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The History of the Future of Education Technology

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    data.path Ryoji.Ikeda - 3
    Part 7 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    It’s the fourth year in a row that I’ve chosen “data and privacy” as one of the most important ed-tech trends. (See 2013, 2012, 2011.)

    I’m not sure if I expected things to change substantially after last year’s revelations of the massive government surveillance by the NSA. But I guess I’d hoped that folks might be a little more cautious, a little more thoughtful, a little more skeptical about data and technology adoption. Americans are aware and increasingly concerned about the amount of data collection – by the government and by businesses. Some 39% of Internet users globally say they’ve taken steps to protect their privacy and security online.

    But what effect has this had on education and the current policy efforts that demand data collection? What effect has this had on ed-tech?

    Perhaps this sentence from Politico’s Stephanie Simon in an article on data-mining in educational products gives us a hint at what the answers to those questions might be: “The NSA has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton.”

    The Ideology of Data

    We’ve been told – by politicians, by the Department of Education, by tech entrepreneurs, by investors, by industry analysts, by researchers, by journalists, by pundits– that “more data,” more data analysis, and more surveillance of students and teachers will “fix education.” (Whatever “fix” means.) “More data” – and by that, we often mean “more standardized testing” – has been a core part of US education policy at the K–12 level for over a decade now, and the demand for "more data" is seeping into higher education as well.

    The adoption of more and more technologies in schools has some arguing that we now have an opportunity to collect more data than what we could glean from all those standardized tests. As testing giant Pearson wrote in its report on the “Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education,”

    “The devices and digital environments with which we interact are designed to record and store experiences, thereby creating a slowly rising ocean of digital data. We can imagine schools and individual learners using this ‘digital ocean’ to inform decisions about learning. As learners learn, they are able to collect information about their activities and get feedback about what they know and can do. Learning can occur in formal and informal contexts, and data can be drawn from both. In the digital ocean, we would expect to see data from all types of activities and contexts used to create persistent learner profiles, which could then be used to recommend future activity.”

    A persistent learner profile. As in, this really will go down on your permanent record.

    Although many companies are scrambling to cash in on the data-mining boom, one of the most vocal about the amazing and incredible and pretty much totally unbelievable potential for data and analytics has to be the aforementioned Knewton. Once a test-prep company, it now offers an “adaptive learning” engine that many textbook partners, including Pearson (which is an investor), are incorporating into their existing products. This year, Knewton announced partnerships with Cengage, with the Turkish educational publisher Sebit, with Microsoft, with Scandanavian publisher Sanoma, with publisherand former arms dealer Elsevier, with the Sesame Workshop, and with Latin American textbook publisher Santillana.

    As Stephanie Simon writes, “The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.” “We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything,” CEO Jose Ferreira says in a video posted on the Department of Education website. "We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has. …We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

    I call “bullshit,” but hey, what do I know. (Not everything. Literally.) Yet ed-tech startups insist that, thanks to them, we’re cracking the code of how people learn, something into which educators never had any insight until this very moment in history. As the co-founder of survey startup Panorama told The New York Times this fall, “Education is just starting to figure out what measurement actually means.”

    Read the rest of this 6500-ish post here. Image credits: r2hox. Special thanks to Bill Fitzgerald for reading the Terms of Service.


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    spider web, morning dew

    Part 8 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    This is an aspirational post. After some 35,000 words in a series that has been pretty critical about the state of education technology in 2014, I want to write about something that gives me hope. I believe we can do better.

    I mean, what does an alternative to ed-tech as data-extraction, control, surveillance, privatization, and profiteering look like? What does resistance to the buzzwords and the bullshit look like?

    I don’t have an answer. (There isn’t an answer.) But I think we can see a glimmer of possibility in the Indie Web Movement. It’s enough of a glimmer that I’m calling it a trend. It’s my year-end series; I’ll do what I want.

    The Indie Web

    The Indie Web Movement has emerged out of growing concern that what was once so special and so powerful about the Internet and the Web – in part, that we could build our own personal, digital spaces and from there build online communities – is at risk of being lost. As ASU journalism professor Dan Gillmor wrote earlier this year, “We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history: a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks — that would be you and me — don’t need permission to communicate, create, and innovate.”

    The Open Web has increasingly become the Corporate Web, with powerful monopolies controlling key features like “search” and “social,” not to mention the underlying infrastructure that’s always been theirs – telecommunications, the “series of tubes” themselves. We have poured our lives into Internet technologies – our status updates, our photos, our messages, our locations, our fitness regimes. We have poured our lives into data silos, where our personal information is now mined, the value extracted from it by companies for companies.

    We celebrated 25 years of the World Wide Web in 2014, but now, insists the Web’s creator Tim Berners-Lee, “it’s time to re-decentralize the Web.”

    The Indie Web Movement wants just that. It encourages people to become creators not simply consumers of Web technologies and in the process to think more carefully about what happens to their digital creations and to their digital public spaces – what happens to our content, what happens to our data. The movement’s principles read:

    Your content is yours. When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.

    You are better connected. Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.

    You are in control. You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as example.com/ideas. These links are permanent and will always work.

    The Indie Web posits itself as an alternative to the corporate Web, but it also provides a powerful alternative to much of ed-tech as well, which as this series has hopefully highlighted, is quite committed to controlling and monetizing students’ connections and content and data.

    The Indie Web isn’t the only point of resistance, of course. It is kin to “edupunk” (RIP) perhaps. And the differences between the Indie Web and the corporate Web are mirrored in the differences between cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

    The rest of this 3000 word post can be read here. Image credits: Martin LaBar. This post was first published on December 16, 2015.


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    #BlackLivesMatter

    Part 9 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” you’ll often hear politicians and education reform types say.

    I maintain that civil rights remain the civil rights issue of our time. When we see, for example, the Supreme Court overturn part of the Voting Rights Act, when we see rampant police violence against marginalized groups, when we see backlash against affirmative action and against Title IX protections, when we see rampant discrimination – institutionalized– in people’s daily lives, we need to admit: there are things that the “education gospel cannot fix.”

    This year marked the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision. And yet, public schools in the United States remain deeply segregated and are systematically becoming even more so.

    So when you look back on 2014 – on a school year in which for the first time “minority” students are the majority of public school students, all while less than 20% of their teachers are people of color, on a year that saw unemployment for recent Black college graduates hit a rate more than double that of all college graduates – it’s really, really hard to see education as the vehicle for civil rights. And too often, education been an institution engaged in quite the opposite, playing a key role in exclusion, not to mention in incarceration.

    The school-to-prison pipeline did gain some attention this year (hopefully we’re on the path to shutting it down), with the Obama Administration issuing guidelines in January recommending“public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students, a response to a rise in zero-tolerance policies that have disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses.” In March, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released civil rights data compiled from all 97,000+ public schools in the country. Among the findings, “Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended.” And this, from earlier this month: “Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education show that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity.”

    Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central and South America arrived at the US border this year, seeking asylum here. The response from Americans was incredibly ugly. President Obama took executive action on immigration reform in November, offering limited legal status (a temporary reprieve from deportation, that is) to up to five million of the country’s 11.4 million undocumented immigrants. Again, the response from some: panic, vitriol, a concern about money, not people.

    In 2014, affluent kids continued to do well. As they do. According to the AP, “Wealthier parents have been stepping up education spending so aggressively that they’re widening the nation’s wealth gap.” (Bonus: a school fundraiser that let parents buy their kids out of having to do homework. The price: $100.)

    Speaking of affluence, the College Board, facilitators of the SAT and the AP exams, claimed this year that by partnering with Khan Academy) for free SAT test prep, they were going to be able to neatly wipe away some of the socioeconomic problems that the test has faced – that is, that scores are correlated to wealth.

    The College Board also issued a statement this year “on behalf of itself and the Educational Testing Service, apologizing for a T-shirt that was made and sold by high school and college teachers who gathered in June to grade Advancement Placement exams in world history. Those who grade the exams have a tradition of creating a T-shirt, but this year’s version offended many Asian Americans who were at the event.” The shirt was straight-up racist.

    But the College Board’s AP curriculum was defended by students in the Jefferson County (Colorado) school district, who staged protests over a district proposal to review the AP curriculum so as to be sure it would “promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that ’encourage or condone civil disorder.’” The College Board said that it would not accept AP credits from those who fiddled with the curriculum, prompting the district’s Latino students to point out how access to AP classes and credits is an important equity issue.

    So is education “the new civil rights movement” as ed-reformers want us to think? Hell, is it even a vehicle for civil rights? Or is it a vehicle for something else?

    I mean, you have to wonder when a “teaching experiment” in a high poverty school in Detroit involves placing 100 kindergarteners into one classroom. Or when a group of white teachers show up wearing NYPD t-shirts in response to protests about the NYPD’s killing of an unarmed Black man.

    Are schools a safe place for all students? 2014 suggested otherwise: The Department of Education released a list of 55 institutions it was investigating over their handling of sexual assault on campus. 23 K–12 school districts are also under investigation. When facing legal challenges for negligence in sexual assault cases, many schools blamed the victims. (Or worse. Much worse.)

    There were over 40 school shootings in the US, and around the world terrorist attacks on schools are on the rise. Campus police officers are increasingly becoming militarized. (Scrutiny prompted the Los Angeles School District Police Department to return three grenade launchers, but it said it would keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle.)

    Are schools a safe place for educators? Employment became more and more precarious this year with concerted, legal attacks on tenure for public school teachers in New York and California and with attacks on academic freedom, most notably perhaps when the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s rescinded its job offer to professor Steven Salaita after he tweeted his support for Palestine. What protections do tenure really offer? Racist campus policing practices affected professors as well as students.

    Are schools a safe place to work? What is that work? The work of teaching? Learning? Research? Sports? Who profits from this work?

    And how is technology – education technology – changing all of this?

    Read the rest of this 4000+ word post here. Image credits: Rose Colored Photo.


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  • 12/19/14--12:31: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Books

    Education Law and Politics

    132 children and 9 staff died in a Pakistani Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar– the “deadliest single attack in the group’s history.” (Globally, terrorist attacks on schools are on the rise.) "“I am heartbroken by this senseless and coldblooded act of terror,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012.

    This year cannot end soon enough.

    The Department of Educationreleased its college ratings framework. Sorta. “The plan, the product of more than a year of discussion and debate, is less a proposal than a progress report—an update on metrics the department is considering using in its system,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. More via Inside Higher Ed.

    The Obama Administration made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that it plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many travel restrictions between the US and Cuba will be lifted as well.

    In a Facebook status update, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced he’s “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” Cue lots of articles about how his education policies will or will not help or hurt him.

    The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District (the district from which Michael Brown graduated, “charging the district’s electoral system is locking African-Americans out of the political process.”

    According to an Inspector General audit of how it handles student loans, the Department of Education lacks “a coordinated plan for preventing borrowers from defaulting.”

