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- 03/18/16--05:18: _Hack Education Week...
- 03/18/16--06:10: _'I Love My Label': ...
- 03/25/16--01:00: _Roaming Autodidacts...
- 03/25/16--05:18: _Hack Education Week...
- 04/01/16--05:18: _Hack Education Week...
- 04/06/16--23:18: _The Blockchain for ...
- 04/08/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 03/22/16--01:58: _Indie Ed-Tech: Revi...
- 03/29/16--01:58: _How Do Schools Affe...
- 04/14/16--05:58: _The Ideology of the...
- 04/15/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 04/22/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 04/29/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 05/03/16--05:58: _Who's Investing in ...
- 05/06/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 05/07/16--04:58: _Identity, Power, an...
- 05/13/16--04:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 05/20/16--13:58: _Hack Education Week...
- 05/26/16--03:00: _The Rough Beasts of...
- 05/27/16--01:02: _Hack Education Week...
- 03/18/16--05:18: Hack Education Weekly News
- 03/18/16--06:10: 'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech
- 03/25/16--05:18: Hack Education Weekly News
- 04/01/16--05:18: Hack Education Weekly News
- 04/06/16--23:18: The Blockchain for Education: An Introduction
- What is the Blockchain?
- The History of the Blockchain
- The Technology of the Blockchain
- Who’s Investing in the Blockchain
- Education and the Blockchain
- Things to Consider
- 04/08/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 03/22/16--01:58: Indie Ed-Tech: Review the Revue
- 03/29/16--01:58: How Do Schools Affect Autodidacticism?
- 04/14/16--05:58: The Ideology of the Blockchain (for Education)
- 04/15/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 04/22/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 04/29/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 05/03/16--05:58: Who's Investing in Ed-Tech (2010-2016)
- 05/06/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 05/07/16--04:58: Identity, Power, and Education's Algorithms
- 05/13/16--04:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 05/20/16--13:58: Hack Education Weekly News
- 05/26/16--03:00: The Rough Beasts of Ed-Tech
- 05/27/16--01:02: Hack Education Weekly News
Former US Secretary of Education has joined the Emerson Collective, a venture philanthropy firm run by Laurene Powell Jobs. In his new role as managing partner, according to The LA Times, “Duncan will be looking for ways to help ‘disconnected youth,’ ages 17 to 24, who aren't in school and don’t have jobs. Many have criminal records and haven't graduated from high school.” The Emerson Collective is an investor in Udacity and AltSchool and helped buy Amplify from News Corp.
In other US Secretary of Education news, John King has been confirmed in that role.
Via the BBC: “Every school to become an academy, ministers to announce.” That’s every school in England. And becoming an academy means the end to local control.
The Department of Education is “Getting Ready for Another Corinthian,” says Inside Higher Ed. “Education Department may soon tell more colleges to set aside money to cover federal loan discharges and other costs in case institutions collapse or become financially strapped.”
Meanwhile…“After years of pressure from consumer advocates and some congressional Democrats, the Obama administration is considering banning or restricting mandatory arbitration agreements at colleges and universities that receive federal funding.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“160 Private Colleges Fail Education Dept.’s Financial-Responsibility Test,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Via the AP: "The Education Department is removing a law firm hired to oversee the turnaround of schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., a for-profit education company whose financial collapse had placed at risk more than $1 billion in federal student loans.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suspended DeVry University's participation in a voluntary Obama administration program aimed at highlighting colleges that are friendly to veterans. The VA suspended DeVry as an institution meeting the ‘principles of excellence’ outlined in a 2012 executive order. The agency cited the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit in January that accused DeVry of misleading students about their employment prospects.”
Via the Courier-Journal: “All students who graduate from Kentucky high schools, home schools or obtain their GEDs in Kentucky will be able to attend community colleges for free under a bill that passed the Kentucky House of Representatives on Thursday.”
Via the AP: “A bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth is gaining momentum in the Tennessee legislature after passing in a House subcommittee.”
Via Cleveland.com: “Gaps in Cleveland schools’ $500,000 E-Rate investigation baffle watchdog panel.” Baffling!
Via the Hechinger Report: “A bill that would allow teachers in low-performing school districts to grade parental involvement on student report cards has passed the Mississippi House, but it now includes a controversial amendment that would also require daily homework, instruction in cursive writing, and a professional dress code for teachers in those schools.” Gee, that sounds super awesome and and not at all discriminatory, Mississippi.
I have to admit that as a Wyoming native who has seen the boom and bust cycle over and over in her lifetime, I’m really struck that it’s “news” again that minerals industry-dependent communities struggle once the minerals industry revenue dries up. Anyway, there’s a funding crisis in Wyoming and Alaska and The 74, NPR, and The New York Times are on it.
From the presidential campaign beat: “Charter school scandal haunts John Kasich.” “There’s a big problem with Bernie Sanders’s free college plan.”
Trump, Trump, Trump
Here’s a student-made video about Donald Trump’s canceled rally at UIC.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two Northwestern University freshmen are facing charges that they spray-painted slurs against gay people and black people, a swastika and the name ‘Trump’ in a nondenominational chapel at the university.”
Via The LA Times: “Woman wants out of lawsuit against Trump University, but Trump’s lawyers say no.”
Education in the Courts
President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, but for those keeping track at home “Garland has not written major opinions on higher education law,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “He has, however, played a role in several decisions of importance to academe. Just last week, he was on a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that rejected a challenge by for-profit colleges of the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment rule.”
Via the Chicago Tribune: “Chicago school board seeks $65 million in lawsuit against ex-CEO.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A federal judge in New York on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Columbia University by Paul Nungesser, a former student who was accused of rape in a high-profile case that drew national attention.”
The CFPB announced that it had “requested that a federal district court enter a final judgment and order that would shut down a student debt relief scheme that charged borrowers millions of dollars in illegal upfront fees for federal student loan services. If approved by the court, the proposed judgment would ban the company, Student Loan Processing.US, and its sole owner, James Krause, from any future involvement in debt relief and student loan services. The order would also require the company to pay refunds to thousands of harmed consumers and a civil money penalty.”
SHOCKING I KNOW but “The New SAT Won’t Close the Achievement Gap.”
From Jesse Hagopian: “Six Reasons Why the Revolt Against Standardized Testing Is Good for Students and Parents of Color.”
Via the AP: “Nevada won’t face any federal penalties following its Common Core testing meltdown last year that left most students in the state unable to finish their annual mandated exam. The U.S. Department of Education on Friday gave Nevada a rare exemption from the federal mandate requiring at least 95 percent of students to participate in an annual statewide test.” More via Education Week about other states that struggled with administering assessments.
MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)
You can now watch Lynda.com courses when you’re on a Virgin America flight. The future is so bright…
Via the press release: “University of the People (UoPeople) Launches Worlds First Tuition-free, Accredited Online MBA.”
Meanwhile on Campus
Via The Gothamist: “Free Tampons Are Coming To 25 NYC Public Schools.”
Pearson will handle the marketing, recruiting, and student services for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. “It’s a unique and first-of-its-kind type of partnership for Pearson,” says Inside Higher Ed. Whee.
Via Boing Boing: “First-ever Tor node in a Canadian library.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Mental and Academic Costs of Campus Activism.”
Via NPR: “Campus Food Pantries For Hungry Students On The Rise.”
Inside Higher Ed reports on a new group called the Intentional Endowments Network, a “group of 77 institutions is coming together in an effort to invest their money more ethically. The goal is to use their endowments to support environmental and social causes – without sacrificing their own financial returns.”
“Colorado State U Launches Online ‘Boot Camp’ Style Comp Sci Programs,” says Campus Technology.
NPR’s Anya Kamenetz looks at the “turmoil” at P-TECH.
On the heels of criticism of UC Davis’ chancellor being on the board of Devry, folks are now noting that the University of Arizona’s president sits on it as well.
Via The Guardian: “UC Berkeley investigates 26 more cases of sexual misconduct amid scandal.”
Numerous organizations are vying to become accreditors-of-sorts for new coding bootcamps. These include student loan providers. So, what could go wrong?!
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The majority of community college presidents in California voted yesterday to pull the colleges away from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, while also working to reform the agency.”
Go, School Sports Team!
Via the Eugene Weekly: “Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson are following in the footsteps of fellow former Oregon basketball player Brandon Austin by suing the University of Oregon over rape allegations, according to a press release from Eugene attorney Brian Michaels who says he is local counsel for a New York firm. Artis and Dotson are alleging they faced discrimination as males and are suing for more than $9 million each, making the lawsuit come to more than $20 million.”
“Yale Sexual Misconduct Expulsion Threatens to Ruin March Madness, Sports Forever,” threatens Jezebel. F.O.R.E.V.E.R….
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Disparities in Coaches’ Academic Incentives Raise Concerns Over Gender Equity.”
Via The New York Times: “Young black men playing basketball and football for the country’s top college teams are graduating at lower rates than black male students at the same schools – despite having financial and academic support that removes common hurdles preventing many undergraduates from earning a degree, a new report has found.”
Via the Dallas Morning News: “Frisco Centennial assistant coach told black players he would ‘hang them from a tree by their toes’.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “U of North Florida will pay $1.25 million to a former women’s basketball coach who said the university discriminated against female athletes and coaches.”
From the HR Department
Venture capitalist Michael Goguen has been fired by Sequoia Capital following “allegations that he kept a ‘sexual slave’ for 13 years.” (Sequoia Capital’s education investments include Yik Yak although, to be fair, Goguen was not involved in that specific transaction and did not sit on its board.)
Via The Boston Globe: “The former president of Bridgewater State University, under fire for a lucrative retirement package, has agreed to give up a $100,000 annual consulting contract with the university, state officials said Thursday.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Eastern Illinois Lays Off 177 Employees as Budget Crisis Drags On.”
“The chairman of the Board of Trustees at Mount St. Mary's University has stepped down, seven months before the end of his term,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Also via The Chronicle: “U. of Missouri Rejects Melissa Click’s Appeal of Her Firing.”
The Digital Reader reports that “Andrew Savikas Departs Safari Books Online Amidst ‘Massive’ Layoffs.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
“Will this new ‘socially assistive robot’ from MIT Media Lab (or its progeny) replace teachers?” asks the Kurzweil AI Network newsletter.
Elsewhere in VR: “Fun (and Some Nausea) with the First Games for the Oculus Rift Headset.”
“Blackboard and Moodle Now BFFs,” says Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein. And also on the LMS front, his partner Phil Hill observes that “Wheaton College Selects Schoology As New LMS In Surprise Decision.”
Via The New York Times: “HarperCollins will offer a discount on its trade paperback of Harper Lee’s 1960 classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ through retail accounts that sell directly to schools. The announcement came days after the news broke that the cheaper, mass-market paperback edition, which is popular in schools, would be discontinued next month, apparently in accordance with the wishes of Ms. Lee, who died in February at age 89.”
There’s been lots of hullaballoo about artificial intelligence over the last few weeks because of the defeat of Lee Sedol, champion Go player, by Google’s AI system AlphaGo. It’s probably worth noting that elements of AI – machine learning, natural language processing, expert systems – are already all around us. So when NPR says“What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For Education,” we shouldn’t just look at Pearson’s future-casting. We can look at what we already are doing, heck, just with Google alone.
“Koov is Sony’s answer to Lego Mindstorms,” says Engadget.
A Palestinian teacher, Hanan Al Hroub, has won the $1 million Global Teaching Prize.
In other (possible) ed-tech-related trends for 2016, here are a couple of reports from CB Insights: “From Pre-Employment Testing To On-Demand Jobs: 10 Early-Stage HR Tech Startups.” And “The Rise Of Fintech Mega-Rounds: $50M+ Deals Spike in 2015.”
(Still More) Dispatches from SXSWedu
The write-ups of SXSWedu continue. “Race, hands-on learning, new SAT, tech pricing some of SXSWedu 2016’s hot topics,” according to The Hechinger Report. Here’s The Chronicle of Higher Education’s takeaways. Tim Klapdor has written about all his days spent at the event, but Day 3 was pretty special.
Funding and Acquisitions
“Learn to code” company Revature has raised $20 million in a Series A round from University Ventures, Eden Capital, and USA Funds.
Credly has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from University Ventures, New Markets Venture Partners, Lumina Foundation Venture Fund, City & Guild Group, and Lion Brothers Company.
Fullstack Academy has acquired Chicago-based coding bootcamp The Starter League (the startup formerly known as Code Academy. No. Not Codecademy.) Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Inside Higher Ed reports that for-profit higher ed company Laureate Education has “reached an agreement with Eurazeo, a European investment company, to sell Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches International School of Hotel Management for $384 million.”
Edsurge follows up on reports that Intel Capital, Intel’s venture capital unit, is up for sale.
Not willing to let the Broad Foundation corner the market on training school administrators, the “Wallace Foundation to invest $47 million in redesigning principal preparation,” says The Washington Post.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
“How Minecraft undermined my digital defences,” by the BBC’s Mark Ward. (A pretty important read on security and privacy for parents/users of Minecraft.)
Code.org admitted that a vulnerability on its website meant that volunteer email addresses were compromised. Ooops. Everyone should learn to infosec.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Faculty members at Texas university raise questions about whether they are being monitored after administrators show up in their course rosters.” That is, faculty at Our Lady of the Lake University found that administrators were adding themselves to courses on Blackboard.
Data and “Research”
Via The New York Times: “Black students are four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students, according to a new analysis of federal education data. And students with disabilities, the study found, are suspended two to three times the rate of nondisabled students in charter schools.” (Related: “The Black Girl Pushout” by Melinda D. Anderson.)
Via Inside Higher Ed: “American college students are less likely to die on study abroad programs than on their home campuses, according to a new analysis of insurance claims published by the Forum on Education Abroad.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Scholar’s Sting of Education Conferences Stirs a Hornet’s Nest.”
The US Department of Education has released its Quarterly Student Aid Report, “a collection of key performance data on the federal student loan portfolio, revealing continued increases in income-driven repayment enrollment with notable decreases in defaults and delinquencies.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “New paper argues that colleges can’t afford to improve the pay and working conditions of those off the tenure track. Activists slam the analysis.” The paper was published in the Journal of Business Ethics – lolsob.
Via Education Dive: “Sexual harassment in K–12 schools a pervasive problem. Some studies say as many as 4 out of 5 American children and teens are sexually harassed at school.”
Via the NIH: “Smartphone ”personal assistants“ like Siri and Google Now can send your messages, make dinner reservations or give you a stock market update. But they may let you down during a crisis, a new study finds. When researchers looked at how the programs responded to statements such as ‘I was raped,’ or ‘I’m being abused,’ they found that the answers often fell far short.”
Via New York Magazine: “For 80 Years, Young Americans Have Been Getting More Anxious and Depressed, and No One Is Quite Sure Why.”
According to research from UNC and Duke, “Girls Likelier to Major in Science Field if High School Had Women STEM Teachers.”
USC professor Morgan Polikoff writes about his research on textbook adoption: “Textbooks are important, but states and districts aren’t systematically tracking them.”
According to a press release published by McGraw-Hill, “McGraw-Hill Education Study Shows Significant Improvement in Student Outcomes through Adaptive Technology.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Study Finds Growing Debt-Related Stress Among Law Students.”
Via Buzzfeed: “Why Even Wealthy Black Students Have More Student Loan Debt.”
Via Mindshift: “Studies done in several countries including Iceland, Canada, Israel, Sweden and Taiwan show children who are at the young end of their grade cohort are more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis than their older classmates.”
Via Education Week: “Ed tech can help students develop critical social and emotional skills and character traits, but the market for such tools is currently underdeveloped, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group.” Grit-as-a-service.
Also via Education Week: “The results of a two-year study on the National Writing Project, a teacher professional-development program with nearly 200 sites around the country, show that the program had a positive impact on both teachers’ instructional practice and student writing.”
The latest from the Humanities Indicator Service shows an 8.7% decline in degrees awarded in the humanities between 2012 and 2014.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Colleges and universities should embrace a new financial model in which campus financial data are linked to student outcomes information and shared much more transparently with key campus constituencies, a new report from the American Council on Education and the TIAA-CREF Institute argues”
“Is Scientific Publishing About to Be Disrupted?” The Chronicle of Higher Education asks before offering “ASAPbio, Briefly Explained.”
“Is Academic Research in the U.K. About to Die Off?” asks The Pacific Standard.
Icon credits: The Noun Project
This talk was given March 18, 2016 at the Indie Ed-Tech Data Summit at Davidson College.
“I Love My Label”: Indie versus Industry and the Future of
Music Education Technology
The title of this talk could as easily be “indie versus institution” as “indie versus industry.” I have no love lost for either.
I call myself a “serial dropout,” as I’ve successfully failed to complete most stages of education: high school, undergrad, grad school. Nonetheless, I consider myself very fortunate that, even without all the proper credentials, I get to do some of the things I liked most about the “academic” part of my life: that is, I’m always learning, I’m always tackling new research projects.
I call myself a writer, and some days, when I’m feeling serious, I think of myself as a scholar. I’d like to believe that I’m pushing the boundaries, helping shape the future of my field. But what I do now – write about education technology – has nothing to do with what I studied formally as an undergraduate or a graduate student. But if nothing else, there I learned how to be a critical thinker, a thoughtful researcher, and a decent writer – and I’d contend that no matter what major you pursue in school, these are the sorts of skills all students should, ideally, come away with.
I also consider myself fortunate to have peers who believe in the value of “open scholarship” – that is, we share our work online (mostly via our blogs) in ways that bypass the paywalls of the academic publishing industry. As someone who works outside of academia, without an institutional affiliation, I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be unable to access journal articles. I always get so irked when I hear technology evangelists proclaim “You can learn anything you want on the Internet.” No, you can’t. Huge swaths of knowledge, art, science remain inaccessible; and it’s a loss for scholarship, which need not and does not only happen among those with access to a university research library or with log-in credentials to its online portal. That inaccessibility is a reflection of institutional culture, industry culture, corporate culture, copyright (that is, intellectual property laws), capitalism, and code. That is, when we talk about the future of something like “education technology” or even when we talk about the future of research and scholarship or teaching and learning, we must grapple with issues that are technological, sociological, and above all, ideological.
“Indie ed-tech” – what we’re gathered here to talk about over the next few days – is inherently ideological as it seeks to challenge much of how we’ve come to see (and perhaps even acquiesce to) a certain vision for the future of education technology. An industry vision. An institutionalized vision. Indie ed-tech invokes some of the potential that was seen in the earliest Web technologies, before things were carved up into corporate properties and well-known Internet brands: that is, the ability to share information globally, not just among researchers, scientists, and scholars within academic institutions or its disciplines, but among all of us – those working inside and outside of powerful institutions, working across disciplines, working from the margins, recognizing the contributions of those who have not necessarily been certified – by school, by society – as experts. Distributed knowledge networks, rather than centralized information repositories. “Small pieces, loosely joined.”
“Indie ed-tech” offers a model whereby students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars alike can use the “real-world” tools of the Web – not simply those built for and sanctioned by and then siloed off by schools or departments – through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be part of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.
I’d like to place the emphasis in my talk today on that adjective “indie” rather than on the hyphenated phrase “ed-tech.” (Yes, the Hack Education style guide insists on the hyphen.) I want us to consider: why would we, why should we embrace the “indie” rather than the “corporate,” the institutional. What difference do these adjectives – well, really, these economies, these ideologies – make to the technologies we adopt, to the technologies we are forced to adopt, to the technologies we force our students to adopt, to the direction we take, to the stories we tell about the future of education?
“Indie ed-tech” draws rather explicitly on the spirit of indie music and the DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos of punk rock.
A connection between music and education might make you wince. After all, comparisons between the music industry and universities are fairly commonplace and not always particularly helpful. The Internet, so one popular story goes, will be higher education’s “Napster moment,” hastening the “disruption” of the institution. According to this particular narrative: just as the development of the MP3 file format and of portable digital music players destroyed the music industry, digital content and communication will soon destroy the university. (The timelines vary. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen famously predicted in 2012 that half of US universities would be bankrupt in a decade. So I guess we’ve got about five and a half years left, by his calculations.)
Of course, the music industry hasn’t been destroyed – that’s just one problem with the whole “Napster moment” cautionary tale. Certainly it has changed.
“Indie ed-tech” posits a different narrative than one where venture-funded MOOCs are, as Clay Shirky put it, the “lightning strike on a rotten tree.” Indie ed-tech offers a narrative that draws on a history of how new technologies shaped indie music in particular. This history might suggest something about what new technologies can and do offer teaching, learning, and research – one that isn’t about doom and disruption (unless we’re talking doom and disruption for those corporate ed-tech executives who want to control the learning playlist).
I want, in part, to build today on that story as told by my colleagues Reclaim Hosting’s Jim Groom and the University of Oklahoma’s Adam Croom. They gave a joint presentation at a conference at Stanford last fall; I wasn’t there, but they both posted their presentations to their blogs, making it easy for me to build on their work. I’ll post this talk to my blog in turn…
So let me briefly recap their argument, which contends that the Napster narrative doesn’t give a full or particularly accurate picture of how digital technologies have changed the music industry: Adam Croom cites UIC communications professor Steve Jones, who says that “The real revolution in popular music in regard to the Internet is to be found in the availability of news, information, and discussion about music and musicians facilitated by Internet media.” The barriers to entry – set high for musicians by radio and television in turn and for music commentators by magazines – have been lowered (somewhat). “In this sense,” Croom adds, “technology is not the industry disruptor, but rather the opportunity to facilitate the building of a community inconceivable prior to its existence.”
New technologies have also changed the production of music, again lowering the barriers to entry (again, somewhat). No longer is it necessary to employ huge teams of people in a cumbersome and expensive process that – ostensibly at least – is best controlled by a record company, as Lars Ullrich famously argued when he testified in front of Congress as to why Napster and the potential to share digital music would destroy music itself. Nowadays – again, ostensibly – one can make music, record that music, distribute that music more easily, without a major label. Hell, you don’t even need a real drummer, sorry Lars. And indeed, according to some figures at least, the number of people who identify as independent artists and musicians has grown substantially since the advent of the Internet.
(Our challenge remains – in indie music and in indie scholarship and in indie ed-tech – to make this path one that is economically and emotionally sustainable.)
For his part, in that Stanford talk, Jim Groom pointed to 80s indie punk as a source of inspiration for indie ed-tech. “Why 1980s indie punk?” Groom explains,
First and foremost because I dig it. But secondly it 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 [the University of Mary Washington]. Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives [sic] to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation.
I want to latch onto two parts of that last sentence.
One, “hijacked” – this is how institutions and industries often operate when they’re confronted with subversion and innovation. They hijack and disarm it. (That’s how capitalism works. That’s how ideology works.) For its part, the indie punk scene in the US had seen what had happened to the first generation of British punks – how they’d been signed and defanged by major record labels – and they vowed to retain control of their own music and community. For ed-tech’s part, Seymour Papert, one of ed-tech’s most hopeful and subversive radicals, observed this same tendency when he wrote in 1993 that
Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: Instead of cutting across and so challenging the very idea of subject boundaries, the computer now defined a new subject; instead of changing the emphasis from impersonal curriculum to excited live exploration by students, the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.
And two: what Groom calls “the pre-packaged learning management system.”
Over the course of the past twenty years, the learning management system has become a cornerstone of education technology – how it’s engineered, how it’s purchased, how it’s implemented – of how schools and their staff administer the course schedule, the grading, the class discussions, the “content delivery,” and so on. It has, perhaps most damagingly I’d contend, become the cornerstone of our imagination – shaping our expectations of what education technology “looks like,” how it functions, to what end, and to whose benefit. The learning management system has become a behemoth, an industry unto itself, part of a larger behemoth of an increasingly technologized university.
Indeed, rather than being largely unaffected by the Internet – an argument that you’ll hear Silicon Valley types frequently make about education, forgetting I suppose, that universities helped invent the Internet – the learning management system has prepackaged the university for the Internet, circumscribing scholarship, pedagogy, communication.
The LMS is our major record label. Prepackaged software. A prepackaged sound.
Like all sorts of industries, music and education alike are now supposed to bow to the new insights discoverable thanks to “big data.” Algorithms and analytics will “personalize” our world, we’re told. The problem, of course, is that the algorithms and the analytics also make everything sound the same. That’s the business: a neoliberal mirage around “choice.” Standardization. A familiar and managed image. Profiled. Labeled.
Now, the music business has actually been tracking “data” for a long, long time. Album sales, the singles most frequently played by disc jockeys, the songs most frequently played in jukeboxes – this information has been used to calculate who’s “top of the charts.” It’s been used to track what sorts of sounds people like, and then in turn, to sign more artists that sound just like that.
The music industry likes to highlight the likes of famous “A&R men” who identified and signed artists who found new sounds, who did reshape commercial music, most famously perhaps, John Hammond who “discovered” Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan and Gary Gersh who signed Nirvana. These two choices that seemingly went against the grain of what was being played on the radio, what was selling. But most music executives – now and then – have chosen instead to look for musical acts that replicate what’s already popular.
New music – new commercial music, that is – tends to not surprise us. It has been selected because we are already comfortable hearing it or very much something like it. Once something sells, than we hear it and echoes of it again and again and again and again.
And nowadays it isn’t just “the gut feeling” or “the ear” of the A&R exec that’s poised to perpetuate the bland and standardized sound of popular music. It’s an algorithm.
This data is incredibly valuable to an industry that wants us to buy and listen to its products.
Using various data sources, researchers at several different universities have boasted that they’ve developed algorithms that can actually predict hit songs – what’s been the “Holy Grail” for a long while in the music industry: identifying the perfect song. One algorithm, for example, uses the popularity of music on bit torrent sites, along with the geography and the query strings of users of those sites. Many algorithms use Echo Nest, a research project itself spun out of the MIT Media Lab that utilizes “machine listening” and “machine learning” to categorize and analyze a song’s acoustic and textual content. Echo Nest, which was acquired by Spotify in 2014, helps the latter’s power music recommendations. Using Echo Nest, other researchers boast they’ve developed an algorithm to predict the probability of whether or not a song would be a top 10 hit – this algorithm did accurately predict the probability of the songs that eventually made the top 10 Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs of 2015. This particular algorithm takes into account things like song length, tempo, key, and “danceability” – whatever the hell that means.
Well, what that means has something to do with successfully predicting that Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now” would be a hit. Interestingly, when reviewing Skrillex/Diplo album, Pitchfork’s senior editor described the track as “unexpected in all the best ways.”
“Unexpected” and yet algorithmically predictable – the future of music technology.
These sorts of predictive algorithms are, of course, quickly “productized” – to varying success. That’s no surprise as the popular narrative now insists that it’s preferable to avoid decisions once made on instinct and instead take a “Moneyball” approach – that is, it’s best to analyze the statistics and performance data that your competitors aren’t looking for so you can sign talent more cheaply, an approach made famous by the Oakland As’ manager Billy Beane. “Moneyball” trumps “gut,” or so we’re told.
Now, the music industry spends billions on A&R marketing and promotion. In 2013 alone, it spent $4.3 billion on this – that’s almost a third of the industry’s revenue. So there’s a huge financial motivation to sign artists that will produce hits, clearly, and to identify “the sound” – a pre-packaged sound – that can be replicated into multiple hits, from one or from multiple artists. Algorithms and analytics purport to offer solutions to make decision-making more better, faster, cheaper, more efficient, more scientific. More “personalized.”
“Data-driven decision making.” Sounds familiar, right? Analytics and predictive modeling have also come to education and education technology, of course, with much of this based on the kinds of data that the learning management system and student information system and related software collects: attendance, number of log-ins, number of interactions with a professor, and so on. Some of these products promise to identify algorithmically students who are “at risk” – that is, those who might not complete a course or graduate on time. Other products promise to organize algorithmically the educational content that has been deemed algorithmically the most appropriate to an individual student’s needs as she or he moves through a particular college course. Other products promise to identify algorithmically the courses themselves that individual students will perform best in.
Degree Compass, a piece of software developed by Austin Peay University and acquired in 2013 by the learning management system provider Desire2Learn, is one example of the latter. It is, and I quote from its website, “a personalized course recommendation tool that helps advisors and students plan the most optimal path to graduation using predictive analytics. Tapping into a volume of historical data, the predictive algorithm guides course selection in a way that improves academic success and drives on-time degree completion.” But just like the predictive modeling in music, this process should prompt us to ask a lot of questions about what feeds that algorithm and what are the results: What sorts of classes get recommended? Are students offered something that sounds familiar, comfortable? What signals to the algorithm what a student might find familiar? What happens in the face of an algorithmic education to intellectual curiosity? To risk-taking, to exploration, experimentation, play? To the major that many of us pursue for a while, “Undecided.” Does the educational system as-is, with or without an algorithm, value these things? And what happens when classes are devised in order to perform well according to this algorithm?
Pre-packaged sound. Pre-packaged courses. Pre-packaged students.
The phrase “I Love My Label” in the title of this talk has multiple meanings. It is, as perhaps some of you recognize, the name of a bitingly tongue-in-cheek song by Nick Lowe, later covered by the band Wilco.
I love my label …
And my label’s got high hopes in me
“I Love My Label” is just one of many, many songs that excoriates a major record label or a record executive. There’s The Sex Pistols’ “E.M.I.” There’s The Clash’s “Complete Control.” The Smiths’ “Paint a Vulgar Picture.” “Mercury Poisoning” by Graham Parker and the Rumour. “One Down” by Ben Folds. “Jimmy Iovine” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” by The Rolling Stones. “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd. “Joe” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Fools” by Motorhead. After it tried to edit out shots of her bare stomach from a music video, Amanda Palmer pleaded for her label Roadrunner Records to “Please Drop Me.” “9000 dollars, that’s all we could win,” Lynyrd Skynyrd sing in on a song from their second album “Workin’ for M.C.A.” (Their first album contains the classic “Free Bird” – how money do you think M.C.A. has made from that song alone?) “But we smiled at the Yankee Slicker with a big ol’ Southern grin,” the song continues. “They’re gonna take me out to California gonna make me a superstar.” Following almost a decade of not releasing an album and a lengthy legal dispute with his old label, Fantasy Records, John Fogerty released “Zanz Kant Danz” in 1985 – a song about a pig that “can’t dance but he’ll steal your money.” In response, Fantasy Records boss Saul Zaentz sued Fogerty for defamation of character. And as Fogerty had previously sold all the rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs to Fantasy Records, the label also sued Fogerty for plagiarism, claiming that another song on his new album, “Old Man Down the Road,” was merely the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Run Through the Jungle” – a song that Fogerty himself had written – with a new name.
“I Love My Label.” These songs – and so many others – all comment on the music industry’s practices of exploitation and control: who owns the artist’s lyrics, who owns the artist’s image, who owns the artist’s sound? What position are unsigned artists in to review, rewrite, rebuke the legal contracts offered to them by major record labels?
What position are we in to review, rewrite, rebuke the legal contracts now offered to us by major (education) technology companies? That is, of course, the Terms of Service that we all click on without reading. Who owns the student or scholar’s work? Who owns the student or scholar’s data? Who’s been granted a license to use it, display it, data mine it, feed it into an algorithm? And an algorithm to what end?
What position are we in – artists, musicians, scholars, students, citizens – to challenge algorithmic decision-making, something that is even more opaque and “black-boxed.”
“I Love My Label.” I chose that song as the title of this talk because of some of the other meanings of the word “label” too – it isn’t just a company that produces records; it’s a word used to describe or categorize someone. Labeling. It’s the process that takes place in order to build the profiles against which we’re sold advertising, recommended movies on Netflix or songs on Spotify, and, if you buy the software, told which content model to take next or which course to take next in order to graduate quickly with the highest possible grade point average. “Personalization” might sound like it’s designed especially for us; but “personalization” is an algorithm based on a profile, on a category, on a label.
I’ve argued elsewhere, drawing on a phrase by cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, that many of the industry-provided educational technologies we use create and reinforce a “templated self,” restricting the ways in which we present ourselves and perform our identities through their very technical architecture. The learning management system is a fine example of this, particularly with its “permissions” that shape who gets to participate and how, who gets to create, review, assess data and content. Algorithmic profiling now will be layered on top of these templated selves in ed-tech – the results, again: the pre-packaged student.
Indie ed-tech, much like the indie music from which it takes its inspiration, seeks to offer an alternative to the algorithms, the labels, the templates, the profiling, the extraction, the exploitation, the control. It’s a big task – an idealistic one, no doubt. But as the book Our Band Could Be Your Life, which chronicles the American indie music scene of the 1980s (and upon which Jim Groom drew for his talk on indie-ed tech last fall), notes, “Black Flag was among the first bands to suggest that if you didn’t like ‘the system,’ you should simply create one of your own.” If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.
It’s actually not beyond our reach to do so.
We’re already working in pockets doing just that, with various projects to claim and reclaim and wire and rewire the Web so that it’s more just, more open, less exploitative, and counterintuitively perhaps less “personalized.” “The internet is shit today,” Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde said last year. “It’s broken. It was probably always broken, but it’s worse than ever.” We can certainly say the same for education technology, with its long history of control, measurement, standardization.
We aren’t going to make it better by becoming corporate rockstars. This fundamental brokenness means we can’t really trust those who call for a “Napster moment” for education or those who hail the coming Internet/industrial revolution for schools. Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students. We don’t need intellectual discovery to be trademarked, to a tab that we click on to be fed the latest industry updates, what the powerful, well-funded people think we should know or think we should become.
Liner Notes: The album covers in this presentation come from Rage Against the Machine, Pink Floyd, Minor Threat, Black Mountain, Metallica, Sonic Youth (well, Giulia Forsythe), The Antlers, The Sex Pistols, The Flaming Lips, Gorillaz, Autograph, Yo La Tengo, TV on the Radio, The Clash, Radiohead, Michael Jackson, Black Flag, and Daft Punk (with apologies). The hair metal “gods” include Bon Jovi, Warrant, Poison, Mötley Crüe, RATT, Whitesnake, Cinderella, and Stryper. The ‘zine art first appeared in Sideburns (not Sniffin’ Glue as it’s often credited). Fair Use FTW. The full slide deck is available via SpeakerDeck. You can listen to the “I Love My Label” playlist on Spotify, but you should support artists by buying their music. Unless it's Metallica. Then share freely.
The survey on “Lifelong Learning and Technology” released earlier this week by the Pew Research Center provides an important counter to the sweeping pronouncements we often hear about Internet technologies and the coming democratization and de-institutionalization of education. While 73% of adults surveyed did say they consider themselves to be “lifelong learners,” there are significant class-, race-, and educational attainment-based differences in what that learning “looks like” in terms of place (namely, on- or offline) and content and expectations of what that learning will “do.”
Both of the aforementioned elements – what we think learning “looks like” and what we expect learning to “do” – clearly shape how education technologies are designed as well as how they’re promoted. But too often we imagine the “everyone” who will take advantage of the learning opportunities that technology may (or may not) afford not only as “roaming autodidacts,” as Tressie McMillan Cottom has called these idealized students, but also as untethered, entrepreneurial earners – that is, workers who can easily and upwardly navigate the labor market without any risks or restrictions.
In general, Americans do believe that lifelong learning is important, so it’s not that surprising that hyperbolic narratives about the future of learning are appealing to us. According to Pew, Americans describe themselves as inquisitive, as “information seekers,” and they believe that others should behave similarly. 87% of adults surveyed believe that people should learn new things related to their jobs and 69% say that people should stay abreast of scientific, technological, and cultural developments.
But only 63% of working adults (that’s 36% of all adults) surveyed said they’d participated in “job-related training” within the past year. And those who described their employment status as a “job” as opposed to a “career” were far less likely to participate in professional learning opportunities – just 44% of the former did some job-related learning, while 71% of the latter did so.
It's always worth thinking about "why" this might be the case beyond the culturally-accepted belief that "learning is good."
