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The History of the Future of Education Technology

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    This is the ninth article in my series Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

    Here’s what I wrote last year when I chose “the Indie Web” as one of the “Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014”:

    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.

    Amen to all that (although for those keeping score at home, this year’s series so far weighs in at around 54,000 words).

    When I chose to write about the “Indie Web” last year, I purposefully wanted to distinguish it from other “learn-to-code” efforts (which as I’ve argued elsewhere are more about what employers want than they are about what students need). That being said, the Indie Web does demand people learn more about how the technologies they utilize actually work. The Indie Web movement in particular wants 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 content, what happens to data. The principles of IndieWebCamp, which I cited last year too, are pretty key here:

    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 is a powerful alternative to much of ed-tech as well, which as this series has once again highlighted, is quite committed to controlling and monetizing students’ and teachers’ connections, content, and data.

    This year, I’ve changed the title slightly, from “Indie Web” to “Indie Ed-Tech.” I’ve done so because I want to extend my analysis beyond the Web, as a tech or as an idea. Nevertheless, much of what I plan to highlight in this article remains the same as what I wrote about last year: indie ed-tech underscores the importance of students and scholars alike controlling their intellectual labor and their data; it questions the need for VC-funded, proprietary tools that silo and exploit users; it challenges the centrality of the LMS in all ed-tech discussions and the notion that there can be one massive (expensive) school-wide system to rule them all; it encourages new forms of open, networked learning that go beyond the syllabus, beyond the campus. It’s not only a different sort of infrastructure, it’s a different sort of philosophy than one sees promoted by Silicon Valley – by the ed-tech industry or the (ed-)tech press.

    One thing I found striking when I began working on this article was that almost none of the sources were trade magazines. These just aren’t the kinds of stories that Wired or Techcrunch or Edsurge tend to write about. Instead the sources I’ve drawn on here are primarily blog posts written by instructional designers and professors and entrepreneurs and published on their own websites.

    See, there’s a world of fascinating and innovative things happening in ed-tech. (Or at least there are pockets of rebels scattered across the Pacific Northwest, in the mountains of Italy, in Bristol, in Fredericksburg, in Wagga Wagga, and elsewhere…) You just need to look beyond the industry PR.

    Ed-Tech as a Reclamation Project


    Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, but fears about its future continue, particularly due threats from government surveillance, corporate tech silos, and censorship by both governments and tech companies. (Some tried to argue this year that ad-blockers are breaking the Web. But I think ads were probably the Web’s original sin.)

    The Web is dead. Long live the Web. Blogging is dead. Long live blogging. “All My Blogs Are Dead.” “All Our Academic Websites, Also Dead.”

    Yes, despite all the caution and concern about “a world that no longer forgets,” the Web is actually quite fragile, in part because we continue to post content to sites that we do not control. This impermanence has major ramifications for scholarship.

    “The internet is shit today. It’s broken. It was probably always broken, but it’s worse than ever.” – Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde

    To push back against the brokenness of the Internet is daunting. It probably involves, as Sunde argues, dismantling global capitalism. To push back against the brokenness of ed-tech is challenging in its own right, no doubt. 2015 was a record-setting year for ed-tech investment – I’ll cover this in more depth in the last article in this series – and all that venture capital is accompanied by powerful narratives that encourage, among other things, pervasive data extraction, automation, and algorithmic decision-making.

    But the “indie-ness” of indie ed-tech isn’t simply a matter of the technology or the business model.

    Indie ed-tech does strive to offer something different in both those cases. At its core, it supports students and teachers and schools in managing their own infrastructure, their own labor, their own data. And so if there is a “Web we have to save,” it should be because there is a “Web we need to give to students.”

    Gratuitous self promotion: I wrote a book on this topic this year titled Claim Your Domain – And Own Your Online Presence.

    One of the cornerstones of indie ed-tech has long been the Domain of One’s Own initiative at the University of Mary Washington, which gives Web domains along with pedagogical and technical support to students and faculty. The domains are theirs, not the school’s.

    DTLT (the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies) at UMW experienced a significant shake-up this year,when Jim Groom submitted his resignation in order to work full-time at Reclaim Hosting. There he joined former DTLT-er Tim Owens at their new startup, one that offers hosting and support services for other schools and teachers to run similar “Domain of One’s Own”-ish efforts. In September, UMW announced Groom’s replacement: Jesse Stommel who left the University of Wisconsin Madison to become the new executive director of DTLT. (Stommel’s thoughts on “Leaving Wisconsin.”) Also joining DTLT: Lee Skallerup Bessette. With these hires, it appears that DTLT will remain a site of important, student-centered (feminist!) ed-tech innovation.

    Often when I write about the importance of the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative, someone will sneer “but it’s just a blog.” Or when I write about the significance of Reclaim Hosting, someone will argue that “hosting is not innovative at all.” These responses miss the point of what sets these indie ed-tech efforts apart – technologically and philosophically. They fail to recognize the importance of networked scholarship, for starters, but they also tend to give too much weight to theories about “disruptive innovation” and the ed-tech industry’s own descriptions and expectations of what that looks like.

    Towards a “Personal Cyberinfrastructure”


    Indie ed-tech isn’t just about “blogging,” of course. And it isn’t just about “blogging” as a replacement for closed and/or proprietary tools like learning management systems and e-portfolios. It’s not just about annotation, and it’s not just about commenting – but maybe, just maybe, there’s some hope, thanks to Indie Web startups like Known and Hypothes.is, that these too can be “reclaimed” for education purposes, again under the control of learners and scholars themselves and not under the control of companies that want our data in order to build their algorithms.

    “Blogging” tools might be poised to become something new in their own right – that’s one possible result of the latest WordPress.com management system, Calypso, some contended when it was released this fall. “Calypso is the Future of Personal Cyberinfrastructure,” Washington State University’s Mike Caulfield argued.

    Personal cyberinfrastructure” is a foundational concept for indie ed-tech. This involves the decentralization of ed-tech, as the locus of control is less the institution and its software systems than it is the individual. This shift (ideally) offers the individual better control of one’s data – via an “API of one’s own,” perhaps – as well as better construction of the community with which she or he is learning. It moves the individual (ideally) beyond the “default settings” of software that restrict us to a “templated self.”

    These sorts of experiments with “personal cyberinfrastructure” are underway not just at the University of Mary Washington, but at Davidson College, the University of Oklahoma, Brigham Young University, and elsewhere – including high schools.

    This remain crucial: “personal cyberinfrastructure” mustn’t be unwieldy. It shouldn’t be too complex. That’s a huge challenge.

    The arc of the ed-tech universe is long and it bends towards the bloated LMS.

    Ideally, indie ed-tech should be SPLOT: the “Simplest/Smallest Possible/Portable Learning/Latest Online/Open Tools/Technologies.” It should be MYOS: make your own stuff/mind your own stuff/manage your own stuff/my online self/my operating system. We still have a ways to go. Like I said, this is an aspirational post.

    Rethinking the Web


    Mike Caulfield continued his work throughout the year on the Federated Wiki technology and its usage in education. It’s not been an easy concept or tool for folks to grasp, and one of the latest iterations now involves taking some of the ideas about federation, wiki-ness, and forking and applying these to WordPress– the most popular CMS and as such one that a lot of folks are familiar if not comfortable with. Caulfield calls this new project “Wikity.”

    …It’s exactly the model that Downes and Siemens advanced all those years ago in the first cMOOCs: “Aggregate - Remix - Repurpose - Feed Forward.” But the tools used there – wiki, blogs, etc – were, in my opinion, not as well suited to the cycle as they might have been, at least for certain types of endeavors. Blogs tend towards conversational and quotative reuse, which is great for some subject areas, but not so great for others. Wiki feeds forward into a consensus process that provides a high level of remix and reuse, but at the expense of personal control and the preservation of divergent goals.

    In working on Wikity, as well as on a keynote he delivered at the dLRN conference this fall, Caulfield has outlined some of the most thought-provoking ideas about how we might rethink the Web and ed-tech’s position on it. This isn’t a matter of restoring the Web under the auspices of a nostalgia for “the Web we lost,” although it does include a nod to a much earlier vision, that of Vannevar Bush and his Memex. “In the world of the Memex your space houses things useful to you, and the space of a literate person includes many things one disagrees with but finds useful to think with,” Caulfield imagines. So how do we build tools that meet the needs of progressive, networked teaching and learning rather than trying to tweak the Web (and the increasingly powerful social media stream) that we’ve inherited?

    Caulfield’s keynote: “The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral.”

    “Open”


    Based on the blog posts that emerged from the OpenEd conference in Vancouver in November, there seemed to be a rift (or rifts, more accurately) between and among those in open education. “What counts as ‘open’?” is a question that’s long been up for debate. This year another key one emerging from the conference seemed to be “are open textbooks the right place to focus?” Are “open textbooks” indie (or indie enough)? Is “open” challenging the educational status quo enough?

    Open educational resources and open textbooks have, without a doubt, continued to push into the mainstream. (From David Wiley: “The Practical Cost of Textbooks” and why this issue, indie or not, remains important.)

    Updates from open textbook initiatives: Virginia’s community college system announced in May more funding for an open textbook initiative, modeled on Tidewater Community College’s “Z-Degree.” Manitoba announced an Open Textbook Initiative in September, one that will create a library of free and openly licensed textbooks for the province’s most highly enrolled college classes. In November, Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute and Lumen Learning announced a partnership to publish 24 online college courses, based on OER, for two complete degree programs. An update on British Columbia’s open textbook project, penned by Tony Bates in November, notes that the project has resulted in an estimated savings for students of between $927,200 and $1,204,762. (Another update from Bates earlier this year: the cost of developing an open textbook is $80,000 - $130,000).

    OER even found support at the federal level in 2015, with the US Department of Education hiring Andy Marcinek in September to be its first ever “open education adviser” and proposing in October a new regulation that would require any new intellectual property developed with its grant funds to be openly licensed.

    Of course, if the feds embracing OER doesn’t make you question the indie cred of “open,” then ed-tech companies’ use of the word “open” just might. Case in point: McGraw-Hill and Microsoft announced this spring that they “embrace open learning,” according to a headline in the Ed-Tech Magazine at least. The story contained the phrase “compound learning object,” to which David Wiley responded with a little history lesson about learning objects and the Reusability Paradox.

    (Not everyone is into open-washing, oh no. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Chief Content Officer published some sponsored content in Wired: “Why Free Is Not the Future of Digital Content in Education.”)

    The prize for the most questionable act in open education in 2015 might just go to the University of Guelph which attempted this summer to trademark“OpenEd.” Thankfully the university responded to the outrage that ensued and backed down, saying it would release its claim (but noting that there was nothing now to stop others from trying to trademark them term). Rolin Moe responded to the trademark issue, highlighting some of the issues that seemed to be display – again – following OpenEd this fall: what are our assumptions about “open”?

    Recommended reading: “Reflections on Open Education and the Path Forward” by David Wiley.

    Punk’s Not Dead…


    Edupunk was declared dead almost as soon as it burst on the scene way back in 2008. So it goes, I suppose. But there’s something about Edupunk that persists in the pockets of indie ed-tech: a resistance to the mainstream ed-tech industry, suspicion about institutional power, a DIY sensibility. From “The Indie Ed-Tech Movement” by that O.G. edupunk himself, Jim Groom writes that 1980s indie punk

    provides an interesting parallel for what we might consider Indie Edtech. Indie punk represents a staunchly independent, iconoclastic, and DIY approach to music which encompasses many of the principles we aspired to when creating open, accessible networks for teaching and learning at UMW. Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation. The rise of the venture capital xMOOCs only reinforced that value of such an ethos.

    (See also: “Indie Music and Ed-Tech (or Indie Ed-Tech)” by Adam Croom.)

    A lot of the technology is in place to achieve the goals of indie ed-tech. What’s a harder sell: changing the culture– among institutions, industry, and individuals – to support these goals. It’s the culture as much as it is the technology that gives us the very dystopian ed-tech I’ve written about throughout this series: the penchant for surveillance, for exploitation, for efficiency, for viewing students as objects and not as subjects of their own education.

    We don't simply need to rethink education technology; we need to rethink "school."

    If I could choose one blog post from the year that shows us an alternative path forward for education and for ed-tech, it would be “Not Yetness” by Amy Collier. Emerging technologies need not necessarily be “indie,” but the concept of emergence as explained by Collier is messy enough to be hard for institutions or industry to co-opt, standardize, monetize:

    In our context, emergence is allowing new ideas, new methodologies, new findings, new ways of learning, new ways of doing, and new synergies to emerge and to have those things continue to feed back into more emergence. Emergence is a good thing. For us, not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem… but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve


    …This is becoming increasingly important in education, where the rhetoric surrounding educational technology pushes simplification, ease, efficiency, and measurable-everything. This rhetoric goes hand-in-hand with the accountability movements (many call it “evidence-based practice”) at play in educational contexts.

    To resist the compulsion for data, to resist the big business of ed-tech, we need more “indie,” more agitation, more care, and much more not-yetness. And this resistance is happening…


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    This is the tenth and final article in my series Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

    Who’s Funded/Who’s Funding


    In February of this year, Techcrunch, one of the original Silicon Valley-focused tech blogs, looked back on venture funding during 2014 and pronounced that an ed-tech investment revival was underway. But by June, Techcrunch had changed its tune, proclaiming that funding for ed-tech startups was drying up: “Investors Rethink EdTech As Dealflow Declines.”

    2015 has actually been a record-setting year for ed-tech investment if you look at the total dollar figures. Investment analyst firm CB Inights wrote this summer (just a month after Techcrunch’s doom-filled article) that “the period from 2010 to 2014 saw more than a 503% growth in investment dollars.”

    “Ka-ching!” – Edsurge

    What’s striking to me isn’t so much that Techcrunch got it right or wrong when it looked at investment numbers from the first half of the year and extrapolated what was happening in the sector. What’s interesting, I think, is that, with all the data at its disposal, this is the narrative that Techcrunch chose to tell: one of wariness, hesitancy. Like many industry observers – investors and journalists alike – Techcrunch appears ready for the ed-tech boom to turn to ed-tech bust once again. You can sense it in their commentary: education is a really “tough space.”

    Techcrunch is also the owner of Crunchbase, a crowdsourced database that tracks who in the technology sector has received venture funding. (More accurately, I suppose, Techcrunch and Crunchbase are owned by AOL.) Crunchbase is not a perfect record; as I said, it’s crowdsourced, relying on entrepreneurs and analysts entering funding data in order to keep it up-to-date. But the data on Crunchbase is freely available. And that does set it apart from many other venues that charge for the data and the analysis about investments. (Like this one, for example: market research firm MarketsandMarkets claimed this summer that “the global Education Technology (Ed Tech) and Smart Classrooms Market is expected to grow from USD 43.27 Billion in 2015 to USD 93.76 Billion in 2020.” But the report will cost you almost $5000, so all I can really say is that the market for selling data about ed-tech remains strong.)

    Me, I want to be able to see the data itself.

    At the beginning of the year, I started to keep track of all the funding reports news I came across. I wanted to make this data openly available in turn. (You can find the site and the GitHub repo that powers it at matrix.hackeducation.com.) It’s important to “show your work” when it comes to these sorts of reports, I believe, because the figures and the analyses from various sources always differ wildly. This is partly based on “what counts” as ed-tech. Again, it’s not so much a matter of right or wrong; it’s more the kind of narrative that frames or is framed by the data.

    My calculations differ from, say, Edsurge’s, which recently published its look back at funding in 2015 for US startups. Here’s its list of the “Top 10 US edtech deals in 2015”:

    1. HotChalk ($230 million)
    2. Lynda.com ($186 million)
    3. Udacity ($105 million)
    4. AltSchool ($100 million)
    5. General Assembly ($70 million)
    6. Udemy ($65 million)
    7. Coursera ($61.1 million)
    8. Civitas Learning ($60 million)
    9. Varsity Tutors ($50 million)
    10. Duolingo and Sphero (tied with $45 million each)

    Here’s my list of the 20 biggest deals this year:

    1. Social Finance ($1 billion)
    2. Earnest ($275 million)
    3. HotChalk ($230 million)
    4. Social Finance ($200 million)
    5. TutorGroup ($200 million)
    6. Lynda.com ($186 million)
    7. Hujang.com ($157 million)
    8. Udacity ($105 million)
    9. 17zuoye and AltSchool (tied with $100 million each)
    10. Xioazhan Jiaoyu ($84 million)
    11. General Assembly ($70 million)
    12. Udemy ($65 million)
    13. Yuantiku ($60 million)
    14. Civitas Learning ($60 million)
    15. NetDragon Education ($52.5 million)
    16. Genshuixue and Varsity Tutors (tied with $50 million each)
    17. Coursera ($49.5 million)
    18. Knewton ($47.25 million)
    19. Ortbotix and Duolingo (tied with $45 million each)
    20. LittleBits ($44.2 million)

    My list includes investments outside the US – doing so highlights the booming market in China. Mine also includes Social Finance and Earnest, two companies that specialize in private student loans. While Edsurge says it’s excluding those that aren’t focused on “learner outcomes,” I think it’s important to recognize investors’ interest in the student loan sector, particularly as these companies increasingly partner with coding bootcamps.

    These numbers demonstrate that there were some giant funding rounds this year. (When Lynda.com announced its $186 million round in January, it was hailed as the largest the sector had seen in the past five years.) As Edsurge notes in its analysis of the year’s funding, these big numbers do skew things: “These record-setting numbers may be deceptive as a large percentage of funding is concentrated among a small number of companies.”

    Edsurge finds that seed and angel rounds of funding have increased in size and number, but it notes that the number of Series A and B rounds has fallen. “This increase suggests that investors are becoming more reluctant to invest in Series B deals,” it says (echoing what Techcrunch observed in June), adding that this might be “a symptom, perhaps, of early investor darlings’ seeming failure to establish a core business model?” Perhaps.

    Here’s my list of the most well-funded education technology startups:

    1. Social Finance ($1.37 billion)
    2. TutorGroup ($315 million)
    3. Earnest ($299.1 million)
    4. HotChalk ($235 million)
    5. Hujang.com ($187 million)
    6. D2L ($165 million)
    7. Pluralsight ($162.5 million)
    8. Udacity ($160 million)
    9. Coursera ($146.1 million)
    10. 17zuoye ($135 million)

    Again, this list differs quite a bit with one that The Chronicle of Education, with Edsurge’s help, published in October.

    In April, Pitchbook, another investment database listed the most valuable ed-tech companies. According to its calculations, those were Pluralsight (valued at $1 billion), Instructure (valued at $554 million), Lynda.com (valued at $46 million), Coursera (valued at $367 million), Open English (valued at $350 million), Sympoz (valued at $339 million), D2L (valued at $330 million), Lumos Labs (valued at $265 million), Clever (valued at $247 million), and Edmodo (valued at $236 million). Following its investment this year, Udacity would certainly now be near the top of that list, as it became a “unicorn,” that is a company valued at $1 billion.

    So what’s popular among investors? Test prep. Tutoring. Private student loans. Learning management systems. Online “skills training.”

    The most active investors in ed-tech this year include Learn Capital, Kapor Capital, New Enterprise Associates, NewSchools Venture Fund, Owl Ventures, 500 Startups, and Rethink Education. German media company Bertelsmann was involved in two of the biggest investment rounds this year: Udacity and HotChalk. The same could be said for Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in Udacity and AltSchool. A special shout-out to celebrities Carmelo Anthony and Adam Levine who both invested in ed-tech startups this year.

    VC Funding (Some Context)


    To put things in a little perspective:

    Despite its record-breaking year, ed-tech only receives a fraction of all VC funding and the “big deals” in ed-tech are dwarfed by those seen in the rest of the tech sector. Uber alone has raised almost $5 billion this year, for example.

    Via The New York Times: “Nearly two-thirds of the top 71 investment funds have no women as senior investment team members, according to the data compiled by the Social and Capital Partnership and the Information, a news site. Roughly 30 percent of those funds have a senior investment team that is composed entirely of white members.”

    Recommended reading: Tad Friend’s profile in The New Yorker of investor Marc Andreessen: Tomorrow’s Advance Man.

    Meanwhile: “Is Silicon Valley Driving Teachers Out?” The Atlantic reported in July that, “As housing costs in America’s tech hub continue to soar, local educators are finding it tough to stay and work in the area.”

    Beyond VC Funding


    “US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually,” McKinsey wrote excitedly this summer. Of course, venture capital is just one source of the money that’s pouring into ed-tech. There’s government funding, of course. There’s personal spending. And there’s lots and lots of “philanthropy.”

    The Gates Foundation is perhaps the most famous of these philanthropic organizations, having spent billions of dollars pushing various education initiatives. In October, Bill Gates gave what Education Week observed was “his first major speech on education in seven years,” and indicated his foundation would “double down” on teacher preparation and common academic standards.

    The other two giants in education foundations: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

    In September, the LA Times obtained a memo written by the Broad Foundation, outlining its $490 million plan to put half of LAUSD students in charter schools. The memo “lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.” It cites several large foundations and California multi-millions who could be tapped for more financial support.

    And this underscores one of the major criticisms of these philanthropic efforts: they are profoundly anti-democratic. As John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, “people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can.”

    Zuckerberg’s name is next to Gates’ in that sentence because he has signed the “Giving Pledge,” Gates’ and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet’s challenge to the 1% to give away at least half of their wealth. After the birth of his daughter this fall, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wrote her a letter (and posted it on Facebook, of course). In covering the contents of the letter, the New York Times got the headline totally wrong: “Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity.” The paper later clarified that it’s not a charity but an LLC– a “$45 billion tax loophole,” some suggested. Headlines from Gawker: “Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview.” And from Rolin Moe: “You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong..”

    Among the projects that the new Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will fund: “personalized learning” (whatever the hell that means).

    Zuckerberg’s interest in such a thing is no doubt connected to investments that he’s already made – in the private school AltSchool, for example. And in September, Facebook announced that it had been working on building software for the Summit charter school chain. “Facebook’s move into education may be unexpected, but it seems to be sincere,” wrote The Verge’s Casey Newton about the collaboration in an article that’s not much more than a “longform expanded version of the Facebook press release.”

    Joining Gates and Zuckerberg in venture philanthropy is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Her organization, the Emerson Collective, announced a campaign – XQ: The Super School Project– to get folks to “rethink high school.” 5 of the “best ideas” will receive a share of the $50 million Jobs has earmarked for the project. The Emerson Collective also invested in AltSchool and Udacity this year to give you an idea of what “best ideas” might look like.

    “I can conceive of no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice” – William Jewett Tucker

    Incubating Startups


    One way to judge interest in ed-tech startups is to look at the amount of funding. Another way might be to count the number of accelerator programs. And wow, did these ever proliferate this year.

    Even the the Pope jumped in on this, launching an education accelerator program called Scholas Labs in February..

    Other new incubator/accelerator programs: In March, Edukwest reported that“Don Burton, former Managing Director of the Kaplan/Techstars EdTech Accelerator, and Jonathan D. Harber, co-founder and CEO of Schoolnet, [have] teamed up to launch a new edtech accelerator program in New York.” In April, SIIA’s education division announced the participants in its “Innovation Incubator Program.” One of them is some tiny little tech company called Adobe. Speaking of little tech companies, Intel launched an Education Accelerator. So did AT&T, with Edusrge’s CEO Betsy Corcoran and Udacity’s CEO Sebastian Thrun sitting on the Board of Directors. The University of Virginia Curry School of Education launched one in February. BoomStartup, run by “former Pearson pals,” according to Edsurge, launched one in April. The venture capital fund NewSchool Venture Fund launched one in July. Also launching in July two new incubators in Southeast Asia: Topica EdTechLab in Hanoi and Lithan EdTech Accelerator in Singapore.

    These all join other existing accelerators, including ImagineK12, LearnLaunch, and 1776.

    There’s actually little proof that these programs actually help startups, but hey.

    Startups For Sale


    There were plenty of predictions this year that all this investment would result in exits – that is, IPOs, mergers, and acquisitions – that would “defy historical trends.” The education sector is “hot” for these sorts of deals, one investment banker said in August.

    The big one: LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com for $1.5 billion.

