K–12 school districts, colleges, and universities are adopting new technologies that are reshaping the education experience. From immersive learning environments and virtual classrooms to innovation in science, digital capabilities offer great promise to transform teaching, learning, and research, and the underlying infrastructure securing and enabling those efforts.

Leaders are crafting a new vision for the future of education that harnesses the power of cloud computing to expand access to educational resources, improve student outcomes, speed time to science, support health equity, personalize patient care, and more.

During this transformative moment in education, technology and forward-thinking leaders will make all of this possible. That’s why AWS launched the Education Champions program to highlight remarkable leaders who continue to move education forward.

The game-based role-playing experience ‘AWS Cloud Quest: Cloud Practitioner’ and an enhanced AWS Educate program offer free hands-on learning opportunities for people seeking cloud computing skills.

The AWS Education Champions were honored at IMAGINE 2022 for their innovative work using cloud computing technology and their advocacy for improving education that aligns with our vision to create a world where education is always available, personal, and lifelong for everyone. For the inaugural cohort, 10 individuals were selected from nominations including administrative leaders (university/college president, provost, superintendent, etc.); educators across primary, secondary, and higher education; technical leaders (chief information officer, director of IT, etc.); data scientists; and researchers from a range of disciplines.

Along with recognition, AWS Education Champions receive professional development and thought leadership opportunities, increased visibility in a vast network of peers and other education leaders, and access to travel grants to attend industry events to present their experiences and lessons learned. They also are invited to present at AWS conferences and events to share their initiatives ranging from turning data into actionable insights to support student success to developing new ways to test medical treatments virtually. Read further for a few examples of the transformative efforts by AWS Education Champions.

Bridging the digital divide

An image of a classroom of kids learning. There is a teacher showing one student something on their laptop.

Portland Public Schools Chief Technology Officer Don Wolff is on a mission to modernize his K–12 school district, creating more equitable learning environments. Wolff leads a $128 million technology and classroom modernization effort designed to bridge the digital divide for the district's underserved students throughout the Portland community. Every student in grades 3–12 will receive a laptop, pre-K through second graders will receive devices, and all staff members will have their current devices replaced.

"Portland Public Schools believe that technology, when implemented thoughtfully and with intent of purpose, has the ability to open the universe of possibilities for our students,” said Wolff. “Technology can provide access to opportunities, resources, and people that might not be available otherwise. It is our responsibility to provide those digital tools in a responsible and accessible fashion that can meet the needs of all our diverse learners."

In addition, Portland Public Schools migrated their Peoplesoft enterprise resource planning system to AWS, giving the school increased digital capacity, disaster recovery capabilities, and better security.

Creating game-based learning  

A man sits in front of a computer monitor smiling while he types.

Sarah Toms, co-founder of Wharton Interactive, is pioneering innovative approaches to education through new forms of immersive game-based learning. Wharton Interactive is on a mission to radically transform and democratize education by enabling learners and educators globally to engage in curriculum in fundamentally more meaningful ways. Wharton Interactive’s Alternate Reality Courses, powered by AWS, are entire MBA classes delivered in a highly engaging gaming experience. This learner-centric approach brings lessons to life—like entrepreneurship, leadership, and data science—in fictional worlds where learners gain critical 21st century skills through continuous practice.

“We’ve reached an exciting point in time where the explosion in technological capabilities and pedagogical science means that we can finally reimagine education,” Toms said. “The ways we teach and learn are outdated and outmoded. Education is crying out for an upgrade!”

Accelerating the future of personalized wellness

A woman leans against a wall checking her fitness tracker on her wrist.

Dr. Azizi Seixas, founding director of The Media and Innovation Lab (The MIL) and associate director for the Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences Program at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, leads a research project to create a “digital twin” for patients. The study looks at the link between poor sleep and chronic illness. The MIL Box study uses off-the-shelf wearable and nearable devices to study the connection between conditions such as sleep apnea and serious health disorders, including heart disease and dementia, in underserved and disenfranchised communities. Using health and environmental data collected from in-home and on-body sensors, health care practitioners can apply artificial intelligence to create an individual’s digital twin to virtually test and evaluate various treatment options and potential outcomes before applying them in the physical world. This initiative, in collaboration with AWS and Open Health Network, represents a major step toward a new paradigm in health and wellness to deliver precise, personalized medicine based on data collected directly from an individual and their local environment.

“Having the support of AWS behind this groundbreaking approach to personalized population health represents a major step forward in overcoming health care disparities,” said Dr. Seixas. “Together, we are building new frameworks for examining health disparities and exploring new ways to apply technology—from wearable devices to machine learning and big data—to address the upstream causes and downstream consequences of these disparities.”

Building an innovative community  

The AWS Education Champions program is a community led by pioneers that will inspire others to think big when looking at how to improve education and accelerate research. Congratulations to our inaugural cohort of AWS Education Champions:

  • Andrew Williams, dean of the School of Engineering and Louis S. LeTellier chair, The Citadel School of Engineering
  • Azizi Seixas, founding director and associate professor, University of Miami
  • Don Wolff, chief information officer, Portland Public Schools
  • John Rome, deputy chief information officer, Arizona State University
  • Kari Robertson, executive director of Infrastructure Services, University of California Office of the President
  • Max Tsai, digital transformation and innovation officer, California State University, Fresno
  • Michael Coats, information technology (IT) infrastructure manager and cloud solutions architect, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency
  • Noora Siddiqui, cloud engineer, Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center
  • Sarah Toms, executive director and co-founder, Wharton Interactive, The Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Subash D'Souza, director, Cloud Data Engineering, California State University Chancellor’s Office

To learn more, visit the AWS Education Champions page and see how their work is inspiring others and driving digital transformation in education.