page image



There are a number of ways these action steps can be implemented. Many start with funding, of course, and we recommend that federal, state and local governments all take steps to fund pilots, experimentation and eventually full implementation of the steps called for in this report. Many of these recommendations can be embedded in existing funding streams that already support schools, libraries and nonprofits. We also call on philanthropies and businesses to mobilize support, funding and action around these action steps. With regard to the latter, businesses can not only fund through their corporate giving and employee assistance but also engage innovatively, such as by making their Wi-Fi hotspots available to students in their communities, building new privacy tools into their services and making their products interoperable with others. School districts can also collaborate in new partnerships that will take advantage of the experience and knowledge of other school districts, public agencies or private businesses.

The Task Force has also called for innovative ways of bringing its recommendations to fruition. One approach it finds particularly useful is the prize competition that is spelled out in Action L above. We urge funders to sponsor such prizes in response to other Action recommendations as well.

Policy makers will need to take bold steps to bring to fruition the vision of the United States as a country of learners. It is our tradition, as is innovation in new technologies. Now the confluence of the two is posing a challenge to America’s education system. There may be risks involved in moving forward in a bold way, and there will no doubt be strong differences of opinion. But the opportunity is too significant for our country’s legislators, regulators or officials not to move with a sense of urgency in this area for the benefit of all learners, now and for future generations.

Most importantly, it will be on the shoulders of each parent, each teacher and each student to undertake the hard work of moving forward with a leap into the future.


Digital disruption has brought radical changes to many businesses and institutions. The networked society offers many opportunities for individuals to realize their potential, embark on a path of lifelong learning and become more-qualified workers and citizens. The United States must find ways to take advantage of these opportunities for the good of the country and its citizens.

The vision outlined in this report and the action steps included in it represent the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet’s ideas about how the United States can move forward. With the touchstone of putting the learner/student at the center of learning networks, it provides four additional pillars for action: access, interoperability, literacy and trust. The action steps throughout the document complement one another. While individual steps are important to achieving the vision, their efficacy increases if adopted as a unified whole. Businesses, as well as governments, educators, parents and other stakeholders, need to step forward and answer this call for action.

As we see it, all citizens and stakeholders have a role to play in carrying out these recommendations. The Task Force urges all affected parties—parents, educators, policy makers, businesspeople, academics, concerned citizens, students—to determine what part they can play to make the potential of learning networks a reality. What action steps can they take, devise resolutions for, join, fund or encourage? For the sake of all young people, and for the future of the United States, these steps are urgent. Please join us at