    Brentwood Associates bought Excelligence. inRESONANCE bought SchoolYard. Hack Reactor bought MakerSquare. Pluralsight bought Code School. Fingerprint bought Cognitive Kid and Scribble Press. Google bought Launchpad Toys. Blackboard bought SchoolWires. Sibling Group bought Urban Planet Mobile. Alma bought Always Prepped. Elsevier bought Newsflo. The Advisory Board Company bought GradesFirst. Renaissance Learning bought UClass. Hobsons bought Starfish Retention Systems. Harris School Solutions bought Classmate. Embibe bought 100Marks. Rakuten bought Overdrive. Popexpert bought Online Marketing Institute. Bonnier Business Press bought Clio Online. Valore bought Boundless. Proquest bought SIPX. After College bought Collegefeed. The Learning House bought Software Craftsmanship Guild. Rizk Ventures bought Classroom 24–7. XSEED Education bought Pleolabs. Ellucian bought Helix Education’s LMS. Blackboard bought Remote Learner UK. TES Global bought Unijobs. EBSCO bought Learning Express. Oxford University Press bought bab.la. Proquest bought MyLibrary and OASIS. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt bought Scholastic’s ed-tech business. TAL Education Group bought Gaokaopai. Sandbox Partners bought Pearson’s Family Entertainment Network. The Learning House bought Acatar. Automattic bought WooThemes. Oxford University Press bought Epigeum. TES Global bought Hibernia College UK. West Corporation bought SharpSchool. Learnbrite bought Chatmapper. Pearson VUE bought ProctorCam. Vista Equity bought PowerSchool. Techstars bought UP Global and the Startup Weekend franchise. gphomestay bought Brooks Institute. Kuepa bought First Class. Simplilearn bought Market Motive. Level Data bought Student Sync. Safari Media bought Popforms. Data Recognition Corporation bought McGraw-Hill Education’s testing business. Apollo Education Group bought Iron Yard. Blackboard bought X-Ray Analytics. Recruit Holdings bought Quipper. TargetX bought Uversity (formerly known as Inigral). Pluralsight bought Hackhands. NetDragon bought Promethean. Atomic Learning bought Versifit Technologies. Nikkei bought The Financial Times from Pearson. Unizin bought Courseload. Civitas Learning bought BlikBook. Noodle bought AllClasses.com. Blackbaud bought Smart Tuition. Blackboard bought Nivel Siete. Affirm bought LendLayer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt bought MeeGenius. Education Week bought Learning Matters. TPG Capital bought Ellucian. Perceivant bought Bearface Instructional Technologies. 21st Century Fox bought National Geographic. Education Corporation of America bought some Kaplan Higher Education campuses. EnglishCentral bought Langrich. Cengage Learning bought Learning Objects. TAL Education bought FirstLeap. Gutenberg Technology bought Neodemia. Joel Klein and other Amplify executives bought Amplify from News Corp. Hack Reactor bought Mobile Makers Academy. Principled Technologies bought WeeJee Learning. Work Day bought Media Core. ProQuest bought Ex Libris. Bibliotheca bought 3M’s library division. Cengage Learning bought Pathbrite. PowerSchool bought InfoSnap. Cross Street LLC bought Double Line Partners, developers of the Ed-Fi data framework. Blackboard bought Blue Canary. Open English bought Next University. Apollo Education bought Career Partner GmbH.

    A few comments on this long list of acquisitions:

    • I hadn’t heard of the vast majority of these companies – either the ones being bought or the ones doing the buying.
    • Pearson sold The Financial Times and its share in The Economist in order to focus “100%” on its global education strategy. It also sold PowerSchool, so it appears its global education strategy will remain textbooks and standardized testing. It’s struggled quite a bit with both this years, losing major testing contracts in Texas and New York and losing textbook contracts with several major UK universities. I’ll have more to say about Pearson’s year in the “failure” section below. Congrats, Pearson.
    • I’ll also have more to say about Amplify in that “failure” section. Congrats, Amplify.
    • Despite a “brain drain” at Blackboard (really, layoffs at all levels of the company), the learning management system company continues to buy startups, particularly those that offer “predictive analytics.” Blackboard is also seeking to expand its business outside the US, buying three Moodle-related startups. I’ll say more about Blackboard in the “stock market” section below too. Congrats, Blackboard.
    • The library technology space saw a great deal of consolidation this year, with ProQuest making several major acquisitions.
    • As I’ve written about previously, for-profit higher education companies are interested in buying coding bootcamps. The “skills training” market is really hot – for investment and acquisition.
    • Private equity firms sure love buying ed-tech companies. Perhaps because the stock market’s sorta “meh” about them.

    IPOs and Education Companies on the Stock Market


    According to Techcrunch, 2015 was the “Worst Year For Tech IPOs Since 2009.” Bad timing, I guess, for all those education startups who were hopeful about their IPO chances, following 2U’s successful public offering last year. It’s still much more likely that a big education company will gobble up a little education company than go public.

    There was just one education IPO this year: Instructure. Okay, there were two if you count IAC’s Match Group, which does own The Princeton Review and Tutor.com (along with Tinder and Match.com, of course). Don’t ever change, ed-tech.

    Two other education companies filed for an IPO in 2015 but have not yet started trading publicly: the world’s biggest for-profit education company, Laureate Education, and textbook publisher McGraw Hill Education. And CL Educate, which announced it would IPO last year, deferred those plans.

    One of the interesting side benefits of companies going public is that they have to disclose their financials. One insight from Instructure’s IPO filing: “Sales and marketing spending, as a percentage of total revenues, reached 136 percent in 2012 (the S–1 does not include information prior to 2012). Even though Instructure has seen a fivefold increase in revenue since then, spending on sales and marketing has hovered at around 80 percent since 2013.”

    Blackboard, once also publicly traded, was acquired by a private equity firm in 2011, so its financials are kept private. Reuters reported in July that the company was going up for sale, as its owner was seeking $3.4 billion for it. The news prompted quitea bit of speculation– but no buyer. Blackboard suffers from messaging problems according to Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein. But more damning, perhaps, it suffers from “complexity problems” according to former Bb employee George Kroner.

    I included a bunch of snapshots of the stock performance from various for-profit education companies in an earlier article in this series. (Spoiler alert: pretty poor.) I’ll include a few more here from other publicly traded ed-tech companies:

    Closures and Bankruptcies and Utter Failures


    Although startups are notoriously short-lived – 80%–90% fail in their first year – most of the major failures this year came from big education companies, not little one. There were a handful of ed-tech startups entering the deadpool, sure. But the names of the companies that really stumbled in 2015 were big names – RadioShack, for example, which filed bankruptcy at the beginning of the year. They were companies that had raised a lot of money – The Washington Post reported in May that Thinkgate LLC had closed its doors “after receiving millions in Race to the Top funds.”

    Last year, I dedicated a whole article to the failures in ed-tech. The massive disaster surrounding LAUSD’s iPad implementation (among other things) surely warranted the scrutiny.

    The fallout from LAUSD continued this year, with Pearson eventually reaching a settlement with the district this fall to the tune of $6.45 million – a reimbursement for the flawed vaporware curriculum that was to come pre-installed on those iPads. (There haven’t been any public announcements about the FBI investigation or the SEC inquiry into the procurement process that gave Apple and Pearson the deal with LAUSD in the first place.)

    Back in 2013, it was the entrance of News Corp’s education company Amplify into the hardware market that drew headlines – positive and negative. “News Corp’s Education Tablet May Be the Bureaucratic Fit Schools Need to Adopt Tech,” wrote Techcrunch’s Greg Ferenstein (who also authored one of those great “iPads will revolutionize education” stories way back in 2011). From the get-go, Amplify struggled with sales and with implementation and with PR. (It probably didn’t help that it was also closely identified with another massive ed-tech failure, inBloom.) Overheating chargers, along with quick-to-break devices, plagued its much ballyhooed tablet rollout in Guilford County, North Carolina, and the district put the initiative on pause. Guilford County did (finally) get its Amplify tablet initiative up and running this year. Just in time for Amplify to implode.

    The signs were there for a while (although not everyone seemed to see them): “News Corp.’s $1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures,” Bloomberg reported in April. “Rupert Murdoch’s Education Company Will Stop Making Tablets,” Buzzfeed reported in June. “News Corp. Planning to Sell Off Money-Losing Education Unit,” The New York Times reported in August.

    In September, News Corp sold Amplify to Amplify’s management team, including Joel Klein. Terms of the deal were not disclosed (but I bet it was less than the $360 million that News Corp spent to buy Wireless Generation back in 2010).

    Education: yup, it’s a “tough space,” alright. Of course, it doesn’t help when ed-tech is so awful.

    The Ethics of the Business of Ed-Tech


    In April, The New York Times’ William Cohan asked venture capitalists about the ethical responsibility they might have for the investments they make. The query was specifically related to Yik Yak, which as I noted in a previous article in this series was surely one the most controversial technologies on schools this year.

    Do venture capitalists and other highly sophisticated and compensated investors, like those controlling large private equity and hedge funds, have any moral or ethical responsibility for the investments they make?


    Should the smart-money crowd be held accountable for the harm caused to people who use the products and services created with the money that springs from their coffers?


    Or is the bottom line the only thing that matters when it comes to investing?

    Cohan reached out to Sequoia Capital’s Jim Goetz who was responsible for the investment that firm made in Yik Yak. (The startup has raised $73.5 million total.) Goetz did not answer Cohan’s questions beyond the boilerplate answers about how the app facilitates connection and community.

    Beyond that, Mr. Goetz directed me to Hilary McQuaide, Yik Yak’s new director of communications. As one would expect, her answers were filled with the usual corporate pablum. Was there anything else she could help me with, Ms. McQuaide wondered? Why yes, I answered: I would still like to hear from Mr. Goetz on the question of what responsibility venture capitalists bear, if any, for financing companies that encourage anonymous cyberbullying? I am still waiting.

    I’d add to Cohan’s line of questioning a few more things specifically related to education: what are the responsibilities for investors when it comes to products and services that will, in all likelihood, exacerbate educational inequalities? Are there any obligations to verify if the wildclaimsmade by entrepreneurs during pitch meetings are actually true?

    No doubt, these questions are something journalists need to consider too.

    Too often, journalists become PR wings of the tech industry, simply repeating those wild claims that entrepreneurs have made to their investors and potential customers. “Mind-reading robo tutors in the sky!” In all fairness, as the Department of Labor reported last year, there are almost 6 PR professionals in the US to every 1 journalist, and so it can be challenging to wade through all the bullshit.

    But technology journalism and education technology journalism tend to suffer not just from too much credulity when it comes to the stories they write. There’s an a priori that many of publications operate under: that technology is necessary; that technology is inevitable; that technology makes things better. These publications are advocates for technology (and by extension for the technology industry) and very rarely ask difficult questions of it.

    Many of these publications are also funded by the technology industry. As I noted earlier in this article, AOL owns Techcrunch. Among those the Gates Foundation funds (or has funded): The Hechinger Report, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week, and Edsurge. For its part, Edsurge announced earlier this month that it had raised $2.8 million in venture capital from 1776.vc and the Omidyar Network. It’s raised $5.66 million total (that’s excluding Gates Foundation money) from many of the major ed-tech investors: NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, GSV Capital, and others.

    These publications insist they retain editorial control over their content. But there’s no escaping the ideological bent of their ed-tech coverage.

    In June, Edsurge announced a new “concierge” service, whereby companies can pay the publication to promote them to schools’ procurement teams. Edsurge takes a cut of any contracts awarded. There are lots of questions here about ethics, I think– journalistic and otherwise. But the move shouldn’t be that much of a surprise as the ed-tech industry has long complained that schools’ procurement processes are highly flawed, and Edsurge has positioned itself as a key information broker in the market.

    With all the funding and all the products flooding the space, how do teachers and students and parents learn about ed-tech? Well, other than reading industry-funded publications, they could attend industry-funded events, I suppose. (ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, still boasts one of the biggest ed-tech conferences. It named Jim Flanagan its new chief learning officer this year. Flanagan was previously the National Director of Sales at Amplify.)

    EdCamp, which once positioned itself as a “grassroots” professional development event, has itself become increasingly astro-turfed. The organization behind EdCamps raised venture funding from NewSchools Venture Fund last year, and this year it received a $2 million grant from the Gates Foundation. (The news prompted Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez to pen an “open letter” to Edcamps.) Here’s director Hadley Ferguson’s advice to startups: “How to Get Your Name into the Minds and Hearts of Teachers.” (Spoiler alert: give EdCamp money or swag.)

    All the Best Ed-Tech Narratives Money Can Buy


    All this business. All this disruptive innovation. It’s just magnific… Wait, what? Academic research challenging Clayton Christensen’s famous business school concept outlined in The Innovator’s Dilemma and applied to education in Disrupting Class and The Innovative University and invoked by just about every ed-tech entrepreneur and investor ever? Oh yes please.

    Jill Lepore had already skewered the idea in The New Yorker last year. I wrote a little something on the topic back in 2013.

    But now, as The Chronicle of Education wrote in September,

    a new paper, the most extensive test yet of Christensen’s theory, may prove more difficult to dismiss. Andrew A. King, a professor at the Dartmouth College business school, and Baljir Baatartogtokh, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, spent two years digging into disruption, interviewing scores of experts, trying to determine whether 77 of Christensen’s own examples conformed to his theory, studies involving big names like Ford, McDonald’s, and Google, along with lesser-known makers of blood-glucose meters and blended plastics. Only a tiny minority – 9 percent – fit Christensen’s criteria. Disruption is real but rare, King and Baatartogtokh conclude, which suggests that it’s at best a marginally useful explanation of how innovation happens.


    King says he’s not out to take down Christensen, although that may be what he’s done. Instead, he wants to prove a point. “A theory is like a weed,” King says. “Unless it is pruned back by empirical testing, it will grow to fill any void.”

    Much like the business of ed-tech…


    0 0
  • 12/25/15--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Clinton: ‘I Wouldn’t Keep Any School Open That Wasn’t Doing A Better Than Average Job.’” No schools in Lake Wobegon will be required to close.

    Creationist Sylvia Allen to lead Arizona Senate education panel.” What could go wrong?

    Via the Hechinger Report: “As he leaves the U.S. Department of Education, the leader of its Office of Ed Tech appeals for greater equity.”

    “Hundreds of thousands of college students who were deceived about the terms of their debit cards by Higher One Holdings will receive a total of $55 million in restitution, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve” announced this week.

    “What If Social Media Becomes 16-Plus?” asks danah boyd, scrutinizing a proposed law in the EU that would allow countries to restrict children’s access to the Internet.

    Education in the Courts


    “The FTC has settled COPPA violation cases with two small app developers with civil penalties totaling $360,000,” according to Gamasutra.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the University of New Hampshire’s 2013 firing of Marco Dorfsman, an associate professor of Spanish, after he admitted to altering a colleague’s student evaluations.”

    A class action lawsuit has been filed against Mattel, ToyTalk, and kidSAFE, alleging that Hello Barbie (the new surveillance Barbie) violates COPPA.

    Testing, Testing…


    “ESSA’s Flexibility on Assessment Elicits Qualms From Testing Experts,” says Education Week.

    Statewide participation in the new PARCC exams was 97%, according to California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs

    “Less than 1 percent of the learners in the massive open online course partnership between Arizona State University and edX are eligible to earn credit for their work, according to enrollment numbers from the inaugural courses,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Dean Dad” Matt Reed weighs in. Meanwhile: “Starbucks Partnership With ASU Benefits Education Giant Pearson.”

    “In a Fake Online Class With Students Paid to Cheat, Could Professors Catch the Culprits?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Coursera has released the list of its most popular courses in 2015. Topping the list: “Learning How to Learn.”

    Class Central has released its report on 2015 MOOC enrollment: “The MOOC space essentially doubled this year. More people signed up for MOOCs in 2015 than they did in the first three years of the modern MOOC space’s existence.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    NYU continues to be awful. Two stories side-by-side: “N.Y.U. President’s Penthouse Gets a Face-Lift Worth $1.1 Million (or More),” The New York Times reports. “NYU Apologizes For Telling Low-Income Student They Probably Can't Afford Grad School,” Buzzfeed writes.

    “This year, students at the University of Cape Town successfully pushed for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the imperialist tycoon seen by many as an architect of apartheid. Oxford University, in the country of his birth, might be next,” The New York Times reports. Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has an opinion, and the BBC is on it. According to Inside Higher Ed, Oxford’s Oriel College has started the process of taking down a plague honoring Rhodes.

    Students at Oberlin are protesting the food on campus.

    Via Buzzfeed: “The Indian government has advised citizens enrolled in two small California colleges to temporarily defer travel to the U.S., after the country's state-owned airline said it has been warned by U.S. officials that the schools are under investigation.”

    In Pocatello, Idaho, “Lunch lady fired for giving free lunch to hungry student.”

    Via Boing Boing: “In Texas, a 12 year old Sikh boy was arrested for ‘terrorism’ over a solar charger.”

    The New York Times profiles Y Roads: “Program Offers Classes and Support for Young Adults Who Didn’t Finish High School

    The Pacific Standard reports that “Millions of Students Attend Schools in ‘Potential Impact Zones’ for Oil Train Disasters.”

    “Most New York City Elementary Schools Are Violating Disabilities Act,” according to The New York Times.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled Tuesday that the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s men’s basketball staff violated several NCAA rules in recent years, including falsifying admissions forms for an international student who did not meet the financial requirements to obtain a visa.”

    From the HR Department


    Why James Billington’s Retirement is a Wake-Up Call for Librarians” by Peter Brantley.

    The National Labor Relations Board will consider whether grad students at Columbia University are entitled to unionize.

    Adjuncts at Brandeis University have voted to unionize.

    Via The New York Times: “A New Jersey school district on Tuesday rejected accusations by a Muslim teacher that she was fired because of her religion as ‘brazenly false’ and ‘frivolous.’ In a statement, the Hunterdon County district said Sireen Hashem was not fired from Hunterdon Central Regional High School, but simply did not have her contract renewed, for reasons ‘that were fully and clearly explained to her and her representation.’”

    “Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Illinois, and Larycia Hawkins, a tenured faculty member in political science, are apparently at an impasse over her continued employment at the college,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    The HTTP 451 Error Code for Censorship Is Now an Internet Standard.”

    “Telecommunications regulators in India have ordered the suspension of Facebook’s controversial program to bring free basic Internet services to mobile phone users in the country,” The New York Times reports.

    Michael Feldstein looks at McGraw-Hill’s new “personalized learning authoring product.”

    Yet another ed-tech accelerator: this one a partnership between Runway and the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

    “National Education Week Wants to Be Edtech’s Art Basel,” Edsurge reports. (And I confess: I had to Google “Art Basel.”)

    “Blackboard Continues Revitilization with New Office Space,” says Tech.co. Because nothing says innovation like an open office plan. (Bonus points for the misspelled headline too.)

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Technology Will Save Us (yes, that’s the real name of a company) has raised $1.8 million from Backed and a “substantial retail investor.” The company makes the BBC micro:bit.

    Test prep company Gojimo has raised $1.8 million from Robin and Saul Klein, Deborah Quazzo, the London Co-Investment Fund, Firestar; Index Ventures, and Jamjar Investments. The company has raised $4 million total.

    “Bloomsbury Publishing is set to acquire LexisNexis and Jordan family law publishing assets from RELX, subject to approval, for £1.4m.,” The Bookseller reports.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    According to Fusion, “Hackers breaking into baby cams are actually trying to help.”

    Data and “Research”


    According to the latest report from Pew Research Center, home broadband has seen a “modest decline” from 2013 to 2015.

    Edsurge has published its look at the record-setting year in US ed-tech investment.

    Do In-Class Exams Make Students Study Harder?” The Atlantic asks.

    Via Education Week: “Music Instruction Lacks Diversity, Study Finds.”

    Also via Education Week: “Toddlers Gain Touch-Screen Skills Early, Study Finds.”

    “Student Loan Subsidies Cause Almost All of the Increase in Tuition,” according to the Foundation for Economic Education.

    The (Short) Lives of Poor, Urban Teenagers” by Lisa Wade in The Pacific Standard.

    Via Politico: "Four in 10 American children live in low-income families, according to a recent report from the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy.


    0 0
  • 12/26/15--10:35: Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015
  • The Trends


    The GitHub Repo


    If you’re interested in the data that drives this year’s trends, explore the Github repo. You can also read some of the updates on this project I’ve penned throughout the year.

    The Credits


    The work I do on this series would not be possible without the writing and research undertaken by many people in education technology. A list of – and a deep thank you for – those whose work can be found in the links and in my thinking throughout this project and throughout the year (apologies if I've forgotten anyone):

    Tressie McMillan Cottom, Justin Reich, Neil Selwyn, Mike Caulfield, Matt Reed, Jim Groom, Brian Lamb, Jessie Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, Sherman Dorn, Kin Lane, Tim Maughan, Evgeny Morozov, Bonnie Stewart, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, David Wiley, Rolin Moe, Chris Lehmann, Jose Vilson, Melinda Anderson, Melonie Fullick, Kate Bowles, David Kernohan, Michael Feldstein, Phil Hill, Martin Weller, Alan Levine, Jessica Luther, Bill Fitzgerald, Libby Nelson, Molly Hensley-Clancy, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Benjamin Herold, Carl Straumsheim, Dan Meyer, Tony Wan, Natasha Singer, Morgan Polikoff, Bryan Alexander, and of course Seymour Papert.


    0 0
  • 01/01/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Happy New Year. From US News & World Report: “For technology companies in California, ringing in the New Year will mean adjusting to a new privacy law that limits how they can collect and use student data. The data privacy legislation was originally signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 and goes into effect Jan. 1. It prohibits the operators of education websites, online services and apps from using any student’s personal information for targeted advertising or creating a commercial profile, as well as the selling of any student’s information.”

    Via The New York Times: “How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education.”

    FCC Reaches $3 Million Settlement with New York City Department of Education in E-Rate Investigation.” “The consent decree is significant in several respects,” Comm Law Monitor reports. “First, this marks the first significant action handled by the USF ‘Strike Force’ established by Chairman Wheeler in 2014. It also marks the largest e-rate settlement to date, and includes many compliance plan requirements that could become de facto standards for future E-rate enforcement actions. Further, to the best we can determine, this is the first E-rate enforcement action the Commission has taken against a school or library applicant under the program.”

    Via The New York Times: “Israel’s Ministry of Education has decided not to include a novel about a romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man on the list of required reading for Hebrew high school literature classes, prompting a stormy debate over how Israeli society deals with its cultural divides.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Pennsylvania authorities have filed criminal charges of felony indecent assault against Bill Cosby in regard to an incident involving a former employee of Temple University. While many women have publicly accused the comedian of raping them, most of the allegations involve interactions for which statutes of limitations have expired.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs


    The New York Times still loves MOOCs: “The Most Popular Online Course Teaches You to Learn.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    “City College of S.F. splurges on administrators’ travel, meals,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Schools Evaluate Threats, Questioning When to Shut Down.”

    Via The New York Times: “As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids.”

    Universities Race to Nurture Start-Up Founders of the Future.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Mississippi Valley State Is Playing 14 Straight Road Games Because It Can’t Afford Not To.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Reports of rapes of college-age women in localities of big-time [college football] teams go up significantly on game days, national study finds.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Racial prejudice is driving opposition to paying college athletes. Here’s the evidence.”

    From the HR Department


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The MLA’s annual report on its Job Information List has found that in 2014–15, it had 1,015 jobs in English, 3 percent fewer than the previous year. The list had 949 jobs in foreign languages, 7.6 percent fewer than 2013–14.”

    Curtis B. Charles, president of Tiffin University, has quit after only six months on the job.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    This story is about health startups, not ed-tech ones. But the headline on this story from The Verge is still pretty applicable to ed-tech: “ Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovation.”

    The pushback against Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org continues – last week in India; this week in Egypt. Via The New York Times: “A program that provided more than three million Egyptians with free access to Internet services was abruptly shut down on Wednesday, according to Facebook, the social media company that provided the program in cooperation with an Egyptian cellphone company.”

    Markdown has been added to Wikity (and Mike Caulfield explains why this is important).

    From the press release: “Instructure Releases Beta Version of Arc, a Complete Video Platform Solution.”

    LibraryBox v2.1.

    Via Phil Hill: “Unizin RFP For LMS: An offering to appease the procurement gods?”

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Terra Dotta has raised $6 million from undisclosed investors.

    Careers360 has acquired Entrancecorner.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Aspiring Minds has acquired LetsIntern.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    “Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn,” The Washington Post reports.

    Data and “Research”


    Via the Hechinger Report: “Black students are drastically underrepresented at top public colleges, data show.”


    0 0
  • 01/08/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Arne’s officially out, and John King is now Acting Secretary of Education. (And the for-profit college sector has already reached out to him, no surprise.)

    The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College, the accreditor for California’s community colleges, lost its appeal to the Department of Education and will have a year to resolve issues around its not meeting federal accreditation standards.

