Launching the Learning Registry

Archived Information

Launching the Learning Registry

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the 2011 State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) Leadership Summit

November 7, 2011

Good afternoon everyone, and congratulations to SETDA on a decade's contributions to the digital transformation of the classroom.

It's a pleasure to join you again this year. As I said last year, we're at an important transition point.

We live in a time of extraordinary change and extraordinary opportunity.

In the past year, collectively we've worked hard to move that transition along. So, to everyone in this room, thank you for your work in making this happen.

Everyone in this room understands that through technology, educators and parents can personalize learning and engage students more deeply in that learning. It's a lesson my wife and I are learning with our two children, every day.

Technology can help address fundamental inequities in our schools by providing all children—including low-income students in struggling schools—with access to a world-class education. At our Department of Education, we strive to be an engine of innovation: to create both a climate, and right incentives, for reform.

Last year, at this leadership forum, we unveiled our ambitious National Education Technology Plan. Karen Cator, with input from hundreds of people from around the country, did a great job putting it together.

The plan set our nation's sights on leveraging the full power of technology to support compelling, personalized learning environments for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code.

Today, we're taking an important step toward implementing this vision.

These new projects will accelerate the transition from primarily print-based classrooms to digital learning environments, and enable teachers to offer the personalized instruction that will raise the bar and level the playing field for every student.

Innovation is an important part of all of our work, as we transition to digital learning. President Obama has declared November as National Entrepreneurship Month, and as I've said before, entrepreneurs are a critically important part of the solution in education.

The Obama Administration's Startup America initiative—designed to promote entrepreneurship across the country—includes a focus on knocking down unnecessary barriers for entrepreneurs. I'm personally committed to unleashing new market opportunities in digital learning, so the full range of innovators can develop, test, and scale solutions that truly change educational outcomes.

How do we identify these barriers and accelerate innovation? That's where you come in. We want to hear from you. What are the outdated or just-plain unnecessary barriers that we—both federal and state government—place in the way of education technology entrepreneurs, and how to do we overcome them?

In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I am optimistic that the feedback we get can help ensure that entrepreneurs have the space to revolutionize digital learning for the better.

I'm also pleased to tell you that we are launching the new Learning Registry today.

Last year, I joined Secretary Wayne Clough from the Smithsonian, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to propose The Learning Registry—a project to help all of us in education to share what we know about the resources we use, more effectively.

Both the National Education Technology Plan and the National Broadband Plan identified the need for this important resource for teachers and parents.

So, together with the Department of Defense, we engaged in months of research and experimentation. Today we're here to announce the results of that effort.

After much hard work, a diverse group of collaborators has created a tool that will make it much easier for teachers to have access to learning materials that will help them do their jobs.

Until now, teachers have struggled to harness the power of the Internet to find learning resources proven to work in the classroom.

They've needed to visit countless websites in search of resources to help them create compelling lesson plans.

Today's search engines do many things well, but they aren't designed to directly support teaching and learning.

The Learning Registry aims to fix this problem.

It makes it possible for teachers to find the best resources, not just for their grade or classroom, but for individual students.

This is an important step toward reaching our goal of personalizing learning and differentiating instruction.

Soon, it will no longer be too time consuming or costly to match specific students with specific resources.

This Learning Registry also creates a way for teachers to share what they know.

The Registry also allows content developers, curriculum coordinators, principals, counselors, and everyone else who supports good teaching in the classroom to benefit from the combined knowledge of the field.

The Registry can be an invaluable tool for parents, as well.

When they're looking for tools to help their children master a specific skill or learn about a specific topic, they will have access to methods that others have found to be successful in classrooms across the country.

Let me give an example. If a teacher in Texas finds that three specific resources are helping her teach fractions to native Spanish speakers, how can that information get to an educator in California who is addressing the same learning challenge?

If both teachers are using their state's resource portal that has integrated the Learning Registry, the California teacher will be able to find those resources from her colleague in Texas—all through a simple search that today's search engines wouldn't be able to perform today.

So, whether teachers are down the hall from each other, or halfway around the world, the Learning Registry can help them find and share what they are thinking, teaching and creating.

The Learning Registry stitches these systems together, so educators are supported by an interconnected "fabric" of teaching and learning communities.

The Learning Registry makes sharing easier—and, the more organizations that share, the easier it gets.

As states move forward with implementing the common core standards, this type of sharing will become even more powerful.

It's important to understand that Learning Registry isn't a "destination"—it isn't a website you go to.

Instead, the "magic" of Learning Registry makes the experience of searching for, connecting with, and identifying educational content and resources ... easier, faster, and better.

I'm the first to admit, I don't understand all of the technology that makes the Learning Registry work. The folks who made it happen are a lot smarter than me.

What I do know is that the Learning Registry solves a significant problem in education by bridging the information silos in education, and giving parents and teachers access to educational tools that work for children.

This project is a great example of what's possible when we all roll up our sleeves and work together to solve problems.

There are many people and organizations that collaborated on this project, and the list is too long for me to name them all. But there are a few I want to mention.

The Department of Defense has supported this project from its inception. They've contributed both brain power and finances, without which we couldn't have moved so far, so fast.

The National Science Digital Library Stem Exchange, supported by the National Science Foundation, provided the core concepts that evolved into the Learning Registry—and they have continued to contribute technically and strategically, every step of the way.

PBS, Smithsonian, NASA, the Library of Congress and the National Archives have already tested the system and made it richer, by sharing excellent content through the Learning Registry.

We've also had great partners and participants from the private sector and from other countries.

And corporations and nonprofits are beginning to use the Registry as well. Agilix, ISKME, Achieve, Better Lesson, Benetech, Booz Allen and Jes and Co. have already started sharing and showing information about online resources, including data about resource quality, standards alignment, usage, and accessibility.

And, although we're just now unveiling the Learning Registry, states and private companies are already committed to leveraging its power.

Both the California and Florida Departments of Education have integrated Learning Registry within their statewide teacher online communities. In California, Butte County Office of Education/CADRE group has provided great support to the project as well.

I am very pleased to see state departments and local pilots helping to test and refine this type of innovation.

I want urge every state education technology director here today to explore how the Learning Registry can contribute to success in your schools.

And, to all of you in the industry, I would say: The Learning Registry project is designed to spark new innovations from the private sector, and I challenge you to use your ingenuity and resources to adapt and improve this model.

Our team will continue to move this project forward, and we are excited to expand our collaboration further, to those in this room and beyond. Finally, I want to acknowledge the invaluable leadership and partnership that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has provided for all our efforts.

In particular, Aneesh Chopra, the President's great Chief Technology Officer, has been a tremendous supporter of our work to power up learning through the effective use of technology—in order to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for each and every student.

I'm please to be able to introduce Aneesh—please give him a warm welcome. Thank you all.