As schools and classrooms explore technology-based, student-centered, personalized approaches to teaching and learning, their efforts to innovate can be hamstrung by archaic district operating systems that do not allow them to take advantage of new technologies, to work with smaller startup companies, or to quickly make and implement decisions. When he was at the helm of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), Chancellor Joel Klein attempted to remedy this problem by creating the iZone, an office explicitly charged with fostering innovation from within the school district.
In 2012, the iZone created Innovate NYC Schools with the goal of focusing on new structures for district procurement and decision making. Designed and led by Steven Hodas, Innovate NYC created alternatives to established procurement processes and built collaborations between the school district and early-stage education technology companies. It also provided regular support to entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators who sought to do business with NYCDOE. The paper provides examples and lessons for school systems seeking to foster innovative practices throughout the organization and develop new instructional tools and practices through nimble procurement procedures.