Infrastructure: Access and Enable

Goal: All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it.

Although we have adopted technology in many aspects of education today, a comprehensive infrastructure for learning is necessary to move us beyond the traditional model of educators and students in classrooms to a learning model that brings together teaching teams and students in classrooms, labs, libraries, museums, workplaces, and homes—anywhere in the world where people have access devices and an adequate Internet connection. An infrastructure for learning is necessary to support a learning society in which learning is lifelong and lifewide.

Our infrastructure for learning is modeled on the cyberinfrastructure envisioned and deployed by the National Science Foundation to encourage collaboration among scientists and researchers, which was subsequently broadened to apply to learning in all domains (National Science Foundation 2008b). The term "cyber" tells us that the time and distance barriers of the physical world are reduced by virtual connections between people and between people and technology resources and tools. "Infrastructure" reminds us that even in virtual worlds, physical and organizational structures are needed to run a system.

The essential underlying principle is that the infrastructure includes people, processes, learning resources, and policies and sustainable models for continuous improvement in addition to broadband connectivity, servers, software, management systems, and administrative tools.

Building an infrastructure for learning is a far-reaching project that will require the participation and collaboration of individuals from all disciplines and types of institutions across the entire spectrum of education. It also will require education, business, and government as partners. And it will take leadership and a commitment to a shared understanding of its importance to transforming U.S. education.

Revolutionary Opportunity for Change

Over the past 40 years, we have seen unprecedented advances in computing and communications that have led to powerful technology resources and tools for learning. Today, low-cost Internet access devices, easy-to-use digital authoring tools, and the Web facilitate access to information and multimedia learning content, communication, and collaboration. They also provide the ability to participate in online learning communities that cross disciplines, organizations, international boundaries, and cultures.

Many of these technology resources and tools already are being used within our public education system. We are now, however, at an inflection point for a much bolder transformation of education powered by technology. This revolutionary opportunity for change is driven by the continuing push of emerging technology and the pull of the critical national need for new strategies to turn around a P–12 system that is failing to adequately prepare young Americans for postsecondary education and the workforce and a postsecondary system that is failing to prepare its graduates for success in life and work in a changing world.

Our model of an infrastructure for learning is always on and makes learning opportunities available to learners, educators, and administrators regardless of their location, the time of day, or the type of access devices. It supports not just access to information, but also the creation of content and access to people and participation in online learning communities.

An infrastructure for learning unleashes new ways of capturing and sharing knowledge based on multimedia that integrate text, still and moving images, audio, and applications that run on a variety of devices. It enables seamless integration of in-school and out-of-school learning. It frees learning from a rigid information-transfer model (from book or educator to students) and enables a much more motivating intertwine of learning about, learning to do, and learning to be.

On a more operational level, an infrastructure for learning brings together and enables access to data from multiple sources while ensuring appropriate levels of security and privacy. The infrastructure integrates computer hardware, data and networks, information resources, interoperable software, middleware services and tools, and devices, and it also connects and supports interdisciplinary teams of professionals responsible for its development, maintenance, and management, and its use in transformative approaches to teaching and learning.

Unpacking the Challenge

Given the enormity of the challenge of building an infrastructure for learning, we should approach it step-by-step, designing and implementing individual elements so we can take advantage of their incremental benefits along the way.

Broadband Everywhere

A crucial element of an infrastructure for learning is a broadband network of adequate performance and reach, including abundant wireless coverage in and out of school buildings. "Adequate" means enough bandwidth to support simultaneous use by all students and educators anywhere in the building and the surrounding campus to routinely use the Web, multimedia, and collaboration software. The activities of the FCC ( and the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program ( to bolster the nation's broadband provisioning are essential to learning lifelong and lifewide.