  1. A. Pendleton-Jullian, Design Education and Innovation Ecotones, 2009. pp. 7-8,
  2. Marina Gorbis, “The Future Of Education Eliminates the Classroom, Because the World Is Your Class,” Fast Company Futurist Forum, March 4, 2013, For the Institute for the Future’s view of the evolution of education, see
  3. Jamie McGee, “Students Enhance Learning with Betty's Brain Software, The Tennessean, February 21, 2014,
  4. KnowledgeWorks Foundation, Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem, 2013,
  5. Jeanne Bernish, “Catch a Glimpse into the Future of Learning,” KnowledgeWorks, July 16, 2013,
  6. For a report on the experience of YouMedia in Chicago, see Kiley Larsen et al., Safe Space and Shared Interest: YOUmedia Chicago as a Laboratory for Connected Learning, 2013,
  7. For a definition of connected learning, see
  8. Mizuko Ito et al., Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design (Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, 2013),
  9. Paul Fain, “A Disruption Grows Up,” Inside Higher Ed (October 1, 2012),
  10. Paul Fain, “Competent at What?” Inside Higher Ed (December 12, 2013),
  11. Mozilla Open Badges,
  12. John Bailey et al., Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles (Digital Learning Now, 2012),
  13. George Anders, “Declara CEO Ramona Pierson Goes Where Others Don't Dare,” Forbes, December 27, 2013,
  14. Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith, “Home Broadband 2013,” Pew Research Center, August 26, 2013,
  15. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Teachers' Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools, 2009, .
  16. National Center for Educational Statistics, Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: Fall 2008, , 2010,
  17. Christine Fox et al., The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K-12 Education Infrastructure Needs (State Educational Directors Association, 2013),
  18. Erica Pastore and Everett Henderson, “Libraries Use Broadband Internet Service to Serve High Need Communities,” Data Note, no.1(Mar., 2009),
  19. “More than half of young adults and seniors living in poverty in the United States used
    public libraries to access the internet, find work, apply to college, secure government benefits,
    and learn about critical medical treatments,” American Library Association, The State of America’s Libraries: A Report of the American Library Association, 2014,” special issue, American Libraries Magazine (2014): 17,
  20. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “President Obama Unveils ConnectED Initiative to Bring America’s Students into Digital Age,” news release, June 6, 2013,
  21. Federal Communications Commission, “FCC Launches Update of E-Rate for Broadband in Schools and Libraries,” news release, July 19, 2013,
  22. LEAD Commission, “Paving a Path Forward for Digital Learning in the United States,” n.d.,
  23. Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith, “Home Broadband 2013” (Pew Internet and American Life Project, August 26, 2013),
  24. See, for example, Brian Peteritas, “Wi-Fi Turns School Buses into Study Halls,” Governing, August 28, 2012,
  25. Jeff Baumgartner, “Comcast's ‘Internet Essentials’ Passes 1 Million Mark,” Multichannel News, October 29, 2013,
  26. “Flipping Instruction On Its Head,” Classroom Chronicles, October 30, 2013,
  27. Alan Schwartz, “Mooresville’s Shining Example (It’s Not Just About the Laptops),” New York Times, February 12, 2012,
  28. Tom Vander Ark, “You’re Already BYOT but You Won’t Admit It,” Getting Smart, July 9, 2011,
  29. Daniel B. Wood, “An iPad for Every Student? What Los Angeles School District Is Thinking,” Christian Science Monitor, August 28, 2013,
  30. Megan O'Neil, “College Registrar Creates the ‘Yelp’ of Higher-Education Software,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 13, 2014,
  31. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Laws Relating to Filtering, Blocking and Usage Policies in Schools and Libraries, State Filtering/Blocking Laws,” January 9, 2014,
  32. U.S. Department of Education, “Balancing Connectivity and Student Safety on the Internet,” n.d.,
  33. Gary Marcus, “DARPA’s Robot Challenge,” New Yorker, June 27, 2013,
  34. Netflix Prize,
  35. Curry Ingram Academy, “The Learning Commons; a Glorified Library? Part Two,” November 30, 2012,
  36. Learning Resources Metadata Initiative,
  37. Common Core State Standards,
  38. Clay Shirky's 2009 talk at the U.S. State Department, where he said "we're witnessing "the largest increase in expressive capability in human history,” references this multi-dimensionality:
  39. CASEL, “What Is Social-Emotional Learning?,”
  40. Internet Safety Technical Task Force, Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies: Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, January 2009,
  41. In cases or instances in which there are abnormal or serious emotional problems or even the potential “threat of harm to self or others,” parents and teachers need to reach out to mental/behavioral health experts especially those already working in educational/school and afterschool settings; teachers and parents need to be able to access assistance from professional who likewise are trained in these issues. Coaching4Teens offers personal coaching for high school students in the Nashville area. It started as a way to help business executives successfully manager their personal lives while balancing the demands involved in leading large organizations. Now coaching is available for teenagers who want to achieve success and balance, gain confidence, prioritize goals, sharpen decision-making skills and improve relationships. Available at
  42. Online Safety and Technology Working Group, Youth Safety on a Living Internet: Report of the Online Safety & Technology Working Group, 2010,  See also Patricia Agatston’s testimony at the Fall 2009 meeting of the OSTWG.
  43. Lisa Jones, Kimberly Mitchell and Wendy Walsh, Evaluation of Internet Child Safety Materials Used by ICAC Task Forces in School and Community Settings, 2012,
  44. “Case Study: DIG/IT and the NYC Department of Education—Badge-empowered Digital Literacy Game Prepares NYC Students for the Real World,” Learning Times, n.d.,
  45. Jennifer Justus, “Pearl-Cohn Is Nashville's School of Rock,” Nashville Lifestyles, n.d.,
  46. The Google Safety Center features safety tools, resources from Google and our expert partners to help families—and all users—safely navigate the web. Google also offers a free, interactive Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum for teachers and the Online Safety Roadshow, a digital citizenship assembly for middle school students that shares tips and tricks for being safe and smart online. Available at Google Safety Center,
  47. Mozilla offers a Web Literacies White Paper and website where they discuss the skills, competencies and literacies needed to not only consume but also help make the web. Available at Mozilla Web Literacy,
  48. Microsoft offers an online library of digital literacy resources that includes a basic curriculum that provides an introduction to computers; a standard curriculum (available in 30 languages) that adds modules on the Internet, digital lifestyles and security. It also offers an advanced curriculum that focuses on the use of digital information along with support materials for instructors. Available at Microsoft Digital Literacy,
  49. Michael Robb Grieco and Renee Hobbs, A Field Guide to Media Literacy Education in the United States, Working Paper, Media Education Lab, University of Rhode Island, July 2013,
  50. Common Core State Standards Initiative, “English Language Arts Standards Introduction Key Design Consideration,” n.d.,
  51. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Managing Media: We Need a Plan,” October 18, 2013,
  52. Anne Collier, “Challenging ‘Internet Safety’ as a Subject to Be Taught,” September 4, 2013,
  53. National Council is a group that works on behavioral health and believes in “healthy minds, strong communities”—their statement of purpose. “Coaching for Teens” at, as well as, provide counselors with skills necessary for digital age.
  54. For a summary of state laws related to online privacy, see One example is California’s new legislation, the Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World Act, which permits minors to request removal of information of content they placed online.
  55. See, for example, Andrea M. Matwyshyn, “Of Teenagers and ‘Tweenagers’: Professor Allen's Critique of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in Historical Perspective,” APA Newsletters, 13 no. 1 (2013) 7.
  56. at p. 64.
Title Goes Here
Close [X]