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Blog // Connect Michigan

Genachowski Calls on Education Tech Leaders to Move Learning Forward Using Digital Tools

By Wil Payton

From Ted Gotsch, Senior Editor, Telecommunications Reports  

On Thursday, March 29, 2012, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan kicked off the first meeting of the newly-assembled Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission by charging its members to push forward with assembling a plan to move towards the use to digital textbooks so that the U.S. can create a workforce for the future that can compete globally for the jobs of tomorrow.

Speaking to top executives with telecom, technology, and education companies who make up the LEAD Commission, both Chairman Genachowski and Secretary Duncan said all of them are members of an education technology ecosystem that can help formulate a blueprint for how the nation can move K-12 learning forward using interactive learning tools.  But there are hurdles to doing so.

“One of the challenges we all have is building the case.  Each of you see the opportunities from different perspectives.  We want to get our arms around the challenges,” Chairman Genachowski said, adding that he hoped the process would “accelerate discussions among you so we can make progress faster.”

Secretary Duncan added the U.S. has to do better, noting that it currently faces a 25% high school drop out rate could cripple American competitiveness unless drastic changes are made to the system.  He said bringing digital connect and devices into the classroom could profoundly change that.

“We are going to keep limping along or we are going to change the game.  And you guys can change the game,” Mr. Duncan told members of the commission. “If we do this well, we change things forever.”

Industry leaders participating on the LEAD Commission included Dan Hesse, chief executive officer of Sprint Nextel Corp.; Philipp Humm, president and CEO of  T-Mobile USA, Inc.; Reed Hundt, former FCC Chairman and Intel Corp. board member; and John Couch, vice president-education, Apple, Inc.

James Coulter, co-chair of the LEAD Commission, told attendees that the U.S. is at a “tipping point” and the slow rate of change that has marked the education field will not do in the high-tech world that now exists.   That includes improve broadband connectivity at home, since such a link is needed to ensure students can use digital learning tools outside of school.

“It is a key element,” he said, noting the country needs to make strikes to increase broadband penetration from about two-thirds of households today to the 98% level outlined in the FCC’s national broadband plan. “If we get there, we will get there,” he said, referring to the commission’s education reform goals.

After all three spoke, the commission entered a working session which was closed to the public.  It is expected to meet repeatedly in the coming months, and issue a plan on how the nation moves forward on digital education in November.

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