Friday, September 16, 2011

White House "Digital Promise" Initiative Benchmarks Korea

In announcing the "Digital Promise" initiative unveiled by the White House earlier this week, Secretary of Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made prominent mention of South Korea. As reported by the National Journal, he said at an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Friday that technology allows for education to be personalized to every student and for students to connect to lessons outside the classroom. He also emphasized the importance of improving digital education to help keep the United States competitive globally, nurture a more capable workforce, and foster economic growth.
Duncan cited South Korea's plans to replace textbooks with digital resources by 2015 and Uruguay's provision of a computer to each student as examples of how other countries have embraced the digital revolution in education.
A White House press release noted that to realize the potential of learning technology, Digital Promise will work with educators and leading researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs on three key challenges:
1. Identifying Breakthrough Technologies. For years, researchers have been working on developing educational software that is as effective as a personal tutor. Preliminary results from a DARPA/Navy “digital tutor” project suggest that we can reduce the time required to become an expert in IT from years to months. Achieving similar results in subjects such as math would transform K-12 education. Digital Promise will begin its work by partnering with technology firms and researchers to map the R&D landscape, identifying opportunities for similar breakthroughs in learning from cradle through a career.
2. Learning faster what's working and what's not. Internet startups do rapid evaluations of their sites, running test after test to continually improve their services. When it comes to education, R&D cycles can take years, producing results that are out of date the minute they're released. Digital Promise will work with researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new approaches for rapidly evaluating new products.
3. Transforming the market for learning technologies. With more than 14,000 school districts, and an outdated procurement system, it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to break into the market, and it’s also tough to prove that their products can deliver meaningful results. Meanwhile, the amount we invest in R&D in K-12 education is estimated at just 0.2% of total spending on K-12 education, compared to 10-20% of revenues spent on R&D in many knowledge-intensive industries such as software development and biotech. Digital Promise will work with school districts to create “smart demand” that drives private sector investment in innovation.

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