In March 2010, the FCC released the National Broadband Plan to provide a blueprint for connecting all Americans to broadband capability. The National Broadband Plan recognizes the crucial task of improving high-speed Internet access for learners in schools and homes and calls for a number of changes to the E-Rate that would dramatically improve learners' access to broadband-enabled learning experiences. (See the sidebar on the National Broadband Plan. For background information on the E-Rate, see the sidebar on balancing connectivity and student safety on the Internet on p. 56.)

The National Broadband Plan and Education

The National Broadband Plan deals with many aspects of the nation's technology infrastructure, including the infrastructure for education. In the education arena, the plan calls for specific actions in three areas:

Supporting and promoting online learning. The plan calls for expanded access to educational digital content, increased recognition of credits earned through online learning, refinements of digital data and interoperability standards, digital literacy promotion, and research and development of new broadband-enabled online learning systems.

Unlocking the value of data and improving transparency. The plan advocates the adoption of electronic learning records and the modernization of privacy laws to protect student data while allowing its use to improve learning outcomes. The FCC also calls for improved financial data transparency in education, supported by online tools that make school systems' spending visible and connect local education agencies with product and service providers that meet their technology needs more efficiently.

Modernizing educational broadband infrastructure. Most critically, the plan calls for several changes to the E-Rate that would increase learners' access to broadband-enabled learning experiences. Proposed changes to the E-Rate include the following:

  • Raising the E-Rate cap to account for inflation, providing much-needed additional funding to schools and libraries;

  • Funding wireless connectivity to portable learning devices, allowing students and teachers to continue learning beyond the school day;

  • Providing more support for internal network connections, allowing greater student and teacher access to high-speed connectivity in the classroom;

  • Allowing community members to make use of E-Rate-funded connections outside school hours, creating new opportunities for job training and extended learning opportunities for adults;

  • Encouraging schools and libraries to partner with state, regional, local, and tribal entities to establish networks that increase broadband purchasing power;

  • Streamlining the E-Rate application process to reduce the burden on schools and libraries that seek funding;

  • Increasing E-Rate recipients' flexibility to purchase the most cost-effective broadband solutions available in their geographic area;

  • Setting new minimum service goals for broadband connectivity that take into account the numbers and needs of E-rate network users, providing sufficient bandwidth for learners to take advantage of engaging multimedia tools; and

  • Awarding some E-Rate funds competitively to promote innovation in technology-supported learning.

The full text of the National Broadband Plan's recommendations and vision for education are available online at

Access Devices for Every Student and Educator

Because an infrastructure for learning should support learning in and out of the classroom, students and educators need Internet access devices for around-the-clock use from any location. Internet access devices are continually evolving and today include desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, public access kiosks, mobile phones, portable digital players, and wireless readers.

Many districts say they face major challenges in providing access devices for every student and educator. Even with the rise of relatively low-cost mobile devices and netbooks, most devices cost at least several hundred dollars and need to be replaced every few years. In 2002, however, Maine became the first state in the country to give every seventh- and eighth-grade student and educator a laptop for use both at school and at home. Research on the effectiveness of the program shows that student learning has improved (Berry and Wintle 2009; Silvernail and Bluffington 2009; Silvernail and Gritter 2007), and the program is now being expanded to high schools. (See sidebar on building a statewide infrastructure for learning.)

Building a Statewide Infrastructure for Learning

In 2001, Maine kicked off the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), the first statewide effort to provide students and educators across multiple grades with 24/7 access to personal learning devices. A joint task force convened by the governor and the state legislature assessed Maine's education needs and the infrastructure that would be required for implementation of one-to-one computing, including hardware, software, internal and external school networks and servers, technical support, and educator professional development.

To be able to provide all aspects of the infrastructure to support worthwhile uses of technology for learning while staying within Maine's budget parameters, the decision was made to focus the first phase of MLTI on middle school students.

