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The History of the Future of Education Technology

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  • 01/18/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • I’m publishing this week’s Hack Education Weekly News a little early this week. I plan to be offline tomorrow, January 20, so as to avoid any news about the Trump Inauguration. I join Representative John Lewis in insisting Trump is an “illegitimate President.” Trump is illegitimate because of the Russian intervention in the election, and the Trump team’s close ties with Russia. Trump is illegitimate because he lost the popular vote by 3 million. Trump is illegitimate because of voter suppression in light of the Supreme Court’s dismantling of the Voting Rights Act. Trump is illegitimate because he refuses to divest from his business interests and as such will be in violation of the Constitution the minute he takes the oath of office. Trump is illegitimate because he has indicated nothing but disdain for the Constitution.

    So I can’t watch or listen to the news tomorrow, as it’s a dark day for democracy – one of the darkest in my lifetime and perhaps even in this nation’s history. I’m heading out in the desert for a day or two, but when I return I will do everything in my power to resist the corporate fascism that Trump seems eager to usher in, with many in ed-tech cheering him all along the way.

    Education Politics

    Despite not completing all her ethics paperwork, failing to disclose political donations, and not paying off election-related fines – accountability!Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Donald Trump has nominated to head the Department of Education had her confirmation hearing this week. It was a disaster. I’ve never seen an education story receive quite as much attention from non-educators on social media. Among the highlights: stating that schools need guns to protect against grizzly bears. (A lie.) She seemed to fail to grasp some of the basics of education policy– the difference between “proficiency” and “growth,” for example, and the federal rules surrounding disability rights and education. She would not commit to refusing to privatize public education. Of course, some education reform proponents want to frame DeVos as “mainstream,” but she’s far from it. (Ed-tech proponents seem excited about her too – “a champion for ed-tech,” says Education Dive– ignoring her longstanding commitment to inequality, injustice, and discrimination.) “Did Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Lie to Senate About Ties to Anti-LGBT Foundation?” asks Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now.

    Via The Washington Post: “David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump’s science adviser.” Gelernter, a target of the Unabomber, says that American culture is on the decline because of “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.”

    “Trump team prepares dramatic cuts,” The Hill reports, suggesting the incoming administration’s plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities and to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Make America dull again. “Targeting the arts is the laziest, stupidest way to pretend to cut the budget,” argues Alyssa Rosenberg.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Obamacare Repeal Could Bring Relief for Colleges, Uncertainty for Adjuncts.” “Relief for colleges,” but people will die. WTF, CHE. WTF.

    Monica Crowley, Trump’s pick for director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, has decided to not take a position with the new administration following revelations about her plagiarizing her dissertation and her 2012 book.

    “Help Us Map TrumpWorld,” asks Buzzfeed. This is really similar to the work I do mapping the relationshipsfinancial and otherwise – among various players in the ed-tech industry. Does this make me a legit journalist? Or a “failing pile of garbage”?

    Via CNN: “Rewrite the Constitution? Here’s how a convention could do it.” The latest machinations from ALEC. (And this prompted me to update my list of education / technology companies that are ALEC members.)

    Via the Arizona Capitol Times: “Arizona bill to ban school ‘social justice’ courses dies quickly.”

    Rhose Island’s governor Gina M. Raimondo has proposed the state offer two tuition-free years to students at public universities and colleges. “Dean Dad” Matt Reed’s reaction: “Buy Two, Get Two Free.”

    “The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students,” NPR reports. “[Senator Lamar] Alexander and [Secretary of Education John] King disagreed on how to enforce the new law governing Title I. It says that, to get federal money, districts have to prove a few things – among them, that they’re using state and local dollars to provide roughly the same services to kids in poor and non-poor schools alike.”

    From the press release: “Treasury and Education Announce Progress Toward Multi-Year Income Certification System for Student Loan Borrowers in Income-Driven Repayment Plans.”

    The Department of Educationhas launched a “developer hub.” Yes, the department is now on GitHub.

    The Department of Education, under the auspices of “transparency,” promises more access to data about financial aid.

    The New York Times Magazine interviews the new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

    Ed-tech ruins everything everywhere. Shark Tank star Kevin O’Learywill run to head Canada’s Conservative Party. His rather disastrous business history in ed-tech includes SoftKey and The Learning Company.

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is suing Navient, the country’s largest servicer of federal and private student loans, for failing borrowers during every stage of repayment.” More via The New York Times and Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A former IT employee for the American College of Education, a for-profit college based in Indianapolis, locked thousands of students out of email and course materials by changing the password of a Google account after he was fired, according to a lawsuit filed by the institution.”

    Via The New York Times: “Mark Zuckerberg, in Suit, Testifies in Oculus Intellectual Property Trial.” More via Business Insider.

    The Department of Justice, 21 states, and the District of Columbia have reached a $864 million settlement with Moody’s Investors Service over the company’s role in faulty credit ratings that led to the financial crisis of 2008. Just a heads-up, I guess, for those who regularly tout Moody’s insights on the financial well-being of schools.

    Testing, Testing…

    Immaculata University will no longer require applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.

    Justin Reich on “assessment” versus “evaluation.”

    Via EdSource: “U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    MOOC enrollment drops at HarvardX and MITx after free certifications disappear,” says Techcrunch.

    Via the IEEE Spectrum: “How the Pioneers of the MOOC Got It Wrong.” Let’s all point out how this article gets “the pioneers of the MOOC” wrong.

    Via Udacity: “Introducing Siraj Raval’s Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation Program!” The exclamation point means this is something.

    “Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change,” according to The Economist.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    More on for-profits in the courts above. More on hirings and firings at for-profits in the HR section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial Breitbart author and public speaker, was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Davis, Friday, but the event was called off amid protests against his appearance,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Critics note his many anti-feminist and anti-multicultural statements and his tendency to make personal comments about students and faculty members who disagree with him.” He brought along “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, who was hit in the face with dog poop.

    Via The New York Times: “Donations Pour In to Band From Black College That Will Play at Inauguration.” That’s Talladega College.

    Via The Detroit News: “Sex assault question part of math homework assignment.”

    Via the Edmonton Journal: “University of Alberta culling 14 programs from arts faculty.” On the chopping block: Latin American Studies and Computer Science.

    Via Wired: “Tech’s Favorite School Faces Its Biggest Test: the Real World.” Before you click – actually, you don’t have to click – try to guess what is “tech’s favorite school” and why.

    The University of Mumbai will open a US campus.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “City College of San Francisco, Which Fought Accreditor, Wins Back Full Recognition.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via The New York Times: “Big Ten Universities Entering a New Realm: E-Sports.”

    Via The Oregonian: “Multiple Oregon Ducks football players hospitalized after grueling workouts.” Pay these students; don’t kill them.

    From the HR Department

    Via WHIO: “School social media director fired after correcting student’s misspelled tweet.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The now former president of Vatterott College in Kansas City, Mo., said he was fired after five years of leading the for-profit institution after allowing a homeless student to sleep overnight in the college’s library to escape cold weather.”

    Via The Washington Post: “UC President Janet Napolitano hospitalized with cancer.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “On Eve of Trump Inaugural, Harvard Official Takes Key Title IX Post at Education Dept.” That’s Mia Karvonides, who was Harvard’s first Title IX office.

    Contests and Awards

    Via the BBC: “Chinese billionaire offers biggest education prize.” “The Yidan Prize will award nearly $8m (£6.64m) every year to two research projects that have the potential to ‘transform’ global education.” The prize is sponsored by Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of Tencent.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Via The Guardian: “Sesame Street’s Count von Count and the lack of foreign voices on children’s TV.”

    “No More ‘Beall’s List’,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “An academic librarian’s lists of ‘predatory’ journals and publishers on Sunday vanished from the internet without explanation. His business partners now say he was forced to shut down the website.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Pearson to Lower Cost of E-Books, Textbooks.”

    More on Pearson’s business in the business of ed-tech section below.

    Via eCampus News: “Cengage launches MindTap ACE, an OER-based solution for higher ed.”

    Via the press release: “The Digital Public Library of America is thrilled to announce that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded DPLA $1.5 million to greatly expand its efforts to provide broad access to widely read ebooks. The grant will support improved channels for public libraries to bolster their ebook collections, and for millions of readers nationwide to access those works easily.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation now requires all its grant recipients to make their published, peer-reviewed work immediately available to the public, the latest development in a larger push to make research more accessible.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Students using Instructure’s Canvas learning management system will now be able to connect their learning with career opportunities via the Portfolium e-portfolio platform.” The LMS as gateway to a job application. Blech.

    The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down, and omg WTF is this article.

    Via Reuters: “A major Chinese education company that was subsidising a project to verify transcripts of Chinese students applying to U.S. colleges has pulled out after Reuters reported that the firm itself stands accused of widespread application fraud.” The company in question: Dipont Education Management Group.

    NPR interviews John Hattie about5 Big Ideas In Education That Don’t Work.” (Tim Stahmer responds with “What Doesn’t Work In Education Reporting.”)

    The New York Times profilesfake news entrepreneur (and Davidson alum) Cameron Harris.

    Ed-tech is always poised to profit from a crisis. “For Ed-Tech Company Newsela, ‘Fake News’ a Big Challenge – and Opportunity,” says Education Week.

    More on “fake news” in the research section below.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via Campus Technology: “Clemson U, Carnegie Mellon to Develop Robots for Advanced Manufacturing.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Almost every time Pearson issues a quarterly report or projects its future profits, the news is bad. So the headline from Bloomberg shouldn’t come as a surprise: “Pearson Forecasts Years of Textbook Gloom; to Sell Penguin.” Its shares dropped the most in the company’s history. More via Education Week’s Market Brief.

    The New York Times profiles “The Other Kushner Brother”– that’s Joshua, brother of Jared (husband of Ivanka Trump and beneficiary of a President who seems to not believe anti-nepotism rules apply to him). Joshua Kushner is the co-founder of Thrive Capital, a VC firm whose ed-tech portfolio includes Neverware and the Flatiron School.

    This isn’t an “ed-tech” company per se, but it is fascinating to watch the adoption of language about human learning by those promoting their AI products. Neurala has raised $14 million for its “deep learning neural network” from Pelion Venture Partners, 360 Capital Partners, Draper Associates, Idinvest Partners , Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, and Sherpa Capital. The co-founder is Max Versace. Yes, from that Versace family. The company has raised $14.75 million total.

    Student loan company Credible has raised $10 million in Series B funding from Carthona Capital, Ron Suber, and Regal Funds Management. The company has raised $24.3 million total.

    My 1st Years has raised $6.07 million from Beringea and Hargreave Hale for “personalized gifts for babies.” I’m not sure why this counts as “tech,” other than the adjective “personalized,” which in this case means “monogrammed.” The bar for innovation is so fucking low, clearly. The company has raised $9.03 million total.

    Lingo Live has raised $5.2 million from Owl Ventures, Alpine Meridian Ventures, Fresco Capital, and Entrepreneurs Expansion Fund. The company has raised $6.34 million total.

    SecureSet Academy has raised $4 million for its cybersecurity bootcamp program from The Colorado Impact Fund.

    Macmillan Learning has acquiredIntellus Learning.

    Interfolio has acquiredData180.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via the Lowell Sun: “Dracut schools hacked.”

    Via Education Week: “Ransomware Attacks Force School Districts to Shore Up – or Pay Up.”

    Via Teach Privacy: “When Do Data Breaches Cause Harm?”

    Via Slate: “The Best Way to Protect Students’ Personal Data” – and that’s to make sure teachers are choosing good apps, apparently. I’d say the best way to protect students’ personal data is to not capture it at all. But hey. Gotta sell that tech.

    Data and “Research”

    Via The New York Times: “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.”

    Via Educause: “Top 10 IT Issues.” The top issue: information security.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Most students go to a school that meets federal standards for internet speed.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “At Long Last, Agency Completes Overhaul of Rules on Use of Humans in Research.”

    Via NPR: “More People Over 60 Are Struggling To Pay Off Student Loans, Report Finds.”

    “The U.S. Department of Education has fixed a mistake in the data for its College Scorecard that substantially inflated loan repayment rates for most colleges,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Robert Kelchen on“How Much Did A Coding Error Affect Student Loan Repayment Rates?”

    “Of Analogies, Learning, and Weather” – David Wiley on the sciences of learning, medicine, and weather.