    From Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy, “Whistleblower Suit Alleges For-Profit College Tricked Veterans Into Debt.”

    York, Pennsylvania is poised to turn all its public schools into charter schools, run by the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools USA.

    The Salter Schools, a for-profit chain in Massachusetts, has settled with the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, over allegations of misrepresented job-placement rates and deceptive student recruitment,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

    A US District Court judge signed a settlement this week involving families of students “who claimed their children were unlawfully sent to emergency rooms as a form of discipline, in violation of their federally protected civil rights.” As a result of the settlement, the New York City schools will no longer call 911 to deal with disciplinary issues.

    LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking California state education officials for “a delay in using the results of the 2014–15 Smarter Balanced computerized test as means of measuring academic growth next year.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs

    “What Are MOOCs Good For?” asks the MIT Technology Review, but forgets to list “good for ed-tech clickbait” as one of the answers.

    Top 2014 LinkedIn Skills That Tie Back to Top Coursera Courses

    3 more schools have joined the digital learning consortium Unizin: Ohio State University, Penn State University and the University of Iowa.

    “The American Council on Education on Monday announced that 25 colleges have agreed to accept all or most transfer credit from students who have completed courses from a council-created pool of 100 low-cost online courses,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

    ITT Technical Institute is expanding into the K–12 online charter school market. What could go wrong.

    Meanwhile on Campus

    Oh look. LAUSD students can start to take their iPads home. I’m struck by this comment about the students getting their devices home safely: “School Police Chief Jose Santome estimated it would take 80 more officers to scale up the patrols to the district’s 800 campuses.”

    Virginia teen “Austin Martin, 18, was charged with possessing firearms on school property and released on a $1,500 bond.” Officers found “four loaded guns, several knives and more than 600 rounds of ammunition” in his car and arrested him. Police say he was super cooperative and didn’t actually plan to hurt anyone. And that’s what white privilege looks like, folks.

    UC Berkeleybegan notifying approximately 1600 people people week that “that their personal information may have been hacked by an individual or individuals who gained access to servers and databases in the campus’s Real Estate Division.”

    Cardboard cutouts of black people were hung in effigy around the UC Berkeley campus last weekend. An anonymous group says they’re responsible for the “art.”

    Some 60 students who participated in a “die in” to protest police brutality at Boston College will be subject to “disciplinary action.”

    From Newsweek: “Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, is facing a $7,500 charge covering the cost of local police overtime after students staged a demonstration protesting—wait for it—police brutality and racism.”

    Augustana College has barred access to its WiFi network to the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak.

    Professors at Colgate University took to Yik Yakin a campaign to “ bring some positivity to digital communications on the campus.” Eric Stoller has more on the professors’ efforts.

    The women’s college Barnard is weighing admitting transgender students.

    Spelman College has suspended an endowed chair named for Bill Cosby and his wife, in the wake of numerous allegations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted women.

    Bryan Alexander looks at the “queen sacrifice” at the University of New Orleans.

    Johns Hopkins University accidentally sent hundreds of acceptance letters to students that the school had actually rejected. Oops.

    The for-profit Career Education Corp is selling Le Cordon Bleu, its chain of culinary schools.

    Lots of chatter about US schools scrapping foreign language instruction– following the lead of the Success Academy Charter School chain– even though there are many benefits to being bilingual.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    More and more athletes are wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to draw attention to police brutality. Following the discovery of the effigies hung on their campus, the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team showed up to their game last weekend wearing t-shirts honoring Black people lynched and killed by police. Their coach said, “As student-athletes at Cal, our young women have a voice and a platform, and they chose to use it today.”

    The Michigan State Legislature has passed a bill banning student athlete unions.

    “The University of Texas’ flagship campus will open a sports-leadership center that will help coaches instill strong character in high-school players and teach college athletes how to manage their money better,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Speaking of managing money well, according to Sports Illustrated, the University of Michigan has reportedly offered Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a six-year $48 million contract to become its head football coach.

    Via The Chronicle: “At Top Athletics Programs, Students Often Major in Eligibility.” About one-third of the football players on the UO and FSU teams are majoring in “social sciences,” an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree.

    From the HR Department

    Arizona State University is demanding its full-time non-tenure-track writing instructors teach five writing classes a term– up from the current four course teaching load – without an increase in pay. I cannot fathom how you can possibly provide quality writing instruction at that level. Hell, I’m not sure how you can provide mediocre writing instruction at that level, unless you plan to outsource all grading to teaching machines.

    Meanwhile, regents have approved a $95,000 pay increase for ASU President Michael Crow, who’ll now make almost $900,000 a year.

    E-Literate reports that Gary Lang, Blackboard’s SVP of Product Development, has resigned.

    1.2 million American teachers aren’t covered by Social Security.”

    Teach For America could miss recruitment mark by more than 25 percent.”

    “Nine out of 10 New York City teachers received one of the top two rankings in the first year of a new evaluation system that was hailed as a better way of assessing how they perform, according to figures released on Tuesday” (according to The New York Times).

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The United Auto Workers, acting on behalf of teaching assistants and research assistants at Columbia University and the New School, has asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections on bids by the UAW to represent the T.A.s and R.A.s.”

    Marquette University has suspended associate professor of political science John McAdams, pending an investigation into a controversial blog post he wrote about a teaching assistant. Inside Higher Ed has more details.

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayerwouldn’t hireGwyneth Paltrow as a Yahoo Food contributor because the actress doesn’t have a college degree. Mean girls.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Pearson says it’s “Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment.” Whee.

    The New York Magazine ran an unbelievable story on Monday about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam who reported had made $72 million investing in the stock market. Turns out Islam has actually made $0.

    The Class of 2015– the writers whose work will enter the public domain * next year. (* Except in the US, where nothing will enter the public domain.)

    George Kroner offers a “Year in Review: Top LMS Developments of 2014.”

    The Merriam-Webster Dictionary picked “culture” as its word of the year.

    Lots of Elf on the Shelf panic this week, including rumors that the toy was first created by the NSA.

    Re/Code looks at“Who Is Behind After School, the Anonymous App Taking Over American High Schools.” (The app has been pulled from the app store multiple times after it was used to threaten school violence.)

    Pro tip: it’s probably not a good time to describe your startup as “Uber for Tutors,” what with all the sexual assaults and shadiness of the “ride-sharing” company.

    “The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public, including journalists, the ability to request documents from the government and organizations we support with our tax dollars. But at least one startup is trying to use it to harvest email addresses of current students at public universities.” Motherboard’s Adrianne Jeffries reports that Campus Job has filed some 18 FOIA requests for students’ email addresses.

    Desmos has rolled out a new activity, Polygraph, to help student build their math vocabulary.

    The New York Times writes about efforts to give low-income students in NYC eye exams and glasses.

    Lego is reissuing its sets of female scientists working in laboratories, which were so popular when they went on sale this summer that they immediately sold out.

    iRobot Launches Roomba-Based Robot Platform for STEM Ed.”

    Flickr has removed CC-licensed photos from its Wall Art program following outcry and confusion about Yahoo’s plans to make money off of the users on its platform.

    David Wiley has publishedAn Open Education Reader, a collection of readings on open education with commentary created by students in my graduate course Introduction to Open Education taught at Brigham Young University, Fall 2014.”

    The online presentation-sharing tool Slide Bureau is shutting down on December 24. (According to its website, it marketed the tool to teachers. Frankly, I’d never heard of it before.)

    Vibewrite (formerly Lernstift), maker of a pen that vibrated when you held it incorrectly, is bankrupt. The company had raised over €1 million from investors and crowdfunding. (It had just raised €560,000 three months ago apparently. So congrats on that burn rate, guys.)

    RIP

    Norman Ray Bridwell, author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series, passed away last Friday.

    Funding and Acquisitions

    NewSchools Venture Fund has invested $100,000 into the education unconference Edcamp Foundation. “How Will Edcamp Change with a New Executive Director and $100,000?” asks Edsurge. More startups hawking their wares at these events would be my guess.

    Clever has raised $30 million in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, GSV Capital, Peter Thiel, and Sequoia Capital. This brings to $43.3 million total investment raised by the company that helps get facilitate the movement of student data between apps and student information systems.

    Helix Education is putting its competency-based LMS up for sale. Details via E-Literate.

    DeVry Education Group has acquired the Brazilian bar exam test prep company Damásio.

    “Research”

    According to research by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, a summer jobs program for teens in Chicago significantly reduced violent crime arrests.

    According to UNICEF, some 5 million children in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia aren’t in school because of Ebola.

    Teens are smoking fewer cigarettes. They are smoking more e-cigarettes.

    According to data from DonorsChoose, 41% of projects posted to the site this past year came from teachers who work in the “highest poverty” schools. Books remain one of the most often requested classroom items.

    The latest panic over the so-called “skills shortage”: apparently we’re not teaching kids “big data skills” in schools.

    A Georgia Institute of Technology study has found that confusion over copyright has “chilling effects” on online creative publishing.

    From Vox: “Kids in the US do a lot of pointless homework, in 2 charts.” From The Atlantic: “Where Teens Have the Most Homework.”

    Most US kids lack sleep. News at 11.

    Image credits: Moyan Brenn


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    Lego MiniFigure

    Part 10 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first one-to-one laptop program. In 1990, the Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne, Australia gave all its students in Years 5 through 12 a computer. 2015 will mark the 35th anniversary of the publication of Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms. It’ll be the 15th anniversary of Maine Governor Angus King’s proposal to give a laptop to every middle school student and teacher in the state.

    I’m not sure how the ed-tech industry will celebrate. As I’ve argued elsewhere, ed-tech suffers from amnesia, always forgetting or rewriting its past. It’s committed to a story that everything is new and that everything is wonderful.

    It’s neither.

    The Great LAUSD iPad Fiasco

    It’s pretty incredible that after decades of one-to-one computing initiatives, schools can still get things so very, very wrong. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s what happens when you ignore history and research. Maybe that’s what happens when you focus on profits, on data collection, on content delivery, on assessment.

    When the Los Angeles Unified School District announced last year that it planned to give all 700,000 public school students an iPad (pre-loaded with a specially-designed Pearson curriculum), it was a very big deal – in terms of price-tag and publicity. Apple even issued a press release, boasting that it had been awarded the $30 million contract. $30 million out of an initiative expected to cost the district over $1 billion.

    There were signs early on that LAUSD was struggling with the implementation. The district's WiFi infrastructure wasn’t robust enough. It hadn’t made plans or policies to deal with theft. And students quickly “hacked” their devices– or at least, they bypassed the security profiles set up to prevent them from downloading music and watching movies.

    But this year, LAUSD’s iPad initiative has moved from being “botched” to being a full-blown scandal. Superintendent John Deasy resigned, as did the district’s CIO. A federal grand jury has been called to look into the procurement process, although its unclear if LAUSD or Apple or Pearson (or all of the above) is the target of the criminal investigation.

