Celebrating ConnectED’s Achievements Toward Transforming Education - Digital Promise

Celebrating ConnectED’s Achievements Toward Transforming Education

December 14, 2016 | By

Since President Obama’s ConnectED announcement in 2013 in Mooresville, NC, there has been more than $10 billion committed as part of the five-year program to transform American education. This includes more than $2 billion in private-sector commitments. These commitments are connecting 20 million more students to next-generation broadband and wireless.

Digital Promise and other nonprofit organizations including EveryoneOn and The Learning Accelerator have been working with companies and schools to ensure these programs and offers are making their way into the hands of teachers, students, and families across the country. We want to celebrate the extraordinary collaborations between educators and the private sector that have occurred because of ConnectED.

Here are just a few of their stories.


Beginning in fall 2014, the students and teachers at Burbank Elementary School in Hayward, California, embarked on a new and ambitious program to integrate arts across the curriculum. It’s a natural fit for a school community whose mission includes cultivating and cherishing “an environment that supports the academic, social-emotional, creative and civic learning” of all students.

After studying the artwork of pop artist Andy Warhol, fifth and sixth grade students made artwork inspired by his creations. Students were prompted to find images that represent contemporary pop culture, and then to use Adobe Photoshop Elements to create their own Warhol-inspired work. They learned how to manipulate various Photoshop Elements tools to crop, select, paint and fill select areas of their work with contrast colors.

By Chloe, Age 6

By Chloe, Age 6


In another project, students used Photoshop Elements to create typographical portraits of people and characters they researched in class. Each student learned how to create brushes from words related to their subject matter. They found images of their subject matter and applied filters to convert the images to black-and-white. Then, they isolated the black areas and replaced them with the new typographic brushes they’d created. The finished pieces are portraits constructed from typography.

By Maylin, Age 5

By Maylin, Age 5


These innovative art programs are the brainchild of Robert Hoang, who joined the Burbank team last year to teach visual arts to K–6 students, and to work with his colleagues to plan arts integration lessons. Hoang co-leads Burbank’s partnership with Turnaround Arts: California, a signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities that seeks to advance education in a select group of elementary and middle schools in the state. To support this work, Hoang secured a software donation from Adobe & ConnectED to help increase technological literacy for Burbank’s students by integrating digital media into the art curriculum. Building on the success at Burbank, Adobe is expanding the ConnectED program in the Hayward Unified School District with the goal of getting free creativity and eLearning software and teacher training to all of the district’s Title I schools.


Apple joined President Obama’s ConnectED initiative and pledged $100 million of teaching and learning solutions to 114 underserved schools across the country. They donated an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to every classroom. They also implemented a process that provides planning, professional learning, and ongoing guidance so every school can experience the transformational power of technology.

Many of Apple’s ConnectED schools do not have a strong network or a dedicated technology department. So before any products are delivered, Apple Project Engineers conduct a full survey of the school’s existing wireless infrastructure and help install or upgrade a network.

In the remote village of Nanwalek, Alaska, the K-12 school was planning to improve its slow, satellite-provided Internet connection. Apple’s engineers consulted with district officials to ensure the school’s wireless infrastructure would be both fast and ready to support the arrival of over 100 new Apple products. In addition to working with the district’s offsite IT team, Apple Project Managers needed to find someone local to handle day-to-day management of the devices. Tommy Evans, an aide and parent in the village, volunteered for the role. “They showed us where a signal goes and how to tailor equipment around students’ needs,” he says. “When things were put in place, it took off like a rocket.”

The new wireless infrastructure has profoundly affected the school, which includes Evans’s daughter, Tessie, an eighth-grader who is hearing impaired. “Because we’re so isolated, she felt like she was the only one who is deaf,” says Evans. Now Tessie uses FaceTime and other iPad apps to communicate with students and mentors all over the world.


Through ConnectED, Esri made an offer: any K-12 school in the United States could acquire professional online Geographic Information Systems (GIS software), instructional activities, professional development events, and resources for educators and mentors. Now, over 200,000 students in 4,000 schools have ArcGIS Online accounts. Educators are using apps, external groups are sharing content, leaders are crafting maps and scenes, and students are constructing data, designing presentations, and building knowledge and skills on all types of devices. And, thousands of students and teachers each month are using Esri’s free online instructional activities called GeoInquiries, generated in support of ConnectED. Esri will maintain and expand these resources for at least the next three years.