    In the ongoing debates about the “science” of “screen use,” now we hear – according to the BBC– that “Moderate screen use ‘boosts teen wellbeing’.”

    “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election” by NYU’s Hunt Allcott and Stanford’s Matthew Gentzkow.

    Via The Conversation: “ How virtual reality technology is changing the way students learn.” #fakenews, right?


    Via The New York Times: “Lois Dickson Rice, Trailblazing Executive Behind Pell Grants, Dies at 83.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 01/26/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • “It is now two and a half minutes to midnight,” according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

    For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to midnight. In another first, the Board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States.

    Education Politics

    The vote for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, has been delayed. Via The Washington Post: “Sen. Franken: No Democrat will vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary – and we’re seeking Republicans to oppose her.”

    “Betsy DeVos’ Alternative Factsby Jennifer Berkshire.

    Via Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy: “For A Glimpse At The Billionaire Class, Check Out Betsy DeVos’s Finances.”

    You can read Betsy DeVos’s massive 108-page disclosure form here.

    Via Education Week: “DeVos-Backed Company Makes Questionable Claims on Autism, ADHD.” “Betsy DeVos Won’t Shed Stake in Biofeedback Company, Filings Show,” The New York Times reports.

    Via New America: “Why Does Betsy DeVos think Federal Student Loan Debt has Grown by 1,000 percent?”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University’s president, said he would work with President Trump in an ‘official capacity’ but that he could not yet announce what that role would be.” Maybe he can run the Office of Ed Tech.

    Via Politico: “A controversial field organizer for Donald Trump’s campaign appears to have abruptly left her new Education Department job – three days after her hire was announced. Teresa UnRue of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was named in an investigation by The Associated Press last year for sharing racially charged content on social media.”

    Via The Verge: “Trump’s new FCC chief is Ajit Pai, and he wants to destroy net neutrality.”

    Via The Baltimore Sun: “Jason Botel, KIPP school founder and education advocate, said to become White House adviser.”

    Via Politico: “Stanley Buchesky, formerly a managing partner at the venture capital firm The EdTech Fund, will work [at the Department of Education] on budget and finance issues.” Among The EdTech Fund’s investments: Teachboost and Citelighter.

    Via the NY Mag: “Potential Trump Science Adviser Says 90 Percent of U.S. Colleges Will Disappear.” That’d be computer scientist David Gelernter. He believes the future of education means all STEM, no arts and no humanities.

    Via The Guardian: “Trump bans agencies from ‘providing updates on social media or to reporters’.” This ban has been targeted at scientists at the EPA and USDA in particular. He’s also gone after the Interior Department, after some tweets that questioned the size of the crowd at his inauguration. Via Buzzfeed: “A National Park Deleted Tweets On Climate Change After Trump Silenced Federal Scientists.” No surprise, now scientists are planning a march on DC.

    Trump’s Inaugural Speech Reading Level Was ‘Extremely Low’,” says Edsurge. Part of that speech described schools in the US as “American carnage.” But also “flush with cash.”

    Vox has“leaked drafts of 4 White House executive orders on Muslim ban, end to DREAMer program, and more.” I tweeted that the DACA database is one of the most important issues in ed-tech right now, and if you’re an ed-tech entrepreneur who says “nobody in ed-tech tracks immigration data,” you need to GTFO. More from The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed on how Trump’s proposed changes to visas might affect education.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Higher Ed and the Wall.”

    “The California State Legislature is now considering two bills that would build a database firewall to block the flow of personal information from state and local government to federal efforts to deport immigrants and register people based on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin,” according to the EFF.

    Via Engadget: “Trump signs executive order stripping non-citizens of privacy rights.” “Policy-based Privacy is Over,” says Eric Hellman.

    Some (education policy) history from Sherman Dorn: “The pendulum and the ratchet.”

    Via The 74: “As Trump Pauses on ESSA Accountability, Advocates Look for Signal on Whether New Rules Will Stick.”

    “3 Reasons Federal Aid for College Is Not the Same as K–12 Vouchers,” according to the Center for American Progress’ Ben Miller.

    Via The Washington Post: “Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Obama’s Student-Loan Fiasco.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Education Dept. Releases Latest List of Title IX Investigations, After Failing to Do So.”

    Via Real Clear Education: “Connecting Schools to the Future: Rethinking E-Rate.”

    Via The LA Times: “Federal agents raided the offices of a network of Los Angeles charter schools Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement.” The chain in question: Celerity Educational Group.

    Via The New York Times: “Google, in Post-Obama Era, Aggressively Woos Republicans” – so enjoy that Google Certification, educators.

    Via The New York Times: “Canada Beckons International Students With a Path to Citizenship.”

    Also chasing new citizenship, Trump’s buddy, Peter Thiel. Via Gizmodo: “Peter Thiel Gains New Zealand Citizenship as Tech Elites Prep for Doomsday.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via Education Week: “Mississippi Attorney General Sues Google Over Student-Data Privacy.” More on this lawsuit from Bill Fitzgerald.

    Via The New York Times: “In Navient Lawsuits, Unsettling Echoes of Past Lending Crisis.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Kentucky Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of the University of Kentucky in its lawsuit against the university’s student newspaper, which had been seeking records regarding sexual-assault allegations against a professor.”

    Via The New York Times: “Texas Teacher Shouldn’t Be Punished for Marijuana Use in Colorado, Judge Says.”

    Via the Times of India: “Oxford University has been directed to face trial after an Indian-origin student sued the varsity for ‘hopelessly bad’ and ‘boring’ teaching which allegedly resulted in him getting a second class degree and in turn led to loss of earnings in his career as a lawyer.”

    Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson have started a new round of lawsuits against textbook sellers,” The Digital Reader reports, this time targeting those who sell through Amazon’s marketplace.

    Via The Guardian: “Hawaiians call Mark Zuckerberg‘the face of neocolonialism’ over land lawsuits.”

    More on accreditation and legal issues in the courts section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Chalkbeat: “One year after TNReady collapse, Tennessee unveils plan to test online again.”

    Via Education Week: “Schools Grappling With Fee Hikes for AP Exams.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via Edsurge: “Coursera’s New Strategy Takes Inspiration From Netflix – and LinkedIn.”

    Via the Coursera blog: “Announcing Coursera for Governments & Nonprofits.”

    There’s more MOOC-related research in the research section below.

    “Free College”

    Via NBC Bay Area: “Silicon Valley Company Offering Free College Degree To Every Adult Living Or Working In Its City.” The company in question is, which will work with Thomas Edison State University (the two are part of the Department of Education’s EQUIP experiment, which is experimenting with offering federal financial aid to non-traditional education providers).

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Colleges are pushed to stand behind what they sell with money-back guarantees.”

    Via The New York Times: “Private Colleges Suggest New York’s Free Tuition Plan Limits Choices.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via the MIT Technology Review: “For $14,000, a Weeklong Firehose of Silicon Valley Kool-Aid.” That price tag on a weeklong class at Singularity University.

    Via The Atlantic: “The For-Profit Law School That Crumbled.” That’s the Charlotte School of Law. More on the school’s loss of federal financial aid via The NYT.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Since losing all state funding two years ago, two large Arizona community colleges struggle with declining enrollments and budget cuts.”

    “The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is engaging in a strategic review that will include weighing mergers and closings among its 14 universities,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Meanwhile, Harvard’s concerned about its giant endowment. “Harvard Management Company to Lay Off Half Its Staff,” The Harvard Crimson reports.

    Via The Atlantic: “How Money From Slave Trading Helped Start Columbia University.”

    Via The New York Times: “Harlem Schools Are Left to Fail as Those Not Far Away Thrive.”

    “A Libertarian Builds Low-Cost Private Schools for the Masses,” says libertarian rag in its profile of North Carolina businessman Bob Luddy– because even charter school have too many regulations, I guess.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Stanford University, Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Berkeley, are some of the recent institutions to see anti-Semitic fliers appear in campus printers and fax machines.”

    Via The New York Times: “A High School Defaced With ‘Trump’ and Swastikas.”

    Via The Seattle Times: “Shooter sent Facebook message to Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos before gunfire at UW protest, police say.” Yup. An alt-right protester shot an antifa. But please, go on with your op-eds, Nick Kristoff et al, whining how liberal students are the real fascists and how they’re the ones curbing freedom on campus.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A request to form an ‘alt-right’ student group at the University of Wisconsin at Madison led the chancellor, Rebecca Blank, on Thursday to issue a campuswide letter informing students and faculty members that the student who made the request has a criminal record of arson attacks on black churches.”

    “The University of Oregon will not remove the name of its founder from the oldest building on the campus despite his historical ties to slavery,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Campuses Wary of Offering ‘Sanctuary’ to Undocumented Students.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Attorneys general from five states and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is pursuing against the U.S. Department of Education, which last month finalized its decision to terminate the national accreditor.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The agency that accredits Southern colleges and universities is scrutinizing the Governor Robert Bentley’s role at the head of Alabama university boards, pushing back on what it sees as powers that are too concentrated and potentially conflicted.”

    Via EdSource: “New program aims to create more uniform standards among linked learning academies.” The Linked Learning Alliance is a voluntary certification program for California’s high school career academies.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New study finds that penalties for breaking NCAA rules are largely consistent across conference membership – and that men’s basketball and football account for the vast majority of violations.”

    From the HR Department

    Teresa Sullivan will step down as president of UVA next year.

    Via Techcrunch: “Blackboard cofounder Michael Chasen takes CEO reins at PrecisionHawk.” PrecisionHawk is a drone surveillance company, which I’m sure has nothing in common with the learning management system.

    Via Chalkbeat: “UFT files labor complaint against KIPP charter school.”

    Via The Root: “Calif. Teacher on Paid Leave After Confederate Flag Found Hanging in Classroom.”

    Via The New York Times: “Facebook’s Virtual Reality Business Gets a New Leader.” That’d be Hugo Barra, a former Google exec.

    Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill onlayoffs at the LMS Schoology.

    The Business of Job Training and Job Placement

    A message from the FBI: “College students across the United States continue to be targeted in a common employment scam. Scammers advertise phony job opportunities on college employment websites, and/or students receive e-mails on their school accounts recruiting them for fictitious positions. This ‘employment’ results in a financial loss for participating students.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New nonprofit is intermediary between aviation employers and partner colleges, with tailored academic programs that could send graduates across state lines for well-paying jobs.”

    Via The Christian Science Monitor: “Why Cal State L.A. turns the most low-income students into top earners.”

    Contests and Awards

    The American Library Association announced its youth media awards. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill, is the 2017 Newbery Medal winner. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe is the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner. The complete list of all winners is here.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Are the Latest Baby Monitors Doing Anyone Any Good?” asks The Pacific Standard.

    “Can robotics teach problem solving to students?” asks eSchool News.

    “Learning technology once reserved for special needs students is now in everyone’s hands. Can teachers figure out how best to use it?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Edsurge is pivoting to focus on selling ed-tech products to schools. I’m not sure that alleviates all its ethical problems– perhaps some of the journalistic ones. But hey, after raising some $5.66 million in venture capital, I guess investors want something more than sunny write-ups about what’s in their investment portfolios.

    (To continue a trend that I monitored last year, it’ll be worth watching who becomes a power-player in the business of ed-tech procurement. Edsurge? Noodle Markets (Edsurge’s investor John Katzman founded this and it raised money this week – see below)?

    “The Growing Role of Technology in Personalized Learning,” according to KQED’s Mindshift.

    Google has released the latest generation of Chromebooks.

    Via Techcrunch: “Microsoft launches Intune for Education to counter Google’s Chromebooks in schools.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Cisco debuts its own smart whiteboard priced to compete with the Google Jamboard.” Well someone has to keep paying for vendor spaces at ed-tech conferences, I guess.

    Via Campus Technology: “Unizin Partners with Cengage to Offer Discounted Course Materials.” (I admit. I had totally forgotten about Unizin.)

    VR is gaining ground in the academic world and the 3D industry,” says Techcrunch, so it must be true. And a former Pearson exec is in on the business too, so what more could you ask for?

    “Call for Diversity in Ed Tech Design” by Jade E. Davis.

    “Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu,” writes Sarah Bond.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Several colleges that subscribe to the online education provider are seeing double-digit increases in subscription costs, leading many to wonder if its acquisition by LinkedIn (which in turn was acquired by Microsoft) is behind the price hikes.”

