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Learning Technologies Can Transform America’s Educational and Economic Future

"We have reached another 'Sputnik Moment,'" in terms of the opportunity for the United States to transform education, according to Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, in his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. His remarks were part of the subcommittee's Feb. 14 hearing, "Raising the Bar: How Education Innovation Can Improve Student Achievement." The assistant deputy secretary focused on three core ways that learning technology is poised to transform education: increasing access and equity; transforming teaching and learning; and accelerating and enhancing educational research and development. Other hearing witnesses were John White of Digital Learning Now, Preston Smith of Rocketship Education, and Holly Sagues of Florida Virtual School. Click here to view the full hearing to hear what Jim and his fellow witnesses shared about innovation and technology in education.

National Arts Education Leaders and Student Artists Reflect on the Meaning of Diversity

Student artists cut the official ribbon to open the PTA Reflections exhibit to the public and ED employees in the headquarters lobby. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the National PTA Reflections program for the sixth time to host the opening of a new exhibit at the Department’s headquarters titled "Diversity Means." For the past 44 years, the Reflections program has allowed millions of students across the country and at American schools overseas to unite around a common theme and compete in one of six mediums: dance choreography, film production, music composition, literature, photography, and visual arts.

Guests attending the exhibit opening included student Reflections winners, families of the students, local and national PTA members and staff, teachers, Department of Education staff, and arts enthusiasts. Student winners traveled from Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina, as well as nearby Maryland and Virginia to be honored in Washington D.C. For many of the students in attendance, this was their first time visiting the nation’s capital and an experience of a lifetime.

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Incentive Prizes Target Middle-School Math Achievement

School leaders in New York City are soliciting the best ideas for technology-based approaches to help middle school students excel in math through the Gap App Challenge, announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott earlier this month. The competition, which will award $104,000 in prizes and services in June, is part of the city’s education department's Innovation Zone (iZone), a consortium of schools committed to personalizing learning. Its efforts are supported through a $3 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. i3 Development grants support promising but relatively untested projects with high potential for impact on student achievement.

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From Innovation Clusters to Datapalooza

“By accelerating the pace of innovation in educational technology, we will have the opportunity to close the achievement gap, improve national competitiveness, and drive economic growth,” according to Richard Culatta, deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology, in the November/December 2012 issue of EDUCAUSEreview. Find out how innovations from fields outside of education — innovation clusters from bioscience and open data initiatives from the health care industry, for example — can point the way to the desired acceleration. Click here to read “From Innovation Clusters to Datapalooza: Accelerating Innovation in Educational Technology.”

Feature: Charter, Magnet, and Private Schools Recognized for Going Green

When the first class of U.S. Department of Education ED-Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) were recognized this past June in Washington, D.C., nearly a third of the schools hailed from the ranks of the charter, magnet, and private schools — three constituent programs that are part of the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The dozen private, eight charter, and four magnet schools, like all of the 78 ED-Green Ribbon Schools honored by the Department of Education with the support of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, exercise a comprehensive approach to creating “green” environments. All ED-GRS honorees are measured against the three “pillars” of the national award: reducing environmental impact and increasing energy efficiency; promoting improved health for students and staff; and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.

Unlocking Human Potential Part I: The Cost of Conflating Potential and Performance

JimAssistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton speaks at TEDx MidAtlantic on Saturday, October 27, 2012.I recently gave a TEDx MidAtlantic talk entitled Unlocking Human Potential: Why We Need a New Infrastructure for Learning about Learning. My premise was that we have the opportunity to tap into vast amounts of latent human potential; but, to do so quickly, we need to build a new national research agenda and apparatus focused on breakthrough learning outcomes.

The theme of this TEDx event was Be Fearless: Take Risks. Be Bold. Fail Forward — IMHO a perfect theme for all of education today. I have come to believe that “being fearless” requires one to ask oneself two foundational questions: (1) What do you believe (is possible), and (2) what are you willing to do? Therefore, I began my talk by addressing a common misconception that limits our ability to believe unprecedented learning outcomes can be produced at scale. Consciously and subconsciously, we often allow the conflation of potential (capacity) and performance to limit what learning outcomes we believe can be achieved by all learners. However, without entering the long and embattled debate about the existence and shape of the bell curve describing individual intellectual potential, we can turn this misconception on its head.

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