    In August, several news organizations obtained and published emails between LAUSD, Apple, and Pearson officials. These revealed that Superintendent Deasy had begun meeting with these companies – specifically with former Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino– to discuss the hardware/curriculum purchase almost a year before the contract ever went out to bid.

    In response, Deasy announced he would cancel the contract with Apple, and that the district would reopen the bidding process. Deasy’s replacement, Ramon Cortines, initially indicated that he’d make major changes to the program, suggesting that he did not want to use construction bond money to fund it. But as has happened almost weekly with this story, things changed. The contract with Apple was not cancelled – not entirely as the district announced it would spend $22 million to buy 20,000 more iPads just in time for spring standardized testing season. And instead of spending $504 per iPad, the district would pay $552 for each device.

    In September, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) issued a 95-page report evaluating the district’s iPad project. It found that only one teacher out of 245 classrooms reported using the Pearson curriculum. (It’s costing the district about $200 per device for a three-year licensing deal.) 80% of high schools reported they “rarely used the tablets.” The report also found that the district was so busy dealing with the distribution of the iPads, it never really addressed using them in the classroom.

    Bonus: in August, an audit found the district was missing $2 million in computers, mostly iPads.

    You can read the rest of this post (it's only 2700 words!) here. Image credits: awee_19


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    old school

    This post first appeared on Educating Modern Learners

    What is Competency-Based Education?

    “Competency-based education” (CBE) is being hailed by some as a way to rethink education — to save money and to boost "outcomes." Often, competency-based education is framed as a way to save (students’) time.

    Rather than moving students together through materials for a fixed duration of a class, CBE enables students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. They are assessed along the way, and if they can demonstrate “competency” on a particular skill, they can move forward to the next. This is seen as an alternative to traditional models where students receive a grade — and credit — at the end of the course, but that grade can range from A to D, meaning that students have attained very different levels of understanding of the course materials.

    It’s not entirely a new idea. According to SPT Malin, the concept was introduced in the United States in the 1960s "in reaction to concerns that students are not taught the skills they require in life after school.” Malin points to 6 “critical components” in CBE:

    • Explicit learning outcomes with respect to the required skills and concomitant proficiency (standards for assessment)
    • A flexible time frame to master these skills
    • A variety of instructional activities to facilitate learning
    • Criterion-referenced testing of the required outcomes
    • Certification based on demonstrated learning outcomes
    • Adaptable programmes to ensure optimum learner guidance

    CBE is sometimes referred to as proficiency-based, mastery-based, outcome-based, performance-based, and standards-based education. Those adjectives are used to in conjunction with “instruction" and “learning" as well (that is, mastery-based learning, competency-based instruction). And to complicate things, one US Department of Education description combines competency-based learning and personalized-learning together (Here is an EML look at “personalization”). From the DoE:

    By enabling students to master skills at their own pace, competency-based learning systems help to save both time and money. Depending on the strategy pursued, competency-based systems also create multiple pathways to graduation, make better use of technology, support new staffing patterns that utilize teacher skills and interests differently, take advantage of learning opportunities outside of school hours and walls, and help identify opportunities to target interventions to meet the specific learning needs of students. Each of these presents an opportunity to achieve greater efficiency and increase productivity.

    So while it seems like there’s a fairly straightforward definition, CBE is actually used in different ways — in online and offline scenarios, by higher education and by K-12 — to describe some very different practices.

    What do we mean by “competency,” for example? Who decides what counts? What does this look like in practice?

    Answer: it varies.

    There is no single model for competency-based education. There is no agreed-upon standard for what constitutes “competency” or “proficiency.”

    Who Is Doing It?

    A few examples:

    Big Picture Learning School
    Western Governors University
    University of Wisconsin
    Adams County School District 50
    The state of Michigan
    Chugach School District
    Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

    These help highlight how different states and schools define and approach CBE (and, in turn, how different the implementations can be).

    What Technologies Are Used?

    Arguably, some of the push for CBE comes from a move towards more computer-based education. The argument is that technologies enable different sorts of tracking and assessment (more granular, for example) and provide opportunities for more self-pacing.

    Specific technologies used to support CBE include “data dashboards" that display progress to students (and to teachers), standards-based grade books, portfolios, and badges  (and other “micro credentials”). Tools that support CBE, Educause argues, "enable widespread changes that could result in a rethinking of pedagogy, assessment, and the concept of the credit hour.”

    But what exactly do those changes look like? Are they learner-centered? Do they allow more inquiry-based learning? Or do they simply change the timing and testing of instruction?

    Questions To Consider

    How might CBE's emphasis on "skills" change what and how things are taught? Do “abstract” concepts tend to be lost, for example?

    How might CBE's emphasis on the "modularity" of skills shape teaching and learning? What does it mean to see knowledge as "modular" in this way? Does this mean that knowledge is seen as static? As decontextualized? Or only contextualized through a certain "order" of skills?

    To repeat an earlier question, what is "competency"? Who decides? How is it different from current assessment decisions? (Is it?)

    Can students be engaged in determining "competencies"? How might CBE help give students more responsibility?

    While CBE promises to change things like “seat time,” does it necessarily change other traditional outcomes of school? Is it still focused, for example, on the things that are “measurable”?

    What support systems — people and technology — need to be in place for schools to successfully move to CBE? What other frameworks need to be in place to promote a "progressive" CBE?

    What policies might need to change for CBE to be more readily adopted? And always key to ask: who are the biggest advocates of these policy changes? Why?

    Image credits: alamosbasement


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    Rusty padlock

    This post first appeared on Educating Modern Learners

    As schools in the Northern Hemisphere are poised to kick off the new school year, they’re likely sending home a flurry of permission slips for parents and guardians to sign. Permissions for the student directory, permissions for field trips, permissions for sports and other after school activities, a photo release form, and increasingly perhaps, permissions (especially if the student is under 13 in the US) for Internet and technology usage.

    The latter has become a particularly contentious issue in the last year or so, with some parents growing concerned about the amount of data that schools are collecting via the various ed-tech tools that students might use. Add to that too, the broad range of technologies being used by schools — systems that manage student reporting, special school functions, transportation and food services, and of course classroom usage. “Student data” now exists across many systems, in many software applications.

    Parents concerns about their children's data and privacy are not entirely unwarranted. According to a study conducted last year by Fordham University on schools, data, and privacy,

    “Cloud services are poorly understood, non-transparent, and weakly governed: only 25% of districts inform parents of their use of cloud services, 20% of districts fail to have policies governing the use of online services, and a sizeable plurality of districts have rampant gaps in their contract documentation, including missing privacy policies.”

    The study also found that less than 10% of school districts negotiate contracts with technology vendors to prevent student data being shared or sold.

    All this is complicated now that new education technologies are being marketed directly to teachers, sometimes bypassing any district procurement process. That means there often isn’t an opportunity for schools to negotiate what happens to student data. You click on “I agree” to the Terms of Service, and that’s it.

    But there are steps that schools can take in order to do a better job protecting student privacy, and a strong first step is to improve the transparency over what data is being collected and why.

    This isn’t simply a matter of following laws like FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) or PPRA (the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) — although in the US at least, those do apply. These simply outline what schools must do; but there is more they could do (and that involves, for starters, involving students and not just grown-ups in the conversation).

    What Should Schools Tell Parents and Students About Data?

    Some questions school leaders must consider, and some suggestions for improving transparency around student privacy and student data:

    • What data are you collecting about students?

    Consider developing a “data inventory” that lists all the information you collect about students. (If nothing else, it will be a helpful exercise for schools to see the scope of what is being collected, let alone if this data is kept secure and/or private.)

    • Why are you collecting this data?

    For mandated reporting? To improve instruction? To administer services?

    And consider: you can’t come up with a good reason why you’re collecting the data, perhaps ask if you should be.

    • How is the data protected?

    Where is the data stored? Locally? In the cloud? (And if it’s the latter, where are those servers located?)

    What are the security practices and policies of your IT department? Of cloud-based services? What are your school’s policies governing access to student data?

    Do researchers have access to student data? How is that disclosed?

    What training do school teachers and staff have on data policies and protection? What training do students receive on data and privacy? (These questions are increasingly part of new digital literacies, it seems, that schools must help to facilitate.)

    How long do you store data?

    How is PII (personally identifiable information) protected? Do you de-identify data? When you display data in aggregate (say, to talk about student demographics) how do you make sure that the identity of students from “small cells” (or small groups) is not accidentally disclosed?

    What is the procedure for handling a data breach?

    • What data is shared? With whom? Why?

    Schools contract with a wide range of third-party vendors for and products and services. Consider posting those contracts online. (The Fordham study on student privacy expressed particular concern that many schools were not able to provide signed contracts for the technologies they were using. Without these, the legal responsibilities of schools and vendors are unclear.)

    Provide parents with a list of the educational software that teachers use in the classroom. Provide links to those apps' Terms of Service and Privacy Policies.

    Put all this — contracts, lists of tools, Terms of Service — in one place on the school or district website. Make it is easy to locate. Use plain language — that is, avoid legal or technical jargon — to talk about data and privacy policies. (A good example of a site that helps clarify the legalese here is Terms of Service; Didn’t Read). Make sure the website is kept up-to-date throughout the school year particularly if and when teachers try new tools and if and when vendors change their terms.

    Give parents a way to contact the school or district if they have questions or concerns.

    Solicit feedback from the school community — that is, parents, administrators, staff, teachers, and students — about how best to handle data and privacy. Again, while there are certain legal requirements as to how schools handle student data, those should be seen as the minimum, not the maximum obligation for schools to fulfill.

    Next Steps for Schools

    Schools need not — and probably should not — be passive parties when it comes to data protection and the technologies they're adopting. While vendors typically do draw up the contracts for their products, schools must ensure that these are compliant with various privacy statutes, certainly. But they can advocate for more, and push vendors to take further steps to protect student privacy. They can also step up and do a better job in communicating with parents and students about data collection and usage.

    Image credits: Oxfordian


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    When birds overeat.

    This post first appeared on Educating Modern Learners

    Twitter for Edu

    In recent years Twitter has become a very popular tool for educators, with some calling the social media platform "The Best Professional Development Tool for Teachers” and some claiming that educators “dominate” Twitter. (The math doesn’t really work out on the last claim. By Twitter’s own calculations, less than 1% of tweets are education-related.)

    Regardless of what percentage of Twitter is comprised by educators, on any given night of the week, there are usually several regularly-scheduled "Twitter chats,” where educators engage in hosted and topical conversations. These can be followed by monitoring the associated hashtag (that is, a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign #), and appending a hashtag to a tweet is always a good way for it to be seen outside of one’s followers.