Pew also found that the majority of that professional learning occurred offline– at the workplace, at work-related conferences, or at dedicated offsite training facilities. "You can learn anything on the Internet," tech evangelists say. But you can't. And most folks don't. Only one-third of those “professional learners” – Pew’s study distinguishes these from “personal learners” – say that most of their learning takes place online.
I can’t help but note here that the tech/business publication Quartz covered the Pew survey on Tuesday with the headline “The Americans who’d benefit the most from online education have no idea it exists” and then on Thursday covered a report on professional development from the startup Degreed with the headline “Companies are so bad at helping workers develop their careers, most are training themselves.” The data from Pew and from Degreed contradict one another, and while the same author wrote both stories for Quartz, there’s seemingly no recognition of this. The narrative of the “roaming autodidact” and “entrepreneurial learner-as-earner” is so powerful, I guess, that a journalist might forget that it’s worth asking questions about who really benefits from this storytelling.
According to the Pew survey (and again, counter to the marketing message from Degreed and other ed-tech startups), the majority of adults are unfamiliar with online learning platforms. Pew asked about “distance learning,” something that predates the Internet by decades (and includes correspondence courses and teleconferencing, for example), but almost half of respondents said they were “not at all familiar” with it. 14% said they were “very familiar.” And despite all the headlines and all the hype, just 5% said they were “very familiar” with MOOCs, and just 9% said they were “very familiar” with Khan Academy. 69% said they were “not at all familiar” with the latter. 67% were “not at all familiar” with MOOCs.
The Pew survey found that that familiarity with digital badges (certifications for skill mastery) was roughly the same; and while I don’t deny that Khan Academy and MOOCs have seen a lot more media coverage than badges, I don’t want to suggest here that the lack of familiarity or uptake with any of these is just a reflection of how much the media has or hasn’t covered them. It’s more likely that the storytelling about ed-tech does not match most people’s reality.
Do jobs (and which jobs) reward their employees for professional learning? What sorts of learning is actually rewarded? (That is, it is informal learning? Or are formal certifications really the signals that “count”?) Do adults (and which adults) have the resources necessary to pursue learning opportunities? These resources include things like time, money, broadband access, and technology tools, and because of the importance of offline learning, things like transportation. Also key: the language in which these are offered. As Pew writes,
The differences for personal learning among Hispanics who took the survey in Spanish compared to those who took it in English are striking: 73% of Hispanics who took the survey in English participated in the activities we classified as personal learning, compared with 44% of the Hispanics who took the survey in Spanish who classified as personal learners.
One of the themes that I come back to again and again in my work is that education technology exacerbates existing inequalities. “Those who are better off and better educated get more benefits from learning,” the authors of the Pew observe. Addressing these sorts of structural inequalities demands we do more than suggest that “lifelong learning” will be an economic or intellectual panacea. And when education technology and "future of work" proponents say that it's increasingly up to the worker to become more "entrepreneurial," to become a lifelong learner, we should interrogate exactly who that imagined worker might be.
“Republican leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday rushed through a bill to repeal all local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances in the state and ban transgender people from certain restrooms,” Buzzfeed reports. “Introduced and passed within 10 hours, the bill then went to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. He signed it around 10 p.m. Wednesday, citing North Carolina residents’ expectation of privacy and ‘basic community norms.’” Shameful.
“After 8 Months, Pennsylvania Gets a Budget,” reports Inside Higher Ed. Congrats?
Elsewhere: “Illinois cuts off funding for its public universities,” reports Marketplace.
From Texas (well, via the Houston Press to be precise): “The State Board of Education Is Looking at Science Curriculum. Again.” Wheeeeee.
Via Education Week: “Lawmakers in Washington state have passed a bill to resuscitate the state’s fledgling charter school sector six months after the state’s supreme court ruled the original law was unconstitutional.”
Via The Star: “The Toronto District School Board paid departing Education Director Donna Quan close to a staggering $600,000 when she left last December, roughly half of it in unused vacation days over her 14 years as a manager with the board, and the rest of it her salary.”
Via Buzzfeed: “The Education Department will fast-track debt forgiveness for hundreds of thousands of former students at Corinthian Colleges, the government said Friday, in a move that could cost taxpayers billions. Former students at 91 of Everest and Wyotech college campuses spanning 20 states will be automatically granted forgiveness after filling out a simple online form.” Here’s the press release from the Department of Education. Related news about Corinthian from ProPublica: “How a For-Profit College Targeted the Homeless and Kids With Low Self-Esteem.” Related news about student loan debt from the Consumerist: “$176M In Wages Garnished For Unpaid Federal Student Loans In Just Three Months.”
And in still more student loan news: “The U.S. Department of Education has rehired two of the debt collection companies that it said last year would be fired for misleading student loan borrowers, newly released federal records show,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Department officials announced in February 2015 that they would ‘end’ the contracts of five debt collectors, accusing the companies of making ‘materially inaccurate representations’ to borrowers trying to get their loans out of default.” “End” is in scare-quotes because, yeah… heckuva job, Dept of Ed.
Via The New York Times: “Cuomo Faces Loud Backlash Over Push to Cut State’s CUNY Funding.” The Governor has proposed cutting CUNY’s state funding by $485 million.
Education Week has a series of stories exploring the Investing in Innovation program, including one on “What We Can Learn from i3 Grant Recipients Who Struggled.”
“Students at Emory Protest ‘Trump’ Chalk Markings,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. Via NY Mag: “Emory University: We Will Use Security Cameras to Track Down and Possibly Punish Students Who Chalked Their Support for Trump.” But wait, still more awful: the latest salvo in the BS narrative that this whole Trump thing is the fault of “political correctness,” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes about “How Emory’s Student Activists Are Fueling Trumpism.”
Via the NY Daily News: “N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says case against Trump University is ‘a straightforward fraud case’.”
Education in the Courts
Via Buzzfeed: “The California attorney general has won a $1.2 billion judgment against Corinthian Colleges, with a judge ruling the company, which operated the Everest University chain of for-profit colleges, lied to and defrauded its students. The judgment includes $800 million in compensation to former students – an amount that the shuttered and bankrupt Corinthian will almost certainly never pay. The little money that was left in the company's coffers has been doled out to hungry creditors.” That second sentence there seems pretty important.
“$31 Million Court Win for a For-Profit College,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Federal judge backs finding that an accreditor misled the Education Department about a now-closed for-profit institution, and relieves most of the college’s debt.”
Via The New York Times: “A jury in San Diego on Thursday rejected claims by a law graduate, Anna Alaburda, that the Thomas Jefferson School of Law enticed her to enroll by using misleading graduate employment figures. In the first – and perhaps last – such case to reach the courtroom, Ms. Alaburda, 37, argued that the school reported a higher percentage of its graduates landed jobs after graduation than was actually the case, and that she relied on the bogus data to choose to attend the school.”
Via the NSBA: “Teacher, whose nude photo was disseminated on social media by student, sues South Carolina district claiming she was forced to resign.”
Via the AP: “Colleges face legal backlash from men accused of sex crimes.”
Also via the AP: “A New England prep school graduate who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman as part of a game of sexual conquest called Senior Salute was sent to jail Friday after acknowledging he violated his bail agreement by repeatedly missing curfew.”
Freddie deBoer has penned a report for New America on standardized testing for college.
Automated essay grading is coming to the PARCC exam, says Politico.
“Is Common Core’s Effect on Achievement Fading?” asks Education Week in response to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. (Where in “achievement” equals “test scores.”)
Interesting verb choice in this headline: “Sophisticated test scams from China invade U.S. college admissions.” And the subhead: “Students hire imposter ‘gunmen’ to take the SAT, the GRE and other tests.”
It’s really hard to summarize this story in just a sentence or two, so you’ll have to give The NYT a click if you want to read more about this tale of testing/ed reform/privacy intrigue: “Montclair Still Feels Strife From School Tests Posted Online in ’13.”
Via The Washington Post: “Fire-breathing stunt goes wrong at pep rally for standardized testing.”
“More Teachers Can’t Afford To Live Where They Teach,” NPR reports.
“The End of Research in Wisconsin” by Slate’s Rebecca Schuman. “UW-Madison spent $9 million to keep top faculty from being poached, but the damage has been done.”
“Delaware State University purges more than 20 academic programs.” Guess which departments.
Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “A group of parents at a Cobb County elementary are upset over the school’s use of yoga and other mindfulness practices for students because they believe it endorses a non-Christian belief system.”
Via The Atlantic: “The Rise of Liberal Arts in Hong Kong.”
“Could China buy America’s top universities?” asks an Edsurge op-ed that examines Chinese investment in education/technology.
Via the Aspen Daily News Online: “The budget crunch facing Aspen public schools could be relieved by allowing wealthy donors to put their names on buildings and programs, say representatives involved with a local fundraising effort.”
Buzzfeed has a follow-up to last week’s news about Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s outsourcing plans: “Public College Opens New Frontier In Education Privatization.”
Via NPR: “Kansas Campuses Prepare For Guns In Classrooms.”
Via The New York Times: “U.C.L.A. Center on Police-Community Ties Will Move to John Jay College.”
“Crytek Brings VR Labs to Universities,” says Campus Technology.
“Sexual Harassment Cases Tarnish Berkeley’s Image as a Center of Social Activism,” says The New York Times.
Via Buzzfeed: “Sent Home From Middle School After Reporting A Rape.”
Via The Atlantic: “UC Davis Students Demand the Ouster of Their Chancellor.”
Via SF Gate: “UC regents’ committee OKs ‘anti-Zionism’ as discrimination.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Universities Build a ‘Connected Learning’ Network for Refugees.”
NPR looks at education in South Sudan and the struggle to keep students in schools. The Economist says that the private sector needs to step in in countries where the governments are failing to provide decent education.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “U of California at San Diego’s new early warning system aims to condense millions of data points into a simple metric showing whether students will graduate on time.” “[T]he university wants to avoid a situation where an adviser looks at the dashboard and tells a student, ’You have low incoming test scores and you’re a low-income Latino – maybe you shouldn’t be an engineering major?”
Inside Higher Ed covers a report released by the AAUP that criticizes Title IX enforcement as harming free speech on campus.
Via Education Week: “New York City public schools … announced plans to move forward on a proposed Amazon contract for an online e-book marketplace for educators, after the deal stalled for seven months while concerns about accessibility for blind and visually impaired users were addressed.”
Headline of the week goes to The Chronicle of Higher Education with this gem: “Does Engineering Education Breed Terrorists?”
Go, School Sports Team!
March Madness Sports Team Excitement!
Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “A controversial bill to restrict the public’s access to records about state economic development projects cleared both chambers of the Georgia Legislature this week, with an unprecedented amendment that would also delay access to information from the University of Georgia Athletic Association and other athletic departments at state public colleges. The bill, SB 323, would give all public college athletic associations 90 days to respond to an open records request. The bill covers all Georgia public colleges, including the four most powerful athletic departments – UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III Committee on Infractions placed Kalamazoo College on three years’ probation Tuesday for violating rules that prohibit Division III colleges from awarding financial aid based on athletic ability.”
“Brain-Zapping Headphones Could Make You a Better Athlete,” says the MIT Technology Review. Andreessen Horowitz is an investor, so you know it’s gotta be… something.
Via The New Yorker: “The Faces of College Wrestlers.”
From the HR Department
Chicago Teachers Union delegates have approved an April 1 teacher walkout.
“Non-Tenure-Track Professors Unionize at Duke,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Via Edsurge: “Noodle.com, a discovery and rating platform for educational products, services and institutions, has cut its marketing and editorial teams by as much as 80 percent, effectively gutting the departments. The company laid off between 10 and 20 people across the two departments, which collectively had a staff in the ‘low 20s,’ confirmed John Katzman, Noodle’s CEO.”
Via The Atlantic: “Why Teach for America Is Scrapping Its National Diversity Office.” Layoffs at TFA will cut its national staff by 15%.
Scot Graham, an LAUSD official who had accused Superintendent Ramon Cortines of sexual harassment, has resigned and settled with the district for $93,000.
It looks like John McAdams will keep his job at Marquette University, despite the school’s efforts to revoke his tenure because of comments he made on his blog about a graduate student instructor. The details of his punishment aren’t public, but according to Inside Higher Ed, McAdams has to apologize.
Via The Denver Post: “ The University of Colorado nutrition expert who accepted $550,000 from Coca-Cola Co. is stepping down as executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. James Hill announced Friday that he was leaving, effective immediately, but he expects to continue researching causes of obesity.”
Via Politico: “LinkedIn, labor-market analysis organization Burning Glass and the Markle Foundation have joined forces to roll out a new kind of job website – Skillful.com – specifically designed for middle-skills workers, or people who have a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree. The site launched in Colorado this month with an initial emphasis on the information technology, advanced marketing and healthcare fields, with plans to branch into the greater Phoenix area as early as next month. The project has the support of Colorado’s state government as well as Arizona State University and MOOC provider edX.”
“Beth Rabbitt Takes Over as CEO of The Learning Accelerator,” Edsurge reports.
Via The Herald-News: “Joliet Junior College President Debra Daniels resigns effective immediately.”
“Biggest pay gap in America: Computer programmers,” says CNET. (Not really. But hey, it’s a very clickable headline.)
Upgrades and Downgrades
Edsurge writes about how schools can bring “Shark Tanks” to their schools. Shark Tank is a reality TV show featuring investor Mark Cuban in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, hoping to win some investment. “Shark Tank funds fewer women than men, with less money,” Mashable wrote earlier this year, but I’m sure it’ll be totally equitable if schools adopt the practice.
The latest batch of Y Combinator startup had their Demo Day this week. There were so many of them, the pitches took two days to complete. Here’s Techcrunch’s list of those from Day 1 and Day 2. Click through to see the education-related companies at your own risk.
The School Library Journal scrutinizes the Open eBooks app recently released as part of the Obama Administration’s ConnectED Initiative. In a nutshell: it “needs work.” There are problems with accessibility and eligibility and plenty of “front-end bugs.”
Language learning community Livemocha will be shuttered in April. Rosetta Stone acquired Livemocha in 2013. Bonus points if you can take advantage of any of the eight languages Rosetta Stone makes this announcement available in.
The bookmarking site Diigo asks, on its blog, if it should keep its “social aspects.” (Is Diigo okay? I don’t know how much money it’s raised or how/if it has revenue.)
O’Reilly Media unveils “Oriole Online Tutorials.” Paco Nathan, the director of the company’s learning group, says, “Our intent was to look beyond books, beyond video, beyond even the likes of MOOCs or oh-so-many search queries leading to dubious StackOverflow threads.”
Oh look. More proprietary ed-tech companies invoking “open.” Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “McGraw-Hill Education Latest to Adopt Knovation Open Ed. Curated Content.” “I don’t see OER as a threat,” says the president of McGraw-Hill’s K–12 division and that speaks volumes.
In other McGraw-Hill news: “McGraw-Hill Education Pulls Textbook Amid Criticism Over Middle East Map,” Education Week reports. [Insert joke about how OER would make a recall like this less likely here.]
In still other textbook news, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish some of the comics of Randall Munroe (of xkcd fame) in its science textbooks. You know what would be super awesome? If instead of textbooks, we could point students to some other resource by Munroe. Like, say, a book or even a website.
“Higher ed’s digital shift not as fast as some hope,” says Education Dive.
iOS9.3 is here, bringing with it Apple’s new Classroom (management/monitoring/deployment) app.
Via The Verge: “Old Kindles will be disconnected from the internet unless you update by Tuesday.” That’s Tuesday 22 March. So ruh-roh if you missed this story! And bummer if you’re a school media specialist who’s had to deal with this.
Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill suggest there will be “some changes at e-Literate and MindWires” as the two expand their consulting/analysis business.
“The Shift Toward Competency Starts With Faculty,” according to an op-ed in Edsurge penned by the president of the for-profit university Capella (which incidentally offers competency-based degrees). So arguably it could be that the shift towards CBE starts with PR.
In news of other education trends: “Medical, Dental, 401(k)? Now Add School Loan Aid to Job Benefits.” (Again, keep an eye on the growth of private student loan startups.)
The Business of Education/Technology
Test-prep company Byju has raised $75 million from Sequoia Capital and Sofina. “This is the largest fundraising in the education start-up segment in India,” Livemint reports. It’s also the largest funding so far this year, according to my calculations. Yay. Test prep.
Digital permission slip startup Permission Click has raised $1.75 million in seed funding from Friesens Corp and Real Ventures.
Tinkergarten has raised $1.6 million from Omidyar Network, Blue Collective, City Light Capital, 500 Startups, and Outbound Ventures. The company helps families find educational activities for their toddlers and has raised $2.1 million total.
From the National Endowment for the Humanities: “Announcing 18 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant Awards (March 2016).”
In alt-funding news: Blackboard received a one million grant from DC in order to not relocate out of the district.
“Lifelong learning”-tracking startup Degreed has acquired Gibbon, a “learning playlist” startup. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Language-learning startup PRISA has acquired Carvajal Education for $19.5 Million, says EdWeek’s Market Brief.
ReadCube has acquired Papers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
TES Global has acquired a stake in EduKey.
Oh, the irony: “The American Federation of Teachers is pressuring Pearson PLC, the global education company, to conduct a business strategy review with an eye to becoming more profitable.” Several AFT affiliates’ retirement funds own Pearson shares. And the testing/textbook machine grinds on…
Data and “Research”
Via Hechinger Report: “Government data single out schools where low-income students fare worst.”
Via Edutechnica: “LMS Data – Spring 2016 Updates.”
Via the Blackboard blog: “Research in progress: Learning analytics at scale for Blackboard Learn.” Some interesting findings here about the amount of time spent in the LMS and final grade.
Via the Times Higher Education: “Twitter creates ‘new academic hierarchies’, suggests study.”
Via Education Week: “In What Works Clearinghouse Research, Does High Quality Equal Highly Useful?” The article looks at a report by the American Enterprise Institute, which might be all you need to know about whether or not the governmental entity was deemed useful.
“Blended Capital: What Happens When Companies Tap Both VCs and Foundations For Funding?” asks an Edsurge op-ed. Well, for starters, the disclosures at the bottom of an Edsurge article get really long.
Analysts predict the wearable technology market will grow. Cue headlines about what schools should do in response.
“Evaluating The Results Of New Teacher Evaluation Systems,” by the Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo.
The Atlantic writes up a report from The Education Trust: “How to Graduate More Black Students.”
H/T Tony Bates for a link to and analysis of “A national survey of university online and distance learning in Canada.”
Via George Veletsianos: “Analysis of the data-driven MOOC literature published in 2013–2015.”
Via The Advocate: “More than two out of three Louisiana residents favor more charter schools, but vouchers have nearly as many opponents as backers, according to an LSU survey released Wednesday.”
Nielsen’s Q4 2015 Total Audience Report and the claims it makes about millennials’ media habits show the dangers of making generalizations based on generations. (That’s my takeaway from the report. YMMV.)
Degreed released a study on professional development, and – shocking, I know – the findings are quite different from Pew’s. Here’s the headline from the tech-business publication Quartz: “Companies are so bad at helping workers develop their careers, most are training themselves.” (No mention of the Pew study in that write-up, even though the same writer had covered the story just two days before. Because journalism!)
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Via the Mail and Guardian Africa: “An Africa first! Liberia outsources entire education system to a private American firm. Why all should pay attention.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, has said that “Such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education, and have no justification under Liberia’s constitution.” The company in question is Bridge International Academies, which has received funding from the Gates Foundation, Learn Capital, and Mark Zuckerberg’s investment company the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (among others).
Bridge’s model is ‘school in a box’ – a highly structured, technology-driven model that relies on teachers reading standardised lessons from hand-held tablet computers. Bridge hires education experts to script the lessons, but the teacher’s role is to deliver that content to the class. This allows Bridge to hold down costs because it can hire teachers who don’t have college degrees – a teacher is only required to go through a five-week training programme on how to read and deliver the script.
To keep tuition costs low – about $6 a term –Bridge depends on large class sizes. An ideal class size is 40 to 50 pupils, but the classes can get upward of 70 students.
Families must pay that tuition – this isn’t free public education – and the cost is wildly prohibitive for most. Moreover, outsourcing to scripted lesson delivery does not build the capacity – in terms of infrastructure or human resources – that a struggling African nation might need. Simply saying “Critics emerge” in response? Wow.
Via the Daily Dot: “The Federal Communications Commission voted at its monthly meeting Thursday to expand a low-income phone-subsidy program to Internet service and begin writing rules protecting the privacy of broadband customers’ data.” More from The New York Times and Education Week on the broadband subsidy.
Via HuffPo: “The U.S. Department of Education last week sent warning letters to two businesses, demanding that the companies stop using the Department’s official logos, or marks, without authorization. One of them, Arcadia, California-based MC Business Group LLC apparently has been running one of the many operations promising people help with managing their student loans, for a fee, even though, as the Department has been pointing out for some time, such services are available free of charge.”
An anti-trans bathroom bill is working its way through the Tennessee State House and Senate.
From the Detroit Free Press: “In its latest crackdown on school corruption in Detroit, the federal government today dropped a legal bomb on 12 current and former principals, one administrator and a vendor – all of them charged with running a nearly $1-million bribery and kickback scheme involving school supplies that were rarely ever delivered.”
Teachers in England oppose the government’s plans to convert schools to academies, says the BBC.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has dropped his plan to cut $485 million in state funding from the City University of New York, Inside Higher Ed reports.
“Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst will merge with education advocacy group 50Can,” according to The LA Times.
Shirley Hufstedler, the first Cabinet-level Secretary of Education, has died.
Education in the Courts
Public sector unions live to fight another day as the Supreme Court is tied 4–4 in Friedrichs v. CTA (thanks to Scalia not living).
Via Buzzfeed: “ Students Ripped Off By For-Profit Colleges Discover They Can’t Sue.”
Via The Wall Street Journal: “Judge Says Bankrupt Law Grads Can Cancel Bar Loans.” Federal student loans cannot be discharged by declaring bankruptcy, so this is an interesting ruling.
Via ABC: “The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which Governor Pat McCrory recently signed into law last week.” Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina president Margaret Spellings has refused to criticize the anti-LGBT law. But the North Carolina Attorney General says he will not defend the law as it's a "national embarrassment."
Via Buzzfeed: “The elite all-girls Marlborough School in Los Angeles claims that a woman suing the school over sexual abuse by a former English teacher is responsible for the emotional and psychological suffering she’s experienced because she did not speak up sooner. For the same reason, the school argues, she is to blame for having ‘exposed’ other students to potential sexual abuse by the teacher.”
Via the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “A student who said he was wrongly expelled from George Mason University for engaging in consensual, sadomasochistic sex has won a federal lawsuit demanding his reinstatement.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education filed on Wednesday, the National Consumer Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Massachusetts demanded access to information on student-loan debt collection and its racial impact.”
A Reuters investigation: Part One: “As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked.” Part Two: “How Asian test-prep companies swiftly exposed the brand-new SAT.” More on the SAT’s security problems via The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Meanwhile, via Edsurge: “How Khan Academy is Shaking Up the SAT.”
Online standardized testing glitches strike again – this time in Texas.
Via the Chicago Sun Times: “PARCC testing begins again but still no opt-out policy.”
Via Education Week: “Reach of PARCC, Smarter Balanced, Drops Sharply in 2015–16.”
“We Need to Assess Assessments,” says Freddie deBoer and it’s turtles all the way down.
Online Education (The Artist Formerly Known as “MOOC”)
Utrecht University is the latest Coursera partner.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is partnering with Coursera to offer a master’s degree in data science. The new buzzword, in this and in multiple other marketing efforts, seems to be “stackable.” “More Colleges Turn to ‘Stackable’ Degrees as Entries to Graduate Program,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.
University of Zurich professor Paul-Olivier Dehaye writes about the latest in his case against Coursera: “Investigation by Zurich Data Protection Authority of data transfers between the local university and MOOC startup Coursera.”
“Have you always wanted to teach an art class but couldn't find an online resource on a Walmart budget?” Edsurge asks in its coverage of Walmart heir Alice Walton’s move into online education and teacher training via the museum she founded, Crystal Bridges.
A report from MIT: “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reforms.”
Meanwhile on Campus
You know it’s gonna be … something when your education announcement is in Rolling Stone or when you call your teachers “illuminators,” amirite? Sean “Diddy” Combs is opening a new charter school in Harlem with Dr. Stephen Perry. José Luis Vilson has thoughts, and those include using the word “bamboozled,” on the celebrity-as-savior thing.
The Hechinger Report asks if we’re seeing “The end of ‘no excuses’ education reform?” Let’s ask Diddy.
A photo essay via The Atlantic on education in Senegal: “Schooled into Slavery.”
Via GayStarNews: “Kansas students to get $2,500 payout if they rat on transgender schoolmates for using ‘incorrect’ restroom.”
Via The New York Times: “High Lead Levels Found at More Newark Schools.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Nonprofit Zenith Education Group is consolidating or closing 10 more campuses of the former Corinthian Colleges. The chain lost $100 million last year and is making changes to its business model, curriculum and leadership.”
George Mason University will rename its law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The university gets lots of money from the Koch brothers, and $10 million towards the renaming (which is pretty expensive apparently) came from the Charles Koch Foundation.
Joi Ito announces that“MIT Media Lab Changes Software Default to FLOSS.”
Via Boing Boing: “CIA borrowed school bus for training, left explosive material on board while bus carried kids.”
Via Wired: “Why Some Students Are Ditching America for Medical School in Cuba.”
“Treating students like stocks is the idea behind an emerging kind of financial aid called income-share agreements,” writes The Hechinger Report on efforts to loan students money for school in exchange for a cut of their future income. Purdue plans to experiment with this. (See more on Purdue’s CBE experiments below.)
Accreditation and Certification
The new Education Secretary John King pens a blog post on “Strengthening Accreditation to Protect Students.”
Purdue University will offer a competency-based bachelor’s degree, Inside Higher Ed reports.
A venture capitalist offers “A Survival Strategy for Alternative Credential Providers.”
For more news on college degrees, read in the “HR” section below about Silicon Valley’s demand for software engineers to be “appropriately” certified.
Go, School Sports Team!
Harvard cheats. News at 11.
Coach K lies. News at 11.
Via the Houston Chronicle: “Prairie View A&M women’s basketball coach Dawn Brown was fired for enforcing a team rule that allegedly violates Title IX. The university made the announcement Tuesday. Brown removed two of her players during the season for dating each other. Brown’s rule stated that players may not have non-professional relationship with each other, coaches, managers, trainers or any others affiliated with the team.”
From the HR Department
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have walked out today, a one-day strike in protest of the policies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
And speaking of Rauner’s destructive education policies… via the Chicago Sun Times: “Chicago State tells employees to turn in keys as layoffs loom.”
Via the Detroit Metro Times: “NLRB calls out Detroit charter school that refused to bargain with teachers.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Tenured and Tenure-Track Professors at 4-Year Colleges Made in 2015–16.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a case that has been controversial for several years, the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week, 2 to 1, that Columbia College Chicago violated federal labor law when it, in 2010 and 2011, unilaterally reduced the number of credit hours associated with 10 courses. The move was challenged by the Part-Time Faculty Union at the college, which is known as P-FAC. The college also refused to talk to the union about the issue until the union detailed exactly how it wanted to resolve the issue and for months refused to engage in any negotiations at all – also moves the NLRB found violated federal labor law.”
Five more trustees have resigned from the board of Mount St. Mary’s University, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
“Paul Mott, the Common Application’s chief executive, has left the organization after nearly two years at the helm,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
The University of Mary Washington’s DTLT continues to hire expand its reign of awesome with news that Kris Shaffer will be joining the team this summer.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The president of Essex County College, Gale Gibson, has been suspended by the New Jersey institution’s Board of Trustees as it investigates accusations of misuse of the college’s resources.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Kim Hunter Reed, a former Louisiana higher education official, has joined the Obama administration as a deputy under secretary of education.”
Via Edsurge: “So You Want to Be an Instructional Designer?”
Also via Edsurge: “Sizing Up Your Skills – How You Can Get a Job in the Edtech World.”
Well, if you want a job as a software developer in Silicon Valley do make sure you have a college degree. Badges will not suffice. Via The Wall Street Journal:
Seventy-five percent of job ads for those roles at technology companies specify an educational requirement, compared with 58% of openings posted by the full universe of employers that are hiring software developers, according to Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market data firm that analyzed 1.6 million ads for software-developer jobs nationwide. And in 95% of the tech-sector job ads that list a minimum credential, the employer calls for a bachelor’s degree or higher, versus 92% of the ads from all employers seeking developers. … Nationally, 68% of adults over age 25 don’t have bachelor’s degrees. Burning Glass found employers in Silicon Valley were the most exacting in terms of credentials, listing education requirements in 77% of developer job postings, and in those ads, demanding a bachelor’s or advanced degree 98% of the time. (emphasis mine)
Remind me again why we expect Silicon Valley to address educational inequality via ed-tech?
Upgrades and Downgrades
“Don't Grade Schools on Grit,” says Angela Duckworth in an op-ed in The New York Times. Here’s a link to the software her lab makes which allows schools to grade students on grit. And here’s a link to Mathbabe Cathy O’Neil’s response: “Grit metrics for kids: let's not.”
The Library of Congress has canceled the subject heading “Illegal Aliens.”
“The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick.
The New York Times profiles former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her educational video games.
An in-depth look at Minecraft from the tech blog CNET: “Microsoft’s popular video game Minecraft helps kids learn everything from programming, science and math to art, languages and history.”
In other Minecraft news, Microsoft says the game will “get more powerful on mobile.”
“NASA Backs Arizona State on Adaptive Science Courses,” says Inside Higher Ed.
In a move to improve accessibility, Twitter adds alternative text support for images.
3D printed toys because American kids don't already have enough junk plastic.
“Want to learn Arabic? These Syrian refugees will teach you via Skype,” according to The Daily Dot.
“Getting banned from Facebook can have unexpected and professionally devastating consequences,” writes the EFF’s Jillian York.
“Is There Really a Global Shortage of Colored Pencils?” asks The Digital Reader.
Following concerns last week about harassment via annotation tools, Vijith Assar wrote a tool to block Genius from marking up one’s site. Sarah Jeong reports on the controversy. And annotation startup Hypothes.is responds.
Edubuntu is dead (or will be in 2019).
Two publications wrote up conversations with Khan Academy’s Sal Khan this week – Edsurge (linked above in the “Testing” section) and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Is Khan Academy on the prowl for more funding? Is this the remnants of SXSWedu PR? Or has Khan Academy just faded from public view and, on the heels of that Pew study last week that said very few people said they were very familiar with the organization, is it time to remind everyone about it? I dunno. Anyway, via The Chronicle: “How Sal Khan Hopes to Remake Education.”
“Learning to Code Yields Diminishing Returns,” says Douglas Rushkoff.
Marketplaces for educational content. Still a thing. (This week Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced theirs.)
Edukwest’s Kirsten Winkler offers her analysis of “what went wrong” and why the language learning site Livemocha shutdown.
“Could the Language Barrier Actually Fall Within the Next 10 Years?” asks The New Republic. Well, I suppose technological imperialism could bring about the end to most languages other than English, but I don’t think that’s what “technology expert” Alec Ross is talking about when he makes his sweeping promises about technology and language learning.
Via NPR: “10 Seconds At A Time, A Teacher Tries Snapchat To Engage Students.”
The “4 Ed-Tech Ideas Face The Chronicle’s Version of ‘Shark Tank’” includes a way to more easily hire adjunct instructors.
From the British Library: “Utilising geolocation services and push notifications, Poetic Places can let you know when you stumble across a place depicted in verse. Alternatively, you can browse the poems and places as a source of inspiration without travelling to them.”
Finalists for 2015 EWA Awards for Education Reporting and Eddie Prize Announced. A shout-out to finalist (and my local NPR station) KPCC for its work on the LAUSD iPad fiasco.
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
From the press release: “Indianapolis-based Lesson.ly, which develops learning automation software, has raised $5 million in Series A funding. OpenView led the round, which included participation from High Alpha Capital and Allos Ventures.” Lesson.ly has raised $6.1 million total.
BridgeEDU has raised $3.25 million in seed funding from the Lumina Foundation and others for its first-year-of-college transition program.
Flashcard app-maker Memorang has raised $500,000 in seed funding from Michael Kane, Tom Palecek, Glen Friedman, and others.
From the press release: “China Distance Education Holdings Limited announced that it signed a definitive agreement on March 23, 2016 to acquire an 80% equity interest in Xiamen NetinNet Software Co., Ltd. for a total consideration of RMB212 million (US$32.6 million). Xiamen NetinNet is a leading learning simulation software provider specializing in practical accounting-related learning solutions for China’s college market.”
I missed this news back in January but I’m including it here now: Rustici Software (which developed SCORM and the xAPI) was acquired by Learning Technologies Group plc.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
Via NPR: “Software Flags ‘Suicidal’ Students, Presenting Privacy Dilemma.” (Let’s connect this to the study, below, that schools hire more cops than counselors, shall we?)
Speaking of counselors and an algorithmic performance of care, the University of Michigan will now offer algorithmic advising. “The Academic Reporting Toolkit (ART) 2.0 is actually a data visualization program that crunches historic data from 9,273 courses to inform users about the paths followed by students who have taken particular classes. It’s intended to be used not only by students but also by advisors, faculty and administrators,” says Campus Technology.
“Why Are Educators Learning How to Interrogate Their Students?” asks The New Yorker.
Via S. Krashen: “Pearson (Luckin et. al., 2016) has announced that they are developing programs that will monitor students as they participate in group work, showing how well each student is participating (p. 27), using, for example ‘voice recognition (to identify who is doing and saying what in a team activity.’ (p.34). This is designed to make sure students are participating according to the programmers’ ideas of what optimal participation is.” (Those pages cited are from Pearson’s recent report on how it plans to use AI.)
Via the Star Tribune: “Two faculty unions are up in arms over a new rule that would allow Minnesota’s state colleges and universities to inspect employee-owned cellphones and mobile devices if they’re used for work. The unions say the rule, which is set to take effect on Friday, would violate the privacy of thousands of faculty members, many of whom use their own cellphones and computers to do their jobs.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “About 6 percent of students who took an online final exam proctored by Examity last fall broke the rules. … Most of the attempts to cheat came in the form of a cheat sheet (21 percent) or using Google to look up answers or translations (14 percent).”
The privacy news site PogoWasRight.org has filed an FTC complaint against uKnowKids, a business that claims to monitor children online.
“Should schools ask students about their sexual orientation to protect LGBT rights?” asks The Washington Post. Will collecting this data help research? Will it make schools less discriminatory? And/or will the collection of this data put LGBT youth at risk?
Education Week reports on “The Quantified Baby.”
Via Education Dive: “Projections: 4 years to widespread wearable tech in K–12.” Imagine the surveillance possibilities!
From Common Sense Media: “Information Security Primer for Evaluating Educational Software.”
Data and “Research”
From the NSF: “Doctorate Recipients from US Universities.”
Grade inflation continues, which should prompt us to ask questions about the practices of assessment and the meaning of these academic signals. But instead, we’ll just wring our hands about the failing education system and “kids these days” and so on.
“Do employers frown on for-profit colleges and online degrees?” asks The American Economic Association. Yes. Yes they do, although the mistrust is less for those completing vocational programs – good news for the coding bootcamp providers, I guess.
Via Vox: “A new study finds that sexism is rampant in the tech industry, with almost two-thirds of women reporting sexual harassment and nearly 90 percent reporting demeaning comments from male colleagues.”
Via the Pacific Standard: “How to win a science contest.”
Colorlines on a report originally published in The 74: “Study: Nation’s Largest Public Schools Have More Police Than Counselors.”
This week in political bias in education research comes with this headline in the Deseret News: “Can school choice help keep kids out of jail?” The study in question looks at vouchers in Milwaukee and comes from the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform where the author holds the “21st Century Chair in School Choice.”