One school district stands out as a model of implementation: Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools (LCPS). Since 2005, LCPS had participated in the Geospatial Semester program through James Madison University, which taught GIS to hundreds of high school seniors (and even juniors) through a project-based approach. Through ConnectED, all 89 LCPS schools were able to get their own ArcGIS Online Organization from Esri. Thirty-four elementary schools are contributing data to the district’s Project Daffodil, examining relationships between weather and plants. First graders are working with high school honors students to map kindness. Middle school students use pre-crafted story maps to learn standard classroom content in science and social studies. High school students create story maps to deepen their own learning and help others, in history, science, and even English literature. Special needs students use GIS to help them understand and document tasks in their day. LCPS is more convinced than ever that ArcGIS Online opens doors for student learning, engagement, and opportunities. This investment positions LCPS and its students for the huge market of GIS jobs in the region and beyond.


Through ConnectED, Prezi is providing $100 million in Edu Pro licenses for high schools and educators across America. Mariah Ordonez, currently in her fifth year as a middle school teacher at Showalter Middle School in Tukwila, Washington, is one of the educators who received an Edu Pro license. The Tukwila school district was named one of the most diverse school districts in the country; there are over 84 different languages spoken and 76 percent of students in the district receive Free and Reduced lunch. Because of Prezi’s ConnectED commitment, Ms. Ordonez is able to organize information and present students with a brief introduction on topics ranging from architecture to ancient history.

The impact of using Prezi was huge – the novelty of new designs, fluid organization, and movement kept students engaged. Students could also click through presentations independently while Ms. Ordonez presented and review information at their own pace. And, students who were absent could access the materials from home and arrive prepared upon their return.

Safari Books

As part of Safari Books’ ConnectED commitment, schools can utilize the free Safari for Schools (S4S) library of O’Reilly books to jump-start high school students into fulfilling careers that also meet the states’ new targeted goals for education. Read more about Safari Books’ work.


Since joining the ConnectEd initiative in 2014, Verizon has reached nearly 300,000 students across all 50 states and the District of Columbia with programs that provide technology and STEM education.

Verizon partnered with Digital Promise on the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) initiative to serve 100 under-resourced middle schools by 2018, providing them with technology, Internet access, ongoing teacher professional development, and STEM enrichment, with the goals of giving students equal access to technology and increasing interest and achievement in STEM. Every student and teacher in the school receives a tablet device equipped with a 4G data plan regardless of whether or not they have access to data plans at home.

The tablets aren’t only for use at school — they go home with the students, and the data plans provide an Internet connection that the entire family can use. For some families, this may be the only reliable home connection. There are hundreds of stories we could highlight about the impact VILS is having on the lives of students in diverse communities all across the United States, but the following are a few highlights.

Vista Innovation & Design Academy

The VILS program provided 806 students and 54 teachers at the Vista Innovation & Design Academy with tablets and data plans. Teachers received training and professional development to fully integrate technology into their classrooms. Overall, 49 percent of students in Verizon Innovative Learning schools reported feeling more confident about what they can accomplish as a result of this initiative, and 44 percent of students were more engaged at school.

Kalama Intermediate School

Two of our VILS locations are on Maui, Hawaii, which has an extraordinarily rich culture and strong community traditions. Kalama Intermediate School is committed to celebrating and preserving Hawaiian history, culture, and the native language. It is one of a small number of schools in the state that offer a Hawaiian Language Immersion program. This year, Kalama’s immersion teacher Kiani Yasak has leveraged technology in her classroom to help students explore their culture in new ways.


The VILS initiative provides the tools and learning opportunities to help students become creative, innovative problem solvers. When students bring their tablets home, the whole family can benefit from these tools. We know this access helps close the Digital Learning Gap and gives parents an opportunity to directly engage in their child’s education. Now, we’re learning more about how connectivity can impact an entire community and culture. Preserving language, customs, and other cultural traditions is critical to embracing and celebrating diversity. We’re excited about the opportunity to focus on this as we continue to build relationships with the communities that support each of our unique VILS locations.

Read more about the VILS program here.

Sign Up For Updates! Sign Up For Updates

Sign up for updates!