    Twitter can be overwhelming, particularly for new users — some 350,000 tweets are sent every minute— and arguably hashtags do make it easier to follow a particular conversation. But Twitter chats can still be noisy and difficult to follow. Tweets rush by in real-time (that’s a core feature of the Twitter service) even if you’re using a client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that lets you devote a column to a certain hashtag (as opposed to viewing your entire Twitter stream).

    Nevertheless, many have argued that Twitter has become one of the most important tools for them to be “connected educators.” Twitter allows educators to share their ideas and practices with one another, and to build professional networks that are supportive and generative.

    Ideally.

    Twitter Has Changed

    There have been growing concerns over recent months that “Twitter has changed.” The Atlantic published a “Eulogy for Twitter” back in April. And even Bonnie Stewart, whose dissertation is exploring the academic use of social media, recently wrote that “something is rotten in the state of Twitter.”

    Some of what’s “rotten" stems from changes (both proposed and enacted) to the Twitter platform itself. Twitter is increasingly focused on monetization efforts, for example, and there have been rumors too that the company might explore delivering the Twitter stream algorithmically rather than in the unaltered “firehose” as it does currently.

    That’s been a key element of Twitter that distinguishes it from Facebook, which organizes the News Feed algorithmically — organizing and displaying (or not displaying) certain posts, arguably those that encourage the most “engagement.” While Twitter has become an important journalistic tool, in part because of the real-time nature of updates, Facebook has been less useful in this way — the News Feed doesn’t present updates in the same chronological order, for starters. Several media observers found striking differences in their Twitter and Facebook feeds when it came to current events, including the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and the war in Gaza. What were incredibly popular and active topics for discussion on Twitter were almost entirely missing on Facebook.

    Twitter’s Filter Bubbles

    The concern that new technologies, despite the rhetoric around open access to information, are going to diminish our ability to see wide-ranging and different opinions is something that Eli Pariser explores in his book The Filter Bubble. Technology promises “personalization” — whether Netflix movie recommendations, search results based on your Google browsing history, or the updates you see on social media. But that by filtering out some things, we might find ourselves intellectually isolated.

    And arguably some of that already happens on a site like Twitter where you choose who to follow. (Twitter is experimenting with injecting tweets into people’s streams from people they do not follow. The experiment has not been received well.) It’s worth asking yourself, particularly if you see Twitter as a tool for your own learning and professional development, how diverse the ideas are that come across your Twitter feed. Are you seeing a multiplicity of voices? Or have you cultivated a bubble? (Diversity matters in a number of ways. According to a recent survey of Internet users, white Americans' social networks are 91% white.)

    Dangerous Tweets

    Add to this, a number of highly publicized episodes, particularly over the last few months, where tweets have landed educators in hot water. Steven Salaita, for example, had his tenure-track position at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign rescinded after the university disproved of his tweets in support of Palestinians.

    As Bonnie Stewart argues, "The threat of being summarily acted upon by the academy as a consequence of tweets – always present, frankly, particularly for untenured and more vulnerable members of the academic community – now hangs visibly over all heads…even while the medium is still scorned as scholarship by many.” While there are efforts to encourage educators and students to participate in the public sphere, via tools like Twitter, it’s clear that there are also risks in doing so, particularly if what’s being said fails to conform to certain “community standards” or certain notions of “civility."

    Twitter: Big and Mean

    But the problems with Twitter as identified by Stewart and others isn’t simply that Twitter’s business decisions have skewed it towards pleasing advertisers over users or that the platform’s publicness has enabled more surveillance by various supervisory bodies.

    There’s a sense that, in the growth of the platform, something has been lost: the intimacy of connection and community. In short, it’s become a not-very-nice place.

    As Baylor University professor Alan Jacobs has written,

    "I have found that my greatest frustrations with Twitter come not from people who are being nasty — though there are far too many of them — but from people who just misunderstand. They reply questioningly or challengingly to a tweet without reading any of the preceding or succeeding tweets that would give it context, or without reading the post that it links to. They take jokes seriously — Oh Lord do they take jokes seriously. And far too often they don’t take the time to formulate their responses with care and so write tweets that I can’t make sense of at all. And I don’t want to have to deal with all this. I just want to sit here on the porch and have a nice chat with my friends and neighbors.

    But wait. I’m not on the porch anymore. I’m in the middle of Broadway."

    OpenNews’ Erin Kissane shares a similar sentiment:

    A "feeling like I’m sitting at a sidewalk cafe, speaking in a conversational voice, but having that voice projected so loudly that strangers many streets away are invited to comment on my most inconsequential statements—especially if something I say gets retweeted beyond my usual circles. In the past, a smaller version of that publicness has brought me wonderful friends and a job I love, but now the stranger-replies provide a steady stream of joykills, demands for attention, and indignantly misguided attacks mixed in with the funny comments and helpful links. And there are the actual trolls, of course, both lulzy and sincerely malicious, and they’re tiring, and my bounce-back is in shorter supply these days.”

    So… Twitter for Professional Development. Is This What We Want?

    Can we really insist or even recommend Twitter for PD?

    It’s frustrating, of course, to see pronouncements of “the death of Twitter” just as the platform is gaining more adoption among educators. That just as educators are able to use Twitter to share their practices publicly, we’re reminded that sharing publicly is dangerous. That just as we turn to Twitter for unfiltered, real-time news and information, the algorithm changes. That just as we can find and amplify marginalized voices, they’re silenced. That just as we learn to embrace the cacophony of voices that Twitter enables, we find that the rage and sadness and anger in so many of those voices are more than we can bear.

    There is a great fragility to our ability to connect and share online - particularly when we use software we don't own or control

    The response doesn't have to be “Don’t use Twitter.” And I’m not arguing “Don’t use Twitter for professional development.” But it is a reminder that there is a fragility to our ability to connect and share online. Some of that fragility comes when we opt to rely on for-profit companies to run the infrastructure. We do not own the conversations on Twitter. We have limited control over our data and the content we create and share there.

    Fans of Twitter (and full disclosure, I am an avid Twitter user) have long argued that the 140 character updates was a feature, not a bug — that short and quick status updates were a good thing, that Twitter was flexible to make it what you wanted and to engage with it how you wanted. But I’m not sure any longer that that’s really the case. And I’m not sure it really ever has been.

    Despite all the pushes to "bring Twitter to the classroom” and calls to have Twitter "replace traditional professional development,” I’m less and less convinced that’s a good idea — or at least, I'm more and more convinced that we should not rely solely on Twitter as the site for online PD or for online educator community. Both can and do exist online — PD and community — but I’d wager the best place to find both remain on educators' blogs. I wonder if, in fact, "the future of professional development" might be a "return to blogging."

    Image credits: John Flannery


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  • 12/22/14--08:35: Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014
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    MathPart 6 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    Last year, I opened my look at the trend I then called “standards” by looking at the number of edits to the Wikipedia entry for the Common Core State Standards. This is what I wrote:

    The “edit history” and “talk” pages of Wikipedia entries can be pretty interesting, particularly when it comes to controversial topics. The entry for the “Common Core State Standards Initiative” is a great example of this. The Common Core isn’t new (the standards were released in 2010); nor is the entry (it was created in 2010 as well). But this year, there’s been a vast uptick in the number of changes to that entry, and discussion about its content and tone. 26 edits in 2010. 65 in 2011. 40 in 2012. 127 up through November of this year.

    So far in 2014, there have been 382 edits.

    In other words, attention to the Common Core continues to grow, as does the controversy surrounding it. That the Wikipedia “talk” page includes debate about whether or not the Common Core’s symbol is the hammer and sickle gives you some idea of the level of discourse we saw this year on this topic. And that’s not even the best example of how zany things got…

    Arizona State Senator Al Melvin on the Common Core: “Some of the reading material is borderline pornographic,” he said during an education committee meeting. Even worse? The math portion substitutes letters for numbers." (Sorta like, um, algebra?)

    CCSS in Popular Discourse

    As the Common Core State Standards began to be rolled out last year, the process quickly became politicized. This year, the standards were featured not only in ongoing political fights but in pop culture as well.

    In April, comedian Louis C.K. took to Twitter to complain about his daughters’ struggles with math homework: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!” He then tweeted a series of photos from their homework asking, “Who is writing these? And why?” (Thankfully I storified these tweets as Louis C.K. has since deleted his Twitter account.) The tweets hit a nerve and were retweeted and favorited tens of thousands of times.

    Newsweek’s Alexander Nazaryan was one of many who responded, “Sorry, Louis C.K., But You’re Wrong About Common Core”“: …”What’s dismaying about Louis C.K.’s anti-Common Core rant is that he is neither a shill for the unions nor a far-left conspiracy theorist who thinks that Education Secretary Arne Duncan (and perhaps the president himself!) is in the pocket of Pearson and the Princeton Review. He is, instead, a New York City public school parent who has the ears and eyeballs of millions across the nation, not to mention his 3 million Twitter followers."

    Whether you agree with Nazaryan or not that Louis C.K. was “wrong” about the Common Core, he does get at precisely what made this criticism so powerful, I think. Louis C.K.’s comedic persona is that of a “regular guy.” As such, his observations were as a “regular parent” and they resonated with a lot of people. And his comments were, arguably, one of the most damaging blows that the Common Core received this year.

    Read the rest of this 3000 word post here. Special thanks to Frank Noschese and Christopher Danielson for help with the math homework. Image credits: Gabriel Molina, Jeff Severt


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    data.path Ryoji.Ikeda - 3
    Part 7 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    It’s the fourth year in a row that I’ve chosen “data and privacy” as one of the most important ed-tech trends. (See 2013, 2012, 2011.)

    I’m not sure if I expected things to change substantially after last year’s revelations of the massive government surveillance by the NSA. But I guess I’d hoped that folks might be a little more cautious, a little more thoughtful, a little more skeptical about data and technology adoption. Americans are aware and increasingly concerned about the amount of data collection – by the government and by businesses. Some 39% of Internet users globally say they’ve taken steps to protect their privacy and security online.

    But what effect has this had on education and the current policy efforts that demand data collection? What effect has this had on ed-tech?

    Perhaps this sentence from Politico’s Stephanie Simon in an article on data-mining in educational products gives us a hint at what the answers to those questions might be: “The NSA has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton.”

    The Ideology of Data

    We’ve been told – by politicians, by the Department of Education, by tech entrepreneurs, by investors, by industry analysts, by researchers, by journalists, by pundits– that “more data,” more data analysis, and more surveillance of students and teachers will “fix education.” (Whatever “fix” means.) “More data” – and by that, we often mean “more standardized testing” – has been a core part of US education policy at the K–12 level for over a decade now, and the demand for "more data" is seeping into higher education as well.

