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More Details on Federal Learning Registry

Steve Midgley, the U.S. Department of Education's second-in-command in the Office of Education Technology, dropped by the Software and Information Industry Association on Thursday to give some details about what the Federal Learning Registry will look like and what it will mean for potential contributors in the ed-tech industry.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the registry last July at a rural ed-tech summit on Capitol Hill.

In a meeting streamed as a webinar, Midgley explained how the architecture of the registry would help eliminate redundancies in how teachers obtain resources from government, open, and private organizations, as well as how those organizations evaluate that use.

The basic premise is the registry would offer organizations a transparent platform where the online educational resources they publish are evaluated, classified, assigned metadata, and made available for public viewing. That shared content can then be repackaged for educators, Midgley said, with the ultimate hope that teachers give feedback to the system to influence the quality of the resources published.

This goes counter to current interactions, Midgley said, in which educational resources are often free and widely available, but are relayed by single, private party transactions.

"This isn't about breaking down the walls and peering behind the curtain," Midgley said. "This is about sharing what we already know—letting experts inside the classroom share what they know with experts outside the classroom."

Midgley hopes all sorts of organizations—federal institutions, local institutions, private companies, and individual creators—will participate. And while he acknowledged that, at first, there may be no incentive for private companies to give away data and information that is of commercial value, he said he hoped the potential feedback from consumers of information will create a virtuous cycle where the benefits of participation outweigh the drawbacks.

Preliminary testing on the registry has already begun, Midgley said, with a demo model set to debut in a week and initial partners sharing live data on the network by the end of April. Then attention shifts to bringing in more partners and infrastructure, before what Midgley called an ambitious kickoff date of Sept. 30 for the first full version of the network.

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