Highlander Institute Awarded NMEF’s Integrated Learning Systems Grant

June 7, 2015

ILS blog


What is the formula for designing a statewide initiative to leverage technology for student-centered learning? Highlander Institute is testing out their plan for this over the next year and a half, thanks to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s (NMEF’s) Integrated Learning Systems grant.

A nonprofit organization based in Providence, Rhode Island, Highlander Institute leverages innovative educational methods to ensure all children receive a public education that empowers them to reach their full potential. Highlander Institute provides technical assistance and professional development related to the integration of personalized and blended learning models. Through their work, the Highlander Institute has partnered with dozens of districts, building relationships with thousands of educators across diverse environments. Because of this, they bring a deep understanding of Rhode Island’s education technology landscape.

With the Integrated Learning Systems grant, Highlander Institute is working with school and district teams to design customized student-centered learning environments. This system realignment is bringing the expertise of partnering community organizations, along with the support of curated edtech tools, to create integrated ‘stacks’ of support. Highlander Institute is acting in a coordinating capacity, assessing the unique needs, designing systems that address those needs, and then piloting integrated learning systems for each school.

The iNACOL publication Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning categorizes and analyzes the various functions of education technology in service to student-centered learning. This resource has served as a starting point for Highlander Institute’s work of assembling integrated learning systems. Highlander Institute’s initiative, now known as “Fuse Architect,” is designed to accelerate the implementation of student-centered learning across Rhode Island by establishing credible and accessible proof points of student-centered learning, designing and piloting integrated learning systems that support implementation, and refining a process of technology integration that others might replicate.

The three overarching goals for the “Fuse Architect” project include:

  1. Accelerating school and district capacity to develop equitable student-centered learning practices that promote student voice and agency at the high school level to increase academic performance.
  2. Developing and testing technology infrastructure, software applications, and data interoperability standards that allow schools and districts to address unique student-centered learning challenges and opportunities.
  3. Observing, documenting, and spreading learning regarding process and systems approaches to student-centered learning, ensuring that district leaders, building principals, and classroom teachers can benefit from these new approaches.

In January and February 2017, Highlander Institute issued a statewide application for districts and schools interested in participating in Fuse Architect. The application process closed on February 17, and ten schools had applied. Through a vetting process including in-person meetings, the final seven schools representing six districts were accepted into the Fuse Architect cohort in late March 2017. Tune in for our next post, which will focus on the phases of Highlander Institute’s Fuse Architect plan.

To learn more about the Fuse Architect project, updates, and partnerships, see all blogs in this series!

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