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Duncan Announces Creation of National Learning Registry

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced an initiative Wednesday to create a National Learning Registry to help organize digital educational resources for teachers and students.

In a speech to the National Rural Education Technology Summit, Duncan gave the example of digital artifacts pertaining to the first moon landing in explaining the value of the planned registry. Currently, recordings of the conversations, digital exhibits about the rockets involved, and weather records from the mission are scattered across the websites of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Right now, frankly, they're not organized in a way that makes them easy to access," Duncan said. "This registry will make it easy for teachers and students to find the variety of resources available."

The registry is one tangible initiative recommended by the Federal Communication Commission's National Broadband Plan, which FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, who also spoke at Wednesday's event at the National Museum of the American Indian, part of Washington's Smithsonian Institute, called the agency's "most ambitious plan ever." Released in March, the plan set guidelines across government agencies to rapidly expand access to broadband.

Later Wednesday, federal education technology chief Karen Cator said the timeline for the creation of the registry was tentatively set at 18 months.

Genachowski called the 65 percent of Americans who have broadband access at home "too low" and well below that of other industrialized nations, and said the 15 percent of those with access in rural America was "beyond unacceptable." And he claimed initiatives stemming from the plan, like the National Learning Registry, would provide a boon both for educational content and funding.

"Increasing the availability of online educational content will spur entrepreneurs and catalyze educational investment," Genachowski said.

Duncan also assured attendees he understood the unique obstacles of rural education, including frequent poverty that is different but no less debilitating than that of inner cities, the difficulty schools face in attracting and retaining high quality teachers, the inability some face to provide diverse courses, and the reality of school technology profiles that are largely similar to those of 20 years ago.

Of the latter, he said, "If we are to offer world class education for all students and overcome ... distance, that has to change."

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