After pilot testing and training at "exploration sites" in each of the state's nine regions, Maine's one-to-one program was extended to seventh-graders in all state middle schools in 2002 and to all eighth-graders in 2003. MLTI now equips each of Maine's 243 middle schools with wireless Internet access and provides each school with enough laptops for every seventh- and eighth-grade student and educator to use both in and outside school. Since MLTI's inception, more than 37,000 laptops provided by the program have been used by over 100,000 educators and learners throughout the state. MLTI also provides intensive professional development, implementation assistance, and technical support to educators to ensure that the technology is fully leveraged to support student learning.

Maine believes that its investment in technology for its middle school students has paid off: The state's eighth-grade writing proficiency jumped 12 percent after statewide one-to-one implementation (Silvernail and Gritter 2007). Laptop use also has been linked to gains on statewide mathematics tests and improved retention of science course material (Berry and Wintle 2009; Silvernail and Bluffington 2009).

Inspired by this success, Maine has expanded its laptop initiative to all students in grades 9–12. The state is committed to funding wireless Internet access in all Maine secondary schools and has negotiated discounts for districts to provide their students with laptops.

Many K–12 students already carry mobile devices for personal use with greater computing power than the supercomputers of a generation ago. K–12 educators routinely own access devices for use in their daily lives. Students at our nation's colleges and universities increasingly are arriving on campus with powerful laptops and mobile devices of their own. The presence of so many access devices and the precedent that has been established at colleges and universities are prompting some K–12 school districts to explore having their students and educators use their own personal access devices as an alternative to purchasing them.

In the past, districts were reluctant to allow students to use their own devices in school because of concerns about the unfair advantage of affluent students who are more likely to have the latest devices and the risk of students accessing inappropriate Internet content or using their connectivity to cheat on tests. However, districts are finding that a combination of acceptable use policies and staff training makes student use of personal digital devices both feasible and safe.

Middletown Public Schools in New Jersey, for example, brought together elementary, middle, and high school educators to forge an acceptable-use policy that would allow students to use personal cell phones and other computing devices in school. Students then created videos to illustrate acceptable and unacceptable uses for their peers. At Passage Middle School in Newport News, Va., a host of student and educator uses of cell phones to support learning was unleashed when the principal decided to allow the use of cell phones for instructional purposes during class. (See sidebar on using cell phones to support teaching and learning.)

Using Cell Phones to Support Teaching and Learning

After letting two students use the calculator functions on their cell phones to solve the crisis of being two calculators short for a schoolwide math exam, the principal at Passage Middle School, Va., decided that he might be on to something. Hoping to capitalize on students' excitement when allowed to use their cell phones in school, he instituted Phone Fridays in math class and challenged students to come up with ways to use their phones to enhance learning. Students started using the phones' calendar function to keep track of homework schedules and the camera function to take pictures of the notes on the classroom's whiteboards. They created blogs and podcasts related to their homework and supported their math work both with the phone's calculator and by using the stopwatch function to time their speed at doing calculations.

Positive student reactions led the principal to invite other interested educators to join in the cell phone experiment. Before allowing cell phone usage on a broader scale, each educator had a discussion with his or her students to set ground rules for usage. All the classes came up with similar rules, and a school policy was developed: Cell phones could be used in class only for working on assignments. Text or video could be sent only with the educator's permission. No photographing or video- or audio-recording of people was allowed without their permission, no posting to websites was allowed without permission, and online safety precautions were to be taken when publishing from a mobile phone.

Teachers began using cell phone applications for polling and to set up an online text messaging board to discuss homework. One educator used the cell phones while teaching, asking students to answer questions via text messaging rather than out loud. As student answers came in, they were displayed on a screen at the front of the class, identified by the student's cell phone screen name. English teachers, in particular, found the cell phones useful as they started using blogs to engage students in writing. One class used Twitter to collaborate in generating stories in class.

Schools also can solve the equity issue—concern that affluent students will have devices and others will not—by purchasing devices just for the students who need such financial support. This is more cost-effective than purchasing devices for every student. Districts can think about providing an access device and Internet access at home for those students who need them in the same way they provide a free or reduced-price hot lunch for students who could not otherwise afford it. In choosing the devices to provide for students who otherwise would not have them, districts need to make sure that all their students have devices that support writing, analysis, and the creation of digital content related to their courses, not just consumption of content created by others.

