Steve Reneker, Riverside’s CIO and executive director of SmartRiverside, said the organization ran an aggressive citywide awareness campaign to convince individuals and businesses to bring their e-waste to the program’s facility. In a Gigabit Nation radio interview Reneker said, “People in the city — from the mayor on down — believed in our potential to get unserved constituents online, and knew we had to be creative to be able to fund it. Our e-waste program inspired supporters throughout the city.”

Digital Revolution Transforms Education

Building on its digital inclusion success, Riverside hopes to establish a national standard in digital-era learning by using an application the city’s public school district created and aptly called Digital Revolution. A total of 15,000 computing devices of various types are distributed for the school year to students in three high schools. Digital Revolution integrates curriculum, resource and project management in a system that operates from central servers.

The teachers have to adjust to the curriculum, but the district designed it to not be a radical departure from what teachers did before. The radical departure occurs on the student and parent side. The teachers assign only e-books, moving the students from two-dimensional reading to experiencing multimedia content and Internet resources for supplemental learning.

Students work online at their own pace while meeting specific deadlines and completing tests. They still attend classes, but students control from where they complete segments of the curriculum, when they submit homework and how they use study groups.

Students integrate their activities with Internet resources, including social networks. Parents can now access their children’s records and progress reports, and are able to communicate with teachers. The system generates, distributes and grades quantitative test questions, giving teachers more time to grade essay responses. Low-income students will not be left behind, as they can access the free wireless network if necessary.

The district is conducting an intensive evaluation of Digital Revolution’s benefits for students and teachers. Preliminary feedback from both is encouraging for the city. When final independent evaluations are presented in August, the school district will fine-tune and expand the program. Eventually Digital Revolution will be a full kindergarten-through-12th grade program. Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge and Reneker discuss the system in detail at the ICF conference (audio).

This interview includes four other mayors from cities that the ICF included in this year’s Top 7 Intelligent Communities. They discuss their respective city’s use of broadband to drive innovation. These leaders rarely mention a killer app. Instead they focus on using technology to improve how the business of government is done. As some of us say in California: That’s killer, dude.

Craig Settles is an industry analyst, broadband strategy consultant and host of the Gigabit Nation talk show.

Craig Settles  |  Contributing Writer

Craig Settles is an industry analyst, broadband strategy consultant and co-founder of Communities United for Broadband, which delivers on-site training to private- and public-sector organizations. Follow him on Twitter (@cjsettles) and his blog, Fighting the Next Good Fight.