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Duncan Unveils Digital Promise Center

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Friday launched Digital Promise, a new center authorized by Congress to identify and support the most effective education technology innovations and expose them more broadly to schools across the country.

The center will receive start-up funding from the U.S. Department of Education as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and will be overseen by a board of ed-tech leaders selected based on Congressional recommendations.

"Today marks an incredibly important turning point," Duncan said at a White House announcement. "The level of talent in this room today is pretty extraordinary."

Both the Carnegie Corporation and Hewlett Foundation also contribute funding to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week.

The National Science Foundation will also be one of the first contributors to the effort, announcing today $15 million in awards to support research on how best to create contemporary, digital learning environments.

"The projects within the NSF portfolio for cyberlearning stand to demonstrate and promote learning technology, to transform our schools and to enhance our lives," said Farnam Jahanian of the NSF's directorate for computer and information science and engineering.

The announcement is one of the most visible in a string of efforts from the Education Department to act as a facilitator of education technology in the absence of new, significant federal funding.

For example, the national Learning Registry, which is still under construction, will attempt to unify already-existing digital education resources from federal agencies including NASA, NOAA, and the Smithsonian, among others. The Education Department has also been an adviser to the Digital Learning Now campaign, a collaboration by the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Alliance for Excellent Education, which is pushing states to lift policies it sees as barriers to digital learning.

President Barack Obama's administration had also proposed the $90-million ARPA-ED education technology research initiative as part of the Education Department's fiscal year 2012 budget, but that project is still in limbo.

The announcement follows Duncan's participation Thursday in an event discussing the idea of digital badges conferred by institutions to identify people who acquire skills in a setting beyond the formal education system. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is launching a $2 million open competition for ideas relating to badge development.

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