Education Technology Research and Development Funding in the United States

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Education Technology Research and Development Funding in the United States

Adam Sobieski

Greetings. There is an upcoming digital publishing workshop ( and, for many reasons, digital books and textbooks are of interest to scientists and technologists including here at the W3C. An important topic is the funding of education technology R&D in the United States. According to the Department of Education, "because of limited R&D investment, the benefits of the IT revolution have largely passed education by" (

There are numerous policy-related discussion topics pertinent to advancing digital publishing, digital books and textbooks. Policy-related discussion topics pertinent to funding are pertinent to implementers, scientists, technologists, grant-recipients, recipients of public monies, tax dollars, for the research, development, and delivery of results. Policy-related topics include how the United States should structure the use of public monies, tax dollars, to fund education technology R&D initiatives and such topics are interesting to American scientists and technologists, implementers, including at the W3C, with regard to digital publishing, digital books, digital textbooks, as education and technology increasingly overlap. Scientists and technologists can consider and formulate policy proposals.

On the topic of United States education technology policy, we can discuss the past policy topics of the Department of Education (, its ARPA-ED program (, and a quasi-government Congressionally-funded organization, Digital Promise (

According to the Department of Education, "education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States" ( "In 1979, President Carter advocated for creating a cabinet-level Department of Education. Carter's plan was to transfer most of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's education-related functions to the Department of Education. Carter also planned to transfer the education-related functions of the departments of Defense, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, as well as a few other federal entities" (

The Digital Promise initiative was first proposed in a 2004 report to the 109th Congress. Four years later, the 110th Congress, meeting between January 3, 2007 and January 3, 2009, enacted, on August 14th of 2008, Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The Digital Promise organization, while Congressionally funded, is not transparent nor answerable to the public, for example with regard to FOIA requests. There are also concerns about the involvement of the CIA.

On the frequently asked questions portion of the Digital Promise website (, on the topic of the relationship between Digital Promise and ARPA-ED, it is described that "to address the under-investment in learning technology R&D, the President’s FY2012 budget proposes to invest $90 million to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED). ARPA-ED will aggressively pursue technological breakthroughs that have the potential to transform teaching and learning. If ARPA-ED is fully funded, Digital Promise is poised to support it, and serve as a partner on joint R&D initiatives."

When ARPA-ED was not funded in 2011 for the 2012 fiscal year, the administration participated in a ceremonial relaunching of the Digital Promise 501(c)(3). It seems that the ARPA-ED matter was not related to budget, but to policy.

When considering government and quasi-government organizations (, and funding, some view government organizations to be a more appropriate holder, utilizer of, and R&D funding structure with public monies, tax dollars, with there being necessary, appropriate and responsible laws including about accountability and the utilization of public monies. Some scientists and technologists opine that the Department of Education, ARPA-ED, would be more appropriate for the utilization of public monies, tax dollars, for funding education technology R&D than a Congressionally-funded, quasi-government organization such as Digital Promise. The Department of Education is described by law, transparent, and accountable to the American people.

In addition to the funding options for educational technology research and development of the Department of Education and the Congressionally-funded quasi-government Digital Promise organization, there exist other funding options as well, and other models to consider when formulating policy proposals. Some other organizations include the National Science Foundation ( and the Council of Chief State School Officers (

Another policy-related topic was the discussion of an app store model for digital textbook sales to schoolboards. Civil discourse has indicated other proposals including technologies for state and local schoolboards to each review each digital textbook from an arbitrarily large set of digital textbooks. Digital textbook selection processes are topical.

Scientists and technologists can consider the best policies to achieve goals, nationwide goals have been indicated for the 2015 - 2016 schoolyear; digital textbooks are to be in United States classrooms by that schoolyear. There are important policy topics to consider and to discuss with regard to the use of public monies, tax dollars, and the funding of education technology research and development excellence en route to and after achieving the 2015 - 2016 goals.

Kind regards,

Adam Sobieski