Via Education Week: “Poll: Parents Take Dim View of Careers in STEM Teaching.”
Via Fusion, reporting on a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health: “Teens are using a secret language on Instagram to talk about self-harm.”
Via Boing Boing: “Landmark study on the effects of copyright takedown abuse on online free expression.”
“Matrix-style” learning continues to garner money and research and, yes, headlines, as Edsurge reports that“DARPA to Explore Nerve Stimulation to Accelerate Learning Processes.”
Via Gizmodo: “Study: People Who Point Out Typos Are Jerks.”
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Is blockchain poised to be “the next big thing” in education?
This has become a question I hear with increasing frequency about a technology that, up until quite recently, was primarily associated with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The subtext to the question, I suppose: do educators need to pay attention to the blockchain? What, if anything, should they know about it?
Admittedly, I haven’t bothered to learn much about blockchain or Bitcoin either, despite the last few years of zealous headlines in various tech publications. I haven’t included either in any of the “Top Ed-Tech Trends” series I’ve written. And frankly, I’m still not convinced there’s a “there” there. But with the news this year that Sony plans to launch a testing platform powered by blockchain, with some current and former Mozilla employees exploring the blockchain and badges, and with a big promotional splash at SXSWedu about blockchain’s potential to help us rethinking learning (as “earning” no less), I realized it was time to do some research (for myself) in the hopes of writing a clear explanation (for others too) 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,” for example.
This is the early result of that research. It’s meant to serve as an introductory guide for those in education who are interested in learning a bit more about the blockchain and its potential applications in ed-tech.
Table of Contents:
The blockchain is often described as digital ledger. And perhaps a very, very simple definition should just leave it at that. It is a ledger, a distributed, digital ledger.
A more wordy definition:
The blockchain is a distributed database that provides an unalterable, (semi-)public record of digital transactions. Each block aggregates a timestamped batch of transactions to be included in the ledger – or rather, in the blockchain. Each block is identified by a cryptographic signature. These blocks are all back-linked; that is, they refer to the signature of the previous block in the chain, and that chain can be traced all the way back to the very first block created. As such, the blockchain contains an un-editable record of all the transactions made.
The blockchain was first defined in the original source code for Bitcoin. While the recent interest in the blockchain often tries to separate it from that, it’s worth looking at this history – the two, together.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency, invented in October 2008 with the publication of “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” a paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto (an alias. The real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor(s?) of Bitcoin remains unknown, despite several well-publicized– and failed– attempts to “out” him). The code was released as open source in January 2009. (The next section of this guide examines the technology of Bitcoin and the blockchain in more detail.)
Thus, the Bitcoin network began in 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto “mined” the first Bitcoins. Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared from the public – that is, from Bitcoin forums, papers, and code contributions – in April 2011. But even in Satoshi Nakamoto’s absence, Bitcoin continued to be developed and marketized, with the community working to address various issues with the code (including, for example, a technical glitch in 2013 that caused a fork in the blockchain).
Bitcoin really took off in 2013, as more websites started accepting the currency, as investors started funding more Bitcoin-related startups (more on investment in a section below), and as the price surged, hitting a record high of $1108 per Bitcoin in November of that year. But as its popularity grew, Bitcoin also faced scrutiny from law enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security shut down the Bitcoin exchange (formerly a Magic the Gathering exchange) Mt. Gox in 2013, which was at the time handling almost 70% of Bitcoin transactions. Mt. Gox declared bankruptcy the following year, amidst reports that some 744,000 bitcoins had been stolen from the site.
(Some of this history might seem a bit extraneous to a discussion about the blockchain in education, but I’d argue that it’s all important to consider when we think about the security, the infallibility, and most importantly ideology of blockchain – the latter the topic of a subsequent article in this research project.)
Other cryptocurrencies have been developed based on the Bitcoin technology – Litecoin and Dogecoin, for example – although their volatility has made some investors and pundits wary. That volatility – in the code and in the community– has in recent months led many well-known Bitcoin developers to call it a failure. In a widely-circulated blog post published in January of this year, Mike Hearn wrote that “In the span of only about eight months, Bitcoin has gone from being a transparent and open community to one that is dominated by rampant censorship and attacks on bitcoiners by other bitcoiners.” In its coverage of the fallout, The New York Times cautions that “The current dispute, though, is a reminder that the Bitcoin software – like all computer code – is an evolving product of the human mind, and its deployment is vulnerable to human frailties and divergent ideals.”
As interest (and arguably and, yes, ironically, trust) in Bitcoin has waned, the reverse seems to be true about the blockchain, the technological underpinning of the cryptocurrency, which in the last year or so has received interest from banks, businesses, and governmental organizations alike.
Let’s expand on the very, very simple definition of blockchain at the beginning of this article: the blockchain is distributed, digital ledger.
One of the key features of the blockchain is that it is a distributed database; that is to say, the database exists in multiple copies across multiple computers. These computers form a peer-to-peer network, meaning that there is no single, centralized database or server, but rather the blockchain database exists across a decentralized network of machines, each acting as a node on that network.
Transactions on the blockchain are signed digitally, using public key cryptography. (And now a brief description of that technology: public key cryptography uses two keys, which makes it harder to crack. There is a public and private key – related mathematically but because of the complexity of that math, nearly impossible (or at least computationally infeasible) to guess. The public key can be used to sign and encrypt a message that’s being sent; the recipient – and only the designated recipient – can decrypt that transaction with their private key. (Here’s my public key, by the way.) In addition to encrypting messages, public key cryptography can be used to authenticate an identity as well as to verify that the message – or in the case of a transaction on the blockchain – has not been altered.)
Because of the distributed nature of the blockchain database, data about all new transactions must be propagated to all nodes on the network so that the blockchain stays in sync as one “world wide ledger,” and not as many conflicting ledgers. That means that in order to update the blockchain, these multiple, distributed copies of it must be reconciled so that they all contain the same version. This happens in the blockchain via a consensus process: the majority of the nodes in the system must concur. (Note: there are other synchronization methods for distributed databases.) This consensus process is one of the key innovations of the blockchain: it is “emergent,” rather than happening at a scheduled time or interval as each new transaction and block is verified computationally.
Each block of the blockchain is made up of a list of transactions. Each block also contains a block header. That header, in turn, contains (at least) three sets of metadata: 1) structured data about the transactions in the block; 2) the timestamp and data about the proof-of-work algorithm (this is how new blocks are mined and verified – more on this in a minute); 3) a reference to the parent block – that is, the previous block – via a “hash” (in order words, a cryptographic algorithm). This creates the “chain” part of the blockchain. Each block in the blockchain can be identified by a hash of its header.
New blocks are created by a process called “mining,” which validates new transactions and adds them to the chain. In Bitcoin, a new block is mined every 10 minutes (that rate is different for different cryptocurrencies’ blockchains). The miner (the machine) that mines the new block is rewarded financially – in the case of Bitcoin, the miner receives Bitcoin (currently 25 per block, but that figure will halve later this year), as well as a cut of the transaction fees for all transactions on the block.
To mine new blocks, miners on the network compete to solve a unique, difficult math puzzle. As noted above, the “proof of work” of that solution is included in the block header which allows the block to be verified. Solving this math problem is nontrivial. Since Bitcoin’s creation, the difficulty of this problem has increased exponentially, as has in turn the computational power needed to solve it. Blockchain.info estimates that Bitcoin miners are now trying 450 thousand trillion solutions per second to solve these puzzles. As such, in 2015, O’Reilly Media estimated that it takes about $600 million a year to maintain the mining infrastructure of the Bitcoin system.
One of the benefits of the increasing complexity of the “proof of work” algorithm is that Bitcoin (purportedly at least) becomes ever more secure. But now, it is impossible to mine Bitcoin on a personal home computer; most mining operations are that, operations – vast farms of pooled computing resources. (I wrote “purportedly” in that last sentence because of fears that these mining pools make Bitcoin susceptible to a “51% attack,” whereby an entity that has majority control could alter the blockchain.)
While cryptocurrency might be virtual, all this mining and computational puzzle-solving obviously takes an enormous amount of energy. According to one Motherboard estimate, “each Bitcoin transaction uses roughly enough electricity to power 1.57 American households for a day.” Bitcoin currently handles about 360,000 transactions per day. You do the math.
For the last few years, blockchain and Bitcoin have been hailed as “the next big thing,” and there have been plenty of predictions about a coming boom in funding for the sector. The Bitcoin news site CoinDesk has compiled a database of investments in Bitcoin- and blockchain-related startups, and from that (in mid 2015) it created a list of the ten most influential venture capital firms in the industry.
Although many of those on CoinDesk’s list are VC firms that are interested primarily in the financial sector and in financial technologies, there are some familiar names among them, including some of the most high profile Silicon Valley investors. Those who also have substantial investments in education technology include Union Square Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.
The latter has invested $227 million in Coinbase and 21 Inc, which according to CoinDesk, “more than $1 in $4 so far invested in the industry.” It’s hardly a surprise then that Marc Andreessen has become one of the most vocal proponents of Bitcoin, calling it in a New York Times op-ed in 2014, one of the most important technologies since the advent of the Internet.
(Of course, Andreessen also once called the now-defunct Kno “the most powerful tablet anyone has ever made.” So grain of salt and such.)
Although many of the proponents of the blockchain contend that it can be separated from Bitcoin – that is, it can be utilized for something other than an alternative currency – Andreessen has argued that the two are inextricable: “a distributed ledger naturally both creates and requires a corresponding currency.”
And while much of the most recent excitement about the blockchain’s potential relevance to education does not involve Bitcoin, there has been (at least) one example of an education-oriented cryptocurrency: EduCoin. Initially inspired by a college student at a football game holding a “Hi Mom. Send Bitcoin” sign, EduCoin sought to become a new way to finance one’s education. In 2014, EduCoin described itself this way: “We need a digital currency that can help students, educators, and third parties make secure transactions without fees, rates, or long approval times. EduCoin aims to be the worldwide standard for student transactions in the learning economy.” (Several years later, this project appears to no longer be maintained or active.)
As noted above, as the popularity of Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies has waned (arguably at least), interest in the blockchain has remained if not grown. Blockchain-related startups now focus on things like identity management and “smart contracts.” The next section will look at some of the possible applications of the blockchain in education in more detail, but clearly these two elements – identity and contracts, particularly in the form of transcripts and assessments – have particular relevance in education. To see the breadth (or lack thereof) in the types of startups offering blockchain-related products and services, you can view a sample of 200+ of them via the funding website AngelList. Elsewhere, fintech investor Collin Thompson has posted his list of “The Top 10 Blockchain Startups to Watch in 2016” on LinkedIn.
One of the names that comes up with increasingly frequency here is Ethereum, developed by a Swiss non-profit the Ethereum Foundation. (Its founder, Vitalik Buterin, dropped out of Waterloo University and received a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship for his work on the project.) Ethereum isn’t a startup per se, although it’s clearly what tech industry folks would call a “platform move”: it’s building a blockchain – an alternate blockchain, to be clear, that isn’t connected to Bitcoin – for others to build their own startups upon in turn.
Ethereum describes itself as moving beyond a “world ledger” – it’s a “world computer,” a “perfect machine.”
Ethereum was first proposed by Buterin in 2013, and the second version of the Ethereum platform, called Homestead, was released earlier this year. (Here is a more complete history of Ethereum via the Ethereum Foundation’s blog.) The organization now boasts the fifth largest crowdfunding campaign ever, having raised over $18 million for the project in 2014 by the sale of “ether,” Ethereum’s currency.
Ethereum seems to be the platform upon which many big companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, are starting to experiment with the blockchain.
And it’s probably worth noting that, to date, it’s been a big company rather than a little startup that’s made the first overtures towards blockchain-in-education. The company in question: Sony, which announced in February that it plans to develop a blockchain-based platform for assessment. Sony’s press release doesn’t give much indication of what this will look like – if it plans to use Ethereum, for example, or build its own blockchain.
To clarify the heading of this section: when we consider who is “investing” in the blockchain in education we should look at venture capital funding, technological contributions, product adoption, and, of course, marketing.
And to be clear, most of what we’re hearing right now about the blockchain and education is precisely that: marketing. There are only a very, very few organizations currently utilizing the blockchain for educational purposes, although many claim they’re actively exploring the possibility.
The blockchain had a big marketing splash at SXSWedu this spring, for example, thanks to two think tanks, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and the ACT Foundation. They presented the idea of “the Ledger” as a new technology that could tie learning to earning. Onsite in Austin, the promotion of the “Learning is Earning” initiative was framed as a “think like a futurist” game and intertwined with a keynote delivered by well-known game designer and writer Jane McGonigal, who is a research affiliate at the Palo Alto-based IFTF.
Welcome to the year 2026, where learning is earning. Your ledger account tracks everything you’ve ever learned in units called Edublocks. Each Edublock represents one hour of learning in a particular subject. But you can also earn them from individuals or informal groups, like a community center or an app. Anyone can grant Edublocks to anyone else. You can earn Edublocks from a formal institution, like a school or your workplace. The Ledger makes it possible for you to get credit for learning that happens anywhere, even when you’re just doing the things you love. Your profile displays all the Edublocks you’ve earned. Employers can use this information to offer you a job or a gig that matches your skills. We’ll keep track of all of the income your skills generate, and use that data to provide feedback on your courses. When choosing a subject to study in the future, you may wish to choose the subject whose students are earning the most income. You can also use the Ledger to find investors in your education. Since the ledger is already tracking income earned from each Edublock, you can offer investors a percentage of your future income in exchange for free learning hours. Our smart contracts make these agreements easy to manage and administer. The Ledger is built on blockchain, the same technology that powers bitcoin and other digital currencies. That means every Edublock that has ever been earned is a permanent part of the growing public record of our collective learning and working.
There’s a lot to unpack ideologically in this vision of the future of education and work (and as I noted above, I’m going to look more closely at the ideology of the blockchain in a follow-up article to this guide). But the video hits on many of the key themes that are echoed across various other education-related blockchain discussions – that is to say, the blockchain could be utilized to better manage assessments, credentials, and transcripts. (See, for example OTLW or BadgeChain.)
These claims dovetail quite neatly with those made more broadly about the future of the blockchain – that it will be utilized for identity management and for “smart contracts.” They also dovetail quite neatly with areas in education that are already backed by funding and by policy (by money and politics). (From my list of last year’s “Top Ed-Tech Trends,” for example: “Standardized Testing” and “Credits and Credentialing” and, to borrow a phrase from George Siemens, “The Employability Narrative.”)
For their own part, a handful of schools have also started to experiment with the blockchain, primarily in creating cryptographically-signed, verifiable certificates. These include MIT (the Media Lab, specifically), the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, and the (unaccredited) Holberton School, an alternative, teacher-less software engineering school in San Francisco.
(It’s probably worth noting here too that at the height of the Bitcoin frenzy, several universities, including the University of Nicosia, The King’s College in New York, and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, also announced that they would accept the cryptocurrency for tuition payments.)
(You can find links to more articles on education and blockchain here.)
Let’s be honest: blockchain-related projects in education are still very much in their experimental stages. Nevertheless, the blockchain itself is incredibly overhyped, with fairly wild claims about “revolution” and a radical decentralization of key institutions – in the case of education, of universities as well as their accrediting bodies, for example. If you believe the spin, all functions – economic, civic, scientific – will soon be blockchained.
Late last year, Gideon Greenspan, the CEO of a blockchain platform Coin Sciences, offered a list of eight conditions that should be met in order to avoid “pointless blockchain projects.” These include needing a database, having multiple people writing to that database, having some interactions between transactions, operating with an absence of trust, and not needing a trusted intermediary. Riffing on that article, BadgeChain team member Doug Belshaw recently wrote a follow-up about “Avoiding pointless (Open Badges-related) blockchain projects,” in which he used Greenspan’s list to argue that, indeed, Open Badges meets all the Coin Sciences’ requirements to move forward with the blockchain.
And maybe it does.
Or maybe we are layering one technology (and its correspondent ideology) onto another technology (and its correspondent ideology) and expecting (or hoping) institutions be disrupted. There are many underlying assumptions that are made about institutions and their practices when we talk about using the blockchain, and I think scrutinizing these assumptions, not simply checking off a list written by a blockchain company, is fundamental as we consider the applicability of the blockchain to education.
With that in mind, here are a handful of the concerns I have about the blockchain in education – some of these are technical, but most of them are not:
Is learning transactional?: The blockchain is a ledger, and we most often think of ledgers as containing financial transactions. As the blockchain moves beyond financial technology to other sectors, it’s still used to record transactions of some sort. What are those transactions in education? Completing an assignment or a course? Publishing a blog post or a book? Chatting, favoriting, retweeting, liking? What is gained and what is lost as we increasingly record (and assess) these transactions or activities? (See Amy Collier on “Not-yetness and learnification.”)
Who is trusted and mistrusted in education?: “The spread of blockchains is bad for anyone in the ‘trust business’ – the centralised institutions and bureaucracies, such as banks, clearing houses and government authorities that are deemed sufficiently trustworthy to handle transactions,” The Economist argued back in 2015. A “decentralized trust” would, proponents argue, then serve as a challenge to the centralized authority that, say, accrediting and accredited bodies have in issuing degrees. But this strikes me as a very shallow analysis of how trust and prestige operates in educational signals like degrees.
Furthermore, discussions about “trust” and the blockchain in education often frame students (and/as potential employees) as being untrustworthy – as lying about their degrees or their skills. (And a lot of ed-tech certainly views students as cheaters.) The blockchain would purportedly verify those credentials. But it’s worth asking too if institutions are trustworthy. Which students, which institutions are and are not trusted? Why? By whom? 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?
The blockchain is based on a computational sort of trust, we’re told – but why trust “code” and not, say, democracy?
Is education (teachers, students, schools) prepared to handle the complexity of the blockchain?: It’s 2016 and “123456” remains the most popular password. Is education ready for public key cryptography? Can it afford the necessary computational power to run blockchain nodes? Can it handle the complexity of working with blockchain technology? Can individuals? Does any of this improve upon existing practices? If so, how? I’d note here that this is one of the rhetorical sleights-of-hand of the word “decentralization” in technology circles: knowledge and wealth continues to be concentrated in the hands of the technological elite.
What is the incentive to mine in an education-related blockchain project?: As I explained in the technology section of this guide, mining is the process in which new blocks in the blockchain are created and validated. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin award coin to those who solve the necessary cryptographic puzzle to create a new block. This is the incentive for throwing the massive amount of computational power at the problem. Will education-related projects follow this model? Will they utilize third-party platforms, like Ethereum, to build their projects? What does it mean to build financial incentives into these new educational models? And what are the implications of relying on third party platforms for what some are arguing is going to be “the future” of identity management and legal paperwork?
What happens to privacy in a “world ledger” of education transactions? Do we really want education records to be unalterable?: When Sony announced its plans for a blockchain-based assessment platform, Sony Global Education President Masaaki Isozu told Education Week that “We want to keep life-long learning records … securely in the cloud forever. While these records are usually held privately, we want to make it possible for students and educators to securely share verified, trustworthy information with others. Trading these records securely would be an all-new service in the education sector.” “This will go down on your permanent record.” We recognize the threat, I’d wager, but we quickly recognize that there are many ways in which it’s an empty one. But the blockchain would create a permanent record where data cannot be changed or removed. This raises all sorts of problems for education, particularly if we view learning as a process of growth and change.
The question of who owns education data remains unresolved – indeed, the US Department of Education says that schools do, although they need to act as good stewards on behalf of students. So would students have control of the privacy of their data on the blockchain? Or would this be something that schools would negotiate access to with their vendors? What happens if the data on the blockchain is wrong? What happens if the data is prejudicial, re-inscribing the prejudices that data collection and school practices already enact?
What happens if a student wants or needs a “fresh start”? (What happens, for example, if they transition or seek gender confirmation surgery? What happens if they have a stalker or need to obscure their identity because of an abuser?) How might we design education technologies (including those that would use the blockchain) so that they protect privacy by design?
How might a demand for transparency about data be a question or power and privilege?
What problems can blockchain solve in education? What problems – technologically, ideologically – might the blockchain's adoption in education create? Even if we understand how blockchain "works," there remain a lot of unanswered questions...
The plan to convert all schools in England to academies could cost some £1.3 billion, the Labour Party contends.
Via the Drinks Business blog: “Italy has drafted a bill that would see children as young as six take lessons in wine at primary school, with one hour a week dedicated to ‘wine culture and history’.”
Reassurance from the Department of Education’s blog (I guess): “No, You Won’t Be Arrested For Falling Behind On Your Student Loans.” And you know the department’s on the cutting edge of technology when one of its announcements this week involves a web portal– this one for student loans.
“Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he will allow a bill aimed at saving charter schools to become law without his signature, an option not exercised by a Washington governor in 35 years,” The Seattle Times reports.
“Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina,” The New York Times reports.
Via Education Week: President Obama has made three new Secretary nominations for the Department of Education: “Matthew Lehrich to be the assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the department; Amy McIntosh to be assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development; and Ann Whalen to be assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.”
Inside Higher Ed reports that “Several civil liberties and academic freedom organizations have sent the U.S. Education Department a letter urging it to avoid decisions or policies that would punish colleges that do not ban Yik Yak.”
With legislation in the state waiting for the governor’s signature, “Virginia Could Be First State to Require All K–12 Students to Learn Computer Science,” says Education Week.
Idaho Governor Butch Otter has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the Bible and other religious texts to be used in public school classrooms.
Via Politico: “ Hillary Clinton’s union problem.”
Education in the Courts
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Department of Homeland Security has arrested 21 people who it says conspired with more than 1,000 foreign nationals to fraudulently obtain foreign worker and student visas through the University of Northern New Jersey, a fake institution.” What does a fake university look like? Like this: “Inside the Elaborate Web Presence of the Government’s Fake University.”
Via The Washington Post: “Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has filed a lawsuit against ITT Educational Services, one of the largest operators of for-profit technical schools, for engaging in abusive sales tactics and misleading students about the quality of its programs.”
Via Buzzfeed: “Parents Will Sue America’s Largest School District Over Classroom Violence.” A pro-charter school org is behind the suit: “Backing the lawsuit is one of the most powerful forces in New York politics: Families for Excellent Schools, an advocacy group that spent $10 million on state lobbying in 2014, more than any other lobby group.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “A U.S. district court judge has once again taken a look at three publishers’ case against Georgia State University’s e-reserve and ruled that, in 41 of 48 cases, no copyright infringement took place.”
“The central figure in a discredited Rolling Stone account of a gang-rape at the University of Virginia has been ordered to take part in a deposition for a federal libel lawsuit filed against the magazine by an associate dean at the school, the first time she’ll give a sworn statement about her allegations,” says The Washington Post.
“Parents are suing a Utah school district, claiming their daughter suffered a severe leg injury during an alcohol impairment simulation exercise that involved wearing special goggles,” The Associated Press reports.
Standardized testing is on hold in more than a dozen states. Because Internet.
According to the AP, “The state’s top education official says a computer glitch erased answers on about 14,220 standardized tests taken by Texas high school students.”
Via Chalkbeat New York: “Missing and unlabeled pages on state English exams cause confusion.”
Elsewhere in New York testing news: “A year after record refusals, new round of NY testing begins.”
This week in robots taking the jobs of those (often low-paid, temporary) workers hired to grade standardized tests, via Politico: “PARCC has made more readily available a study on what happens when computers score student essays. The verdict? ‘The performance of the automated engines matched that of the human scorers based on a variety of different performance metrics.’ It said that only in grade three did the automated systems perform ‘slightly’ below the humans. Some PARCC states will begin using the computer-based scoring to judge essays this year, a spokesman for the testing group said.”
The College Board changed the American History AP course/exam in 2014 and The New York Times is on it.
The New York Times also published a story on changes to the Common Core testing market this week: “Rejected by Colleges, SAT and ACT Gain High School Acceptance.”
“Will controversial new tests for teachers make the profession even more overwhelmingly white?” asks The Hechinger Report.
“Newly Launched Assessment Program Aims to Recast Testing,” Education Week reports. One of the schools winning a grant for “innovative testing” is the Summit Public Schools charter chain.
Online Education (The Trend Formerly Known as “MOOC”)
Via htxt.africa: “City of Joburg wants to give 25 000 residents free access to online learning by June.” (That’s Johannesburg, South Africa, which is investing heavily in free WiFi at public libraries.)
Meanwhile on Campus
Welp, looks like George Mason University will not go with “ASSoL” as the acronym for its newly renamed (in honor of the late Antonin Scalia) law school.
Via the CBC: “Brandon University sexual assault victims forced to sign contract that keeps them silent.”
Via the Huffington Post: “Video Shows Texas Cop Body Slam Middle School Girl.”
Dev Bootcamp, a coding school owned by the for-profit university Kaplan, will open a new program in Seattle.
Students are occupying a building at Duke. They’re demanding the dismissal of several university administrators, including one who struck a parking attendant with his car and using a racial slur. Tallman Trask says he’s sorry for the former and never said the latter. More via Inside Higher Ed.
“A group of students at Ohio State University began a sit-in on Wednesday in the campus building that houses the president’s office, in pursuit of goals that involve the university’s budget, its investments, and the food served on the campus,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Despite student protests, Princeton says it will keep Woodrow Wilson’s name on its public affairs school.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, on Thursday issued a statement criticizing Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina, for sending a memo to campus chancellors telling them to enforce a new state law that requires public institutions to label any multiple-person bathroom or locker room as being for either men or women and to bar entry to those whose biological gender at birth does not match the room.”
Also protesting Spellings, HBCU students – those at NC Central, in particular.
The Casper Star Tribune reports that “The University of Wyoming Faculty Senate on Monday voted against a controversial measure to create a new professor track. That would be based on real-world experience rather than academic or teaching credentials.”
“While federal DREAM Act stalls, some public universities already welcome the undocumented,” The Hechinger Report reports. “But dramatic differences among states also block some immigrants from higher educations.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Wesleyan U professor’s lawsuit alleges sexual harassment by a dean and a campaign of retaliation for reporting him.”
“Top students at the University of the People, a tuition-free online institution, will be eligible to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley to finish their bachelor’s degrees,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “The two universities on Monday announced an articulation agreement under which UC Berkeley will consider UoPeople’s top associate degree graduates for admission.”
“Growing number of small colleges struggling to stay afloat,” says the AP.
Elsewhere in exclusive schools grabbing all the headlines: “Health Scare at Malibu School Sets Off Media War,” says The New York Times.
Accreditation and Credentialing
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Obama administration is proposing new standards that govern how and when college accreditors have to alert the U.S. Department of Education about troubled institutions under the accreditors’ purview.”
Doug Belshaw writes up his “Notes on ACE’s ‘Quality Dimensions for Connected Credentials’.” Here’s a link to the original report via the Lumina Foundation website. “What is a ‘credential’ anyway?” Belshaw asks.
Via Campus Technology: “A Digital Badge Initiative: Two Years Later.”
Go, School Sports Team!
Via Vice Sports: “Four Years A Student-Athlete: The Racial Injustice of Big-Time College Sports.”
“Cheating Incidents Blemish NCAA’s Marquee Event,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III Committee on Infractions last month placed Kalamazoo College on three years’ probation for violating rules that prohibit the division's members from awarding financial aid based on athletic ability. For five years, the college considered athletic participation as a factor when determining aid for prospective students, meaning that 567 students received aid packages based on their athletic skill.”
Via the AP: “A YMCA in northeast Nebraska has cited concussion and other health risks in announcing that it will drop its tackle football program for children in third through sixth grades.”
From the HR Department
The University of Phoenix is laying off 470 employees, about 8% of its workforce. (Remember: as the university’s parent company is going private, we’ll no longer be able to see financial information like this about it.)
Lots of sponsoredcontent over at Edsurge that will “help you become a successful teacherpreneur.” No mention of the layoffs happening across venture-backed startups or in for-profit endeavors like UofP. It's always sunny in Teacherpreneur Valley.
Via The LA Times: “Cal State faculty union postpones planned strike after tentative salary agreement is reached.”
“Unionizing Pays Big Dividend for Professors at Regional Public Universities,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Faculty Senate at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has been largely thwarted in its effort to restore at the campus level many of the faculty powers and job protections that were stripped out of the university system's policies last month.”
Via The Washington Post: “Teachers union touts victory in evaluation fight.” That’s the DC teachers’ union, and the dispute in question involved using students’ test scores as part of teachers’ evaluations. In this case, an arbitrator has ruled that teacher who filed a grievance claiming he was wrongly fired because of this system must be re-hired by the district.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “This week two Ivy League institutions announced high-profile appointments designed to tackle diversity challenges on their campuses. At Yale University, Kathryn Lofton will become the inaugural deputy dean for diversity and faculty development in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At Princeton University, LaTanya N. Buck will become dean for diversity and inclusion, with a focus on students.” A notable statistic hiring and retention of professors of color at Yale: “Of 86 professors hired from underrepresented groups between 2006 and 2011, half are no longer there.”
Jon Waters, the former director of the Ohio State marching band who was fired because of his tolerance of “routine sexual harassment” among band members has a new job at a private college, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Upgrades and Downgrades
The AP will change its stylebook and permit lowercase i for Internet and lowercase w for Web. But I don’t use the AP Stylebook here at Hack Education and the capital letter will stay. So there.
MinecraftEDU has released its latest – and its last – update, version 1.7.10. “It is critically important that customers using the MinecraftEdu Hosting Service install this new version on their computers and update their servers immediately. Older versions of MinecraftEdu will no longer be able to connect and play after 30 June 2016.” MinecraftEDU was acquired by Microsoft back in January.
Via Education Week: “The Education Industry Association, which struggled to keep membership after a downturn in federal funding for tutoring, is joining a division of the Software & Information Industry Association, or ETIN, effective immediately, under an agreement announced today.”
“Dear Teachers: You talked, We listened,” says Edmodo, which announced it’s changing how it categorizes and displays resources found in the app.
Bookmarking site Diigo says it plans to refocus on annotation. (No mention of any of the concerns that have been in the news lately about Hypothes.is and Genius and concerns about annotation as harassment.)
According to Edsurge, the writing and annotation tool scrible will start charging money, having been free for the three years of the startup’s existence. (And ditto here for the last sentence in the previous news item.)
Your periodic reminder to never ever trust Google products. “Nest is permanently disabling the Revolv smart home hub,” The Verge reports. Google, which owns both, will shut down the latter’s product on May 15. Boing Boing has a good headline: “Google reaches into customers’ homes and bricks their gadgets.” Now imagine when it does that for your schools’ Chromebooks.
According to Edsurge, “Kira Talent, makers of the higher education video admissions platform Kira Academic, has launched Kira University, a suite of online courses that aims to train university admission officials in spotting the best students and boosting both applications and enrollment.” (Kira University should not be confused with the University of Northern New Jersey. Maybe.)
Congratulations to the 2016–2017 Spencer Education Journalism Fellows.
The Business of Ed-Tech
I won’t include this in my calculations of ed-tech investment, but as many folks are using this software for educational purposes, I’ll make note of this here: “Slack, a Leading Unicorn, Raises $200 Million in New Financing.” Investors in this round include Thrive Capital, GGV, Comcast Ventures, Accel Partners, and Spark Growth. The communication/collaboration platform has raised $539.95 million total.
Claned has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding. Here’s how the company is described by Arctic Startup: “The Helsinki-based startup is solving the riddle one-size-fits-all approach in learning as it is developing a personal learning platform. Empowered by artificial intelligence, the platform will show each user’s study performance and learning orientation, and help individual to discover a personal way of learning for maximizing results.” It’s raised $9.02 million total and hasn’t even launched yet. The list of investors for this and previous funding rounds are not disclosed. Sounds totally legit.
Schoold has raised a $4.5 million seed round from FastForward and Lorne Abony. According to Wikiepdia, Abony is the founder of Schoold (a college search app) as well as Vemo Education, a private student loan company. He was also once on the reality TV show Undercover Boss, for those keeping score at home. I dunno folks, $4.5 million is a big seed round for a pretty basic search app, so maybe this is some Undercover Investor gag for ed-tech.
Always Be Learning Inc. (a.k.a. Abl Schools) has raised $4.5 million from Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, and First Round Capital. The startup, founded by Yammer co-founder Adam Pisoni, focuses on administrative software for schools.
Sawyer has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Notation Capital, Collaborative Fund, and VC1 in order to be “the OpenTable of kids’ activities.”
Robotics education company SP Robotic Works has raised $300,000 in seed funding from the Indian Angel Network and the Chennai Angels.
Macmillan Learning has acquired WriterKEY.
Frontline Technologies has acquired The Centris Group.
Follett has acquired Wobo.
This is news from the tech sector more broadly, but it’s still worth noting: “for only the fourth time since data the early 90s, there have been no tech company I.P.O.s in a quarter.”
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
Via L’Obs: “Admission post-bac: des lycéens veulent connaître l’algorithme mystère.” That is, high school students in France want to know what powers the algorithm that’s used to dictate their post-baccalaureate education options.
Via PBS: “Why digital education could be a double-edged sword.”
According to Education Week, the Consortium for School Networking will offer school systems a “‘Trusted Learning Environment’ Seal, intended to demonstrate to parents and the community at large that they are taking appropriate steps to protect the privacy and security of sensitive student information.”
From the National Association of State Boards of Education: “Policymaking on Education Data Privacy: Lessons Learned.”
“There Are Some Super Shady Things in Oculus Rift’s Terms of Service,” says Gizmodo.
Elsewhere in shady Terms of Service: Character Lab, software out of Angela Duckworth’s lab that can be used to assess “grit.”
Via Education Week: “A coalition of groups, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the FBI on Tuesday to dismantle its ‘Don’t Be a Puppet’ website, which the agency created to educate youth about violent extremism but has been criticized as targeting American Muslims and encouraging the policing of thoughts in schools.”
Data and “Research”
“Taking High School Courses In College Costs Students And Families Nearly $1.5 Billion,” reports NPR’s Anya Kamenetz.
In other research-related news about remediation, “Two studies show successful pass rates from Tennessee’s first full semester of putting all developmental students in college-level courses,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
“Nearly Half of Students Are Open to Free-Speech Restrictions on Campuses, Survey Finds,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Via The New York Times: “Students Say Free Speech Is Alive, With One Big Exception.”
Via NPR’s Anya Kamanetz: “Research Finds Poor Outcomes For Students Who Retake Courses Online.”
The research of now-discredited UCLA grad student Michael LaCour is back in the news. That’s because the two grad students from Berkeley who “sank a bogus canvassing study have replicated some of its findings,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. LaCour’s paper said that short conversations with door-to-door canvassers could change people’s minds on gay marriage.
Research from Seton Hall’s Robert Kelchen: “When States Tie Money to Colleges’ Performance, Low-Income Students May Suffer.”
Via The Wall Street Journal: “More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments.”
Via The Hechinger Report: “The system for funding American flagship public universities is ‘gradually breaking down,’ said Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-chair of a two-year project to examine the role of public research universities and recommend changes to help them stay competitive.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “American universities awarded 54,070 research doctorates in 2014, the highest total in the 58 years that the National Science Foundation has sponsored the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a new edition of which was released Friday.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “A memo from Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic finds that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had the authority to protect veterans from institutions that use deceptive recruiting practices by denying GI Bill funds to those colleges. But the VA and other state approving agencies have failed to do so.”
Via Mindshift: “Depression in the Home Can Significantly Impact Kids’ Grades.”
Via Education Week: “U.S. Adults Perform Below Global Peers in Tech, Numeracy, Study Finds.” That study is by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
Via Education Dive: “Despite lack of scientific evidence, Ban Wi-Fi movement persists.”
Survey by educational game maker finds half of educators use games in the classroom.
Survey from school networking organization finds that school networking is a top priority for school leaders.
Survey by security camera maker finds more than half of adults want security cameras in schools.
Survey by digital content provider finds that 80% of schools use digital content.