    “Of OER and Platforms: Five Years Later” by Lumen Learning’s David Wiley.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via Bloomberg: “Baby’s First Virtual Assistant.”

    Robots and drones take over classrooms,” according to the BBC.

    Via Techcrunch: “Hanson Robotics built a Professor Einstein toy to teach kids science with a familiar face.”

    Via Edsurge: “Report Finds Link Between Business AI Adoption and Revenue.”

    More robot crap in the Betteridge’s section above.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Homework help site has raised $100 million in Series C funding from China Merchants Capital, Grand Fight Investment, Anhui Xinhua Media, Qiming Venture Partners, Trustbridge Partners, Vertex Ventures, and Yada Education. The company has raised $120.5 million total.

    Cuemath has raised $15 million from CapitalG (formerly Google Capital) and Sequoia India. The tutoring company has raised $19 million total.

    PowerMyLearning has received $6.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and Carnegie Foundation. (Disclosure alert.)

    Noodle Companies has raised $5 million from SWaN & Legend Venture Partners. Noodle Companies is four companies: (a search engine), Noodle Markets (procurement tools), Noodle Partners (online education services for higher ed), and Noodle Pros (tutoring). Noodle Markets has raised $3 million. Noodle Partners has raised $4 million.

    Online course marketplace Teachable has raised $4 million from Accomplice Ventures, Naval Ravikant, and Matt Brezina. The company has raised $8.5 million total.

    Adeptemy, an adaptive learning company, has raised $3.48 million in seed funding from Enterprise Ireland and Folens.

    Penpal Schools has raised $1.25 million from Honeycomb, Peter Holt, and Sophia Bush. Whee. Celebrity investors! The company had previously raised an undisclosed amount of funding.

    Research company Chippersage Education has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the India Educational Investment Fund and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

    Speakaboos has acquiredHomer. (Disclosure alert.)

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has acquired the science search engine Meta.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    “Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself” – a translation of an article that appeared in Das Magazin in December about Cambridge Analytica and the use of psychological profiling and Facebook. Most certainly food for thought touting the power of “learning analytics.”

    “When Algorithms Come for Our Children” by Cathy O’Neil.

    Via the Woodbury Bulletin: “District 833, police investigate after student accesses private employee data.”

    Via the Pew Research Center: “Americans and Cybersecurity.”

    Campus Technology claims that “Phishing Attacks Down 10 Percent in 2016,” but John Podesta was phished which seems to be a far more important factoid, imho.

    “The New Gold Rush? Wall Street Wants your Data,” by venture capitalist Matt Turck.

    A reminder to avoid Adobe products.

    More on privacy-related lawsuits in the courts section above.

    Data and “Research”

    “6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs About Intelligenceby The Atlantic’s Ed Yong.

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Winter Is Here: EdTech investments and M&A dropped significantly in 2016.”

    But here’s a booming market, according to a survey at BETT (as reported by EdWeek’s Market Brief): “Private International Schools Surge, and Digital-Content Needs Come Into Focus.”

    Via Brookings: “New data on the breadth of skills movement in education.”

    The Atlantic on new research from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government: “The Simple Reform That Improved Black Students’ Earnings.”

    “Who Is Really Benefiting From Early Access to Federal Student Aid?” asks Real Clear Education.

    Via Education Week: “Special Education Enrollment Rose in 2015–16.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study finds completing a 10-minute activity at the beginning of a MOOC can lead to significantly improved outcomes for certain at-risk learners.”

    Via the LA School Report: “42 percent of LAUSD’s record graduation rate was due to credit recovery or makeup classes.”

    Via ProPublica: “Teens Report Onslaught of Bullying During Divisive Election.”

    Via The Pacific Standard: “Why Juvenile Prisoners Become Unhealthy Adults.”

    Via Education Week: “Black Students More Likely to Be Arrested at School.” “Does Your School Arrest Students?” asks NPR.


    Rest in power, Professor Coleman. You were one of the greats.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 02/01/17--23:01: Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump
  • This talk was delivered at the University of Richmond. The full slide deck can be found here.

    Thank you very much for inviting me to speak here at the University of Richmond – particularly to Ryan Brazell for recognizing my work and the urgency of the conversations that hopefully my visit here will stimulate.

    Hopefully. Funny word that – “hope.” Funny, those four letters used so iconically to describe a Presidential campaign from a young Illinois Senator, a campaign that seems now lifetimes ago. Hope.

    My talks – and I guess I’ll warn you in advance if you aren’t familiar with my work – are not known for being full of hope. Or rather I’ve never believed the hype that we should put all our faith in, rest all our hope on technology. But I’ve never been hopeless. I’ve never believed humans are powerless. I’ve never believed we could not act or we could not do better.

    There were a couple of days, following our decision about the title and topic of this keynote – “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump,” when I wondered if we’d even see a Trump presidency. Would some revelation about his business dealings, his relationship with Russia, his disdain for the Constitution prevent his inauguration? Should we have been so lucky, I suppose. Hope.

    The thing is, I’d still be giving the much the same talk, just with a different title. “A Time of Trump” could be “A Time of Neoliberalism” or “A Time of Libertarianism” or “A Time of Algorithmic Discrimination” or “A Time of Economic Precarity.” All of this is – from President Trump to the so-called “new economy” – has been fueled to some extent by digital technologies; and that fuel, despite what I think many who work in and around education technology have long believed – have long hoped – is not necessarily (heck, even remotely) progressive.

    I’ve had a sinking feeling in my stomach about the future of education technology long before Americans – 26% of them, at least – selected Donald Trump as our next President. I am, after all, “ed-tech’s Cassandra.” But President Trump has brought to the forefront many of the concerns I’ve tried to share about the politics and the practices of digital technologies. I want to state here at the outset of this talk: we should be thinking about these things no matter who is in the White House, no matter who runs the Department of Education (no matter whether we have a federal department of education or not). We should be thinking about these things no matter who heads our university. We should be asking – always and again and again: just what sort of future is this technological future of education that we are told we must embrace?

    Of course, the future of education is always tied to its past, to the history of education. The future of technology is inexorably tied to its own history as well. This means that despite all the rhetoric about “disruption” and “innovation,” what we find in technology is a layering onto older ideas and practices and models and systems. The networks of canals, for example, were built along rivers. Railroads followed the canals. The telegraph followed the railroad. The telephone, the telegraph. The Internet, the telephone and the television. The Internet is largely built upon a technological infrastructure first mapped and built for freight. It’s no surprise the Internet views us as objects, as products, our personal data as a commodity.

    When I use the word “technology,” I draw from the work of physicist Ursula Franklin who spoke of technology as a practice: “Technology is not the sum of the artifacts, of the wheels and gears, of the rails and electronic transmitters,” she wrote. “Technology is a system. It entails far more than its individual material components. Technology involves organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.” “Technology also needs to be examined as an agent of power and control,” Franklin insisted, and her work highlighted “how much modern technology drew from the prepared soil of the structures of traditional institutions, such as the church and the military.”

    I’m going to largely sidestep a discussion of the church today, although I think there’s plenty we could say about faith and ritual and obeisance and technological evangelism. That’s a topic for another keynote perhaps. And I won’t dwell too much on the military either – how military industrial complexes point us towards technological industrial complexes (and to ed-tech industrial complexes in turn). But computing technologies undeniably carry with them the legacy of their military origins. Command. Control. Communication. Intelligence.

    As Donna Haraway argues in her famous “Cyborg Manifesto,” “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.” I want those of us working in and with education technologies to ask if that is the task we’ve actually undertaken. Are our technologies or our stories about technologies feminist? If so, when? If so, how? Do our technologies or our stories work in the interest of justice and equity? Or, rather, have we adopted technologies for teaching and learning that are much more aligned with that military mission of command and control? The mission of the military. The mission of the church. The mission of the university.

    I do think that some might hear Haraway’s framing – a call to “recode communication and intelligence” – and insist that that’s exactly what education technologies do and they do so in a progressive reshaping of traditional education institutions and practices. Education technologies facilitate communication, expanding learning networks beyond the classroom. And they boost intelligence – namely, how knowledge is created and shared.

    Perhaps they do.

    But do our ed-tech practices ever actually recode or subvert command and control? Do (or how do) our digital communication practices differ from those designed by the military? And most importantly, I’d say, does (or how does) our notion of intelligence?

    “Intelligence” – this is the one to watch and listen for. (Yes, that’s ironic that “ed-tech in a time of Trump” will be all about intelligence, but hear me out.)

    “Intelligence” means understanding, intellectual, mental faculty. Testing intelligence, as Stephen Jay Gould and others have argued, has a long history of ranking and racism. The word “intelligence” is also used, of course, to describe the gathering and assessment of tactical information – information, often confidential information, with political or military value. The history of computing emerges from cryptography, tracking and cracking state secrets. And the word “intelligence” is now used – oh so casually – to describe so-called “thinking machines”: algorithms, robots, AI.

    It’s probably obvious – particularly when we think of the latter – that our notions of “intelligence” are deeply intertwined with technologies. “Computers will make us smarter” – you know those assertions. But we’ve long used machines to measure and assess “intelligence” and to monitor and surveil for the sake of “intelligence.” And again, let’s recall Franklin’s definition of technologies includes not just hardware or software, but ideas, practices, models, and systems.

    One of the “hot new trends” in education technology is “learning analytics” – this idea that if you collect enough data about students that you can analyze it and in turn algorithmically direct students towards more efficient and productive behaviors, institutions towards more efficient and productive outcomes. Command. Control. Intelligence.

    And I confess, it’s that phrase “collect enough data about students” that has me gravely concerned about “ed-tech in a time of Trump.” I’m concerned, in no small part, because students are often unaware of the amount of data that schools and the software companies they contract with know about them. I’m concerned because students are compelled to use software in educational settings. You can’t opt out of the learning management system. You can’t opt out of the student information system. You can’t opt out of required digital textbooks or digital assignments or digital assessments. You can’t opt out of the billing system or the financial aid system. You can’t opt of having your cafeteria purchases, Internet usage, dorm room access, fitness center habits tracked. Your data as a student is scattered across multiple applications and multiple databases, most of which I’d wager are not owned or managed by the school itself but rather outsourced to a third-party provider.

    School software (and I’m including K–12 software here alongside higher ed) knows your name, your birth date, your mailing address, your home address, your race or ethnicity, your gender (I should note here that many education technologies still require “male” or “female” and do not allow for alternate gender expressions). It knows your marital status. It knows your student identification number (it might know your Social Security Number). It has a photo of you, so it knows your face. It knows the town and state in which you were born. Your immigration status. Your first language and whether or not that first language is English. It knows your parents’ language at home. It knows your income status – that is, at the K–12 level, if you quality for a free or reduced lunch and at the higher ed level, if you qualify for a Pell Grant. It knows if you are the member of a military family. It knows if you have any special education needs. It knows if you were identified as “gifted and talented.” It knows if you graduated high school or passed a high school equivalency exam. It knows your attendance history – how often you miss class as well as which schools you’ve previously attended. It knows your behavioral history. It knows your criminal history. It knows your participation in sports or other extracurricular activities. It knows your grade level. It knows your major. It knows the courses you’ve taken and the grades you’ve earned. It knows your standardized test scores.

    Obviously it’s not a new practice to track much of that data, and as such these practices are not dependent entirely on new technologies. There are various legal and policy mandates that have demanded for some time now that schools collect this information. Now we put it in “the cloud” rather than in a manila folder in a locked file cabinet. Now we outsource this to software vendors, many of whom promise that because of the era of “big data” that we should collect even more information about students – all their clicks and their time spent “on task,” perhaps even their biometric data and their location in real time – so as to glean more and better insights. Insights that the vendors will then sell back to the school.

    Big data.

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

    This is the part of the talk, I reckon, when someone who speaks about the dangers and drawbacks of “big data” turns the focus to information security and privacy. No doubt schools are incredibly vulnerable on the former front. Since 2005, US universities have been the victim of almost 550 data breaches involving nearly 13 million known records. We typically think of these hacks as going after Social Security Numbers or credit card information or something that’s of value on the black market.

    The risk isn’t only hacking. It’s also the rather thoughtless practices of information collection, information sharing, and information storage. Many software companies claim that the data that’s in their systems is their data. It’s questionable if much of this data – particularly metadata – is covered by FERPA. As such, student data can be sold and shared, particularly when the contracts signed with a school do not prevent a software company from doing so. Moreover, these contracts often do not specify how long student data can be kept.

