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Ambitious Five-Point Tech Plan Outlined by National Ed. Leaders

A commission made up of prominent education leaders has released a five-point plan to help facilitate the growth of digital learning across the United States with a goal of putting digital devices into the hands of all students by 2020.

The Leading Education by Advancing Digital, or LEAD, commission is co-chaired by Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University; Jim Coulter, the co-founder of TPG Capital; Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education; and Jim Steyer, the chief executive officer of Common Sense Media. The commission was formed in March of 2012 to develop a plan to accelerate digital learning in the nation's public schools.

The release of the commission's five-point plan comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's push last week for an overhaul of the federal E-rate program.

The commission's recommendations are as follows:

1. Update the wiring of schools to support high-speed Internet with sufficient bandwidth to support 21st-century learning. To do this, the plan calls for a modernization of the federal E-rate program—something the Obama administration pushed forward last week.

2. Put digital devices in the hands of all students by 2020. To do this, the plan suggests starting with middle schools, leveraging purchasing power, calling on device manufacturers to make the devices more affordable for families, and working with state education leaders to shift from print to digital resources.

3. Accelerate the adoption of digital curricula. The commission recommends revisiting and updating multi-year adoption and purchasing processes based on textbook models, creating independent certification programs that can identify high-quality digital curricula and content, and investing more money in the K-12 marketplace to develop curricula products and foster competition.

4. Invest in technology-rich schools of innovation to serve as models for the broader swath of public schools.

5. Provide teachers with the training and support they need to implement technology effectively in their classrooms. The commission recommends using federal dollars set aside for teacher training to create a cohort of "master teachers," who could then pass their knowledge on to other teachers in their schools.

The commission claims that even five years ago this plan would be too expensive to accomplish, but with the price of technology dropping and new technological advances, such as wireless Internet, becoming more common, these are now feasible goals for the nation's schools.

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