Obama to push for new ed-tech agency

Congress will consider Obama's request for a new ed-tech agency.

President Obama will request fiscal 2012 funding for an educational technology agency within the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that would bring resources and funding to schools and colleges, while some ed-tech advocates warn that the government’s support might not reach teachers and professors.

The White House announced Feb. 7 that its requests for the 2012 federal budget would include an agency called Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education, which would “support research on breakthrough technologies to enhance learning.”

The White House’s announcement was short on specifics, but it said the new agency would advocate for technology such as “software that is as effective as a personal tutor.”

The educational technology push comes three weeks after Obama said in his State of the Union address that America would “need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to keep pace with the global economy.

The effort to create the ed-tech agency, along with a $2 billion grant program funding sharable web-based educational tools, has grabbed the attention of online education advocates.

But there remains skepticism that funding provided by a new ED agency would find its way to educators who can design workable ways to make high-quality educational technology available for students.

“Any time there is a lot of money with the intent to go in a new direction, far too often, the only experts available are the old guard,” said Charles Severance, a faculty member at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and a developer network coordinator for the IMS Global Learning Consortium, which produces technology standards for education. “And they quickly line up to gain control of the new funds before innovators even know that there is an opportunity.”

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