White House, Department of Education launch Digital Promise initiative

Digital Promise launches to promote education technology

by Jeff Goldman | September 20, 2011

Late last week, The White House and the U.S. Department of Education announced the launch of Digital Promise, a national center aimed at advancing technologies that can transform both teaching and learning.

Startup funds for Digital Promise are being provided by the Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

"Created by Republicans and Democrats and championed by a coalition of educators and business leaders, Digital Promise is an independent nonprofit that will help spur breakthrough learning technologies," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "And it will help make sure Americans of all ages and races, regions and backgrounds can benefit from them."

Digital Promise will work with educators, researchers, technology firms and entrepreneurs on the following three key challenges:

  1. Identifying breakthrough technologies. Digital Promise will partner with technology firms and researchers to map the R&D landscape, identifying opportunities for breakthroughs in learning, such as "digital tutor" software that's as effective as a personal tutor.
  2. Learning faster what's working and what's not. Digital Promise will work with researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new approaches for rapidly evaluating new products.
  3. Transforming the market for learning technologies. Digital Promise will work with school districts to create "smart demand" that drives private sector investment in innovation.

In support of the initiative, the National Science Foundation plans to announce $15 million in new awards to support research on next-generation learning environments. Research prototypes include "GeoGames" that help students analyze data across geographical areas to solve real-world challenges; robots that use non-verbal cues to teach vocabulary to children; systems that create augmented reality for students with hearing disabilities; tools for learning about energy management using data from home thermostats; and online tutors that assess a student's real time comprehension and tailor learning strategies.

"Digital Promise is a unique partnership that will bring everyone together--educators, entrepreneurs, and researchers--to use technology to help students learn and teachers teach," President Obama said in a statement. "There's no silver bullet when it comes to education, but technology can be a powerful tool, and Digital Promise will help us make the most of it."

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About the Author

Jeff Goldman is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.