New Center Supports Teaching and Learning Technology

After nearly a decade in the making, Digital Promise was launched by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in early September. This bipartisan initiative includes the National Research Center for Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, a nonprofit corporation that will work promote technology to help transform teaching and learning in American schools. Digital Promise will work with leading educators, researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs to address challenges associated with creating, integrating, and investing in educational technology.

As part of Section 802 of the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, Digital Promise is an independent 501(c)(3) created “to support a comprehensive research and development program to harness the increasing capacity of advanced information and digital technologies to improve all levels of learning and education, formal and informal, in order to proved Americans with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the global economy.”

Digital Promise has received startup funds from the Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William Flora Hewlett Foundation. A board of education and technology leaders, appointed by Secretary Duncan based on recommendations from the House and Senate, will oversee Digital Promise.

According to the fact sheet for Ditigal Promise, the initiative hopes to solve three main challenges: identifying breakthrough technologies, learning faster what’s working and what’s not, and transforming the market for learning technologies. The emphasis is on spurring R&D to identify opportunities, develop new approaches to rapidly evaluate new products, and work to promote private-sector investment.

In the White House Blog, Secretary Duncan posted about the launch of Digital Promise. He states, “Technology can personalize and accelerate instruction for students of all educational levels, and it provides the capability of reaching students around the country who otherwise would be stuck attending sub-standard schools.

“Countries around the world are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with learning technologies and are far ahead of the United States in creating the classrooms of the 21st century. Education technology is not a silver bullet for improving the United States’ stagnating student achievement, but investing in significant improvements to educational technology has the potential to rapidly advance learning, and to keep Americans competitive.”

He notes that while technology has greatly changed how we live and work, it hasn’t had that same transformational impact in our classrooms.

Along with the announcement of Digital Promise several other initiatives were announced that will work in conjunction with the center. These include a League of Innovative Schools, which will help in rapid testing of new technology, create a buyers’ consortium, and encourage development of new solutions through “Advanced Market Commitment.”

The Urban Education Lab, hosted by the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, is launching a new national alliance of top education policy researchers working to improve learning education outcomes of disadvantaged students through different studies.

Other initiatives include the National STEM Video Game Challenge to promote the creation of games focusing on STEM subjects and a competition for middle- and high-school students and teachers from videogame maker Valve, challenging them to create new levels for the popular puzzle game Portal 2.

For more information about Digital Promise, and to join the discussion over Grand Challenges the initiative can take up, visit

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