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At digiLEARN, we strongly believes an investment in teachers is an investment in students. That’s why we started the Digital Scholars Initiative — to create opportunities for teachers and schools to accelerate innovation and build effective personalized learning models for all students, but especially for students from economically disadvantaged areas. Digital Scholars are teachers who take on invaluable leadership roles at their school and district levels while remaining practicing classroom teachers. Scholars receive release time, personalized professional development, and extended employment so they can:

  • learn how to lead other educators,
  • use their classrooms as Learning Labs for other teachers to observe and learn new instructional practices,
  • and collaborate with researchers and other teachers to design solutions to help their schools innovate and design new learning models.

This spring, the Digital Scholars Initiative launched its pilot year of the program at Rowan-Salisbury Schools in the southwestern region of North Carolina. District leadership identified three teachers to be the first cohort because of their expertise in digital and personalized learning.

Throughout the year, staff from digiLEARN and program partner Getting Smart worked with the cohort and the district to establish a professional learning community among the three teachers, provide personalized professional development for each Scholar, and offer planning and administrative support to facilitate Learning Lab classroom visits of each Scholar’s classroom. Learning Labs allowed teachers from throughout the district to observe instruction in a Scholar’s classroom and receive coaching from the Scholar afterward.

From March through August, The Friday Institute at North Carolina State University partnered with digiLEARN to evaluate of the program’s pilot year. We are excited about our initial findings, which show that:

  • Our Rowan-Salisbury Digital Scholars are master teachers that have a deep understanding of and highly advanced skills for using digital and personalized instructional strategies that lead to improved outcomes for students.
  • Learning Labs are a promising strategy for spreading effective digital and personalized learning instructional practices.
  • Teachers who visit Learning Labs gain useful knowledge, instructional ideas and inspiration, along with in-depth support from Scholars to implement new instructional strategies in their own classrooms.

This fall, Digital Scholars will expand to include Durham Public Schools in Durham, North Carolina. We are excited to take what we’ve learned at Rowan-Salisbury to impact even more students and teachers. Click here for a summary of key data from our ongoing research, which included interviews with our Scholars, surveys from the teachers who visited their Learning Labs and surveys of students from each Scholar’s class.

Photo by Yasmin Bendaas, courtesty of EdNC.