    The FTC has fined Lumosity $2 million over deceptive advertising claims about its “brain training” program.

    Education in the Courts


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The loan guarantor USA Funds plans to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court … seeking to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that barred the agency from collecting fees from a borrower who had defaulted on her student loan but started repaying it.”

    The Authors Guild’s appeal of the “Google Books lawsuit” has reached the Supreme Court (although there’s no guarantee that the court will hear the case).

    Also looking to have his case picked up by the Supreme Court: Taylor Bell, a high school student who claims his first amendment rights were violated when he was suspended for writing a rap song about his school’s coaches.

    Also before the Supreme Court: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which will determine the legality of mandatory union fees.

    Testing, Testing…


    Delaware is dropping the Smarter Balanced test in exchange for the SAT for eleventh graders.

    West Virginia is considering dropping SBAC in exchange for the ACT.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Towards Automated Study Guides for MOOCs: A Tech Report From the Stanford Info Lab.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Six universities from Australia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. are seeking to establish a new alliance in which each organization’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) are formally accredited by partner institutions.”

    “Penn State World Campus is partnering with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to offer union members the opportunity to finish their degrees online,” Campus Technology reports.

    “Could Silicon Valley virtual charter’s all-inclusive model revolutionize the space?” asks Education Dive. Nope. It can’t.

    Meanwhile on Campus


    “What’s So Innovative About Salman Khan’s One-Room Schoolhouse?” asks Edsurge. NPR also profiled Khan Academy’s new “lab school.” Solid work on the PR front, Khan Academy.

    “Older Students Learn for the Sake of Learning,” and The New York Times is on it.

    Barber-Scotia College, a HBCU, will close for the spring semester.

    Via The New York Times: “The scope of a sexual abuse scandal at St. George's School in Rhode Island widened substantially on Tuesday as lawyers reported that at least 40 former students had made credible reports of sexual abuse, and in some cases rape, by seven former staff members and four students over three decades.”

    “Federal Campus Rape Investigations Near 200, And Finally Get More Funding,” the Huffington Post reports.

    Colleges are banning hoverboards on campus.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    “ESPN’s College Football Playoff Ratings Plummet On New Year’s Eve,” NPR reports.

    From the HR Department


    Blackboard has replaced its CEO Jay Bhatt. The new head of the LMS company: Bill Ballhaus.

    Wheaton College announced that it is taking steps to fire tenured professor Larycia Hawkins because of statements she made about Christians and Muslims worshiping the same god.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “More than 100 Republican state legislators have urged the University of Missouri at Columbia to fire Melissa Click, a communications professor who was videotaped during a campus protest blocking a student journalist from getting close to the protest.”

    Via Edsurge: “Jim Shelton Appointed 2U President After Rob Cohen Announces Retirement.”

    “A Florida Atlantic University professor who suggested in blog postings and radio interviews that the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary and other mass shootings were a hoax designed by the Obama administration to boost support for gun control was fired Tuesday,” The New York Times reports.

    Via The NYT: “The principal at a Success Academy charter school who created a ‘Got to Go’ list of difficult students is taking a personal leave of absence, a Success Academy spokeswoman said on Monday.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    LEGO Education has launched a new version of its WeDo robotics kit.

    Four new elements have been synthesized, completing the seventh row of the periodic table and making all non-OER chemistry textbooks out-of-date. (There’s a petition to name one of the heavy metal elements after Lemmy.)

    Fortune has a special report on business interests behind the Common Core State Standards.

    Forbes has published its annual clickbait “30 Under 30.” I’m unwilling to turn off my ad-blocker to read that crappy site, so if you’re like me, you’ll have to get the information about its “education changemakers” secondhand from Edsurge.

    Elsewhere in clickbait, Inc has published its list of the 5000 fastest growing companies (note: just like Forbes’ clickbait, you have to apply to appear on the list), and whee, there are some education ones on it.

    Khan Academy is seeking a patent on A/B testing educational videos.

    Campus Technology has a list of “10 Products From CES That Will Impact the Classroom,” including a “smart helmet.” So yeah. No.

    Via The New York Times: “Putting the Heat on Yik Yak After a Killing on Campus.”

    “E-learning for Africa held back by power shortage,” the BBC reports.

    “In 2016, The Coding Bootcamp Bubble Is Bound to Burst,” Wired predicts.

    “Google is becoming U.S. K–12 schools’ operating system,” the San Jose Mercury News contends. “Google, a ‘school official?’ This regulatory quirk can leave parents in the dark,” The Washington Post frets.

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Tutoring company Jerry Education has raised $40 million from Sailing Capital and the investment wing of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

    Degreed has raised $21 million from Jump Capital, Signal Peak, Rethink Education, and Deborah Quazzo. The startup has raised $29.8 million total.

    Tutoring company Zhiyou Education has raised $9.2 million from Legend Capital.

    Coding bootcamp Bloc has acquired DevBridge. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Capita has acquired Brightwave Group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The Washington Post has a list of donors to the Foundation for Education Excellence, the education organization founded and formerly run by Jeb Bush.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Walmart Heirs Will Give $1 Billion To Expand Charter Schools.”

    Data and Surveillance


    The EFF offers its review of student-related privacy issues in 2015.

    Via The New York Times: “Tweets About Israel Land New Jersey Student in Principal’s Office.”

    The latest report from the Pew Research Center looks at “Parents, Teens and Digital Monitoring.”

    Bill Fitzgerald looks at school directory information and how much can be gleaned from this data, despite the privacy protections that FERPA purports to provide.

    Data and “Research”


    Rick Hess has published his annual list purportedly ranking “edu scholars” by their influence.

    A forthcoming paper: “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School ‘Bubble’?: Lessons from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.”

    Ambient Insights has published a white paper about 2015 ed-tech investments, which it says totaled $6.54 billion.

    Inside Higher Ed covers the results of a survey by Public Agenda about what college faculty and administrators think about competency-based education.

    Via Education Week: “Nation Earns a C on Quality Counts Report Card.” (It also provides a letter grade for each individual state.)

    Bryan Alexander looks at a recent report by Goldman Sachs on the state of higher ed.

    “Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain,” says NPR.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study finds that attractive female students earn higher grades than unattractive female students do. For male students, looks don’t seem to matter.”

    “The concept of different ‘learning styles’ is one of the greatest neuroscience myths,” says Quartz.


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    If you’ve worked in education technology for any length of time, you know the story: in January 2006, Blackboard was awarded the patent (number 6988138) on the learning management system – or as described in the patent title “Internet-based education support system and methods.”

    In July of that year, Blackboard publicly announced that it had received the patent, and on the same day filed suit against its competitor Desire2Learn for patent infringement.

    Blackboard’s claims of invention were dubious at best, and the lawsuit prompted an angry backlash from many in the education technology community. It’s a backlash from which I don’t think Blackboard has ever fully recovered. Sure, you might argue that Blackboard is widely reviled because its software is cumbersome, unwieldy; but the patent claim and subsequent lawsuits also demonstrated that Blackboard was a bad actor in the ed-tech community, stifling innovation by making both companies and colleges fearful that experimentations in and around the LMS would prompt litigation.

    In order to demonstrate that there was in fact a long history of online course software – “prior art” that could perhaps invalidate Blackboard’s patent – a group of academics, administrators, and instructional technology types, spurred on by Michael Feldstein, took to Wikipedia, “crowdsourcing” information about the learning management system. Their entry chronicles the “History of virtual learning environments” and demonstrates that the invention claimed by Blackboard had existed long before its patent filing.

    In 2008, a federal jury awarded Blackboard $3.1 million in its patent infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn. But a year later, that was reversed on appeal after Blackboard’s patent claims were invalidated by the US Patent and Trademark Office. In 2010, Blackboard announced it would end its appeals and terminate its claim on patent number 6988138.

    Patent Pledges


    On its website today, Blackboard now offers “The Blackboard Patent Pledge,” promising to not file infringement claims based on the five patents it lists there: “Internet Based Support System and Methods” (numbers 7493396 and 7558853), “Internet Based Education Support System and Method with Multi-Language Capability” (number 9053500), “Internet Based Education Support System, Method and Medium Providing Security Attributes in Modular, Extensible Components” (number 7908602), and “Content System and Associated Methods” (number 8745222).

    Many technology companies have started to make similar pledges, agreeing not to use their patents in offensive litigation or go after open source developers. Twitter, for example, unveiled its “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” in 2012, right in the middle of the massive legal battle between Oracle and Google over IP related to the Java programming language. It was good PR for Twitter and other signees, as there’d been a growing chorus from many in the tech industry that the patent system was broken, that litigation was costly – particularly for startups – with much derision in particular aimed at “patent trolls,” those companies which buy up patents expressly to file infringement lawsuits.

    To be clear, patent pledges like Twitter’s don’t challenge the underlying principles of intellectual property or the purported benefits of patent claims. (Indeed, venture capitalists often demand that companies in their investment portfolio file for patents. There’s “value” in that IP even if the startup fails to ever become profitable itself. Patents are viewed as assets.) Rather, these types of pledges are meant to demonstrate good faith in not wielding patents in lawsuits – unless, of course, as the Innovator’s Patent Agreement says, someone has filed a patent lawsuit within the past ten years.

    Anyone who’s “signed” the Innovator’s Patent Agreement would be free to sue Blackboard, for example.

    Prior Art


    Khan Academy is one of the ed-tech companies that has agreed to the Innovator’s Patent Agreement. It currently holds several patents: “Methods and Systems for Learning Computer Programming” (number 20150044642) and “Systems and methods for social programming” (number 20150082274), and most recently filing for one for “Systems and Methods for Split Testing Educational Videos” (number 20150310753).

    A patent, to summarize US intellectual property law, can be granted to anyone who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” A patent gives the patent-holder the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention. The invention must be new, useful, and “non-obvious.” The requirements surrounding novelty mean that a patent cannot be obtained if the invention was “patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.”

    Obtaining a patent is an expensive and lengthy undertaking. Legal fees can range from $10,000 to $30,000, and it can take as many as three years from application to approval. The slow pace might be deceiving; it’s not so much that the review is thorough, it’s that there are thousands of patent claims to wade through. The US Patent and Trademark Office received over 575,000 patent applications in 2014; it approved over 325,000. The office employs 8600 patent examiners (half of whom work from home).

    Those patent examiners have access to a wealth of databases – scientific, commercial, academic – in order to research patent claims. But how exhaustive is their research? As the Wikipedia entry on the “history of the virtual learning environment” highlighted, not very. There’s a cursory check for previous and similar patents; sometimes there’s a query of a commercial database or a look at non-patent literature. (For what it’s worth, the public can see what searches examiners made in reviewing a patent claim via the USPTO website.)

    Indeed, the patent approval process underscores and even furthers the historical amnesia of technology (and of ed-tech). This is not an insignificant cultural force. There’s an obsession with “innovation”; there’s an assertion that new technologies are, almost by definition, inventive breakthroughs – they must be to be patented, right? There’s little incentive in turn to situate oneself in a long line of intellectual work; instead, the incentive becomes to insist – in the legal paperwork at e very least – that one is “the first.”

    Khan Academy’s patents are a strange example of this. Take the “Methods and Systems for Learning Computer Programming.” The claim includes:

    A computer-implemented method for providing computer programming instructions, comprising: (a) providing, on an electronic device of a user, a tutorial comprising (i) software having one or more lines of machine-readable code, (ii) an output associated with said machine-readable code, and (iii) instructional material associated with at least a subset of said one or more lines of machine-readable code; (b) receiving one or more edits to said one or more lines of machine-readable code from said user on said electronic device; and (c) updating said one or more lines of machine-readable code and said output based on said one or more edits.

    There are, of course, many other, older examples of “methods and systems for learning computer programming”: languages like Logo and Scratch as well as a plethora of online tutorials.

    When Khan Academy launched its CS curriculum in 2012, one of its developers John Resig – the inventor listed on its patent claim – said he’d been inspired to utilize a dual interface by a public talk given by Bret Victor in which Victor demoed an interactive coding environment, responsive in real-time.

    One might ask, did that demo constitute prior art? In this case, based on the USPTO records, I can’t see that the examiner on this patent made any searches for prior art.

    Image credits: Khan Academy's patent on teaching computer programming

    An Absence of a Theory of Learning


    For his part, Victor responded quite critically to Khan Academy’s CS curriculum announcement, recognizing the nod that Resig had given him but looking to clarify how radically different his ideas in “Inventing on Principle” are from what the organization released in its computer programming environment. “The features are not the point,” Victor wrote.

    We often think of a programming environment or language in terms of its features – this one “has code folding”, that one “has type inference”. This is like thinking about a book in terms of its words – this book has a “fortuitous”, that one has a “munificent”. What matters is not individual words, but how the words together convey a message.


    Likewise, a well-designed system is not simply a bag of features. A good system is designed to encourage particular ways of thinking, with all features carefully and cohesively designed around that purpose.

    By focusing on the features of the live-coding that Victor had demoed, Khan Academy missed the point of the talk altogether. As such, Victor in his response questioned the design principles (or lack thereof) – and by extension the learning principles (or lack thereof) – of the Khan Academy programming environment, exhorting people to read Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms, “the canonical work on designing programming systems for learning, and perhaps the greatest book ever written on learning in general.” (Amen.)

    One might conclude here that Khan Academy has received a patent on “Methods and Systems for Learning Computer Programming” without recognizing the history of computer programming but even more damningly, without having much understanding of how learning works.

    But like many technologists who’ve recently moved into education, Salman Khan has argued that theories of learning will no longer matter as much moving forward, thanks to the newfound power of data. In a 2012 interview with Psychology Today, Khan said,

    “You have all this education theory and people try to make larger statements than maybe what their data would back up because they’ve done these small experiments that are tied to a very particular case with a very particular implementation... theory definitely matters, but I think dogma matters less. We can say, well ‘The current established theories say we should be conscientious of this but let’s just test it again.’ Maybe the results were only particular to that time. Now we can run very similar studies with much less pain and perhaps the theory won’t apply. That’s what’s exciting. Things like Khan Academy can be very powerful in this context. Theory tries to be very broad, it tries to make these laws of learning. But they’re almost always too general. And if you made it too particular it’s almost useless... Now the results will be particular to the Khan Academy implementation, but they will be impacting millions of students.”

    In all fairness, Khan is hardly the only person to envision this “post-theory” version of education technology; the possibility of such a thing is something that has been widelydebatedin recent years within ed-tech and learning analytics circles. If, as some like Google’s Peter Norvig argue, there is an “unreasonable effectiveness of data” – particularly at scale – then theory will become unnecessary. The answers will surface themselves.

    But without a model for thinking about teaching and learning, I’m not sure that the answers will– or that what’s surfaced will be meaningful, durable, accurate, or just.

    Another Khan Academy patent – this one a filing, not yet a published claim – involves “Systems and Methods for Split Testing Educational Videos.” That is, it’s a patent for using A/B testing to determine the “effectiveness” of an educational video. Khan Academy’s patent application gives a nod to Google’s patent on “running multiple web page experiments”; indeed, A/B testing is far more prevalent in market research than in instructional design or education research.

    Khan Academy has boasted in the past that it’s used A/B testing, along with messages promoting what Carol Dweck calls “growth mindset” to get students to complete more problems on its site and to return more frequently. (One might say then that Khan Academy does have a theory of learning; but I’d suggest that it’s behaviorism.)

    Other ed-tech startups have also claimed to utilize A/B testing to get students to click more, something that’s always positioned as a huge breakthrough. From a 2013 article on MOOCs in the MIT Technology Review:

    Through A/B testing, says [Andrew] Ng, Coursera recently found that its practice of e-mailing people to remind them of upcoming course deadlines actually made students less likely to continue with the courses. But sending e-mails summarizing students’ recent activity on the site boosted engagement by “several percentage points.” One A/B test by Udacity pitted a colorized version of a lesson against a black-and-white version. “Test results were much better for the black-and-white version,” says [Sebastian] Thrun. “That surprised me.”


    It’s unclear whether the laundry lists of refinements that result from A/B testing will add up to a grand theory of learning and teaching that challenges tradition. Ng says he doesn’t think a grand theory is needed for MOOCs to succeed. “I read Piaget and Montessori, and they both seem compelling, but educators generally have no way to choose what really works,” he says. “Today, education is an anecdotal science, but I think we can turn education into a data-driven science, where you do what you know works.”

    Again, one might be able to glean from A/B testing “what works,” but it’s not necessarily clear at all why something works (or doesn’t) without a theory or model of learning. Perhaps students accustomed to seeing full-color lessons in Udacity were simply surprised to see a lesson in black-and-white therefore paid more attention. (And perhaps if Udacity switched to all black-and-white lessons, the same results would be found once again when full-color slides were introduced.) A/B testing does not explain why students have specific misconceptions. Furthermore, many of these examples of using A/B testing – from Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity – mistake “engagement” for learning. A/B testing that’s focused on the former might do nothing for the latter; or worse, as MIT’s Justin Reich argued in a paper in Science, these efforts might “accelerate participation in ineffective practices.”

    Regardless, all these practices – these “systems and methods” – are now going to be patented if the pressures and culture of the tech sector hold sway. By patenting these practices, these companies make a claim to history and to innovation: they’re “first!” They can stop others from developing what might be perceived as similar ideas. By relying on the patent process to validate their claims to innovation, these companies in turn serve to obscure the work of others who’ve long experimented in and around these very practices, particularly when those experiments are not yet technologized or when practitioners haven’t pursued the patent process.

    Even more importantly, these patents now help to reinforce this idea of a “theory-free,” technological future of education. Or rather, patents become the theory. This version of the future does not guarantee that these companies have developed technologies that will help students learn. But it might mean that there will be proprietary assets to litigate over, to negotiate with, and to sell.

    (Of course, as Blackboard recently demonstrated as it’s failing to find a new buyer for the company, even that’s no guarantee.)


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  • 01/15/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address Tuesday evening. “Education” showed up several times in the speech, including the idea that every students need to learn to “write computer code.”

    The Department of Education’s Inspector General is auditing Western Governors University over the role faculty have in its competency-based programs, Inside Higher Ed reports. “Previous audits from the inspector general have questioned whether some competency-based programs should be classified as correspondence courses.” (Jonathan Rees has more on this story.)

    Via Raw Story: “Virginia GOP bill would require schools to verify children's genitals before using restroom.”

    Via The Hill: “House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is warning that a hack on the Department of Education would dwarf last year’s massive breach at the Office of Personnel Management. ‘Almost half of America's records are sitting at the Department of Education,’ Chaffetz said at a Brookings Institution event on Thursday. ‘I think ultimately that’s going to be the largest data breach that we've ever seen in the history of our nation.’”

    The Republican presidential candidates had another debate this week, and Common Core was a topic (briefly).

    “Bernie Sanders thinks police should investigate campus rape. That’s not enough,” says Vox’s Libby Nelson. Sanders is trying to woo teen voters, according to Wired.

    Ben Carson, visiting a school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked students to point out the “worst” one in their class. And they did.

    California Governor Jerry Brown says“it’s time to abandon API to judge schools’ performance.” That’s the Academic Performance Index (and my partner Kin Lane will be relieved that this won’t come up in future searches for Application Programming Interface).

    Via Education Dive: “Rohit Chopra, a vocal critic as the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has joined the U.S. Department of Education as a senior level official.”

    Via the LA School Report: “The LA Unified board … put itself on record as opposing a proposal that originated with the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to expand the number of charter schools in the district in the years ahead.”

    The EFF has sent a letter to the Department of Education asking it “to protect university students’ right to speak anonymously online, warning that curtailing anonymous speech as part of anti-harassment regulations would not only violate the Constitution but also jeopardize important on-campus activism.”

    Via the NSBA’s Legal Clips blog: “Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) questioning whether ED has exceeded its legal authority in its efforts to push colleges to do more on sexual assault.”

    The application for a trademark on “Makerspace” has been rejected by the German Patent and Trademark Office.

    Education in the Courts


    The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association this week. The case challenges public unions’ ability to collect fees from non-members. Court observers seem certain that the ruling will not be in the union’s favor.

    Via the Education Law Center: “Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District Court of Nevada (Carson City) has ruled in Lopez v. Schwartz that the state’s school voucher law (SB 302) enacted last summer by the Legislature violates two provisions of the Nevada Constitution. Judge Wilson issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the State from implementing the law.”

    Testing, Testing…


    The latest person to make stuff up about adaptive learning is Virginia’s governor who says“the amount of time students spend taking tests could be cut through computer adaptive tests, although he didn’t provide details.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Scores for new PSAT are finally out. What to know about them (and what they mean for redesigned SAT).”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Udacity unveiled the “Nanodegree Plus,” a $299/month nanodegree that comes with a money-back guarantee. (Read the fine print.)

    “The Economist Group launched Learning.ly, a catalog of proprietary online courses, on January 12,” Edsurge reports.

    Via Coursera’s technical blog: “Scaling Content Production.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Via Buzzfeed: “Christian Ott, a young astrophysics professor at Caltech, engaged in ‘discriminatory and harassing’ behavior toward two female graduate students, a university investigation has found.” Caltech has suspended Ott.

    Could CUNY community colleges be free? Could Harvard? (It could certainly afford it.)

    “University of Oregon cancels high-profile branding/advertising contract,” The Register Guard reports. It will spend the savings on academics instead. Because, ya know, it’s a school.

    20 private colleges in Texas have said they will opt out of the state’s new campus carry law.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education FOIA’d the emails of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who participated in a protest on campus and was videotaped asking for “muscle” to remove a reporter from the area. (!!!)

    Trinity Lutheran College will close, Inside Higher Ed reports.

    The City College of San Francisco’s problems continue.

    “Bronx Science Bans Cellphones From Wi-Fi as Students Devour It,” says The New York Times.

    “Do Metal Detectors in Schools Do More Harm Than Good?” The Atlantic asks.

    Tech and business training company General Assembly is expanding to Denver.

    “The University of Akron’s LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education building may not open on time due to a contractor dispute,” Cleveland.com reports.

    Education Week looks at analytics at AltSchool.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Alabama won its fourth national championship in the last seven years by beating Clemson 45–40. (For those keeping score at home, Coach Nick Saban made $7,087,000 in 2015. He’ll get a nice bonus, I’m sure, for winning this game.)

    Nike reaches a $252 million sponsorship deal with Ohio State. To echo a question I asked above, hell, why isn’t Ohio State free?

    Via the International Business Times: “College Football: Public Universities Spend Millions On Stadiums, Despite Slim Chance For Payoff.”

    University of Maryland claims sponsor’s chocolate milk helps concussion recovery” for high school football students.

    “More than a quarter of all Division I colleges, 43 percent of all universities that play in the high-profile Football Bowl Subdivision and more than half the members of the Power Five conferences committed major violations of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules in the last decade,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    “Disqualified after concussions, college football players recruited back onto the field,” STAT reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “National Collegiate Athletic Association releases new guidelines on dealing with the mental health of college athletes, an issue that remains a top concern for the association’s chief medical officer.”

    The NCAA’s Division I council also“voted to give male basketball players more flexibility to test their professional sports options and return to college.”

    The “NCAA punishes U of Louisiana-Lafayette over egregious case of test fraud – and the university in turn sues ACT over its role,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    From the HR Department


    LAUSD hires Michelle King as its new superintendent, the first time an African American woman has held that position.

    Detroit teachers have been staging a “sick out” to protest pay, class size, and the conditions of school buildings. As a result many schools have had to close this week.

    “Maker Media Lays Off 17 Employees,” Edsurge reports.

    The New York Times reports that “Joel Klein, Ex-New York Schools Chancellor, to Join Health Insurance Start-Up.” So I guess he’s done with the Amplify thing now?

    Via The Root: “A New York City high school teacher is suing the city’s Department of Education and several school administrators after, she claims, she was fired over her lessons on the wrongly imprisoned Central Park Five for fear that it would ‘rile up’ black students.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The recent college graduate working in Starbucks is the nightmare of many parents and also of college admissions officers, who feel that stories about that stereotype discourage many prospective students. Two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday released a summary of their recent research that finds the stereotype to be false and the economic difficulties of recent college graduates to be overstated.”

    According to Business Ethics Highlights, “adjunct justice” would cost universities $15–50 billion per year.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    The new HBO-first Sesame Street looks awful.

    Edsurge profiles the latest batch of startups participating in the ImagineK12 ed-tech accelerator.

    Haiku Learning is sunsetting ActiveGrade (which it acquired two years ago).