Allowing students to bring their own access devices to school has been limited, however, by provisions within the E-Rate, a federal program that supports connectivity in elementary and secondary schools and libraries by providing discounts on Internet access, telecommunications services, internal network connections, and basic maintenance to support them. Schools' eligibility for E-Rate money is contingent on compliance with several federal laws designed to ensure student privacy and safety on the Internet. These include the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires the use of electronic filtering on school networks. In some cases, lack of full understanding of this requirement creates unnecessary barriers to the rich learning experiences that in-school Internet access should afford students.

E-Rate provisions and CIPA requirements should be clarified, and schools and districts should explore the ways that student-owned devices can aid in learning. (See the sidebar on balancing connectivity and student safety on the Internet.)

Balancing Connectivity and Student Safety on the Internet

E-Rate is a federal program that supports connectivity in elementary and secondary schools and libraries by providing discounts on Internet access, telecommunications services, internal network connections, and basic maintenance. Schools, school districts, and consortia can receive discounts on these services ranging from 20 to 90 percent depending on their level of poverty and geographic location.

Schools' eligibility for E-Rate money is contingent on compliance with several federal laws designed to ensure student privacy and safety on the Internet. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires any school that funds Internet access or internal network connections with E-Rate money to implement filters that block students' access to content that may be harmful to minors, including obscenity and pornography. CIPA also requires schools receiving E-Rate discounts to teach online safety to students and to monitor their online activities.

Ensuring student safety on the Internet is a critical concern, but many filters designed to protect students also block access to legitimate learning content and such tools as blogs, wikis, and social networks that have the potential to support student learning and engagement. More flexible, intelligent filtering systems can give teachers (to whom CIPA restrictions do not apply) access to educationally valuable content. On the other end of the spectrum, some schools and districts filter students' online activities with proxy servers that meet CIPA requirements but are easy to get around, minimizing their utility for managing and monitoring students' online activity.

CIPA also has posed challenges to accessing school networks through students' own cell phones, laptop computers, and other Internet access devices to support learning activities when schools cannot afford to purchase devices for each student. Applying CIPA-required network filters to a variety of student-owned devices is a technical challenge that may take schools months or years to implement. However, districts such as Florida's Escambia County Schools have created technical solutions and accompanying acceptable use policies (AUPs) that comply with CIPA regulations, allowing Web-based learning on student devices to run on networks supported by federal E-Rate funding.

Source: Universal Service Administrative Company 2008.

Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits sharing, accessing, repurposing—including for commercial purposes—and collaborating with others. These resources are an important element of an infrastructure for learning. Originating in higher education, OER forms range from podcasts to digital libraries to textbooks, games, and courses, and they are freely available to anyone over the Web.

MIT's decision to launch the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative to make the core content from all its courses available online in 2000 gave the OER movement a credible start (Smith 2009). Other universities joined the OCW Consortium, and today there are more than 200 members, each of which has agreed to make at least 10 courses available in open form.

Equally important to the OER movement was the emergence of the Creative Commons, an organization that developed a set of easy-to-use licenses whereby individuals or institutions could maintain ownership of their creative products while giving others selected rights for using OER for noncommercial purposes.

Advances in our understanding of how to design good OER are coming out of the work of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University. OLI has been developing state-of-the-art, high-quality online learning environments that are implemented as part of courses taught not only at Carnegie Mellon, but also at other universities and at community colleges. The OLI learning systems are submitted to rigorous ongoing evaluation and refinement as part of each implementation.

Many OER materials are available not just to individuals enrolled in courses, but to anyone who wants to use them. Nearly half of downloads of MIT's OpenCourseWare, for example, are by individual self-directed learners

(Maxwell 2009).