    The adoption of more and more technologies in schools has some arguing that we now have an opportunity to collect more data than what we could glean from all those standardized tests. As testing giant Pearson wrote in its report on the “Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education,”

    “The devices and digital environments with which we interact are designed to record and store experiences, thereby creating a slowly rising ocean of digital data. We can imagine schools and individual learners using this ‘digital ocean’ to inform decisions about learning. As learners learn, they are able to collect information about their activities and get feedback about what they know and can do. Learning can occur in formal and informal contexts, and data can be drawn from both. In the digital ocean, we would expect to see data from all types of activities and contexts used to create persistent learner profiles, which could then be used to recommend future activity.”

    A persistent learner profile. As in, this really will go down on your permanent record.

    Although many companies are scrambling to cash in on the data-mining boom, one of the most vocal about the amazing and incredible and pretty much totally unbelievable potential for data and analytics has to be the aforementioned Knewton. Once a test-prep company, it now offers an “adaptive learning” engine that many textbook partners, including Pearson (which is an investor), are incorporating into their existing products. This year, Knewton announced partnerships with Cengage, with the Turkish educational publisher Sebit, with Microsoft, with Scandanavian publisher Sanoma, with publisherand former arms dealer Elsevier, with the Sesame Workshop, and with Latin American textbook publisher Santillana.

    As Stephanie Simon writes, “The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.” “We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything,” CEO Jose Ferreira says in a video posted on the Department of Education website. "We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has. …We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

    I call “bullshit,” but hey, what do I know. (Not everything. Literally.) Yet ed-tech startups insist that, thanks to them, we’re cracking the code of how people learn, something into which educators never had any insight until this very moment in history. As the co-founder of survey startup Panorama told The New York Times this fall, “Education is just starting to figure out what measurement actually means.”

    Read the rest of this 6500-ish post here. Image credits: r2hox. Special thanks to Bill Fitzgerald for reading the Terms of Service.


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    spider web, morning dew

    Part 8 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    This is an aspirational post. After some 35,000 words in a series that has been pretty critical about the state of education technology in 2014, I want to write about something that gives me hope. I believe we can do better.

    I mean, what does an alternative to ed-tech as data-extraction, control, surveillance, privatization, and profiteering look like? What does resistance to the buzzwords and the bullshit look like?

    I don’t have an answer. (There isn’t an answer.) But I think we can see a glimmer of possibility in the Indie Web Movement. It’s enough of a glimmer that I’m calling it a trend. It’s my year-end series; I’ll do what I want.

    The Indie Web

    The Indie Web Movement has emerged out of growing concern that what was once so special and so powerful about the Internet and the Web – in part, that we could build our own personal, digital spaces and from there build online communities – is at risk of being lost. As ASU journalism professor Dan Gillmor wrote earlier this year, “We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history: a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks — that would be you and me — don’t need permission to communicate, create, and innovate.”

    The Open Web has increasingly become the Corporate Web, with powerful monopolies controlling key features like “search” and “social,” not to mention the underlying infrastructure that’s always been theirs – telecommunications, the “series of tubes” themselves. We have poured our lives into Internet technologies – our status updates, our photos, our messages, our locations, our fitness regimes. We have poured our lives into data silos, where our personal information is now mined, the value extracted from it by companies for companies.

    We celebrated 25 years of the World Wide Web in 2014, but now, insists the Web’s creator Tim Berners-Lee, “it’s time to re-decentralize the Web.”

    The Indie Web Movement wants just that. It encourages people to become creators not simply consumers of Web technologies and in the process to think more carefully about what happens to their digital creations and to their digital public spaces – what happens to our content, what happens to our data. The movement’s principles read:

    Your content is yours. When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.

    You are better connected. Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.

    You are in control. You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as example.com/ideas. These links are permanent and will always work.

    The Indie Web posits itself as an alternative to the corporate Web, but it also provides a powerful alternative to much of ed-tech as well, which as this series has hopefully highlighted, is quite committed to controlling and monetizing students’ connections and content and data.

    The Indie Web isn’t the only point of resistance, of course. It is kin to “edupunk” (RIP) perhaps. And the differences between the Indie Web and the corporate Web are mirrored in the differences between cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

    The rest of this 3000 word post can be read here. Image credits: Martin LaBar. This post was first published on December 16, 2015.


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    This post first appeared on Educating Modern Learners

    Twitter for Edu

    In recent years Twitter has become a very popular tool for educators, with some calling the social media platform "The Best Professional Development Tool for Teachers” and some claiming that educators “dominate” Twitter. (The math doesn’t really work out on the last claim. By Twitter’s own calculations, less than 1% of tweets are education-related.)

    Regardless of what percentage of Twitter is comprised by educators, on any given night of the week, there are usually several regularly-scheduled "Twitter chats,” where educators engage in hosted and topical conversations. These can be followed by monitoring the associated hashtag (that is, a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign #), and appending a hashtag to a tweet is always a good way for it to be seen outside of one’s followers.

    Twitter can be overwhelming, particularly for new users — some 350,000 tweets are sent every minute— and arguably hashtags do make it easier to follow a particular conversation. But Twitter chats can still be noisy and difficult to follow. Tweets rush by in real-time (that’s a core feature of the Twitter service) even if you’re using a client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that lets you devote a column to a certain hashtag (as opposed to viewing your entire Twitter stream).

    Nevertheless, many have argued that Twitter has become one of the most important tools for them to be “connected educators.” Twitter allows educators to share their ideas and practices with one another, and to build professional networks that are supportive and generative.

    Ideally.

    Twitter Has Changed

    There have been growing concerns over recent months that “Twitter has changed.” The Atlantic published a “Eulogy for Twitter” back in April. And even Bonnie Stewart, whose dissertation is exploring the academic use of social media, recently wrote that “something is rotten in the state of Twitter.”

    Some of what’s “rotten" stems from changes (both proposed and enacted) to the Twitter platform itself. Twitter is increasingly focused on monetization efforts, for example, and there have been rumors too that the company might explore delivering the Twitter stream algorithmically rather than in the unaltered “firehose” as it does currently.

    That’s been a key element of Twitter that distinguishes it from Facebook, which organizes the News Feed algorithmically — organizing and displaying (or not displaying) certain posts, arguably those that encourage the most “engagement.” While Twitter has become an important journalistic tool, in part because of the real-time nature of updates, Facebook has been less useful in this way — the News Feed doesn’t present updates in the same chronological order, for starters. Several media observers found striking differences in their Twitter and Facebook feeds when it came to current events, including the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and the war in Gaza. What were incredibly popular and active topics for discussion on Twitter were almost entirely missing on Facebook.

    Twitter’s Filter Bubbles

    The concern that new technologies, despite the rhetoric around open access to information, are going to diminish our ability to see wide-ranging and different opinions is something that Eli Pariser explores in his book The Filter Bubble. Technology promises “personalization” — whether Netflix movie recommendations, search results based on your Google browsing history, or the updates you see on social media. But that by filtering out some things, we might find ourselves intellectually isolated.

    And arguably some of that already happens on a site like Twitter where you choose who to follow. (Twitter is experimenting with injecting tweets into people’s streams from people they do not follow. The experiment has not been received well.) It’s worth asking yourself, particularly if you see Twitter as a tool for your own learning and professional development, how diverse the ideas are that come across your Twitter feed. Are you seeing a multiplicity of voices? Or have you cultivated a bubble? (Diversity matters in a number of ways. According to a recent survey of Internet users, white Americans' social networks are 91% white.)

    Dangerous Tweets

    Add to this, a number of highly publicized episodes, particularly over the last few months, where tweets have landed educators in hot water. Steven Salaita, for example, had his tenure-track position at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign rescinded after the university disproved of his tweets in support of Palestinians.

    As Bonnie Stewart argues, "The threat of being summarily acted upon by the academy as a consequence of tweets – always present, frankly, particularly for untenured and more vulnerable members of the academic community – now hangs visibly over all heads…even while the medium is still scorned as scholarship by many.” While there are efforts to encourage educators and students to participate in the public sphere, via tools like Twitter, it’s clear that there are also risks in doing so, particularly if what’s being said fails to conform to certain “community standards” or certain notions of “civility."

    Twitter: Big and Mean

    But the problems with Twitter as identified by Stewart and others isn’t simply that Twitter’s business decisions have skewed it towards pleasing advertisers over users or that the platform’s publicness has enabled more surveillance by various supervisory bodies.

    There’s a sense that, in the growth of the platform, something has been lost: the intimacy of connection and community. In short, it’s become a not-very-nice place.

    As Baylor University professor Alan Jacobs has written,

    "I have found that my greatest frustrations with Twitter come not from people who are being nasty — though there are far too many of them — but from people who just misunderstand. They reply questioningly or challengingly to a tweet without reading any of the preceding or succeeding tweets that would give it context, or without reading the post that it links to. They take jokes seriously — Oh Lord do they take jokes seriously. And far too often they don’t take the time to formulate their responses with care and so write tweets that I can’t make sense of at all. And I don’t want to have to deal with all this. I just want to sit here on the porch and have a nice chat with my friends and neighbors.

    But wait. I’m not on the porch anymore. I’m in the middle of Broadway."

    OpenNews’ Erin Kissane shares a similar sentiment:

    A "feeling like I’m sitting at a sidewalk cafe, speaking in a conversational voice, but having that voice projected so loudly that strangers many streets away are invited to comment on my most inconsequential statements—especially if something I say gets retweeted beyond my usual circles. In the past, a smaller version of that publicness has brought me wonderful friends and a job I love, but now the stranger-replies provide a steady stream of joykills, demands for attention, and indignantly misguided attacks mixed in with the funny comments and helpful links. And there are the actual trolls, of course, both lulzy and sincerely malicious, and they’re tiring, and my bounce-back is in shorter supply these days.”

    So… Twitter for Professional Development. Is This What We Want?

    Can we really insist or even recommend Twitter for PD?

    It’s frustrating, of course, to see pronouncements of “the death of Twitter” just as the platform is gaining more adoption among educators. That just as educators are able to use Twitter to share their practices publicly, we’re reminded that sharing publicly is dangerous. That just as we turn to Twitter for unfiltered, real-time news and information, the algorithm changes. That just as we can find and amplify marginalized voices, they’re silenced. That just as we learn to embrace the cacophony of voices that Twitter enables, we find that the rage and sadness and anger in so many of those voices are more than we can bear.

    The response doesn't have to be “Don’t use Twitter.” And I’m not arguing “Don’t use Twitter for professional development.” But it is a reminder that there is a fragility to our ability to connect and share online. Some of that fragility comes when we opt to rely on for-profit companies to run the infrastructure. We do not own the conversations on Twitter. We have limited control over our data and the content we create and share there.

    Fans of Twitter (and full disclosure, I am an avid Twitter user) have long argued that the 140 character updates was a feature, not a bug — that short and quick status updates were a good thing, that Twitter was flexible to make it what you wanted and to engage with it how you wanted. But I’m not sure any longer that that’s really the case. And I’m not sure it really ever has been.

