Wednesday at a White House summit on technology in the classroom, President Obama, speaking to more than 100 school superintendents, launched a new effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning with the Future Ready Digital Pledge.
The Future Ready Digital Pledge is part of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content. ConnectED also seeks to connect 99 percent of America’s students with high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. Well, thank you, Alberto, for that introduction and, more importantly, for your outstanding leadership of the Miami-Dade public schools. I thank all of you for joining us. We are here to take another step toward making sure that all of our kids get the education that they need in the 21st century.
And it’s great to welcome so many committed educators to the White House. If you need, by the way, a note to excuse your absence — (laughter) — let me know. (Laughter.) You’re all kind playing hooky today. (Laughter.)
We’ve got superintendents here from more than 100 school districts — as close as just across the river in Arlington, to across the continent in Alaska. And we are joining a lot of folks over the Internet, as well. In a few minutes, all of you are going to sign a pledge to make sure that your districts are doing what it takes to be ready for the future. And we’ve also got some people here who share your commitment to education, including members of Congress and our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Where is Arne Duncan? Where is he? He’s gone! (Laughter.) He’s playing hooky, too! (Laughter.) No, I’m sure he’s got some very important thing — (laughter.) Poor Arne, he’s being called out right now. (Laughter.)
Look, as President, every decision I make is aimed at one goal, and that is to restore opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard in our society. Six years after the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, our businesses have added over 10.6 million new jobs during the course of 56 months. For the first time in more than six years, the unemployment rate is below 6 percent. And we’ve made gains in education, thanks to the hard work of school leaders like you. Dropout rates are down. The graduation rate is the highest on record. More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.
But in a 21st century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge — and the capacity to learn new knowledge — we’ve got to do more to offer our children a world-class education. We’ve got to make high-quality pre-K available to every child, so that they get the benefit of early enrichment and they come to school prepared. We have to encourage more young people — especially young women and minority students — to study in the fields of the future, like math, technology, engineering, science. We need to keep working to redesign our high schools to offer more hands-on learning opportunities that can lead directly to jobs and careers — and can engage students in different ways based on their interests and their learning styles.
We need teachers who know how to make learning come alive, with personalized instruction and project-based learning. And we’ve got to do more to make sure that our teachers are supported and receive the kind of professional training and best practices — and I personally think higher pay — that’s going to encourage the best and the brightest continue to be in the field. We’ve got to make sure that no striving young person is priced out of a college education.
These are all critical ingredients to our effort at continuous improvement in education. And one of the things that we also need to do is to yank our schools into the 21st century when it comes to technology, and providing the tools and training that teachers need to use that technology to prepare all of our students for the competition that they’re going to face globally.
Other countries are doing this. They are trying to out-educate us today so that they can out-compete us tomorrow. South Korea is replacing all of its textbooks with digital content, and training all of its teachers to use technology in the classroom. Singapore is equipping every school with broadband that’s over 40 times faster than the connection in the average American home. So we’re going to have to step up our game if we’re going to make sure that every child in America can go as far as their dreams and talents will take them.
And that’s why, last year, I launched an initiative called ConnectED — it’s a five-year plan to close the technology gap in our schools and connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet.