Perdue returns to the limelight to announce education tech

On Wednesday, former North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue briefly returned to the public stage after a year away to announce an initiative to expand the scope and value of electronic technology for students of all ages.

The effort will bring together teachers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and students to develop the most effective online and portable learning tools, as envisioned by Perdue, the founder and chairwoman of the Digital Learning Institute (DigiLEARN). The idea, according to Perdue, is to determine how technology can best be used and then encourage companies to develop it for use in all classrooms. She believes such digital innovation can lead to job creation.

DigiLEARN “will help build a pathway so that we can scale digital learning all over the world,” Perdue said during a news conference as the Institute held a strategic planning meeting on the campus of North Carolina State University.

In 2008, Perdue, a Democrat from New Bern, was elected North Carolina’s first female governor. She left office in January 2013 after choosing not to seek re-election. Since then, Perdue has spent time at Harvard and Duke Universities and started a consulting firm. The Institute is getting off the ground thanks to grants from the Carnegie Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The next steps, says Perdue, are to flesh out the nonprofit foundation’s work and raise additional funds.

“This is a primary job for me because I want to see it succeed,” Perdue said.

Perdue did not want to comment on current Governor Pat McCrory, except to say that she praises McCrory for her stance on teacher pay increases. Perdue also said that McCrory and legislative leaders support digital learning efforts.

As governor, Perdue, a former public school teacher herself, was involved in digital learning expansion. She helped in the creation of the North Carolina Virtual Public School, and she also promoted the use of hand-held devices for teachers to assess students.

Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer was also present at the news conference. Geringer believes young learners are engaged by technology found in smartphones and tablets.

“If you can make that work in a classroom you’ve got the opportunity for ‘discovery learning’ that every child gets very excited about,” he said.