    Despite all the pushes to "bring Twitter to the classroom” and calls to have Twitter "replace traditional professional development,” I’m less and less convinced that’s a good idea — or at least, I'm more and more convinced that we should not rely solely on Twitter as the site for online PD or for online educator community. Both can and do exist online — PD and community — but I’d wager the best place to find both remain on educators' blogs. I wonder if, in fact, "the future of professional development" might be a "return to blogging."


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    #BlackLivesMatter

    Part 9 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” you’ll often hear politicians and education reform types say.

    I maintain that civil rights remain the civil rights issue of our time. When we see, for example, the Supreme Court overturn part of the Voting Rights Act, when we see rampant police violence against marginalized groups, when we see backlash against affirmative action and against Title IX protections, when we see rampant discrimination – institutionalized– in people’s daily lives, we need to admit: there are things that the “education gospel cannot fix.”

    This year marked the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision. And yet, public schools in the United States remain deeply segregated and are systematically becoming even more so.

    So when you look back on 2014 – on a school year in which for the first time “minority” students are the majority of public school students, all while less than 20% of their teachers are people of color, on a year that saw unemployment for recent Black college graduates hit a rate more than double that of all college graduates – it’s really, really hard to see education as the vehicle for civil rights. And too often, education been an institution engaged in quite the opposite, playing a key role in exclusion, not to mention in incarceration.

    The school-to-prison pipeline did gain some attention this year (hopefully we’re on the path to shutting it down), with the Obama Administration issuing guidelines in January recommending“public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students, a response to a rise in zero-tolerance policies that have disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses.” In March, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released civil rights data compiled from all 97,000+ public schools in the country. Among the findings, “Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended.” And this, from earlier this month: “Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education show that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity.”

    Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central and South America arrived at the US border this year, seeking asylum here. The response from Americans was incredibly ugly. President Obama took executive action on immigration reform in November, offering limited legal status (a temporary reprieve from deportation, that is) to up to five million of the country’s 11.4 million undocumented immigrants. Again, the response from some: panic, vitriol, a concern about money, not people.

    In 2014, affluent kids continued to do well. As they do. According to the AP, “Wealthier parents have been stepping up education spending so aggressively that they’re widening the nation’s wealth gap.” (Bonus: a school fundraiser that let parents buy their kids out of having to do homework. The price: $100.)

    Speaking of affluence, the College Board, facilitators of the SAT and the AP exams, claimed this year that by partnering with Khan Academy) for free SAT test prep, they were going to be able to neatly wipe away some of the socioeconomic problems that the test has faced – that is, that scores are correlated to wealth.

    The College Board also issued a statement this year “on behalf of itself and the Educational Testing Service, apologizing for a T-shirt that was made and sold by high school and college teachers who gathered in June to grade Advancement Placement exams in world history. Those who grade the exams have a tradition of creating a T-shirt, but this year’s version offended many Asian Americans who were at the event.” The shirt was straight-up racist.

    But the College Board’s AP curriculum was defended by students in the Jefferson County (Colorado) school district, who staged protests over a district proposal to review the AP curriculum so as to be sure it would “promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that ’encourage or condone civil disorder.’” The College Board said that it would not accept AP credits from those who fiddled with the curriculum, prompting the district’s Latino students to point out how access to AP classes and credits is an important equity issue.

    So is education “the new civil rights movement” as ed-reformers want us to think? Hell, is it even a vehicle for civil rights? Or is it a vehicle for something else?

    I mean, you have to wonder when a “teaching experiment” in a high poverty school in Detroit involves placing 100 kindergarteners into one classroom. Or when a group of white teachers show up wearing NYPD t-shirts in response to protests about the NYPD’s killing of an unarmed Black man.

    Are schools a safe place for all students? 2014 suggested otherwise: The Department of Education released a list of 55 institutions it was investigating over their handling of sexual assault on campus. 23 K–12 school districts are also under investigation. When facing legal challenges for negligence in sexual assault cases, many schools blamed the victims. (Or worse. Much worse.)

    There were over 40 school shootings in the US, and around the world terrorist attacks on schools are on the rise. Campus police officers are increasingly becoming militarized. (Scrutiny prompted the Los Angeles School District Police Department to return three grenade launchers, but it said it would keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle.)

    Are schools a safe place for educators? Employment became more and more precarious this year with concerted, legal attacks on tenure for public school teachers in New York and California and with attacks on academic freedom, most notably perhaps when the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s rescinded its job offer to professor Steven Salaita after he tweeted his support for Palestine. What protections do tenure really offer? Racist campus policing practices affected professors as well as students.

    Are schools a safe place to work? What is that work? The work of teaching? Learning? Research? Sports? Who profits from this work?

    And how is technology – education technology – changing all of this?

    Read the rest of this 4000+ word post here. Image credits: Rose Colored Photo.


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  • 12/18/14--16:00: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Law and Politics

    132 children and 9 staff died in a Pakistani Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar– the “deadliest single attack in the group’s history.” (Globally, terrorist attacks on schools are on the rise.) "“I am heartbroken by this senseless and coldblooded act of terror,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012.

    This year cannot end soon enough.

    The Department of Educationreleased its college ratings framework. Sorta. “The plan, the product of more than a year of discussion and debate, is less a proposal than a progress report—an update on metrics the department is considering using in its system,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. More via Inside Higher Ed.

    The Obama Administration made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that it plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many travel restrictions between the US and Cuba will be lifted as well.

    In a Facebook status update, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced he’s “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” Cue lots of articles about how his education policies will or will not help or hurt him.

    The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District (the district from which Michael Brown graduated, “charging the district’s electoral system is locking African-Americans out of the political process.”

    According to an Inspector General audit of how it handles student loans, the Department of Education lacks “a coordinated plan for preventing borrowers from defaulting.”

    From Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy, “Whistleblower Suit Alleges For-Profit College Tricked Veterans Into Debt.”

    York, Pennsylvania is poised to turn all its public schools into charter schools, run by the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools USA.

    The Salter Schools, a for-profit chain in Massachusetts, has settled with the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, over allegations of misrepresented job-placement rates and deceptive student recruitment,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

    A US District Court judge signed a settlement this week involving families of students “who claimed their children were unlawfully sent to emergency rooms as a form of discipline, in violation of their federally protected civil rights.” As a result of the settlement, the New York City schools will no longer call 911 to deal with disciplinary issues.

    LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking California state education officials for “a delay in using the results of the 2014–15 Smarter Balanced computerized test as means of measuring academic growth next year.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs

    “What Are MOOCs Good For?” asks the MIT Technology Review, but forgets to list “good for ed-tech clickbait” as one of the answers.

    Top 2014 LinkedIn Skills That Tie Back to Top Coursera Courses

    3 more schools have joined the digital learning consortium Unizin: Ohio State University, Penn State University and the University of Iowa.

    “The American Council on Education on Monday announced that 25 colleges have agreed to accept all or most transfer credit from students who have completed courses from a council-created pool of 100 low-cost online courses,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

    ITT Technical Institute is expanding into the K–12 online charter school market. What could go wrong.

    Meanwhile on Campus

    Oh look. LAUSD students can start to take their iPads home. I’m struck by this comment about the students getting their devices home safely: “School Police Chief Jose Santome estimated it would take 80 more officers to scale up the patrols to the district’s 800 campuses.”

    Virginia teen “Austin Martin, 18, was charged with possessing firearms on school property and released on a $1,500 bond.” Officers found “four loaded guns, several knives and more than 600 rounds of ammunition” in his car and arrested him. Police say he was super cooperative and didn’t actually plan to hurt anyone. And that’s what white privilege looks like, folks.

    UC Berkeleybegan notifying approximately 1600 people people week that “that their personal information may have been hacked by an individual or individuals who gained access to servers and databases in the campus’s Real Estate Division.”

    Cardboard cutouts of black people were hung in effigy around the UC Berkeley campus last weekend. An anonymous group says they’re responsible for the “art.”

    Some 60 students who participated in a “die in” to protest police brutality at Boston College will be subject to “disciplinary action.”

    From Newsweek: “Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, is facing a $7,500 charge covering the cost of local police overtime after students staged a demonstration protesting—wait for it—police brutality and racism.”

    Augustana College has barred access to its WiFi network to the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak.

    Professors at Colgate University took to Yik Yakin a campaign to “ bring some positivity to digital communications on the campus.” Eric Stoller has more on the professors’ efforts.

    The women’s college Barnard is weighing admitting transgender students.

    Spelman College has suspended an endowed chair named for Bill Cosby and his wife, in the wake of numerous allegations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted women.

    Bryan Alexander looks at the “queen sacrifice” at the University of New Orleans.

    Johns Hopkins University accidentally sent hundreds of acceptance letters to students that the school had actually rejected. Oops.

    The for-profit Career Education Corp is selling Le Cordon Bleu, its chain of culinary schools.

    Lots of chatter about US schools scrapping foreign language instruction– following the lead of the Success Academy Charter School chain– even though there are many benefits to being bilingual.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    More and more athletes are wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to draw attention to police brutality. Following the discovery of the effigies hung on their campus, the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team showed up to their game last weekend wearing t-shirts honoring Black people lynched and killed by police. Their coach said, “As student-athletes at Cal, our young women have a voice and a platform, and they chose to use it today.”

    The Michigan State Legislature has passed a bill banning student athlete unions.

    “The University of Texas’ flagship campus will open a sports-leadership center that will help coaches instill strong character in high-school players and teach college athletes how to manage their money better,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Speaking of managing money well, according to Sports Illustrated, the University of Michigan has reportedly offered Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a six-year $48 million contract to become its head football coach.

    Via The Chronicle: “At Top Athletics Programs, Students Often Major in Eligibility.” About one-third of the football players on the UO and FSU teams are majoring in “social sciences,” an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree.

    From the HR Department

    Arizona State University is demanding its full-time non-tenure-track writing instructors teach five writing classes a term– up from the current four course teaching load – without an increase in pay. I cannot fathom how you can possibly provide quality writing instruction at that level. Hell, I’m not sure how you can provide mediocre writing instruction at that level, unless you plan to outsource all grading to teaching machines.

    Meanwhile, regents have approved a $95,000 pay increase for ASU President Michael Crow, who’ll now make almost $900,000 a year.

    E-Literate reports that Gary Lang, Blackboard’s SVP of Product Development, has resigned.

    1.2 million American teachers aren’t covered by Social Security.”

    Teach For America could miss recruitment mark by more than 25 percent.”

    “Nine out of 10 New York City teachers received one of the top two rankings in the first year of a new evaluation system that was hailed as a better way of assessing how they perform, according to figures released on Tuesday” (according to The New York Times).

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The United Auto Workers, acting on behalf of teaching assistants and research assistants at Columbia University and the New School, has asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections on bids by the UAW to represent the T.A.s and R.A.s.”

