Obama announces software gifts at White House student film festival

WASHINGTON -- Surrounded by budding filmmakers, President Obama on Friday announced $400 million in donations from two software companies as part of his effort to upgrade technology in schools.

Adobe, maker of video-editing and other digital-imaging programs, will donate $300 million worth of software to schools, Obama said, while Prezi, which makes software used in presentations, will contribute $100 million in licenses. The commitments will bolster Obama’s effort to improve technology in schools by connecting 99% of students to high-speed broadband and wireless technology within five years, the White House said.

“Every child in America deserves a world-class education, especially in science and technology, engineering and math, because it's skills like these that made us an economic superpower and built our middle class,” the president said. “We also need folks who are studying the arts, because our film industry is a huge generator of jobs and economic power here in the United States. And it tells us our story and helps us to find what's our common humanity.”

Obama made the announcement at the first White House student film festival, which featured short videos about how technology can be used in the classroom. The competition for kindergartners through 12th-graders culled from among 2,000 submissions to award 16 “official selections.” The winning films included “Beyond the Crossfire,” a video made by three teens from Chula Vista, Calif., about their work on a longer documentary on preventing violence in schools.

“The Academy Awards are not until Sunday, but as you can see we've brought the Oscars to the White House a little bit early,” Obama said.

The pledges to the ConnectEd initiative added to the $700 billion in commitments Obama announced earlier this month. The president has vowed to solicit the private sector for help this year, since he’s struggled to bring Congress on board with much of his legislative agenda.

Still, the core of the ConnectEd plan depends largely on federal money -- fees on phone users imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has said it will double, to $2 billion, revenue from the fees that pay for the expansion of broadband Internet access in schools.

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