10th Anniversary – Digital Promise
2011 / 2021

2011 Launching a Vision

Digital Promise was founded in 2011 with a singular mission: to accelerate innovation in education to improve opportunities to learn.

Over the last 10 years, the organization’s impact, influence, and size have grown significantly. Digital Promise works with a wide range of partners and practitioners across a range of topics, both in the U.S. and around the world. It has developed dozens of programs that have placed the organization at the cutting edge of research, practice, and technology innovation. These include—to name just a few—the League of Innovative Schools, Research and Challenge Maps designed to make research-based guidance accessible, and a robust ecosystem of micro-credentialing.

All in all, Digital Promise’s current work tells a story of rapid growth, diversification, and innovation over the last decade.

As we look to the future, we take inspiration from the innovation and resiliency demonstrated by students, educators, and communities of innovation working together towards an inclusive and equitable future.

Time flies!


Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of NBC News and PBS, and Newton N. Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and PBS, along with several colleagues, had an idea. They wanted to convene leaders from schools, universities, libraries, museums and public broadcasting companies across the United States to figure out how to harness the power of breakthrough technologies to serve the public interest in education.


A Digital Gift to the Nation: Fulfilling the Promise of the Digital and Internet Age, a book by Grossman and Minow, was released. It included recommendations based on 6 years of research into how new and interactive technologies for teaching and learning could be used. (Explore more in this episode of PBS’s “The Open Mind.”)


Digital Promise was authorized by Congress as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush.


The Carnegie Foundation produced a report highlighting the creation of Digital Promise.


Digital Promise was launched at the White House under President Barack Obama with $500K in start-up capital from the U.S. Department of Education and $300K in startup funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Adam Frankel named Executive Director.

The inaugural Board of Directors was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with names provided by Congress.

The League of Innovative Schools (League) was established with 24 public school district leaders.


Introduced micro-credentials to support continuous educator development.

Tripled our staff and became bi-coastal, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley.

Karen Cator named President and CEO.


Launched Verizon Innovative Learning Schools supporting 9 schools in 3 districts.

Launched Adult Learning Beacons engaging 6 organizations supporting adults with basic literacy and workforce development.

Created the Research@Work initiative to connect education research findings with the work of practitioners and product developers.

Convened 14 Education Innovation Clusters in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.


Launched Digital Promise Global, a separate 501(c)(3) allowing for global engagement and global support.

Launched the Educator Micro-credentials platform with 100 micro-credentials.

Launched the Research Map, visualizing research findings covering 150 topics.

Launched the Learner Variability Project.

Facilitated 12 edtech pilots in nine districts to support evidence-based purchasing decisions in the marketplace.


Launched the Maker Promise campaign with Maker Ed, advocating for powerful maker learning experiences for learners everywhere.

Launched Learning Studios in 11 countries expanding our global engagement.


Welcomed prominent researchers and launched our learning sciences research team led by Barbara Means and Jeremy Roschelle.

Launched the Learner Variability Navigator.

Received our first federal award with an Education Innovation and Research grant for United2Read, an early literacy research project.

Launched the Dynamic Learning Project pilot with the goal to increase educational equity and impactful use of technology through instructional coaching.

Launched our computational thinking work with a new report, “Computational Thinking for a Computational World.”


Expanded Verizon Innovative Learning Schools to 100 schools, reaching more than 5,600 teachers and 87,000 students.

Created the Challenge Map, an interactive tool featuring more than 30 specific challenges identified as relevant by educators.

Launched MY World 360° to support youth worldwide to create 360° media as a way to advance positive action toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Worked with partners to recruit 39 organizations in 15 metro areas to provide digital marketing skills training and micro-credentials to job seekers, career changers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.


Grew the League to 114 districts across 34 states.

Welcomed 52 schools to the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, bringing the total number of schools involved to 152.

Released the first of a four-part series of national surveys on perceptions of learner variability.

Published “Designing a Process for Inclusive Innovation: A Radical Commitment to Equity” to define the essential elements of equity-first research and development for education.


Responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a wide range of resources and free webinars to help school districts across the country implement digital learning.

Welcomed the Edcamp Foundation through a merger that created the Edcamp Community by Digital Promise project.

Launched the Center for Inclusive Innovation.

Celebrated the 5,000th micro-credential earned.

Hosted National Teachers of Color Showcase.


Announced Jean-Claude Brizard as the new President and CEO of Digital Promise, succeeding Karen Cator

Supported inaugural Students for Equitable Education (SEE) Summit

Welcomed largest VILS Cohort ever, bringing total schools impacted to more than 500

Named new co-lead for National Science Foundation AI Institute for Engaged Learning

Marked 10 years of powerful networks by welcoming 37 diverse districts to the League of Innovative Schools


Teachers reached 180,000+
Micro-credentials Awarded
188,000+ Research Map Interactions
17Edcamps Hosted
Maker Champions 2,000+
Learner Variability Navigator 724 Research-backed Strategies
You can find us in 27 countries Argentina Australia Belgium Brazil Canada Colombia Ecuador Finland Germany Ghana Hong Kong India Italy Jordan Kenya Malaysia Mauritius Mexico NewZealand Nigeria Norway Panama South Africa South Korea Spain UnitedKingdom United States
Edtech Products Certified to Transform Learning Opportunities 76

Delivering on the Digital Promise
and the Future of Education

In the next 10 years and beyond, our focus is on achieving equity for historically and systemically excluded student populations and adult learners. This includes:

  • Expanding our networks to reach more educators and students around the world
  • Ensuring multiple pathways to lifelong success, agency, and economic security
  • Leveraging advancements in the learning sciences in service of powerful learning opportunities
  • Promoting community-centric Inclusive Innovation, in collaboration with educators, students, researchers, innovators, partners, and families, at the core of our proposed solutions

Technology itself is constantly changing. At Digital Promise, our commitment to equity in accessing and delivering education technology remains constant. How we ensure we are delivering on the promise of digital transformation in education, however, continues to evolve so that we can help to resolve the challenges of educational inequity.

Digital Promise is firmly aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. For all students—in the U.S. and internationally—global competitiveness and cooperation requires a renewed focus on powerful learning as we rebuild and reimagine an equitable and inclusive education system.

Learn more about our vision and our new North Star goals in this blog post from Digital Promise President and CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

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