In a move to help rural schools keep pace with more developed districts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) said it will create an Online Learning Registry that will provide access to historical, artistic, and scientific primary-source materials.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement July 21 at the National Rural Education Technology Summit held at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).
“Knowledge knows no boundaries, and we cannot allow distance to stand between students, education, and opportunity,” Duncan said. “We have the hardware, the latest software, and huge investments are being made in the build-out of the National Broadband Plan to connect us as never before.”
The registry is one of the recommendations the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made in its National Broadband Plan to give more students and teachers access to high-quality digital content that the federal government owns.
“No technological innovation in our lifetime has greater potential to transform education than high-speed internet,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
“The National Broadband Plan recommended that the federal government increase the pool of high-quality digital resources that educators can easily find, access, and combine with other content to help their students learn. I am very pleased to see this recommendation being adopted.”
Many of the resources that will appear in the Online Learning Registry have associated educational materials that have been created by education professionals, and some of those educational resources are available online. However, currently it is difficult to find these many resources, because they are available across numerous agencies.
During his remarks to the more than 150 rural education stakeholders and technology experts, Duncan described digital artifacts from the first moon landing as an example of why the registry is needed. He said the artifacts, which include things such as weather records and recordings of conversations, are currently spread across three agencies.
“Right now, frankly, they’re not organized in a way that makes them easy to access. This registry will make it easy for teachers and students to find the variety of resources available,” he said.
And the collections, especially those at the Smithsonian Institution, belong to all Americans—including those who live in rural areas, said Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough.
“We have ambitious plans to use new technologies to reach new audiences. … We have much to offer students and teachers in art, science, history, education, and culture. We want to give learners of all ages access to America’s treasures and our creative experts who bring them to life,” he said.
A healthy American economy depends on a prosperous rural America, said Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Broadband investment boosts innovative capacity, drives business competition, and expands both educational resources and health-care services in small communities throughout the country,” she said, “USDA, working with other agencies, recognizes that access to high-speed internet is fundamental for rural communities that seek to overcome the challenges of time and distance and provide sustained economic development and job creation.”
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