    Via Politico: “Conservative activist James O’Keefe, known for secretly recording his targets, is going after the Common Core in his latest video. It shows a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt saleswoman saying, ‘I hate kids’ and that ‘it’s all about the money.’ O’Keefe calls Common Core a scheme to make schools buy more textbooks. The publishing giant said it was ‘appalled’ by the woman’s comments, and she told the Washington Post that she had been fired.”

    According to the USA Today, “Apple loses more ground to Google’s Chromebook in education market.”

    Apple released a preview of features that will appear in iOS9.3 and that will help schools manage devices more easily. More via Edsurge.

    Lego changes stance on bulk orders after Ai Weiwei exhibition controversy.”

    These Are the American Library Association’s Picks for Best Children’s Literature.”

    5 outrageous things educators can’t do because of copyright.”

    Funding, Sales, and Acquisitions


    The Apollo Education Group announced that it was exploring selling off the University of Phoenix, the biggest for-profit university in the US. More via Phil Hill.

    “The Massive Decline In Larger Education Company Market Caps,” by Phil Hill.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is getting into the education philanthropy business.

    Interfolio has raised $13.01 million from Quad Venture Partners, Blu Venture Investors, Blackboard’s founder Matthew Pittinsky, NextGen Angels, and Middleland Capital. The company has raised $13.94 million total.

    CourseHorse has raised $4 million from Red Ventures. The local classes marketplace has raised $5.8 million total.

    Noodle Markets has raised $3 million from Rethink Education and Palm Ventures.

    “Branded MOOC platform” The Big Know has raised $3 million from LFE Capital and Capella Education Founder Steve Shank.

    Platzi has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from Omidyar Network, 500 Startups, Nazca Ventures, Amasia Ventures, and Y Combinator.

    Just Dakhila has raised $750,000 in seed funding from Ankur Gupta.

    ExpertKnowledge has raised $725,000 in seed funding from The Edge Edtech Fund and Action Ventures.

    Edsurge chronicles “Teachscape’s Tangled Tale” and its decision to sell its customer list and assets to Frontline Technologies.

    Macmillan Learning has acquired Roberts and Company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Hobsons has acquired PAR’s technology framework for predictive analytics. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Avnet has acquired IT training company ExitCertified. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    “Oral Roberts University is now requiring all freshmen to wear tracking devices to monitor their physical activity,” News on 6 reports. “It appears as though school staff and instructors will be able to access the fitness tracking information gathered by the students’ devices. ‘The Fitbit trackers will feed into the D2L gradebook, automatically logging aerobics points,’” according to the university’s website.

    The opening paragraphs from Education Week’s look at “the future of big data and analytics” in education: “Imagine classrooms outfitted with cameras that run constantly, capturing each child’s every facial expression, fidget, and social interaction, every day, all year long. Then imagine on the ceilings of those rooms infrared cameras, documenting the objects that every student touches throughout the day, and microphones, recording every word that each person utters. Picture now the children themselves wearing Fitbit-like devices that track everything from their heart rates to their time between meals.” Imagine.

    Coffee shops in the UK that run Wi-Fi networks might have to store internet data under new snooping laws, The Guardian reports.

    Via The Washington Post: “The U.S. Education Department’s new planned system of records that will collect detailed data on thousands of students – and transfer records to private contractors – is being slammed by experts who say there are not adequate privacy safeguards embedded in the project.”

    “Vtech, having leaked 6.3m kids’ data, now wants to run your home security,” Boing Boing reports.

    The Tor Project still has not been able to get an answer as to whether or not Carnegie Mellon University worked with the FBI in order to de-anonymize the Tor browser’s users.

    Via Techcrunch: “In Letter To Google CEO, Sen. Franken Raises Questions Regarding Student Data Collection.” (Bill Fitzgerald has more questions.)

    Data and “Research”


    A report by the World Bank finds that the Internet might widen inequality “and even hasten the hollowing out of middle-class employment.”

    Via the Delta Cost Project: “Trends in College Spending: 2003–2013.”

    Via the Hechinger Report: “Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds.”

    The Pew Research Center has released a report on “privacy and information sharing.”

    The NMC has released a Horizon Report for Chinese K–12 education.

    The future of education, according to those asked to describe it by the Times of London, is pretty horrifying.

    “An awful lot of districts don't know what textbooks are used in their schools,” says USC professor Morgan Polikoff.

    Via Education Week: “Analytics: 4 Lessons Schools Can Learn From the NBA (and Vice Versa).”

    S&P has some thoughts about the outlook for higher ed finances.

    “Talking toys” for babies and toddlers actually get in the way of language learning, NPR reports.

    For the first time, New York City’s high school graduation rate is over 70%.

    Ars Technica reports on a study about discrimination in science: “Give teachers a physics test from a woman and they’ll give her worse grades.” NPR reports, however, that “Pretty Girls Make (Higher) Grades.”

    The Current State of Educational Blogging.”

    Via Vox: “5 maps that show how sex education in the US is failing.”


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  • 01/22/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has released his higher education plan. Among its features: “Bush’s plan would eliminate the federal student loan program in its current form in favor of a new financing structure that is tied to students’ income. Under the plan, the federal government would provide each high school graduate with access to a $50,000 line of credit to pay for college or career training.”

    Meanwhile, “The Obama Administration Proposes $2 Billion More In College Aid,” NPR reports. It’s asking, among other things, for the year-round Pell Grant to be re-instated.

    Also in financial aid news: “The federal government has in recent months made several changes to the application process for federal financial aid, in an effort to make it easier and more straightforward. But one change – switching from a four-digit PIN for online access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to a more standard and secure log-in identification and password – may be having the opposite effect,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Elsewhere on the campaign trail: “Ben Carson’s education platform shows his lack of policy knowledge,” according to The Hechinger Report.

    Via Politico: “Even as the contaminated water crisis still rages in Flint, Michigan, Superintendent Bilal Tawwab says district officials are already preparing for an influx of young children entering school in the coming years with developmental, behavioral and cognitive challenges related to high levels of lead in the city's water supply.”

    Via The New York Times: “The Department of Education said on Wednesday that it would create a searchable database that reveals the names of colleges and universities that have received exemptions on religious grounds from federal civil rights protections.”

    According to Kentwired.com, “The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating Julio Pino, a Kent State associate history professor, for alleged involvement with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.”

    Via WBEZ: “Backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, top Illinois Republicans called Wednesday for a state takeover of the financially troubled Chicago Public Schools, which faces a nearly $1 billion budget deficit that could lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and a possible strike in a matter of months.”

    Education in the Courts


    A group of parents has filed a complaint with the Department of Education, claiming that the New York City charter school chain Success Academy has violated the civil rights of students with disabilities. (Meanwhile, WNYC reports that the SUNY Charter Institute will investigate the chain’s discipline practices.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A student who in 2014 sued Miami University in Ohio over inaccessible educational materials last week reached a settlement with the institution, according to court documents.”

    “A state appeals court will rule on the high-profile Vergara lawsuit against the state and the California Teachers Association this spring,” EdSource reports. (The case involves several laws in California dealing with teacher tenure that, according to the plaintiffs in the case, harm students’ rights to an equal opportunity for an education.)

    “Accreditors Seek to Challenge Consumer Bureau’s Power,” says Inside Higher Ed. Five national accrediting agencies and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation want to file a “friend of the court” brief, arguing that the CFPB does not have the authority to compel records from the accrediting agency that oversaw Corinthian Colleges as part of its inquiry into how the accreditation process works (or doesn’t work as the case may be).

    Testing, Testing…


    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that “GED changing pass score to better measure student performance.” I’m sure it’s to “better measures student performance” and not to respond to the abysmal results since the recent revamping of the test.

    Via Education Week: “Score-report delays, technical glitches, and changes to the ACT, the SAT, and the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test are adding angst to an already stressful college-search process for some high school students around the country this school year.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Via the Coursera blog: “Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee (or apply for Coursera’s financial aid program) if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Taliban attackers opened fire in classrooms and dorms at the Bachan Khan University in Pakistan, killing at least 20.

    The University of Cincinnati has reached a $5.3 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was fatally shot last year by a campus police officer.

    “Are At-Risk Students Bunnies to Be Drowned?” asks the Inside Higher Ed, referring to language used by the president of Mount St. Mary’s University, who reportedly said to faculty “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies… put a Glock to their heads.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    The US Defense Department is lifting its suspension on the University of Phoenix from the federal Tuition Assistance Program, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. That program provides aid to active-duty military.

    Via Buzzfeed: “How Ivy League Admissions Are Stacked Against Poor Kids.”

    “Might some colleges manage themselves into extinction?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Roxbury Community College has called off plans to privatize its information technology services department after Massachusetts auditors criticized the college for awarding a $3.4 million contract to do so without seeking bids.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The president of Oberlin College has rejected a group of black students’ demands aimed at dealing with racism on the Ohio campus, calling some of the demands ‘deeply troubling.’”

    “Florida’s governor has called public university presidents to a meeting to ask why they can’t be sure graduates in their most popular majors will all be employed. His prime target is psychology,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    The Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory will merge, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Vice: “Dan Majerle and Grand Canyon University Try to Join a College Hoops Club That Doesn’t Want Them.” (And via Tressie McMillan Cottom: “Sportsball and For-Profit Legitimacy.”)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “They seemed like sensible changes: giving big-time college athletes, many of whom spend more than 40 hours a week on their sports, a true day off per week – certain hours when coaches couldn't make them practice – and more downtime after the season. But the ideas, part of a package of new rules proposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, did not come up for a vote at the association's annual convention here on Friday. Instead, leaders of the five most powerful conferences resolved to vote on the measures next year, with the possibility of introducing a more comprehensive set of changes.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    From the HR Department


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite applying standards widely regarded as more union-friendly than those used by the board before, a regional NLRB official ruled on Tuesday that tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Carroll College, a Roman Catholic institution in Montana, are too involved in that institution’s management to be allowed to organize as employees.”

    “Sara Goldrick-Rab is UW’s best-known tweeter,” says the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

    According to the BBC, “Publisher Penguin Random House says job applicants will no longer be required to have a university degree.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Scholastic announced it would withdraw the book A Birthday Cake for George Washington following complaints about its depiction of slavery.

    Via Mindshift: “What ClassDojo Monsters Can Teach Kids About Growth Mindset.” According to that blog and others that repeated the company’s PR, the answer is apparently not “see how easily ‘growth mindset’ can be co-opted by a really insidious VC-funded version of behaviorism?”

    Via Wired: “Apple and Microsoft May Use Cobalt Dug by Kids, Report Says.” Funny how this connection between children and computers never really gets discussed by ed-tech evangelists, eh?

    “Turnitin, seeking to expand beyond plagiarism detection, launches a tool to help students improve their writing as they write,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Seize all the student IP, Turnitin.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo has released the “largest cache of Internet data” to university researchers.

    The New York Times looks at how new lending companies utilize data science to determine consumers’ loan eligibility, something that raises questions about fairness and transparency (and something that ed-tech also needs to consider as/if it adopts algorithmic decision-making).

    “EducationSuperHighway Debuts Tool to Compare Drastically Different District Broadband Rates,” Edsurge reports.

    JSTOR’s e-book program is growing, Inside Higher Ed reports.

    “Florida Virtual Schools and Knewton to Collaborate Using Analytics,” Education Week reports.

    “Google Announces Virtual Reality App and Updates to ‘Expeditions Program,’” according to Edsurge.

    The Moodle Users Association (MUA), “a crowd-funding group for additional Moodle core development,” says it’s open for members to join, reports Phil Hill, who adds that 42 have signed up “mostly as individuals.”

    Via Doug Belshaw: “What a post-Persona landscape means for Open Badges.”

    “Civitas Learning Moves to End Scheduling Nightmares,” says Edsurge. Learning analytics nightmares will continue.

    “Benchprep Partners with ACT to Launch Personalized Online Test Prep Platform,” says Edsurge. “Personalized” review for a standardized test. LOL. Why, it's almost as though words have no meaning in ed-tech.

    Funding and Acquisitions and Stock-Trading


    Pearson released its “regular January trading update,” revealing its 2015 results and 2016 outlook. Last year, the education behemoth had an operating profit of approximately £720 million, but predicts that will be significantly lower this year. The company will lay off some 4000 employees, according to the BBC.

    Microsoft has acquired MinecraftEdu – or rather TeacherGaming, the maker of a Minecraft version aimed at classroom usage. Microsoft will now launch an education version of Minecraft. More via Edsurge.

    Flex Class has raised $2.5 million for a “sponsored MOOC platform.” Investors’ names were not disclosed.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    Via The Guardian: “In the library in the gym, Big Brother is coming to universities.”

    And to make that crystal clear, here’s a press release rewrite via Campus Technology: “Toshiba Intros Surveillance Education Program.”

    Data and “Research”


    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “A survey of students on nine campuses has found that 21 percent of female undergraduates reported having been sexually assaulted since starting college.”

    “Students Show Mixed Feelings Toward Advising Technology,” Edsurge says, based on research from the Columbia University Teachers College.

    Inside Higher Ed has released the results of its 2016 survey of Chief Academic Officers.

    Via Education Dive: “A new study from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, claims that observing teachers in the classroom for the purpose of evaluation can ‘fail to meaningfully assess teacher performance.’”

    “Nearly half of young people fear jobs will be automated in 10 years,” according to The Guardian.

    The NYT’s Natasha Singer takes a closer look at ed-tech funding, noting that “Despite the volume of novel products aimed at schools, the biggest investments are largely going to start-ups focused on higher education or job-related skills – businesses that feed a market of colleges, companies and consumers willing to spend to promote career advancement.”

    Knewton researchers claim Knewton works. News at 11.


    0 0
  • 01/29/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    “U.S. Education Department threatens to sanction states over test opt-outs,” according to The Washington Post.

    President Obama has released a plan that would ban solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in federal prison.

    The EFF asks why so many universities are opposing the Department of Education’s proposed OER policy (that federally funded educational resources would be openly licensed). One possible answer: patent$.

    Proposed legislation before Georgia’s General Assembly would “require schools to provide certain information to students and parents prior to using any digital-learning platform; to provide for definitions; to provide for destruction of student data collected through a digital-learning platform; to provide the opportunity to opt out; to provide for legislative findings; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

    Proposed legislation in Washington would allow charters in the state to keep operating – this after the state’s Supreme Court said that charters were unconstitutional.

    Presidential candidate Chris Christie is the latest Republican to float the idea of shuttering the Department of Education.

    The Pacific Standard looks at “The Right’s Opposition to Federal Education Reform.” (Or at least, to the Common Core.)

    Education in the Courts


    Via the FTC’s website: “The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against the operators of DeVry University, alleging that DeVry's advertisements deceived consumers about the likelihood that students would find jobs in their fields of study, and would earn more than those graduating with bachelor’s degrees from other colleges or universities.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    “Colman Chadam carries genetic markers for cystic fibrosis, but doesn't have the disease itself, according to his parents.” Buzzfeed looks at the legal battle his parents are waging against a Palo Alto school district which dismissed him from a school, charging he posed a health risk to other students.

    Via Reuters: “North Korea detains U.S. student on New Year trip for ‘hostile act’.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Pennsylvania appeals court has thrown out charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy against Pennsylvania State University’s former president, Graham B. Spanier, involving his role in the Sandusky child-sex-abuse case.”

    Three executives from for-profit colleges have been sentenced “on charges related to student financial aid and student visa fraud,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The GED Testing Service … announced that it will lower the passing score for the GED, a test that serves as the equivalent of a high-school degree. At the same time the service, which Pearson and the American Council on Education own jointly, said it was adding two new, optional levels above the passing score (and the previous passing level) that will allow students to signify college readiness or to earn ACE recommendations for college credits.” More via NPR.

    Via NPR: “A History Of The SAT In 4 Questions.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New study suggests the SAT may over- or underpredict first-year college grades of hundreds of thousands of students.”

    The AP reports“SAT tests canceled in China, Macau over cheating concerns.”

    Via The New York Times: “Over 200 Educators in New York Receive Erroneous Scores Linked to Student Performance.”

    Mills College is the latest school to go “test optional” for admissions.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Paul-Olivier Dehaye has filed a privacy complaint in 13 European regions against Coursera. Dehaye was involved in a MOOC controversy in 2014 when he deleted his course on the Coursera platform.

    Inside Higher Ed’s Carl Straumsheim scrutinizes Coursera’s recent announcement about charging for courses/assessments/certificates. Warning: includes me.

    (Walmart heirs’) Walton Family Foundation says it’s time to “rethink online learning.” Whatever that means. For-profit online charter school chain K12 Inc is also launching a charitable foundation “designed to advance online and blended learning opportunities and outcomes.” Be afraid.

    Via the Center for Digital Education: “The Struggle to Make Online Courses Accessible in Higher Ed.”

    Via The New York Times: “Europe’s Top Digital-Privacy Watchdog Zeros In on U.S. Tech Giants.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Via Fusion: “Remember #AssaultAtSpringValley? A teen arrested in the incident speaks out.”

    Via the AP: “Rivier University, which has a total student population of about 2,600 in Nashua, has created an ‘Employment Promise Program’ that will be available to full-time undergraduates starting with the class of 2020. Students are guaranteed to land a job within nine months of graduation, or the school will either pay their federally subsidized students loans for up to a year or enroll them in up to six master’s degree courses tuition-free.”

    Via Eater: “Students at the University of Kentucky now have the distinct privilege of being able to get college credit for eating tacos. According to Munchies, the university is offering an undergraduate class called ‘Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the US South,’ and the professor behind it wants to use tacos as an avenue for students to learn more about how people can forge social connections through food.”

    “The American Bar Association is investigating a complaint that Brigham Young University's law school violates the group's nondiscrimination guidelines by maintaining policies that allow the expulsion of students for being homosexual or for losing their Mormon faith before graduation,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Success Academy Founder Defends Schools Against Charges of Bias.”

    “Yik Yak Tests Universities’ Defense Of Free Speech,” says NPR.

    For-profit Westwood College announced it would close its doors in March.

    Four people were killed at a school shooting in Saskatchewan.

    Via the AP: “Pakistan closes schools in province amid Taliban threats.”

    Via NPR: “The Citadel Punishes 14 Cadets Over White-Hooded Photos.”

    “Colleges That Ask Applicants About Brushes With the Law Draw Scrutiny,” according to The New York Times.

    Should Harvard Rename Med School for $1 Billion?

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “College Endowments Report Lowest Return Rate in 3 Years.” But via The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “U.S. Colleges Raise $40 Billion; Stanford Tops List at $1.6 Billion.”

    Oxford University’s Oriel College says it will not remove its statute of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

    Via Bryan Alexander: “One midwestern university has responded to declining enrollment in a very specific way. Lake Superior State University … is apparently denying tenure to tenure-track faculty in some cases because the campus cannot afford to grant long-term employment to them.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Baltimore Ravens player John Urschel will spend the off-season working on his PhD at MIT.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges Raised $1.2 Billion in Donations for Sports in 2015.” #GoDucks

    Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has joined the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

    Via Sports Illustrated: Shaq says he was ‘paid very well’ while playing at LSU. (I guess this is something that the O’Neals are weighing as Shaq’s oldest son is being recruited by various colleges.)

    According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Nearly One-Quarter of College Athletes Report Signs of Depression.”

    Amherst will drop its racist mascot, Lord Jeff.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Rhode Island has agreed to pay $1.45 million to the family of a baseball player who died after collapsing during a team workout in 2011.”

    From the HR Department


    Via The Telegraph: “Pearson chief brands critics ‘naive and ignorant’ as company cuts 4,000 jobs.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. (Elsewhere in Pearson news, the company was hit with an Ofsted report that ranked it “inadequate” and found “no key strengths” in its apprenticeship program.)

    MIT’s dean for graduate education, Christine Ortiz, is taking a one year leave in order to start a new research university. “‘I’m looking at a new model, where the whole sort of vocabulary is different,’ she said. ‘The distinction between undergrad and grad goes away.’ Ortiz said the university would focus on project-based learning and would dispense with some of the familiar hallmarks of university education, like the lecture.”

    Not a good week for Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who was caught on camera during protests last year asking journalists to stop filming. She’s been charged with assault, and she’s been suspended from her job.

    Elsewhere at Mizzou: “The University of Missouri will raise the minimum stipend for graduate students, to $15,000, in July, the interim chancellor, Henry C. (Hank) Foley, announced on Wednesday,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. And also via The Chronicle: “Former Mizzou Chief Blames Others for Resignation in ‘Confidential’ Letter.”

    Via the Chicago Sun-Times: “Wheaton College faculty council opposes effort to fire professor.”

    Via Bloomberg Business: “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders?”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Scholars Criticize Academia.edu Proposal to Charge Authors for Recommendations.”

    Oh look. A(nother) new interoperability standard for ed-tech. Cue xkcd.

    “Angry Birds creator Rovio has spun out its education operations into a new company under the name of Fun Academy,” Gamasutra reports.

    “Instructure and Echo360 To Get Tighter Integration for Student Activity Reporting,” says Campus Technology.

    Blackboard announced the “availability of new SaaS offerings,” Michael Feldstein reports.

    Via Edsurge: “Bloomboard Releases Micro-Credentials Offering and ‘Pinterest for Teachers’.” Whatever happened to all those other startups that were supposed to be “Pinterest for Teachers”?

    Does Technology Ever Reduce the Costs of Teaching?

    Via The New York Times: “An App Helps Teachers Track Student Attendance.”

    Education Week has an update on what happened to the millions that LeVar Burton raised via Kickstarter to reboot Reading Rainbow as an app.

    Via Edsurge: “panOpen Launches OER Platform to Reduce Textbook Costs.”

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Apple has acquired LearnSprout, a company that initially worked on API- and SIS-integration tools (but that had recently pivoted to an analytics dashboard). Edsurge surmises that the acquisition will help Apple with new iOS features that promise to better integrate devices and apps into school administrative tools. (It's not clear to me what happens to all the student data LearnSprout had accumulated. Were these "assets" also acquired?)

    Grovo has raised $40 million from Accel Partners, Costanoa Venture Capital, SoftTech VC, Greg Waldorf, and Vayner Capital. The “workplace learning” company has raised $62.02 million total.

    TAL Education, a Chinese tutoring company, has invested an undisclosed amount of money in the mind-reading software Knewton.

    ProctorFree has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Task Force X Capital. The startup is “an automated service that uses biometric and machine learning technologies to eliminate the need for human oversight in online exams” which doesn’t sound horrifying at all.

    Edsurge looks at New Markets Venture Partners new venture fund.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    More Security Vulnerabilities Found in Hello Barbie Toy’s Servers.”

    Via Education Dive: “The University of Virginia is dealing with the aftermath of a data breach that exposed the W–2s of about 1,400 employees and the direct deposit banking information of another 40.”

    Via Education Week: “The Clarksdale, Miss., school board has approved the use of drones for educational purposes” (which in this case means filming athletic events).

    Data and “Research”


    Via The New York Times: “What a Million Syllabuses Can Teach Us.”

    Via Politico: “In an SEC filing, Navient reports that total delinquency rates are at the lowest levels for FFELP and private education loans since 2005.”

    Eduventures has published a report on the learning management system market.

    Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Percentage of College Admissions Officers Who Check Out Applicants' Social Media Profiles Hits New High.”

    Via Education Week: “Per Pupil Spending Down in Most States.” At the higher education level, “State support for higher education is up 4.1 percent this year, according to a new report,” that is, according to Inside Higher Ed. And via The Hechinger Report: “Education spending gap widens between college haves and have-nots since recession.”

    Via a story published on Medium about female tech founders: “In the Bay Area, 16 companies that received A funding in 2015 were led by a female CEO, or 8% of the total. This represents a 30% year-over-year decrease in the number of female-led companies that raised an A in the Bay Area compared with 2014.”

    According to a study by Duke, “Charter school segregation worsens in North Carolina.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students waste about one-fifth of class time on laptops, smartphones and tablets, even though they admit such behavior can harm their grades.”

    Which states allow guns on campus?


    0 0
  • 02/05/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    President Obama proposed a $4 billion“Computer Science for All” initiative late last week. No clear indication about what he means by “computer science.” But hey, the industry loves that “high tech worker shortage” narrative, doesn’t it. Gary Stager has thoughts. And via Education Week: “With Computer Science Ed. Gaining Momentum, Girls Still Well Behind.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “The U.S. Department of Education has suspended student-aid eligibility at 26 for-profit education programs, in California, Illinois, and Nevada, after an investigation found several rules violations by the programs.” One of those programs, Marinello Schools of Beauty, announced it would subsequently shut its doors.

