White House makes ‘Digital Promise’ to schools

“When it comes to education, R&D cycles can take years, producing results that are out of date the minute they’re released,” the White House blog said. “Internet companies like Netflix and Amazon don’t make decisions on the basis of hunches. They use rapid, low-cost experimentation to continually improve their products. Similar opportunities exist for learning technologies.”

Digital Promise could combine the disparate ed-tech funding efforts from philanthropists and government entities to create a larger, more reliable way to develop up-and-coming technologies, said Russell Poulin, deputy director of WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), an organization that advocates for online instruction.

“I know foundations have looked for ways to leverage their work and to work together instead of working independently of each other,” Poulin said. “Historically, they’ve been at odds with each other.”

Critics of the White House’s plan to partially fund Digital Promise came out in force just hours after the nonprofit was announced.

Bryan Preston, a writer for conservative blog Pajamas Media, called Digital Promise “yet another potential technological boondoggle” introduced by the Obama administration, adding that the nonprofit’s board is filled this “tech CEOs whose companies stand to benefit from the government’s classroom tech choices and decisions.”

Poulin said the government’s investment in Digital Promise “doesn’t appear to be enough money to move the market,” but rather to “encourage and promote research and innovation” in the education sector.

“This doesn’t appear big enough to pick winners and losers” in the technology industry, Poulin said.

Seton Motley, a blogger for the conservative site Less Government, said any government funding of Digital Promise would be “unconstitutional.”

Denny Carter

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