Survey by digital education content farm finds school districts are “going digital.”
Students use “cheat sheets,” according to “research” from an online proctoring company.
“EduStar Platform Promises Quick, Randomized Ed-Tech Trials,” says Education Week.
“Is Addiction a Learning Disorder?” asks Dana Goldstein in her review of a book by Maia Szalavitz, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.
A report from the GAO on libraries’ access to those with disabilities finds that “Additional Steps Needed to Ease Access to Services and Modernize Technology.”
Via Gawker: “More Than One Medical Student At UVA Believes Black People Don’t Feel Pain.”
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Kin and I spent Friday and Saturday at Davidson College at a “Indie Ed-Tech Data Summit.” I have a ton of thoughts about content, community, process, definitions, outcomes, funding that I thought I’d quickly write down while it’s all fresh in my mind. (Heh. This is already 2000+ words.) Several of these issues are worth writing up in more detail – and I probably will. Eventually.
The Keynote: More Liner Notes
There were several major points that I hope my talk made: 1) “open” scholarship matters for knowledge-building (I hope that those of us working in Indie Ed-Tech model this by posting our thoughts on our blogs). 2) students should be given to the technological tools to participate in open scholarship and knowledge-building – that is, at the very least, students should own their own domains. 3) controlling your own scholarship – content, IP, data, metadata, privacy levels, security, identity formation and performance, community participation – is crucial. 4) ed-tech industry interests want to shape and control all of these, and that’s a dangerous (or at least very very dull) proposition. We can build something different.
Since Jim Groom coined the term “edu-punk” – co-opted almost as quickly as British punk rock was – musical references have been key metaphors in talking about alternatives to “mainstream” and “corporate” education technology. I tried to extend the metaphor in this keynote, building off a talk that Jim and Adam Croom gave at Stanford last fall, referencing in particular the algorithmic promises made by the music industry. How do you identify the perfect hit song? How do you make the perfectly personalized playlist? The push for the latter – “personalization” – is clearly evident in ed-tech. What will be the results of an algorithmic “personalization”? What will the future of education look like (or to use the music metaphor, “sound” like)?
Speaking of sound, when I set about writing a talk to deliver “live,” I think quite differently about the rhetorical moves I’m going to make than I do when I’m writing something that others will simply read on their own. Arguments in keynotes and public lectures aren’t quite the same – or needn’t be quite the same – as arguments in essays. (Some of this has to do with the performance element; some of this has to do – ugh – with having slides.) The challenge then is when I do publish the transcript of a talk, and it becomes an essay. There are expectations from readers about what an argument in an essay is supposed to do, what it’s supposed to contain, what “proof” looks like (or to use the music metaphor, “sounds” like).
And perhaps that’s why so many men have reached out in the last day or so to explain algorithms to me. I just didn’t give math enough due in my talk apparently. Bonus points for the email that started with “maybe you don’t get how algorithms work…”
The Design Sprint
This was the third or fourth (or more?) time that I’ve attended a hackathon-of-sorts around the issues of Indie Ed-Tech, and this one benefited greatly from the “design sprint” process led by Known’s Erin Richey and Ben Werdmüller. In the past, these events have spent a lot of time talking about the tools and initiatives that we all were building, and I did miss hearing about what other schools were up to – I’m particularly interested in the Personal API work that’s happening at BYU and at the Domain of One’s Own initiatives that are spreading across campuses. But in some way, it was smart to skip that part and to work instead on ideas and possible projects that emerged from the activities Erin and Ben led us through.
I was in a small group with Adam and with Alan Levine who’ve both already blogged about what we did, how we struggled, what we pitched: Alan’s take and Adam’s take. I believe our idea – a Quora, of sorts, for first generation college students – is a pretty good one and fairly do-able at that. As both Alan and Adam write, our group spent a lot of time talking about the importance of mentoring relationships to students, and we spun our wheels a lot because we refused to technologize that. (Note: it probably really sucks to be stuck with me in your design sprint. Apologies, group.)
For me, one of the most important features of the ed-tech thingy we sketched out was that it was not designed for those who Tressie McMillan Cottom calls “roaming autodidacts.” Nor was it designed to predict and mold the non-autodidact into some algorithmically preferable (and more profitable) version of “college student.”
What Is Indie Ed-Tech?
It’s easier for me to list what Indie Ed-Tech is against, what it is not, what it most certainly aspires to never ever be. (This, of course, brings up the charge that, as a critic, I’m only interesting in tearing things down, not interested in building. That’s silly, simplistic bullshit, but I’m used to the accusation by now.)
Ed-tech need not be exploitative. Ed-tech need not be extractive. Ed-tech need not be punitive. Ed-tech need not be surveillance. Ed-tech need not assume that the student is a cheat. Ed-tech need not assume that the student has a deficit. Ed-tech need not assume that learning can be measured or managed. Ed-tech need not scale.
I know that as whatever this Indie Ed-Tech thing moves forward that there will be attempts to define what it is and not just what it is not. (No doubt, many of the things that Tim Klapdor lists in his write-up from the weekend are fundamental – infrastructure plus scholarship, agency, and autonomy.)
But for me at least, I’m okay with leaving things a little open-ended, emergent, messy, and undefined – or at the very least, not so circumscribed it’s quickly or easily co-opted and sold right back to us as the latest ed-tech upgrade or Gates Foundation-funded effort.
What Is a Personal API?
After I gave my keynote on Friday afternoon, Kin led a workshop on APIs. (GitHub repo. Click on the link. Seriously. Kin’s work is amazing, and I never ceased to be impressed with how comfortable he makes non-technical people feel about working through highly technical concepts.)
Like Indie Ed-Tech, the shape/design/meaning of “Personal API” remained largely undefined this weekend. Rightly so, perhaps. There’s certainly a tension here between something an institution might provide for students and faculty and something that each of us should want to weave together to suit our own needs. (Note: I said “tension.” These two aren’t necessarily in opposition.)
All attempts to avoid definitions aside, for me, an essential element of Indie Ed-Tech does involve control of one’s “personal cyberinfrastructure.” It’s not simply about controlling one’s domain/data/content as the end-goal; but it is about recognizing how control of these elements is always intertwined with questions/practices of knowledge, identity, and power.
I once made a joke – one that Kin will never let me live down – that APIs reduce everything to a transaction. I’d like to crack open what we mean – technically, philosophically – by “transaction” so that it isn’t simply an invocation of economics. So that its synonym “interaction” isn’t simly “clicking.” Perhaps we can think of Personal API and “reciprocity.” Perhaps “exchange.” Perhaps, as Mark Sample used the word “transaction” to describe a comment I made in my keynote, “social contract.” That raises many questions, in turn, again, about information, social structures, and power.
Funding Indie Ed-Tech
I got word today that a decently-funded startup – it has raised over $7 million in the two-and-a-half years of its existence – has run out of money. While the co-founders will, for the time being, work to “keep the lights on,” it’s fired all its staff – some 30-odd employees.
So let’s dismiss from the outset this notion that, in order for ed-tech to be sustainable, it has to be venture-funded. Indeed, by their very definition, tech startups are not sustainable: they are high risk, and although the return on investment might be high if a company is acquired or has an IPO, neither of those are particularly common occurrences. Most startups fail.
On the final night of the Indie Ed-Tech Data Summit, Known’s Ben Werdmüller led a discussion about funding, one that he admitted was an attempt to make a case for a Silicon Valley investment model for Indie Ed-Tech, one patterned perhaps off of Matter, a media-focused startup incubator program that’s invested in Known. It does sound as though the startups that are backed by Matter work closely with the organizations and companies that are limited partners in the fund. These organizations – as investors – shape the types of products that their investment portfolio develop, partially through the design process that the attendees at the Indie Ed-Tech event went through. What would it look like, Ben asked us to consider, if universities became investors in ed-tech startups? What kinds of products would be built?
Of course, universities do have policies and practices in place for profiting from the technologies that are developed on campus. We most often think about this in terms of work done in science labs. How “Indie” (or “open”) could ed-tech be once the universities’ patent attorneys get involved? I don’t know…
An incomplete list of ed-tech products that started at universities and were later spun out into companies: PLATO, Blackboard, WebCT, TurnItIn, edX, HelioCampus, Degree Compass, Learning Catalytics, Cognitive Tutor (later Carnegie Learning), Udacity, Coursera. Not a stellar track record when it comes to “Indie.” As such, I don’t think the proximity to university staff or students is actually the key in differentiating “good ed-tech” from the “bad ed-tech” produced by those living in their Silicon Valley bubble. What matters more, to borrow from Tim Klapdor’s thoughts on Indie Ed-Tech: your vision for autonomy, agency, and scholarship.
How do we achieve a cultural (political, social, economic) shift so that we move towards organizations that value those things? (Kate Bowles’ post today on “Heresy and Kindness” resonates so deeply on this matter. It’s not really a question of “how do we build ‘good ed-tech?’” It’s “how do we strengthen our capacity for criticism and care?”)
Simply put: I don’t think venture capital is the way to go to fund Indie Ed-Tech. Nothing makes a good thing go bad faster than that. That being said, I do recognize that questions about funding are going to become increasingly important, particularly as austerity measures kick in.
(And I should note here, this isn’t simply about public budgets or even school budgets. There’s a pretty substantial funding squeeze happening right now in the tech sector. A lot of startups are about to go away. They’re going to close their doors. They’re going to be picked up (picked off) at a deep discount by the big education companies – the Pearsons and the Blackboards. “A good rule of thumb is multiply the number of people on the team by $10k to get the monthly burn,” VC Fred Wilson wrote back in 2011. You do the math on your favorite ed-tech startup – how much they’ve raised, how much you think they’re earning, how fast they’re burning through what’s in the bank – and you guess how long they’ll be around. Then you decide how much you want to build your course, your learning, your teaching, your scholarship on them.)
UCLA professor Miriam Posner wrote a really great piece last week – “Money and Time” – that explored some of the funding challenges around digital humanities projects. The work of Indie Ed-Tech is probably far more closely aligned with those types of projects than with the TurnItIns and LMSes that investors seem to love. Using industry-created technology tools, Miriam writes, has
…also had material effects on the kind of work we can produce, and the horizons of possibility our work can open. When we choose not to invest in our own infrastructure, we choose not to articulate a different possible version of the world.
In fact, this state of affairs is already very well-documented for edtech. By outsourcing development of key components of educational technology to for-profit vendors, we’ve chosen to invest in the development of software companies that mine our students’ data, encourage us to spy on their work, and lock us into a closed ecosystem of for-profit technology whose philosophy bears very little resemblance to the kinds of teachers we started out wanting to be.
To borrow from Miriam, I think we do need education institutions to “pay up” – to invest in scholarship about and teaching and learning with technology. But should the model for that investment be venture capital? I don’t think so. There are other ways to think about funding; there are other ways to think about investment; there are other ways to build software. There are better ways to build capacity; there are better ways to think about sustainability. There have to be, right?
Thanks to Kristen Eshelman and Adam Croom for organizing the Indie Ed-Tech event. Thanks to Davidson College for being one of the very few institutions that’s ever invited me back. Image credits, with apologies to Daft Punk.
On the heels of my recent article on lifelong learning– a response to Pew’s recent study on the topic of “professional” and “personal” learning – Will Richardson prompted me to articulate my thoughts more clearly about schools’ effect on autodidacticism.
One way to think about this, of course, is in terms of whether or not schools encourage students’ agency, autonomy, curiosity. (And more precisely which students are encouraged and allowed to be intellectually inquisitive, and how and why.) But I want to come at it a slightly different way…
I want to think about this in terms of the sociological grammar of Will’s query. To put it another way: what are the effects of an institution on an -ism?
I want to start here because I want to be able to tease out how much of what we identify and in turn praise about autodidacticism is often more (or at least as much) about signaling cultural capital than it is about having a capacity for or even an interest in self-instruction.
What do we mean by “self-directed learning”? “Self-made,” “self-taught” – these are such iconic phrases describing a certain type of American individualism, for a certain type of man. These adjectives work in contrast to “self-radicalized,” a phrase used to describe a certain sort of “self-directed learning” that veers dangerously in the “wrong” direction.
So again, the question: what are the effects of an institution on an -ism?
Is autodidacticism about how you get to know something? Or is it about what you know? It is who you know? Is it how you know? (Or rather how you demonstrate knowing?)
Is autodidacticism an aptitude or an attitude? A behavior? A predilection? A performance?
Is autodidacticism a signal of learnedness?
I don’t write this to suggest that humans are not “natural learners.” But we should unpack what exactly that means, when that word “natural” gets applied. (We should always ask questions when that word "natural" gets applied to social practices.) Learning might be a biological process, sure; but it is also culturally constructed. And it’s culturally constructed within and without and against and inside and outside of institutions – that is, within and without and against and inside and outside of schools.
I find Tressie McMillan Cottom’s framing of the “roaming autodidacts” – the idealized students imagined by education technology – to be particularly useful partially because it highlights the assumptions made about the cultural construction of "good learners." It's an insightful framework too because that modifier “roaming” helps to underscore the ways in which what we perceive as educational self-directed-ness is often intertwined with a certain untethered-ness – the ability to navigate markets, places, spaces with little or limited risk. This, in turn, is a reflection of socioeconomic structures, of course. And it prompts me to ask not only how ed-tech might privilege autodidacticism but how much of autodidacticism is about privilege.
All digital technology is ideological. All education technology is ideological.
I repeat this (and quiteoften, it seems) because technology – and ed-tech in particular – is too frequently discussed as though it is ideology-free. It purports to be at once (and, yet, incongruously) both neutral and necessary. It presents itself at once as value-free (and, yet, incongruously) progressive. That is to say, if technology contains any ideological underpinning at all, we’re supposed to believe, it’s that its forward march is quite inevitable; but that’s okay as it is forward movement – technology serves to make the world better.
This sort of end-of-history, post-ideology ideology that permeates digital technologies (conveniently) frames challenges and criticisms and questions as “ideological” in which “ideological” here means politically-loaded, polemical, biased, bad.
That’s not what I mean when I write that digital technology is ideological or that education technology is ideological. I don’t mean simply that these are interwoven with a certain politics or that they represent developments that I find personally disagreeable. Rather, “ideology” as I use the word refers to the ideas, values, and practices – discourse and power – grounded in the forces of production (e.g. global capitalism) and in the institutions that re-inscribe these. “Ideology” is one way we can think about social struggles, especially as various groups try to legitimate their own interests and do so in such a way that their ideas, values, and practices are seen as natural.
Technologies, particularly the new computer and communications technologies of the twentieth century onward, help reinforce dominant ideology in powerful ways, but these technologies also have their own ideological underpinnings as well, ones that serve in turn to justify and reinforce the cultural and economic changes that society is currently undergoing. Think “Sharing Economy,” for example. This is also, in part at least, what Neil Postman famously described over twenty years ago as the growing pervasiveness of “Technopoly”:
Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant. And it does so by redefining what we mean by religion, by art, by family, by politics, by history, by truth, by privacy, by intelligence, so that our definitions fit its new requirements. Technopoly, in other words, is totalitarian technocracy.
In his book Distrusting Educational Technology, Neil Selwyn identifies three contemporary ideologies that are closely intertwined with digital technologies – I tend to use the shorthand “Silicon Valley narrative” to refer to these): libertarianism, neoliberalism, and “the ideology of the ‘new economy.’” Selwyn reminds us that these three are deeply intertwined in education technology as well, despite what might seem on the surface to be a conflict between the “commercial” and the “countercultural” interests and ideologies that at once push ed-tech’s adoption. Selwyn writes that
…The fact that educational technology appears to be driven by a set of values focused on the improvement of education does not preclude it also serving to support and legitimate wider dominant ideological interests. Indeed, if we take time to unpack the general orthodoxy of educational technology as a ‘positive’ attempt to improve education, then a variety of different social groups and with different interests, values and agendas are apparent. …While concerned ostensibly with changing specific aspects of education, all of these different interests could be said to also endorse (or at least provide little opposition to) notions of libertarianism, neo-liberalism and new forms of capitalism. Thus educational technologies can still be said to be ‘ideologically freighted’, although this may not always be a primary intention of those involved in promoting their use.
Arguably, the blockchain and its potential applicability to education is much more obviously “ideologically freighted,” because of its connections to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Many proponents of the blockchain insist that the “distributed ledger” can be separated from Bitcoin, but I’m not certain that it can be severed quite so neatly – either technologically or ideologically.
(For more details on the history and technology of the blockchain and bitcoin, read my introduction here.)
VCU professor David Golumbia has written extensively about the politics of Bitcoin, which he describes (in a 2015 article as well as in a forthcoming book) as “right-wing extremism” – evident in the rhetoric about the cryptocurrency as well as in the design and functionality of the software itself.
Golumbia connects the some of the ideas underlying Bitcoin to “cyberlibertarianism” – the belief that the government should not regulate the Internet and that “freedom” is something created by and through digital technologies. Cyberlibertarianism is also, as the name suggests, tied more generally to libertarian beliefs about freedom and liberty and the state’s supposed role in circumscribing these. “Free“ as in ”free markets.”
Golumbia also traces the origins of and interest in Bitcoin to certain right-wing beliefs about the operation of the world’s monetary system, which includes a rejection of central banking as a vast conspiracy of the global (Jewish) elite. From an explanation of Bitcoin written by Satoshi Nakamoto, its pseudonymous creator, in 2009:
The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve.
Debates about the role that the US Federal Reserve and monetary policy plays in inflation are well beyond the scope of my expertise on education technology, I’ll go ahead and admit that right now. But some of these ideological underpinnings in Bitcoin – whether or not one agrees with Golumbia’s provocative labeling of these as “right-wing extremism” – are of crucial importance for those in ed-tech to grapple with, particularly if education is to explore and adopt blockchain technology. To suggest that the blockchain is ideology-free is folly.
And again, despite the insistence that Bitcoin and blockchain are distinct, I would contend there’s still plenty of overlap, not just in the software but in the discourse about what purposes the technology will serve.
There are (at least) three elements of this discourse that are relevant to discussions about “the future of education” – that is, these elements are particularly instructive about the ideological shape of an imagined future. These are the anti-institutional bent of the blockchain; its reliance on decentralization (as a technology and as a metaphor); and its invocation of trust (and mistrust) as the key social behavior mediated by the technology.
In an article and video explanation of Bitcoin and blockchain posted on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ news site Spectrum – “The Future of the Web Looks a Lot Like Bitcoin” – this issue of trust is posited as one of the cryptocurrency’s major innovations. Thanks, principally, to the blockchain, the video contends, “for the first time, you don’t need to trust to share or update your digital records.” Instead of trusting strangers – which, according to the article is how current legal and financial systems operate – this new technology enables us to trust the “code.” Bitcoin “assumes everybody’s a crook,” the IEEE article argues; it “uses self-interest and greed to secure your Bitcoin,” adds the accompanying video.
What does it look like to port these ideas to education – recognizing of course that some of them conflict and some of them coincide quite nicely with pre-existing beliefs? What does it mean, for example, to “assume everybody’s a crook”?
Many practices and policies in education already presuppose that the student is a crook, or at least a “cheat.” New digital technologies are presented as both the cause (or accelerant) of cheating and as the solution. “How the sharing economy is creating a marketplace for cheating,” reads one recent headline in the online publication Bright. “Cheating in exams mitigated with use of tablet cameras,” one proctoring company’s blog contends.
No surprise then, many of the arguments made for incorporating something like the blockchain into both education and employment practices and policies rest on similar assumptions about the student as well as the former student (namely, the job applicant). “A surprisingly large percentage of people lie on their resumes to get an edge in a competitive job market,” insists one story on the Holberton School’s use of the blockchain for their certificates. A move to place certification – degrees, badges, and the like – on the blockchain implies that students’ own claims about their education cannot be trusted and must be authenticated and secured – and authenticated and secured specifically via technology.
It’s worth asking here, of course, which students’ claims are likely to be viewed as suspect? And a related question: which certificates, “verified” via the blockchain, might find a new legitimacy?
The latter cannot really be answered without thinking more broadly about the challenges and criticisms that the current accreditation system is facing. (This is something I’ve highlighted in previous years’ “Top Ed-Tech Trends” – in 2013, 2014, and 2015.) Nor can it be answered without consideration of, as I have noted above, the strong anti-institutional bent built into the software and into the ideology of the blockchain (and apparent in the politics espoused by many of the investors in the blockchain and Bitcoin, as I detail in my previous article). As the accreditation system in the US comes under scrutiny – late last week, for example, 13 state attorneys general called for the Department of Education to revoke the accrediting power of the ACICS, the agency that oversees the accreditation of many for-profit universities including the now defunct Corinthian Colleges – we must scrutinize what shape any “reforms” take. There are competing ideologies at play here, and those connected with the “Silicon Valley narrative” – namely, libertarianism, neoliberalism, and global capitalism – have much more affinity with the dismantling of regulatory agencies than they do the expansion of public or democratic oversight.
But here, perhaps, is why that word “decentralization” is so frustrating – so ideologically fraught. It is invoked, with some frequency, as both a technological feature and as a political one – as though the former insures the latter, as though the latter is necessarily more liberatory or democratic than previous non-technological arrangements. Decentralization is touted across a variety of digital technologies – indeed, the Internet itself – and is connected to social practices that it purportedly enables – “professional learning networks” or “connected learning” are two education-related examples. Often these networks are lauded as though they flatten or erase power or, at the least, as thought they de-institutionalize the communications that might occur across them. And yet the history of transportation networks and radio networks and television networks would suggest something else – a consolidation of corporate power. Decentralization in digital technologies is frequently discussed as though there are not similarly powerful corporate interests involved (indeed, they are many of the same corporate interests that dominate radio, television, and telephony), working to centralize their control of new technologies of communication.
This conflation of technological and political decentralization is apparent in blockchain rhetoric. “Blockchain is a distributed database.” Okay. Therefore “the blockchain is decentralized.” Perhaps. But it would be a mistake to confuse a technological protocol with a democratic politics or an equitable redistribution of money or power. (1% of the Bitcoin community owns 99% of Bitcoin wealth, for starters.) The blockchain does not “disrupt” or unsettle the current financial system – it’s being bankrolled by it– something that conforms to the ideological underpinnings of “the Silicon Valley narrative.” If there is any redistribution of power via blockchain technologies, it is already being centralized in and by the technology industry, in and by its technocratic elite.
The word “decentralization” is often used interchangeably by those in technology as “democratization,” but that strikes me as a rhetorical sleight of hand used to wave away the accumulation of private wealth and power and the dismantling of the public sector, cheered by those espousing the neoliberal and libertarian politics of Silicon Valley.
And there’s too much hand-waving about the blockchain in education – waving away concerns, for starters, about how simple its implementation would be technically. To be honest, however, what the blockchain can and cannot do technically is probably the least important thing you can say about it. (And I say that having written some 4500 words about just that.)
Nevertheless, I do maintain that discussion about the blockchain is significant – and incredibly revealing – because of the technology’s ideological dimensions. Whose interests are served by the blockchain? What values does the blockchain legitimate? What values does it undermine? Let's recognize, of course, that there might be competing and even incompatible interests at play here. But with the blockchain as with all of ed-tech, we need to do a much better job asking, what are the ideological underpinnings of these technologies? How are the dominant ideologies associated with the "Silicon Valley narrative"– neoliberalism, libertarianism, and global capitalism – valorized, even hard-coded, at the expense of others?
I haven’t seen a lot of education-related headlines about the “Panama Papers,” but here’s one from The Sunday Times: “Saudi oil tycoon revealed as investor in schools company.” “A Saudi oil tycoon is the joint owner of an education company involved in running some of Britain’s state schools, with his interest held by a British Virgin Islands company formed by the law firm Mossack Fonseca.”
“Sen. Lamar Alexander ripped into Education Secretary John King Jr. during a hearing on Tuesday, accusing the Obama administration of trying to unilaterally change key provisions of the nation’s new federal education law,” reports The Washington Post.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The main association of for-profit colleges in Washington on Thursday asked Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to delay implementation of the Obama administration’s ‘gainful employment’ rule that is aimed at cracking down on for-profit colleges.”
“States Call For Removal Of College Watchdog For ‘Spectacular’ Failures,” reports Buzzfeed. “Thirteen attorneys general said the Accrediting Council of Independent Schools and Colleges was guilty of ‘systemic and extreme’ failures.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Speaking of spectacular failure, the Department of Education failed to find any trouble at Corinthian Colleges, despite conducting a review of the for-profit.
“The Obama administration plans to forgive $7.7 billion in federal student loans held by nearly 400,000 permanently disabled Americans,” The Washington Post reports.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his “State of the City” speech this week, and among his proposals, committing to a goal of “giving every hardworking graduate of the Los Angeles Unified School District one free year of community college.” No details on how he’d finance this or what constitutes “hardworking.”
The Pacific Standard on “The Teen Sexting Overcorrection”: “Last week, Colorado lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made sexting among teenagers a misdemeanor crime. As Colorado law currently stands, minors who sext can technically be charged with felony child pornography, which carries a mandatory sex offender registration, even when the act is consensual. Lawmakers, it seems, aren’t quite sure how to respond to libidinous teens in the digital age.”
“The Federal Communications Commission has approved an expansion of the federal Lifeline program to include subsidies for broadband service for low-income households, a move that could help bridge the digital divide that exists between disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers,” Education Week reports.
“Will Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ act impact children in public and private schools?” asks The Hechinger Report.
Via NPR: “Philly Wants To Tax Soda To Raise Money For Schools.”
The White House held the final Science Fair of the Obama Administration. (And perhaps the final science fair, depending on who’s elected President, I suppose.) More details on what was on display via Education Week.
Education in the Courts
Via The New York Times: “A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights – reversing a landmark lower court decision that had overturned the state’s teacher tenure rules.” The plaintiffs in Vergara v. California say they’ll appeal.
Also via The NYT: “Opening a new front in the assault on teacher tenure, a group of parents backed by wealthy philanthropists served notice to defendants on Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s job protections for teachers, as well as the state’s rules governing which teachers are laid off as a result of budget cuts.”
Via TPM: “Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he was mounting his run for president, was struck down Friday as violating the state constitution.”
Again, The NYT: “Federal prosecutors on Friday for the first time provided details of sexual abuse allegations against J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House, asserting that he molested at least four boys, as young as 14, when he worked as a high school wrestling coach decades ago. Mr. Hastert, 74, is not charged with abuse because of statutes of limitation, prosecutors said, but he was accused last year of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to pay one of his victims in an effort to hide the abuse.”
Via the Salt Lake Tribune: “Prosecutors say Brigham Young University is jeopardizing a pending rape prosecution because the school refuses to delay its Honor Code case against the alleged victim. Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson brought charges against the woman’s alleged attacker and said he implored school officials to consider that their Honor Code investigation of her conduct would further victimize her. He asked them to postpone their investigation until the conclusion of the trial, originally planned for next month. He said they declined, and have barred the student from registering for future classes until she complies with the school’s investigation.” JFC.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Graduates of an online program at George Washington U sue the institution, saying they paid more to receive a worse experience than face-to-face students.”
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, “A Pennsylvania company that provided online purchasing software to the Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council is suing the council for breach of contract and seeking $460,000.” The company in question: ESM Solutions.
The lawyers who fought the copyright case about the “Happy Birthday” song have filed a suit claiming that, similarly, “We Shall Overcome,” a song closely associated with the Civil Rights Movement, was also wrongly copyrighted. More details via Boing Boing.
From the NY Daily News: “State exam advocates launch ‘Say Yes to the Test’ campaign.”
“Technical glitches plague computer-based standardized tests nationwide,” says The Washington Post.
Via Politico: “Stanford University researchers find that New York teachers who artificially upgraded student test scores primarily had ‘altruistic’ motives.”
Online Education (The Artist Formerly Known as “MOOC”)
Via The Street: “2U Announces 12-Year Contract Extension With USC Rossier School Of Education.”
Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump University Staff Detail How School Changed Course.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “MOOC With a Community College Twist.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: George Mason University economics professor “Tyler Cowen Says Online Professors Should Think Like Bloggers.” (As in, like, work for “exposure”? I dunno…)
(See the “Courts” section above for details about the George Washington University alumni lawsuit over the quality of its online master’s degree program in security leadership. See also the “Research” section at the end of this article for the latest MOOC-related PR.)
Meanwhile on Campus
“UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet,” the Sacramento Bee reports. Thousands as in at least $175,000. The university hired “reputation management companies” to improve search results for the school, so that stories and images of Lt Pike unleashing pepper spray into the face of peaceful protesters weren’t the first thing that people found about the school online. Laugh all you want about the Streisand Effect, but it’s quite chilling that a public institution would do this, removing from its own websites many of the reports that it commissioned on the incident. The university defends its decision.
Via Anya Kamenetz in Wired: “Pearson’s Quest to Cover the Planet in Company-Run Schools.” Horrific.
“Police Respond To Robocall Bomb Threats At Several Massachusetts Schools.” (Robocall bomb threats?!)
I admit, I’m more than a little jealous of the 1300 NYC students who got to see Hamilton this week. NPR has more details on a program to work the Broadway musical into school curriculum.
Via the AP: “Elevated lead or copper levels have been found in water in 19 Detroit schools amid ongoing testing at schools around the country in response to the crisis in Flint, Michigan.”
Via Salon: “California school district votes to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom.” What could possibly go wrong?!
Via The New York Times: “Yale University has made progress in minimizing its endowment portfolio’s exposure to less environmentally sound investments such as stocks of companies that contribute to climate change, a letter released on Tuesday showed.”
Harvard’s in the news again. Because Harvard. Via Boston.com: “The president of Harpoon Brewery issued an apology Wednesday after he received backlash for suggesting that admitting female members to one of Harvard’s exclusively male social clubs could increase sexual assaults.”
Accreditation and Certification
For details on the 13 state attorneys general who want the ACICS to have its accrediting powers stripped, see the “politics” section above.
Here’s the headline from the press release: “Pearson and Capella University Partner to Issue Digital Badges, Demonstrating Growth of Badging and Connecting Higher Education to Employability.” There are many remarkable things here, including the fact that the for-profit university is “designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.” And now those agencies are cool with badges for national security-related courses.
Go, School Sports Team!
Via the AP: “A former Vanderbilt football player has been found guilty of raping an unconscious student in a dorm. It took less than three hours for the jury of nine men and three women to find Cory Batey guilty of aggravated rape, two counts of attempted aggravated rape, facilitation of aggravated rape and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.”
Via the Waco Tribune: “Waco police Wednesday arrested former Baylor University football player Shawn Oakman on charges he sexually assaulted a fellow student after leaving a Waco nightclub with her early April 3.”
“NCAA Reaches $8.8 Billion Broadcast Deal,” Inside Higher Ed reports. (That’s just for the men’s basketball tournament for the next 8 years.)
Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a case showing the reach of college sports corruption, a former head men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi instructed his assistants to complete junior college course work for recruits.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has more details about the cheating ring. Ars Technica details the role that online courses’ metadata played in the investigation.
Via The Chicago Tribune: “Illinois has reached financial settlements totaling $625,000 with former football coach Tim Beckman and seven former women’s basketball players, the university said in separate news releases Tuesday. Beckman was fired a week before last season kicked off after allegations of player mistreatment arose and an investigation by a university-hired law firm confirmed many of the claims.” Beckman will receive a one-time payment of $250,000. That’ll sure show him.
“The University of California at Berkeley has agreed to pay $4.75 million in a settlement with the family of a deceased football player, Ted Agu, who died after an off-season conditioning session in 2014,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
In other UC Berkeley news: “Yann Hufnagel, the former assistant basketball coach who was fired last month by the University of California at Berkeley after being accused of sexually harassing a female reporter, has a new job at another university. He was hired on Friday by the University of Nevada at Reno,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.
From the HR Department
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite an online petition and rumors, the president of the American University of Beirut said on Thursday that he did not shut down a search for a new director of the Center for American Studies and Research to block Steven G. Salaita from being named to the position.” More via Inside Higher Ed and via Corey Robin.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that UC Berkeley will eliminate some 500 staff jobs.
According to the AP, “a Tampa, Florida, middle school teacher has been suspended after parents complained that she gave students a questionnaire on personal information including their sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.”
“The president of Lake Michigan College, Jennifer Spielvogel, has been suspended, and may be fired in 30 days, after the community college’s Board of Trustees said it had found evidence of unapproved spending and improper management,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Tenured Professor Says Blog Post Cost Him His Job.”
Via Education Week: “Teach For America Vows Recruitment Changes in Wake of Application Drop.”
A press release from the AFT: “Shareholder Letter Assails Pearson Business Strategy as Annual Meeting Looms.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
Stanford professor revolutionizes teaching, invents “active learning.” Because Stanford.
Mozilla has updated its Web Literacy Map.
“Afghan ‘Sesame Street’ Introduces Zari, a Muppet and Role Model for Girls,” The New York Times reports.
Microsoft now has a Classroom app, joining Google and Apple with releasing an LMS “lite.”
The Creative Commons’ blog points to a “New Open Education Search App by OpenEd.com and Microsoft.”
Google also blogged this week about its efforts to build “more accessible technology”
Why do histories of competency-based education never mention the GED? (Trick question.)
Via Techcrunch: “Popular study app Quizlet creates a game for groups in the classroom, Quizlet Live.”
“Online Piracy of Academic Materials Extends to Scholarly Books,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
“Branded Learning.” Good grief. According to a Forbes story on a South African startup called 42courses.com, “Edtech Startup Bets Branded Learning Can Reinvigorate E-learning.” But because Forbes has a ridiculous ad-blocker policy that prevents you from visiting the site without accepting its malware-ridden ads, here’s a link to a summary story via Education Dive instead.
“How Should Schools Purchase Ed-Tech?” asks Harold Levy in an op-ed in Education Week touting his new non-profit startup, the Technology for Education Consortium, which will purportedly help schools with procurement issues.
Via The New York Times: “Ride-Hailing Start-Ups Compete in ‘Uber for Children’ Niche.” Meanwhile: “Shuddle, the Uber-like service for getting your kids around, is shutting down tomorrow.”
So much to love in this press release lede: “Blackboard Inc., the world’s leading education technology company, today announced a new partnership with Uber Technologies Inc. that creates a convenient travel alternative for students at hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide.”
Headlines out of Facebook’s annual developer conference included a lot of hype about chatbots. In other news, “Facebook’s using F8 proceeds to fund Dev Bootcamp scholarships for underrepresented people in tech,” reports Techcrunch. Dev Bootcamp is owned by the for-profit higher ed company Kaplan.
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
Lending company Affirm has raised $100 million from Founders Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Jefferies. (Affirm’s founder is former PayPal exec Max Levchin, and Founders Fund is run by former PayPal exec Peter Thiel. Small world, I guess.) Affirm has struck deals to offer loans to customers of the following education companies: General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp. The lending company has raised $420 million total.
“Hedge fund titans raised an ‘unprecedented’ $35 million for New York City’s largest charter school network Monday night,” Business Insider reports. (That’s Success Academy Charter Schools.)
“Looking to revolutionize business and personal education, EdCast raises $16 million,” says Techcrunch. Investors in this round include GE Asset Management, Cervin Ventures, Penta Global, SoftBank Capital, and Stanford’s StartX Fund. The company has raised “$22 million total for its ”bite-sized, user generated content."
The Jefferson Education Accelerator at the University of Virginia has received a $1.5 million grant from the Dell Foundation.
For more details on startup funding trends, see the “Research” section below.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
Via The Intercept: “The CIA Is Investing in Firms That Mine Your Tweets and Instagram Photos.”
Via Reuters: “Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday released its first ever transparency report detailing the information requested by not only U.S. law enforcement agencies, but also by regulators. The ride-sharing company said that between July and December 2015, it had provided information on more than 12 million riders and drivers to various U.S. regulators and on 469 users to state and federal law agencies.” Uber provided data to the government in almost every case in which it was requested.