    The Department of Education has added new requirements for accreditors. According to Inside Higher Ed, it said “it would require accreditors to provide more information to the feds – and to the public, when possible – about sanctions the agencies slap on colleges, including the reason for those sanctions. The department also will require accreditors to separate their reporting of punitive actions against colleges from the other information they submit to the federal government, such as when colleges receive renewal of their accreditation status.” More via The Wall Street Journal.

    Iowa held its caucuses this week, and we still have months to go of this election crap.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Higher Learning Commission sent a letter to Illinois lawmakers on Thursday, saying it is ‘obligated to move swiftly to protect Illinois students’ if the state’s budget impasse continues and public colleges are denied state funds.”

    Via The Chicago Sun-Times: “More than a thousand teachers marched down La Salle Street on Thursday afternoon, starting in the heart of Chicago’s financial district, to protest a recent contract offer by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

    “Lawmakers Roast the Education Dept.’s Top Technology Officer Over Ethics and Data Security,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Elsewhere at the Department of Education: “A senior Education Department official is apologizing for what he acknowledged was poor judgment and ”unacceptable“ behavior related to working on his side businesses with subordinates, failing to pay taxes on his profits and awarding a government contract to a friend’s company,” Education Week reports. The official in question: Danny Harris, the department’s chief information officer.

    Education in the Courts


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Northwestern University’s teaching hospital and its chief of cardiac surgery have lost a court bid to dismiss a lawsuit alleging he used unsuspecting patients to test an experimental heart device.”

    New Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that he is ending the state’s lawsuit, filed under former Governor Bobby Jindal, against the Obama Administration over the Common Core.

    Via The New York Times: “Public Advocate Letitia James has sued the New York City Education Department, saying a $130 million computer system meant to track services for students with disabilities was a failure.”

    Testing, Testing…


    “PARCC Scores Lower for Students Who Took Exams on Computers,” says Education Week. Also via Education Week: “Comparing Paper-Pencil and Computer Test Scores: 7 Key Research Studies.”

    Via Syracuse.com: “MaryEllen Elia, tapped seven months ago to lead New York’s education department, now finds herself wedged between a federal mandate to test students and a groundswell of parents in this state who refuse to let their kids take the tests.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “First-semester grade point average may be a better way to predict whether students will graduate than an ACT score, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”

    California “sends mixed messages on Smarter Balanced test participation,” according to EdSource.

    “Ed Dept issues new guidance on scaling back standardized testing,” says Education Dive.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    “Hardly Anyone Wants to Take a Liberal Arts MOOC,” says Edsurge. (Only “1.86 unique users have enrolled 4.1 million times in edX’s liberal arts course.” So hardly anyone at all.)

    “Dismal performance by Idaho virtual charters result in 20% grad rate,” says Education Dive.

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Meet the New Student Activists.”

    “University of Missouri protests could lead to lower credit rating,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “A Cobb County high school’s new reliance on iPads for classroom work has some worrying students without them could be left behind. Walton High School is directing parents of its nearly 2,600 students to buy iPads for their children to use in classroom assignments starting this month. School officials have said iPads would be available for check-out for students who couldn’t afford or didn't own them, but only about a dozen are being provided for those students to use.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “MIT Dean Takes Leave to Start New University Without Lectures or Classrooms.” (That’s Christine Ortiz.) Dean Dad Matt Reed weighs in.

    Via The Washington Post: “At ‘State U.,’ a surge of students from out of state.”

    Billy the Kid is on the loose” – one of 14 goats owned by the University of Iowa has escaped.

    Emerson College is fining a student for renting out his dorm room on AirBnB.

    A letter from MIT President L. Rafael Reif announces an “expansion of learning research and online and digital education.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Via the Seattle Times: “Lake Washington School District has suspended all Friday classes at Juanita and Redmond high schools after school administrators discovered threatening messages in bathrooms at both schools.” According to Education Week, “Hoaxers increasingly going online to threaten schools.”

    “Earlham College, in Richmond, Ind., canceled classes on Thursday after a group of students voiced concerns about diversity on the campus,” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Three Maryland community colleges plan to close a jointly run health education center because of enrollment changes.”

    Via The New York Times: “Students Say Racial Hostilities Simmered at Historic Boston Latin School.”

    “Concordia College attempts a queen sacrifice,” says Bryan Alexander.

    “University of Michigan and IBM Launch AI-powered Advising System,” says Edsurge.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The New York Times: “John Thrasher, the president of Florida State University, is a former politician who once was chairman of the Rules Committee in the Florida Senate and served a stint as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He knows how to spin, and how to play hardball. He proved it this week when he issued an astonishingly disingenuous and meanspirited statement after settling a Title IX lawsuit brought by a student who accused Jameis Winston, the former star quarterback of the Seminoles who won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, of raping her in 2012.” The real victim here, according to Thrasher: the university.

    Via ESPN: “Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “UC-Berkeley Admits Liability in Death of Football Player During 2014 Practice.”

    Via LA School Report: “California’s Super Bowl classroom: Inside Levi’s Stadium, a first-of-its-kind STEM education.”

    From the HR Department


    Robots are coming for education jobs, says the Brookings Institution.

    Teach for America turns 25.

    Darnell Earley, the emergency manager for Detroit’s public schools, has resigned. In addition to facing criticism about the abysmal conditions of the city’s schools, Earley has been tied to the lead poisoning of the people of Flint. Earley was the person who carried out the decision to use the Flint River as a source of drinking water of that city.

    Apollo Education, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, has laid off 70 employees, the Arizona Republic reports.

    Jason Lieb, who The New York Times describes as “a prominent molecular biologist at the University of Chicago,” has resigned amid a sexual misconduct investigation.

    James Cole, Jr has been tapped as “number 2” in the Department of Education, says Education Week.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “AAUP Asks Mizzou to Lift Suspension of Melissa Click.” Click made a deal this week to avoid assault charges, stemming from her efforts last year to block a journalist from accessing a student protest.

    Via The Register: “Uni of Manchester IT director resigns after sacking 68 people.”

    “Adjuncts Vote to Unionize in 2 of 3 Schools at U. of Southern California,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    “Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist and president of Rockefeller University, has been named the 11th president of Stanford University,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Stuart Udell has been named the new CEO of K12, Inc.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Sesame Workshop, maker of Sesame Street, is launching a venture capital arm in order to invest in startups because everything is terrible.

    Could Computer Coding Academies Ease the Student Loan Crisis?” Hahahahahaha. Oh yes, please go on about how for-profit higher ed will ease the student loan crisis.

    Pearson is getting out of the LMS market, according to Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill.

    Open Badges in 2016: A Look Ahead.”

    More education companies hop on the “growth mindset” bandwagon.

    Campbell Brown’s advocacy site The Seventy Four has taken over LA School Report, a website that, as the name suggests, covers schools in the Los Angeles area. More via The LA Times.

    The XPRIZE has chosen the 109 teams to compete in its adult literacy competition.

    New Carnegie Classifications Are Out.” Whee.

    Because ed-tech suffers from amnesia, folks are once again predicting that virtual reality is poised (again) to be “the next big thing.”

    Announcing Known 0.9, named for Delia Derbyshire.”

    Investments and Acquisitions and Spin-Offs


    Magic Leap isn’t an ed-tech company (and I won’t be counting this in my official tally of ed-tech investments unless the marketing for this vaporware changes to focus on education, no matter the edu-related predictions about VR and AR being “on the horizon”). The company, which promises it’s making something augmented reality something something, has just raised $793 million from Alibaba, J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and T. Rowe Price Associates. The company has raised $1.39 billion total. So I’m sure it’s legit.

    Late last year, Edsurge reported that Knewton had filed with the SEC for a $47.25 million round. Looks like that total actually came to $52 million, according to Edsurge, with investment from Sofina, Atomico, EDBI, and as noted last week China’s TAL Education Group. Crunchbase puts the latest round at $10 million (having counted that $42 million in last year’s numbers). Knewton has raised $157.25 million for its mind-reading robo-tutors.

    College Ave has raised $20 million from Comcast Ventures, Fenway Summer Ventures, and DW Partners for its student loan marketplace. The company has raised over $40 million.

    Xerox is spinning off its student loan servicing company, Affiliated Computer Services.

    Handshake, “a university career services platform and student professional network,” has raised $10.5 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, True Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Lowercase Capital. The company has raised $14 million total.

    Twig World has raised $4.98 million from Imperial College London for its STEM video offerings.

    ProctorExam has raised $550,000 in seed funding from LeapFunder for its proctoring platform.

    PowerSchool (which was sold by Pearson to Vista Equity Partners last year) has acquired assessment-maker Interactive Achievement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    According to Edsurge, “Excelligence Learning Corporation, an educational products retailer and portfolio company of the private equity firm Brentwood Associates, has acquired Really Good Stuff, Incorporated, a marketer of K–8 educational products and teaching tools.” Terms were not disclosed.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    Via The Chronicle: “UC Berkeley faculty members are buzzing over news that University of California President Janet Napolitano ordered the installation of computer hardware capable of monitoring all e-mails going in and out of the UC system. ‘The intrusive device is capable of capturing and analyzing all network traffic to and from the Berkeley campus and has enough local storage to save over 30 days of all this data,’ Ethan Ligon, one of six members of the school's Senate-Administration Joint Committee on Campus Information Technology, wrote in an e-mail Thursday to fellow faculty members.”

    “‘Freakouts’ Over Student Privacy Hamper Innovation,” says Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein. Tracy Mitrano, Academic Dean of the University of Massachusetts Cybersecurity Certificate Programs, responds: “Vendor motivations for profit hardly qualify as freedom for a student.” But it sure seems to count as “innovation” these days, eh.

    Via Motherboard: “Internet-Connected Fisher Price Teddy Bear Left Kids’ Identities Exposed.”

    Also via Motherboard: “Christian University Requiring Students to Use Fitbits Says It Won’t Track Sex.”

    Meanwhile, from Open Effect: “Every Step You Fake: A Comparative Analysis of Fitness Tracker Privacy and Security.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What the Education Dept.’s Information-Security Breakdowns Really Mean.”

    Data and “Research”


    I’ve run the numbers on January’s ed-tech investments. More details here.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Professor Who Helped Expose Crisis in Flint Says Public Science Is Broken.”

    Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University of Maryland at College Park, stung by criticism over a news release in December that touted the benefits of a specific brand of chocolate milk among high-school athletes who had suffered concussions, has convened a high-level panel to review the incident and how the university communicates research findings.”

    Edsurge has released a report on adaptive technology. Education Week covers the report in turn (because infographic), asking “Is Adaptive Technology an Ed Tech Prize or Fool’s Gold?

    Jeffrey Selingo says we’re poised to see “the end of college rankings as we know them.”

    The Gates Foundation says more data will be more better when it comes to higher education.

    NMC and Educause have released the latest higher ed Horizon Report. Don’t worry – I’ll be liberating the data from the PDF this weekend and adding it to the horizon.hackeducation.com site.

    From the Joan Ganz Cooney Center: “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families.”

    Is culinary school worth it?


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    Late last week, President Obama announced a “Computer Science for All” initiative. He called for $4 billion in the upcoming budget to expand CS training for teachers, access to instructional materials, and “effective regional partnerships,” along with some $100 million in competitive grants (because nothing says “for all” like making states and districts compete for their education funding).

    The need for such a program was – no surprise – framed in terms of the job market. We hear more and more that the purpose of school should be to bend to the (short-term) demands of employers. This has been a narrative that many in the tech sector have furthered (and I’ve written about repeatedly): there’s (supposedly) a “STEM crisis,” a shortage of high-skilled employees now. In the future it’ll be even more dire, the tech punditry warns.

    I’m not convinced (and I’m not alone).

    The President’s statement and the accompanying fact sheet present this figure as rationale for the big investment: 600,000 unfilled tech jobs. There’s no source for this number; there’s no citation. The number certainly isn’t one that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides. (Rather, one of its latest report points to the number of job openings in the health care sector. But there seems to be no mandate that “everyone learn to medical.”) For what it’s worth, I believe the National Association of Manufacturing is the source for that figure the White House gives – or at least, back in 2011, it reported there were “600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs.”

    This questionable statistic about “unfilled tech jobs” helps underscore some of the flawed assumptions that Obama’s “Computer Science for All” initiative rests upon: what exactly constitutes a “tech job”? Are those jobs unfilled because workers do not know computer science? (Interestingly, those with degrees in computer science had some of the highest unemployment rates among STEM majors during the recent economic downturn.) And what exactly does that phrase “computer science” even mean?

    There isn’t any consensus on the latter– a failure of vision, says, Gary Stager who has one of the best responses to the President’s announcement and to ed-tech’s amnesia when it comes to computers and education. Citing one definition of computer literacy (from Arthur Luehrmann) dating back to 1984, the phrase:

    …must mean the ability to do something constructive with a computer, and not merely a general awareness of facts one is told about computers. A computer literate person can read and write a computer program, can select and operate software written by others, and knows from personal experience the possibilities and limitations of the computer.

    If you look around at what schools currently offer in terms of “computer science,” you’ll find classes that teach computer programming, ones that teach computer applications (notably those in the Microsoft Office suite), and ones that only teach “digital citizenship.” (It’s probably worth reiterating here too that there are some significant differences in which demographic of students has opportunities to experience which of these different definitions of “computer science.”) In some places, these “computer science” classes emphasize “computational thinking,” and in others, they emphasize “business skills.” Some schools offer the Computer Science AP class/exam (which focuses on programming in Java); some (starting this fall) will offer the new Computer Principles AP class/exam (which as the name suggests, will focus on foundational computer science principles and not programming per se). Twenty-eight states do allow computer science credits to count towards graduation – but some say it’s equivalent to a math credit, some say it’s equivalent to a science credit, some say it’s equivalent to a foreign language credit.

    So what will “Computer Science for All” entail? There are echoes in the initiative’s name of that tired mantra that “everyone should learn to code.” Perhaps “Computer Science for All” will prove to be different than that particular industry-sponsored push – because, if nothing else, “code” is different from (although related to) “computer science.” Perhaps. (Then again, these very same folks are listed as partners in Obama’s new initiative, and we can look to Apple’s commitment to the initiative as an example here of whose interests are really being represented. Apple, according to Wired Magazine will invest “in training workshops and curriculum development, particularly around its Swift programming language.” To be clear, that’s a language for building apps (only) on Apple’s mobile operating system.)

    Despite the claims made by various education entrepreneurs that nothing we do or teach in schools has changed for hundreds of years, curricula is always changing and, just as importantly, curricula is always contested. Whose definition(s) of computer science will prevail? What types of students will have rich and meaningful experiences with computers and what types will get repetitive coding exercises? And computer science to what end?

    From a Silicon Valley venture capitalist (whose firm has invested in, among other things, the "high-tech skills"-training startup Udacity):


    That's hardly a vision for a democratic future (for education or otherwise)...


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  • 02/12/16--10:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    “President Obama’s 2017 Budget Seeks to Expand Educational Opportunity for All Students,” says The Department of Education. According to Education Week, “Obama Budget Would Prioritize Integration, Flat Fund Key Programs.” Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education look at the budget plans for higher ed (noting that “it’s a nonstarter for Congress”). The data for the proposed budget is available on GItHub.

    President Obama has formally nominated John B. King Jr. as Secretary of Education. Meanwhile, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan has signed with a talent and sports agency.

    The Department of Education announced the creation of the Student Aid Enforcement Unit “to respond more quickly and efficiently to allegations of illegal actions by higher education institutions.”

    Via Politico: “ Sens. Bob Casey and Orrin Hatch on Thursday introduced the bipartisan Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act, which would eliminate the FAFSA's drug conviction question and prevent students convicted of drug offenses from losing their financial aid.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Hillary Clinton To Tap Education Department Aide As Director Of Black Media.” (That’s Denise Horn, whose been DoE assistant press secretary.)

    Maine Governor Paul LePage has appointed himself education commissioner.

    “A Florida proposal requiring public high schools to offer virtual or in-person computer science classes – and classifying those courses as foreign language – has passed in the Florida House of Representatives,” Edsurge reports. This is a terrible idea.

    Proposed legislation in Kansas would eliminate tenure for its community college faculty. (K–12 teachers in the state have already lost any due process protection.)

    Education in the Courts


    Via Education Week: “The Kansas Supreme Court struck down a stopgap law for funding the state’s public schools on Thursday, saying it left poor districts $54 million short.”

    Via Pacific Standard: “Abusers in the Juvenile Justice System Are Getting Off Scot-Free.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Chalkbeat TN: “On a day that was supposed to mark a new era of online testing in Tennessee, a major technology failure led State Department of Education officials to scrap their new online exam and revert to paper-and-pencil tests.” The state has frozen its $108 million testing contract with Measurement Inc.

    “Rhode Island students who took the 2014–15 PARCC exams by computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams by paper, raising further questions about the validity and usefulness of results from the tests taken last school year by more than 5 million students in the multi-state Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers,” Education Week reports.

    Also via Education Week: “Computer Glitch Throws Off New York Principals’ Scores.”

    According to a study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments do a better job gauging the depth and complexity of important academic skills and knowledge than do the ACT Aspire, or Massachusetts’ MCAS exam.”

    Via Edsurge: “Why the SAT and ACT May Replace PARCC and Smarter Balanced.”

    Via Education Week: “PARCC Considers Reorganization, Seeks Input to Shape its Future.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why the OECD Wants a Global Effort to Measure Student Learning.” And Education Week writes up another complaint from the OECD: “U.S. Efforts Haven’t Helped Low Performers on Global Math, Reading Tests.” More testing is sure to solve it.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    A couple of reports on online education: “WCET Distance Education Enrollment Report 2016: Using IPEDS 2014 Fall Enrollment Data” and “Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States.” More on the results via The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and the Hechinger Report.

    Why Harvard and One of Its Professors Are Fighting to Trademark a CS Course.” Because “open.” Duh.

    Coursera is launching“project-based learning courses.” (Or rather, it’s labeling classes like “Build Your First Android App” as such.)

    Georgia Tech joins edX as a charter member. The KTH Royal Institute of Technology has also joined edX.

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Imani Perry, an African-American history at Princeton, said that she was arrested for an unpaid parking ticket (from three years ago) and handcuffed to the desk at the police station. Police have released a video of her arrest.

    Via ABC News: “Double Shooting Reported at Arizona High School.”

    A ten-hour leopard attack, starting at the Vibgyor International School in Bangalore, India.

    You thought the president of Mount St. Mary’s comment about treating struggling students bunnies needing to be drowned was bad? Oh man. It’s gotten worse. The provost who challenged the president’s retention plans has been fired, as have two professors (one tenured)– charged with “lack of loyalty,” whatever the hell that means. The school’s accreditor says it’ll investigate. The latest (at time of publishing) from The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Mount St. Mary’s Tells Tenured Professor It Fired That He Remains on the Payroll but Is Suspended.” “Tenure Protects Nothing,” Slate’s Rebecca Schuman concludes.

    Students at the University of Michigan are having their email inboxes flooded with messages containing lines from Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”

    Is Berkeley getting ready to consider a queen sacrifice?” asks Bryan Alexander. “Can Berkeley Stay Berkeley?” asks Inside Higher Ed. The US’s number one public university is embracing a “new normal,” administrators say. That’s code for accepting austerity without accepting one’s role in running up a big budget deficit, I think.

    Elsewhere in the UC system: “Cybersecurity experts say the network monitoring program at the U of California is less intrusive than reported, but question the university’s decision to keep it hidden from faculty.”

    Via the News Tribune: “A $100 million computer software system for Washington’s 34 community colleges is so far behind schedule and operating so poorly that it will likely cost another $10 million before it’s installed in all schools.”

    “Could a State Takeover Help Chicago’s Struggling Public Schools?” asks The Atlantic. I mean, state takeovers have such an amazing track record, amirite?

    “10 Percent of Ursinus College Students Have the Same Mystery Illness,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    The BBC has found that more than £500,000 in tuition fees, loans and grants have been awarded to West London Vocational Training College in Cardiff, a private college being investigated for fraud.

    “Thousands of students of at least four colleges have been left in limbo with huge debts following the collapse of one of the country’s largest vocational education companies,” The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The colleges in question: Aspire College of Education, The Design Works College of Design, RTO Services Group, and the Australian Indigenous College.

    Howard University President Proposes Tuition-Free HBCUs.”

    Denver is getting a private “microschool.” Tuition: $11,494. Invocation of Laura Ingalls Wilder in describing it: priceless.

    Via The Guardian: “Tomb Raider creator to open two free schools with digital focus.” (“Free school” here refers to an English school that is something like a charter school in the US – one not controlled by local authorities.)

    Via NPR: “Video Chat Your Way Into College: How Tech Is Changing The Admissions Process.”

    Some schools have maker spaces, and The New York Times is on it.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Jessica Luther, writing for Vice Sports: “On Tuesday, six women filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Tennessee, stating that the school has ‘intentionally acted by an official policy of deliberate indifference to known sexual assault.’ The result, they say, is ‘a hostile sexual environment,’ which is a violation of Title IX.”

    Via the AP: “North Carolina’s NCAA academic case stuck in holding pattern.”

    From the HR Department


    Larycia Hawkins will “part ways” with Wheaton College, which tried to fire her for comments she made about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same god.

    Wellesley College has named its first black president, Paula Johnson.

    Flat World Education’s CEO Christopher Etesse has resigned. He’ll be replaced by Jade Roth.

    Via Mother Jones: “Is America’s Most Controversial Education Group Changing Its Ways?”

    Following a battle over the school’s leadership, the president of Suffolk University and the chairman of its Board of Trustees will step down, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Facebook’s plan to offer Facebook-as-Internet to India has run into trouble as Indian regulators have blocked the plan, saying it violates net neutrality.

    Via The New York Times: “Wildly Popular App Kik Offers Teenagers, and Predators, Anonymity.”

    Ed-Fi and IMS Global announced a partnership, Edsurge reports, “to work towards creating a ‘unified approach to rostering.’”

    Via Ars Technica: “Oculus reveals first ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, in bundles starting at $1,499.” A wonderful price-point for the VR-in-education revolution.

    Yet another way that ed-tech expands inequality: “Boom in Online Tutoring Means Another Cost for Many Students.”

    Doug Belshaw calls out Pearson’s Acclaim “open badges” offering for not being open (or at least, not being portable).

    Via Education Week: “Christensen Institute Offers Database to Compare School Blended Learning Models.”

    Techcrunch says that “LendEDU Is Making Student Loan Refinancing Easier.” (Keep an eye on the private student loan market startups. This one is backed by Y Combinator. VCs love private student loans.)

    Funding and Acquisitions


    Via Buzzfeed: “Investors With Ties To Obama Will Buy University Of Phoenix Owner.” The deal, worth $1.1 billion, will sell Apollo Education to a group of investors, including the Vistria Group, which “will install the former deputy secretary of the Education Department, Tony Miller, as the company's new chairman.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Student.com, a marketplace for student housing, has raised $60 million from VY Capital, Horizons Ventures, Expa, Daniel Ek, Martin Lorentzon, and Hugo Barra.

    Online education platform Digischool has raised $15.7 million from Clément Cézard and others. The startup has raised $19.62 million total.

    After School has raised $16.4 million from Cowboy Ventures, Naval Ravikant, and Tikhon Bernstam. The anonymous messaging app – it’s like Yik Yak but aimed at high schools – was banned temporarily from the app stores because of “objectionable content.” But nothing objectionable enough to stop VCs from investing in it, apparently.

    “School choice platform” SchoolMint has raised $8 million from Runa Capital, Reach Capital, Fresco Capital, Govtech Fund, Kapor Capital, Crosslink Capital, Maiden Lane Ventures, CSC Upshot, Jared Kopf, Josh Reeves, and Tomer London. The company has raised $10.2 million total.

    From the press release, without comment: “NuuED Inc., the advanced technology education company with the power to assist learners based on their unique learning styles, today announced a $3 million financing deal with Swiss-based DuKlaw Ventures. DuKlaw Ventures led the investment effort with participation from German-based Deutsche Gruppe.”

    Crunchbase has raised $2 million from Salesforce Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, SV Angel, and 8 Partners. It’s raised $9 million total. The database of venture funding says it will start charging for access to its data (so it’s time for me to find another source to link to in my work on tracking ed-tech investments, I guess.)

    CWIST has raised $1.2 million from SFP Capital and Sagamore Ventures.

    VTech has acquired Leapfrog for $72 million. And a lot of publications that wrote up the press release failed to talk about VTech’s recent privacy breach. But hey. (More on VTech in the data and privacy section below.)

    Fulcrum Labs has acquired Adapt Courseware. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Upswing has acquired AskOnline. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Next Education has acquired InOpen Technologies in an “all cash deal.”

    Wisewire has acquired Words and Numbers. Terms were not disclosed.

