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National Center for Research on Technology to Advance Learning

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague, Rodney Petersen, briefly highlighted the White House launch of Digital Promise, a new national research center authorized in the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (i.e., the Higher Education Opportunity Act), at which EDUCAUSE President Diana Oblinger was an invited guest. The center’s mission, as stated in the White House press release announcing its formation, is to “advance technologies to transform teaching and learning.” It will strive to fulfill this mission, largely directed at the K-12 sector, by identifying:

  • Technologies that offer breakthrough potential to significantly improve learning outcomes
  • Ways to increase the speed of research and development regarding the application of technology to advance learning
  • Approaches for overcoming barriers to the broad-scale adoption of teaching and learning technologies in the K-12 marketplace

The Digital Promise fact sheet notes that “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.” As an independent non-profit research center, Digital Promise is intended as a first step in reversing that disparity, utilizing an unspecified amount of start-up funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In conjunction with the Digital Promise launch, the National Science Foundation announced $15 million in new grants to support research into next-generation learning environments, including gaming and adaptive tutoring. A range of other related projects and initiatives were also highlighted, including the creation of a League of Innovative Schools associated with Digital Promise that will serve as both living laboratories for the research and market-changing concepts the center uncovers and as sources for such concepts themselves.

While the center has technology to advance learning at the K-12 level as its focus, developments in that space will inevitably influence the use of technology to support learning at the postsecondary level. Also, EDUCAUSE members may want to track the center’s progress via the Digital Promise website for research and input opportunities in which to participate directly or highlight on their campuses.