
Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2008, the Obama administration officially launched Digital Promise in 2011 with the mandate to accelerate innovation in education through technology and research. In 2013, its sister organisation, Digital Promise Global was launched and together they have grown from a staff of two to a staff of nearly 50 across two offices – one in Silicon Valley, and one in Washington, D.C. The work of Digital Promise and Digital Promise Global is guided by the following principles: that networks connect us with people and ideas; that stories inspire ideas and incentivize action; that research informs decision-making; and that engagement motivates learning for life.
ABOUT THE OAK FUNDED PROJECT
With funding from Oak, Digital Promise Global seeks to foster the development and widespread adoption of “Learner Positioning Systems” in public schools. A digital “Learner Positioning System” (LPS) that helps a learner locate and understand where she stands in the context of her learning trajectory, the same way a GPS helps a traveller pinpoint her geographic location and plan out her journey, does not yet exist. An LPS with three components—information-gathering capabilities, a map of learning topics and progressions, and a bank of content, tools, and resources—could allow a person to self-identify as a learner with specific strengths, preferences, and challenges; select a unique learning trajectory; and find appropriate content and tools to support individual learning goals. It could also augment the ability of teachers and parents to meaningfully and holistically support their students. During the initial 18-month launch of its LPS project, Digital Promise Global is discovering and promoting research on learner variability, clearly communicating its vision and actionable steps, and working to develop partnerships and collaboration for technical solutions to challenges that currently prevent development of an LPS. Over an 8-year horizon, the project’s ultimate goals include having 50+ evaluated, research-based LPS products in the market; the adoption of industry standards and certifications for products in this category; 700,000 teachers, or 20 percent of the market, using validated LPS products; the removal of key policy barriers for LPS products; and the adoption of common LPS language by educators, developers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.
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Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.