    Teachers-Teachers and myEDmatch are merging. Terms were not disclosed.

    The education technology startup accelerator program Imagine K12 has merged with Y Combinator.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    Via Boing Boing: “Vtech, having leaked 6.3m kids’ data, has a new EULA disclaiming responsibility for the next leak.” “No, VTech cannot simply absolve itself of security responsibility,” writes Troy Hunt.

    Via The Washington Post: “D.C. accidentally uploads private data of 12,000 students.”

    Approximately 4,100 people – students and employees – have had their data compromised (and this includes Social Security Numbers) due to a laptop stolen from the University of Mary Washington.

    Some 63,000 people have been affected by a data breach at the University of Centra Florida.

    Via Education Dive: “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Tenth Amendment Center are teaming up in an attempt to advocate for states to adopt model legislation, written by the ACLU, aimed at strengthening student privacy protections.”

    Data and “Research”


    CB Insights has released its report on 2015’s ed-tech funding: “more than $2.98B across 442 deals.”

    “Adaptive gamified approach can boost math performance” says a study funded by the company making the adaptive gamified math software.

    An eye-popping ethnography of three infant cognition labs.”

    Via Education Week: “What the Silicon Valley Preschool Gap Says About Schools in Communities.”

    According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, education may cut the risk of developing dementia.

    Via Ed Yong, writing in The Atlantic: “The Bitter Fight Over the Benefits of Bilingualism.”

    Via The New York Times: “Science Teachers’ Grasp of Climate Change Is Found Lacking.”

    The Feds’ Best-Value Schools” (according to The New York Times and to a certain definition of “best value”).

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Black students enroll disproportionately in majors that are not the most lucrative, according to a report being released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.”

    The Internet is making us stupid. Episode 3154.

    Github patches from women who don’t reveal their gender more likely to be accepted than patches from identifiable women.” Because meritocracy.

    The latest Pew Research Center study looks at dating apps.

    How Right-Wing Billionaires Infiltrated Higher Education.”

    Meet the Robin Hood of Science.”

    AERA Announces Most Read Education Research Articles of 2015.”

    Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?” asks Freakonomics. Another wonderful headline from the podcast: “How to Fix a Broken High-Schooler, in Four Easy Steps.” JFC, these guys.

    Via Education Week: “Common Core Changes to Teacher PD Raise Student Scores in Math, not English.”

    Via the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: “Students with disabilities are restrained and secluded in Wisconsin’s public schools at an alarming rate, despite a 2011 law intended to curb the practices.”

    Inside Higher Ed asks, “Why Is Tuition So High?”: “A new study asserts that increased student aid, not faculty salaries or state cutbacks, drives prices higher.”

    UCLA has surveyed incoming college freshmen: “Backgrounds and Beliefs of College Freshmen.” The results? “Today’s Freshman Class Is the Most Likely to Protest in Half a Century,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Atlantic calls it “The Re-Politicization of America’s Colleges.”

    Image credits: The Noun Project


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  • 02/17/16--10:35: Amazon's Plans for OER
  • Kanye West tweeted yesterday about the high cost of textbooks yesterday. (Buzzfeed collected his rants into an article. Because journalism.) As Tressie McMillan Cottom later noted, he might have been right about the sticker price, but his analysis – particularly the part when he appealed to the tech sector for a solution – was sorely lacking.

    See, despite it being one of the most cited parts of Walter Isaacson’s biography, it’s not really evident at all that Steve Jobs, as Yeezy suggests, wanted to lower the cost of textbooks for the sake of educational affordability or access. Indeed, when Apple finally launched its digital textbook offering in 2012, it partnered with rather than “disrupted” traditional publishers. Moreover, Apple’s plans to charge schools and students a subscription for access to textbook content would prove to be more expensive than purchasing (printed) copies (not to mention the added cost of also having to buy Apple mobile devices).

    Here’s the passage in question from the Isaacson biography where Jobs’ plans for the textbook industry are discussed:

    Most of the dinner conversation was about education. [Rupert] Murdoch had just hired Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, to start a digital curriculum division. Murdoch recalled that Jobs was somewhat dismissive of the idea that technology could transform education. But Jobs agreed with Murdoch that the paper textbook business would be blown away by digital learning materials.


    In fact Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction. He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around. “The iPad would solve that,” he said. His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. “The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,” he said. “But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”

    I quote Isaacson’s biography at length because I think it demonstrates that Steve Jobs’ plans for textbooks and his motivations for “disruption” were a lot more complex (and a lot less altruistic) than Kanye West and the popular narrative he’s parroting suggest. It’s not really clear who will save money, for starters. Who is “them” in Jobs’ final sentence? And sure, we might cheer the bypassing of an entity like the Texas Board of Education, renowned for its insistence that textbooks approved for use in the state (and by extension, textbooks that are sold to many other states) contain factually inaccurate information and reflect conservative socio-political values. But as we’ve seen with Apple’s tight regulation over its ecosystem – its decisions about what’s permissible in the App Store, for example – what we might actually read from Jobs’ plans is less about a shift from “expensive” to “free” than a shift in power from governmental bodies to technology platforms as the locus of control.

    This is all a very long-winded introduction to some of the questions and concerns I have about Amazon’s recently-announced plans to offer a platform for open educational resources. Education Week’s K–12 Market Brief first reported the story, based on a presentation given at the School Superintendents Association’s recent conference. Details are light. Really, really light. But because the adjective “open” is in there, lots of folks seem to believe that this will be A Good Thing.

    The platform’s in beta, and we know its name – Amazon Inspire – but little more. We don’t know what the business model will be. (Neither does Amazon, by EdWeek’s account, although Amazon Education’s vice president of strategic relations Andrew Joseph promises it’ll always be free. Mmmhmmm.) We don’t know how it’ll work, other than these two sentences: “Users of the site will be able to add ratings and reviews, and to receive recommendations based on their previous selections. Educators will be able to curate open resources, self-publish material they have developed, and put a school’s entire digital library that is open and freely available online.” We don’t know what the interface will look like or how usable it will actually be (and I think those who've used Amazon Fire will concur: the company does not excel at UX. It's also failed repeatedly when it comes to accessibility issues). We don’t know what format the OER will be available in (for composing, publishing, or remixing). We don’t know if content will be interoperable – that is, usable beyond the Amazon (Kindle) ecosystem – or if there’ll be integration with other software systems. We don’t know what data Amazon will glean from the resources posted there– it does say that materials will be tagged with Learning Registry metadata – and we don’t know what Amazon will do with that data. We don’t know how the licensing will work.

    It’s also not apparent yet that Amazon has paid attention to the history lessons that other OER registries might offer about what has and has not worked to spur OER adoption. Mike Caulfield has touched on this in his response to the Amazon news, arguing that these efforts have mostly been ill-fated as they’ve largely focused on the centralization of resources in order to solve the so-called problem of discoverability:

    It’s been a disaster for two reasons. The first is that it assumes that learning objects are immutable single things, and that the evolution of the object once it leaves the repository is not interesting to us. And so Amazon thinks that what OER needs is a marketplace (albeit with the money removed). But OER are living documents, and what they need is an environment less like Amazon.com and more like GitHub. (And that's what we're building at Wikity, a personal GitHub for OER).

    Amazon is a commercial powerhouse – as Paul Ford recently wrote, “It is possibly the most purely optimized commercial enterprise in history, marrying hard computer science to ruthless labor practices in pursuit of delivering brown, branded boxes to anyone who might conceivably want them.” It is also a technology powerhouse. Amazon Web Services, which includes computer storage and processing, is a $5 billion business that undergirds in turn much of the rest of the tech sector. (Netflix, Coursera, Yelp, Zynga, and on and on all run on AWS.)

    But it doesn’t appear as though Amazon Inspire is about enabling schools or educators to spin up their own infrastructure to publish, host, and share content. It’s about building a marketplace, controlled by Amazon, to buy, sell, and trade stuff. This is Amazon.com for education, not AWS. And that’s a pity, because rethinking some of the infrastructure of an educational Web – something that Caulfield has been writing about lately– is far more interesting than building yet another centralized and corporatized OER repository.

    Textbooks cost too much, and everyone knows it, as the 64,000 retweets of Kanye West perhaps underscore. But that inflated price tag is just one of the problems that OER purports to solve. (See David Wiley’s 5 Rs of open content: the ability to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute work.) It remains to be seen if Amazon Inspire will support these activities or if the “problem” that Amazon really seeks to solve here is a stronger foothold in the education market.


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  • 02/19/16--02:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Education Department Letting For-Profit Schools Off Because They’re ‘Too Big To Fail,’ Report Says.” See also: “How the Department of Education Could Fix For-Profit Colleges” by Angus Johnston.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Education Dept. Seeks to Clear a Path to Loan Forgiveness and Recover Lost Loans.”

    Houston’s Fox News reported that “US Marshals arresting people for not paying their federal student loans.” But the New York Times writes that“Viral Student Loan Nightmare Is Not What It Seems, Authorities Say.”

    Via the Argus Leader: “South Dakota is one signature away from becoming the first state in the country to enact a law that would bar transgender students from using bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of the gender with which they identify if it doesn’t correspond with their biological sex.”

    Via the Wichita Eagle: “ Anti-Common Core measure could do away with AP, IB programs in Kansas.” And via The Daily Kos: “KS Republicans: Black History Month May Be Too Long; Move Bill Prohibiting Social Justice Education.”

    Legislators in North Carolina are weighing a plan that would cut tuition at some of the state’s HBCUs. According to The News & Observer, it would also change the names of some of the institutions and work to increase student diversity.

    Via Vox: “Florida thinks learning to code is like studying a foreign language. Here's why it’s not.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Mark Schierbecker, the University of Missouri student who videotaped an assistant professor calling for ‘some muscle’ to keep student journalists from filming a protest, has asked lawmakers to stop using his video, and the incident, as an excuse to cut the university’s budget.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The [British] government this month told universities to do more to raise participation rates among white boys from poorer homes and students with specific learning difficulties, as well as students from ethnic minorities.”

    “Obama budget pushes for better training for teachers,” says the Hechinger Report.

    Via Education Week: “CoSN Calls Broadband Access Outside School a ‘Civil Right’ for Students.”

    The New America think tank has a plan to scrap the current financial aid system and re-start from scratch. Inside Higher Ed has the details.

    From the campaign trail…

    Via The New York Times: “Donald Trump Will Be G.O.P. Nominee, Students' Mock Convention Says.”

    Via Education Week: “Hillary Clinton Pitches Fix to ‘School-to-Prison’ Pipeline.”

    Via Slate: “DeRay Mckesson Isn’t Baltimore’s Black Lives Matter Candidate. He’s its education-reform candidate. And that’s a lot more controversial.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Sanders Campaign Shines Spotlight on a Troubled College Presidency.”

    Education in the Courts


    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died. Cue the constitutional crisis, or something. Here’s some speculation on how his death (and Supreme Court with eight justices) will play on for edu-related issues: “How Scalia’s death may save teachers unions – for now” by the LA Times’ Howard Blume. “Scalia and Higher Ed” by Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik. “How the Scalia Vacancy Could Save Campus Affirmative Action” by Angus Johnston. (What if Obama nominates Cory Booker as Scalia’s replacement?)

    Via the San Jose Mercury News: “California public-school records on about 10 million students – including their Social Security numbers – will soon be handed over to attorneys for a parent group suing the state, with both parties blaming the other for the impending release of private information.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Marvell Technology Group and Marvell Semiconductor Inc. will pay $750 million to end a long-running patent dispute with Carnegie Mellon University.”

    Via NJ.com: “A Superior Court judge has rejected a motion by Orange school officials to dismiss the complaint against them from a former teacher who was fired for allowing her third-grade students to write ‘get well’ letters to a convicted cop killer.”

    Via the Independent: “Pirate website offering millions of academic papers for free refuses to close despite lawsuit.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Politico: “An estimated 20,000 additional students have passed the GED after the GED Testing Service announced earlier this year that it was lowering the minimum passing score by five points, from 150 to 145, for all test subjects.” #thankspearson

    Via the Hechinger Report: “A free, personal tutor for one college admissions exam. But will it work?”

    Via Pacific Standard: “Test Scores Drop as the School Day Drags on.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges Continue to Abandon Standardized Tests to Assess Learning, Survey Finds.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    “MOOC provider Coursera claims it can identify test takers uniquely through its patented keystroke biometrics system.” Paul-Olivier Dehaye looks “under the hood.”

    Via Class Central: “Coursera Pilots Mentor-Guided Courses.”

    OpenSAP says its MOOC platform has had over 1 million enrollments. (Does SAP require its employees to sign up? If so, color me unimpressed with this boast.)

    Via Education Dive: “Researchers still grapple with measuring quality in for-credit MOOCs.”

    Udemy Thinks It’s Cracked the Future of Online Education.” LOL. Some 10 million users have signed up, so that’s one way to measure “the future,” I guess.

    According to a filing, £14,475,000 goes to FutureLearn.

    EdX has partnered with Kiron and its university partners to offer college credit online for Syrian refugees.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study suggests acceptance of online education still lags among high school students.”

    The Hechinger Report looks at coaching teachers virtually.

    Meanwhile on Campus


    The Mount Saint Mary's College saga continues. Via The Establishment: “Mount St. Mary’s Ableist Plan To Push Out Vulnerable Students.” Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beleaguered Mount St. Mary’s President Still Has the Support of Most Students.” “As Mount St. Mary’s Offers to Reinstate 2 Professors, Faculty Demands President Quit.” And “Mount St. Mary’s Board Apologizes for ‘Breakdown’ and Says It Will Conduct Review.” And “How Mount St. Mary's Chose Simon Newman as Its President.” More coverage via Inside Higher Ed: “Is Controversial President Questioning Catholic Role?” And “Andrew Bournos, a controversial new member of the Board of Trustees of Mount Saint Mary College, in Newburgh, N.Y., has resigned.”

    Via Chalkbeat New York: “City moves to shutter three charter schools, including Beginning with Children.”

    An op-ed in The Roanoke Times on “Sweet Briar College, one year later.”

    Lake Superior State University has scrapped 8am classes, Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Venture capitalist Michael Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital, is donating $50 million to the University of Chicago.

    Via The New York Times: “At Success Academy School, a Stumble in Math and a Teacher's Anger on Video.” Via Vox: “This viral video of a teacher berating a student is a window on the charter school debate.” (In other Success Academy news, “Dispute With New York City Threatens Success Academy’s Pre-K.”

    Via NPR: “Texas A&M Investigates Report Of Slurs Yelled At Black High School Students.”

    Via The New York Times: “Cornell’s Plan to Merge Hotel School Gets an Icy Reception.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Schroders Plc, Apollo Education Group Inc.’s largest shareholder, plans to vote against a $1.1 billion takeover bid by a group of private equity firms and said it isn’t a done deal.” Meanwhile, the University of Phoenix has a new ad campaign. Because nothing fixes education like marketing dollars.

    India’s biggest student protests in 25 years are spreading to campuses across the country.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “3 Bethune-Cookman Students Shot, 1 Fatally.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: UT Austin’s president released a plan for the new campus-carry law. “The president’s plan, like the task force’s proposals, largely bans concealed firearms from on-campus dormitories and prohibits them from being carried in laboratories where their presence could be especially dangerous. But the plan does not exclude concealed guns from classrooms, a proposal that has left many faculty members wary.”

    “Indiana University Bloomington will review the handling of 18 sexual misconduct cases after the associate dean who led hearings on the cases was publicly accused of sexually assaulting a woman,” The New York Times reports. (Jim Groom responds, pointing out problems with the university procurement process and arguing that “This is why we can't have nice things in Virginia EdTech.”)

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Michigan spent more than $10,000 per day on jet travel for its head football coach and his staff in the days ahead of last year’s national signing day.”

    Via the Daily Camera: “Conflict between Shakespeare and the Dead will cost CU athletics $100K.” (That’s the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, to be clear.)

    “The state of Montana will pay $245,000 to Jordan Johnson, who was a quarterback for the University of Montana and who accused the institution of bias and irregularities in charging him with rape,” Inside Higher Ed writes.

    Penn State is successful at recruiting, despite the Sandusky scandal, SB Nation reports.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Nearly two-thirds of former college football and men’s basketball players who graduated from college like what they do every day and are motivated to achieve their goals, while many of their peer athletes report higher levels of physical and social well-being than do students who didn’t participate in NCAA sports.” (This from a survey commissioned by the NCAA.)

    Also via The Chronicle: a judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the NCAA that asserted college athletes should be paid at least the minimum wage.

    Via NPR: “‘Indentured’ Explores Efforts To Fight Mistreatment Of College Athletes.”

    From the HR Department


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University of Missouri at Columbia announced on Thursday that it had reinstated Patrice Delafontaine as dean of the School of Medicine, effective immediately. Dr. Delafontaine’s sudden resignation in September was among the incidents that contributed to a loss of confidence among other deans in the campus’s chancellor at the time, R. Bowen Loftin.”

    The University of Mary Washington has a new president: Dr. Troy D. Paino.

    The Gates Foundation has a new director of K–12 strategy: Bob Hughes.

    “Black Male Teachers a Dwindling Demographic,” says Education Week.

    Education Week asks“Could $1 Billion Make Teaching the Best Job in the World?”

    Via USA Today: “Broken discipline tracking systems let teachers flee troubled pasts.”

    I’m noting this here because it falls into one of the ed-tech trends I watch, “the employability narrative.” Also MOOCs. Via The New York Times: “Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Amazon is launching an OER platform. (My thoughts.)

    “Google Quietly Shutters Play For Education,” Techcrunch reports. But don’t worry. I’m sure the rest of your free Google products are safe forever.

    Via E-Literate: “After Customer Feedback And Further Delays, Blackboard Changes Learn Ultra Strategy For LMS.”

    “Is video a threat to learning management systems?” Tony Bates asks.

    Via Techcrunch: “Mattel Unveils ThingMaker, A $300 3D Printer That Lets Kids Make Their Own Toys.” More templated, plastic crap. Just what’s needed.

    “Even Barbie gets a smart home and a drone in 2016,” says Mashable. Surveillance Barbie. What could possibly go wrong?

    Via Motherboard: “The Secret Search Engine Tearing Wikipedia Apart.”

    “Remind’s New Features Were Designed for Emergencies,” says Edsurge.

    Via The New York Times: “Zenefits Scandal Highlights Perils of Hypergrowth at Start-Ups.” The company had created software to allow insurance brokers to cheat on their licensing requirements by bypassing a legally required 52-hour online course. Ed-tech innovation! Zenefits’ investors include Andreessen Horowitz, for those keeping track of how software is eating the world.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University of North Carolina system has built a Yelp-like review site for teaching tools, where it is asking professors to review and comment on how useful various digital services were in their classrooms.”

    “Private groups step in to show teachers how to use technology in the classroom,” Hechinger Report reports, where “private groups” equals for-profit company BetterLesson and non-profit org Common Sense Media.

    I’d wondered if Apple’s latest iOS upgrades that include several “classroom management” features would hurt Nearpod, a startup that has offered something similar. But hey, it looks like the company now says it’s going to offer virtual reality lessons. Pivot. Or something.

    More Bad News for Math-Textbook Publishers From Curriculum Review Site.”

    A digital course material platform, Skyepack LLC, says it’s launching a “textbook liberation fund.”

    Why Harvard should welcome free citation manuals.”

    “Should Computer Education Cover More Than Just Coding?” asks NPR.

    Fast Company has listed what it thinks are the most innovative education companies, including one that claims it can read minds which you have to admit is pretty damn innovative.

    Via Education Dive: “Digital Promise pushes microcredentials for teacher PD.” With more credential-solutionism, a company called ACUE which The Chronicle of Higher Education covered with this headline: “New Credential Aims to Make Professors Into Better Teachers.”

    Pacific Standard profiles EducationSuperHighway.

    The Verge profiles Neverware.

    The Business of Ed-Tech


    Ellevation Education has raised $6.4 million from Emerson Collective (Laurene Powell Jobs’ venture fund), Zuckerberg Education Ventures, and the Omidyar Network. The company, which sells an ELL product, has raised $20.85 million total.

    BetterLesson has raised $6 million from Reach Capital, New Markets Venture Fund, Dell Foundation, Scott Cook, and Signe Ostby. The company, which offers a platform for teacher PD, has raised $11.1 million total.

    ZyBooks, which makes “interactive digital resources for students majoring in computer science or engineering,” has raised $4 million from Bialla Venture Partners.

    Student Loan Genius has raised $3 million in seed funding from Gibraltar Ventures, John Hancock/Manulife, Kapor Capital, Capital Factory, and Village Capital. Like I’ve said repeatedly, keep an eye on the private student loan market. Lots of investment activity here.

    Rakuten released its annual finances last week, and as The Digital Reader notes, it “took a $70 million write-down on Kobo and and paid five times more than OverDrive was worth.”

    Via Edsurge: “NewSchools Ignite, the virtual accelerator attached to NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), has launched the Middle and High School Math Learning Challenge, which will provide grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 to up to 15 companies creating tools for math education in grades 6–12.”

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    The FBI has requested that Apple provide a back door to bypass device security. CEO Tim Cook has responded with “ A Message to Our Customers.” (Elsewhere, via The Daily Dot: “ Minorities and women largely shut out of encryption debate.”)

    Via Education Week: “Google Acknowledges Data Mining Student Users Outside Apps for Education.”

    Digital eyes on campus: VCU’s security camera system captures evidence in more than 1,000 incidents.”

    Data and “Research”


    “Is Immediate Feedback Always Best?” asks Edsurge. And golly gee whiz, despite all those ed-tech companies that claim that this is the amazing revolution they offer – immediate feedback – it appears that the answer to the question is “no.” See also: Dan Meyer on the research.

    Via The New York Times: “Research Hints at Promise and Difficulty of Helping People With A.D.H.D. Learn.”

    Via Education Week: “An Australian study in the Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools is the latest in a pile of evidence suggesting that, while parental involvement in education is generally helpful, parents don’t always recognize when their involvement crosses the line into harmful ‘overparenting.’”

    ‘Grit’ adds little to prediction of academic achievement.”

    Via NPR: “Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues ‘End Of Average’.”

    Via the Hechinger Report: “Ranking countries by the worst students.” (!!!)

    The Best AI Still Flunks 8th Grade Science.”

    Image credits: The Noun Project


    0 0

    “Is blockchain really a thing?” That’s probably the most common question I hear about a technology that, up until quite recently, was mostly and closely associated with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. “Do I need to pay attention to blockchain?” many folks working in ed-tech are asking. “Do I really need to understand it?” Or, like other over-hyped and over-promised technologies, will it always be “on the horizon”? Or will it simply fade away?

    I haven’t included blockchain or bitcoin in any of the “Top Ed-Tech Trends” series I’ve written. I’m still not sure there’s a “there” there. But with news this week that Sony plans to launch a testing platform powered by blockchain and that IBM plans to offer “blockchain-as-a-service,” I thought it might be time to do some research, write a clear explanation/analysis of what blockchain is, one that isn’t too technical but that doesn’t simply wave away important questions by resorting to buzzwords and jargon – that blockchain is “the most important IT invention of our age,” that it will open up “new possibilities,” “revolutionizing services of all kinds,” and so on.

    So buzz and bullshit aside, what – if anything – can blockchain offer education technology? And more generally, how does blockchain work? (And then again, specifically how does it work in an educational setting?) What problems does blockchain solve? What are its benefits? What are its drawbacks? Who’s developing and who’s investing in the technology? To what end?

    This is still very much a work-in-progress. But for those interested in reading up on their own, I have posted a list of resources and reading materials here.

    I also have a list of questions that, despite spending the last few days learning about cryptocurrencies and “decentralized trust,” I still have about blockchain’s applicability to education. (I’m cross-posting these questions to my site aud.life as that’s the scratchpad for a lot of my thinking and, unlike Hack Education, you can leave a comment there.)

