Helios partners with SRI International in St. Pete to create Center for Digital Learning

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Heios Education Foundation is partnering with SRI International by investing $1 million to seed a Center for Digital Learning in Saint Petersburg. The Center will create a portfolio of digital learning projects to enhance student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

While the Center will not limit itself to Florida projects, Florida will be central to its mission. The Center’s goals include:

  • Supporting Florida-based demonstration projects and research that will position the state as a leader in implementing digital learning materials and techniques
  • Evaluating promising digital learning models
  • Creating improved methods for student collaboration and assessment
  • Becoming a national hub of innovation in digital learning

“Digital learning is gaining momentum and it is a critical teaching and learning tool in today’s classroom,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “But we want to learn more about how digital learning can improve student success. That’s why we’re excited about this partnership with SRI International. This new Center will provide insights into effective, efficient and measurable methods of using digital learning in the classroom.” 

Studies show that digital learning can help drive student achievement, teacher effectiveness and classroom practice because:

  • Digital learning materials focus on the “big ideas” that accelerate student progress in a subject
  • Teachers can receive better tools, training and support
  • Multiple representations and dynamic visualization of content can be created to fit curriculum to different student learning styles
  • It offers opportunities for enhanced student collaboration
  • It provides real-time assessment and feedback

“There is no higher priority for the U.S. than to educate our children so they can succeed in an increasingly competitive world,” said Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D., president and CEO, SRI International. “We share Helios Education Foundation’s commitment to the Center for Digital Learning which will build the next generation of innovative teaching and learning approaches with the power to positively transform education.”

Helios’ funding will enable the Center to hire staff, develop a pipeline of prospects and projects and build awareness of work across school districts and the state of Florida. Over time, the Center anticipates additional project funding from the federal government, the state of Florida, foundations and other funders.

“SRI’s work in the Center for Digital Learning will focus on the key elements that determine success in digital learning — teacher professional development, digital content and the technology platform used to deliver content,” said Dennis Beatrice, Senior Advisor in SRI’s Education Division. “The Center’s projects will provide essential tools to advance the field and help show why digital learning represents the best way to improve student achievement.”

SRI is an established leader in digital learning and has conducted $30 million of research and development in the field over 20 years. Through the organization’s work with the SunBay Digital Math program, student achievement gains have been documented for all groups of students in classrooms in Florida, Texas and the United Kingdom. 

In 2009, Helios partnered with SRI, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Pinellas County schools on the SunBay Digital Math program which trained 30 teachers in 10 schools and touched more than 2,500 students in Pinellas County, Florida. 

SRI has conducted eight education projects in Florida, supported by more than $9 million in funding. In addition to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, SRI has worked with the Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida, the University of Miami, the Miami-Dade School District, and Florida Virtual High Schools.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.