Because OER materials are online, their development, publishing, and consumption have crossed geographic boundaries, enabling the movement to support a global education community. For example, the OER Commons is a well-known global membership network providing access to content that is free to use or share and, in some cases, change and share again. In many cases, these materials also are licensed so they can be incorporated into new courses and in new ways, even within a product that can be sold commercially.

The OER movement could be leveraged more fully throughout the education system and across types of learners. Students in the P–16 systems and adults who are changing careers or who simply have an interest could make use of these materials. Further, as we transition from the static print-based textbook to a more dynamic digital resource network, assets that are published as OER could be integrated into a new kind of "open textbook." For example, the development of a high-quality algebra textbook could be funded by a consortium and then the textbook could made freely available for use, reuse, and continuous improvement. A company could leverage these materials within an even better product for schools to use. Traditionally, textbooks have been a significant portion of the K–12 budget as well as the student-borne cost of higher education, and in budget-conscious times this is one strategy that could be considered.

Interoperability Standards

Not all high-quality technology-based learning resources are open, and ideally individual learners, teachers, schools, districts, and states could bring together an array of digital learning resources from many sources—both open and fee based—to meet their needs. Combining resources in this way, however, requires standards for interoperability so the resources can be catalogued and work together. A number of efforts to develop specifications for learning applications (SIF, SCORM, and IMS) have been underway for years, but no single approach has become the standard.

Next-generation Computing

To help build out an infrastructure for learning, districts and schools should begin a transition to the next generation of computing system architectures. Districts should consider options for reducing the number of servers they run through consolidation using virtualization. Virtualization allows a single server to run multiple applications safely and reliably, so that districts can reduce the number of servers on their networks dramatically, cutting costs and making the networks less complex and easier to manage.

Districts also can consider moving to cloud computing, which involves shifting from the procurement and maintenance of servers in local datacenters to purchasing software as a service (SaaS) and Web applications from datacenters running in the cloud.

Cloud computing is a catchy new name, but its principal outcome—utility computing—is not new. Utility computing is the packaging of computing resources as a metered service similar to how public utilities package and sell electricity through our nation's power grid. What makes cloud computing more desirable and possible is that we are nearing an inflection point driven by technology advances and the need for more powerful and collaborative platforms at lower cost.

Cloud computing can support both the academic and administrative services required for learning and education. It can enable students and educators to access the same learning resources using different Internet devices anytime and anywhere, both in and out of school. This will not happen automatically, however. School systems and other youth-serving organizations—public libraries, public broadcasting, after-school clubs, and so on—will need to engage each other and seek common platforms or at least technical interoperability.

Cloud computing is still in a nascent stage with obstacles to overcome to fully realize its potential. Still, now is the time to move forward with investments that contribute to the shift to cloud computing, with the primary benefits being cost savings and an ability for education institutions to refocus on their core mission, educating students. (See sidebar on North Carolina State University.)

North Carolina State University Cloud Computing Services

The Virtual Computing Laboratory (VCL) at North Carolina State University has been a pioneer in delivering secure on-demand computing services for education institutions. VCL was using cloud computing before the term came into popular use: It has been doing research on virtual computing since 2003 and began offering cloud services in 2004.

The VCL academic cloud is based on open-source technology and offers infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service, including support of high-performance computing services. The advantages of VCL's cloud computing approach include consolidation of computing resources and technical support services, delivery of applications that would be difficult to install on student computers, and the extension of computing services to education institutions that otherwise would have only limited technology infrastructures.

As of 2009 VCL was serving more than 30,000 faculty and staff members. A typical user accesses VCL through a Web interface, going through a set of authentication and authorization steps and then choosing the desired kind of computing environment and time period from a set of pull-down menus.

VCL can dynamically move resources from one application to another, producing increased efficiency and lower costs. During semester breaks, for example, when most students are not using computing resources, the system assigns those resources to researchers with heavy computing requirements for activities, such as running complex models and simulations.