    1. What happens to student privacy if educational records/transactions are available via a public ledger? Will a student have a say over who has access to their records?
    2. What happens if a students wants to correct that educational record or remove transactions, say, because she wants or needs a “fresh start”? The blockchain is uneditable, correct?
    3. Are organizations using a version of the Bitcoin blockchain? Or are they rolling their own? Are there going to be a bunch of separate edu-related blockchains? Will people gravitate to, say, IBM’s blockchain-as-a-service?
    4. What sort of infrastructure is required to run this technology (a wallet, the full blockchain database, a mining node, etc)? I mean, how “decentralized” and “distributed” and “open” is this really? If there end up being multiple, competing blockchain-as-a-service offerings, what will data interoperability look like?
    5. For non-Bitcoin-related blockchain efforts, is there still “mining”? If so, what does that look like? Is there a financial incentive to participate as a “miner”? As a node? Are there transaction fees? If there is no “mining,” is this non-Bitcoin-related blockchain secure? Is this going to require as earth-hatingly much power (computing power, electricity) as the Bitcoin ecosystem does? What makes this more efficient (cheaper, better, faster) than processes currently in place?
    6. When it comes to issues of “trust” and, say, academic certification, who is not trusted here? Is it the problem that folks believe students/employees lie about their credentials? Or is the problem that credential-issuing entities aren’t trustworthy? I mean, why/how would we “trust” the entity issuing blockchained credentials? (What is actually the source of “trust” in our current credentialing system? Spoiler alert: it’s not necessarily accreditation.) How would the trustworthiness of blockchained credential-issuing institutions be measured or verified? If it’s by the number of transactions (eg. badges issued), doesn’t that encourage diploma milling?

    More soon…

    Image credits: The Noun Project


    0 0
  • 02/26/16--04:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    President Obama has nominated Carla D. Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress.

    John King Jr had his confirmation hearing this week. Nominated by President Obama to replace Arne Duncan as the Secretary of Education, Inside Higher Ed calls the hearing a “smooth ride.”

    Via Reuters: “Georgia state House votes to allow guns on public college campuses.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why University Leaders Want Britain to Stay in the European Union.”

    “Washington state lawmakers have about two weeks to come up with a fix that will keep eight charter schools serving about 1,200 students open after the state Supreme Court struck down Washington's charter school law last year,” says Politico.

    The Chicago Board of Education has unanimously approved the addition of computer science as a graduation requirement for all CPS students beginning with next year’s freshmen.

    “Public Universities Struggle Without State Aid Amid Illinois Budget Crisis,” NPR reports. Earlier this week, Chicago State University said that it was going to have to end of the semester early because of the budget impasse. But as of today, “Chicago State University Sends Layoff Notices To All Employees.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Never finished college? Washington state lawmakers want to help.” “Dean Dad” Matt Reed has more thoughts on a proposed law that would cover the cost of degree completion for students who are fifteen or fewer credits away from graduation.

    Via The Globe and Mail: “Ontario to offer grants to cover college tuition for low-income students.”

    Via Boing Boing: “NH bill would explicitly allow libraries to run Tor exit nodes.”

    Jeb Bush has dropped out of the presidential race, “takes extensive K–12 record with him.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Clyburn: Sanders’ Education Plan Is A Disaster For Private Black Colleges.”

    Education in the Courts


    “Trump on witness list in fraud case against now-defunct Trump University,” reports Politico. Via Slate: “The People Donald Trump Allegedly Ripped Off Through Trump University Look a Lot Like Trump Voters.” Ouch.

    Via The LA Times: “L.A. County spends more than $233,000 a year to hold each youth in juvenile lockup.”

    Via the San Jose Mercury News: “A jury Monday found three white men guilty of misdemeanor battery on a black suitemate in 2013 at San Jose State University, but did not reach guilty verdicts on more serious hate-crime charges.”

    “How easy should it be to fire bad teachers?” ask The LA Times’ Howard Blume and Joy Resmovits in their coverage of the appeal of Vergara v California. More in The New York Times on the court case.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday charged a professor at Washington State University and two family members with defrauding federal agencies of $8 million in research funds for their personal use.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ongoing legal battle with an accrediting organization that oversees many for-profit colleges is charting new territory, which experts said could have major implications for the federal government's role in accreditation.”

    Testing, Testing…


    “Add Maryland to the list of states to find that students tended to score better when taking the 2014–15 PARCC exams on paper instead of by computer,” Education Week reports.

    Via NPR: “The State That Pulled The Plug On Computer Testing.” (That’s Tennessee, for those keeping score at home.)

    Via Education Week: “The test scores of students who used vouchers to enter a Louisiana private school dropped significantly compared to their peers who remained in public schools.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    edX touts its Global Freshmen Academy partnership with ASU, and that's the only quasi-MOOC news I have this week.

    Edit: Wait! Breaking news! After I hit "publish" on this article, I checked my email to find the headline "Welcome to The New Udacity."Udacity has a new logo, you guys!

    Meanwhile on Campus


    “America’s Most Valuable For-Profit College Has A New Plan To Go Non-Profit,” writes Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. That’s Grand Canyon Education, which runs Grand Canyon University.

    Just a couple of months after Vox pronounced that “David Geffen’s $100 million gift to UCLA is philanthropy at its absolute worst,” Fusion declares“Nike founder Phil Knight's $400 million gift to Stanford is philanthropy at its worst.” More on Knight’s donation, which is “meant to improve the world,” in The New York Times.

    David Perry has published a chilling set of slides from the University of Houston explaining how faculty should respond to the new law-of-the-land in Texas that allows people to carry concealed weapons on (public university) campuses in the state.

    (Click for full size image)

    Harvard will no longer use the phrase “house masters” to describe dorm administrators.

    Via ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Who’s Regulating Troubled For-Profit Institutions? Executives at Other Troubled For-Profit Institutions.” What could possibly go wrong?

    “Protesting students at South Africa’s North-West University set fire to various university buildings on Wednesday, completely destroying the administration building and forcing the university to close its campus in Mafikeng indefinitely,” Inside Higher Ed reports. More via The Guardian.

    HBCUs: an Unheralded Role in STEM Majors and a Model for Other Colleges.”

    “California’s Sierra College is partnering with community makerspace Hacker Lab to offer an immersive bootcamp for entrepreneurs,” reports Campus Technology.

    “Career Technical Education has transformed high school,” says The Desert Sun.

    “The authorities in western New York are investigating whether fraternity hazing played a role in the death of a 21-year-old Buffalo State College student from Brooklyn,” The New York Times reports.

    More in The New York Times about Success Academy’s disciplinary practices.

    The New York Times examines college endowments and how well they perform.

    Also via The New York Times: “Off-Campus ‘Ghetto Party’ Condemned by Fairfield University.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The Tennessean: “University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones told one of his players he ‘betrayed the team’ after the wide receiver helped a woman who said she was raped by two other football players, according to a new legal filing in a sweeping lawsuit filed by six women against Tennessee.” And via NPR: “Coaches Defend University Of Tennessee Amid Sexual Assault Lawsuit.”

    Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “The University of Utah roiled fans across the state – and in the Capitol – when it yanked Brigham Young University from next season’s basketball schedule. Now, lawmakers are taking the Utes to task with a sweeping probe of the college’s sports department.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

    Via The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Donations to U. of Missouri Fall After Football Team Boycott.”

    Study Links Athletes’ Low Grades With Attitudes.”

    The West Virginia Senate has passed legislation that would home-schooled students to join sports teams. It’s called the “Tim Tebow” bill, because of course it is.

    Via the LA School Report: “Coach of LAUSD’s first state champion football team scores 100% college rate for his players.”

    From the HR Department


    Rosemary Feal will be stepping down as the executive director of the MLA, effective summer 2017.

    The Department of Education’s CIO Danny Harris will leave office by the end of the month. “Harris was under fire on multiple fronts, facing not just criticism of Education’s cybersecurity footing but investigations of misconduct by Congress.”

    “University of Missouri curators vote to fire Melissa Click,” the Columbia Daily Tribune reports. Click was videotaped asking a student journalist to leave the area during last year’s protests at Mizzou. More on Click via The NYT.

    Lila Tretikov has resigned as executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a position she’s held since June 2014.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Jason Casares, the former officer at the Association for Student Conduct Administration who was accused of sexually assaulting the group’s president-elect, has resigned from Indiana University at Bloomington, according to a statement from the university.”

    Who’s Raking in the Big Bucks in ‘CharterWorld’?” asks John Merrow, investigating how much charter school administrators are paid.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University of Texas at Austin's longtime architecture dean said on Thursday that he was leaving for a position at the University of Pennsylvania and cited Texas’ controversial campus-carry law as a key factor in his decision.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    The Chronicle of Higher Education chats with Candace Thille: “As Big-Data Companies Come to Teaching, a Pioneer Issues a Warning.”

    Open eBooks is a new program that will make e-books available for free to low income students. According to The New York Times, it’s “a partnership between the Digital Public Library of America, the New York Public Library and First Book, a nonprofit group founded in 1992 to provide books and educational materials to children in need. The distributor Baker & Taylor provided content support.” (Don’t be fooled by that word “open.” This isn’t OER.)

    It’s time once again for the Google Science Fair.

    Via the BBC: “‘Girls in tech’ competition won by boy.”

    “Dear Blackboard,” writes Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein. “I am confused.” Executives at the company have since offered him some clarity. Feldstein also writes about the “One Thing Blackboard is Doing Right” which he contends involves the LMS’s (PR) work on learning analytics.

    “Students Are Spending Less on Textbooks, but That's Not All Good,” says Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill.

    “Textbook Diversity May Be Increasing Under Common Core,” suggests Education Week.

    Lumen Learning’s David Wiley writes about a new competitive grant program “that will support the creation of fully OER-based degrees at individual community colleges and in community college systems across the US and Canada. As a result of this program, by fall of 2017 somewhere between 3% and 4% of all community colleges in the US will have at least one all-OER degree program.”

    From the press release: “Cengage Learning and Codevolve Partner to Integrate In-Demand Computer Science and Programming Tools into MindTap.”

    Via Edsurge: “CareerBuilder and Capella Learning Systems have announced they will jointly launch Rightskill, a program that will engage participants in a 90-day training focused on mobile web development.”

    The New York Times discovers“A New Breed of Trader on Wall Street: Coders With a Ph.D.”

    A Rising Call to Promote STEM Education and Cut Liberal Arts Funding.”

    “Are Bootcamps the Answer to the ‘Skills Standoff?’” asks a venture capitalist in an op-ed published by Pearson… so I think we can tell where all this is going.

    “Sony Vows to Bring 'Blockchain' Tech to Education. Will It Take Hold in K–12?,” asks Education Week. Techcrunch rewrites the Sony press release. (I have a lot of questions about the blockchain in education.)

    Via Campus Technology: “A joint project has uncovered how K–12 organizations as well as community colleges can tap into identity federations to take advantage of shared online services.”

    The Computer Science Teachers Association has made its proposed CS standards for K–12 available for review.

    The digital divide means a “homework gap,” and The New York Times is on it.

    The private student loan market continues to grow (and remain largely unreported by the ed-tech press). Via The Chicago Tribune: “Peanut Butter wants to help your boss pay off your student loans.” The Philadelphia Business Journal interviews the CEO of College Ave Student Loans, which recently raised $20 million in venture funding. Another student loan startup, Buddy, raised funding this week (more details below in the “funding” section of this article). And via Frank Pasquale: “Private Lenders’ Troubling Influence on Federal Loan Policy.”

    Edsurge interviews the CEO of Nearpod, which has recently pivoted to offering “virtual reality lessons” (which appear to me to be powerpoint slides that you can look at through one of those cardboard viewers.) “This is such an exciting new product,” Edsurge gushes, calling it the first publicly available VR tool for schools and demonstrating perfectly how some folks continue to ignore and/or rewrite the history of ed-tech.

    PBS is setting up a 24/7 kids channel. Because the history of the future of education is always broadcast.

    Funding and Acquisitions and Other Money Matters


    MasterClass has raised $15 million from New Enterprise Associates, Javelin Venture Partners, Harrison Metal, Bloomberg Beta, Novel TMT Ventures, Advancit Capital, WME Ventures, Downey Ventures, Usher, Yan-David Erlich, and Matthew Rutler. The startup, which offers online classes from famous people, has raised $21.4 million total.

    “Bengaluru-based student microlending startup Buddy has raised $500,000 (Rs 3.4 crore) from venture capital firm Blume Ventures, data analytics company Tracxn Labs and a few angel investors,” reports The Hindu.

    Tebo has raised an undisclosed seed round for its “online teachers book.”

    Udemy has acquired TalentBuddy. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Follett has acquired online bookstore Classbook. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Test prep provider Toppr has acquired test prep provider Manch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    “Pearson Business Strategy Assailed by Investors, Including Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund,” Education Week reports.

    Chegg stock hit an all-time low.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    uKnowKids.com database error exposed sensitive information on 1,700 kids.”

    Via Education Week: “Ruling Raises Objections to Release of Personal Student Data.”

    Via The Sydney Morning Herald: “Western Sydney University accused of illegally snooping on staff emails.”

    Data and “Research”


    Via The Atlantic: “Against the Sticker Chart.” (No mention of Class Dojo, which is sorta surprising since it's the most popular sticker chart startup.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Amid Budget Battle, Moody’s Places 8 Louisiana Universities on Watch for Downgrade.”

    According to a study conducted by Columbia University’s Teacher College, “community college students prefer face-to-face courses over online ones in certain subjects and when they think a course is important, challenging or interesting.”

    Organization comprised of college bookstores find that faculty love textbooks. News at 11. That is, the Independent College Bookstore Association released a report at its retail conference saying that faculty are still skeptical about digital course materials and are unfamiliar with OER.

    Elsewhere in totally independent research, Facebook released a report on the state of Internet connectivity.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Better Advising Beats Free Tuition for Improving Degree Completion, Say Experts.” Experts, lol.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New Survey of Higher Education ‘Insiders’.” Insiders, lol.

    Via PLoS One: “A study of almost 2,000 students in introductory biology classes shows that women have to perform a letter grade better in order to get equal recognition from their male peers.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The American Council on Education on Thursday released two new papers that call for a less fragmented credentialing system in higher education and for better communication about the value of students’ competencies.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “State-by-State Breakdown of Graduation Rates.”

    “Student Loan Borrowing Is Skyrocketing for Black Students,” says Nerdwallet.

    From The Washington Center for Equitable Growth: Mapping Student Debt. More on this project via Inside Higher Ed.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    “Jujitsu? I’m going to learn Jujitsu?” Neo asks incredulously, as he’s plugged in to a machine for the first time since his rescue by Morpheus and the members of the ship Nebuchadnezzar. The operator Tank loads a virtual training program, and Neo clamps his eyes shut, his body jolting in response as the data floods his visual cortex. Seconds later, Neo opens his eyes. “Holy shit!” he exclaims and agrees to more – 10 hours more – “programming.” Finally, gasping, he exclaims to Morpheus, “I know Kung Fu!”

    The Matrix portrays a dystopian future where intelligent machines have subdued and enslaved the human population, but the film’s display of learning technologies – information transferred directly and instantly into the brain – is the sort of thing frequently hailed as a worthy scientific goal: learning that is efficient, scalable, standardized, and fully automated.

    So it’s hardly a surprise that a press release issued by HRL Laboratories, a research center jointly owned by Boeing and General Motors, would invoke the film to boast about research it’s published in the February 2016 issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

    In the press release, HRL Laboratories claims that, akin to the technology in The Matrix, it has “discovered that low-current electrical brain stimulation can modulate the learning of complex real-world skills” and that “subjects who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps improved their piloting abilities.” “It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning,” the lead researcher speculates.

    The press release and accompanying video have been picked up by the media, most of whom have done very little to verify the findings, or hell, even read the journal article in question. From Techcrunch, for example: “Researchers Create Matrix-Like Instant Learning Through Brain Stimulation.” From The Telegraph: “Scientists discover how to ‘upload knowledge to your brain’.”

    Actually, no. They haven’t.

    Those headlines do not match what the research found, perhaps because the PR video does not match what’s been published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, either. Or perhaps because the PR from HRL laboratories is deliberately misleading. Neither of the news stories in Techcrunch or The Telegraph mention the publishing practices of the Frontiers journals, which have had a couple of high-profile retractions and whose pay-to-publish model has raised some concerns. Neither mention that the researchers have a patent pending should the concept pan out. Ah, education-technology journalism. Never change.


    Here’s my attempt to explain the research and the published findings:

    HRL researchers conducted an experiment with thirty-two right handed HRL employees (thirty-one of them male, all of them western and well-educated; the researchers swear none were coerced). These individuals, who participated in four days of flight simulation training, were randomly assigned into four groups: one group receiving transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), one receiving transcranial direct current stimulation to the left motor cortex (M1), and the other two receiving “sham” treatment to one or the other region. Electroencephalography (EEF) and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) were collected during the flight training and during assessments, which included completing a series of landing tasks.

    There was no “instant learning,” and there was no “uploading of knowledge to the brain,” despite those very excited media headlines. Indeed, the effects of the transcranial stimulation on improved learning aren’t clear at all (nor is much of the science behind any of this terribly definitive), although the stimulation did increase midline frontal theta-band oscillatory brain activity (MFT), which previous research has correlated to working memory and mental calculation. (Yes, stimulating the brain seems to stimulate the brain. Neuroscience!) The researchers did see some reduction in learning rate variance among participants, but in many of the assessments, there was no statistically significant differences between the “sim” and “sham” groups.

    This might be the key paragraph from the journal article’s conclusion:

    A goal of this research was to determine if tDCS stimulation would improve training techniques for pilots in a flight simulator. Such improvements could drastically reduce time and therefore the cost of training a pilot, as it would in any training environment. While our results show decreased variability in training, it is too early to confirm or deny any useful improvements to simulation training until an understanding of the sources and contributing factors to the observed behavioral variance is achieved.

    So the long and short of it, I suppose (and I'm being generous here): more research is needed.

    But “more research is needed” doesn’t make for good headlines, particularly when you can churn out clickbait about the future of learning and technology by invoking a popular science fiction trope.


    Whether or not this is science or fiction, let’s consider why “Matrix-style learning” is so compelling. Stories like this seem to emerge withsomefrequency. (We might ask too, why do neuroscientific claims frequently go unchallenged by the press – but then again, so much education/technology journalism is wildly uncritical. Parroting PR is pretty routine.)

    Science aside, let’s think about culture and society. What’s the lure of “instant learning” and in particular “instant learning” via a technological manipulation of the brain? This is certainly connected to the push for “efficiency” in education and education technology. But again, why would we want learning to be fast and cheap? What does that say about how we imagine and more importantly how we value the process of learning?

    It’s worth pointing out that the researchers in the press release call their particular brain stimulation headgear a form of “personalization” – personalization in the service of more efficient (and yet still completely standardized) training and testing. And it’s probably worth noting too that this research involves simulation; with a growing chorus of corporate interests pushing virtual reality in education, let’s be prepared for an onslaught of claims about “brain-based learning” via VR environments. And I bet The Matrix, despite being an utterly dystopian future, will be invoked again and again as the future of ed-tech.


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  • 03/04/16--04:35: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    As the US Presidential campaign spiraled down down down down down down down this week, the media turned its eye to Trump University, as if this is going to be the big “gotcha” that derails Donald Trump’s campaign. (See: The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, Inside Higher Ed.) Former chief learning officer Roger Schank also weighs in. A New York appeals court also continues its scrutiny of the scam. More on that in the section below.

    Meanwhile, “Trump slams America’s schools in a rally: ‘Some countries you've never even heard of are ahead of the USA’.” “What Would a President Trump Mean for Education?” asks Frederick Hess. He says he has no idea but he wrote a column anyway. As one does.

    “Black students ejected from Trump rally” at Valdosta State University in Georgia, the USA Today reports.

    Via Syracuse.com: “Donald Trump will be president, SUNY professor predicts with 97 percent certainty.”

    The nomination of John King Jr as the new Secretary of Education is facing criticism from some activists, with a group letter citing his “ineffective and destructive policies.”

    Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt “will head a new Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military,” the Defense Secretary announced this week. Gotta sell those military robots! And Chromebooks, definitely Chromebooks.

    “GI Bill funds still flow to troubled for-profit colleges,” Politico reports.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general has expressed new concerns about a 2015 departmental review of loan servicers, which concluded that the companies generally obeyed rules governing a low-interest-rate benefit for active-duty service members.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “ South Dakota Governor Vetoes Anti-Transgender Student Restroom Bill.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Tennessee’s Senate Education Committee unanimously approved an amendment on Wednesday that would eliminate state funding for the diversity office of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.”

    A proposed bill in Virginia would require schools notify parents if students are assigned books with sexually explicit content.

    Via The New York Times: “As many as 40 percent of students in New York City recommended for special-education services may not be getting them, the Education Department said in a report released on Monday.”

    The Times Higher Education looks at the effect Catalan independence might have on higher education in the region.

    Education in the Courts


    Via Vox: “Bad news for Donald Trump: a court strengthened a fraud lawsuit against Trump University.” More via The New York Times.

    Via The Harvard Crimson: “Harvard jointly filed an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board on Monday arguing against the unionization of graduate students, joining six other Ivy League universities, Stanford, and MIT in a call for the board to uphold existing rulings that define the relationship between private universities and graduate students as strictly academic.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Education Week: “College Board Aims at Test-Prep Tutors in Barring March 5 SAT-Takers.” According to Buzzfeed, here is “Everything You Need To Know About The New SAT.” (Since the new test isn’t administered until tomorrow, I’m guessing it’s not everything you need to know.) “Why the new SAT is not the answer,” by Akil Bello and James Murphy.

    According to Education Week, the Justice Department is exploring how the College Board and ACT respond to requests for accomodations by students with disabilities.

    Via The Atlantic: “The Problem With the GRE.” The exam ‘is a proxy for asking “Are you rich?” “Are you white?” “Are you male?”’"

    Via The New York Times: “Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills.”

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    Via SF Gate: “Hackers compromised a UC Berkeley computer network containing the financial data of 80,000 people.”

    Via The College Tribune: “Leaked Blackboard Data Reveals Extent of Information Available to Staff.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Researchers can now access de-identified learning data from more than 230 massive open online courses (MOOCs) hosted on Instructure’s Canvas Network. The company has opened up the Canvas Network data – representing thousands of learning experiences from around the globe – to support research on online course design, large-scale informal learning and more.” Researchers have to agree to a terms of use, the article suggests. No word on whether MOOC enrollees knew they’d be signing away their data.

    Via the International Business Times: “Google Gets Sued Over Face Recognition, Joining Facebook And Shutterfly In Battle Over Biometric Privacy In Illinois.”

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Learners who sign up for a massive open online course just days before it starts and complete a precourse survey are much more likely than their peers to finish the MOOC, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Higher Education.”

    The K–12 online school company K12 Inc, known for the shoddy quality of its programs, will focus more on “virtual career tech education.”

    This week in rebranding bullshit: “Ubiquitous learning could push the term ‘online’ out of education.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    Via Vox: “Baltimore school police officer slaps, kicks, and curses at young black man on video.”

    Via KPCC: “LAUSD’s police force return military rifles, but still have heavy armory.”

    Northwestern University will eliminate loans as part of its student aid packages.

    “Minnesota State University at Moorhead has announced an unusual scholarship program,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Four $2,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded (on top of other aid for which students are eligible) based on tweets.”

    Middlebury College has banned the sale of energy drinks, says Inside Higher Ed.

    “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened new investigations into alleged sexual violence at University of Notre Dame and University of Chicago,” reports Jezebel.

    Via Crain’s Detroit Business: “Wayne State medical school issues ultimatum to faculty”: Be productive!

    “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a student protest group have reached an agreement that will end a sit-in that has been going on in the administration building since October,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The Miami Herald: “Mattia College closes, other Florida for-profits may follow.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Outsourced College.”

    Via The Pacific Standard: “The Daycare Industry, Exposed.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via CBS Sports: “NCAA seeks extension to petition Supreme Court in O’Bannon case.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Wary of Concussions, Ivy League Moves to Bar Tackling in Football Practices.”

    Via Crooks and Liars: “Iowa H.S. Students Chant ‘Trump’ After Loss To Racially Diverse Basketball Team.”

    The Wall Street Journal profiles Baltimore Raven John Urschel: “From the NFL to MIT.”

    Via Jezebel: “Posters on Yale Campus Allege Men’s Basketball Team Is ‘Supporting a Rapist’.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Hottest Hire in Athletics? Learning Specialists.”

    From the HR Department


    After its accreditor “raised questions” about the ongoings at Mount St. Mary’s College, its controversial president Simon Newman quit.

    Dale Dougherty has returned as the CEO of Maker Media.

    The Chicago Public Schools will lay off 62 employees, 17 of them teachers. In turn, Chicago teachers might strike.

    Wake Forest University professor Melissa Harris-Perry walked off her MSNBC show. Former producer Jamil Smith posted a copy of her email to Nerdland staff to Medium.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Larycia A. Hawkins, the associate professor of political science who was placed on leave by Wheaton College, in Illinois, for expressing solidarity with Muslim students, has a new job, at the University of Virginia.”