    Marquette University has suspended associate professor of political science John McAdams, pending an investigation into a controversial blog post he wrote about a teaching assistant. Inside Higher Ed has more details.

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayerwouldn’t hireGwyneth Paltrow as a Yahoo Food contributor because the actress doesn’t have a college degree. Mean girls.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Pearson says it’s “Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment.” Whee.

    The New York Magazine ran an unbelievable story on Monday about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam who reported had made $72 million investing in the stock market. Turns out Islam has actually made $0.

    The Class of 2015– the writers whose work will enter the public domain * next year. (* Except in the US, where nothing will enter the public domain.)

    George Kroner offers a “Year in Review: Top LMS Developments of 2014.”

    The Merriam-Webster Dictionary picked “culture” as its word of the year.

    Lots of Elf on the Shelf panic this week, including rumors that the toy was first created by the NSA.

    Re/Code looks at“Who Is Behind After School, the Anonymous App Taking Over American High Schools.” (The app has been pulled from the app store multiple times after it was used to threaten school violence.)

    Pro tip: it’s probably not a good time to describe your startup as “Uber for Tutors,” what with all the sexual assaults and shadiness of the “ride-sharing” company.

    “The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public, including journalists, the ability to request documents from the government and organizations we support with our tax dollars. But at least one startup is trying to use it to harvest email addresses of current students at public universities.” Motherboard’s Adrianne Jeffries reports that Campus Job has filed some 18 FOIA requests for students’ email addresses.

    Desmos has rolled out a new activity, Polygraph, to help student build their math vocabulary.

    The New York Times writes about efforts to give low-income students in NYC eye exams and glasses.

    Lego is reissuing its sets of female scientists working in laboratories, which were so popular when they went on sale this summer that they immediately sold out.

    iRobot Launches Roomba-Based Robot Platform for STEM Ed.”

    Flickr has removed CC-licensed photos from its Wall Art program following outcry and confusion about Yahoo’s plans to make money off of the users on its platform.

    David Wiley has publishedAn Open Education Reader, a collection of readings on open education with commentary created by students in my graduate course Introduction to Open Education taught at Brigham Young University, Fall 2014.”

    The online presentation-sharing tool Slide Bureau is shutting down on December 24. (According to its website, it marketed the tool to teachers. Frankly, I’d never heard of it before.)

    Vibewrite (formerly Lernstift), maker of a pen that vibrated when you held it incorrectly, is bankrupt. The company had raised over €1 million from investors and crowdfunding. (It had just raised €560,000 three months ago apparently. So congrats on that burn rate, guys.)

    RIP

    Norman Ray Bridwell, author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series, passed away last Friday.

    Funding and Acquisitions

    NewSchools Venture Fund has invested $100,000 into the education unconference Edcamp Foundation. “How Will Edcamp Change with a New Executive Director and $100,000?” asks Edsurge. More startups hawking their wares at these events would be my guess.

    Clever has raised $30 million in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, GSV Capital, Peter Thiel, and Sequoia Capital. This brings to $43.3 million total investment raised by the company that helps get facilitate the movement of student data between apps and student information systems.

    Helix Education is putting its competency-based LMS up for sale. Details via E-Literate.

    DeVry Education Group has acquired the Brazilian bar exam test prep company Damásio.

    “Research”

    According to research by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, a summer jobs program for teens in Chicago significantly reduced violent crime arrests.

    According to UNICEF, some 5 million children in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia aren’t in school because of Ebola.

    Teens are smoking fewer cigarettes. They are smoking more e-cigarettes.

    According to data from DonorsChoose, 41% of projects posted to the site this past year came from teachers who work in the “highest poverty” schools. Books remain one of the most often requested classroom items.

    The latest panic over the so-called “skills shortage”: apparently we’re not teaching kids “big data skills” in schools.

    A Georgia Institute of Technology study has found that confusion over copyright has “chilling effects” on online creative publishing.

    From Vox: “Kids in the US do a lot of pointless homework, in 2 charts.” From The Atlantic: “Where Teens Have the Most Homework.”

    Most US kids lack sleep. News at 11.


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    Lego MiniFigure

    Part 10 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

    2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first one-to-one laptop program. In 1990, the Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne, Australia gave all its students in Years 5 through 12 a computer. 2015 will mark the 35th anniversary of the publication of Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms. It’ll be the 15th anniversary of Maine Governor Angus King’s proposal to give a laptop to every middle school student and teacher in the state.

    I’m not sure how the ed-tech industry will celebrate. As I’ve argued elsewhere, ed-tech suffers from amnesia, always forgetting or rewriting its past. It’s committed to a story that everything is new and that everything is wonderful.

    It’s neither.

    The Great LAUSD iPad Fiasco

    It’s pretty incredible that after decades of one-to-one computing initiatives, schools can still get things so very, very wrong. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s what happens when you ignore history and research. Maybe that’s what happens when you focus on profits, on data collection, on content delivery, on assessment.

    When the Los Angeles Unified School District announced last year that it planned to give all 700,000 public school students an iPad (pre-loaded with a specially-designed Pearson curriculum), it was a very big deal – in terms of price-tag and publicity. Apple even issued a press release, boasting that it had been awarded the $30 million contract. $30 million out of an initiative expected to cost the district over $1 billion.

    There were signs early on that LAUSD was struggling with the implementation. The district's WiFi infrastructure wasn’t robust enough. It hadn’t made plans or policies to deal with theft. And students quickly “hacked” their devices– or at least, they bypassed the security profiles set up to prevent them from downloading music and watching movies.

    But this year, LAUSD’s iPad initiative has moved from being “botched” to being a full-blown scandal. Superintendent John Deasy resigned, as did the district’s CIO. A federal grand jury has been called to look into the procurement process, although its unclear if LAUSD or Apple or Pearson (or all of the above) is the target of the criminal investigation.

    In August, several news organizations obtained and published emails between LAUSD, Apple, and Pearson officials. These revealed that Superintendent Deasy had begun meeting with these companies – specifically with former Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino– to discuss the hardware/curriculum purchase almost a year before the contract ever went out to bid.

    In response, Deasy announced he would cancel the contract with Apple, and that the district would reopen the bidding process. Deasy’s replacement, Ramon Cortines, initially indicated that he’d make major changes to the program, suggesting that he did not want to use construction bond money to fund it. But as has happened almost weekly with this story, things changed. The contract with Apple was not cancelled – not entirely as the district announced it would spend $22 million to buy 20,000 more iPads just in time for spring standardized testing season. And instead of spending $504 per iPad, the district would pay $552 for each device.

    In September, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) issued a 95-page report evaluating the district’s iPad project. It found that only one teacher out of 245 classrooms reported using the Pearson curriculum. (It’s costing the district about $200 per device for a three-year licensing deal.) 80% of high schools reported they “rarely used the tablets.” The report also found that the district was so busy dealing with the distribution of the iPads, it never really addressed using them in the classroom.

    Bonus: in August, an audit found the district was missing $2 million in computers, mostly iPads.

    You can read the rest of this post (it's only 2700 words!) here. Image credits: awee_19


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  • 12/21/14--16:00: Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014
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  • 12/25/14--12:24: The Pigeons of Ed-Tech
  • “Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”– Ellen Condliffe Lagemann

    As part of his graduate work, B. F. Skinner invented what’s now known as “the Skinner Box.” His “operant conditioning chamber” was used to study and to train animals to perform certain tasks. Do the task correctly; get a reward (namely food).

    Skinner was hardly the first to use animals in psychological experiments that sought to understand how the learning process works. Several decades earlier, for his dissertation research, Edward Thorndike had built a “puzzle box” in which an animal had to push a lever in order to open a door and escape (again, often rewarded with food for successfully completing the “puzzle”). Thorndike measured how quickly animals figured out how to get out of the box after being placed in it again and again and again – their “learning curve.”

    Pigeons and Puzzle Boxes


    We have in the puzzle box and in the Skinner Box the origins of education technology – some of the very earliest “teaching machines” – just as we have in the work of Thorndike and Skinner, the foundations of educational psychology and, as Lagemann has argued, of many of our educational practices still today. (In addition to developing the puzzle box, Thorndike also developed prototypes for what we know now as the multiple choice test.)

    “Once we have arranged the particular type of consequence called a reinforcement,“ Skinner wrote in ”The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching“ (1954), ”our techniques permit us to shape the behavior of an organism almost at will. It has become a routine exercise to demonstrate this in classes in elementary psychology by conditioning such an organism as a pigeon.”

    …Such an organism as a pigeon.” We often speak of “lab rats” as shorthand for the animals used in scientific experiments. We use the phrase too to describe people who work in labs, who are completely absorbed in performing their tasks again and again and again.

    In education and in education technology, students are also the subjects of experimentation and conditioning. But in Skinner’s framework, they are not rats; they are pigeons.

    "…Comparable results have been obtained with pigeons, rats, dogs, monkeys, human children… and psychotic subjects. In spite of great phylogenetic differences, all these organisms show amazingly similar properties of the learning process. It should be emphasized that this has been achieved by analyzing the effects of reinforcement and by designing techniques that manipulate reinforcement with considerable precision. Only in this way can the behavior of the individual be brought under such precise control.” (emphasis mine)

    Learning, according to Skinner and Thorndike, is about behavior – about reinforcing those behaviors (knowledge, answers) that educators deem “correct.”

    When educators fail to shape and control a student’s behavior through these techniques and technologies, they are at risk, in Skinner’s words, of “losing our pigeon.”


    Project Pigeon


    From “Ed-Tech’s Monsters”:

    During World War II, Skinner worked on Project Pigeon, an experimental project to create pigeon-guided missiles.


    …The military canceled and revived Project Pigeon a couple of times. “Our problem,” said Skinner, "was no one would take us seriously.” By 1953, the military had devised an electronic system for missile guidance, and animal-guided systems were no longer necessary.


    That same year, Skinner came up with the idea for his teaching machine. Visiting his daughter’s fourth grade classroom, he was struck by the inefficiencies. Not only were all the students expected to move through their lessons at the same pace, but when it came to assignments and quizzes, they did not receive feedback until the teacher had graded the materials — sometimes a delay of days. Skinner believed that both of these flaws in school could be addressed through a machine, and built a prototype which he demonstrated at a conference the following year.


    All these elements were part of Skinner’s teaching machines: the elimination of inefficiencies of the teacher, the delivery of immediate feedback, the ability for students to move through standardized content at their own pace.


    Today’s ed-tech proponents call this “personalization.”

    Cry “Havoc!” and Let Slip the Pigeons of War


    Doves and pigeons share the same bird family. The former is a symbol of peace; the latter has been a weapon of war.

    Computing technology is also a weapon of war. The world’s first programmable, digital computer was developed by the British during World War II to crack German military communications.

