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Home> Discovery Education Of The People Virtual Field Trip | A Conversation with President Obama

Of the People: A Conversation
with President Obama

Join President Obama in this live discussion with students about his favorite books, how books have influenced his life, and the importance of technology in classrooms and libraries.

Archive: Virtual Field Trip on Thursday, April 30, 2015

This discussion builds on the ConnectEd initiative launched by President Obama in June 2013 to ensure all students have access to the best technology in schools and libraries and learning experiences that prepare them for college and career.

Live from the Anacostia Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C.
Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Time: 10:40 to 11:20 AM EDT

Student Host

Osman Yahya
Bennett Middle School
Salisbury, MD

Student Participants from Washington, D.C.
Kramer Middle School
Brightwood Education Campus

About the Of the People Event Series

Broadcast live, Of the People takes students to Washington D.C. for a behind-the-scenes look at the people, places, and issues that shape and inform our world. This Virtual Field Trip series transports young learners beyond the walls of their classrooms to inquire, explore, and discover the world around them.

Your Online Questions Answered!

More than 650,000 students watched the President on April 30 and nearly 5,700 questions were submitted online. Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council answered some of your questions.

Question: What advice do you have for students who are struggling readers or who just don't like reading? — Melissa, William Thomas Middle School in ID

Answer: One way to get students who don’t like reading interested in books is to link reading to an activity, hobby, or topic that they already enjoy. Finding books on topics that relate directly to things they like can help spark their interest. Librarians are great at this! Matching readers (even reluctant ones) to books is what they do best. Encouraging students to explore different genres of books may also help them discover that they enjoy reading biographies on interesting historical figures, mystery novels, or short stories. This strategy, when combined with support to find material suitable to a student’s reading level, can also help struggling readers become more engaged and motivated to read.

Question: In your opinion, are public libraries still relevant? — Bethany, South Magoffin ES, KY

Answer: Libraries are anchors of learning in their communities. They are often the only public buildings open to everyone, no matter their age. They help young children looking for their first books, students in need of a study space or internet access after school, and adults who are pursuing new skills or applying for jobs. More and more, libraries are places that connect users with new technology, like maker spaces, multimedia authoring labs and gigabit connectivity. Librarians can also help youth find information about careers and help them to think about their future. Visits to libraries have actually increased by 20 percent over the past decade, and with their increased presence on the Internet, public libraries are also able to provide access to materials and resources no matter where their users are located.

Question: We were wondering if you think that electronic books will eventually replace all paperback books, and if so, do you think this will benefit our comprehension of literature? — Ms. Stuart’s Class, Nova Dwight D. Einsenhower ES, FL

Answer: While paperback books will never disappear, electronic books will continue to become more prevalent in our lives as the number of personal electronic devices proliferate. At the same time, I believe there will always be demand for hard-copy books and magazines. The e-book commitments from publishers provide an opportunity to promote a love of reading among millions of children and young adults at scale by combining e-books with ConnectED-supported technology and connectivity so that every reader can find literature in the format they like best.

Question: How will our country provide literacy opportunities to communities, like mine, that suffer from economic crisis and have over 90% of our student population qualify for free and reduced lunch? Our school has no library, and works hard writing grants to get technology up to date for us. What will the government do to make it fair for us? — Luc, Marquette Alternative HS, MI

Answer: Two years ago, the President launched the ConnectED initiative to ensure that communities like yours are connected to the internet and able to benefit from all of the resources accessible online. By 2018, the federal government will connect 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband in their classrooms and libraries. Every State library and yours, in particular, provides services to people in communities just like yours. Meanwhile, the private sector, libraries, and school leaders are taking up the charge with new initiatives and billions of dollars’ worth of software and hardware donations. You can learn more at

Question: I love to read and I love history. Our school is small yet we have great test scores and lots of parent support. How can an inner city school get a digital library to have more books without it costing a lot of money? — Jamaal, Princeton Alternative ES, AL

Answer: Last Thursday, the President announced that low-income students will have access to over $250 million worth of free digital books from leading publishers. We’re really excited that those books will go ‘live’ on an app in the coming months. More information can be found here.

Question: Books are very important to a child's education. Is there a way we can get more books to children across the U.S.? — Taylor, McCamey MS, TX

Answer: In addition to your public library, there are several great non-profits, like ConnectED partner First Book, that work to get books into the hands of kids across the country.

Question: Why should I read at home when we read at school all day? — Mr. Carlson’s Class, Unalakleet Schools, Alaska

Answer: Learning for pleasure is the best way to become a stronger reader and to learn about the world. Books allow you to travel to faraway places and to learn about important people. And the best part about reading for pleasure is that you can spend all of your time reading your favorite books. I, for one, loved reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engel when I was in school.

Question: In your opinion, with the rate of increasing technology in schools, will libraries still be available or will the computers/iPad take the place and make actual books extinct? Or will books be available only online for entertainment or educational use? — Ashley, Hoover School, MI

Answer: Libraries are more than just buildings filled with books – they are also centers of reading, learning, and community. In fact, even with all the information available online, libraries are busier than ever. Public library programs have increased 54% over the past 10 years. People go to their local library, for example, for computer training and homework help. Over time, your local library may allocate less space to large stacks of physical books, but there will still be knowledgeable staff on-hand to help you navigate the digital space and pursue your interests.

Question: What ways would you suggest we can incorporate technology at home for students who don't have computers and tablets or even internet? — Jane, Seatack Elementary School, VA

Answer: That’s something the President’s ConnectED initiative is helping address – and companies have made commitments to provide tablets, for free, to students in low-income schools, and students have the opportunity to bring them home to do their schoolwork, read e-books and independently research their favorite subjects on sites like Wikipedia

Question: What is your greatest wish for today's students? — Kat, Ashby Lee ES, VA

Answer: My greatest wish for today’s students is that they become lifelong learners. The world is an amazing, fascinating place, and having curiosity about what’s around you and how it got to be there is the best tool for learning, growing, and appreciating the great wonders that surround us every day. I have learned so much in the six years since I started working at the White House – I wish for today’s students the same sense of wonder and awe that I have the privilege of feeling every day.