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Task Force FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Aspen Task Force on Learning and the Internet?

The Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet, with support and guidance from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is a group of 20 innovative and respected minds in technology, public policy, education, business, privacy and safety. The Task Force members came together over the course of a year to discuss both differences and commonalities in their perspectives on how to improve educational opportunity for our county’s youth.  

Who is on the Aspen Task Force?

Jeb Bush, Rosario Dawson

John Bailey, Maria Teresa Kumar

Meredith Baker, Catherine Casserly, Anne Collier, Wanda Cook-Robinson, Anil Dash, Felton Thomas, Jr., Julius Genachowski, Marne Levine, Brendon Lynch, Alice Markwick, Betsy Masiello, Bruce Mehlman, Delia Pompa, John Seely Brown, Mark Surman, Deborah Taylor Tate      

Why was the Task Force created?

The Task Force came together to develop a bold, cross-sector, cross-partisan report that calls for rethinking learning systems that are currently too bound by time, place, and old ways of doing business. Members recognize that we have entered an era of continual change, and our approaches to learning should reflect that.

The Task Force’s goal was to understand the ways in which young people learn today and to optimize learning and innovation within a trusted environment. From there, the Task Force sought to define how parents, teachers, young learners, businesses and nonprofits can expand new learning opportunities, online and off-line and inside and outside the classroom.

What was the process for developing the report?

The report was formed through a year of deliberations. Task Force members held four in-person meetings on the East and West Coasts. These meetings framed the topics for discussion, identified areas of expertise among Task Force members, and gave members the time to tackle important and difficult issues.

The Task Force also engaged the public, recognizing the value of many different voices around this topic. They had an extensive social media campaign, shared an online library of close to 90 reports related to learning and the Internet, and conducted outreach calls with nearly 60 other leaders in education, privacy and safety. Outreach included conversations with education and youth groups, civil rights groups, businesses, think tanks, foundations, technology-related groups, digital media and learning groups, Congressional committee offices, government administration offices, and – critically – students, parents and educators themselves.

What is the vision behind the report?

The Task Force believes that a new vision of learning is emerging that enables everyone to participate, to learn in their own style and to collaborate with others. To realize this vision, they recognize that we have to advance policies and practices that foster learning networks, equity of access, interoperability, digital literacy, and learner safety, privacy and trust.

The report makes the bold recommendation of shifting from a focus on one institution, the school, to a focus on the learner and all the places where he or she can advance academically and pursue his or her interests. Schools are one important node in a network that also includes libraries, museums, after-school institutions and the home. The Task Force believes our modern world is constantly becoming more networked, and learning should as well. 

Following the President’s report on “Big Data and Privacy,” this report goes deeper by calling for the creation of trusted environments that better balance privacy and learning. It recommends addressing the need for innovation and the need for safety simultaneously so students can receive the attention and tools they need to succeed.

What are the next steps for the report?

The report’s recommendations are based on five essential principles established by the Task Force:
1.    Learners need to be at the center of new learning networks.
2.    Every student should have access to new learning networks.
3.    Learning networks need to be interoperable.
4.    Learners should have the digital age literacies necessary to utilize media and be safe in our “always on” world.
5.    Students should have safe and trusted environments for learning.

Task Force members came up with 26 specific action steps under each of these pillars that government, parents, educators, school and district leaders, students, foundations, non-profits and/or businesses can take to achieve these new, student-centered networks for learning. Not all of the action steps can be achieved immediately or by one stakeholder, but they can help guide multiple stakeholders in positive direction of change. Already, Task Force members have turned to their communities to brainstorm creative ways to implement these action steps and keep the momentum of their vision growing.