    In this current political climate – ed-tech in a time of Trump – I think universities need to realize that there’s a lot more at stake than just financially motivated cybercrime. Think Wikileaks’ role in the Presidential election, for example. Now think about what would happen if the contents of your email account was released to the public. President Trump has made it a little bit easier, perhaps, to come up with “worse case scenarios” when it comes to politically-targeted hacks, and we might be able to imagine these in light of all the data that higher ed institutions have about students (and faculty).

    Again, the risk isn’t only hacking. It’s amassing data in the first place. It’s profiling. It’s tracking. It’s surveilling. It’s identifying “students at risk” and students who are “risks.”

    Several years ago – actually, it’s been five or six or seven now – when I was first working as a freelance tech journalist, I interviewed an author about a book he’d written on big data and privacy. He made one of those casual remarks that you hear quite often from people who work in computing technologies: privacy is dead. He’d given up on the idea that privacy was possible or perhaps even desirable; what he wanted instead was transparency – that is, to know who has your data, what data, what they do with it, who they share it with, how long they keep it, and so on. You can’t really protect your data from being “out there,” he argued, but you should be able to keep an eye on where “out there” it exists.

    This particular author reminded me that we’ve counted and tracked and profiled people for decades and decades and decades and decades. In some ways, that’s the project of the Census – first conducted in the United States in 1790. It’s certainly the project of much of the data collection that happens at school. And we’ve undertaken these practices since well before there was “big data” or computers to collect and crunch it. Then he made a comment that, even at the time, I found deeply upsetting. “Just as long as we don’t see a return of Nazism,” he joked, “we’ll be okay. Because it’s pretty easy to know if you’re a Jew. You don’t have to tell Facebook. Facebook knows.”

    We can substitute other identities there. It’s easy to know if you’re Muslim. It’s easy to know if you’re queer. It’s easy to know if you’re pregnant. It’s easy to know if you’re Black or Latino or if your parents are Syrian or French. It’s easy to know your political affinities. And you needn’t have given over that data, you needn’t have “checked those boxes” in your student information system in order for the software to develop a fairly sophisticated profile about you.

    This is a punch card, a paper-based method of proto-programming, one of the earliest ways in which machines could be automated. It’s a relic, a piece of “old tech,” if you will, but it’s also a political symbol. Think draft cards. Think the slogan “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” Think Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964, insisting angrily that students not be viewed as raw materials in the university machine.

    The first punch cards were developed to control the loom, industrializing the craft of weaving women around 1725. The earliest design – a paper tape with holes punched in it – was improved upon until the turn of the 19th century, when Joseph Marie Jacquard first demonstrated a mechanism to automate loom operation.

    Jacquard’s invention inspired Charles Babbage, often credited with originating the idea of a programmable computer. A mathematician, Babbage believed that “number cards,” “pierced with certain holes,” could operate the Analytical Engine, his plans for a computational device. “We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves,” Ada Lovelace, Babbage’s translator and the first computer programmer, wrote.

    But it was Herman Hollerith who invented the recording of data on this medium so that it could then be read by a machine. Earlier punch cards – like those designed by Jacquard – were used to control the machine. They weren’t used to store data. But Hollerith did just that. The first Hollerith card had 12 rows and 9 columns, and data was recorded by the presence or absence of a hole at a specific location on a card.

    Hollerith founded The Tabulating Machine Company in 1896, one of four companies consolidated to form Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, later renamed the International Business Machines Corporation. IBM.

    Hollerith’s punch card technology was first used in the US Census in 1890 to record individual’s traits – their gender, race, nationality, occupation, age, marital status. These cards could then be efficiently sorted to quantify the nation. The Census was thrilled as it had taken almost a decade to tabulate the results of the 1880 census, and by using the new technology, the agency saved $5 million.

    Hollerith’s machines were also used by Nicholas II, the czar of Russia for the first (and only) census of the Russian Imperial Empire in 1897. And they were adopted by Hitler’s regime in Germany. As Edwin Black chronicles in his book IBM and the Holocaust,

    When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany’s 600,000-member Jewish community. To Nazis, Jews were not just those who practiced Judaism, but those of Jewish blood, regardless of their assimilation, intermarriage, religious activity, or even conversion to Christianity. Only after Jews were identified could they be targeted for asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and ultimately extermination. To search generations of communal, church, and governmental records all across Germany – and later throughout Europe – was a cross-indexing task so monumental, it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

    What did exist at the time was the punch card and the IBM machine, sold to the Nazi government by the company’s German subsidiary, Dehomag.

    Hitler’s regime made it clear from the outset that it was not interested in merely identifying those Jews who claimed religious affiliation, who said that they were Jewish. It wanted to be able to find those who had Jewish ancestry, Jewish “blood,” those who were not Aryan.

    Hitler called for a census in 1933, and Germans filled out the census on pen and paper – one form per household. There was a census again in 1939, and as the Third Reich expanded, so did the Nazi compulsion for data collection. Census forms were coded and punched by hand and then sorted and counted by machine. IBM punch cards and IBM machines. During its relationship with the Nazi regime – one lasting throughout Hitler’s rule, throughout World War II – IBM derived about a third of its profits from selling punch cards.

    Column 22 on the punch card was for religion – punched at hole 1 to indicate Protestant, hole 2 for Catholic, hole 3 for Jew. The Jewish cards were processed separately. The cards were sorted and indexed and filtered by profession, national origin, address, and other traits. The information was correlated with other data – community lists, land registers, medical information – in order to create a database, “a profession-by-profession, city-by-city, and indeed a block-by-block revelation of the Jewish presence.”

    It was a database of inference, relying heavily on statistics alongside those IBM machines. This wasn’t just about those who’d “ticked the box” that they were Jewish. Nazi “race science” believed it could identify Jews by collecting and analyzing as much data as possible about the population. “The solution is that every interesting feature of a statistical nature … can be summarized … by one basic factor,” the Reich Statistical Office boasted. “This basic factor is the Hollerith punch card.”

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

    The punch card and the mechanized processing of its data were used to identify Jews, as well as Roma and other “undesirables” so they could be imprisoned, so their businesses and homes could be confiscated, so their possessions could be inventoried and sold. The punch card and the mechanized processing of its data was used to determine which “undesirables” should be sterilized, to track the shipment of prisoners to the death camps, and to keep tabs on those imprisoned and sentenced to die therein. All of this recorded on IBM punch cards. IBM machines.

    The CEO of IBM at this time, by the way: Thomas Watson. Yes, this is who IBM has named their “artificial intelligence” product Watson after. IBM Watson, which has partnered with Pearson and with Sesame Street, to “personalize learning” through data collection and data analytics.

    Now a quick aside, since I’ve mentioned Nazis.

    Back in 1990, in the early days of the commercialized Internet, those heady days of Usenet newsgroup discussion boards, attorney Mike Godwin “set out on a project in memetic engineering.” Godwin felt as though comparisons to Nazis occurred too frequently in online discussions. He believed that accusations that someone or some idea was “Hitler-like” were thrown about too carelessly. “Godwin’s Law,” as it came to be known, says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” Godwin’s Law has since been invoked to decree that once someone mentions Hitler or Nazis, that person has lost the debate altogether. Pointing out Nazism online is off-limits.

    Perhaps we can start to see now how dangerous, how damaging to critical discourse this even rather casual edict has been.

    Let us remember the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in his opening statement for the prosecution at the Nuremburg Trials:

    What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. … Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.

    We need to identify and we need to confront the ideas and the practices that are the lingering legacies of Nazism and fascism. We need to identify and we need to confront them in our technologies. Yes, in our education technologies. Remember: our technologies are ideas; they are practices. Now is the time for an ed-tech antifa, and I cannot believe I have to say that out loud to you.

    And so you hear a lot of folks in recent months say “read Hannah Arendt.” And I don’t disagree. Read Arendt. Read The Origins of Totalitarianism. Read her reporting from the Nuremberg Trials.

    But also read James Baldwin. Also realize that this politics and practice of surveillance and genocide isn’t just something we can pin on Nazi Germany. It’s actually deeply embedded in the American experience. It is part of this country as a technology.

    Let’s think about that first US census, back in 1790, when federal marshals asked for the name of each head of household as well as the numbers of household members who were free white males over age 16, free white males under 16, free white females, other free persons, and slaves. In 1820, the categories were free white males, free white female, free colored males and females, and slaves. In 1850, the categories were white, Black, Mulatto, Black slaves, Mulatto slaves. In 1860, white, Black, Mulatto, Black slaves, Mulatto slaves, Indian. In 1870, white, Black, Mulatto, Indian, Chinese. In 1890, white, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Indian, Chinese, Japanese. In 1930, white, Negro, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Hindu, Mexican.

    You might see in these changing categories a changing demographic; or you might see this as the construction and institutionalization of categories of race – particularly race set apart from a whiteness of unspecified national origin, particularly race that the governing ideology and governing system wants identified and wants managed. The construction of Blackness. “Census enumeration is a means through which a state manages its residents by way of formalized categories that fix individuals within a certain time and a particular space,” as Simone Browne writes in her book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, “making the census a technology that renders a population legible in racializing as well as gendering ways.” It is “a technology of disciplinary power that classifies, examines, and quantifies populations.”

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

    Does the data collection and data analysis undertaken by schools work in a similar way? How does the data collection and data analysis undertaken by schools work? What bodies and beliefs are constituted therein? Is whiteness and maleness always there as “the norm” against which all others are compared? Are we then constructing and even naturalizing certain bodies and certain minds as “undesirable” bodies and “undesirable” minds in the classroom, in our institutions by our obsession with data, by our obsession with counting, tracking, and profiling?

    Who are the “undesirables” of ed-tech software and education institutions? Those students who are identified as “cheats,” perhaps. When we turn the cameras on, for example with proctoring software, those students whose faces and gestures are viewed – visually, biometrically, algorithmically – as “suspicious.” Those students who are identified as “out of place.” Not in the right major. Not in the right class. Not in the right school. Not in the right country. Those students who are identified – through surveillance and through algorithms – as “at risk.” At risk of failure. At risk of dropping out. At risk of not repaying their student loans. At risk of becoming “radicalized.” At risk of radicalizing others. What about those educators at risk of radicalizing others. Let’s be honest with ourselves, ed-tech in a time of Trump will undermine educators as well as students; it will undermine academic freedom. It’s already happening. Trump’s tweets this morning about Berkeley.

    What do schools do with the capabilities of ed-tech as surveillance technology now in the time of a Trump? The proctoring software and learning analytics software and “student success” platforms all market themselves to schools claiming that they can truly “see” what students are up to, that they can predict what students will become. (“How will this student affect our averages?”) These technologies claim they can identify a “problem” student, and the implication, I think, is that then someone at the institution “fixes” her or him. Helps the student graduate. Convinces the student to leave.

    But these technologies do not see students. And sadly, we do not see students. This is cultural. This is institutional. We do not see who is struggling. And let’s ask why we think, as the New York Times argued today, we need big data to make sure students graduate. Universities have not developed or maintained practices of compassion. Practices are technologies; technologies are practices. We’ve chosen computers instead of care. (When I say “we” here I mean institutions not individuals within institutions. But I mean some individuals too.) Education has chosen “command, control, intelligence.” Education gathers data about students. It quantifies students. It has adopted a racialized and gendered surveillance system – one that committed to disciplining minds and bodies – through our education technologies, through our education practices.

    All along the way, or perhaps somewhere along the way, we have confused surveillance for care.

    And that’s my takeaway for folks here today: when you work for a company or an institution that collects or trades data, you’re making it easy to surveil people and the stakes are high. They’re always high for the most vulnerable. By collecting so much data, you’re making it easy to discipline people. You’re making it easy to control people. You’re putting people at risk. You’re putting students at risk.

    You can delete the data. You can limit its collection. You can restrict who sees it. You can inform students. You can encourage students to resist. Students have always resisted school surveillance.

    But I hope that you also think about the culture of school. What sort of institutions will we have in a time of Trump? Ones that value open inquiry and academic freedom? I swear to you this: more data will not protect you. Not in this world of “alternate facts,” to be sure. Our relationships to one another, however, just might. We must rebuild institutions that value humans’ minds and lives and integrity and safety. And that means, in its current incarnation at least, in this current climate, ed-tech has very very little to offer us.

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  • 02/02/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    “Will the Senate Block Betsy DeVos?” asks The Atlantic.

    Betsy DeVos, Pick for Secretary of Education, Is the Most Jeered” by The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein. “How Betsy DeVos Became Trump’s Least Popular Cabinet Pickby Anya Kamenetz.

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos questionnaire appears to include passages from uncited sources.” Oops. How many plagiarists does this make in the Trump administration now?

    Via Mother Jones: “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’.”

    From the Center for American Progress: “Inside the Financial Holdings of Billionaire Betsy DeVos.”

    Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos Invests in a Therapy Under Scrutiny.” That is, Neurocore brain performance centers.

    Via The LA Times: “Betsy DeVos‘is unprepared and unqualified’ to be Education secretary, charter school booster Eli Broad says.” And via WaPo: “Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and charter school backer, urges senators to oppose DeVos.”

    Via Teen Vogue: “10 Public High School Teachers Explain Why They’re Worried About Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary.”

    The Trump War on Public Schools” – an op-ed by Gail Collins in The NYT.

    Via Education Week: “Allan B. Hubbard, who served as an economic adviser during both Bush administrations, is a top contender for deputy secretary, the No. 2 job at the U.S. Department of Education, sources say.”

    Via Politico: “ Several Trump appointees shared unflattering views of minorities, women on social media.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In Tweet, Trump Threatens Berkeley With Loss of Federal Funds Over Protests.” More on those protests on the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “An executive order signed by President Trump late Friday afternoon immediately barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. has had immediate effects on scholars and students. More than 17,000 students in the U.S. come from the seven countries affected by the immediate 90-day entry ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.” Via The New York Times: “Full Executive Order Text: Trump’s Action Limiting Refugees Into the U.S.”

    Via Vice: “Collateral damage. How Trump’s travel ban is depleting America of Canadian money and talent.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What You Need to Know About Colleges and the Immigration Ban.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Colleges Are Warning Thousands Of Muslim International Students Not To Travel.”

    More on Trump’s immigration ban in the “on campus” and courts sections below.

    Via The NY Daily News: “N.Y. Senate bill compels data collection on foreign-born college students.”

    Jerry Falwell Jr. Says He Will Lead Federal Task Force on Higher-Ed Policy,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. More on the new role via Inside Higher Ed. And via CHE’s Goldie Blumenstyk: “Jerry Falwell’s New Higher-Ed Task Force Could Take Cues From a Private-College Association’s Playbook.” “With Falwell as Education Adviser, His Own University Could Benefit,” says Kevin Carey.

    Via The New York Times: “Uber C.E.O. to Leave Trump Advisory Council After Criticism.” Some 200,000 people have deleted their Uber accounts in response to Uber’s strikebreaking and CEO Travis Bickle’s working with Trump.

    Also via The New York Times: “Google, in Post-Obama Era, Aggressively Woos Republicans.”

    Via Boing Boing: “FBI releases declassified #GamerGate dossier.”

    The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto college campuses.

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Trump’s Supreme Court Choice Might Mean for Higher Ed.”

    Via Education Week: “A Look at Trump’s Supreme Court‘Finalists’ and Education Cases.”

    Via ProPublica: “A Cleveland Clinic doctor barred from entering the United States over the weekend by President Donald Trump’s travel ban is suing the president and his administration, seeking a writ of habeas corpus and an order that would allow her to come back.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University of California system has agreed to pay $1.15 million to a former student on the Santa Cruz campus who said that she had been raped by a professor, in one of the largest individual settlements of a campus sexual-assault case.”

    Via The Verge: “Oculus ordered to pay $500 million in ZeniMax lawsuit.” These VR people seem nice and ethical. Should be great for education.

    More on legal settlements with for-profits in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via George Veletsianos: “A large-scale study of Twitter Use in MOOCs.”

    Research finds there’s a "global achievement gap in MOOCs." No shit.

    Via Campus Technology: “Harvard Tailoring the MOOC Experience With Adaptive Learning.”

    Via AIR: “Getting Back on Track: What Math Content Is Taught and Learned in Online and Face-to-Face Algebra Credit Recovery Courses?”

    “Free College”

    Via NPR: “Tenn. Governor Seeks Free Community College For All Adults.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Wisconsin at Madison is proposing, pending state funding approval, that transfer students from the state’s community college system who meet various academic criteria receive one year of free tuition if they are from the first generation in their families to go to college.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    The sale of the Apollo Education Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, has been finalized.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced a $2.25 million settlement with DeVry University over false marketing claims.

    Via The Charlotte Observer: “Charlotte School of Law starts food drive so students get something to eat.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “More than 200 colleges have given the U.S. Department of Education notice that they will appeal gainful employment ratings that found their programs to be failing or close to failing.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via The Houston Chronicle: “Feds detain Katy High School student from Jordan following President Trump’s immigration ban.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Trump administration’s entry ban triggered wide condemnation from colleges, associations, faculty groups and others in higher education.”

    Via The New York Times: “After Visa Ban, Hints of Hidden Tension on Mississippi Campus.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Campus Fallout From the Trump Order.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Academics Mull Boycott of U.S. Conferences as a Way of Fighting Travel Ban.” Related: “Digital Pedagogy Lab Registration Delayed in Response to Executive Order.”

    White nationalist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had his talk at UC Berkeley canceled. A smattering of headlines (and concern trolling about free speech): “Amid Violence, Yiannopoulos Speech at Berkeley Canceled.” “Berkeley Students Debate Cancellation Of Milo Yiannopoulos Speech.” “Breitbart Editor’s Event Canceled As Protests Turn Violent At UC Berkeley.”

    “Milo and the Violent, Well-Funded Right-Wing Attacks on Academic Freedomby David Perry.

    Via The Washington Post: “Many KIPP charter school alumni face financial hurdles in college, survey shows.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “College and university endowments’ net returns declined for the second straight year in 2016, dropping into negative territory and posting their worst results since the depths of the financial crisis.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via The New York Times: “Wanted: Factory Workers, Degree Required.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Football players at private institutions in college sports’ most competitive level are employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel stated this week, and will be treated as such if they seek protection against unfair labor practices.” Also via IHE: “Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican and chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel should ‘abandon his partisan agenda or step down immediately.’”

    Via The New York Times: “Not Safe for Children? Football’s Leaders Make Drastic Changes to Youth Game.”

    From the HR Department

    Ben Werdmuller, co-founder of Known, has joined Matter Ventures as Director of Investments.

    Worst job application ever. (Arguably one of the worst schools ever too.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will be the next leader of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for minority and low-income students.”

    Education writer Dana Goldstein has joined The New York Times. (See her article on Betsy DeVos in the politics section above.)

    More on college athletes as employees in the sports section above.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    The ACLU has joined the startup accelerator Y Combinator. Bet you’re regretting your donation now, eh? Of course, known enemy of the free press, Peter Thiel, works with Y Combinator. And Y Combinator Paul Graham has criticized entrepreneurs that have “foreign accents.”

    Via The New York Times: “Boy Scouts, Reversing Century-Old Stance, Will Allow Transgender Boys.”

    “Why Are We Still Using LMSs?” asks edutechnica.

    Data dashboards. Whee.

    inBloom’s collapse undermined personalized learning and data standards efforts,” says danah boyd. (I’m working on a response to the Data & Society report on inBloom, but I’ve had the flu and I’ve been busy talking about how surveillance-driven “personalized learning” undermines democracy. So there you go.)

    “The textbook publishing industry is considering a transformation that could significantly alter how faculty members assign readings, publishers make money and students obtain course materials,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Oh sure, it’ll still screw over students, this time by forcing them to buy content by bundling it with tuition.

    Via Education Week: “Personalized Learning and the ‘Internet of Things:’ Q&A.”

    Via MIT Technology Review: “Second Life Is Back for a Third Life, This Time in Virtual Reality.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “What’s Better in the Classroom – Teacher or Machine?”

    Via Campus Technology: “Apple, UC Berkeley, Arizona State U, Others Join Board for Partnership on AI.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    An education IPO! Laureate Education will go public. (Maybe this time it’s for real. It planned to do so back in 2015.) More via Inside Higher Ed.

    OOHLALA has raised $4 million from University Ventures, Joe Montana, Y Combinator, GoAhead Ventures, Osman Rashid, and Real Ventures. The “student engagement” platform has raised $4.12 million total. (Disclosure alert.)

    Girl Geek Academy has raised $1.3 million from undisclosed investors.

    Elsevier has acquiredPlum Analytics.

    Student loan company SoFi will acquireZenbanx.

    The Education Testing Services (ETS) has acquiredQuestar.

    Hobsons has acquiredRepVisits.

    Match Group is selling its subsidiary Princeton Review to ST Unitas. That is how you’re supposed to translate this wretched Edsurge headline: “Match Group Swipes Left on Princeton Review As Concerns Over Privacy Grow.”

    Via The Scholarly Kitchen: “ What the Acquisition of Meta Means for Scholarly Publishers.” The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative announced last week that it had acquired Meta.

    For those who keep touting the future of wearables in education: “Fitbit Deemed Unfit By Several Wall Street Firms” says the Investors’ Business Daily, reporting on the company’s plunging stock price.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why Colleges’ Pledges to Shield Data on International Students Don’t Mean Much.”

    Via WLTX: “About 1,300 current and former employees were affected by the data breach at Lexington School District Two according to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.”

    Via Bill Fitzgerald: “Accessible tips for people to protect their privacy.”

    Via Ars Technica: “DC police surveillance cameras were infected with ransomware before inauguration.”

    This piece in The New York Times on “big data” and college graduation is pure ideology.

    Data and “Research”

    SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new guidelines for recess, because we seem to have forgotten what that looks like.

    Via The Pacific Standard: “Teenagers Report a Surge in Bullying During a Divisive Election Season.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Non-tenure-track faculty members at private colleges are unionizing at an unprecedented rate, according to a new study published in The Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy.”

    Via The Pacific Standard: “Trump Claims Sanctuary Cities Are Havens for Violent Criminals  –  Research Suggests He’s Dangerously Wrong.”

    Via Education Week: “Students with disabilities are as likely as typically developing students to enter science and engineering fields in college, according to new data from the National Science Foundation.”

    Via The New York Times: “Generation X More Addicted to Social Media Than Millennials, Report Finds.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Data dashboards and performance feedback can motivate middle-range students to work a little harder to earn a desired grade, a new study found.” The study was conducted by Blackboard and researchers by the University of Michigan.

    According to a survey by Front Row Education, “More Than 50 Percent of Teachers Report 1:1 Computing.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Some education researchers have begun downloading federal data amid questions about the new administration’s commitment to continuing transparency efforts.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 02/09/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as the Secretary of Education– the first time that a Vice President has had to break a tie in the Senate for this sort of vote. Her confirmation comes despite Democrats’ opposition and an incredible volume of calls and letters from constituents and despite her being blasted as the most unqualified nominee for any Cabinet position ever. But DeVos “believes that technology has a role to play in the classroom,” Edsurge writes in response to the confirmation, which I guess means ed-tech can overlook all of her horrible beliefs that further educational inequalities as long as it means more people buy digital things and hire Edsurge to facilitate that process. See also, via Market Watch: “K12’s stock rallies after DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education.”

    There was lots of DeVos news and opinion in the lead-up to and aftermath of the Senate Vote:

    “The Betsy DeVos Confirmation Debacle” by The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead.

    Via NPR: “Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake.”

    Via Jezebel: “Someone Is Paying Strangers Online to Beg For Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Pro-DeVos ads air, saying ‘liberal’ critics are full of ‘rage and hate,’ as anti-DeVos protests are held.”

    Holy Warriors Against the Welfare State” by Jennifer Berkshire.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Why Betsy DeVos’ vision of education does little to ensure equity.”

    DeVos Was Inevitablesays IHE blogger John Warner. (So, no doubt, were several articles by and about Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein and his defense of Trump and DeVos. But I ain’t gonna link to that crap.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos has family and likely financial connections to The College Fix, a conservative news site that often criticizes liberal bias in higher education.”

    Via The Hill: “The ethics case against Betsy DeVos.”

    My guess is that the new administration will attempt to privatize student loans. (DeVos, of course, was a stakeholder in the student loan startup SoFi. Peter Thiel is also an investor. More on SoFi in the “upgrade/downgrade” sectioin below.) “Why We Shouldn’t Re-Privatize the Federal Student Loan Program” by Tamara Hiler.

    Via WaPo: “Federal website for special education is down. But no, it hasn’t been scrubbed.” Yet.

    House Resolution 899 – sponsored by Representative Tom Massie (R-KY) is just one sentence long: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” Additional signers include Justin Amash (R-MI) – one of Betsy DeVos’s fellow Michiganders. “Spoiler alert,” writes NPR’s Anya Kamenetz. “The Education Department is unlikely to be eliminated, particularly by a bill that declines to specify who or what would take over its $68 billion annual budget and the functions of data collection, oversight, civil rights enforcement and student aid, among others.”

    Via The LA Times: “Not just ‘bad hombres’: Trump is targeting up to 8 million people for deportation.” This includes students.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The House this week approved a resolution to block new teacher-prep rules finalized by the Obama administration last year.”

    Looks like the new FCC is terrible, no surprise:

    Via The New York Times: “Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules.”

    Via The Consumerist: “New Chairman Orders FCC To Abandon Court Defense Of Rule Limiting Prison Phone Rates.”

    Via Education Week: “FCC Revokes Decision Allowing Companies to Provide Low-Income Families With Subsidized Broadband.” More via WaPo.

    Also via Education Week: “Under New Leadership, FCC Quashes Report on E-rate Program’s Success.” The report was released on January 18, and it was retracted on February 3 as it “does not reflect the official views of the agency.” A copy of the report has been archived on Doug Levin’s website.

    Via The LA Times: “In an age of ‘alternative facts,’ a massacre of schoolchildren is called a hoax.” Called a hoax by Alex Jones’ Infowars, to be clear, a radio show supported by Trump and his national security advisor Michael Flynn.

    Education in the Courts

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep in place the temporary restraining order that bars the Trump administration from enforcing the executive orderbanning entry into the US for nations from seven Muslim-majority countries. The lawsuit was filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota, claiming legal standing to challenge the ban, in part, because of the impact the ban has on public universities. (A link to the full text of the court’s opinion.)

    Related via Buzzfeed: “133 Tech Companies Say Trump’s Immigration Order Is Unconstitutional.” Just two ed-tech companies signed the amicus brief: General Assembly and AltSchool.

    Via The 74: “ Friedrichs 2.0: New Lawsuit By 8 Teachers Challenges Mandatory Dues Paid to California Union.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The 11-Year-Old Suing Trump Over Climate Change.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of California must pay the former chief counsel at its Riverside campus $2.5 million for allegedly retaliating against her for reporting what she called ‘rampant’ gender discrimination at the campus, a jury decided this week.”

    More on federal court orders in the surveillance section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Techcrunch: “ is drastically increasing the number of underrepresented minorities taking AP computer science.” Headline says “is.” Story says “could be.” Tech PR gonna PR.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    MOOCs: A Postmortem” by Jonathan Rees.

    Meanwhile, Campus Technology offers“7 Tips for Listing MOOCs on Your Résumé.”

    Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun is working on a stealth startup to help people make dinner, according to Business Insider.

    “Free College”

    Via the San Francisco Examiner: “Deal reached to make City College tuition free for SF residents.”

    Via The New York Times: “Bernie Sanders Talks Tuition, Free for All.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    “Ed-tech companies are seeing a new market of program management developing as colleges get into the coding boot camp business,” Inside Higher Ed’s Carl Straumsheim reports. See also: “George Mason U Signs with Outsourcer to Train Students in Coding” via Campus Technology.

    Via The New York Times: “For-Profit Law School Faces Crisis After Losing Federal Loans.” (Is it just me or is Charlotte School of Law getting a lot of coverage?)

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via the Wisconsin State Journal: “University of Wisconsin student abandons pro-white group effort.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The College Republicans at Central Michigan University are apologizing after one of the gift bags they distributed for Valentine’s Day included a photograph of Adolf Hitler and the line ‘my love 4 u burns like 6,000 jews’ [sic].”

    Via the AP: “Someone sent racist and anti-Semitic emails to University of Michigan students and made it look like they were from a computer science professor who pushed for presidential election recounts in several states.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “White Supremacist Fliers, Email on Campus.”

    “Why Teaching Civics in America’s Classrooms Must Be a Trump-Era Priority” by Mother Jones’ Kristina Rizga.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Teaching when students are full of fear: Inside Indiana’s first school for new immigrants.”

    Thomas Aquinas College will open a campus in Massachusetts.

    Saint Joseph’s of Indiana will close its doors.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Yale Panel Recommends Renaming Calhoun College.”

    Via The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “America’s Biggest Donors Give Unusually Large Share of Gifts to Colleges.”

    “Scaling Educational Accessby Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “One Campus’s iPad Revolution Results in Education Evolution.”

    Via “How High Schools Are Demolishing the Classroom.” LOL.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The American Bar Association House of Delegates on Monday rejected a proposal to require all law schools it accredits to have 75 percent of their students who sit for bar exams pass them within two years of graduation.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Big 12 Conference, of which Baylor University is a member, announced on Wednesday that it would withhold 25 percent of future revenue distributed to Baylor, pending an independent review of the university’s sexual misconduct processes. The decision comes after two recent court filings alleged that members of the university’s football staff covered up reports of sexual violence and other misconduct by athletes. Last year, Baylor fired its head football coach over the allegations, and both its president and athletic director resigned.”

    Meanwhile, via the Waco Tribune: “Baylor strength coach arrested on prostitution charge.”

    Meanwhile Ken Starr, demoted in the wake of all this awfulness at Baylor is rumored to be up for a job in the State Department.

    From the HR Department

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “…[A] teacher at Stoughton High School has been suspended after she revoked a letter of recommendation she wrote for a student and then explained the reason why. The student created a swastika out of tape and propped it up against a recycling bin.”

    Sweet Briar College has named Meredith Wooas its new president.

    Via The New York Times: “Stanford Drops Lawyer Who Advised Students in Sexual Assault Cases.”

    Molly Graham is taking on a top ops role at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” Recode reports. Graham is a former FB employee.

    Via The New York Times: “Josh Miller, Obama’s Digital Product Director, Joins Thrive Capital.” See also: “Joshua Kushner and Thrive Capital’s Ed-Tech Portfolio,” via where I keep track of all these political and financial networks because somebody has to.

    Zenefits is laying off almost half its employees,” Buzzfeed reports. (I count Zenefits as “ed-tech” of sorts because, among its offerings: training and testing for health insurance workers – with a bonus: cheating on licensing exams.)

    Grad student assistants at Loyola University at Chicago have voted to unionize.

    The Business of Job Training

    “The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding,” says Wired without a shred of sociological insight into race or gender and the labor force. But hey. What do you expect from Wired?

    Via Edsurge: “Strengthening the Workforce Bridge Between Community Colleges and Employers.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    Via The Atlantic: “Does Religion Have a Place in Public Schools?”

    Via the Financial Times: “ Inside Silicon Valley’s classrooms of the future. Technology is transforming education, with personalised learning at the heart of the curriculum. Is this the future?” This kills me:

    The personalised education movement combines a testing machine for the big-data age with a key idea taken from Maria Montessori, who developed her approach more than a century ago: that each child should drive their own learning.

    “Does Open Pedagogy require OER?” asks Clint Lalonde.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Via Buzzfeed’s Nitasha Tiku: “Even Good-Guy Student Loan Startups Still Favor the Rich.” Not sure I’d call SoFi, Earnest, et al “good guys,” but there you have it…

    “Unfairly Squeezing Student Borrowersby The New York Times Editorial Board.

    Facebook has decided to obey the law, announcing this week that “discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.”

    “Why I’m Saying Farewell to EduShysterby Jennifer Berkshire.

    Via Education Week: “Ed-Tech Skeptic Larry Cuban Finds New Perspective.”

    Listen. I love librarians, but these sorts of stories (and practices) about “digital literacy” have shown to be unhelpful.

    Digital literacy and anti-authoritarian politics” by Bryan Alexander.

    It’s 2017 and we’re still getting these sorts of headlines about Salman Khan: “These 3 Ideas Will Completely Change How Education Works.”

    “‘Oakland School Finder’ Platform Stirs Public District vs. Charter Debates,” says Edsurge.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Pearson, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on learning management systems, is leaving the market as the company seeks to restructure itself and boost its profits.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via The Guardian: “Actors, teachers, therapists – think your job is safe from artificial intelligence? Think again.” (These silly stories always reveal what people think teacher

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Robots Will Save Liberal Education.”

    Via Education Dive: “Will 2017 see artificial intelligence find a larger role in education?” (This story works equally well in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section, no doubt.)

    Via Campus Technology: “MIT, Segway Robotics Hackathon Focuses on Eldercare.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Cinemood has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from IIFD for a mini-projector with “kid friendly content built in.”

    The Holberton School has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from daphni, Reach Capital, and Jerry Murdock. The school, which has no teachers and teaches computer programming, has raised $4.3 million. (Disclosure alert.)

    “Smart toy” maker Tenka Labs has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from undisclosed investors.

    CodeMonkey has raised $1.5 million from J21 Corporation, Invictus Capital, the China-Israel Education VC Fund, and Edulab. The learn-to-code company with the derogatory name has previously raised $730,000.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via Data & Society: “Assessing the Legacy of inBloom.” (I really am working on a response, I promise. Once I get over this flu…)

    Via Fusion: “‘New York Times’ under fire for publishing dorm room numbers of undocumented students.” JFC.

    Via The LA Times: “After Trump video flap, signs warn Orange Coast College students against recording classes without permission.”

    Via the Backchannel: “A Mike Flynn-Approved Hate Group Is Teaching Cops to Track Muslims.” Lovely combo of hate-group, tech, and educational institutions here.

    Via the FTC’s website: “VIZIO, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected ‘smart’ televisions, has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs without consumers' knowledge or consent.”

    Via Edsurge: “Phishing Season: Widespread Email Scam Targets Schools, Edtech Companies.” Among the targets: Amplify.

    “School libraries can serve as personalized learning hotspots,” says Education Dive– but only if libraries fail to protect student privacy and gather lots of clicks about what students are doing, which seems fundamentally anti-librarian to me.

    Via “Data from 2014 hack of children’s online game Bin Weevils leaked online; hacker claims 20m records.”

    Data and “Research”

    “We need a little patience” says USC professor Morgan Polikoff, when it comes to evaluating Common Core.

    Via Campus Technology: “The global digital English language learning (ELL) market is expected to grow 23.36 percent between 2017 and 2021, according to a new report by market research firm Technavio.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study finds students’ negative diversity experiences, though less common than positive ones, hinder cognitive development and student learning.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study suggests that men are overrepresented in elite Ph.D. programs, especially in those fields heavy on math skills, making for segregation by discipline and prestige.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “State Spending on Higher Ed Continues Upward Trend.”

    The Pew Research Center has talked to“experts” about algorithms.

    Via Bloomberg: “The Big Reason Whites Are Richer Than Blacks in America.” Inheritance. (It’s not education, folks. It’s simply not.)

    Via Chalkbeat: “Skipping meals to afford books: College students’ financial woes go beyond tuition payments, survey shows.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New study indicates business incubators can have adverse impacts on research and innovation.” How do you measure “innovation”? Patents, apparently.

    “If teachers think like managers, they could make happier classrooms,” says Education Dive. Because everyone loves managers.

    A report from the AASCU: “Preparing Teachers in Today’s Challenging Context.”

    DC charter schoolsdiscipline students at twice the national rate, according to a GAO report.

    Paying college tuition with a credit card is a bad idea. We know this. And yet some 85% of colleges accept credit cards.

    “All Money Ain’t Good Money: The Role of White Foundations in Social Justice Movementsby Andre Perry.


    Educator Hans Rosling, well known for his 2006 TED talk on statistics, passed away this week.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative have released the latest NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education.

    I have written quite a bit about the problems (as I see them) with the Horizon Report, most recently in a talk I gave last fall at VCU: “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Issue a Press Release.” I have taken issue with the NMC’s refusal to revisit previous years’ predictions, for example, which is why I started a project where you can see at a glance how the predictions have and have not changed over the decade-plus of the Horizon Report’s existence. My project also makes some of the information available in a machine-readable format instead of solely in a PDF. (It seems like a missed opportunity to be touting “the future of ed-tech” in a report that is designed for the printer.)