    Via The LA Times: “UCLA community protests professor’s punishment for sex harassment: $3,000 fine and 11-week suspension.”

    “UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi quits DeVry board under pressure,” The Sacramento Bee reports. Katehi remains a UC Davis Chancellor.

    “The dean of Kansas University’s School of Social Welfare submitted his resignation Wednesday, after less than a year on the job, citing ‘daunting’ challenges at the school,” the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Carolyn Stefanco, president of the College of Saint Rose, cut 23 faculty positions and 12 academic programs. She won a prize for her efforts.”

    “The chief of the University of Cincinnati’s police force and a major in the department resigned on Friday as part of an outside review that was conducted following a fatal shooting last summer by an officer on the force,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    “The University of Oregon has announced the sudden resignation of its police chief, Carolyn McDermed, who will leave a department that in recent years has brought unwelcome attention to the university,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. (That unwelcome attention, for those who forgot, involved keeping an extensive list of folks who should “eat a bowl of dicks.” Go Ducks!)

    Via The New York Times: “A South Carolina high school teacher who says she was forced to resign after a student took her phone and circulated a nude picture of her has garnered the support of hundreds of students who signed a petition demanding she be reinstated.”

    “Facing a $7-million budget deficit, John A. Logan College’s Board of Trustees approved 55 faculty and staff layoffs on Wednesday,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    PayScale compares the pay at “top tech companies.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    No, researchers did not discover a Matrix-like way to upload learning into your brain, despite all the wonderful tech journalism that said so.

    “McDonald’s Is Now Making Happy Meal Boxes That Turn Into Virtual Reality Headsets,” says AdWeek, and I cannot wait for the McDonalds-Certified Educators to offer workshops on this at ISTE.

    There were lots of inaccuratereports this week that Google was launching a new “kid friendly” search site called Kiddle.co. It’s not a Google site at all (and appears to be run by the founder of freakingnews.com to give you an idea of how well it’ll curate “search”), but hey, why would we expect tech writers to research or verify anything before they hit “publish”?

    Slate’s Rebecca Schuman looks at Teachur, a startup that promises a $1000 college degree. “Most of the $1,000,” writes Schuman, “will go to pay for ‘blockchain-verified assessments,’ which is ed-tech speak for ‘stuff that is set up to prevent fraud and cheating.’” Man, if only Trump University had offered assessments via the blockchain!

    Edsurge has released its first AT&T-funded report on the trends driving the ed-tech market.

    Via The LA Times: “How a security upgrade makes it harder to apply for financial aid this year.”

    The Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey argues in The Wall Street Journal that we should restrict access to student loans to those deemed “college ready.” “Dean Dad” Matt Reed reponds, calling the proposal “as offensive an argument as I've seen in major media in a long, long time.” Tressie McMillan Cottom takes her response to Twitter, noting that “privatizing access without an equal public option is absurdly racist.”

    Amazon and the National Federation of the Blind have reached an agreement, EdWeek reports in its Market Brief, so that the latter will support in the former in efforts “to improve reading experiences for blind, low-vision, and deaf-blind students.”

    Via The Atlantic: “Will the Push for Coding Lead to ‘Technical Ghettos’?”

    Via Bright: “How the sharing economy is creating a marketplace for cheating.”

    Curriculet is moving away from a freemium model, but its “big changes empower students” (whatever the hell that means), says Edsurge.

    “Salesforce.org announces Higher Education Data Architecture,” says eCampus News.

    The “Transcript of Tomorrow”!

    D2L has updated its Degree Compass course recommendation tool.

    “Cengage Unveils New Approach to Developmental Math,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Andrew Hacker’s new book The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions seems to have renewed the debate on whether or not we should require Algebra II. Here’s Dana Goldstein writing in Slate. Here’s Anya Kamenetz reporting for NPR. Math professor Ketih Devlin responds, suggesting there’s a math myth permeating The Math Myth.

    Tech executives want to replace teachers with computers. Pearson also touts AI in education. Surprise, surprise.

    The Business of Ed-tech


    Mimio has been acquired by Boxlight Corporation. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Data and “Research”

    Investment analyst company CB Insights has released a report on venture capital trends. Here’s how ed-tech rates in a “Hot”/“Not Hot” industry comparison:

    Here are my calculations about how much funding was raised by ed-tech companies in February.

    “According to initial results from recent pilot, digital game-based learning improved student engagement and self-efficacy in writing courses at 14 colleges and universities,” says Campus Technology.

    The University of Phoenix is opening a “Center for Learning Analytics Research.”

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Data On Average Age Of Current LMS Implementation.”

    Edsurge reports on a survey of pre-K teachers by early education company Teaching Strategies that found “nearly 88 percent report using technology in their classroom at least once a week.”

    According to a survey of 4000 community college students, “about 50 percent of students reported having one or more mental-health condition,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “To Measure Teaching, Look to Health Care and Other Industries, Says British Think Tank.” There are so many flaws in a comparison between health care and education, but hey. I’m not a think tank so what do I know.

    Chicago-based LEAP Innovations has released a report on “what works” within its pilot network (that is, 15 schools in the city.) Among the tools it found to be effective was the literacy tool ThinkCerca. ThinkCerca is funded in part by Deborah Quazzo. (Remember the scandal about the companies in her portfolio seeing their revenue increase from sales to CPS? Anyway…) Quazzo’s partner at GSV, Michael Moe, sits on the board of LEAP, but Edsurge (also funded by GSV) assures us the organization has taken a “cautious approach” to this research.

    “Facebook AI Research is donating 25 GPU servers to European academies,” ZDNet reports.

    According to one survey, college students say they’re using the “hook up” app Tinder to find friends. Inside Higher Ed doesn’t buy it.

    This Map Shows the Scope of America’s School Shooting Problem.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 03/11/16--04:18: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Via the Times-Picayune: “Texan who called Obama a gay prostitute might soon control textbooks.” Mary Lou Bruner, the Texan in question here, will face a run-off election in May to see if she will join the powerful Texas State Board of Education.

    Via Education Week: “The Washington House passed a measure on Wednesday that would change the funding source of the state’s charter schools, which some lawmakers and advocates of the independent public schools say would ensure the future of the charter system. The schools have been in limbo since September when the state Supreme Court ruled the charter school law approved by voters in 2012 is unconstitutional.”

    Tressie McMillan Cottom writes about the Bernie Sanders’ campaign’s approach to free college and HBCUs.

    “Filers getting to the FAFSA finish line dropped 7 percent as of last month compared to last year,” Politico observes. Heckuva job with that FAFSA upgrade, Department of Ed.

    Make magazine reports that “White House Backs National Week of Making, Building High School Makerspaces.” (I’m tempted to add the little trademark symbol after all these “make” words, but turns out it’s only Maker Faire™ that’s trademarked by Make:™.)

    The state of California is weighing outlawing classes that “without educational content.”

    Via The New York Times: “New U.S. Rule Extends Stay for Some Foreign Graduates.”

    Via DNAinfo: “Next year’s incoming freshman at [New York] city’s most elite high schools will be even less diverse they were this year, according to data from high school admissions offers the Department of Education released Friday.”

    The US Senate Education Committee has voted to advance John King Jr's nomination as the new Secretary of Education.

    Via The New York Times: “The agency on Tuesday will circulate a final proposal to F.C.C. members to approve a broadband subsidy of $9.25 a month for low-income households, in the government’s boldest effort to date to narrow a technological divide that has emerged between those who have web access and those who do not. While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, just 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 can afford the service, the F.C.C.’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, has said.”

    Via ZDNet: “The Brazilian government is relaunching one of its flagship schemes, the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec). Pronatec is focused on low-income young Brazilians and has played an important role in creating entry-level skills to fill the country’s existing expertise gap in the IT sector.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via AZ Central: “A prominent research administrator and scientist at Arizona State University has filed a lawsuit that accuses school administrators, including President Michael Crow, of abusing their authority, diverting funds intended for her lab and harassing employees who make allegations of ethics violations.”

    This judge says toddlers can defend themselves in immigration court.”

    Via ABC News: “2 Baltimore School Police Officers Charged in Assault of Student Caught on Video.”

    “Federal Court Upholds Gainful-Employment Rule, Dealing For-Profit Group Another Loss,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Law school graduate sues law school for inflating job data.

    Via The New York Times: “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Apple’s Appeal in E-Book Pricing Case.”

    Via The Digital Reader: “Textbook Publishers Win Default Judgement Against Alleged Textbook Pirate.”

    Via the San Jose Mercury News: “Responding to overwhelming public protest, a federal judge has backtracked on the potential release of records for 10 million California students – and decided that they won’t be provided to attorneys in a special-education lawsuit.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A jury in Oakland, Calif., earlier this month decided the University of the Incarnate Word does not need to pay $10 million in damages to Learning Technology Partners, its former learning management provider. UIW and the company sued each other in 2014 over breach of contract after the private Catholic institution experienced performance issues with the learning management system and decided to stop using it. Learning Technology Partners, meanwhile, said the performance issues were related to students at the university using the system in ‘unauthorized’ ways.”

    Trump, Trump, Trump


    (I’m giving Trump his own section this own week because the story is one part politics, one part legal machinations, one part ed-tech, one part terror, and as the accompanying image suggests, ten parts bullshit.)

    “Could Ben Carson be the Next U.S. Secretary of Education?” asks Education Week, upon hearing that the former neurosurgeon will endorse The Donald. Of course, Trump has said that as President, he’ll get rid of the Department of Education… but “not so fast!” says The Hechinger Report.

    Via Vox: “Donald Trump tries to name and shame Trump University students who criticized him.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In a Video Defense of Trump U., the Candidate Cites Rave Evaluations.”

    Via The New York Times: “At Trump University, Students Recall Pressure to Give Positive Reviews.”

    Via The Daily Beast: “Trump University Hired Motivational Speakers and a Felon as Faculty.”

    The Better Business Bureau responds to “inaccuracies” about how it rated Trump University.

    Via Politico: “Trump University: Teaching real estate – and making money.”

    Roger Schank offers “A look at a Trump University course we built.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Lots of PR following the release last weekend of SAT’s new version. “One million students now using free SAT prep materials,” says USA Today, citing Khan Academy’s new test prep resources. The College Board issued a press release full of figures it gleaned from a survey of some 8000 students who took the test. We know nothing about how those students were selected or any of their demographic details, but hey. Cite away! The Princeton Review issued its own press release, insisting that many students opted to sit out the exam. Kaplan Test Prep also surveyed SAT-test-taking students because why not.

    “SAT Test-Taking Declines in Settings Not Sponsored by States or Districts,” reports Education Week.

    Via Vox: “The new SAT, explained in 7 annotated sample questions.”

    The Chronicle of Education wrote an article based a handful of tweets from students who’d just taken the exam. Journalism!

    According to Real Clear Education, criticism of the AP misses that it’s “this century’s biggest education success story.”

    The Atlantic examines why some colleges and universities are getting rid of placement exams.

    Via AZ Central: “Legislation that would make Arizona the first in the nation to adopt a ‘menu’ of standardized tests gained final approval in the Senate on Monday afternoon and now heads to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk ready to sign.”

    “Online-Testing Stumbles Spark Legislation in Affected States,” Education Week reports.

    “Competing Pressures Squeeze, Shake K–12 Assessment Landscape,” Education Week reports: high-stakes tests versus small-scale assessments.

    MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


    Report: MOOC Instructors Need More Support.”

    Meanwhile on Campus


    “Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached,” writes Astra Taylor in The Nation.

    Grand Canyon University will no longer pursue its efforts to become a non-profit as its accreditor will not support the change, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via Colorlines: “Water in 30 Newark Public Schools Tests Positive for Lead. Officials have turned off the taps at half the district’s schools.” I’m not even in the mood to make a Zuckerberg-related joke about education technology solutionism. (More on the district’s lead levels in The New York Times.)

    From Wisconsin: “Regents approve new policies for UW tenure over professors’ objections.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    “Melissa A. Click says that her dismissal last month from the University of Missouri at Columbia was punishment for standing ‘with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism,’ and that she had been scapegoated as officials ‘bowed to conservative voices that seek to tarnish my stellar 12-year record at MU,’” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, noting that the AAUP has also opened an investigation into Click’s firing.

    “Oberlin Board Condemns Professor’s ‘Abhorrent’ Social-Media Posts,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Harvard Law School might change its seal, which is associated with a major early donor to the school who was heavily involved in the slave trade.

    Harvard University Has A Bold Plan To Transform K–12 Education” because of course it does.

    The New York Times gives us twoTWO– stories on Britain’s elite schools this week.

    The University of Iowa has partnered with the startup Raise.me to offer high school students “micro-scholarships.”

    Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett has passed away from cancer, less than a year after taking office.

    Amazon is opening a brick-and-mortar store – or a pickup location at least – at Georgia Tech.

    Via Buzzfeed: “We Looked Inside Yale’s Admissions Files And Found How They Talk About Applicants.”

    “Officials at Zenith Education Group are hoping a new financial aid process that provides pre-enrollment financial literacy counseling will help students make better-informed decisions at the nonprofit Everest and WyoTech campuses,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Leader of U. of Phoenix Says It’s ‘Heads-Down Focused’ on Improvements for Students.”

    Justin Bieber paid $5,000 per day to rent Matt Knight Arena in Eugene.” Go Ducks!

    Baylor fraternity president charged with sexual assault.”

    “At Gustavus Adolphus College, a 500-word essay can … be the institution’s punishment for students accused of rape,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “That’s the claim made by student activists at the small liberal arts college last week.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association will distribute more than $200 million to Division I members next year to help institutions pay for benefits and services for athletes.”

    Survey: Most Americans Think Coaches Are Overpaid.”

    From the HR Department


    Education sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab will join the faculty at Temple University this summer. She is leaving UW Madison, she says, because of the state’s attacks on tenure and academic freedom.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Sujit Choudhry, dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s law school, has resigned from the post one day after it was announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence. Mr. Choudhry has been accused of sexual harassment by his former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell.”

    Google has hired Christopher Poole, the founder of the anonymous messaging board 4Chan, to run “social” at Google, which is pretty horrifying.

    “James Kvaal, a top White House adviser and former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is leaving to teach at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy. His last day, after nearly seven years, is Friday,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via the Lexington Herald Leader: “Morehead State announces 5-day unpaid furlough for faculty, staff.”

    The NLRB says that ESL instructors at Loyola University Chicago can unionize.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “David Visin resigned from his post as the University of Iowa's interim public-safety director on Friday, less than a week after the Associated Press reported that he had interfered with the investigation of a hit-and-run incident involving his stepson.”

    The algorithmic future of education/work will be discriminatory. Via DZone: “New Algorithm Tests Job Candidates for Cultural Fit.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    I’m hearing conflicting reports about the future of AltSchool, the private school startup that has raised $133 million in funding. That’s a lot of money, but it looks like AltSchool might be pivoting to software provider rather than school sooner rather than later. Edsurge has a shiny take on the new partner program “AltSchool Open.”

    You can sign up for the waitlist for Amazon’s new education platform. There’s still no mention of licensing in this, despite all the reports (mostly based on that one Education Week piece, truth be told) that it’ll be a site for OER. But the splash page says “open” twice, so I’m sure it’s all good.

    Education Week takes a deepdive into Mark Zuckerberg’s ed-tech investments and “giving strategy” and his plans to “personalize education.”

    Men explain “personalized education” to you. Their definitions can be found here. Here. Or here.

    “Yik Yak asks users to create user names in a step away from anonymity,” The Verge reports. What could possibly go wrong?

    Via The Hechinger Report: “A new nonprofit takes aim at ed tech pricing. First target: The iPad.”

    McGraw-Hill issued a press release, touting that “in 2015 unit sales of digital platforms and programs exceeded those of print in its U.S. Higher Education Group for the first time.”

    Elsewhere in McGraw-Hill textbook news: the publisher, “after being told maps in a political science textbook were anti-Israel, withdraws the volume and eliminates all copies,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

    Elsewhere in e-book-related news: “B&N Ed Retires Its Digital Textbook Platform, Replaces It With VitalSource.” And a nice reminder, as the NOOK pulls out of the UK, meaning customers might lose access to the digital materials they’ve purchased: “You Don’t Own Your Ebooks.”

    “Sexism rife in textbooks, says UNESCO,” says the BBC.

    LittleBits announced the launch of its new product, the STEAM Student Set. (Each box’ll run you ~$300, so you’re probably not going 1:1 with this one.)

    Macmillan Learning announced the launch of iOLab, a handheld device for physics classes. (“Announced the launch” is code for “there was a big ed-tech event this week and we wanted to make sure folks wrote up our press release.” More on SXSWedu news below…)

    “Google Docs now lets you export files as an EPUB ebook,” Venture Beat reports. But don’t bother. “Google Docs Exports EPUBs, But Not Well,” TidBITS cautions.

    Via Buzzfeed: “This Student Adds A Woman In Science To Wikipedia Every Time She’s Harassed Online.”

    Via The Atlantic: “Why Online Gradebooks Are Changing Education.”

    Could Slack Be the Next Online Learning Platform?

    You know what ed-tech really needs? Another “social learning platform.” Never fear, “HP Partners with EdCast to Launch Massive Social Learning Platform, HP LIFE 2.0.”

    You know what ed-tech really needs? Another “Pinterest for Education.” Never fear, Stephen Fry has a new startup that does just that.

    Bill Gates explains why classroom technology is failing students and teachers.” He fails to mention that most classroom is useless and derivative bullshit, as many of the news items in this section underscore.

    Sound the “technology facilitates cheating” klaxon: “Smartwatches that allow pupils to ‘cheat’ in exams for sale on Amazon,” The Independent reports. “New Services Make Cheating Easier Than Ever For Students,” Buzzfeed reports.

    From Pearson: “Everyone in Education Should Care About Digital Badges: Here’s Why.” (Not surprisingly, the real reason is not given here: because Pearson plans to monetize the hell out of badges.)

    Elsewhere in badges: “Some thoughts on the evidence behind Open Badges” by Doug Belshaw.

    From the Internet Archive: “Saving 500 Apple II Programs from Oblivion.” (Is there an archive for deadpooled ed-tech?)

    From “everyone should capitalize on this latest trend”: “Computer science is the key to America’s skills crisis,” insists a Techcrunch op-ed. “As Schools Emphasize Computer Science,” asks Fast Company, “How Do We Teach Teachers To Code?”

    This year’s DML Competition asks for folks to innovate around the “learning playlist,” which might be ed-tech industry-speak for “the syllabus.”

    The winners of this year’s 2016 McGraw Prize in Education: Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade Public County Schools, Anant Agarwal, the head of edX, and Sakena Yacoobi, the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning. They each get $50K, quite a prize.

    Dispatches from SXSWedu


    (So this was a big week for news in part because many companies and organizations issued press releases timed with the annual ed-tech event in Austin. Nothing like making sure that your exciting announcement is drowned out by hundreds of others exciting announcements…)

    Via Edsurge: “SXSWedu’s Opening Keynote, Temple Grandin, Revisits ‘Learning Styles’.”

    Imagine a future in which learning is earning,” say The ACT Foundation and the Institute of the Future, who unveiled some future-forecasting blockchain-all-the-transactions things at SXSW. I’d rather not imagine such a future, thanks. This dystopia introduced via a game – aren’t they always – in Jane McGonigal’s keynote.

    ELSA, a mobile app for English language learning, was the winner at this year’s Launch competition at SXSWedu.

    Funding and Acquisitions


    LightSail Education has raised $11 million in Series B funding from Scott Cook (the co-founder of Intuit) and The Bezos Family Foundation. The literacy app has raised $23.19 million total.

    LTG Exam Platform has raised $5.3 million in Series A funding from Square Peg Capital, Atlas Venture, Jamie McCourt, Edward and Mitch Roberts, and Margot Lebenberg Carter. The company has raised over $8 million in funding.

    Via Techcrunch: “Nasscom Foundation gets $4.78M from the Gates Foundation to support tech programs in Indian public libraries.”

    Volley has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Zuckerberg Education Ventures and Reach Capital. Via Techcrunch: “‘This is so fast it feels like cheating’ students tell Volley. The education startup’s app lets students point their phone’s camera at a textbook page or piece of homework, and instantly see resources about key facts and tricky parts, prerequisites, and links to snippets of online classes or study guides that could help.” The startup plans to build “learning algorithms,” according to Edsurge.

    Constant Therapy has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Golden Seeds, Kapor Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, Pond Capital, and Community Health Network of Connecticut. From the press release: “Constant Therapy is revolutionizing the treatment of speech, language and cognitive disorders by using science-based digital brain therapy delivered on mobile devices.” The company has raised $2.74 million total.

    Barnes & Noble Education has acquired LoudCloud Systems for $17.9 million. Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill offers his take on why the buy.

    PASCO Scientific has acquired Ergopedia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Weld North has acquired Performance Matters. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Also not disclosed: what happens to student data when these types of data/assessment companies are acquired.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


    Via The Intercept: “The Unblinking Eye: High School Students Debate Surveillance in Post-Snowden America.”

    “Former UCF student sued his alma mater this week in the wake of the computer hack at the university that compromised 63,000 Social Security numbers,” The Orlando Sentinel reports. “It’s currently at least the second pending lawsuit the school faces. A third lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, court records show.”

    “Direct Deposit Breach Strikes Illinois State,” Campus Technology reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Genetic Test Firm to Make Customers’ Data Publicly Available.”

    A nice explainer for education folks from Common Sense Media’s Bill Fitzgerald on the differences between “Encryption, Privacy, and Security.” In other Common Sense Media news: “With 40 US K–12 District Partners, Common Sense Launches Multi-Year ‘Privacy Evaluation Initiative’.”

    Data and “Research”


    According to UNESCO, some 63 million girls are out of school. “Almost 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 8 million boys if current trends continue,’” the Associated Press reports.

    A new column from FiveThirtyEight’s new science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker: “Science Questions from a Toddler.” The first article answers the question “Why am I right-handed?

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Lumina Releases Papers on Performance-Based Funding.”

    Via Education Dive: “Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, called the narrative of the student loan crisis overblown.”

    Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Race and Social Problems has found “that black young adults have 68.2 percent more student loan debt, on average, than do white young adults.”

    College Presidents Say Race Relations Are Just Fine (Students, Not So Much).”

    “Neuroscientists Study Real-Time Learning in Classroom Lab,” says Education Week.

    Meanwhile here’s an excerpt from an abstract of an article in the March 2016 issue of Psychology Review: “The core claim of educational neuroscience is that neuroscience can improve teaching in the classroom. Many strong claims are made about the successes and the promise of this new discipline. By contrast, I show that there are no current examples of neuroscience motivating new and effective teaching methods, and argue that neuroscience is unlikely to improve teaching in the future.” Damn, because those “brain-based blah blah blah” stories are just so clickable!

    “Why Has Charter School Violence Spiked at Double the Rate of Public Schools?” asks The Nation.

    “The Ongoing Battle Over Ethnic Studies: A new study suggests that such courses can dramatically elevate the achievement of at-risk students,” Melinda D. Anderson reports in The Atlantic.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The first comprehensive global survey of science academies and gender has found that only 12% of the members of 69 national science academies are women – and just 6% in maths and 5% in engineering.”

    Via Education Week’s research blog: “‘Deeper Learning’ Boosts Grad Rates, but Benefits Less for Students in Poverty.”

    Can Science’s Reproducibility Crisis Be Reproduced?

    Slate says that “an influential psychological theory, borne out in hundreds of experiments, may have just been debunked.”

    “There Is No FDA For Education. Maybe There Should Be,” suggests NPR. Stephen Downes’ response for the win: “It’s a ridiculous proposition, the idea that lack of access to the same education rich people have can be solved like it were a disease or illness.”

    The Gates Foundation has surveyed educators on their use of data and on their attitudes towards ed-tech.

    Futuresource Consulting releases its latest report on the K–12 market share of computing devices.

    Edsurge writes up the results of a TES Global survey that found that 73% teachers use OER more than textbooks. Not noted: that the survey offers nothing about its research methodology, so me, I’m having hard time believing these results since they run counter to other research on OER adoption.

    The latest Pew Research study looks at the public’s predictions about the automation of work: “A majority of Americans predict that within 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans – but few workers expect their own jobs or professions to experience substantial impacts.”

    Via NPR: “America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries’ High School Dropouts.” The story looks at the results from the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which looks at adults’ math, literacy, and technology skills. Other news outlets have gone with more incendiary headlines: “Americans Rank Last in Problem-Solving With Technology,” frets The Wall Street Journal. (Meanwhile, The Pacific Standard looks at libraries and non-profits that work to improve adult (computer) literacy.)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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