Back in March of this year, President Obama discussed several programs in his 2012 proposed budget with the intent to promote innovative programs for “winning the future” through education. Included in the 2012 budget proposal was $90 million to fund a new competition called the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED). Modeled on DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA-ED would have funded both public and private research within higher education as well as industry, and projects could have ranged from widely diverse areas such as game-based learning to personal digital tutors.
The competition would be open to industry, universities, or consortia of other innovative outside organizations and winners would be selected based on their potential to create a dramatic breakthrough in using technology to empower learning and teaching.
As it turns out, funding for ARPA-ED was not included in the $1 trillion omnibus spending measure that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The idea itself was promising, but funding new initiatives is always problematic in this tighter budgetary climate. Perhaps this is something the private sector could take up on its own. The question is, how much merit does the idea actually have?