non-profit promises, promises

Policy and Government

non-profit promises, promises

Sep 21, 2011

PROMISES, PROMISES: Lovely event at that birthday cake-like building (formerly called the Old Executive Office Building) last Friday with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the blue-ribbon board of directors of Digital Promise. By now you've likely heard about this non-profit that has been appointed by Congress, given a modest dowry and sent off into the world to support efforts to get great--and appropriate--digital technology into classrooms. (If not, see here or or here for details). Seventh grader Josniel Martinez travelled to our nation's capital from East Harlem. He gave an engaging account of how it took a digital village to get him back on the academic success track--and then smoothly intro'd Sec. Duncan. The idea for Digital Promise was originally conceived around the same time as Josniel. Literally. Even so, the need for a steward of digital education technology has never been clearer.

The projects Digital Promise will foster are still getting hammered out. Among them: the second annual national STEM video competition for students. (Here are last year's winners.) A project called the "League of Innovative Schools," aimed at encouraging schools and districts to share their edtech needs, wants and experiences--and so nudge industry in helpful directions; $15 million in NSF "cyberlearning" grants (see Apply Now section below), and other projects that aim to assess the effectiveness of digital learning tools and then share that information with all interested parties. At the event, the President's Council of Economic Advisors released a short paper investigating why edtech has been a slow market to emerge. The economists pinpointed two long-time challenges for the edtech business that are no surprise: school districts are devilishly hard to sell to and what they delicately call "the effectiveness challenge, arising from the lack of credible evaluations of most educational technology products." Translation: it's hard to know what edtech products are any good. That's another imbalance that Digital Promise hopes to improve--and one that EdSurge hopes to help fix.

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