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March 1, 2014

White House to host first student film festival

More than 2,000 students submitted short videos about education.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days before attention shifts to the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, the White House is trying to create a little buzz for America’s future filmmakers.

At a film festival Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama will recognize the best of nearly 2,500 films — 16 to be exact — that were submitted by K-12 students after the White House put out the call for short videos on the role technology plays in their education. It’s one of the president’s favorite subjects.

Obama recently set a goal of wiring virtually every classroom with high-speed Internet by sometime in 2018.

Last month, he announced $750 million in commitments from U.S. companies to help move the project along, including $100 million in iPads, computers and other tools from Apple, $100 million in cash and in-kind contributions from Verizon, and discounted Windows software from Microsoft.

The Federal Communications Commission also pledged $2 billion to connect 20 million students in 15,000 schools over the next two years.

At the White House on Friday, Obama was announcing an additional $400 million in private-sector pledges for the ConnectEd initiative, bringing to more than $1 billion the total value of cash and goods committed to the project. Adobe is donating $300 million worth of its software products to teachers and students. The Hungarian software company Prezi is providing $100 million worth of its products.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools,” Obama said last month at a Maryland school where students are assigned iPads for use in class and at home. He even borrowed a student’s tablet to make a short film of his own.

Obama says the average school has the same Internet speed as the average home but serves 200 times as many people. He laments that just 30 percent of U.S. students have true high-speed Internet in their classrooms, compared with 100 percent of South Korean students.

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