President Calls for Ed Tech Investment in Strategy Update

The Obama administration is renewing calls for further investment in education technology.

In the administration's new Strategy for American Innovation, published Wednesday, the President singled out education technology as one of the critical areas that will be key for ensuring "that the United States remains an innovation superpower."

Notably, the paper spotlights the "modest impact" technology has had so far on student outcomes compared with the "transformative" impact technology has had in most other aspects of Americans' lives.

Whereas in other sectors, research and development expenditures are as high as 20 percent of revenues, in education that figure is less than 0.2 percent, the paper asserted. Part of that has to do with the nature of the market for educational tools, with "with over 13,500 school districts, lengthy adoption cycles, and modest per-pupil expenditures on software." And that "limits the willingness of companies to invest in R&D and rigorous evaluation for educational software and next generation learning environments."

One of the solutions proposed in the strategy paper is increasing R&D in educational software, for which the President proposed once again the creation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency specifically for education (ARPA-ED), with $50 million in funding for "high-risk high-return research," similar to the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). (ARPA-ED has been proposed previously by the administration. You can read more about it in a 2011 White House document here.)

"With growing access to broadband, cloud computing, digital devices, and software, the technological conditions are ripe for the development of advanced educational technologies that can transform teaching and learning," the paper noted. "In just the past five years, DARPA has showed that Navy IT students trained with a DARPA-developed digital tutor can outperform 98 percent of the students trained with a traditional instructor. Substantial increases in America's investment in advanced learning technologies are needed to create more such success."

The paper also called for the creation of more "demand-pull" mechanisms in education. That means, essentially, that with $1.3 trillion in buying power, the K-12 education sector should function as a powerful mainspring for driving innovation and technological breakthroughs that will impact learning, though in order to make this happen, district procurement mechanisms will need to be reformed.

The complete policy statement is online at whitehouse.gov. A fact sheet is also available.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).