    Education technology has roots in war as well – in Thorndike’s development of standardized testing for World War I recruits, in the Department of Defense’s development of SCORM and in its use of computer-based training simulations. Simon Ramo, “the father of the intercontinental ballistic missile,” is also the oldest person to ever receive a patent– yes, in education technology – “for any person, business, or entity seeking information to ensure that information being presented is useful by being understood.”

    The pigeon. The object of technological experimentation, manipulation, and control, weaponized.

    The pigeon. The child. The object of ed-tech.

    The pigeon. The history of the future of education technology. (And the new theme for Hack Education.)


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  • 12/26/14--11:48: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Law and Politics


    The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick reports that “Companies that Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo has an interest in have seen the business they get from the city’s schools system triple since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to the board last year.” Quazzo is the co-founder and Managing Partner of GSV Advisors. “Quazzo’s companies have gotten an additional $2.9 million in Chicago Public Schools business in the year and a half since the millionaire venture capitalist joined the board to fill a vacancy left by Penny Pritzker when President Barack Obama named Pritzker commerce secretary.” The CPS Inspector General has opened an investigation.

    James Peyser has been appointedMassachusetts’ new education secretary. Previously Peyser had worked for NewSchools Venture Fund.

    The Department of Justice is suing Rikers Island over the treatment of juvenile inmates. More in The New Yorker.

    Via ProPublica: “A National Survey of School Desegregation Orders.”

    Michigan state taxes earmarked for schools will be used to help fund a new $450 million arena for the Detroit Red Wings.

    The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a Mississippi school district violated a student’s First Amendment rights when it punished him for a video he posted to Facebook and YouTube (from off-campus).

    Via BoingBoing: “The Appoquinimink, DE school board is contemplating requiring parental permission slips for students who want to check YA novels out of their school library.”

    Reaction to last week’s release of the Department of Education’s new college ratings plan from Tressie McMillan Cottom.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs*


    Where Ebola Has Closed Schools, A Radio Program Provides A Faint Signal Of Hope” by NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

    From Daniel Lemire: “MOOCs are closed platforms… and probably doomed.”

    * I am hoping that I can retire this category in 2015.

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Rolling Stone is asking the Columbia Journalism School to audit how it handled its story of an alleged gang rape at a UVA fraternity party.

    The Star Tribune profilesUniversity of Minnesota bioethics professor Carl Elliott and his campaign against the university’s psychiatry department, “which he blames for the 2004 death of a mentally ill patient.”

    Massachusetts’ Hopkinton High School principal has bannedschool dances for fear of “twerking” and “dirty dancing.”

    A really ugly controversy at Brandeis University over tweets by a student about the recent shooting of two NYPD officers. Her comments were picked up by a conservative website that is now demanding she be expelled. As always, do not read the comments on any Inside Higher Ed or Chronicle article.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “What to do for kids with no internet at home? How about parking a wifi-enabled school bus near their trailer park?”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    In news that (sadly) probably surprises no one, Florida State University has clearedJameis Winston in the code of conduct hearing regarding an accusation he had sexually assaulted a student in 2012. Winston will not be disciplined (and will play in the upcoming bowl game). The Florida Supreme Court chief justice who presided over the hearing said that the evidence was “insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof," even though the victim gave extensive details about the alleged assault and even though Winston’s response in the hearing was to say nothing.

    From the HR Department


    Edmodo CEO Crystal Hutter has taken on a new role at the company and will “focus on strategic partnerships,” reports Edsurge. The new CEO will be Vibhu Mittal, co-founder of Root–1, a company that Edmodo acquired in 2013.

    “The University of Illinois violated key principles of shared governance and academic freedom in its review – and rejection – of the hiring of Steven G. Salaita, a faculty panel has found,” reports Inside Higher Ed. “But the panel also found that there may have been legitimate reasons to reject Salaita’s appointment with tenure to the faculty of the American Indian studies department at the Urbana-Champaign campus.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Via the Cleveland Scene: “Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014 After a Major Overhaul to the Test.” The new test, now administered by Pearson and “Common Core-aligned,” costs more (and there are no more free retakes). It must be taken on a computer. You must have a credit card in order to sign up for it. “The numbers are shocking: In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year.”

    “We’re 3 female computer scientists at MIT, here to answer questions about programming and academia. Ask us anything!” – Guess what happened next?

    Sifteo is open-sourcing its “intelligent gaming cubes” after what VentureBeat calls a “disappointing commercial run.”

    The New York Times profiles GoldieBlox, a toy company that makes “engineering-based Erector-style sets for girls.”

    “For the third straight month, some SAT scores in Asia are being withheld because of allegations of widespread cheating, this time on the December administration of the college entrance exam,” reports The Washington Post.

    Khan Academy has updated its Terms of Service, in part “to make what we mean by ‘non-commercial use’ clearer so we added more explanation and examples.” It also announced that over 3 billion problems have been answered on its platform.

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Guokr, “an online science community and a partner of Coursera in China,” has raised $20 million in investment from the Chinese company TAL." More via Tech in Asia.

    Barnes & Noble has bought out Pearson’s stake in Nook Media for ~$28 million, reports The Digital Reader’s Nate Hoffelder. “Pearson paid $89.5 million for their 5% stake in December 2012.”

    Via Edsurge: “US edtech companies hit paydirt in 2014, raising $1.36B in 201 rounds from more than 386 unique investors, according to analysis by EdSurge.”

    Via NewSchools Venture Fund: “A closer look at K12 edtech funding in 2014.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Here’s who got the biggest Gates Foundation education grants for 2014.”

    “Research”


    The World Bank’s Michael Trucano asks (and attempts to answer) the question “How many schools are connected to the Internet?”

    “More Students – But Few Girls, Minorities – Took AP Computer Science Exams,” reports Education Week.

    According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science“people who did their evening reading via a light-emitting electronic device had a harder time falling asleep and poorer quality sleep than those who read a print book.”

    Why journalists hate to write about education


    0 0
  • 12/29/14--13:48: Top Ed-Tech Startups of 2014
  • Much like my annual look at the “Top Ed-Tech Trends,” in previous years I’ve selected what I thought were the “Top Ed-Tech Startups.” (See 2011, 2012, 2013.) It’s something I started doing in 2010 when, as a tech blogger at ReadWriteWeb, I was assigned to write the year-end Top Startups article.

    At the time, I made up some rules to limit my selection (mostly so my list didn’t end up being dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter). I chose to only look at startups founded that year, for example. And I decided I wasn’t going to deem “the top” simply based on which had the most investment dollars or user numbers or Techcrunch headlines. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary…” I know. But I wanted to identify the startups that represented important or interesting tech trends and that represented them well.

    When I started picking the Top Ed-Tech Startups here on Hack Education, I kept those rules. I wanted to select startups that were good. And in education technology that’s easier said than done.

    Indeed each year, it’s become harder and harder to pick ten startups. In 2012, four of the entities on my list weren’t startups at all. I chose one non-profit, one university initiative, one MOOC, and one Kickstarter project. Last year, I only came up with three names, two of which I’d featured in previous years.

    My rules have crumbled, as has my interest – or hell, even belief in – ed-tech startups.

    Despite the mythology of “disruptive innovation,” the most innovative initiatives in education technology aren’t coming from startups. They aren’t incubated in Silicon Valley. They don’t emerge from the tech industry. In fact, many of the ed-tech startup ideas that are developed there are at best laughable, at worst horrifying.

    What I like instead: the Digital Public Library of America, Reclaim Hosting, A Domain of One’s Own, P2PU, and Lumen Learning, for example.

    I started to write “the top ed-tech startups of 2014 are NULL,” but that’s unfair. My work has changed; I look at a lot fewer startups these days. There are other publications that do – often, unfortunately, with little discernment. Discerning educators offer a lot more insight, I’d argue.

    Echoing Dan Meyer, I’ll give Pear Deck a shout-out as one of the top ed-tech startups of the year. (It fits my rules: it was founded in 2014.) Pear Deck allows educators to make interactive presentations and assessments – what Meyer has described as “the opposite of individualized instruction. It's socialized instruction.”

    And I’ll also give another “top ed-tech startup” nod to Known. As part of the fledgling Indie Web Movement, Known launched this year and offers the ability to control your content and your data – to publish on your own site and syndicate everywhere. As I’ve argued repeatedly, I hope that we’ll see more of these efforts to “reclaim” education technology for learners, by learners so that ed-tech is not simply about industry and institutional data mining and surveillance.

    So there. I picked two top ed-tech startups for 2014: Known and Pear Deck.

    Looking for other ways to rank startups?

    Top 10 Education Startup Investments in 2014


    • $135 million: Pluralsight
    • $100 million: Tutorgroup and Dude Solutions
    • $85 million: Desire2Learn
    • $72 million: Yik Yak
    • $64.12 million: Teacher Synergy
    • $50 million: Craftsy
    • $47 million: Kaltura
    • $45 million: Minerva Project
    • $40 million: Renaissance Learning and Remind
    • $35 million: Udacity and General Assembly

    (Source: CB Insights, Mattermark)

    Top 10 Education Startups with Most Mentions in The New York Times in 2014


    • Khan Academy
    • Coursera
    • edX
    • Udacity
    • Edmodo
    • Yik Yak
    • ClassDojo
    • Code.org
    • inBloom
    • Codecademy

    (Source: NYTimes)

    Top 10 Education Startups with the Most Mentions in Hack Education in 2014


    • Coursera
    • edX
    • Khan Academy
    • Udacity
    • Knewton
    • Yik Yak
    • Minerva Project
    • Code.org
    • ClassDojo
    • Remind

    (Source: Hack Education)

    (Top 10 Education BigCos with the Most Mentions in Hack Education in 2014)


    • Pearson
    • Blackboard
    • Chegg
    • 2U
    • K12 Inc
    • News Corp’s Amplify
    • Cengage
    • Corinthian Colleges
    • ConnectEDU
    • McGraw-Hill

    (Source: Hack Education)

    Top 10 Education Startups with the Most Users *


    • Khan Academy - 10 million (per month)
    • Edmodo - 44 million
    • Class Dojo - 30 million
    • Codecademy - 24 million
    • Coursera - 10 million
    • Remind - 10 million
    • Knewton - 10 million
    • Duolingo - 10 million
    • edX - 3 million
    • Udacity - 1.6 million

    (Source: Wikipedia)

    * Actually this is really tough to gauge, and this list is pretty flawed. Are these unique users? Are they monthly active users? It seems like “10 million users” is the threshhold for when you issue a press release about your numbers -- unless you insist you’re on a path to 1 billion users, which I guess investors believe enough to put you on the list of top funded startups for the year. And that makes you “the top” for sure.

    Of course, none of these numbers - users, dollars, pageviews, mentions - means jack shit when it comes to how technology companies might reshape or enhance learning, but hey. "Learning" - that's one of my rules about what makes a “top ed-tech startup,” not necessarily the industry’s.


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