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Published: Saturday, 1/30/2010

Digital research

It took a while for Congress to realize that if American workers are to compete in the global marketplace, focused, sustained research funding of technology learning is critical. But better late than never.

A major new research center is expected to do for technology in education what other government-funded organizations have done in such areas as science, health, and national defense.

Supporters say the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies will be the educational equivalent of the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. It will look beyond today's needs and requirements in digital technologies and explore opportunities for advanced learning in the rapidly changing field of information gathering.

What that means, especially for students who were born into a digital world, is a better chance to stay ahead of the technological curve through government investment, not only in emerging technology, but also in ways to make learning about it more compelling and productive. The new national research program is the brainchild of Lawrence Grossman, a former president of both NBC News and PBS, and Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

After more than a decade of fitful starts and stops, the research center, authorized by Congress in 2008, finally has $500,000 in federal appropriations to get started, with additional support to be solicited from private funds. Mr. Minow said he's confident growth will follow a few successful projects.

The center could be handing out grants to further advanced technology in education by fall. What's important, longtime proponents of the nonprofit initiative stress, is that Americans constantly upgrade their skills to keep pace with the digital age and that students have the tools they need to excel in the 21st century.

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