VCL now offers services on a pilot basis to seven other North Carolina public universities, the North Carolina Community College System, and several out-of-state universities including three in India. Possible extension of these academic cloud services to K-12 schools is being considered.

Services Delivered From the Cloud

Figure 4 illustrates the comprehensive nature of integrated software services needed for learning experiences and that can be delivered from the cloud.

Figure 4: Framework for software services in a technology-empowered learning environment

Users of Services: Students, Teachers, Administrators, Parents
Internet Access Devices
Resources and Applications

Education resources & services
(open & proprietary)

digital textbooks • digital libraries • tutoring systems • simulations • augmented reality • interactive visualization • educational

Authoring, editing, disseminating & content management

text processing • audio/video capture/edit • programming platforms • blogs• wikis • instructional/course management


scheduling • personnel/HR • plant/facilities management • procurement • attendance • student records

Assessment and Reporting
Social Networking and Collaboration
Public and Private Network-connected Clouds – software services, data libraries & repositories

At the top are the users of the services—students, educators, administrators, and parents—with a variety of Internet access devices. With these devices, users can find a large and diverse set of digital educational resources from both proprietary and open providers.

Education resources and services could be used directly in a variety of educator- or learner-directed ways. They also could be used as ingredients for derivative products that are authored, built, edited, disseminated, and managed as student projects or educator-author curriculum modules through services indicated in the adjacent cluster. In this model, students and educators are both consumers and producers of educational content, with the role of student and educator sometimes interchanged. The framework of services also includes the administrative services for operating the school and school systems.

Below the three types of services are cross-cutting integrated capabilities to support data-driven assessment of individual students, individual educators, and the resources (content) and processes serving teaching and learning. Included here are assessments for formative and summative uses at time scales ranging from real time to decades. Also included are rating, ranking, and recommender services for educational resources.

The resources, authoring, and administrative services all can be used by individuals for solo work and also by teams of people working in various configurations of same and different place and time, perhaps internationally, through social networking and collaboration services. All the above rest critically on networking and middleware, with public and private cloud computing as the underlying platform for computation, data, and digital object management.

Human Talent and Scaling Expertise

Building and nurturing an infrastructure for learning requires providers and users who have knowledge and expertise in emerging technologies and a shared commitment to standards and specialists with experience integrating technology into curriculum development and assessment in meaningful ways.

The challenge of providing this level of expertise on the scale our education system requires should not be underestimated. Already, for example, the number of computers per computer technician in K–12 education is estimated at 612 compared with 150 computers per technician in private industry (CoSN 2009). To an increasing extent, students and educators are handling routine maintenance and troubleshooting of computer equipment themselves. Programs have been developed to make the technical support and troubleshooting a learning experience for students as well as a cost-saving measure. Students can also develop both technical and leadership skills through this experience. (See sidebar on using students as technical resources.)

Using Students as Technical Resources

Generation YES

Generation YES started in 1995 as one of the first 100 federally funded Technology Innovation Challenge Grants. Its founder, Dennis Harper, believed that there was a better way than trying to train teachers in using technology with the expectation that they would then pass these skills to students. His insight was to use students as the technology experts, with each student assigned to a teacher as the technology consultant responsible for helping him or her develop and implement technology-based classroom activities. The learning goals for the student center on such real-world skills as project planning, collaboration, and communication. Since its inception, 1,200 schools and 75,000 students have participated in Generation YES.


Since its start in New York City in 1997, MOUSE has had the dual purpose of providing technical support to help teachers integrate technology into instruction and helping students (Mouse Squad volunteers) acquire the skills and attitudes they need for college. Now operating in more than 200 locations, MOUSE provides student-run technical help desks. MOUSE Corps is a career readiness program that offers professional internships, mentoring, and skill-building workshops to high school students. Citigroup has estimated that MOUSE volunteer labor saves the average school $19,000 a year in technical support costs.

