U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has had ed-tech in his crosshairs this week, joining White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra to launch one long-awaited digital initiative Monday before handing over another to private partners Microsoft Tuesday.
Duncan and Chopra spoke at the official launch of the national Learning Registry at the State Educational Technology Directors Association's annual leadership forum just outside Washington. The registry is a joint effort of the United States Departments of Education and Defense, with each contributing $1.3 million in investment toward the project that was first announced in July of 2010.
Duncan Tuesday then announced that the Education Department would be handing over control of its TEACH campaign—including website teach.gov—to the Redmond, Wash.-based software company which has recently become an increasingly visible education technology partner.
The Learning Registry catalogs digital educational resources from a range of federal agencies and organizations, such as NASA, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian, as well as other willing contributors from the academic, nonprofit, and commercial sectors.
"Learning Registry addresses a real problem in education, by bridging the silos that prevent educators from sharing valuable information and resources," Duncan said in a statement. "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."
In a webinar last March, U.S. Deputy Directory of Education Technology Steve Midgley said the registry would act as a clearinghouse of sorts, classifying, reviewing and curating resources to make sure educators could easily find relevant information for their curricula. In that sense, the registry could perhaps be best described as a national version of the content repositories that have been built by state, consortia, nonprofit, and commercial hosts.
The Public Broadcasting System's new platform for online educational content, PBS LearningMedia, also announced Monday it will point users toward content from the registry. While PBS LearningMedia offers a for-pay premium customization option for schools, the Learning Registry items will be available through the platform's free service for individual educators.
Meanwhile, Duncan announced the handover to Microsoft of the TEACH campaign, the federal government's online teaching advocacy and recruitment initiative, at the software company's Partners in Learning Global Forum Tuesday in the nation's capital.
The handover will eventually involve a transfer of the initiative's website from a government to a non-profit Web domain, as well as efforts from Microsoft to bring in other private partners.
Microsoft has been particularly visible as a private partner in a range of digital education efforts as of late, including its participation in the Federal Communications Commission's "Connect to Compete" program, as well as launching programs to offer discounted hardware and software to educators and digital literacy training to the public.
Meanwhile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropy led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, has also pumped significant money into ed-tech causes during the last year or so, most notably with the creation of the Next Generation Learning Challenges grant competition program. The Gates Foundation also contributes to Editorial Projects in Education, the non-profit publisher of Education Week.