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White House Makes 'Digital Promise' to Schools

The White House Friday launched the Digital Promise initiative, a "national center" to develop strategies to get the best digital learning technologies to students.

Inaugural board members of Digital Promise include top execs from Cisco and IBM and former NBC News and PBS President Presdient Lawrence Grossman, co-chair of the project

The move dovetails with the Administration's goals of broadband deployment, including to schools and learning centers. DOE Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said it "isn't just about doing things online that we used to do with a pen and paper and it's not just about connecting classrooms with the wider world, although that is really important." Instead, he said, it is about offering a personalized education, getting the best teachers to the most students, and helping them identify who is doing well and who needs help.

"Digital Promise will work with leading researchers, entrepreneurs, and schools to identify and spur breakthrough learning technologies, determine quickly what's working and what's not, and transform today's fragmented learning technology market, paving the way for the widespread use of learning technologies that deliver the best results for students, parents, and teachers," said the White House in announcing the new project. "These efforts build upon the President's call to create jobs by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world, including the Administration's efforts to bring all of America's schools into the 21st century."

The President's proposed Jobs bill would ensure there were internet-ready classrooms in at least another 35,000 schools, particularly in rural areas, as part of a $30 billion investment in modernizing them.

The center, with start-up money from the Department of Education, Carnegie and Hewlett Foundation, will look to identify breakthrough technologies, take an Internet start-up approach to evaluating what works and what doesn't, rather than the years of R&D it can take, and make it easier for the private sector to invest by improving the educational procurement system.

In a digital back-to-school event two weeks ago, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski talked about the importance of broadband deployment and digital learning, replace those back-bending book bags with tablets. He is also scheduled to be in attendance when Comcast rolls out its Internet Essentials program in D.C. It is providing low-cost broadband, computers and digital literacy training to low-income homes with school-age kids.