In a Wall Street Journal Op Ed this morning, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced a new “unique public-private partnership called Digital Promise.” Digital Promise, Duncan and Reed write, is meant “to advance breakthrough technologies that transform teaching and learning in and out of the classroom, while creating a business environment that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Digital Promise encourages a market-oriented approach to technology-based learning by mixing public money and private leadership. The ultimate goal of the partnership is to provide a “more efficient market for education technology.” Secretary Duncan notes that Digital Promise is modeled after successful companies like Netflix, which use “low-cost experimentation” to improve outputs. By using this approach, Digital Promise hopes to identify those educational technology tools which help students, and abandon those which do not.
Organizations like Digital Promise and the Susan Crown Exchange help refocus the debate over 21st Century learning. The question America’s educators should be asking is no longer whether computers should play a role in education; for better or worse, that question was long ago answered. Rather, Digital Promise focuses on finding ways to make the most efficient use of what has become an ubiquitous part of the American classroom. The Harlan Institute seeks to accomplish this same goal by using new technology to connect students with timeless constitutional lessons.