Acknowledging the difficulty of implementing digital learning programs in cash-strapped schools, the report calls for federal policy with specific language that identifies educational technology as an allowable use of funds throughout all federal programs. The report also suggests the enactment of a federal funding stream dedicated to innovative instruction methods, such as digital learning, which it says the ATTAIN Act now pending in Congress would do.

“We need to carefully, thoughtfully not leave behind the best of what we know from a print-based classroom, but leverage the best of what technology can bring us,” Cator said.

The report also encourages federal policy makers to build upon the recently released National Education Technology Plan and National Broadband Plan, and to encourage states to implement the “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning” released by the DLC.

What’s more, it urges lawmakers to act on the Obama administration’s suggestion to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED), which would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As DARPA funds research and innovation in using technology for national defense, ARPA-ED would do the same for education.

“America has only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with technology and digital learning in the area of education,” Wise said, comparing the U.S. education system to the outdated car industry, “designed for a time when the Model T-Ford was new on the scene.”

Schools need a makeover now more than ever, Cator and Wise agreed. The experts framed the imperative to update the education system as an issue of economics, national security, and social justice.