“How did Facebook try to manipulate my emotions?” asks Paul-Olivier Dehaye. “I will find out.” He’s sent a letter to Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, seeking access to his data under the US/CH Safe Harbor Program.
Want to opt your kid out of ads? Facebook makes it easy. Just head on over to the NOTARY PUBLIC. pic.twitter.com/4bpbQFnDBB— David Carroll (@profcarroll) April 12, 2016
Data and “Research”
Also via CB Insights: “13 High-Momentum Companies To Watch At The ASU GSV Ed Tech Summit 2016.” (Not sure what counts as “momentum” here since the list includes Edmodo. Should be interesting how and if the ed-tech elite talk about this at their big ASU-GSV-VC-LOL party next week.)
“Education Industry Mergers, Acquisitions Jumped Significantly in 2015,” says Education Week’s Market Brief, reporting on analysis from the investment bank Berkery Noyes.
Research from student loan provider Navient “suggests student debt is indeed a barrier for a significant minority – college dropouts – but that it’s generally not holding back those who earned degrees.” Or so says The Wall Street Journal.
“More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments” is The Wall Street Journal headline. (Of course, a chunk of those who aren’t have their payments deferred as they’re in grad school – probably racking up more student loan debt.)
According to the latest report from the Lumina Foundation, college attainment is up: more than 45% of Americans between age 25 and 64 had some “quality postsecondary credential” in 2014. The Lumina Foundation has set a goal that that number hit 60% by 2025.
A study commissioned by a bookstore service provider finds that students are unhappy with the prices of textbooks at their campus bookstore.
“Colleges Drowning in Student Data (and Tech Vendor Sales Calls),” says Campus Technology, reporting on a survey by Eduventures.
Via the AP: “Immigrant children living in the U.S. without legal status have been blocked from registering for school and accessing the educational services they need, according to a report on school districts in four states by Georgetown University Law Center researchers.” And The Atlantic asks, “Does ICE Pressure Schools for Student Info?”
According to research posted to the Knewton blog, users of Knewton are more likely to “spam” on free response questions than on multiple choice questions. So clearly multiple choice questions are more “engaging.” Or something.
Via Education Week: “Online Credit Recovery: Students Fare Worse Than Peers, Research Finds.”
Retweeting is bad for comprehension, according to researchers at Peking and Cornell Universities.
MOOC review site CourseTalk boasts that it’s published the “first-ever study on MOOC use and non-use in developing countries” which leads me to believe it’s never done a Google Scholar search before. But hey.
“Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered” by University of Michigan professor Susan Dynarski.
Via Reuters: “Formal instruction about birth control and other aspects of sexual health in the U.S. is on the decline, according to an analysis of survey data from 2006 to 2013.”
Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “Spending on Ed-Tech Hardware Hits $15B Worldwide, Report Finds.”
Also via Education Week: “The Maker Movement in K–12 Education: A Guide to Emerging Research.”
There’s no agreed-upon definition of what “personalized learning” is, but Gates Foundation-funded research from RAND has found it improves student outcomes at charter schools. Go figure.
The latest Pew Research Center report: “Libraries and Learning.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Just over half of Pennsylvania State University students who experience stalking, dating violence or sexual assault ever tell someone about the incident, according to a new survey of the university's students, and only a tiny fraction of those students report the assaults to police or campus officials.”
Via Times Higher Education: “Graduates from richer family backgrounds in Britain earn significantly more than their less wealthy counterparts even when they take similar degrees from similar universities, according to new research with major implications for U.K. higher education.” I’d add that it has implications for all sorts of higher education initiatives that purport to use graduates’ salaries to gauge the effectiveness of degree programs.
Via The Wall Street Journal: “States Where Day Care Costs More Than College.”
According to a study by Education International, the World Bank’s education policies are inconsistent. Shocking findings, I know.
“‘Hot Wheels’ Curriculum Found to Boost Science Learning for Boys and Girls,” says Education Week.
“Only 1 in 5 Students Obtain All Learning Materials Legally,” reads the Campus Technology headline, drawing on a study by University of Capetown professor, Laura Czerniewicz.
“ITC’s most recent survey of trends in online education at two-year colleges shows growth last academic year sat at 4.7 percent – the lowest in about a decade.” More details via Inside Higher Ed.
“Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class” by Jo Boaler and Lang Chen.
Via The Daily Dot: “The harsh truth about speed reading.” (The harsh truth: it doesn’t work.)
“We May Know Less Than We Thought About What Helps or Hurts Students,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oh well. Carry on...
Icon credits: The Noun Project
“Why America’s Schools Have A Money Problem.” (That’s NPR on school funding.)
Elsewhere in money problems, lobbying for education-related issues. Politico notes that the loan company Navient spent $710,000 in the first quarter of the year (up from $410,000), “making it the biggest spender among education organizations and companies.” Welp, now I know where my student loan interest goes, I guess. “The five top education lobbying spenders during the first quarter: Navient ($710,000), National Education Association ($677,000), University of California ($540,000), Apollo Education Group ($360,000), American Federation of Teachers ($317,443).”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has earmarked $50 million for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. Bonus points for being able to succinctly explain quantum computing when US politicians can’t even seem to grasp how email works.
I know I swore I’d never write about education and Bitcoin or blockchain again, but I can’t resist sharing this story: “A Florida man was arrested on Thursday for participating in a bribery scheme aimed at supporting an illegal bitcoin exchange operated by his son and owned by an Israeli behind a series of hacking attacks on organizations such as J.P. Morgan Chase,” reports Fortune. And here’s the kicker: “Michael Murgio, who serves on a school board in Palm Beach County, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan for participating in a scheme to pay bribes to let the bitcoin exchange’s operators gain control of a credit union.”
“Students At Fake University Say They Are ‘Victims’ Of Government Sting,” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports.
Amazon has won a $30 million contract to sell digital textbooks to the New York City schools.
Via The LA Times: “A former local charter school operator has agreed to pay a $16,000 fine for misconduct that includes using public education funds to lease her own buildings.”
Via the AP: “The chancellor of Washington’s public schools [Kaya Henderson] asked a food-service contractor for a $100,000 contribution to a Kennedy Center gala honoring teachers, weeks after the company was accused in a whistleblower lawsuit of cheating the city out of millions of dollars, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.”
Via The Tennessean: “The House sponsor of a bill that would require students in public school grades K–12 and higher education institutions to use the restroom that corresponds with their sex at birth is killing the controversial legislation.”
Elsewhere in Tennessee politics, Politico reports that “A bill that would allow full-time employees, including professors, to carry weapons at Tennessee public colleges and universities is headed to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. The bill passed the state House on Wednesday.”
The 74 has a story on “Trump’s Education Legacy” (which includes an increase in school bullying).
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “John Kasich Tells Student Worried About Sexual Assault to Avoid Parties With Alcohol.”
Education in the Courts
The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from The Authors Guild, challenging Google’s book-scanning efforts. This brings to a close the 11-year legal battle over the digitization project.
“A federal judge has ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t have the legal authority to investigate the accreditation of for-profit colleges,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
The latest in the ongoing battles over teacher tenure: “The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday ruled unconstitutional a state law that phased out job protections for teachers who had already earned them,” The News & Observer reports.
Via The New York Times: “Weeks after a new North Carolina law put transgender bathroom access at the heart of the nation’s culture wars, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in favor of a transgender student who was born female and wishes to use the boys’ restroom at his rural Virginia high school.”
“An 18-year-old woman in Ohio is being charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and a variant of distributing child pornography. What led to this extraordinary list of alleged crimes?” asks NPR. “Live-streaming the alleged rape of her 17-year-old friend” via the Twitter-owned Periscope. She “got caught up in the likes,” says the county prosecutor.
“EFF Asks Supreme Court to Overturn Dangerous Ruling Allowing Patent Owners to Undermine Ownership.” Boing Boing offers a bit more of an explanation about the case, in which Lexmark claims that refilling printer cartridges violates their patent (not that they have a patent on refillable printer cartridges but that they have a license on printer cartridges period.) More news about Lexmark in the “Funding” section below.
VCU’s Jon Becker – self-described as a “lawyer dude who lives in the world of online learning” – has written a blog post about the recent lawsuit by George Washington University over the quality (or lack thereof) of their online master’s degree problem.
“Obama Administration Takes Action to Ensure Fewer and Better Tests for Students” says the Department of Education press release. “Taking action,” in this case, means releasing some case studies and posting a notice on the Federal Register about how a competitive grant program can be more “innovative.”
Via Reuters: “At least five times in the past three years, U.S. high school students were administered SAT tests that included questions and answers widely available online more than a year before they took the exam.”
And the response from the organization responsible for the test: “Throughout the 90-year history of the SAT, the College Board has faced the issue of cheating. The sad truth is that cheating is as old as testing,” says The College Board, which contends that much of the recent discussion about cheating and test security relates to “the old SAT.”
Via Chalkbeat: “What a day is like inside Pearson’s test scoring facility.” (tl;dr the scorers actually work from home.)
Elsewhere in Pearson’s testing contracts: “Taxpayers looked set to be left with a large bill on Monday, after a contract for the management of Britain’s driving theory tests was yanked from the company which won it, and back into the hands of the prior concessionaire. Sky News reported Learndirect– which was due to begin supplying the theory tests later this year – agreed to a multimillion pound settlement with the Government this month. Rather than going ahead, the firm’s contract was cancelled by ministers and handed back to FTSE 100 publishing group Pearson for up to four years without re-tendering. Pearson had been administering the tests prior to the new contract.”
“ACT and Kaplan Start Online Content Instruction,” Inside Higher Ed reports. The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a few more details on the offering. And via Education Week: “The College Board has lashed out at its rival, ACT Inc., saying its plan to add live teaching to its online test-prep service is more about money than public service, and accusing ACT of trying to ‘replace’ classroom teachers with long-distance instruction.”
“Technical Glitch Foils Testing in New Jersey,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
“Whittier Goes Test Optional in Admissions,” says Inside Higher Ed.
“Why testing prevails in K–12 education,” according to Education Dive.
Online Education (The Artist Formerly Known as “MOOC”)
“2U Partners With Syracuse University to Build Online J.D. Program,” Edsurge reports. 2U already offers several other master’s degree programs with Syracuse.
“McGraw-Hill Education’s ALEKS Adaptive Software Will Be Used in ASU’s Global Freshman Academy,” says the press release, which only uses the acronym MOOC twice.
Via the San Jose Mercury News: “California Virtual Academies: Is online charter school network cashing in on failure?” Pretty much, yes. (California Virtual Academies is run by K12 Inc.)
Copy-pasted from Campus Technology without comment: “Educational Testing Service (ETS) has launched ProEthica, an online ethics training program for educators and teachers in training.”
Edsurge reports that Udacity has expanded into China, making “100 free computer science courses available at youdaxue.com to aspiring Chinese developers and providing localized support for its ‘nanodegree’ program.” The company has also launched a local “career focused meetup service” called UConnect in San Francisco, LA, and New York.
Some big "human resources"-related news about Udacity in the "HR" section below.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Florida will this fall let its fully online students pay an optional fee to get at least parts of a traditional college experience. For about $46 a credit hour, students enrolled in the online degree programs offered through UF Online will be able to access recreation centers, ride the campus shuttle, buy discounted tickets to athletic events, use university health services and more.”
The for-profit Walden University will launch an online competency-based master’s degree in early childhood education. The CBE bit is being branded as “Tempo Learning.”
Brandman University will launch an online competency-based bachelor’s degree in information technology.
Meanwhile on Campus
“Costs for building LA Unified’s data system may top $200 million,” KPCC reports. Microsoft is building it so insert bloat joke here.
Via The New York Times: “272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “More than 520 faculty and staff members and graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have signed an open letter that says the university police department went ‘well beyond the call of duty’ on Thursday afternoon when officers entered a campus auditorium during an Afro-American-studies class and arrested a senior, Denzel J. McDonald, on 11 counts of graffiti. In the letter, the signers said they would ‘refuse to be silent’ and they called for an end of ‘anti-black racism on campus.’”
“St. Louis Public Schools to ban suspensions for youngest students,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“Richard Payne, director of Douglas County School District security, spent $12,000 on 10 Bushmaster semi-automatic long rifles that will be given to the district’s in-school security guards,” Boing Boing reports.
Via the AP: “BYU students investigated by school after reporting rape.” Follow-up stories from The Chronicle of Higher Education: “As Protests Grow, BYU Releases Unusual Video to Defend Sex-Assault Response,” “Under Fire, Brigham Young Will Review Title IX and Honor Code Enforcement,” and “Brigham Young Student Who Sought Immunity for Assault Victims Files Title IX Complaint.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Moments after a group of Duke students ended their sit-in at the Allen Building, seven of the nine original protesters received emails from the office of student conduct saying that they had violated the Duke Student Code of Conduct. The protesters were charged with ‘failure to comply’ for standing on the balcony.”
“A Syllabus for Students When Dealing with Law Enforcement” by Washington State Teacher of the Year Nate Bowling.
The New York Times explores universities’ practices of recruiting international students who do not meet admissions standards, with a focus on the Global Tree Overseas Education Consultants which recently helped Western Kentucky boost its enrollment figures.
“Greater Competition for College Places Means Higher Anxiety, Too,” adds The New York Times.
“The Kansas-based Wright Career College is shutting down all of its campuses,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“Businesses, nonprofits and communities are turning to private dollars for help in establishing free community college programs,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Meanwhile, San Francisco Board of Supervisor member Jane Kim has proposed eliminating tuition at the City College of San Francisco for the city’s residents; and Kentucky’s newly approved budget would also offer “last dollar aid” for community college.
“UC-Davis Was Ridiculed for Trying to Sway Search Results. Many Other Colleges Do the Same,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education in news that, sadly, should surprise no one.
“Hundreds of pupils at school near toxic site in east China fall ill, some with cancer, state TV reports,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Via Vulture: “Prince’s Ex-Wife Manuela Testolini Is Building a School in His Memory.” I have an idea of what educators can do in his memory: make sure students have full control of their IP.
Accreditation and Certification
There’s more accreditation-related news in the “Courts” and in the “HR” sections.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools has ordered ITT Technical Institutes to prove why it shouldn’t lose its accreditation or otherwise be sanctioned, the company told investors on Thursday.”
The technology-that-will-not-be-named will make college credentials more secure, The Chronicle of Higher Education contends.
University Ventures’ Ryan Craig writes in Techcrunch about “the new push toward competency-based education,” which right there tells you a lot about where “the new push” is coming from.
Go, School Sports Team!
Via The Telegraph: “Georgia paid Ludacris $65,000 to perform before G-Day spring game.”
“Can college athletics continue to spend like this?” asks the USA Today.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Twenty-three Division I teams will be banned from postseason play in 2016–17, two more than the year before, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's annual report on Academic Progress Rates.”
From the HR Department
“AltSchool Pulls New COO From ‘Call of Duty’ Video Game Company,” Edsurge reports. Call of Duty is often touted for its ultra-violence, but hey! If I was going to combine the horror of school-as-surveillance with a violent video game, I would definitely go with Call of Duty. Anyway, the hiring of former Activision exec Coddy Johnson is positioned by ed-tech insiders as Very Exciting News. AltSchool CEO and founder Max Ventilla told Edsurge that “There aren’t a lot of people who have multiple times, managed a thousand-plus organization and done it in a way where anyone you talked to says they're absolutely incredible from a leadership perspective.” Incidentally, AltSchool does not have that many employees, not even close, and Edsurge confirms reports I’d heard earlier this year that the startup has laid off many educators and members of its “school operations” team. The Edsurge article touts the education experience of the new hire – that he is on the board of Twigtale, a “personalized” children’s book startup, for startups. Not mentioned: Twigtale is a startup founded by Johnson's wife, Carrie Southworth. Its investors include Ivanka Trump and Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng. And Johnson himself is the godson of George W. Bush. Johnson’s dad was roommates with the former President while at Yale. Small world, I guess, when one is revolutionizing the future of education.
Sebastian Thrun has stepped down from his role as the CEO of Udacity, according to a late Friday afternoon blog post. He'll be replaced by Vishal Makhijani, the former COO of Zynga.
Albert Gray, the CEO of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, has suddenly resigned.
Claude Steele, the executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Berkeley, has resigned. “Mr. Steele’s abrupt departure comes at a time of turmoil for the university, as he and other top administrators have been criticized for their handling of a widening sexual harassment scandal,” according to The New York Times.
Richard Arum will become the dean of the School of Education at UC Irvine, where hopefully he can stop students from being “academically adrift.” (He was the co-author of a book with that very title, incidentally, in which he argues that students learn little in college.)
Graduate students at the University of Missouri have voted to unionize.
“JetBlue Will Pay Employees’ College Tuition Upfront,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. And in related news, the Hechinger Report observes“Move over 401(k)s – this new perk is helping millennials pay off college loans.”
“Intel to Cut 12,000 Jobs as PC Demand Plummets,” The New York TImes reports.
Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill looks at the first 100 days of Blackboard’s CEO, a story that should probably go under the “Upgrades and Downgrades” section if only Blackboard would release something more than words.
Upgrades and Downgrades
The soon-to-be-released Minecraft-for-education product (now owned by Microsoft) will require schools have the latest version of the Microsoft operating system and will require students and teachers all have an Office 365 email account. This is a great example of why education can’t have nice things.
Edsurge coversClever‘s latest product: QR codes on name badges, designed to make it easier for students to log in, via Clever’s single sign-on process, to the software they use in the classroom. I’ve got a lot of questions about security here: what will stop kids from taking others’ badges? What defenses are in place to make sure these codes can’t be tampered with? (See, for example: “The dangers of QR codes for security.”) Password security is definitely a huge ed-tech issue, but this doesn’t seem to get at the heart of the problem at all. Rather, it’s something done in the interest of short-term efficiency and classroom management. Nice PR opportunity though, I guess, for Clever and for the company featured in the marketing video, charter school chain Rocketship.
Via The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss: “The case against Pearson– and its response.”
Pearsonpartners with the coding bootcamp The Flatiron School.
There’s more time for schools and libraries to apply for the E-Rate program, Politico reports, as the organization that runs it, the Universal Service Administrative Company, has revamped the application portal; and anytime you hear the phrase “revamped the application portal,” you know it’s a technical mess.
Crain’s Cleveland Business has a look at digital book-lending company OverDrive’s move into education and international markets.
Well this is exciting. Ed-tech entrepreneurs seem to have discovered some research from the 1980s! (Or at least, they’re citing Bloom’s “2 Sigma Problem.”)
TurnItIn‘s latest version will emphasize feedback over plagiarism, according to Campus Technology. No clue if this will change the company’s onerous Terms of Service regarding students’ IP.
The New York Times’ Natasha Singer profiles the online quiz app Kahoot. Money quote: “Of course, points, bells, video game leaderboards and all sorts of other brain stimuli can become habit-forming – like ice cream. That does not make them good for students.”
Via the AP: “A billionaire businessman from the United Arab Emirates launched the Arab world’s largest education fund on Wednesday, setting aside $1.14 billion (4.2 billion dirhams) in grants for underserved youth from the region. The Abdulla al-Ghurair Foundation for Education said it plans to provide scholarships for 15,000 Middle Eastern students over the next 10 years.”
“Get Teens Interested in Digital Preservation,” The School Library Journal suggests.
The 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners include two education-related stories: Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick, and Lisa Gartner of The Tampa Bay Times on schools as “failure factories” and The Boston Globe’s Farah Stockman on school segregation and busing.
Among the winners of the 2016 Edward R. Murrow Awards, WBEZ-FM for “Need to get out of swim class? Find Dr. Fong.”
(The Conference Formerly Known as “Davos in the Desert”) The ASU-GSV Summit
Props to IHE’s Doug Lederman for this headline: “Scenes From Ed-Tech Heaven (or Hell).”
From Edsurge: “Heard & Overheard at the ASU+GSV Summit,” a story that reports with a straight face that GSV’s Michael Moe called for a “Hollywood Meets Harvard” model for improving education.
“Are ed tech financiers beginning to listen to teachers?” asks the Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo in her coverage of the event. Betteridge’s Law of Headlines tells us that the answer to this question is “No.” (Speaking of made-up laws, I believe the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition also offer great insight into venture capitalists in ed-tech.)
Here’s the take from EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Personalized Learning, Products ‘Going Viral’ Are Hot Topics at Ed-Tech Summit.”
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
“Apollo’s Education Deal May Need Sweetening,” says Bloomberg’s Gillian Tan. Shareholders might block the acquisition of the University of Phoenix parent company, as some contend the potential buyer, Apollo Global Management, isn’t offering enough money per share.
“Lexmark, the printing and software company, agreed Wednesday to be sold to a consortium led by Apex Technology of China and PAG Asia Capital, a private equity firm, for $3.6 billion, including debt,” The New York Times reports. The company sells “solutions” in both higher education and K–12 markets.
The for-profit university Capella Education has acquired the coding bootcamp Hackbright Academy for $18 million. (The for-profits Kaplan bought Dev Bootcamp and Apollo Education bought The Iron Yard last year. As I have previously argued, coding bootcamps are the new for-profit higher ed.)
ClassDojo has raised $21 million to “make parent-teacher meetings obsolete,” says Techcrunch in a story that does not mention pigeons one single time. The behaviorist app has come up with a business model, which involves up-selling to parents who can afford such things. Investors in this round include General Catalyst, GSV, Reach Capital, and SignalFire. The company has raised $31.1 million total.
I missed this announcement back in February, but Halo Neuroscience, “developer of technology to enhance brain performance”, raised $9 million from Lux Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Jazz Venture Partners, SoftTech Ventures, and Xfund. The company has raised $10.65 million total.
CareerFoundry has raised $5 million from Tengelmann Ventures, Bauer Venture Partners, and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft. The self-described “world’s first career accelerator for tech skills” has raised $6.34 million total.
ClassWallet has raised $1.5 million from Idea Bulb Ventures, Techstars Ventures, and William Guttman. The company, which “removes the paper from the ubiquitous ‘paper trail’” of schools, has raised $4.04 million total.
Follett has acquiredBaker & Taylor.
Polar 3D has acquiredSTEAMtrax.
Party over, oops, out of time. Via investment analyst firm CB Insights: “Ed Tech Chill: Ed Tech Startups See Funding Slump And Deals Flatline.” “Is Winter Coming? The Q1 2016 Edtech Funding ‘Dip’ in 5 Charts,” asks Edsurge (which uses a Bitcoin image to illustrate this article, which is only slightly more odd than putting “dip” in quotation marks in the headline.) More on funding research from Edsurge in the “Research” section below.
Elsewhere in handwringing about investments: a lengthy piece from investor Bill Gurley on “Why the Unicorn Financing Market Just Became Dangerous… For All Involved.” In fairness, he’s writing about the tech sector in general here, and according to Fortune at least, there are only two “unicorns” in education: Udacity and Tutor Group.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. And tracking biometrics and keystrokes will make education technology more secure.
Via CSO: “Schools put on high alert for JBoss ransomware exploit.”
Data and “Research”
Edsurge is “Following Edtech Money,” with a report on K–12 venture capital investment in US startups.
Via Education Week: “Virtual and blended schools continue to grow at a rapid pace despite persistently ‘dismal’ academic outcomes and little knowledge about their internal workings, according to a new analysis from the National Education Policy Center.” Edsurge offers its take, pointing out that blended learning might be okay. “Follow edtech money” on that one too, thanks.
Writing up some recent research from the Brookings Institution, The Atlantic explains“Why Lowering Interest Rates Won’t Fix the Student-Debt Problem.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new North Carolina law bars public institutions, including public colleges and universities, from letting transgender people use bathrooms that don’t reflect their assigned gender at birth. A new study by a Georgia State University professor suggests that such policies are linked to suicide attempts by transgender students.”
Via Edsurge: “A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, ”Financing Personalized Learning: What Can We Learn From First-Generation Adopters?“ has found that the costs associated with personalized learning – loosely defined – are largely comprised of salaries, facilities and operations, not technology.” Here’s the EdWeek Market Brief headline: “Financial Viability of Some ‘Personalized Learning’ Charter Schools Unclear, Report Says.”
“Fewer Teens Are Carrying Guns Than Ever,” The Pacific Standard claims, drawing from the National Study on Drug Use and Health.
Via the WCET blog: “Investigating IPEDS Distance Education Data Reporting: Progress Has Been Made.”
From Phil Hill: “State of Higher Ed LMS Market for US and Canada: Spring 2016 Edition.” (This now-famous ed-tech infographic always reminds me of Charles Joseph Minard’s famous graph of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Apt, no?)
According to Edsurge, “New Research from Tyton Partners Charts Adaptive Learning’s Higher-Ed Evolution.”
From the History News Network: “Number of history PhDs is at a record, while the number of students majoring in history is falling.”
Note-taking by hand > note-taking by computer, according to research published in Psychological Science.
Via Education Week: “iPads Can Change Math Instruction, Study Finds.” (The study found no change in student achievement or engagement, however.)
“Gallup, with significant funding from USA Funds, will survey Americans on their higher education experiences and perspectives, with the goal of gleaning information that can increase college success,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
“Scholars: Better Gauges Needed for ‘Mindset,’ ‘Grit’” reports Education Week. So, like, more tests? More gauges?
According to a study by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (as reported by Inside Higher Ed): “Wealthy Students Still Much More Likely to Earn Bachelor’s Degree.”
Via The Hechinger Report: “Mississippi’s teacher preparation programs are failing to adequately prepare teachers in reading instruction according to a new report by the nonprofit Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI). The group reviewed 15 traditional teacher preparation programs at 23 different sites in Mississippi and found that the content taught in classes and the hours spent on instruction vary greatly among programs, but that new teachers often learn strategies to teach literacy that aren't research-based.”
Via Mathbabe: “Academic Payday Lending Lobbyists.”
According to a survey by Piper Jaffray, “Teens Are Losing Interest in Chipotle.” They continue to spend a bundle at Starbucks, their preferred restaurant. According to research cited by the Pacific Standard: “Childhood Adversity Shortens Lives (in Baboons).” But let's be honest, eating at Chipotle probably has a similar effect.
From the National Center for Education Statistics: “Projections of Education Statistics to 2023.” But let’s not forget! Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that half of US universities will be bankrupt by then, so golly, who knows what higher ed enrollment will look like.
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Maine Governor Paul LePage is an idiot. (Not really news, but in the news this week.)
“White House launches $100M competition to expand tuition-free community college,” The Washington Post reports. More via Inside Higher Ed. (Goldman-Sachs is also funding grants for free community college.)
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has vetoed a bill that would provide free community college for students in the state through a plan modeled on the Tennessee Model. More details in Inside Higher Ed.
More than half of the public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador will close, due to budget cuts. The province is also looking to tax books. I hate to make “Newfie” jokes but seriously guys. Pull your act together.
Florida is terrible. Via The Gainesville Sun: “Bathroom ban imposed: Marion County School Board blocks transgender kids from choosing restrooms.”
Tennessee is terrible. Legislation signed by the state’s governor will allow counselors to refuse treatment of clients based on “sincerely held principles,” a move that’s seen as an “unprecedented attack on the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics” as well as a way to deny the rights of LGBTQ Tennesseans.
Via the AP: “llinois’ college and universities received a much-needed lifeline [last] Friday when lawmakers approved a $600 million short-term funding fix for the institutions, which have been struggling without state funding during the months long budget stalemate, even laying off employees.”
“A bill designed to strengthen the privacy and security of student educational data continued down its apparently smooth path to passage Wednesday, winning unanimous Senate Education Committee approval,” Chalkbeat reports. Lest you think this is a story about federal legislation and that DC gridlock is over, to be clear, this is a measure in the state of Colorado.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Justice has found that the University of New Mexico violates federal law in how it responds to reports of sexual harassment and assault.”
Code.org has published a letter and a Change.org petition to Congress calling for $250 million in federal funding for computer science education. Corporate leaders have signed and the tech press have dutifully spread the PR, so it must be a “thing.” “Who's Going to Teach America’s Kids to Code – and How?” asks TakePart’s Liz Dwyer. Also asking important questions about equity, this CACM blog post: “Exactly Who All is CS4?”
“Can More Money Fix America’s Schools?” asks NPR.
Also via NPR: “Mexico Accused Of Torturing Suspects In Missing Students Probe.”
The Wisconsin Hope Lab’s latest policy brief calls for “Expanding the National School Lunch Program to Higher Education.”
More on Department of Education actions in the “Accreditation” section below.
Via Politico: Ted“Cruz takes lessons on education from Milton Friedman, his faith.”
"Uncle Milton" would have turned 98, and never was his clear, common-sense defense of economic liberty more needed than today.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 29, 2010
(And here I thought “Uncle Miltie” was Milton Berle.)
Nikhil Goyal interviews Jane Sanders, whose husband is running for President, on education policies.
More on Trump’s legal problems relating to Trump University in the “Courts” section below.
Education in the Courts
Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump University Fraud Suit to Go to Trial, Judge Rules.”
Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for "illegally structuring bank transactions in an effort to cover up his sexual abuse of young members of a wrestling team he coached decades ago." 15 months for being what the judge called "a serial child molester." 15 months.
Via NPR: “(The Latest) Corruption Charges In Detroit’s Struggling Schools.”
Via NJ.com: “A Pennsylvania man who allegedly schemed with former officials at Caldwell University was charged Thursday with plotting to defraud a program that funded the education of veterans who served in the armed forces following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”
A Georgia lawmaker is suing the Department of Education, claiming that the latter’s policies surrounding sexual assault on campus “have caused colleges and universities to spend taxpayer dollars unnecessarily, because they must abide by the rules or risk losing federal funding.”
Via Reuters: “Amazon.com Inc is liable for billing parents for in-app purchases that their children made without permission, a federal judge has judge has decided, in a ruling that resolves accusations similar to ones that Apple Inc and Google Inc settled two years ago.”
Paramount and CBS are in the middle of a lawsuit against a fan-made Star Trek movie. The media giants contend that the film violates the franchise’s copyright, in part by its use of Klingon, something that’s raised the ire of language scholars who contend that languages are not copyrightable. The Hollywood Reporter has more details on the trial.
Via the Star-Telegram: “Cynthia Clark, a former senior lecturer at UT Arlington, is suing the university, saying she was fired because of her end-stage liver disease. She is seeking $10 million in damages.”
Via The New York Times: “Newtown Conspiracy Theorist Sues University That Fired Him.”
An op-ed in Politico: “End forced arbitration.” (Most recently, this has prevented students from for-profit universities from suing.)
The latest NAEP scores have been released, always an occasion to display one’s confirmation bias about education policies. A more measured take here from The LA Times’ Joy Resmovits, who writes that “Between 2013 and 2015, on average, students dropped slightly in math and held steady in reading. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, is a test administered by the federal government. It is considered the gold standard in measuring what students really know, because the results don’t have consequences that could encourage teachers or test takers to game the process. In math, the average score dropped from 153 to 152, out of 300 points. On the 500-point reading test, scores dropped one point to 287 – a decrease officials called statistically insignificant.”
Via Education Week: “Tennessee’s department of education has terminated its contract with Measurement Inc. after a series of technical glitches, according to The Tennesseean. In addition, the state has suspended testing for grades 3–8 after the company was unable to send the paper test to several schools.” The Washington Post and Chalkbeat have more details about Tennessee was clearly not ready for “TNReady” testing.
New Jersey is “poring over Pearson contract,” NJ Spotlight says, in order to see what damages are due to the state due to problems with PARCC testing.
About 12,000 students in Mississippi had problems with their recent online test-taking, the AP reports.
Via The New York Times: “Race and the Standardized Testing Wars.”
“Alternative Tests Aligned With Common Core Find Niche in Special Ed,” says Education Week.
In case you’re curious, here’s what the PISA test actually looks like.
Online Education (The Artist Formerly Known as “MOOC”)
Inside Higher Ed’s Carl Straumsheim offers some more details on the “next steps” for the Udacity/Georgia Tech MOOC masters, which hasn’t seen as high an enrollment as the hype man once predicted. Random factoid from the article: each course costs Georgia Tech $350,000 to develop – it’s not clear if that figure includes Udacity’s contributions or not.
“What Sebastian Thrun Has Learned at Udacity,” by Edsurge’s Betsy Corcoran.
After a couple of weeks without a lot of MOOC-ish-ness in the news, there was a flurry of stories this week touting their revolutionary potential. The focus, in several cases, MOOCs in the developing world. Via The Wire: “Sebastian Thrun, Modi and the Forgotten Promise of MOOCs.” (Silicon Valley likes Modi, incidentally.)
More about MOOCs and online education in the “Research” section below.
Meanwhile on Campus
“Yale Retains Calhoun Name,” Inside Higher Ed reports. John C. Calhoun’s name is on one of the university’s residential colleges, something that students have protested due to Calhoun’s advocacy for slave ownership.
The Southern Poverty Law Center on the school-to-prison pipeline: “Story from the field: Mississippi high school sending children to jail for ‘disorderly conduct’.”
George Mason University‘s Faculty Senate has voted to condemn the school’s decision to rename its law school in honor of Antonin Scalia. It’s just a symbolic vote. Inside Higher Ed has more details on the campus’ reaction.
Speaking of Koch Brothers’ money and influence, here’s a tidbit from their investment in Arizona higher ed: “Arizona has made some of the biggest cuts to higher education seen across the country in recent years, so a proposed $5 million grant of unknown provenance dedicated to the state’s ‘economic freedom’ centers – all of which received seed funds from the conservative Koch family – is raising eyebrows,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
Law school enrollment is down. Everyone should learn to
lawyer real estate code.
“Merger of elite Paris universities gets the go-ahead,” reports University World News. The schools in question: Paris-Sorbonne and Pierre and Marie Curie University.
The UC San Francisco has received a $185 million gift from Joan and Sanford I Weill, which will create the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.
“Demand for computer science forces Washington colleges to ramp up,” The Seattle Times reports.
There’ve been lots of memorials about Prince, but this one about a free concert he gave at Gallaudet University in 1984 is pretty wonderful.
Via The New York Times: “Girl, 16, Dies After Fight in a High School Restroom in Delaware.”
Also via The New York Times: “Wisconsin Prom Shooting Leaves Teenage Suspect Dead and Town Shaken.”
Via The Denver Post: “Douglas County schools to issue semiautomatic rifles to security staff.”
According to The LA School Report, some 16,000 LAUSD high school seniors are failing and in danger of not graduating this spring, with just six weeks to go in the semester.
The University of Iowa has changed the name of its student portal ISIS because I guess people might have been confused that it was a terrorist organization? I don’t know.
There’s a mumps outbreak at Harvard– over 40 people have been infected. Avoid Harvard: evergreen advice.
Stanford professor Larry Cuban continues his look at technology and school reform at the Summit Charter School chain.
Inside Higher Ed and The Boston Globe look at growing concerns over the University of Connecticut’s plans to sell a satellite campus to the Weiming Education Group, a Chinese education company that plans to open an “international academy” on the site.
More on campus-related drama in the “sports” and “HR” sections below.
Accreditation and Certification
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Education is, once again, weighing in on accreditation, expanding some flexibility in the accreditation process but also warning of more scrutiny for accrediting agencies. In an 11-page ‘Dear Colleague’ letter released on Friday, the department lays out some changes in how it expects accreditors to do their jobs and how they will be considered for federal recognition, which is required for them to serve as gatekeepers for federal student aid. Colleges must be accredited by a federally recognized accreditor in order for their students to be eligible for such aid.” More via Inside Higher Ed.
“Online Badges Help Refugees Prove Their Academic Achievements,” The Chronicle of Higher Education asserts.
Via Xconomy: “$1B Lumina Foundation Backs New Education Credentials Framework.”
Go, School Sports Team!
The biggest cheating scandal in the history of university sports, and it appears as though UNC won’t really be punished at all. More via The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Meanwhile, “New UNC Allegations Focus on Women’s Basketball.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Prompted by recent laws permitting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in places like North Carolina, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Board of Governors on Wednesday adopted new antidiscrimination policies for sites hosting major NCAA championship events, such as the men’s basketball Final Four.”
