At a time when advances in technology and digital media hold the potential to dramatically reshape the way we approach instruction, assessment, and research, many barriers still continue to slow innovation in learning, teaching and educational technologies. Accelerating the pace of innovation requires collaboration between educators, researchers, and commercial partners to work through these problems and create a shared research and development ecosystem.
Across the country, clusters of innovation are beginning to emerge in regions where these partnerships are forming. These clusters rely on collective expertise and resources to spur ideas, incubate new businesses, and most importantly, improve student learning. From Boston to Los Angeles, communities are building on this model by focusing unique regional strengths in the learning sciences, learning analytics and learning games to name a few.
To encourage this innovative cluster approach, last week, the US Department of Education convened at the University of Pennsylvania thirteen groups of leaders from communities across the country. Participants shared the unique assets and approaches they are taking advantage of and discussed strategies for overcoming challenges that limit collaboration and impede innovation.
Jim Shelton, ED assistant deputy secretary for innovation, and Richard Culatta, deputy director in the Office of Education Technology, led conversations during the event that focused on identifying critical elements of successful clusters and approaches for solving common challenges in sustaining collaborative innovation. The event also included talks from Nisith Acharya, director of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Adam Frankel, CEO of Digital Promise, about ways for these clusters to engage current innovation initiatives for support in building and sustaining successful clusters.
All participating leaders committed to taking best practices from across the country back to their respective innovation networks and communities. More importantly, the respective leaders committed to finding ways to support each other as a national network of innovation hubs instead of series of stand-alone communities. As regional partnerships become stronger and interconnectivity among regions increases, expect to see an acceleration of the development of educational tools and technologies that will improve learning for students across the country.
More information and elements of effective clusters can be found on the education innovation cluster website.
Richard Culatta is deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology