Tapping the Power of Technology to Teach Children Around the World

Tomorrow, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will join its Australian counterpart, AusAID, World Vision U.S., and World Vision Australia to launch All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development.  This $20 million initiative will focus global attention on finding ground-breaking, scalable innovations that improve early grade reading outcomes for all children in poor countries during the first three years of primary education.

Fifteen years ago, anyone who used e-mail, logged on to the Internet daily, and carried a cell phone was on the cutting edge of technology.  Since that time, technology has dramatically transformed the way we communicate, socialize, and conduct business.  As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has pointed out, the last 15 years have not produced a similar transformation in the way teachers teach and children learn.  Schools are adapting technology for use in their classrooms, but we have barely begun to tap the power of technology to personalize and accelerate progress.

President Obama has called for “investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, and educational software that’s as compelling as the best video game.”  Learning technologies hold great promise for improving lives not only domestically, but internationally as well.  171,000,000 people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills.  This would be the equivalent of a 12 percent cut in global poverty.

Through a competitive selection process, the All Children Reading Fund will provide catalytic seed grant funding to successful applicants to undertake their activities, supporting pioneering thinking that offers sustainable and scalable solutions for early grade reading. 

All Children Reading is the second initiative under USAID’s grand challenges program, which aims to focus global attention on specific development outcomes based on transformational, scalable, and sustainable change.  It is also the latest in a series of innovative projects the Administration has launched to harness the power of technology to enhance educational outcomes.  In September, Secretary Duncan launched a new national center created by Congress with bipartisan support to advance technologies that can transform teaching and learning.  This center, known as Digital Promise, is working with leading educators, researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs to identify breakthrough technologies, learn faster what is working and what is not, and transform the market for learning technologies.  And last week, the Departments of Education and Defense launched the Learning Registry Project to provide educators, learners, innovators, and the general public with access to learning resources from across a variety of platforms—websites, community portals, and other repositories of digital learning resources.

The launch of All Children Reading will take place this Friday, November 18 at 10:00 a.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building Amphitheater on 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. To attend, please RSVP to USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov. You can also watch it via live stream here.

Quentin Palfrey is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer

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