“After two decades of playing at college football’s most competitive and high-profile level, the University of Idaho will make the unprecedented move to leave the Football Bowl Subdivision and return to the Football Championship Subdivision,” reports Inside Higher Ed. Chuck Staben, the president of the university, offered his thoughts on “Why We’re Leaving the Football Arms Race.”
From the HR Department
The president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, will step down in June 2017.
“Former UC Berkeley Law School Dean Accuses University of Violating His Rights,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
A Michigan teacher says she was fired for saying the word “vagina,” according to ThinkProgress. A New Jersey teacher says he was forced to resign after showing his students a clip from John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight, according to Esquire.
Via the AP: “Interim University of North Dakota president Ed Schafer says the school will eliminate 138 positions to help meet budget cuts ordered by the governor.” The layoffs will include cuts to 51 faculty jobs.
Via WRAL.com: “After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Hourly Higher-Ed Employees Made in 2015–16.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
IBM and the Sesame Workshop are teaming up to extract data from your toddler in the name of “research” into “personalization” of early childhood education. Artificial intelligence theorist Roger Schank, who must be super pissed off that this is being framed as “cognitive computing,” has words: “Could IBM stop lying about Watson already? I guess not.”
“Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates,” where “we” is the tech blog The Verge in one of several examples in this week’s news round-up of how access journalism works in (ed-)tech.
ToyTalk, maker of the Hello Barbie surveillance doll, is rebranding as PullString, according to Techcrunch. (Heh.) The company is pivoting away from surveillance toys (ostensibly) and will now make a scripting platforms for bots, hopping on to the latest Silicon Valley craze. I mean, not that surveillance still isn’t part and parcel of what Silicon Valley is promoting. But bots!
“Retention-as-a-service” company Campus Management has a chatbot that purportedly will keep students on track. See?! Bots!
Note the significant difference in language in this headline from The Verge – “Harvard’s Root robot teaches kids how to code” – and the way in which Seymour Papert would describe the Logo Turtle – that students would using programming to teach the robot.
Pearson is partnering with General Assembly“to offer online, skills-focused courses in the areas of digital marketing, web development, user experience design and data analytics.”
“The MakerBot Obituary.” RIP.
“Yik Yak tries to make a comeback with launch of private chat,” reports Techcrunch’s Sarah Perez. The anonymous messaging app has seen no significant growth in the past year – but it’s seen plenty of negative PR about the impact it’s had on campuses.
Mirela Roncevic offers “Some thoughts about Amazon selling ebooks to NYC schools.”
“B&N Education Has Pulled the Nook Displays From its Stores,” The Digital Reader reports.
“A group of editors and academics are criticizing how the rights to Aaron Swartz’s writings are being handled, saying it violates the activist and programmer’s open-access legacy,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
It’s 2016 and we’re still seeing headlines like this: “Do Smartphones Have a Place in the Classroom?”
The Atlantic’s Melinda D. Anderson explains “How Internet Filtering Hurts Kids.”
“Chipotle Is Giving Away Free Burritos to Teachers,” The Thrillist reports, but in my best Admiral Ackbar voice, I’ll caution, “It’s a trap.”
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Apollo Education Group shareholders will have more time to vote on a proposed change in ownership for the parent company of the University of Phoenix. The vote, which was scheduled to take place today, has been delayed until May 6 to give shareholders more time to make their decision. The proposal would sell the company to a consortium of private investors for $1.1 billion.”
Oliveboard has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the India Educational Investment Fund, a fund established by the Dell Foundation.
(And that's it for funding news this week. Cue ominous music.)
Brazilian corporate training company Affero Labs has acquiredQuickLessons.
Via Techcrunch: “Top kids app maker Toca Boca sells to Spin Master, plans to launch subscription video service and toys.”
Education Week reports that “The Walton Family Foundation has decided to pull its funding in support of charter schools in seven cities as it shifts to a new focus and investments in other communities.” The cities in question: Albany, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Newark, and Phoenix.
More on education funding in the “Research” section below.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
The University College London is hiring a “Professor of Future Crimes.” “The successful candidate will be passionate about the problem of future crime.” Paging Philip K. Dick.
“Privacy, accessibility and student data security: An Analysis of Clever Badges,” by ed-info-sec advocate Jessy Irwin.
Dave Carroll explores“Facebook’s Privacy Problem with Parents,” asking “Did you remember to opt your kid out of ads?”
Via The Washington Post: “Schools are helping police spy on kids’ social media activity.”
“State K–12 Cybersecurity Audit Finds Missouri District Unprepared,” says Education Week. But to be fair here: most districts are likely unprepared.
“Officials are backing away from a controversial rule allowing Minnesota’s state colleges and universities to examine the personal cellphones of their employees,” The Star Tribune reports.
Data and “Research”
“Data collected about student behaviour doesn’t help improve teaching or learning,” says The Conversation. Welp.
Meanwhile, the Data Quality Campaign has issued a report claiming that schools have collected plenty of data and it’s time to use it to “personalize learning.” The US News & World Report also covers the story: “New Education Law Opens Door to Education Data.”
A report from Jisc: “Learning analytics in higher education.”
“Should we hit the pause button for online and blended learning?” asks The Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo on the heals of an NEPC report released last week that finds students in blended learning and virtual learning schools perform poorly. Julia Freeland Fisher of the Clayton Christensen Institute disagrees with the NEPC report, of course, insisting that the research that agrees with its politics and policies, is better and in fact shows that blended learning “yields promising results for students.”
Edsurge touts the results from Summit Public Schools’ “Basecamp” program.
According to a report from the Association for College and University Technology Advancement and the Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers-International, “traditional computers” are hogging campus bandwidth. Many schools are thinking of responding by throttling (rather than, say, adding bandwidth capacity).
Via Gizmodo: “Wikipedia Is Basically a Corporate Bureaucracy, According to a New Study.”
Via PLOS: “Observational Evidence of For-Profit Delivery and Inferior Nursing Home Care: When Is There Enough Evidence for Policy Change?” Lessons here, perhaps, about the for-profit“delivery” and inferior higher ed.
From Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education” and “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: Top 30 largest online enrollments per institution.” Look at all those for-profits.
Via Media Matters: “Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement.” (Dare we add: “a partial list” as venture capitalists are not included.)
Via Campus Technology: “Research: Facebook May Keep Students in MOOCs.”
“Merck Wants Its Money Back if University Research Is Wrong,” according to the MIT Technology Review.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “German Universities Are Told to Be More Transparent About Industry Research Ties.”
The Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo writes about “Charter Schools and Longer Term Student Outcomes.”
Research from the Lumina Foundation and Cigna found that “Sending Employees Back to School Pays Off,” Edsurge reports.
The Atlantic offers a challenge to claims about “the word gap,” a belief that permeates both education talking points and a fair amount of (early) education tech.
Via CB Insights: “The Most Active VCs In Ed Tech And Their Investments In One Infographic.” The investment analysis firm has also published a story on declining investment by corporations into ed-tech, noting that they’re still involved in about one-fifth of all deals. Edsurge also provides its latest calculations on the state of ed-tech funding: $51.5 million in investor dollars for US ed-tech startups during the month of March.
“The Biggest Threat for Startups,” according to an op-ed by Jeff Selingo in Edsurge, isn’t that venture capital is drying up or that startups’ products suck or that education giants like Pearson or Blackboard do their best to squash upstarts. It’s student loan debt. Good thing there aren't startups peddling student loans. Oh. Wait.
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Way back in 2012, I wrote an article “Who’s Investing in Ed-Tech?” It remains one of the most popular posts on Hack Education, even though it’s totally out-of-date. The article explains a bit how venture capital works, and it lists some of the best known investors in education technology, along with a few of the companies they’ve funded. No doubt the popularity of the story reflects how often folks query “who’s investing in ed-tech?”
I wrote an update to the article last year that pointed to other resources for tracking ed-tech investment – CB Insights, Ambient Insights, and Edsurge, for example, which sell reports on the topic, as well as Crunchbase, which (for the time being at least) offers an startup database that’s free to search.
Some Methodological Considerations…
I created my own database for a number of reasons: I wanted to have access to the raw data, not just to the PDFs and JPGs that most reports offer. I wanted to be able to make the raw data available to other journalists, so that they could draw their own conclusions rather than rely solely on industry analysts. (To that end, all the data – licensed CC-BY – is in the GitHub repo that powers my funding research site.)
Industry analysts’ figures for the total amount of money invested in ed-tech vary wildly, but it’s hard to know why without knowing their methodology or viewing their data. (And that’s why I’ve started tracking this myself: in order to make these calculations, at least on my part, more transparent.) These discrepancies arise because accurate data is hard to come by; companies aren’t always forthcoming about the names of their investors or the amounts of funding they’ve raised. Industry analysts’ figures differ too because of “what counts” as ed-tech.
Here’s how Edsurge recently described the scope of its research in a report on ed-tech funding:
This analysis looks at all investments in US-based technology companies (for-profit or non-profit) that improve education outcomes for K–12 learners from 2010–2015. There were many different companies that didn’t clearly fit into these categories. To give a better understanding of how we made these decisions about individual companies, here are a few examples: Social Finance, a company that provides student loans and other services, is not included in our analysis because it is more a financial company than an education one. We included AltSchool because it uses (and develops) technology to help students learn.
I chuckled at that first sentence, I admit, because it’s really debatable which ed-tech companies, if any, “improve education outcomes.” What does that even mean?! It’s a nice buzz-phrase, but its actual meaning is really not clear.
In my database, I do include those companies that offer student loans, and I’d contend you can’t really understand what’s happening in the education sector if you ignore that these are among the most well-funded companies and most frequently funded types of companies. Investors like Peter Thiel might pay lip service to a disastrous “college bubble,” but at the end of the day, folks like him are still banking – literally – on people going into debt for more education. Furthermore, these private loan companies are also connected to the growth in coding bootcamps – many of the latter have struck partnerships with loan companies as part of their marketing to prospective students. Considering larger debates about student loan debt and for-profit higher education, I think it’s misleading to ignore this.
But it’s not always as clearcut, in my mind, what should or shouldn’t be included. Sometimes companies raise a bunch of money and announce that they’re planning on using the funds to target the education market. Do they now count as ed-tech? Sometimes companies pivot away from education. Should they be removed from the database? Sometimes companies target a certain age market in a way that gets conflated with education – “millennials” as “college students,” for example. Should these companies count? Are recruiting and job placement startups – again, sometimes connected to schools or training programs – education companies? Are those companies that provide products and services for libraries – public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, etc – education companies? What about companies that provide products and services to university researchers and scientists? Do “educational toys” count? What makes a toy or a game “educational”? How much “tech” do they need to possess to be “ed-tech”? (Edsurge’s framework – does it “improve education outcomes” – is, obviously, not that helpful in answering these questions. Admittedly I don’t always have a good answer to “what counts” either, but that’s why I show my work by making the data that powers my analysis available. In a nutshell: I try to consider “education” really broadly so that I have a better understanding of the economic and political landscape.)
So… Who’s Investing?
I’ve only kept a startup database for the past 17 months, but I recently decided to go back to when I launched Hack Education in 2010 and track all investors and all their education investments.
2010 is close to the beginning of the most recent swell in ed-tech funding, a “boom” that by some indications is rapidly turning to “bust.” I’d actually peg the very start of this renewed interest at 2008, but I’ve chosen the launch of Hack Education as the Important Historical Marker here. And I’ll briefly note here, as I’m wont to do, that there’s a much, much longer history: this is a resurgence, not a brand new surge. The ed-tech industry has experienced bubbles (and busts) before.
Here are the most active ed-tech investors – and a sample of their portfolios – since Hack Education (VC-free 4 life) was founded. (These are the investors who have made 20 or more education-oriented investments since 2010 – about one per quarter over the last 5.5 years):
500 Startups: Apptuto; Chalkable (Acquired); Cheddar Up; Chromatik; Codementor; Colingo; CultureAlley; Descomplica; eSpark; Experiment; Floqq; Internmatch; Kiwi Crate; Mindsnacks; Mom Trusted; Monkimun; Mystery Science; Okpanda; OneSchool (Closed); OnlineTyari; Platzi; Springboard; Stickery; Storypanda; Studypool; Taamkru; Timbuktu; Tinkergarten; Tynker; Udemy; Veduca; YongoPal (Closed)
Accel: Collegefeed (Acquired); Educreations; eduK; Edupristine; Fidelis; FreshGrade; Grovo; Knewton; Lynda.com (Acquired); Osmo; ResearchGate; Vedantu; Wyzant
Deborah Quazzo: BridgeU; CampusLogic; Clever; Degreed; Dreambox Learning; Educents; Gojimo; Handshake; Luvo; MasteryConnect; Nearpod; Parchment; Raise.me; Ranku; Smarterer (Acquired); Speakaboos; ThinkCERCA
First Round: Abl Schools; AltSchool; Bloc; CareDox; Civitas Learning; Earnest; Kiwi Crate; Knewton; Kno (Acquired); Koru; Raise.me; Remind; SchoolFeed (Closed); Upstart
GSV Capital: Chegg (IPO); ClassDojo; Clever; Course Hero; Coursera; Curious.com; Declara; Dreambox Learning; Edsurge; Fullbridge; General Assembly; Grockit (Acquired); Knewton; Kno (Acquired); Parchment; rSmart; Tynker
ImagineK12: AdmitSee; Blendspace (Acquired); Bloomboard; ClassDojo; Classkick; CodeHS; DigitWhiz; Edsurge; Education Elements; Educents; Educreations; Eduvant; Front Row; Goalbook; Hapara; Kaizena; Learnsprout (Acquired); NoRedInk; Nunook Interactive; Panorama Education; Raise.me; Remind; SchoolMint; Securly; Showbie; Socrative (Acquired); Studyroom; Teachboost
Kapor Capital: Allovue; Chromatik; ClassDojo; Classkick; Clever; CodeHS; Constant Therapy; Curriculet; EdCast; Educents; Engrade (Acquired); enuma; Fidelis; Front Row; Hopscotch; Inkling; Internmatch; Mytonomy; Newsela; NoRedInk; NovoEd; Okpanda; Piazza; SchoolMint; Schoolzilla; Student Loan Genius; Tinybop; UniversityNow; WriteLab; Zeal Learning; Zoobean
Learn Capital: Acceptly (Closed); AltSchool; Andela; Bloc; Bloomboard; Brainly; Bridge International Academies; BrightBytes; Chromatik; ClassDojo; CodeHS; CourseHorse; Coursera; Desmos; Edmodo; Edsurge; Educents; eSpark; Experiment; Learnzillion; MasteryConnect; Mystery Science; NoRedInk; NovoEd; OneSchool (Closed); popexpert; Rockit Online; Savvy; ShowMe; Udemy; Verbling; VersaMe; WriteLab
New Enterprise Associates: BenchPrep; Bridge International Academies; Coursera; D2L; Duolingo; Edmodo; Everfi; Guidespark; LearnUp; MasterClass; Quad Learning; Tynker; Upstart
NewSchools Venture Fund: BetterLesson; BrightBytes; ClassDojo; ClassWallet; CodeHS; Curriculet; EdCast; Edsurge; Education Elements; Educreations; Ellevation; Engrade (Acquired); enuma; eSpark; FreshGrade; Goalbook; Grockit (Acquired); Kaizena; Kidaptive; Learnzillion; MasteryConnect; Mystery Science; Mytonomy; Nearpod; Nepris; Newsela; Readworks; SchoolMint; Socrative (Acquired); Tales2Go; Tuva Labs; Tynker; Zaption
(In 2015, NSVF spun its investment vehicle out into a new for-profit fund, Reach Capital: Abl Schools; BetterLesson; ClassDojo; Edsurge; eSpark; Gradescope; Nearpod; SchoolMint; Volley; WriteLab; Zeal Learning)
Rethink Education: 2U (IPO); Ace Learning Company; Allovue; Bridge International Academies; BrightBytes; Civitas Learning; Degreed; Education Elements; Ellevation; Engrade (Acquired); Everfi; General Assembly; Hapara; Neverware; Noodle Education; NoRedInk; Pathbrite (Acquired); Smarterer (Acquired); Straighterline; Voxy
SV Angel: Boundless (Acquired); ClassDojo; Clever; Codecademy; Course Hero; Experiment; Hullabalu; KidAdmit; Kno; LearnUp; Panorama Education; Piazza; ShowMe; Skillshare; Tutorspree (Acquired); Verbling; WayUp
Beyond “The Most Active” Investors…
But a list of the “most active investors” really only gives you a partial glimpse into who’s investing in ed-tech. One of the reasons I started my own startup database is that I was interested in questions beyond “who’s making the most investments” or even “who’s making the biggest investments.” Like, who’s invested regularly in companies that have had “successful exits”? Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t made any education investments at all lately? Which trends do investors seem to cluster around? How has that changed over time? Which education CEOs are investors in their own startups or in others? What’s in the portfolio of celebrity investors – folks like Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel, Mark Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, John Doerr, and Ashton Kutcher – and/or those who loudly push particular narratives about “the future of education”?
What does the network of education technology investment look like?
An Ed-Tech Investor Graph
This last question is particularly interesting to me (although, I confess, social network analysis is outside my wheelhouse).
I’ve taken those “top” education investors listed above and created a graph that shows the relationships among them and their portfolio companies. This is, once again, just a partial glimpse at the roughly 3500 ed-tech investments that have happened since I launched Hack Education.
Pretty! And pretty frustrating too, isn’t it, when you don’t have all the data, and you have to rely on someone else to interpret what's going on. Lucky for the ed-tech industry, right there at the center of the graph’s middle cluster: Edsurge.
I’ll be digging into this data some more, and I’ve made it openly available so that others can too. Coming soon: What does the ed-tech investor graph look like for the MOOC trend? For the coding bootcamp trend? For “personalized learning”? And who's investing in these investment funds?
Reade educacioun newes articles and replace the worde technologye wyth paleographye.— Chaucer Doth Tweet (@LeVostreGC) May 6, 2016
The Justice Department has warnedNorth Carolina that its new anti-trans bathroom law violates the Civil Rights Act. According to the AP, “North Carolina’s prized public universities could be the biggest losers as state leaders defend a new law limiting the rights of LGBT people. The 17-university system, which includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University as well several historically black colleges, risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds if the Republicans who run the Legislature don’t reverse the law. The U.S. Justice Department wants an answer by the end of business on Monday.” The new head of the UNC system, “Margaret Spellings Is Caught Between Her State and the Federal Government. Now What?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Via the Huffington Post: “Education Department Secretly Reappoints Top Official Accused Of Harming Students.” The official in question is James Runcie, chief operating officer of the department’s Federal Student Aid office, whose tenure has included all sorts of debacles involving student loans.
Via The Oregonian: “Oregon lays out sweeping protections for transgender students.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Education published on Friday new documents that identify religious colleges that have sought and received exemptions from the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX.”
Via the AP: “The Michigan House approved a $500 million restructuring plan for Detroit Public Schools early Thursday, just days after disillusioned teachers staged a two-day sick-out because they feared the financially struggling district wouldn’t be able to pay them all through the summer.”
Via Reuters: “Illinois Senate votes for $454 million higher-education package.”
Meanwhile in Washington state: “Forget Boeing, Microsoft’s Tax Break Costs $776 Million.” Funny how certain billionaires make their money at companies that don’t pay taxes, and then use their wealth to steer the future of public education, eh?
Via the AP: “Republican Gov. Gary Herbert spent years defending Utah’s adoption of Common Core education standards but reversed course this week, calling for a repeal as he faces a tough re-election fight for his party’s nomination.”
New Jersey is rebranding its adoption of the Common Core standards.
(I’m not sure under which section here that “fake university” news should really go, but since it involves a Homeland Security raid, I’ll stick it here under “Politics.”) Via The New York Times: “Students at Fake University Say They Were Collateral Damage in Sting Operation.”
Education in the Courts
Via Penn Live: “Child told Paterno of sex abuse in 1976, court papers allege.” It’s worth pointing out that this is related to an insurance case, in which Penn State hopes to be reimbursed for the $60+ million it’s paid out to victims of abuse by former football coach Jerry Sandusky. In court, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance contends that it has no responsibility to pay the university’s insurance claims.
“After winning a key copyright decision, attorneys for Georgia State University want the publishers who brought the suit to pay more than $3.3 million dollars in fees and costs,” Publishers Weekly reports.
John McAdams will sue his employer Marquette University for breach of contract, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, after the school suspended him for a controversial blog post.
Snapchat is not ed-tech (unless you add phrase it as “integrating Snapchat into the classroom,” of course) but a court case of note: a Georgia man is suing Snapchat and a teenager who struck his car while traveling over 100 mph and taking a selfie using the app.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that the operators of Gigats.com agreed to settle deception charges. Gigats.com is an education lead-generation company based in Orlando, Fla., that claims to prescreen job applicants for employers. However, the company was instead gathering information for for-profit colleges and career training programs, according to the FTC.”
“The Weak Predictive Power of Test Scores” by Jay P. Greene.
From Vox’s Matthew Yglesias: “The biggest mystery in American education, in one chart.” The chart in question shows changes over time on students’ scores on NAEP. Not exactly what I’d consider “the biggest mystery,” but I’m no Yglesias.
“The president of the College Board hinted Tuesday that the new SAT has enabled a broader range of students to perform well on the college-admissions exam,” reports Education Week. But he “wouldn’t provide further details.”
Via The Hechinger Report: “Public-school tests glitch across state” of Mississippi.
Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Online Testing in Georgia Disrupted by Glitches.”
“North Dakota, Wyoming Move Away From Smarter Balanced Tests,” Education Week reports.
Via The New York Times: “The legal profession’s gatekeepers engaged in a fierce debate this week after an Arizona law school began accepting applicants who had taken only the more general GRE graduate admissions exam instead of the traditional Law School Admissions Test.” (The legal profession’s gatekeepers in question here are the Law School Admissions Council, the non-profit that administers the LSAT.)
Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Higher education groups say Education Department’s proposed rules on teacher preparation program discriminate against distance education providers.”
“Combating Zika Virus through Education: New Tuition-Free Health Studies Degree Launched” reads the press release headline announcing the University of the People’s new associates and bachelor’s degrees.
How curious. With a lull as of late in news and boasts about MOOCs’ impact in North America, we now see a bunch of stories in recent weeks about MOOCs’ potential for the developing world. Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “This Mongolian Teenager Aced a MOOC. Now He Wants to Widen Their Impact.” Via Udacity: “Harnessing Nanodegree Power To Solve World Problems!” (Nice use of punctuation!)
More data on online education in the “Research” section below.
Coding Bootcamps (The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)
You know you’re serious about turning your student data into currency when you start talking about “outcomes.”
From General Assembly’s blog post: “Measuring What Matters: GA’s Approach to Measuring Student Outcomes.”
And from a press release: “Reactor Core, the leader in technology education, today announced the development of their Standard Student Outcome Methodology (SSOM), which allows coding bootcamps to report student outcomes in a standardized and verifiable manner.” (Despite that word “standardized,” it’s a different methodology than what its competitor General Assembly has published. But GA got a lot more press for its news. So may the
best most well-connected standard win.)
Via Edsurge: “Coding Bootcamps’ Biggest Test: Finding Where Skills, Quality, Money and Jobs Intersect.” The story cites the CEO of the private loan company Skills Fund, which specializes in student loans for coding bootcamps, saying that the Department of Education’s plans to extend federal financial aid to coding bootcamps is “well-intentioned but ill-conceived.”
More about coding bootcamps, including another acquisition by a for-profit university, in “The Business of Ed-Tech” section below.
Meanwhile on Ye Olde Brick and Mortar Campus
Via Ohio.com: “University of Akron pulls out of talks with ITT.”
Conservative writer/activist David Horowitz is back with a new campaign aimed at California universities: “Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus.” The campaign which challenges groups that are calling for a boycott of Israel is hanging posters that, according to Inside Higher Ed, “go a step farther than advocacy for one position or another. They list the names of students and faculty members who are involved in the boycott movement, and say they are supporting a ‘Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel.’” (Trivia: Horowitz is the father of Ben Horowitz, founding partner of the Andreessen-Horowitz venture capital firm.)
Via Patch.com: “Houston School Officials Call Police After Student Tries Buying Lunch With $2 Bill.” The 13-year-old student is Black – sadly no surprise if you’re paying attention to racism and school discipline.
In other school-to-prison pipeline news: “Police Arrest Tennessee Elementary School Students Over Off-Campus Fight.” Guess the race of these children – some as young as 6 – who were pulled from their classes and taken away in handcuffs?
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Wisconsin at Madison Faculty Votes No Confidence in System’s President and Regents.”
Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of New Hampshire Concedes It Shouldn’t Have Bought $17,000 Table.”
“About 125 accepted applicants sent deposits to Sweet Briar College by a May 1 deadline, falling short of an administration goal in the first admissions season since a scrubbed attempt last year to close the all-female liberal arts college,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
“The Astonishing Incompetence of IDMLOCO, the Consultants UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi Hired to Help Scrub the Internet” by Angus Johnston. And via Chris Newfield: “The Costs of the Katehi Affair.”
Accreditation and Certification
Via Inside Higher Ed: “National accreditor ACICS, which faces an existential threat for being too lax with bad actors like Corinthian Colleges, tried to yank its approval of Bristol U, a deeply troubled for-profit. But a judge blocked the accreditor’s move.”
Go, School Sports Team!
Via The New York Times: “He Said He Was 17, but High School Basketball Player May Be Closer to 30.”
More grim news on school sports in the “Courts” section above.
From the HR Department
2Uannounced that its President and “Chief Impact Officer” Jim Shelton would be leaving the company. Shelton – formerly of McKinsey, then the charter school chain Edison Schools, then NewSchools Venture Fund, then the Gates Foundation, then the Department of Education– will join the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative in order to help it invest its billions in “personalized learning.” The New York Times describes the news thusly: “Zuckerberg and Chan Hire Education Leader to Run Philanthropic Effort.” Education Week says“Zuckerberg, Chan Tap James Shelton to Lead Huge Education Giving Effort.” Edsurge calls the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative a “charitable organization.” So many lovely euphemisms for a for-profit investment fund! More on 2U in “The Business of Education” section below.
Despite receiving some long-awaited funding from the state, Chicago State University has laid off more than 300 employees – roughly a third of its workforce – effective immediately.
Digital flashcard maker Quizlet was founded in 2005 and bootstrapped ’til late last year when it raised its first round of venture capital ($12 million). And now look: less than 6 months later, it has a new CEO: Matt Glotzbach, former VP of Product Management at YouTube.
Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “Terry Tempest Williams is leaving her University of Utah teaching post and walking away from the Environmental Humanities program she founded rather than agree to administrators’ demands she move her teaching from the state’s desert landscapes onto campus.”
Via ProPublica: “A doctor on the University of California’s Board of Regents has been allowed to keep his seat despite a secret investigation that concluded he violated ethics rules by trying to strike a financially beneficial deal between his eye clinics and UCLA, part of the university system the regents oversee.” The Regent in question: Dr. William De La Peña.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Last week’s one-day faculty strike at City College of San Francisco over a contract battle is ‘credit negative’ for the college because it sends a strong signal of resistance to the administration’s plan to ‘reduce costs and maintain structural balance,’ said Moody’s, the credit rating agency.”
The New York Times’ education reporter Motoko Rich is leaving the edu beat.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs data this morning, which The New York Times called “(mildly) disappointing,” with only 160,000 new jobs added. No clear signs in the employment data that “everyone should learn to code.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
“Sallie Mae Now Offers Education Loans to Parents, Too,” says The New York Times. (And yes, Sallie Mae offers loans for coding bootcamps, or as it calls it, the “ Career Training Smart Option Student Loan.”)
“Popular K–6 Math Curriculum Deemed Unaligned to Common Core,” reports Education Week. I would have actually gone with the plural “curricula” for this headline as, according to EdReports.org at least, plenty of materials are unaligned.
“Sci-Hub is providing science publishers with their Napster moment,” according to Techcrunch, which is pretty much a rewrite of the original story in Science. Like Napster, Sci-Hub faces some legal challenges, as “Elsevier Complaint Shuts Down Sci-Hub Domain Name,” as Torrent Freak reports.
Angela Duckworth’s new book on “grit” is out. (The New York Times review links it to John Wayne machismo. No racist or sexist legacies there!) So cue plenty of grit-related PR from the usual suspects. Andre Perry has the winning response: “Black and brown boys don't need to learn ‘grit,’ they need schools to stop being racist.”
Investors call for the “unbundling” of higher education, and cite Purdue’s Mitch Daniels in the process, so you know it’s politically regressive.
In other news about barf, via The MIT Technology Review: “The Nauseating Disappointment of Oculus Rift.” Perfect for the classroom!
Via Campus Technology: “ThingLink Debuts VR Editor for Schools.” (No mention of barfing.)
Learning Machine, which provides admissions software, has partnered with badge company Credly. “The move is designed to make competency-based learning accessible to admissions representatives,” says Campus Technology, as though there was no way until now for admissions offices to know about informal learning.
Sesame Workshop has launched Sesame Studios, a new YouTube channel that will create digital “shorts” – educational videos that are 30 seconds to five minutes. (Please do not use the word “MOOC” to describe this project.)
Ellucian has released an update to its Banner financial software and has released a platform called “Ethos.” “Using the Ellucian Ethos Data Model and Ellucian Ethos Integration to interpret data, the platform can assist institutions in decision-making and drive student success,” says Campus Technology. Personally, I would have gone with the name “Pathos.”
Speaking of pathos, you can now watch Pluralsight training videos via your Apple TV.
“Peergrade lets students grade each other’s assignments,” says Techcrunch, opening with this priceless lede: “For as long as I can remember, technology has been seen as a panacea that will finally make education scalable beyond the one to few model employed in the classroom.”
“Education nonprofit New Schools is shutting down,” reports The News & Observer. “The North Carolina New Schools Project started 13 years ago with a five-year, $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to restructure secondary education by creating smaller high schools.”
Teachers can now apply for DonorsChoose funds to pay for (a small selection of) computer science professional development opportunities.
Plenty of companies used Teacher Appreciation Week as an excuse for product releases and PR.
“Will Toys Ever Go Beyond Blue and Pink?” asks The Atlantic, which suggests that “The Internet” will bust gender stereotypes. Riiiight.
Contests and Awards
Edsurge has the list of the companies that have won grant money from the NewSchools Ignite Challenge. The list includes Carnegie Learning, which was founded way back in 1998.
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
“This Tech Bubble Is Bursting,” The Wall Street Journal pronounced this week. Indeed, there was a decline (again) in ed-tech funding in April. But there was a flurry of funding headlines this week, which in light of other financial signals sure seemed like a panicky attempt to convince the industry that everything’s cool.
On the heels of its acquisitions of Hackbright Academy, for-profit university Capella has bought another coding bootcamp: Dev Mountain. According to the company press release, the deal was closed at “a purchase price of up to $20 million, of which $15 million was paid in cash at closing with up to an additional $5 million to be paid over a three-year period pending the achievement of certain annual revenue and operating performance metrics.”
(Oops: I missed this news back in January – another for-profit bought another coding bootcamp. That is, Strayer Education bought the New York Code and Design Academy.)
I have no idea why this would count as “ed-tech” (unless we’re just desperate to boost the investment totals for the sector), but Edsurge reports that Odyssey has raised $25 million from Columbus Nova and Michael Lazerow. The company does aim its “social content platform” at millennials, so maybe that’s the angle. Bonus: the company has raised $33.15 million total and does not pay its writers.
Age of Learning has raised $150 million from Iconiq Capital,, the largest investment that ed-tech has seen so far this year. The company makes a very popular, but very 1990s-looking app ABCMouse. It was founded by Doug Dohring, who also founded Neopets. Age of Learning has raised about $180 million total.
GotIt! has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding from the Capricorn Investment Group, Plug and Play, and the TEEC Angel Fund. (The Edsurge headline says $9 million but that figure seems to also include seed funding that it raised in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.) GotIt! is described as an “on-demand knowledge marketplace,” but let’s be clear, it’s a tutoring startup.
SAM Labs has raised $4.5 million from Imperial Ventures for its “Internet of Things” kits for kids.
DigiExam has raised $3.5 million from investors including Bonnier AB’s Joen Bonnier and Spotify’s Gustav Söderström. Here’s Edsurge’s description of the company: “Founded in 2011 by a pair of Stockholm School of Economics students who were fed up with completing exams by hand, DigiExam offers a digital solution to help schools replace pen-and-paper tests.” DigiExam has raised $5 million total.
From the press release: “Teachable, a platform that empowers anyone to create and sell beautiful online courses, has closed $2.5 million in additional funding led by Accomplice Ventures, Naval Ravikant and Learn Capital.” The company has raised $4.5 million total.
Learn-to-code company CodeCombat has raised $2 million in seed funding from Third Kind Venture Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Allen & Company.
Brightwheel has raised $600,000 from Shark Tank stars Mark Cuban and Chris Sacca. (More on Cuban in the “Research” section below.) This brings to $2.8 million total raised by the “preschool management app” startup. (The episode aired this week, but it looks like the deal was filmed last year.)
ACT has acquiredOpenEd, a search engine for OER. EdWeek’s Market Brief has an important update to its story that clarifies what exactly was “open” about OpenEd.
Shareholders of the Apollo Education Group have agreed to an acquisition offer by private equity firm Apollo Management Group, which had to “sweeten the deal” in order for it to go through. This means that the parent company of the University of Phoenix will go private – no longer will we see quarterly reports to know how much it’s spent on marketing, for example, as opposed to instruction. Apollo Management Group also owns Hostess and McGraw-Hill. So textbooks, for-profit higher ed, and Twinkies. Quite a portfolio.
Pearsonreleased its quarterly financials, rebuffing the AFT’s attempt to have it review its business strategy. According to Sky News, the company is selling its language-learning software company GlobalEnglish Corp.
“2U Eyes Profits on Near Horizon,” says Edsurge. The company released its quarterly financials this week, with revenue of $47.4 million (up from the same time last year) and a net loss of $3.4 million (down from the same time last year).
I missed this news back in early April, but Par Capital Management has bought a $37.3 million stake in Chegg. This week, Chegg announced it had acquired Easy Solutions, a company whose products include the citation tool EasyBib. The deal was worth approximately $42 million, according to the press release. Here’s a link to Chegg’s Q1 financials.
K–12 Inc has acquired LTS Education Systems for $20 million.
As of 2015, there were 1,224 venture funds in the United States, up from 1,009 a decade ago and nearly double from 1995, according to the National Venture Capital Association.
For more info about ed-tech funding trends, see the “Research” section below.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
Via Motherboard: “Another Day, Another Hack: 7 Million Accounts for Minecraft Community ‘Lifeboat’.”
Not related to education, but certainly related to a company educators are happy to hand over their students’ data. New Scientist has found that Google’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service gives the tech behemoth sweeping access to patient data. “The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free – each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.”
For more on data and privacy, see the update in the “Politics” section above about Colorado’s new law – pending the governor’s signature – protecting student data.
Data and “Research”
Via CB Insights: “Ed Tech Goes Global: India Sees Deals Explode While China Takes One-Fifth Of Funding.” The investment analysis firm says that “The US share of global deals to ed tech startups declined from over 80% in 2011 to 60% in 2015.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles venture capitalist Mark Cuban. I’m quoted. What I wish had been printed: “Listen, I don’t know jack shit about basketball. So I’d never tell someone how to run the Dallas Mavericks.”
According to a press release from The Freedonia Group: “Demand for security products and services in the education market is expected to rise 3.4 percent annually to $2.5 billion in 2020.” Do note here: “security products and services in the education market” is really code for “surveillance tools.”
An incredible visualization from The New York Times: “Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares.”