Another level of support required is a professional educator who can engage with educators on leveraging technology for improving their professional practice. Studies have found that educators are more likely to incorporate technology into their instruction when they have access to this kind of coaching and mentoring (Strudler and Hearrington 2009). School technology coordinators, librarians, and media specialists may play this important role. Innovative approaches to staffing in schools that take advantage of online learning resources may free resources that can be applied to fund on-site mentors and coaches who can help educators make good use of technology resources.

Over time, districts have evolved instructional technology departments concerned with the use of technology in teaching and learning in addition to traditional information technology departments. Some districts have both kinds of IT departments (under any variety of names), and some have combined the two functions under a single leadership.

Even in the latter case, those in charge of IT for a district or state may find they are left out of deliberations on key decisions in such areas as instruction, personnel assignment, or assessment. Those responsible for instruction, personnel, and assessment, on the other hand, are often frustrated by technology that does not meet their needs. Building an infrastructure for learning will require close coordination among all these functions.

Reaching Our Goal

4.0 Infrastructure:

All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

4.1 Ensure students and educators have broadband access to the Internet and adequate wireless connectivity both in and out of school.

Students and educators need adequate broadband bandwidth for accessing the Internet and technology-based learning resources. Adequate should be defined as the ability to use the Internet in school, in the surrounding campus, throughout the community, and at home. It should also include simultaneous use of high-bandwidth resources, such as multimedia, communication and collaboration environments, and communities. Crucial to providing such access are the broadband initiatives being individually and jointly managed by various federal agencies.

4.2 Ensure that every student and educator has at least one Internet access device and appropriate software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school.

Only with 24/7 access to the Internet via devices and technology-based software and resources can we achieve the kind of engagement, student-centered learning, and assessments that can improve learning in the ways this plan proposes. The form of these devices, software, and resources may or may not be standardized and will evolve over time. In addition, these devices may be owned by the student or family, owned by the school, or some combination of the two. The use of devices owned by students will require advances in network filtering and improved support systems.

4.3 Support the development and use of open educational resources to promote innovative and creative opportunities for all learners and accelerate the development and adoption of new open technology-based learning tools and courses.

The value of open educational resources is now recognized around the world, leading to the availability of a vast array of learning, teaching, and research resources that learners of any age can use across all content areas. Realizing this value will require new policies concerning the evaluation and selection of instructional materials so that digital resources are considered and processes are established for keeping educational resource content up to date, appropriate, and tagged according to identified content interoperability standards.

4.4 Build state and local education agency capacity for evolving an infrastructure for learning.

Building an infrastructure for learning is a far-reaching project that will demand concerted and coordinated effort. The effort should start with implementing the next generation of computing system architectures and include transitioning computer systems, software, and services from in-house datacenters to professionally managed datacenters in the cloud for greater efficiency and flexibility. This will require leveraging and scaling up the human talent to build such an infrastructure, which should ultimately save money and enable education IT professionals to focus more on maintaining the local infrastructure and supporting teachers, students, and administrators.

4.5 Develop and use interoperability standards for content and student-learning data to enable collecting and sharing resources and collecting, sharing, and analyzing data to improve decision making at all levels of our education system.

Fragmented content, resources, and student-learning data siloed in different proprietary platforms and systems, along with a lack of common standards for collecting and sharing data, are formidable barriers to leveraging resources for teaching and learning. These barriers exist because we lack common content interoperability standards and tools to enable use of such standards. The lack of common standards affects the quality of tools because developers limit their R&D investments into narrow markets and are not able to leverage overall market advancements in research and development. Interoperability standards are essential to resolving these issues.

4.6 Develop and use interoperability standards for financial data to enable data-driven decision making, productivity advances, and continuous improvement at all levels of our education system.

Just as content, resources, and student-learning data are fragmented in disconnected technology systems and throughout our education system, the same is true for financial data. Therefore, we also need financial data interoperability standards and tools that enable the use of these standards.