The federal government’s investment in education technology is an opportunity for the publishing industry, which must respond by creating more engaging content that is relevant for today’s tech-savvy students, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Speaking before the Association of American Publishers on March 4, Duncan said most young people can’t remember a time without the internet.
“But right now,” he said, “many students’ learning experiences in school don’t match the reality outside of school. We need to bridge this gap. We need to make school more relevant and engaging. We must make the on-demand, personalized tech applications that are part of students’ daily lives a more strategic part of their academic lives.”
He added: “If we fail to do this for all our students, we’ll fail to prepare them for the future that awaits them, and the skills the world will require of them.”
To support technological innovation in learning, President Obama has proposed investing $500 million over ten years in an Online Skills Initiative designed to produce free and open online courses that contribute to post-secondary success, Duncan said. These courses can be used by students, schools, and self-directed learners, and they also will be freely available to commercial publishers.
“Our commitment to open educational resources includes a commitment to you: That they will be fully open, including open to commercial producers of learning materials who want to add value to these resources and sell enhanced, proprietary versions,” he told the publishers.
“We see this step as both an investment in our students and an opportunity for your industry.”
This open courseware initiative “will create new demand from colleges and universities for online courses,” Duncan said. “It will open a new market for supplementary materials—one that you are uniquely positioned to fill. Our online skills program will create new opportunities for you as publishers and software developers—and will deliver the best possible education for students in the 21st century.”
Duncan identified three key trends that are changing education. The first is mobility and accessibility: Many students today have access to information 24-7 on devices that are increasingly powerful, yet inexpensive. The second is the rise in digital content, produced both professionally and by users. The third is the emergence of social networks for information, collaboration, and learning.
“We can draw on these trends of mobility, digital content, and online social networks to create more effective learning experiences, more customized curricula, more powerful assessments, and more interactive, connected communities of teachers,” he said.
Duncan’s speech came a day before the federal Education Department issued a draft version of its latest National Education Technology Plan, which outlines these trends in more detail.