“Student Debt Is About to Set Another Record, But the Picture Isn’t All Bad,” The Wall Street Journal reassures us.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students who enrolled in community colleges were significantly less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees and had lower early-career earnings than peers who went directly to four-year institutions, but those who ultimately transferred to four-year colleges performed equally to those who went directly into four-year institutions, a new study has found.”
From the Shanker Institute: “New Research Brief: Teacher Segregation In Los Angeles And New York City.”
From American Libraries: “Library Systems Report 2016.”
According to a survey administered by the think tank Center on Education Policy, “Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job.” That’s the USA Today headline, at least.
And here’s the headline on the Edsurge story on another survey, this one from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and Gallup: “Most Educators Believe We Overtest While Only 23% of Students Agree, Says Gallup Survey.”
“Nation’s Education Reporters Confident They’re Making a Difference,” says the Education Writers Association. (Nation’s PR people absolutely fucking certain they’re making a difference.)
“Get Rich and Do Good: Why Your Company Needs Effectiveness Research” is a headline from Edsurge that speaks volumes and ed-tech industry ideology.
The learn-to-code company Free Code Camp“asked 15,000 people who they are, and how they're learning to code.” Of those who responded, 21% were women and 24% were an “ethnic minority.”
The Gates Foundation sponsored a survey of folks working in instructional design. “67 percent are female,” Edsurge reports. It doesn’t appear as though the survey asked about race, although that didn’t stop it from using the word “diverse.”
Via Education Week: “Bullying, Crimes Down in U.S. Schools, Fed Data Finds.” But that headline is really misleading. According to Politico, “Between 2001 and 2013, the number of forcible sex crimes on college campuses more than doubled from 2,200 to 5,000.”
“59 percent of U.S. parents say their teens are addicted to mobile phones,” says Venture Beat.
Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: Interactive table ranking DE programs by enrollment.”
“Lessons About Online Learning” by Yoram and Edith Neumann of Touro University Worldwide.
Via The Atlantic: “Bringing Brain Science to Early Childhood.” Chances are “brain science” will change before your baby becomes a toddler, but the article includes Harvard and the word “innovation,” so you know it’s all legit.
In other “brain science” news: “Beware The Monkey Bars! Playground Concussions Are Rising,” FiveThirtyEight cautions.
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Icon credits: The Noun Project
This article first appeared in the publication Identity, Education and Power in February 2016
Late Friday night, Buzzfeed published a story indicating that Twitter is poised this week to switch from a reverse-chronological timeline for Tweets to an algorithmically-organized one. Users’ responses ranged from outrage to acceptance (after all, it’s hardly the first time that Twitter has made a drastic change to the user experience) – but the predominant response seemed like outrage, as #RIPTwitter soon began to trend.
Many questioned the decision, pointing out the importance that Twitter’s real-time feed has played in breaking news. Some noted that events like those that transpired in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 were first and foremost spread via Twitter – long before the story of Michael Brown’s death was picked up by the mainstream media. And others pointed out that the story of the shooting and the subsequent protests were glaringly absent from Facebook, whose news feed is displayed algorithmically.
These observations about a filtered and circumscribed access to information get to the heart of the concerns about an algorithmic Twitter: it will reinforce the voices of the powerful and silence the voices of the marginalized.
Twitter has already become rather infamous as a platform that facilitates the harassment of women– it’s an issue that the company has never really taken seriously, many contend. An algorithmic timeline hasn’t been put forward as a “solution” for harassment; rather it’s a “solution” for “engagement” and for “growth” – a response to the demands of investors and shareholders, not the demands of active users.
Algorithms are not neutral, although they are frequently invoked as such. They reflect the values and interests of their engineers, although it’s hard to scrutinize what exactly these values and interests entail as the inputs and calculations that feed algorithms are almost always “black boxed.”
When Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley quit last year, his departure left no managers, directors, or VPs of color in engineering or product management at the company. This matters. It matters, as Miley noted in an article he wrote describing Twitter’s ongoing diversity problems, because “27% of African American, 25% of Hispanic Americans and 21% of Women use Twitter according to Pew. Only 3% of Engineering and Product at Twitter are African American/Hispanic and less than 15% are Women.” It matters for the shape of the product; it matters for the shape of the algorithms that will dictate how we Twitter users experience the product.
And this matters in turn, because as law professor Frank Pasquale has argued, “authority is increasingly expressed algorithmically.” Algorithms – their development and implementation – are important expressions of power and influence. This is increasingly how decisions get made. This is, as Twitter and Facebook both underscore, how networks are constructed and how information is delivered.
And this matters greatly for education technologies, not only for the learning networks that have emerged on sites like Twitter, but in the various software and systems used in the classroom and by administration.
Some of the buzziest of buzzwords in ed-tech currently involve data collection and analysis: “personalization,” “adaptive learning,” “learning analytics,” “predictive analytics.” These all involve algorithms – almost to a tee, algorithms that are proprietary and opaque.
As with Twitter’s promise that an algorithmic timeline will surface Tweets that are more meaningful and relevant to users, we are told that algorithmic ed-tech will offer instruction and assessment and administrative decision-making that is more efficient and “personalized.” But we must ask more about why efficiency is a goal – this is, after all, the application of business criteria to education – and how that goal of efficiency shapes an algorithmic education. (How, for example, is “engagement” in ed-tech shaped by Web analytics; that is, “engagement” has become a measure of clicks and “time on page.”) And we must ask “personalized” how and for whom? Who benefits from algorithmic education technology? How? Whose values and interests are reflected in its algorithms?
Although “personalization” implies that algorithms work to deliver each of us an individualized experience, it does so in part by building profiles about us. This isn’t necessarily new or particularly refined, as advertisers have long divided us into different market segments based on things like our age or gender. Similarly, schools have profiled and tracked students based on things like age or “aptitude.” Many of these educational practices have been questioned for perpetuating discrimination, and it’s worth considering how we might challenge institutional racism, for example, if more and more decisions occurs algorithmically. Is historical discrimination amplified? Are these decisions now also less transparent?
An algorithmic education, despite all the promises made by ed-tech entrepreneurs for “revolution” and “disruption,” is likely to re-inscribe the power relations that are already in place in school and in society. Profiling has very different implications for different groups.
In the UK, for example, schools are monitoring students’ Internet activity for words and phrases that software deems might signal Islamic radicalism. A spokesperson for Impero, a company that is piloting this technology throughout the UK and US, told The Guardian that “The system may help teachers confirm identification of vulnerable children, or act as an early warning system to help identify children that may be at risk in future. It also provides evidence for teachers and child protection officers to use in order to intervene and support a child in a timely and appropriate manner.” Almost every word in those two sentences demands clarification: how is “vulnerable” or “at risk” defined? What feeds the algorithms that make the predictions that identify these students? We don’t know. What happens to the data that’s being collected on all students – “at risk” or not – to devise these profiles? We don’t know. What evidence do we have that predictive modeling and “intervention” – whatever that entails – works to decrease radicalism rather than increase mistrust and discrimination?
There are some competing and contradictory arguments made by algorithms and education technologies. On one hand, algorithmic decision-making promises improved surveillance over “vulnerable children” – those whose behaviors and backgrounds mark them as “at risk,” according to schools’ and societies’ values (and more specifically, the values and interests of software makers). But on the other hand, much of ed-tech also insists that it has stripped out the context and culture of the classroom as well as the context and culture of the student. This imagined ed-tech using student is what sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom has called“the roaming autodidact” – an “ideal, self-motivated learner,""embedded in the future but dis-embedded from place.” Dis-embedded from place, disembodied – an erasure that just as easily serves as a re-inscription of a “universality” of the white, middle class male. (Again, we don’t know. The algorithms are opaque.)
As I’ve argued previously, some ed-tech companies contend (in response to privacy concerns, to be clear) that their learning algorithms work without knowing who students are. Knewton’s CEO, for example, has said that “We can help students understand their learning history without knowing their identity.” But what does it mean to do so? What does it mean when ed-tech companies talk about an “identity-less-ness” learning? What does it mean to build “learning sciences” and “learning technologies” on top of this sort of epistemology? What does “personalization” possibly mean if there’s no “personally identifiable information” involved? What happens to bodies and identities – particularly bodies and identities of marginalized people – when they’re submitted to a new algorithmic regime that claims to be identity-less, that privileges identity-less-ness? And of course, what are the ideologies underneath these purportedly identity-less algorithms? (We might be able to answer that question, if partially, even when the algorithms are black-boxed.) These are some of the most important questions we must ask about identity, power, and education technologies.
Twitter users might balk at letting the company control their social and information networks algorithmically; it’s time we bring the same scrutiny to the algorithms we’re compelling students and teachers to use in the classroom.
The Education and Justice Departments have notified every public school district in the country with a “Dear Colleague” letter that discrimination against transgender students, particularly over which bathroom they can use, violates federal civil rights law.
“High school students will be allowed to carry mace in the 2016–2017 school year after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education agreed to remove prohibitive language and amend its policy,” the Salisbury Post reports. One board member said that pepper spray might be useful because of HB2, the North Carolina law that demands people in the state use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “UNC Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Controversial Bathroom Law.” And the state of North Carolina sues the feds in response: “North Carolina’s Suit to Keep Federal Funding After HB2.”
Via The Nation: “ For Students, the Fight Against ‘Bathroom Bills’ Is About Far More Than Bathrooms.”
The English government is backing away from its controversial plan to force all the country’s schools to become academies.
Via The Atlantic: “Two radically different bills aim to overhaul [Detroit’s] beleaguered school system. Will the legislation do more harm than good?”
Presidential Campaign Hellscape
Congrats Thiel Fellows!
Peter Thiel has signed up as a Trump delegate from San Francisco. Thiel was one of the biggest financiers of Ron Paul's super PAC in 2012.— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 10, 2016
“Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is reportedly on Trump’s finance team,” says Business Insider. See also: “The Education Libertarian,” a profile of Peter Thiel by the Cato Institute, in which he decries women getting the right to vote.
Trump’s presidential campaign co-chair describes The Donald’s higher education platform: “getting government out of student lending, requiring colleges to share in risk of loans, discouraging borrowing by liberal arts majors and moving OCR to Justice Department.”
Via The 74: “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Latest Push to Improve Early Childhood Education: Home Visits.”
The Whiteboard Advisors’ latest “Education Insider” report (PDF) is on assessment trends, higher education, and the presidential campaigns. Among the people these “insiders” see as possible Secretary of Education choices: Ted Nugent.
Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “British Officials, Pearson Probe Effort to Leak Test Content.”
Via Chalkbeat: “They rejected multi-state Common Core exams. Now what?”
Oregon students will soon be sitting more standardized tests – wheee! – this time in science.
“How Hard Is the New SAT?” asks The Atlantic.
Via The Washington Post: “ Scores for new SAT are out. But how do they compare to the old one and the ACT?”
“Smartwatch cheats force Thai students back to exam halls,” the BBC reports.
Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)
From the World Bank’s ed-tech blog: “How students in Uruguayan schools are being taught English over the Internet by teachers in Argentina– and in the UK & the Philippines.”
In related MOOC news, there's more on “nanodegrees” in the “credentialing” section below.
Coding Bootcamps (The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)
(No mention in either of for-profits buying bootcamps?)
Meanwhile on Ye Olde Brick and Mortar Campus
The Washington Post’s Spotlight team of investigative journalists look at “Private schools, painful secrets” – a look at sexual assault at elite private schools.
The University of Cambridge plans to offer a $332,000 doctorate degree. ROFL.
Via NPR: “As Feds Crack Down On For-Profit College, A Founder Heads To Prison For Fraud.”
“An Ayn Rand Acolyte Selling Students a Self-Made Dream.” A profile of Carl Barney, whose for-profit colleges will run you around $30,000 for an associate degree.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Black West Point Cadets Won’t Be Punished for Posing With Fists Raised.”
“The Citadel Won't Allow Student to Wear a Hijab With Her Uniform,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Via The Atlantic: “High Schools for Addicts.”
“D.C. Is Teaching Second-Graders How to Ride Bikes. Why Don’t All School Systems Do This?” asks Slate.
“Harvard Will Bar Members of Single-Gender Clubs From Official Leadership Roles,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Via The New York Times: “Minnesota Law School, Facing Waning Interest, Cuts Admissions.”
Speaking of admissions, “U.S. Urges Colleges to Rethink Questions About Criminal Records.”
Via Politico: “Success Academy documents point to ‘possible cheating’ among challenges.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Akron’s Financial Outlook Is Downgraded to ‘Negative’ by Moody’s.” The university recently decided not to partner with the for-profit ITT, and I do wonder if that decision counted as a positive or negative in Moody’s assessment.
“A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing traditional schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District millions of dollars in tax money,” The LA Times reports. Charter organizations dispute the claim.
Also via The LA Times: “LAPD investigating apparent grade tampering at West L.A. charter school.”
“Frustrated with how colleges have handled their claims of sexual abuse, more students are turning to social media to publicize their cases,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
Accreditation and Certification
The learn-to-code company Treehouse has launched“Techdegrees,” “a guided-learning experience designed to prepare students for entry-level developer jobs at companies across the country.” (Like the Udacity “nanodegree,” this is not an actual degree.)
Via Udacity: “Breaking Down How A Nanodegree Program Works.”
Go, School Sports Team!
“Penn State president appalled at media frenzy over new Paterno allegations.” Fuck you, Eric Bannon, for not being appalled at what your university has done to protect Paterno.
“Voters in McKinney, Tex., have given the go-ahead to spend nearly $63 million on building a high school football stadium after months of contentious debate in the suburb north of Dallas,” The New York Times reports.
Via the Orlando Sentinel: “FSU’s Mario Pender dismissed from team after being charged with domestic battery by strangulation.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics says it may explore ways to allow players to profit off their names and likenesses, though some members argue too few athletes would benefit from such a change.” (The article features a photo of Arne Duncan– a reminder that the former Secretary of Education now works for the Knight Commission, as well as for the venture firm Emerson Collective.)
Via the AP: “A policy that would nearly triple the number of University of California student-athletes guaranteed continued financial aid in the event of a career-ending sports injury received unanimous approval Wednesday from a committee of the university’s governing board.”
Via ESPN: “Ole Miss officials have determined that a text message conversation published to Miami Dolphins rookie Laremy Tunsil’s Instagram account during the NFL draft did happen last year, sources told ESPN’s Outside the Lines, but the school is still looking into whether the messages were altered before they were published.” The Instagram photo showed Tunsil asking Ole Miss’s athletic director for help paying his rent and his mom’s utility bill. It was one of two social media messages – the other a Twitter photo of Tunsil smoking marijuana through a gas mark – that were posted during the NFL draft.
From the HR Department
“Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot,” says The Wall Street Journal in a story about “Jill Watson” (of course it’s a female name), an automated teaching assistant at Georgia Tech. It doesn’t look as though students knew they were being experimented upon, but who gives a shit about ethics. This is ed-tech.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, wrote in a March email to the vice president of the system’s Board of Regents, who was chairing a task force on controversial changes to layoff policies concerning tenured faculty members, that tenure should not mean ‘a job for life,’ according to public records first obtained by the The Cap Times. ‘That is a “union” argument,’ Cross wrote to Regent John Behling, comparing faculty members to railroad brakemen whom he said were kept on the job for years after they were no longer needed.”
Via The New York Times: “CUNY Union Votes to Allow Strike if Contract Deal Is Not Reached.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Graduate Students Sue Mizzou Over Right to Form a Union.”
“A regional National Labor Relations Board judge this week dismissed a petition from full-time faculty members at Marywood University to form a union,” says Inside Higher Ed.
The for-profit higher ed chain Education Management Corporation will lay off some 200 employees.
Lots of goings-on this week in the loan industry. (See the “upgrades and downgrades” section below.) Fortune’s Dan Primack reports on the troubles at LendingClub: “LendingClub’s Ousted CEO Won’t Get Any Severance.”
Via Education Week: “Teach For America Ends Pre-Training Pilot Focused on Cultural Competency.”
A report released by the Department of Education: “The State of Racial Diversity In the Educator Workforce.” (PDF)
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Ball State U. Grants Tenure to Faculty Member Who Once Taught Intelligent Design as Science.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Nevada System Chancellor Resigns Over Email Flap.”
“Timothy Parker, Accused Of Plagiarism, Is Out As USA Today's Crossword Puzzle Editor,” FIveThirtyEight reports.
Contests and Awards
Via NPR: “Born With No Hands, This 7-Year-Old ‘Stunned’ Judges To Win Penmanship Contest.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
Edsurge explains “What Blockchain Means for Higher Education” with this absolute gem: “Blockchain is literally a chain of blocks.” I promise you, dear reader, it literally is not.
“Uber-U is Already Here” – “powered by Blockchain Technology.”
Via Backchannel: “‘We Will Literally Predict Their Life Outcomes’ – Scientist Vivienne Ming says she can foretell a child’s earning potential, happiness, even longevity. But not all her claims add up.”
But I’m sure this is legit. Via The Observer: “The Business of Zapping Brains With Electricity Heats Up.”
Meanwhile: “Bubble Indemnity.” “Zynga’s Headquarters Is Worth More Than The Actual Company.” Having spent $100,000 for a chrome panda for its lobby, “Dropbox cut a bunch of perks and told employees to save more as Silicon Valley startups brace for the cold.” (So be sure to hop right on that education offering Dropbox rolled out this week.)
From the press release: “AT&T Kicks Off Aspire Accelerator With 6 Leading Ed-Tech Startups.”
“The TEDification of the Large Lecture” is terrible. Don’t do this.
Famed tech startup accelerator program Y Combinator is launching HARC, the Human Advancement Research Community. The mission is to copy the old Xerox PARC model and to “ensure human wisdom exceeds human power, by inventing and freely sharing ideas and technology that allow all humans to see further and understand more deeply.” Alan Kay is involved, along with Vi Hart, Dan Ingalls, John Maloney, Yoshiki Ohshima, Bret Victor, and Alex Warth.
Edsurge is launching a new publication for students called “EdSurge Independent.” It says that “After noticing a conspicuous absence of avenues for student voices in the higher education conversation, we decided to make one, run and managed by our own student editorial intern.” I noticed a conspicuous absence of any mention of pay. Students and educators alike: do not write for free, ffs. Always check whopayswriters.com to see what publications will pay you. If they truly care about your "voices," I promise, they will pay.
“Student-Loan Interest Rates Will Drop Again in 2016–17,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Speaking of loans, Google will ban ads for payday loans. “This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products,” the company says, “and will not affect companies offering loans such as Mortgages, Car Loans, Student Loans, Commercial loans, Revolving Lines of Credit (e.g. Credit Cards).” Hmm.
Via The Wall Street Journal: “Lenders Get Burned Betting on Ivy Leaguers.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Backer of Student Loans Pivots in Push to Reshape Higher Education.” (Seriously. Pay attention to the loan space, people.)
More on loans in the HR section above.
The New Yorker profiles Sphero’s learn-to-code toy for kids but says dumb things about Seymour Papert’s Logo so I’m not sure why I’m even linking to this.
Via Techcrunch: “Lilwil’s personalized learning engine teaches teachers how to teach.” So that’s... something.
“Dropbox’s new education tier has most of its business features for a third of the price,” says The Next Web.
“Is Competency-Based Education Worth the Investment?” asks Edsurge. (Hey, we could ask Pearson how much money it made off of those taking the GED last year to find out.)
“Blackboard Partners with Fishtree for Personalized Learning,” says Campus Technology. Now educators can personalize their courses, apparently, which is something no one has been able to do until “adaptive technology” integrated with the LMS. Or something.
“Online tutoring by students raises access fears,” says the Times Higher Education. “Start-up firm Spires plans rapid expansion across UK universities, and says it could help social mobility – but others see private tutoring as harming access.”
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
PowerSchool has acquired TIENET for an undisclosed sum.
Brainly has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Naspers. “Social learning network” is how the company describes itself; “homework answer site” is probably a better descriptor. It’s raised $24.5 million total.
Speakaboos has raised $12.5 million to “to turn ‘screen time into reading time’,” says Edsurge. Investors in this Series B round include: Advancit Capital, Betty Cohen, Dave Pottruck, Deborah Quazzo, Gerald Hughes, Helena Wong, Kyowon Group, and Rick Segal. The startup has raised $25.2 million total.
Freshgrade, whose CEO also founded Club Penguin, has raised $11.6 million for its digital portfolio platform. Investors in this round include Accel, Axcel Partners, Emerson Collective, Reach Capital, and Relay Ventures. The company has raised $15.9 million.
Don’t let the Techcrunch headline fool you: “Nearpod raises $9.2 million to help teachers use tech for live instruction.” “Live instruction” is not teachers; it is content delivery via a mobile device. Investors in this round include Arsenal Venture Partners, Cito Ventures, co.lab, Deboah Quazzo, Emerson Collective, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Krillion Ventures, Marc Benioff, Reach Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, StartX, and Storm Ventures.
“Oh, the sound of a ‘kaching,’ the jingle of funding moving into a startup,” writes Edsurge, boasting that it’s among the companies that received grant money from the government’s Small Business Initiatives Research program. The funding will go towards building its (ethically questionable) “Concierge” tool in which Edsurge acts as a middle-man helping schools identify products to buy and takes a cut of the contract action.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
The ALA has released library privacy guidelines for students in K–12 schools.
Via The Washington Post: “Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight.”
Researchers at Purdue’s Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments, or VACCINE, a US Department of Homeland Security center based at the university – uh, nice acronym – have created a system that “could let law enforcement and public safety agencies tap into thousands of cameras in places like parking garages, college campuses, national parks, and highways.” [Insert Course Signals learning analytics joke here.]
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The faculty of the Graduate School at Rutgers University in New Brunswick took a stand against Academic Analytics on Tuesday, resolving that administrators shouldn’t use proprietary information about faculty productivity in decisions about divvying up resources among departments, or those affecting the makeup of the faculty, graduate teaching assignments, fellowships and grant writing. They also demanded to view their personal data profiles by Sept. 1.”
Via Motherboard Vice: “70,000 OkCupid Users Just Had Their Data Published.”
Also via Motherboard Vice: “Teen Dating Site Left Underage Users’ Private Messages Exposed To Anyone.”
And again, Motherboard Vice: “Nintendo‘s Charming ’Miitomo’ Could Be the Most Brilliant Data Mining App Ever.” (To which I extend congratulations. Because up ’til now, MOOCs were the most brilliant data mining app ever.)
Data and “Research”
Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver on scientific research and the media:
From the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at MIT: “We present findings from a study that prohibited computer devices in randomly selected classrooms of an introductory economics course at the United States Military Academy. Average final exam scores among students assigned to classrooms that allowed computers were 18 percent of a standard deviation lower than exam scores of students in classrooms that prohibited computers.”
“One-to-One Laptop Initiatives Boost Student Scores, Researchers Find” says Education Week.
“Popularity of Ed Tech Not Necessarily Linked to Products’ Impact” reads another Education Week headline.
Via Education Week: “Charter, Alternative, Virtual Schools Account for Most Low-Grad-Rate Schools, Study Finds.”
But as Al Roper reminds us in that Last Week Tonight clip above, you can just cherry pick the science that you like best! Because ed-tech is not science. It's religion.
Speaking of which, Edsurge and Pearson have published a report on adaptive learning, with an introduction by the Clayton Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn.
Digital Promise has launched an interactive “research map” which aims to help ed-tech developers and schools find ed-tech research that supports whatever projects they want to do, I'm guessing. The map draws on only 100,000 articles from 180 journals and only dates back to 2005 because that is the grand sum of education technology research.
Via the AP: “The number of 3- and 4-year-olds in state-funded classrooms rose slightly during the 2014–15 school year to almost 1.4 million, according to a national preschool report released Thursday. The report from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range in per-pupil spending and quality of programs, with New Jersey spending $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.”
“2016 Building a Grad Nation Report” – how the US is progressing on raising high school graduation rates.
“Dean Dad” Matt Reed on humanities enrollment at community colleges. (Spoiler alert: despite rumors of the humanities’ death, enrollment is up.)
A “market map” and “The Periodic Table of Ed Tech” by CB Insights. I really don’t understand how the investment analysis firm categorizes ed-tech. But that’s why I’m doing this VC funding research for myself.
Elsewhere: “U.S. Venture Capital Investment Dollars Down 11% Year-to-Date, Late Stage Rounds Hit Hardest Followed by Series B,” Mattermark’s Danielle Morrill reports.
Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “A Retrospective on Implementing Common Course Management Systems.”
From Project Tomorrow: “From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K–12 education.”
I have lots of questions about this report: “Who’s winning at social media in higher ed?” particularly since the “winners” are schools in the media over rape trials and ending tenure.
Via NYMag: “Don’t Believe the Hype About Grit, Pleads the Scientist Behind the Concept.” But do make sure there are still plenty of headlines about “grit” as you sell your new book on the topic.
“The open ed landscape” by Martin Weller.
“The Genetics of Staying in School” by Ed Yong.
“New research suggests whether information is presented electronically or on paper affects the way we process it,” says the Pacific Standard.
New research, as reported by the Pacific Standard, also says “Parents Can’t Tell When Their Kids Are Lying.”
Via Campus Technology: “Survey: Instructional Designers‘Pivotal’ in Tech Adoption.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Concerns on U.S. Proposal on Human Research Subjects.”
Inside Higher Ed profiles Meta (formerly Sciencescape) about its “Predictive Analytics for Publishing” and its plans to tackle researchers’ supposed “information overload.”
“This Year’s College Grads Are The Luckiest In A Decade.” That’s a link from data journalist Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, so it has to be true. Meanwhile, Silver’s arch-nemesis, The New York Times reports that “It’s a Tough Job Market for the Young Without College Degrees.”
“Did a teen discover a lost Mayan city? Not exactly,” says The Washington Post, reminding us why viral stories about kids’ discoveries often end up hurting the kids more than helping research.
Rejoice. The Times Higher Education has released its World Reputation Rankings for 2016.
Speaking of rankings and ratings… Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Early Evidence: The College Scorecard Made a Difference, but Only for Some Groups of Students.” The money quote: “The subgroups of students expected to enter the college-search process with the most information and most cultural capital are exactly the students who responded most strongly to the Scorecard.”
Icon credits: The Noun Project
Via NPR: “The U.S. Education Department said this week it will make Pell Grants available to 10,000 high school students who are enrolled in courses at 44 colleges.”
Via PBS Newshour: “GOP reinstates usage of ‘illegal alien’ in Library of Congress’ records.” The total jerk move will force the LOC to use the phrase in lieu of less prejudicial terms like “noncitizen.”
“Why Free School Lunches Might Be Harder To Get Soon.” The explanation for this jerk move is pretty much same as above: The GOP.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “UNC Tuition for $500? State Lawmakers Consider the Possibility at 5 Campuses.” Here’s how Inside Higher Ed describes the proposal: “Fears for Future of UNC Black Colleges. Republican lawmakers back bill that would substantially cut tuition and revenue, and seek more student diversity, at five system campuses, four of which are minority-serving institutions.”
“Colorado Education Commissioner Rich Crandall announced his resignation Thursday just four-and-a-half months into the job, shocking the state’s education community and roiling the state Department of Education as it embarks on a number of critical initiatives,” Chalkbeat Colorado reports.
Via NPR: “Wyoming School District Stalls On Transgender Student Policy.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Professors at Illinois colleges and universities spoke out this week in interviews with The News-Gazette against Gov. Bruce V. Rauner’s nominee to the faculty seat on the Illinois Board of Higher Education.” (That nominee is not a faculty member, for starters.)
Perhaps this should go in the “research” section below. “The UK government has published its 2016 HE White Paper, entitled Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice,” the Times Higher Education reports. For what it’s worth, Richard Hall’s response makes for better reading than the white paper itself. And The Next Web headline makes for… something: “Facebook and Google could be allowed to award university degrees.”
Presidential Campaign Politics
For the latest on the Trump University lawsuit, see the “legal” section below.
Education in the Courts
Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump University Can Take Fraud Case to New York's Highest Court, Judge Rules. Ruling will likely delay trial until after November presidential election, representing victory for presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.”
Via The New York Times: “A federal court has ordered a town in Mississippi to desegregate its high schools and middle schools, ending a five-decade legal battle over integrating black and white students. The ruling by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, made Friday but announced Monday, means the middle and high school programs in the Cleveland School District, in the western part of the state, will be combined for the first time in their century-long history.”
“Two lawsuits by 890 students and alumni in the U.S. accuse Google of failing to gain their consent before scanning their emails via its Apps For Education suite for advertising purposes,” says Education Dive.
Via The Verge: “Lawsuit claims Facebook illegally scanned private messages.” The lawsuit contends that, doing so, Facebook has violated both the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California Invasion of Privacy Act.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A state judge has ruled that Gov. Matthew G. Bevin of Kentucky can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the state legislature’s approval.”
Also via The Chronicle: “Supreme Court Declines to Rule on Religious Colleges’ Contraception Case.”
“The Texas Supreme Court rejected arguments on Friday by a coalition of 600-plus districts that the ‘Robin Hood’ school funding system, in which wealthy districts share local property tax revenue with those in poorer areas, was unconstitutional,” The New York Times reports.
“Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix and Western International University, announced Thursday that it would eliminate the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in students’ enrollment agreements,” Inside Higher Ed reports. These clauses prevent students from suing.
“Hail and Farewell to The Google Books Case” by James Grimmelmann.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: Althea Hylton-Lindsay, a “professor at William Paterson University of New Jersey has been awarded a total of more than $2 million in damages after a jury found that the college harassed and discriminated against her because of her race and religion.”
The ACT and SATdisagree on how scores on their respective tests compare.
“Pearson gets emergency test scoring contract from Tennessee,” Chalkbeat reports.
Also via Chalkbeat: “Black and white students score far apart on a new test of technology skills.” Here’s the WaPo headline: “Girls outscore boys on inaugural national test of technology, engineering skills.”
Via NPR: “Paying Students May Raise Test Scores, But The Lesson Is Not Over.”
Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)
The New York Times on The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school: “Online School Enriches Affiliated Companies if Not Its Students.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The online program management company 2U is hoping to take some of the risk out of offering degree programs online with an algorithm it says can predict whether the program will be a success for the company and the college.”
Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking on the Masterclass online platform.
Via KNN: “‘aisectmoocs.com’ launched as India’s largest free online open learning platform.”
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a flurry of these sorts of announcements, but “edX welcomes ITMO University.”
EdX also announced the for-credit courses, part of its Global Freshman Academy partnership with ASU, that are starting this summer.
Via AP: “The University of Iowa says it is investigating whether more than 30 students cheated in online classes by having others take exams for them.”
Coding Bootcamps (The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)
Via Techcrunch: “Coding school 42 plans to educate 10,000 students in Silicon Valley for free.” Only those between the age of 18 and 30 need apply. There are no teachers. But Techcrunch covered it, so you know it’s legit.
It’s not quite a coding bootcamp story, but NPR takes a look at “career and technical education,” which seems to be back in favor (in some circles at least).
More on for-profit higher ed in the "privacy" section below and the "courts" section above.
Meanwhile on Campus
Burlington College will close its doors, “citing longstanding financial woes,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Here’s a different angle, via The Week: “Burlington College will close due to crushing debt incurred by Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders.”
“Thomas Pogge, one of the world’s most prominent ethicists, stands accused of manipulating students to gain sexual advantage,” says Buzzfeed in an article about allegations – an “open secret” apparently – about the Yale professor.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Asian-American Groups Accuse Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale of Bias in Admissions.”
Via the NiemanLab: “The Knight Foundation and Columbia University are partnering to launch a new organization focused on First Amendment research and litigation. Knight and Columbia will each commit $5 million in operating funds and $25 million in endowment funds (for an initial total of $60 million) to a new nonprofit affiliated with the university called the First Amendment Institute.”
Via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “University of Wisconsin-Madison has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity through Nov. 1 after an investigation found chapter members repeatedly used racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs, and then ostracized a black member who told them to stop, according to documents released by the university.”
Harvard’s ed school has launched a “major early childhood initiative.”
Go, School Sports Team!
Via ESPN: “Police records detail several more violence allegations against Baylor football players.”
Via The Oregonian: “Arguing that the NCAA and the Pac–12 Conference ‘actively concealed’ the ‘debilitating long-term dangers of concussions’ from generations of college football players, lawyers for a former Oregon Ducks football player filed a suit Tuesday that is seeking to reach a class-action status and cover five decades of players.”
Via App.com: “Rutgers University has settled a lawsuit with former men’s basketball player Derrick Randall for $300,000. Randall filed the suit in 2013, eight months after the university fired basketball coach Mike Rice’s for mistreating his players.”
“Starting this month, the wealthiest athletic departments have a new tool to help them attract and retain the best athletes – the ability to cover the full cost of summer school for students who are on any form of athletic aid,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The change does raise concerns about equity, according to The Chronicle. Um, not equity for students. Equity among institutions who cannot afford to pay extra scholarship dollars for the best athletes.
From the HR Department
“What Obama’s Overtime Rule Could Mean for Colleges.” (Teachers, of course, have long been exempted from overtime.)
“Facing a $26 million shortfall caused by declining enrollment and a decade of budget cuts from state government, Kentucky’s community college system has cut 506 positions, including 170 faculty and staff jobs that were occupied,” the Herald-Ledger reports. Here’s Bryan Alexander on this particular “queen sacrifice.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “AAUP investigation finds that – regardless of what one thinks of Melissa Click’s actions – U of Missouri board endangered academic freedom by firing her without a faculty review.”
More on employment data in the “research and data” section below.
Contests and Awards
A huge congratulations to Cynthia Solomon, who was honored by NCWIT with this year's Pioneer Award. If you’ve never heard of Cynthia Solomon, please leave the ed-tech field now. kkthxbye.
Via Campus Technology: “Udacity has announced a partnership with a ride-sharing service in China to host a $100,000 prize competition to find the best machine learning strategy to improve customer experience.”
Upgrades and Downgrades
It’s not really an “exclusive” when you re-write a Google blog post, but oh well. Here’s Edsurge’s “exclusive” on the news that Android apps will soon be able on Chromebooks. In other news culled from the Google blog: “Introducing Spaces, a tool for small group sharing.” And “Education news from Google I/O: tools to take learning further.”
My explanation as to “Why Big Bird Gave to Reach Capital’s $53 Million Fund” would probably include something about why Sesame Street now premieres on HBO and not on public television: that is, because Sesame Street has lost touch with its mission to serve the nation’s poorest children and instead opted to back the privatization and venture capitalization of education. (And really, “gave to” is a funny verb to use to describe an investment, no? This isn’t charity.) Edsurge, which shares investors now with Sesame Street, has a sunnier explanation of all this, of course.
Edsurge did finally find ed-tech it could criticize this week, so that’s something.
“Apple and Maine education officials are allowing school districts to trade in iPads for laptops after teachers and students say the computers are better for schoolwork,” according to The Sun Journal.
The School Library Journal reports that “New York DOE Green Lights Amazon eBook Deal.”
It looks like Luvo (the startup formerly known as Flashnotes) has shut its doors. Hat tip to Kirsten Winkler for catching the “redesign” of the startup’s landing page. The company, which allowed students to buy and sell their class notes, has raised over $14 million.
TorrentFreak reports that “IBM has submitted an application to expand its portfolio with a rather peculiar patent. To protect rightsholders the technology company has invented a printer that doesn’t copy or print any copyright infringing text or images.” A terrible idea – fair use, anyone? – but I bet TurnItIn-loving institutions could be interested.
The New York Times has more on the drama at the VC firm Xfund, which I’m only including here because Harvard.
“For online lenders, it’s suddenly touch-and-go,” says Techcrunch. (Remember what I’ve said: watch the student loan space.)
Speaking of openwashing: “Pearson CEO Fallon Talks Common Core, Rise of ‘Open’ Resources.”
