Highlander Institute Receives Multi-Year Funding to Expand Programs

In an exciting development for the RI educational landscape, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $1.78M grant to Highlander Institute for the expansion of Fuse RI and the EdTechRI Testbed.

Launched in 2014 to “ignite education through blended learning”, Fuse RI is a no-cost solution for districts interested in leveraging technology to personalize learning for all students. This shift is critical to preparing students for success in our fast-changing world. The two-year project recruits educator talent across the state as Fuse Fellows, who are paired with Fuse Partner Districts to develop model classrooms, policy, systems, resources and professional development.

Fuse RI is the brainchild of Shawn Rubin, Highlander Institute’s Chief Education Officer. Over the past two years, Fuse RI has trained 34 Fellows to work in 18 districts, developing an interconnected web of professional learning, data and structured change management to over half of RI.

“Blended learning is gaining momentum in public schools across the country as a way to deliver instruction that is personalized while empowering the development of 21st century skills. At its core, blended learning combines excellent teacher instruction with quality education technology tools that enables some element of student control over time, place, path, and / or pace,” says Rubin.

The EdTechRI Testbed will train and support approximately 40 teachers across 12 schools in the Providence Public School Department, studying the impact of math and reading software and personalized learning platforms A goal of this project is to help educators become more informed consumers in this digital age, giving them the tools to determine whether a particular technology product is the right fit in their classroom. “School districts rarely have the time, funding or expertise to conduct these studies,” says Cameron Berube, PPSD’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “Schools and districts are left making decisions on products based on anecdotal information.”

Under the terms of the grant, the Highlander Institute will support eight new Fuse Partner Districts for two years through the mobilization of 27 new Fuse Fellows. “All project processes, systems and resources will continue to be made open source to support wide scale replication of our work in interested cities and states”, says Dana Borrelli-Murray, Highlander Institute’s Executive Director. “And with each year’s success, we anticipate national interest in this homegrown model, further showcasing RI as the country’s leader in blended and personalized learning.”

“As part of the first cohort of Fuse Fellows we were asked to push ourselves, challenge our thinking, create our own learning and widely share this with others. This has been the best professional learning experience I have ever had, and I have no doubt that we have — and will continue to make a difference in Rhode Island.” Tracey Nangle, Teacher, North Smithfield Middle School, Cohort 1 Fellow.