    This year, the Horizon Report’s Higher Education Edition does include graphics with some historical data, demonstrating how some technologies and topics appear and reappear and how some simply disappear altogether from the horizon.

    Click for full-size

    The topic names have been modified “for consistency,” the report’s authors say (although I’m a little unclear about some of these choices – how are “mobile learning,” “tablet computing,” and “bring your own device” separate technological developments? Why are “virtual assistants,” “learning analytics,” “adaptive learning technologies,” and “robotics” distinct from the overarching category of “artificial intelligence”?). Of course, the Horizon Report dates back to 2004, so this is only a partial look back at its own history. But the graphic still underscores (probably unintentionally) how haphazard the predictions about coming technological developments just might be.

    Perhaps part of the problem is a compulsion to always pick something new simply for the sake of newness (for the newness of tech and for the continued relevance and circulation of the Horizon Report itself).

    This year, the Horizon Report posits that the “Time to Adoption Horizon” for technologies in higher ed looks something like this:

    One Year or Less

    • Adaptive Learning Technologies
    • Mobile Learning

    Two to Three Years

    • The Internet of Things
    • Next-Generation LMS

    Four to Five Years

    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Natural User Interfaces

    Here’s what fourteen years’ worth of predictions look like:

    Click for full-size

    I can’t help but notice that mobile technologies have been one to three years out from widespread adoption since 2006. “Smart objects” (a.k.a. “the Internet of Things”) have been on the horizon since 2009. The LMS is now on the horizon for the very first time, despite being one of the oldest education technology systems out there, with origins in the 1970s and the development of PLATO. And gone from the horizon, these technologies from last year’s report: learning analytics, augmented reality and VR, makerspaces, affective computing, and robotics. Were they adopted? Were they rejected? The report does little to help us understand this.

    Those technologies that are supposedly “on the horizon” have long been the primary focus and selling point of the report; but in 2014, it expanded its analysis, identifying the trends that might drive the adoption of education technology.

    These are the trends the Horizon Report has identified this year:

    One to Two Years

    • Blended Learning Designs
    • Collaborative Learning

    Three to Five Years

    • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning
    • Redesigning Learning Spaces

    Five or More Years

    • Advancing Cultures of Innovation
    • Deep Learning Approaches

    These “trends” strike me as at once ahistorical and utterly meaningless – or even, as I described them in my VCU talk, “not even wrong.” “Measuring learning”? “Collaborative learning”? “Cultures of innovation”? How are these not already deeply intertwined with existing systems and practices of educational institutions? (Or is it, rather, that are these not intertwined in ways that further the ideologies underpinning a certain vision of a technologized future of education?)

    The report also identifies certain challenges to ed-tech adoption – solvable, difficult, and wicked challenges – but these too seem to reflect a rather odd set of tests that higher education might face. There’s no mention of Trump and little discussion of state and federal education policies (accreditation, financial aid, for-profit higher education, DACA, Title IX, campus carry, for example). No mention of academic freedom (although, to be fair, there is a brief discussion of adjunctification). There’s very limited discussion of funding (that is, limited to discussion of “funding innovation” and not to funding higher education more broadly or to how students themselves will pay for post-secondary education or personal computing devices and broadband). Education technology in the Horizon Report is almost entirely stripped of politics, a political move in and of itself.

    No doubt, I am asking the Horizon Report to do something and to be something that it hasn’t done, that it hasn’t been. But at some point (I hope), instead of a fixation on new technologies purportedly “on the horizon,” ed-tech will need to turn to the political reality here and now.

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  • 02/17/17--04:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    “How higher education made President Trump,” according to Jeffrey Selingo.

    Via Fusion: “ICE detained close to 700 immigrants in a five-day nationwide raid.”

    Via Education Week: “Undocumented Teachers Shielded by DACA in Legal and Emotional Limbo.”

    Via Reuters: “Mexican ‘DREAMer’ nabbed in immigrant crackdown.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “A DREAMer Was Arrested During A Raid And Now Immigration Officials Have Been Ordered To Explain Why.”

    More on DACA in the campus section below.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Texas legislation could force campus police departments to hold on to those they arrest until federal immigration authorities can consider their legal status.”

    Also from Texas, via WaPo: “ Texas officials: Schools should teach that slavery was ‘side issue’ to Civil War.”

    “What Betsy DeVos means for edtech,” according to venture capitalist Ryan Craig. Union busting, outsourcing, and “unbundling,” apparently. Edsurge also“forecasts the future” of ed-tech and is hopeful. Screw equality, I guess – or “Ka-ching,” as Edsurge likes to say.

    Via The New York Times: “Trump Drops Defense of Obama Guidelines on Transgender Students.” More via WaPo and Buzzfeed.

    Via The Washington Post: “Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms.” The group in question: the Council for National Policy. It doesn’t make its members’ names public, but Kellyanne Conway did once service on its executive committee, DeVos’s mother was on its board of governors, and DeVos’s father-in-law served twice as its president.

    Also via The Washington Post: “Here’s who Trump invited to the White House to talk about schools. The list says a lot about his education priorities.” (As in, no Black parents or educators in view.)

    “How Much Power Does Betsy DeVos Really Hold to Shake Up Higher Ed?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Meanwhile… via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos’s Brother Is Setting Up A Private Army For China, Sources Say.”

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos: Protesters show hostility to change, new ideas in education.” And later in the week, also via The Washington Post: “DeVos softens stance on protesters at higher ed event.” Here’s the press release from the Department of Education after a handful of protestors yelled at DeVos at her first visit to a public school ever.

    Apparently now DeVos is getting “beefed-up security” from the US Marshals Service– the only cabinet member who has this protection and the first time something like this has ever been done for a Secretary of Education. This is theatre. Frightening, frightening theatre.

    DeVos has also vowed to go after employees who would “subvert” her mission.

    Via The Oregonian: “GOP senator introduces bill requiring colleges to expel students convicted of rioting.” That’s Oregon State Senator Kim Thatcher.

    Via NPR: “Beyond DeVos, What 5 Key Trump Appointees Could Mean For Schools.” (Not on the list but certainly important to watch, particularly for ed-tech, the head of the FCC.)

    Via WaPo: “The FCC talks the talk on the digital divide– and then walks in the other direction.”

    Via Univision: “How White House advisor Stephen Miller went from pestering Hispanic students to designing Trump’s immigration policy.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Vocal Critic of Office for Civil Rights Is Likely to Lead It.” That’s Gail Heriot.

    Via ProPublica: “Child’s Play: Team Trump Rewrites a Department of Energy Website for Kids.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U.S. Closure of Animal-Use Database Alarms Both Scientists and Protesters.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Wis. Governor Pushes to Eliminate For-Profit Oversight Board.”

    Via The Casper Star Tribune: “School official says $91M cut could result in ‘bloodbath’.” The Wyoming boom-bust cycle continues.

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Seattle Times: “A cellphone belonging to the man who claims he shot and wounded another man in self-defense during a demonstration last month at the University of Washington had been wiped clean of data before being seized by police, according to search-warrant documents filed in King County Superior Court.” The demonstration was against Milo Yiannopoulos; the shooter a supporter of the white nationalist joker; and the victim of the shooting was antifa.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The owner of a chain of four Los Angeles-area colleges accused of running a ‘pay-to-stay’ scheme through which foreign nationals fraudulently obtained immigration documents allowing them to stay in the U.S. on student visas though they were not bona fide students pleaded guilty Thursday to federal immigration fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced in a press release.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “17 Universities Join N.Y. Legal Challenge to Trump Immigration Ban.”

    Via MarketWatch: “These lawyers may have discovered a way to wipe away student debt in bankruptcy.”

    More on legal actions regarding for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Education Week: “After seven years of tumult and transition fueled by the common core, state testing is settling down, with most states rejecting the federally funded PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments, and nearly one-quarter embracing the SAT or the ACT as their official high school test.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “As Advanced Placement Tests Gain Popularity, Some Colleges Push Back.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    “Should Online Courses Go Through ‘Beta Testing’?” asks Edsurge. “How One Provider Taps 2,500 Volunteers.” The provider in question is Coursera, which has raised some $146.1 million and relies on volunteer labor. (Disclosure alert.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “FutureLearn, the massive open online course provider owned by the Open University in the U.K., expands to the U.S.”

    “What’s the bottom line on online preschool?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    NPR on MOOC Micromasters.

    Florida Virtual School model shows online learning can be engaging,” according to a puff piece by Education Dive, which rewrites a puff piece by eSchool News.

    “Free College”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Oregon’s free community college scholarship, which began last year, is encouraging more students to consider going to college and to feel more confident about being able to afford it, according the results of a survey conducted by Education Northwest, a nonprofit research group.”

    Also via Inside Higher Ed: “Oregon’s free community college scholarship faces money woes and criticism, particularly from the state’s four-year university leaders, who cite the program’s higher-income beneficiaries while also worrying about enrollment declines at their institutions.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Tressie McMillan Cottom’s new book, Lower Ed, is now out, and you should buy it and read it.

    The Century Foundation on the history of for-profit higher ed: “Vietnam Vets and a New Student Loan Program Bring New College Scams.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Cosmetology Schools Sue Betsy DeVos Over Obama-Era Rules.” Those rules, of course, involve “gainful employment.”

    “How the G.O.P. Became For-Profit College Abuse Deniers” by New America. The venture capitalists at University Ventures respond, as does Stephen Downes.

    Via the Phoenix Business Journal: “University of Phoenix laying off full-time faculty; 170 could be impacted.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bob Jones University lost its nonprofit tax exemption after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in 1976 found that the conservative religious college was practicing racial discrimination with its ban on interracial dating. That decision sparked a long court battle, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 upheld the IRS’s decision.” Now, the school is poised to become a non-profit once again.

    “Will Data Error Threaten For-Profit Regulation?” asks Inside Higher Ed. Again, that’s gainful employment.

    More on the latest shenanigans from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker regarding for-profit higher ed in the politics section above.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via Vox: “‘Crying is an everyday thing’: life after Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ at a majority-immigrant school.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Undocumented Students’ Fears Escalate After a DACA Recipient’s Arrest.”

    Via NPR: “School District In Canada Cancels Trips To U.S., Citing Border Policies, Safety.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Yale Will Rename Calhoun College for Adm. Grace Hopper.”

    Via NPR: “Despite Protests And A Fire Alarm, Martin Shkreli’s Show Goes On At Harvard.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Central Michigan University has determined that an individual who is not a student was responsible for a Hitler-referencing Valentine’s Day card that was in a gift bag distributed by the university’s College Republicans last week, and that the Republicans were unaware the card was placed there.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “‘The Great Shame of Our Profession.’ How the humanities survive on exploitation.”

    “Dissent at Berkeleyby Michael Meranze.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “As the White House and congressional Republicans plan overtures to black colleges, activists on one campus rally to bar the president from campus.” That’s Howard University. More on Trump and HBCUs in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why Is a University’s Top Lawyer Seeking an Outspoken Professor’s Emails?” The University of Oregon is seeking the emails of professor William Harbaugh, who operates the blog UOMatters, and his correspondence with the media.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Minnesota philosophy professor writes that immigrants have low IQs and refugees are part of ‘religious-political cult.’ Reaction is intense.”

    Via The New York Times: “College Costs Too Much? N.Y.U. Paves Way to Graduate Faster.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “After 10 years of state oversight, a locally elected board will now govern Compton Community College District, in California.”

    Via Geekwire: “Google quietly donates $10M to University of Washington in another major computer science gift.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    A story to watch under the Trump administration: accreditation. Here’s an op-ed in The Hill: “College accreditation goes rogue: Another unaccountable system.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education has recommended a renewal of recognition for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a controversial regional accreditor of two-year colleges in California and other Western states. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a federal panel, is slated to review ACCJC’s recognition and scope at a meeting next week.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via WaPo: “Trump will not fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.” IMPEACH.

    Via “Coed CYO hoops team defies archdiocese order to kick girls out, forfeits season.”

    From the HR Department

    Via the Naples Daily News: “East Naples teacher reassigned after Facebook post about immigrants.”

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has a new CEO: John “Jack” Lynch, formerly the head of Renaissance Learning.

    Bridget Foster has been named the head of the SIIA’s ed-tech association, the Education Technology Industry Network.

