- Sponsorship -

Superintendent Recognized by White House as Leader in Digital Learning

As Godfrey-Lee Public Schools superintendent, David Britten put the district on the cutting edge of digital education by implementing a one-to-one laptop program in 2009, before many other schools had done so.

Since then the approximately 2,000-student district has stayed at the forefront of technology use in education. In 2013 Godfrey-Lee received a $550,000 School Improvement Grant, with the bulk going toward technology which officials used to purchase MacBook Air and Pro laptops and iPads.

Washington, D.C., officials have taken notice of Britten, a prolific blogger, social media user and technology-savvy administrator. The U.S. Army officer was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 school leaders to participate in the first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit at the White House. He was recognized for leadership in helping the district make the transition to digital learning.  

“I personally knew the value of technology in learning and in evolving careers,” said Britten, who leads the district with the most economically disadvantaged students in Kent County.

“When I took on the district in 2008-09, I wanted to be sure our students had the same access to technology as I began to see in some of the progressive schools around the country. I didn’t want their socioeconomic status to hold them back.”

Godfrey-Lee began with a five-year vision of providing every secondary student with a digital device, beginning with sixth grade. Money from  the SIG grant and bond funds put the district two years ahead of its timeline. Officials have evolved the program as a hybrid of 1:1 plus bring your own device, allowing students and staff members to use the device of their choice.Godfrey-Lee Superintendent David Britten stands in front to the podium at the White House

Next up: more devices at the elementary school, programming, coding and 3D printing, Britten said.

A Day at the White House

At the summit, Britten and other school leaders met with President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and a host of other U.S. Department of Education and senior administration officials to discuss promising approaches to using technology in the classroom.

A big focus was connecting students with tools they need for digital technology learning. The Obama Administration’s strategic plan, the ConnectEd Initiative, aims to connect all schools to high-speed Internet and provide digital technology learning tools to every student.

“Districts and schools need dynamic, empowered leadership to prepare their schools for the future,” Britten said. “I was amazed that less than 40 percent of schools provide devices and connectivity to high-speed Internet outside of an occasional shared computer or static computer lab.”

Every school superintendent in the country was asked to sign a pledge with the president to make districts “Future Ready” and committing to the following:

  • Fostering and leading a culture of collaboration and digital citizenship;

  • Transitioning schools and families to high-speed connectivity;

  • Empowering educators with professional learning opportunities;

  • Accelerating progress toward universal access to quality devices;

  • Providing access to quality digital content;

  • Creating access, equity and excellence – particularly in rural, remote and low-income districts;

  • Offering digital tools to students and families to help them prepare for success in college;

  • Sharing best practices and mentoring other districts in the transition to digital learning.

“School districts across the country are helping teachers harness the power of technology to create personal learning environments for all students,” said Secretary of Education Duncan in a press release.  “We want to make sure every child – whether he or she is in the inner-city, in a rural community or on a Native American reservation – has access to knowledge and the chance to learn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Twelve to 15 planned regional meetings will focus on what school districts have in place and what could be possible with digital technology.  The events will also include the unveiling of digital tools that facilitate incorporation of technology into short-term and long-range education planning.

Britten said schools moving forward need to include student voices in technology planning, provide ongoing teacher training, and empower teachers to be innovative and take risks.

“In the end, high-quality instruction is still the difference-maker, with digital technology opening up new avenues for communicating, collaborating, creating and publishing within a flexible learning environment. Great teaching is still the equalizer, not specific types of technology.”


Washington, D.C., Conference

Dave Britten’s Blog

ConnectED Initiative

Future Ready Pledge

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Satellite library aims to boost reading for the fun of it

The Kent District Library location opened this week, and is exclusively for East Lee Campus students and their families...

Voters approve bond request by 2-to-1 margin

The approval of the $17.79 million bond will restore and renovate Lee Middle and High School, which was badly damaged by a June 2019 roof collapse...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU