When Digital Promise and EdSurge considered which educator award categories to include in the 2014 Digital Innovation in Learning Awards, we wanted to highlight five areas where exemplary teachers around the world are using innovative strategies to engage and empower students.
1. Exemplary educators are breaking down boundaries, helping students to connect with diverse peers from other places and cultures to build their global competencies as citizens in an increasingly globalized world.
Kris Hupp, winner of the Busting Boundaries award, led his students in an ongoing series of deep virtual exchanges with international peers on contemporary topics that are relevant to the students’ lives. Watch his video to see how one student’s experience moved him to take action to improve clean water access for families in Somalia:
2. Exemplary educators are making learning relevant by engaging the whole community, connecting parents, community members, and local organizations to empower students to do real work that matters.
Millibeth Currie, winner of the Community Counts award, encourages her middle school girls to pursue STEM education opportunities in the local community, from scrubbing in with female surgeons to working with researchers to save an endangered local plant. Watch her video to learn more about her Women in Charge program:
3. Exemplary educators are leading students in multimedia projects, encouraging them to be producers and directors as they craft compelling, high-quality, relevant stories that are widely consumed by their peers and community.
Michael Hernandez, the Creative Director awardee, works with students in his journalism class to develop and produce media coverage for school and local community issues in multiple formats, empowering students to create authentic products. Watch how Michael’s students are motivated to do work not just for a grade, but for real-world use:
4. Exemplary educators are sharing their best and most useful resources both online and offline, using avenues like Twitter, EdCamps, and YouTube to share what they’ve learned and created with other educators.
One of two Sharing is Caring winners, Sarah Thomas, is a champion when it comes to helping educators create professional learning networks. She’s brought technology integration tools and techniques to other teachers through Google Hangouts on Air, conference presentations, EdCamps (she’s helped plan three of them in her home county), and more:
Rachel Iufer, also a Sharing is Caring winner, is the found of the Teacher’s Pet YouTube channel, where she creates and uploads animated science videos for teachers to use in their classroom or in flipped learning. To achieve high quality, she has worked with teachers, artists and scientists to create a variety of these free inquiry lessons and videos:
5. Exemplary educators are devising and implementing their own innovative ideas that leverage edtech to spark action and student agency.
David Lowe, our Teacher Trailblazer winner, created a notetaking app called Confer after getting frustrated with cumbersome, static paper notetaking systems in his Seattle classroom. The app separates notes into custom fields like "Strength," "Teaching Point" and "Next Step," and has been downloaded by more than 20,000 educators and students worldwide:
We celebrate these six individuals, as well as all teachers around the world who are working every day to improve their practice and opportunities for their students. It’s hard work and there is always more to be done, but Teacher Trailblazer David Lowe offers some advice for focusing efforts::
“There will always be more gaps than you have the time or ability to take on. It's the nature of being a reflective teacher. But you just identify which ones you care about the most, and which ones, if changed, are going to have the biggest impact on your students.”