Montana Digital Academy Honored with Nationwide Innovator Award

November 10, 2014

MISSOULA – Robert Currie, executive director of the Montana Digital Academy located in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Montana, was honored as an innovative education leader on Nov. 4 at a worldwide symposium held in Palm Springs, Calif.

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning gave Currie the Outstanding Individual Contribution to K-12 Blended and Online Learning Award. It recognized Currie’s overall body of work for significantly increasing the credibility and advancement of K-12 blended and online learning. 

“Robert Currie has made an extraordinary impact in online and blended learning in taking Montana to the forefront of the field,” said Roberta Evans, dean of UM’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences. “Bob’s experience leading Michigan Virtual School to success was the perfect knowledge base for him to build the Montana Digital Academy into one of the premiere online educational organizations in the country. 

“Each day, Montana students, teachers, families and administrators measuring in the tens of thousands benefit directly from opportunities to study a full array of high school classes, including many exciting electives, which would otherwise be inaccessible to them,” she said. “Its quality guaranteed with instruction from exemplary Montana educators; these programs offer opportunities for success in every content area. His vision, leadership and collaboration in building programs have benefitted us all in strengthening education in our state,” she said.

In December 2009, Currie was hired from a nationwide applicant pool to create and implement a legislatively funded virtual school in Montana. He developed and now directs a unique program designed to serve a diverse group of needs for vastly different constituents across the state. 

When it opened in fall 2010, the academy offered an Original Credit format, which has since grown to a comprehensive set of 100 courses. Based on input from Montana educators, the academy also expanded to offer a Credit Recovery program, a series of core subject classes for students needing to make up credits to get back on track to graduate. The third program MTDA offers is the Middle School Multi-Language Sampler, which allows middle school students to get a taste of up to six world language courses prior to making decisions about their high school program.

Most recently, Currie expanded the reach of MTDA by building partnerships with other groups to increase digital learning opportunities for students and teachers in Montana. The Montana Digital Professional Learning Network is a digital platform that offers professional development to Montana’s geographically diverse teaching force. 

The network delivers a wide variety of workshops and courses to Montana’s teachers, ranging from classes detailing the integration of Montana’s Indian Education for All requirements into common core-aligned English classes to workshops that bring quality art instruction into rural Montana. The network also provides podcast channels to professional development providers across the state to promote digital-learning assets.

In addition, during the past year Currie initiated the statewide implementation of EdReady, a mathematics and English/language arts online assessment tool that creates a personalized learning path designed to lead each student to their pre-determined readiness goals. After extremely encouraging pilot results, Evans and Currie crafted a proposal to bring EdReady to every student in Montana, grades seven through college. The deployment and support matched the philanthropic vision of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, which created EdReady Montana as a gift to all students in our state.  

EdReady Montana is the first statewide implementation of this tool in the U.S., and despite being only months into the project, the platform already is bringing targeted mathematics assessment and individualized learning plans to nearly 3,000 students across the Montana education landscape, primarily in blended learning environments. It has won the support of state leaders including Gov. Steve Bullock, State Superintendent Denise Juneau, Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, school district superintendents and university presidents in support of student-success initiatives.  

 “Bob’s contribution to the field of education has been and will be felt by thousands of students, parents, schools and citizens for decades to come,” said UM President Royce Engstrom.

 Eight other award recipients were recognized at the symposium for innovative learning practices, cutting-edge research and outstanding individual achievements in the field of blended and online learning.

“The awards are all the more meaningful as they come directly from nominations by colleagues and peers,” said Susan Patrick, iNACOL's President and CEO. “Together, this year's winners represent the powerful transformation to personalized learning happening in schools around the globe.”

To learn more about the iNACOL Innovator Awards visit http://bit.ly/2014inacolawards.  To learn more about the Montana Digital Academy visit http://www.montanadigitalacademy.org/.

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Contact: Robert Currie, Montana Digital Academy executive director, 406-203-1812 ext.101, robert.currie@montanadigitalacademy.org.