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White House Targets Innovative Education Technologies

Digital Promise, a collaboration between the government and the private sector, will identify breakthrough technologies to improve student performance.

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The White House has formed a nonprofit organization aimed at creating innovative learning technologies to transform education in the United States.

The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, aka Digital Promise, will engage exclusively in research and development (R&D) to use the most advanced technology to improve learning at all educational levels, according to the organization's website.

The organization's ultimate goal is to equip American students better to compete in the global economy, already a key focus of the Obama administration through the Educate to Innovate Campaign. That campaign--also a partnership between the federal government and private sector-- is specifically aimed at increasing the competitiveness of American students in science and math.

"If America is going to continue to succeed in the global economy, it is vital that we transform the use of educational technology," said U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan in a White House blog post. "With technology, we can more rapidly increase opportunities for excellence and equity, as well as provide a world-class education for America's students. And that's a promise we need to keep."

[Which government agencies came out on top of the InformationWeek 500 list? See 15 Government IT Innovators: InformationWeek 500.]

Duncan noted that other countries around the world are ahead of the United States in using technology to create better educational programs, and Digital Promise is aimed at helping the nation catch up.

The Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are providing startup funds and support for the nonprofit, which brings together a coalition of business leaders and educators.

Digital Promise has identified three key goals for its R&D, according to a fact sheet posted online. It will identify breakthrough technologies, such as a "digital tutor" project that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy already are working on, to improve students' performance. It also will do rapid evaluations of its own work to learn faster which types of solutions are working and which are not.

Finally, the organization aims to transform the current market for learning technologies by bolstering the investment in educational technologies so it's more in line with what is spent in areas such as general software development and biotech. As a part of this, Digital Promise will work with school districts to create what it calls "smart demand" so the private sector will be inspired to invest more in educational technology.

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