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Four New Initiatives from the Department of Education

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“Now is the time,” said Karen Cator, director of education technology at the Department of Education. “We’re at this incredible inflection point as we go from print to digital.”

Cator enumerated the ways in which the D.O.E. is helping to make the shift between the print and digital world at the ISTE conference yesterday.

1. TRANSPARENCY. Data.Ed.Gov is an interactive map that pintpoints which schools in the U.S. have broadband. It’s a collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Inofrmation Administration. “If we can build those kinds of maps that we can layer on what’s happening in all these schools around country, that provides transparency and something that people can aspire to, follow,” Cator told me late last year.

2. DIGITAL LITERACY. was recently launched by a group of federal government agencies to help build computer and Internet skills, a free resource for anyone. A description from the site: “To provide librarians, teachers, workforce trainers, and others a central location to share digital literacy content and best practices. These trusted groups can, in turn, better reach out to their communities in providing them the skills today’s employers need.” Educators have their own dedicated link.

3. BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE ADVICE. For educators who want to find the best way to leverage their students’ devices, whether it’s their mobile phones or home laptops, CoSN’s newly launched Access4ed provides a host of resources about working experiments. From the site: “It will include conversations around key issues, case studies from districts addressing them, discussion of policy issues and how to address them, and opportunities to connect with education leaders in districts similar to and different from yours.”


4. CLEARING HOUSE FOR PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS. Cator described it to me this way: "If I’m a teacher, I maintain a profile, I let others into my professional learning network to see the conversations and the communities I’m a part of. I can follow fellow educators that might be involved in interesting projects and trying new projects in the classroom. So it goes beyond just following people on Twitter, but creating a profile for professional educators." The idea of this "persistent online profile" is the premise behind  Connected Online Communities of Practice, a directory of professional teachers networks created by the D.O.E. and the American Institutes for Research. The organization aims to launch new online communities of practice, conduct design experiments, undertake case studies, and develop ideas about new designs and infrastructure. After reviewing all the nominated online professional networks, the organization’s technical working group, a who’s who of innovative education thinkers, will produce a report about best practices.

Other goals on the horizon for the D.O.E.:

  • Equity of access to all Americans. If schools are able to provide access to technology, Cator said the goal is provide the same access at home, as well as teach them how to use the technology so they can "fully participate."
  • Connect basic research to the marketplace. With all the research and development that's being done in government agencies, the goal is to connect that knowledge to those who create products.
  • Connect entrepreneurs to investors. Through organizations like Startup America, a way for smart ideas to find their way to those who can bring it to life.