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
Elsevier has acquiredSSRN, an online open access repository. See Roger Schonfeld’s response in The Scholarly Kitchen. Or perhaps this headline is more your flavor: “SSRN has been captured by the enemy of open knowledge.”
KickUp has raised $1.54 million from Reach Capital, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Rittenhouse Ventures, the Jefferson Education Fund, Arcady Bay Partners, and Deborah Quazzo. The company, which runs analytics on teacher PD, previously raised $100,000.
ListenCurrent has raised $600,000 in funding from LaunchPad Venture Group, XSquared Angels, and EduLab. The company, which provides public radio and related instructional materials to classrooms, has raised $1.55 million total.
Private equity firm ZMB has made a majority stake investment in Education Networks of America, which provides data services to schools and libraries.
There's some more data on funding, mergers, and acquisition in the "research" section below.
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
“Strayer University Sees Success With Predictive Analytics in Online Learning,” Edsurge contends in an article showcasing how the for-profit Strayer and Civitas Learning track students’ behavioral data.
“It’s time to rethink ethics education,” writes Annette Markham in response to the OKCupid data release fiasco."
Via the MIT Technology Review: “Largest Study of Online Tracking Proves Google Really Is Watching Us All.”
“Are Student Privacy Concerns Holding ‘Hostage’ a Key Education Research Bill?” asks Education Week. “Hostage.” Nice word choice.
Via the WaPo: “Why a staggering number of Americans have stopped using the Internet the way they used to.” (Spoiler alert: privacy concerns.)
From the press release headline: “Enabled by Schools, Students Are Under Constant Surveillance by Marketers.” (It’s actually a report by the National Education Policy Center on commercialism in schools, so perhaps this item, like the one above it, is better suited for the “research” section below.)
More on privacy issues in the “courts” section above.
Data and “Research”
From the NEPC: the Virtual Schools Report 2016.
From IHEP: “Envisioning the National Postsecondary Infrastructure in the 21st Century,” whereby "infrastructure" means collecting and analyzing student data.
From iNACOL: “Promising State Policies for Personalized Learning.”
From Mindwires Consulting: “e-Literate Big Picture: LMS.”
According to investment analyst firm CB Insights, “Ed Tech Startup Exits Fall From Peak 2014 Levels.” Meanwhile, the investment bankers Berkery Noyes have released their latest M&A report, calling the education sector “very active.”
“Who has the most expensive higher education system for students?” asks Tony Bates, as he examines tuition and debt in England. An excerpt from his blog post:
The current Conservative government seems to be ideologically driven towards the privatisation of public education in England. Government funding for universities has been replaced by tuition fees, and the government wants to introduce market competition between schools and also between universities in the belief that this will drive up “quality.” Nevertheless there is no empirical evidence in the UK that shows that students from academies (which are replacing local government-run schools) or institutional competition through tuition pricing in universities is leading to better learning outcomes.
The Conservatives seem to have a completely wrong concept of education, based on set curricula, repeated testing of content, highly selective “weeding out” of students who do not fit this paradigm, and governance by unelected trusts or corporations, a model of education that is clearly influenced by the British public boarding school system from which most of the Conservative government ministers have graduated. The current English education system is in a time warp that seems to belong more to the 1920s than the 2020s.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education and college financial aid offices need to remove barriers and give more guidance to homeless and foster youth to help them attend and succeed in college, says a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.”
Via the US News & World Report: “The 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index recorded a slight rise in hiring, education and general interest in technology and engineering over last year, while math education and general interest in science declined. The biggest growth occurred at the graduate level, but despite years of investment in attracting more American students to STEM, that expansion was not homegrown.”
Via The Atlantic: “The Complex Data on Girls in STEM.”
Also via The Atlantic: “Recruitment, Resumes, Interviews: How the Hiring Process Favors Elites.”
“The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10.3 years,” according to a report by Influence Central. Huge caveats here about reading too much into these findings, as it was based on an online survey of 500 women. No mention of socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity.
Via Edsurge: “What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us About Technology in the Hands of Underserved Students.”
Via The Atlantic: “Does Mindfulness Actually Work in Schools?”
“Debt Doesn’t Always Hurt Kids,” according to research summarized by The Pacific Standard.
Via the Hechinger Report: “States have cut money for higher education 17 percent since the recession, report finds.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Private Colleges’ Tuition-Discount Rate Hits All-Time High.”
Uncollege has published a report on alternatives to a college degree, “College 2.0,” which opens with this gem: “Not that long ago, there were just three main ways to acquire new skills: go to school, hire a tutor, or get a library card.” So yeah, this definitely sounds like it’s going to be a really well-researched, historically sound report (produced in conjunction with the education search site Noodle and the coding bootcamp Coding Dojo).
The Awl summarizes some recent Pew Research research: “The Sharing Economy Is Only For People Who Can Afford To Not Share.”
This isn’t ed-tech but like many I’ve been keeping a close eye on Theranos, a much-hyped health startup that’s come under scrutiny for its questionable scientific claims. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had voided two years of its blood test data. Good thing there’s no one in ed-tech making questionable scientific claims, right?
Icon credits: The Noun Project
When I was first approached about speaking to you here today, I was immediately intrigued by the provocations packed into the conference’s theme: “Reconstituting Technology-Enhanced Learning: Rising to the Challenge.” And as I’ve stewed about how to offer you some provocations in return – that is the job, I believe, of the keynote speaker: not to comfort but to provoke – I’ve used this phrase as the starting point for my own thinking.
“To reconstitute” is to re-form an organization or a group in a new way. To re-establish order. To devise new rules. To settle upon new governance.
“To reconstitute” is a political and legal act.
I’m not sure we talk often enough about technology-enhanced learning in these terms – as a political not merely pedagogical practice. Certainly we address “policies” – we often have no choice – but less often do we really dig into “politics” and even less often into the ideologies of education technologies. Education technologies – and technologies more broadly – are typically seen as politically neutral and ideology-free.
All this makes it imperative for us to ask – in the formulation of this conference theme, certainly, but obviously well beyond this event – who is reconstituting technology-enhanced learning. Who are the subjects, the actors, the decision-makers, the participants in this political act? Who determines what these “new rules” of education technology might be? What sorts of agency, what sorts of “say,” what sorts of control do we have?
That pronoun “we,” of course, is used in turn both broadly and narrowly, to include and exclude. “We” reconstitute; “we” are reconstituted – that difference too is an issue not just of language but of politics, of power. Our “constitution” is another word for our bodies, our health. Which bodies, whose bodies are the “we” that would reconstitute ed-tech? What sort of health – of our bodies, our systems – are we really working towards?
As (or if) we recognize the political stakes of education technology, we might ask then, what is “the challenge” alluded to here in the conference theme, the one to which we are being compelled to rise? What is “the challenge” that makes a move “to reconstitute” ed-tech necessary? Because no doubt, what we see as “the challenge” (or challenges) surely shapes how we respond – how we choose to respond, how we are forced to respond, how and why and what we “reconstitute” in response. This is, again, a political challenge – it’s explicit here with the nod to the centenary of the events of April 1916 in the conference theme and its use of the word “rising.”
Rebellions and republics – on our minds because of historic events from the past, on our minds because of historic events of the present and the future. Indeed, I can’t go anywhere these days – inside or outside the US, on- or offline – without hearing panicky questions and proclamations about November 2016, the upcoming Presidential Election, and what the hell is going on with Donald Trump.
Rebellions and republics – I thought briefly about calling this talk “The Terrible Beauty of Ed-Tech,” a reference to W. B. Yeats’ poem “Easter, 1916,” of course – but opted, thanks to Donald Trump, to invoke a different, more apocalyptic Yeats. So the title of this talk is “The Rough Beasts of Ed-Tech” instead.
I’ve written two books about “the monsters of ed-tech” and certainly the “rough beasts” could be their kin. These beasts and monsters share a certain genealogy of imagination – the monstrous and the marvelous that populate our cautionary tales and our fantasies about the past, present, and future, about science and technology and our relationship to it, about the dangers of a malformed and misshapen transformation, a transformation intertwined with that most fearful and hopeful question about the future, one that’s expressly tied to the institution and to the practice of education: what will we become?
I’ve argued elsewhere that that most famous monster, Victor Frankenstein’s creation, is of particular significance for our work in education technology and not simply because it is the classic, cautionary tale of science gone awry. I want us to recognize, to remember: Frankenstein’s monster became monstrous because he was abandoned by his maker, because his maker failed to educate him. The creature became a monster because Frankenstein rejected him; he did not love him. I’m drawing on the work of Bruno Latour to make this point, I should note: I believe we must care for our technological creations. We must develop them respectfully, lovingly. We must be involved – intellectually and politically – in their creation and in their growth. We are responsible. The work of Victor Frankenstein produced a hideous body, a failed constitution – not only a failed scientific creation but a failed social contract with the creature. If we are to reconstitute our educational, technological creations, we must do so with infinitely more ethics and care.
“To reconstitute” also means, of course, to restore something to its original form by adding water. And for me, that immediately conjures up the image of the Sea Monkey, quite a different sort of monster.
I’m not certain if Sea Monkeys are or were “a thing” here in Ireland – so perhaps it’s a risk to center my arguments here today on this gimmick – but the Sea Monkeys were very much part of my childhood in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. Or I longed for them to be, I should say. They were part of my childhood imagination – good monsters, if you will. Ads for these creatures appeared in the back of comic books, alongside a number of other products promising similar sorts of scientific amazement and technological trickery.
Comic books themselves were frowned upon by my parents. But my dad ran a little grocery store, and when I’d visit him at work, I’d crouch by the magazine rack and surreptitiously flip my way through as many as possible. The comics beckoned to me with their colorful contents, with their superhero/supernatural tales, with what I felt was some subversive or elicit knowledge. I bet Victor Frankenstein, whose own father had carelessly dismissed his son’s interests in the study of alchemy, would have understood their appeal, and he too would have been curious about what great powers the ads in the back pages of comics guaranteed.
The Sea Monkeys were portrayed, in advertising at least, as living in a rich and vibrant underwater kingdom. I mean, I guess it was a kingdom because the ads showed a little Sea Monkey family sitting leisurely outside a little plastic castle in their little fish bowl. (See what I mean about always ignoring the politics of science and technology?!) The ads promised “a bowl full of happiness,” that the creatures were “so full of surprises you can’t stop watching them. …Best of all, we show you how to make them appear to obey your commands, follow a beam of light, do loop-the-loops and even seem to dance when you play a record or tape.”
As I child, I didn’t quite catch the nuance of that last sentence – what the verbs “appear” and “seem” were really saying about the Sea Monkeys. I pleaded with my parents to let me order some by mail.
Starting your own Sea Monkey colony involved a careful two-day process of following instructions, a careful two-day process of reconstitution. First, you’d add water and a special Water Purifier package to your aquarium. It wasn’t labeled as such, but this purification package also contained Artemia NYOS eggs, a specially hybridized species of brine shrimp (hybridized not only to be able to survive the mail order experience but to be reanimated with real flair – a burst of Sea Monkey creation that was “Instant Life,” as the product was first called before being rebranded as “Sea Monkeys”). After 24 hours, you’d add the Instant Life Eggs package, which contained more eggs, along with yeast, borax, soda, and salt, and (sometimes) dye. The Sea Monkeys that seemed to then appear instantaneously had actually been growing since the Water Purifier package was added the day before. Once the Sea Monkeys emerged, you were directed to add Growth Food – yeast and spirulina – to the water every five days. Hopefully they lived that long.
“They’re brine shrimp,” my father explained to me when I begged him to let me order some, destroying the image I had in my head that these were little cartoon mermaids and mermen and mer-families. My father was a bit of an amateur fish breeder himself, and half a dozen aquariums lined the walls our basement. I imagined that my Sea Monkeys would be far more intriguing than some of the fish that he collected – even more intriguing than the mouth-brooding cichlids, which, even as boring a pet as I thought fish were, were pretty cool. After all, the ad said that Sea Monkeys could “swim, play scoot, race and do comical tricks and stunts,” and I imagined that I could train them. “Sea Monkeys are just brine shrimp,” my dad repeated as he broke off a chunk of frozen brine shrimp that he’d bought at the local pet store and fed it in turn to his sea anemone.
It was one of those powerful moments you have as a child when you realize that the world does not work as the advertisements in the back of the comics promise you – x-ray goggles do not see through walls and clothing; invisibility helmets do not render you invisible; Sea Monkeys are brine shrimp. It was that moment when I really understood about the existence of deception in print– a technology I’d been enculturated to believe that one was supposed to turn to for “the facts” and “the truth.”
I’m guessing that adding water to a package of Sea Monkey is not what the conference organizers had in mind when they used that word “reconstituting.” But as the keynote speaker, making this connection is my prerogative. And there are plenty of lessons for us to learn about technology-enhanced learning from Sea Monkeys. Indeed I’ve thought recently that for every silly news story we see that insists some new product is “like Uber but for education” or “like Facebook but for education,” one could easily substitute “like Sea Monkeys but for education.”
(Now, how I’m going to connect Sea Monkeys to the “rough beasts” of Yeats in the next 20 minutes… well, we’ll see about that.)
Sea Monkeys, x-ray googles, and invisibility helmets, much like all education technology products, base a lot of of their marketing on assurances and performances of scientific amazement and technological progress. They don’t work exactly as promised, but they tap into this aspirational element – our strong desire for the possibilities of science and technology to be “the truth.”
To be fair, Sea Monkeys aren’t quite a lie. More aptly, they’re a “humbug.”
The term “humbug” isn’t used much these days beyond the seasonal “bah humbug” of Ebenezer Scrooge. In the past, the word was used as an insult and an accusation to describe a purposeful act of deception, of passing off a falsehood as a truth. But the famous American showman P. T. Barnum embraced the term – he called himself “the prince of humbugs” – arguing that there’s nothing wrong with a little exaggerated hype, as long as the public gets their money’s worth, as long as they see what they want to see. “No humbug is great,” he once said, “without truth at bottom.”
There’s just enough truth in a humbug – there’s just enough truth to the Sea Monkeys, arguably – that we prefer it to the less ornate, less exciting, less imaginative realm of “reality.” We want to be entertained. We want wonder and amazement. We prefer the fiction to the facts. We don’t really really believe, but we believe enough (or we care little enough to bother with objecting to something’s veracity).
P. T. Barnum knew that. Donald Trump knows that. Indeed, Trump has compared himself to the legendary showman: “I’m a bit of a P.T. Barnum,” Trump has claimed. “I make stars out of everyone.”
Once you see this connection – whether it’s real or imagined, Trump wants you to believe the connection – and recognize this cultural impulse (and I don’t think it’s solely an American one) perhaps you might realize how high the stakes can be with the hype and hope surrounding stardom and science (or more accurately, pseudoscience). Suddenly it’s not merely a matter of parlor tricks; it’s the presidency.
It’s also a matter of a $40 million civil suit against Trump University, a business that Donald Trump and two associates founded in 2004. Trump University was never an accredited university. It offered no college credits, no college degrees. But it did offer courses in real estate, entrepreneurship, and wealth management via, yes, technology-enhanced learning – that is, via Web-based courses.
From the very outset, Trump University was warned that it was violating the law by using the word “university” in its name. And in 2013, the New York State attorney general filed suit against the business, which had shut its doors two years earlier, accusing it of engaging in illegal, deceptive practices. These legal charges included running an unlicensed school, making false claims about the classes, and intentionally misleading some 5000 students with promises they’d learn Trump’s real estate investment techniques. The case is ongoing, although it’s unlikely it will be heard in court before the November presidential election.
The entry point for students into Trump University was a free 90-minute seminar, which continued into a 3-day seminar that cost $1500. Each course promised that more information – the bigger secrets of Trump’s moneymaking success – would be revealed in the subsequent course. Trump University involved a perpetual up-sell, and students were urged to continue to enroll, to continue to pay. Just call your credit card company and ask for an extension on your line of credit, instructors purportedly told students. Doing so will even raise your credit score. The $1500 seminars led in turn to the “Trump Gold Elite” package, which promised personal mentorship from instructors “handpicked by Trump.” The price tag for that: $35,000. According to the New York State attorney general, these instructors were not handpicked by Trump; Trump did not participate in developing any of the curriculum. Despite his name on the “university,” students never got to meet Trump (some apparently thought that was part of the deal), although they did have the opportunity to pose for a photo next to a life-size cardboard cut-out of him.
Humbug? Or fraud?
Here’s a possible answer from P. T. Barnum himself:
An honest man who arrests public attention will be called a “humbug,” but he is not a swindler or an impostor. If, however, after attracting crowds of customers by his unique displays, a man foolishly fails to give them a full equivalent for their money, they never patronize him a second time, but they very properly denounce him as a swindler, a cheat, an impostor; they do not, however, call him a “humbug.” He fails, not because he advertises his wares in an outre manner, but because, after attracting crowds of patrons, he stupidly and wickedly cheats them.
Humbug? Or fraud?
Perhaps there’s simply a difference between spending a dollar for admission to one of Barnum’s exhibitions to see a creature that turns out to not really be a mermaid or spending a dollar for a mail order Sea Monkey family that turns out to actually be brine shrimp and spending $35,000 for a real estate seminar that turns out to not be taught by a famous real estate mogul.
Perhaps there’s simply a difference between being urged to buy one product that doesn’t quite work as labeled and being urged to keep buying a series of them, with the promise that with the next update (or the next feature release or the next course in the sequence) all the bugs will be worked out, all the secrets will be revealed.
Or perhaps there’s simply a difference between a promise of entertainment and a promise of education. We have expectations – differing expectations – about the quality of both, but we have regulations specifically to address the latter.
To “reconstitute,” remember, means to devise new regulations, new rules.
Humbug? Or fraud?
Those of us who work in education technology have to grapple with this question, I’d argue, because Trump University is emblematic of the kinds of promises we hear all the time about “disruptive innovation” that’ll come in the form of digital learning technologies. (In 2004, the mantra might have been “everyone should learn real estate”; now it’s “everyone should learn to code.” There are lots of new entrants to the post-secondary markets, unaccredited coding bootcamps that, in the US at least, are being gobbled up by for-profit universities in turn – a sector that has come under fire in recent years for fraudulent behavior.)
As we – again, who is this “we” – “reconstitute” education and technology-enhanced education in the face of challenges to changing labor markets, in the face of challenges to the accreditation system, in the face of challenges to institutions of education themselves, we must ask about the politics and ideologies that underlie the old rules and potential new ones as well.
Those of us who work in education need to grapple with the questions raised specifically by Trump University too, because the business employed some highly reputable learning scientists, including former Yale University artificial intelligence professor Roger Schank. Indeed, my friend Mike Caulfield, who now works at Washington State University and who worked for Schank’s company Cognitive Arts in the early 2000s, recently argued that Trump University’s online courses were well designed – probably better designed than those offered by most universities today, certainly better designed that the venture capital-backed MOOCs.
And that contention raises some serious issues for all the ed-tech equivalents to the ads in the back of our industry’s comic books. What are we promising? What else is really a humbug? What else might be a fraud? What are MOOCs, for example? What are virtual learning environments? What is virtual reality? What is artificial intelligence? (Recall that the original “Mechanical Turk” – that is, not the microtask marketplace offered by Amazon – was a parlor trick, supposedly an intelligent chess-playing machine but actually a hoax with a human hiding inside.) What is “adaptive learning” (something that Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein has already suggested features its share of “snake oil” salesmen)? How much of ed-tech is humbug? How much might be fraud?
These questions get at what is an uncomfortable and largely unspoken truth about education. That is, education, for its own part, makes all sorts of claims – sometimes, let’s be honest, fairly wild and unsubstantiated claims – about amazement, achievement, and transformation. These promises may well reveal that our field is full of Sea Monkeys – colorful promises of becoming that we might not actually be able to or even intend to honor. As we reconstitute technology-enhanced learning, are we simply reconstituting Sea Monkeys?
Now Sea Monkeys, with their happy little faces next to their happy little castle in their happy little aquarium, don’t really look like “the monsters of ed-tech,” I suppose. And even less so do they loom menacingly like “rough beasts.”
Humbug or fraud? Monsters or rough beasts? (Not a lot of good options in this framework, I recognize.)
Sea Monkeys, unlike my framing of ed-tech’s monsters, do – at least according to the instructions that accompany them – require that we care for them. Or at least, the process of reconstitution requires we follow the rules if we want Sea Monkeys and not an empty, lifeless fish bowl.
Here is where the “rough beasts of ed-tech” probably differ.
To restate: we must care for our monsters in order to thwart their monstrosity. Here we come back to the verb “reconstituting” in the conference theme – “reconstituting technology-enhanced learning” – and its demands too that we see our work in ed-tech as an ethical act, as a political act – as an act, as a responsibility. It’s more than “just add water” and watch or walk away.
But the “rough beasts,” at least as W. B. Yeats positions them in his poem “The Second Coming,” operate beyond our control. We cannot act. We cannot intervene. We cannot reconstitute. The world crumbles around us but without us. These “rough beasts” catch us up in a different history, in a future that is pre-ordained, in a teleology where the transformation is inevitable, where “some revelation is at hand.” There’s nothing we can do, now that “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
There’s nothing we can do, in some stories I hear told about education technology and technology in general, now that computers are loosed upon the world. There’s nothing we can do, in some stories I hear told about Donald Trump, now that fascism has been loosed upon the world.
We’ve taken a humbug – not quite the truth, not quite a lie, not quite important enough to litigate over – and elevated it to mythology – an inscrutability, a sacred truth.
Technology is moving faster than ever before, we’re told. “The centre cannot hold.” Technology is inevitable, we’re told. “Disruptive innovation” is inevitable. The end is near – the end of higher education, public education, work, the EU, the liberal arts, the humanities, poetry. Everything will be swept aside by the rough beasts, the rough beasts of technology, the rough beasts of education technology. It is out of our hands.
But of course, it’s not.
We have – with Trump and with Frankenstein’s monster and with Sea Monkeys and with education technology – a choice. We can act. We can reconstitute (and not simply hand over the “reconstituting” to god or to venture capitalists or to technology company CEOs or to whomever). We can rise and must to the challenge.
I’ve embraced – a bit jokingly, a bit seriously – the label that someone once called me: “ed-tech’s Cassandra.” But to be clear, this is literary allusion; I was not cursed by a Greek god with the ability to see the future only to be unable to convince my people of impending doom. I’m not even in the business of making predictions. I do look closely at trends, sure, and at stories, and at the trajectories that particular groups and decisions seem to set us upon. But even as “ed-tech’s Cassandra,” I do not believe that the doom, the monstrosity is pre-ordained.
We can look closely at the juxtapositions that we appear to be offered here in these various narratives about science and technology and education and transformation: the juxtapositions between republics and revolution, between birth and rebirth, between apocalypse and salvation, between progress and bloodshed, between order and disorder, between marketing and science, between humbug and fraud, between and among and within and beyond the stories we tell one another about the past and the present and the future. We can decide to tell different stories. But we must act. Our reconstitution of ed-tech must be a political act.
There are monsters looming in education technology. (There are monsters looming in politics.) We created them. As we reconstitute technology-enhanced learning, let’s have a purpose and a politics that negates and undoes their monstrosity, that works with great urgency to deny them the power of becoming these “rough beasts” which we’re told are poised to overrun us all.
Officials from 11 states are suing the Obama Administration over the guidance it recently issued regarding transgender bathroom policies and civil rights law. The states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Maine, Wisconsin, and Arizona. More via The New York Times.
The Department of Education has released its newly proposed guidelines for school accountability. The changes are due to the replacement of one education acronym (NCLB) with another (ESSA). More via Politico.
“Dean Dad” Matt Reed responds to Senator Alexander’s proposal to limit student loans.
Via The Times Higher Education: “Which universities would lose out from Brexit?”
“The Left’s drive to push conservatives out of education reform” by The Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio. And a response from Marilyn Anderson Rhames: “An Open Letter to White Conservative Education Reformers.”
Texas can breathe a sigh of relief – and really, considering Texas’ role in textbooks, everyone can – after Mary Lou Bruner lost her bid for a seat on the Texas State Board of Education. Among Bruner’s beliefs: “President Barack Obama is a gay prostitute, climate change is a hoax concocted by Karl Marx and that Obama’s health care overhaul was an orchestrated plot to wipe 200 million people from the U.S. population. She also wrote that the flood from the biblical story of Noah’s Ark is what destroyed the dinosaurs, not a meteor as ‘concocted’ by atheists.” But yes please, Fordham Institute. Tell us more about the dangers of Black Lives Matter activists getting involved in education politics.
Via the AP: “A complaint filed Tuesday with Texas education officials accuses a charter-school network of abusing a visa program to import large numbers of Turkish teachers and violating state and federal laws by paying them more than American teachers. The complaint also asserts that the network, Harmony Public Schools, skirts competitive bidding rules to award contracts to Turkish vendors.”
Via the Detroit Free Press: “Another corruption case has surfaced for the troubled Detroit Public Schools, this one involving a former grants administrator who is charged with pocketing nearly $1.3 million that was supposed to be used for tutoring services for kids.”
More on privacy legislation in the “privacy” section below.
Presidential Campaign Politics
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Donald Trump and Higher Ed.”
Since he’s no longer running for President, Jeb Bush says he is retaking the reigns of his education organization Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Education in the Courts
I was recently informed that my pointing out the relationships between politics, tech investors, and their investment portfolio constitutes an “ad hominem” attack. But you’re full of fallacy yourself if you think that’s going to stop me from making critiques about this industry. Good grief. And while this isn’t directly related to education, it’s one of the most important stories from the tech industry this week (one that certainly could have major implications on my ability to do my research and writing): that is, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel apparently bankrolled the recent libel lawsuit that Hulk Hogan won against Gawker, using his vast wealth to – he hoped – put the publication out of business. More via The New York Times here and here and here and here. Here’s media reporter Mathew Ingram’s take (and there are lots of takes out there. My god. The takes). In addition to funding this lawsuit, Thiel sits on the board of Facebook, which itself is playing a huge role in the “future of news.” Thiel also a Trump supporter and will be a delegate at the upcoming Republican convention. (And Trump, for his part, also wants to make it easier to sue journalists for libel.) For those keeping score at home, here are Peter Thiel’s ed-tech investments (in addition to his “I’ll pay you to drop out of college” fellowship program, of course): Clever, Lore, Thinkful, Declara, and SoFi. He’s a partner at Founders Fund, which has invested in Knewton, AltSchool, Uversity, ResearchGate, If You Can, Upstart, Declara, and Affirm. But that’s all ad hominem and is irrelevant to the future of education. You wish.
Via Boing Boing: “JJ Abrams urges Paramount to drop its lawsuit over fan Star Trek movie.” The lawsuit in question involves Paramount’s claim that the Klingon language is copyrightable.
And speaking of copyrighting a language of a warlike people, the Oracle v Google case had its closing arguments this week. On Thursday, the judge gave Google the victory, ruling that the company’s use of the Java API fell under fair use provisions.
Not sure if this should go in the “politics” or “legal” or “HR” section, but I’ll stick it here. “California’s teacher tenure battle is reignited by Vergara appeal and a new bill,” The LA Times reports.
“Common Core testing group wages aggressive campaign against critics on social media,” according to The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.
“ACT said Monday that students with disabilities who apply for accommodations on the college entrance exam ‘will soon benefit from a new system that will simplify and speed up the application process,’” Politico reports.
Via The US News & World Report: “The View From a Testing Giant.” (That giant: Pearson, of course.)
Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)
MOOCs for credit! FutureLearn announced that two UK universities – the University of Leeds and the Open University– will offer MOOCs that will be accepted for college credit. “In the Leeds offering, for example, each course certificate will cost £59 and there are five taught courses; the sixth assessment course, which leads to 10 credits, is priced at £250 – making a total cost of £545 – which will also cover access to online library content,” The Guardian reports. (It’ll be interesting to see if this offering is any more popular or any more successful than similar attempts in the US.)
Phil Hill in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Distance Ed’s Second Act.”
Coding Bootcamps (and The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)
Elsewhere in for-profit higher ed: “Veterans Groups Seek a Crackdown on Deceptive Colleges,” The New York Times reports.
Not for profit but still a scam, part 1: Via Inside Higher Ed: “A Sting and a Sham College” – on Homeland Security’s fake school, the University of Northern New Jersey, as well as other (real?) schools charged with financial aid and visa fraud.
Not for profit but still a scam, part 2: Speaking of fraud, Buzzfeed's Molly Hensley-Clancy writes about the visa mill Northwestern Polytechnic University.
Meanwhile on Campus
“Where Does the Regional State University Go From Here?” That is, how do small public universities continue to serve their local populations in the face of dwindling state support?
Via The New York Times: “Halal Guys to Donate $30,000 to LaGuardia Community College.”
Well, this was off campus, not on-: “California lake trashed, University of Oregon students suspected.” Go Ducks.
Also off campus, not on-: “Unemployed Detroit Residents Are Trapped by a Digital Divide.”
Via NPR: “Bethune-Cookman Students Still Reeling From A Year That Saw 13 Shooting Victims.”
Via The New York Times: “Group Urging Free Tuition at Harvard Fails to Win Seats on Board.”
Accreditation and Certification
From IMS Global: “Competency-Based Education and Extended Transcripts: IMS Global Learning Consortium Enabling Better Digital Credentialing.”
For more on MOOCs for credit, see the “MOOCs” section above.
Go, School Sports Team!
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Baylor University has moved to fire its head football coach, Art Briles, according to a statement from the Texas institution. In addition, Baylor said that Kenneth W. Starr, the university’s president, would be removed but would retain the more-ceremonial role of chancellor. Finally, the athletic director, Ian McCaw, has been ‘sanctioned and placed on probation.’” This all comes after scrutiny into how the university handled sexual assaults involving its football team members. More on this story via Inside Higher Ed.
From the HR Department
“Maria Harper-Marinick’s appointment as chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges on May 4 has been called historic because she is the first female and first Latina higher-education chancellor in Arizona,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
DeVry University has a new CEO: Lisa Wardell.
Also via The Chronicle: “Faculty Strike Begins at Green River Community College.”
Via The Guardian: “UK university lecturers strike over pay.”
“Employees at community colleges may be the most affected by the Obama administration’s new rules for overtime pay, especially as the sector continues to see dwindling resources from their states,” says Inside Higher Ed.
Venture capitalist #hottake: “Think Students Are Unhappy With Higher Education? Try Employers.”
For updates on the latest firings at Baylor, see the “sports” section above.
Commencement and Awards
Congratulations, Class of 2016, from The New Yorker:
this week's new yorker cover is ruthless pic.twitter.com/B7UUvkPbir— adam hamze حمزة (@adamhamz) May 24, 2016
In other graduation headlines: “Chancellor Is Criticized for Cellphone Use During Commencement.” High school valedictorian blocked from participating in his own graduation because he has a goatee.
Upgrades and Downgrades
Who’s keeping track of how many times The New York Times has gotten into (and gotten out of) the education business?
Trends to watch: Chinese investment in ed-tech. Elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal on education in China: “One Chinese Entrepreneur’s Prescription for More Innovation: Less Schooling.”
Trends to watch: investors’ interest in English language learning (software). e.g. “Supporting English Language Learners with Next-Gen Tools.”
Trends to watch: the demise of journalism. See also: Peter Thiel versus the First Amendment in the “courts” section above.
OpenStax has been striking a lot of vendor deals recently, no? This week: “OpenStax Partners with panOpen to Expand OER Access.”
Via Ars Technica: “Queen’s Brian May unveils Owl VR: His Victorian take on Google Cardboard.” Admitting that a lot of this VR hype is actually just a repackaging of the ol' stereoscope makes a ton of sense, to be honest.
Via Quartz: “Even Apple is acknowledging that the ‘iPads in education’ fad is coming to an end.” It’s a nice headline, but nowhere in the story does Apple acknowledge this.
Via Bloomberg Technology: “How Thync, Startup Behind Brain-Zapping Gadget, Almost Died.”
Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Understanding Ed-Tech Product Pricing, for Educators and Entrepreneurs.”
Via the BBC: “Microsoft accused of Windows 10 upgrade ‘nasty trick’.”
Via Campus Technology: “Moodle Intros Full Support for Competency-Based Ed.”
The “craziest” black market in Russia, according to Slate at least, is for dissertations.
Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)
Skillshare has raised $12 million in a Series B round of funding. Investors include Amasia, Omidyar Network, Union Square Ventures, and Spark Capital. Described by its founder as a "marketplace of 'bite-sized, self-paced courses for creators,'" Skillshare has raised $22.75 million total.
“Investors Put $2.3M in Bloomz, a School Communication App That Can Satiate Helicopter Parents,” Edsurge reports. Investors include 8VC, ffVenture Capital, Founder’s Co-op, CorrelationVC, Wisemont Capital, and Acequia Capital. The company has raised previous rounds of venture capital, but neither the names of those investors nor the amounts have been disclosed.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “Becker Professional Education, a subsidiary of DeVry Education Group, this week announced it is buying the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists for $330 million.” In other DeVry news, see the HR section above.
VIF International Education has acquiredParticipate Learning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Monster at the End of Ed-Tech (via The New Yorker): “Inside the Venture-Capital Arm of ‘Sesame Street.’”
Data, Privacy, and Surveillance
“Digital Redlining, Access, and Privacy” by Chris Gilliard and Hugh Culik.
WaPo on “data walls”: “This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.”
Via ProPublica: “There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.” I’m sure predictive modeling and algorithms in education are totally bias-free tho. Just like education itself. (More details on ProPublica’s research.)
Via Edsurge: “Edtech’s Next Significant Impact: Health and Wellness.” So that should be fun for the future of data and privacy.
Via The Washington Post: “Terrorist or pedophile? This start-up says it can out secrets by analyzing faces.”
“Google aims to kill passwords by the end of this year,” says The Guardian. The notion of biometrics instead of passwords is a terrible idea, and let’s hope it never comes to Google Apps for Education where schools will love it (at the expense of student and staff privacy, of course).
Via El Paso Inc: “In mid-April, computer hackers had five days’ access to the personal data of a reported 51 El Paso Independent School District employees and were able to redirect their April 15 paychecks.”
Via The Kansas City Star: “Rockhurst University is sued over data breach in phishing scam.”
From the NASBE: “Trends in Student Data Privacy Bills in 2016.”
Data and “Research”
“Misunderstanding Medicated Kids” by Malcolm Harris.
“Key Tensions in the Field of Learning Analytics” by Bodong Chen.
Via Medical Daily: “Media Multitasking Is Linked To Poor Academic Abilities And Impulsive Behavior In Children.”
Via The Hechinger Report: “More than five years after adopting Common Core, Kentucky’s black-white achievement gap is widening.”
’Tis the season for publishing books on “grit.” Via NPR: “Teaching The Intangibles: How To Ingrain ‘Grit’ In Students.”
Via Vox: “Do white people want merit-based admissions policies? Depends on who their competition is.”
Speaking of Vox, this list of “smart facts about intelligence” does not include the fact that Vox explainers are the worst.
Phil Hill has data on schools (in the US and Canada) that move from one LMS to another (or stick with their current vendor, as the case may be).
“Blackboard’s Online Learning Trend Report” by Blackboard. A screenshot (accompanied by a lack of taking any responsibility for these problems):
“Only 16% Of Teachers Say Their Schools’ Tech Integration Deserves An ‘A’” makes for a great headline in a publication called BusinessSolutions, don’t you think?
“Higher ed enrollments decline. Again,” Bryan Alexander observes, drawing on National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data.
Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah charter schools move millions of public dollars to the coffers of a few private companies.”
You know how you can tell that blockchain people are the most innovative ever? They don’t even write white-papers, man. They write rainbow papers. Whoa. That’s so intense. (Elsewhere in blockchain-related research: “Blockchain Startup Investment Bounces Back,” says CB Insights, despite ongoing legal issues… but when has that ever stopped venture capital, am I right?)
Icon credits: The Noun Project