    More on layoffs at the University of Phoenix in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Contests and Awards

    Edsurge reports that NewSchools Venture Fund is running another competition – this one to fund entrepreneurs who build PreK–12 special education apps. Edsurge fails to disclose that NSVF is one of its investors.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Are Teachers Becoming Obsolete?” asks a “teacherpreneur” writing for The Atlantic.

    “Can Virtual Reality‘teach’ empathy?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    “Can Blended Learning Improve Equity in One of Nation’s Most Diverse Districts?” asks Edsurge.

    “Can Micro-credentials Create More Meaningful Professional Development For Teachers?” asks MindShift.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Here’s a trend to watch in 2017: companies and organizations who “help” schools buy ed-tech:

    Edsurge writesFast Company’s list of the “most innovative education companies.”

    Via The New York Times: “Intel Drops Its Sponsorship of Science Fairs, Prompting an Identity Crisis.”

    Via The Verge: “Yik Yak is secretly pivoting to group messaging.” I’ll use this as an excuse to remind you all that the founders of this terrible company are named Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll.

    “College Leaders Show Growing Interest In Teaching Information Literacy,” according to Edsurge.

    Via Mike Caulfield: “Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers Is Out.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “ How America’s Student Loan Giant Dropped The Ball.” That giant is Navient.

    Via the AP: “How Google Chromebooks conquered schools.”

    “Students can take charge of learning by controlling the seating plan,” according to Education Dive (rewriting an Edutopia article).

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Vert Capital and Scriba Corp: Institutions losing course data in company’s death throes.”

    Also by Phil Hill: “Ellucian Stops Support for Brainstorm, its CBE platform.” (Do be sure to check out the Horizon Report which predicts “next generation LMSes,” like Brainstorm, are “on the horizon.” More below in the “research” section.)

    Via Edutechnica: “One Course to Rule Them All: A Return to the Course Management System.”

    Via Fast Company: “Want to Fight Inequality? Forget Design Thinking.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Pixar offers free online lessons in storytelling via Khan Academy.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    “In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant,” says George Monbiot.

    Via Getting Smart: “#AskAboutAI: Informing Educators, Parents and Policymakers About Life With Smart Machines.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Top Hat has raised $22.5 million in Series C funding from Union Square Ventures, Emergence Capital Partners, Georgian Partners, Golden Venture Partners, iNovia Capital , SoftTech VC , and Version One Ventures. The company, which lets students use their phones to respond to prompts in class, has raised $41.9 million.

    Brightwheel has raised $10 million in Series A funding from GGV Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, ICONIQ, Eniac Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Lowercase Capital, Mark Cuban Companies, and RRE Ventures. The startup, which records activity at daycare to send to parents, has raised $10.6 million total. has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from Notion Capital and Hong Leong Group for “a peer-to-peer learning management system to encourage users to create communities filled with micro-learning activities,” whatever the hell that means.

    Learn-to-code company Ozobot has raised $3 million in Series A funding from Mark Rampolla and Tribeca Venture Partners.

    MiDrive has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Chrystal Capital, Force Over Mass, Holiday Extras, Initial Capital, Kelvin Capital, and Wild Blue Cohort. The startup, which offers a driving test app and a marketplace for driving instructors, also lost its CEO, Scott Taylor. But hey, it’s raised $7.29 million total.

    TinyTap has raised $1.5 million from Animoca, Inimiti VC, and New York Angels. The company, which offers a “marketplace of teacher-created apps,” has raised $2.05 million total.

    CampusLogic has acquiredCegment.

    WayUp has acquiredLookSharp.

    VitalSource has acquiredVerba.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via Doug Levin: “IRS Official to Schools: ‘One of the Most Dangerous Email Phishing Scams We’ve Seen’.” Just one example of this, via MPR News: “Data breach of W–2 forms hits thousands of Bloomington school employees.”

    Via the BBC: “Facebook algorithms ‘will identify terrorists’.”

    Considering IBM’s history, this letter from CEO Ginni Rometty about working with Trump is amazing (and chilling).

    Via the EFF: “A School Librarian Caught In The Middle of Student Privacy Extremes.”

    Via ZDNet: “How IoT hackers turned a university’s network against itself.” More via Bruce Schneier.

    Via the BBC: “German parents told to destroy Cayla dolls over hacking fears.”

    Via Techcrunch: “This baby monitor uses radar to detect infant breathing patterns.” Raybaby also “builds a photo/video collage of the baby for posterity.” Yuck.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Student Is Suspended for Filming Instructor Who Made Anti-Trump Remarks.”

    Data and “Research”

    The NMC and ELI have released the latest Horizon Report for higher ed. My response to the report.

    “Rationalizing Those ‘Irrational’ Fears of inBloomis my response to the recent Data & Society report on the failed data infrastructure initiative.

    Via Chalkbeat: “That stunning statistic about a third of Tennessee graduates not meeting requirements? It’s not true.”

    Via Education Week: “Online Charter Students in Ohio Perform Far Worse Than Peers, Study Finds.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “GoFundMe Releases Data on College Crowdfunding.”

    Via The Orlando Sentinel: “Teacher merit-pay law hasn’t boosted student learning, Orange says.” That’s the Orange County school district which says it hasn’t seen any significant improvement in student performance since Florida passed a merit-pay law in 2011.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “2017 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers.”

    Via Education Dive: “Texas district sees learning gains after giving kindergartners Chromebooks.”

    “Attending a Prestigious College Pays Off,” says The Pacific Standard. Especially if you’re a man.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Despite higher education’s progressive reputation, new research shows a stubborn pay gap between women and men who are administrators.”

    Via Politico: “Researchers from the University of Virginia have found that former first lady Michelle Obama’s visit to high schools as part of her Reach Higher initiative led to a ‘substantial’ increase in the percent of students at those schools who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The School-Voucher Paradox,” an article about a study on vouchers and school segregation.

    School vouchers“diminish churches’ religious activities,” according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    “What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education” by Yong Zhao.

    Pearson’s Jay Lynch and Nathan Martin argue in Edsurge“Why ‘What Works’ Doesn’t: False Positives in Education Research.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study challenges the myth that digital instruction costs less– both for students and for the colleges producing the courses.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 02/20/17--04:01: Calling Education to A Count
  • This article first appeared in the Data & Society publication Points in September 2016. It’s a response, in part, to the organization’s primer on accountability in education: “The Myth of Accountability: How Data (Mis)Use is Reinforcing the Problems of Public Education.”

    To be accountable is to be answerable; to be required to justify one’s actions; to be called to account. That reckoning could take the form of an explanation; in an obsolete usage of the word –obsolete according to the Oxford English Dictionary at least – accountability explicitly involves calculation. But this particular meaning isn’t completely lost to us; in its contemporary usage in education policy, “accountability” certainly demands a calculation as well, one derived primarily from standardized test scores.

    A Brief History of Accountability

    “Accountability” in public education has a long history, but today it's most commonly associated with one of the key pieces of legislation passed under George W. Bush’s presidency: No Child Left Behind, the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. No Child Left Behind is credited with ushering in, at a national level, an education reform movement focused on measuring students' performance on reading and math assessments.

    Of course, standardized testing pre-dates the NCLB legislation – by over a thousand years if you trace the history of testing back through the examinations used in Imperial China to select candidates for civil service. But No Child Left Behind has always been positioned as a new and necessary intervention, one aimed at the improvement of K–12 schools and one coinciding with long-standing narratives about American educational excellence (and the lack thereof). As such, NCLB and its notion of accountability has shaped the public discourse about how we know – or think we know – whether schools are good or bad; and the law has, until its recent re-write as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, dictated what is supposed to happen when schools are categorized as the latter: these schools will be held accountable.

    Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit

    “Accountability” now provides the framework for how we measure school success. And to be clear, this is a measurement. But only certain things “count” for this accounting.

    As the pro-business American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has described these sorts of policies, accountability in US public education in the last few decades has taken the shape of “carrots, sticks, and the bully pulpit.” This includes policies that demand a school’s performance be evaluated annually based on its students’ performance on standardized tests. Depending on how well or how poorly a school performs, it might be rewarded or punished, carrots or sticks – by being allocated more or less funding, for example, or by being prompted to hire or fire certain staff members, or in the most extreme cases, by being shut down altogether. But as the AEI’s phrase suggests, a key part of accountability has become “the bully pulpit” and involves a number of powerful narratives about failing schools, incompetent teachers, underperforming students, and as such, the need for more oversight into how tax dollars are being spent.

    There are other shapes that accountability efforts might take (and do take and have taken), no doubt: “Accountability” could refer to the democratic process; that is, elections for local school boards and other education-related offices such as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Accountability could be encouraged through more information transparency, publishing publicly more school data (and not just test scores). Accountability could also be pushed via “markets”; that is offering “choice” or even vouchers to parents so they can opt where they send their children to school beyond simply their neighborhood school. Accountability could focus on mechanisms that reward and punish individual teachers or students (as opposed to entire schools or districts). While that could conceivably involve teachers or students defining their own teaching and learning goals and responsibilities, accountability is often a framework imposed by administrative forces with a narrow set of what educational data and what educational outcomes “count.”

    What Accountability Practices are Missing

    Accountability tends to focus on the outputs of the school system – by measuring different levels of “student achievement” via standardized testing. As such, it is less apt to examine the inputs – at inequalities of funding, at differences in staffing, and so on. It presumes that students’ success or failure is the responsibility of the school, ignoring or at least minimizing the role of poverty or structural racism. Its calculations posit a highly instrumental view of student achievement, not to mention student learning. To be held accountable, it must be quantifiable.

    This instrumentality dovetails quite handily with the increasing use of technologies in the classroom – technologies that collect more and more data on students' various activities. This data collection goes far beyond standardized test scores, making assessment an ongoing and incessant practice. But it’s a practice that, in part because of the very demands of today’s accountability framework, remains focused on surveillance and punishment.

    The word “accountability” is related to the word “responsibility.” As public institutions, there is an expectation that schools spend taxpayer money responsibly. Schools are responsible for teaching students; they are responsible for students’ safety and well-being during the school day and, according to our popular narratives surrounding the effects of education, responsible for their success far beyond school. New digital data collection and analytics promise to improve the responsiveness of teachers and schools to students’ individual needs. But it’s a promise largely unfulfilled. So when we think about “what counts” and who’s held to account under public education’s accountability regime, it’s still worth asking if accountability can co-exist with “response-ability” – accountable to whom, how and to what ends; responsible to whom, how, and to what ends.

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  • 02/24/17--04:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    Via The New York Times: “President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind.”

    The Department of Education press release: “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Issues Statement on New Title IX Guidance.”

    More on this story: Via The Atlantic: “The Federal Government’s Reversal: Let the States Deal With Transgender Kids.” Via NPR: “Trump And Transgender Rights: What Just Happened?” Via US News & World Report: “Bathroom Wars.”

    Via Politico: “Spicer denies Cabinet feud over transgender student protections.”

    Arne Duncan and Catherine Lhamon– that’s the former Secretary of Education and the chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights – wrote an op-ed in WaPo: “The White House’s thoughtless, cruel and sad rollback of transgender rights.”

    Trump Will Lose the Fight Over Bathrooms for Transgender Students,” writes NYT op-ed writer Ria Tabacco Mar.

    More on trans high school student Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court case in the section below.

    Do keep all this in mind whenever you hear ed-tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and ed-reform types cheer for Betsy DeVos: Via Chalkbeat: “Betsy DeVos, reportedly opposed to rolling back protections for transgender students, defends the changes.” Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Defends Decision To Rescind Transgender Protections.” Via ABC News: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slams Obama’s transgender bathroom rule as ‘overreach’.”

    An interview with Betsy DeVos in Townhall. The highlight:

    I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.

    And the response from those teachers, via The Washington Post: “DeVos criticized teachers at D.C. school she visited – and they are not having it.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Starts Her Time As Education Secretary Taking On Her Critics.” Because being cruel and thin-skinned seems to be the policy priority for everyone in the Trump administration.

    Betsy DeVos is Publicly Polite, but a Political Fighter,” says The New York Times. Well then.

    Via The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss: “So far, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is just what her critics feared.”

    From the Department of Education press release: “Statement from Secretary DeVos regarding the restoration of IDEA.ED.GOV,” claiming that the special education site had been neglected for the past four years before going offline. AFT president Randi Weingarten calls bullshit.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Betsy DeVos Criticizes Professors in Remarks to Conservative Conference.” That is, she told college students at the event that “faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” More on DeVos’ CPAC speechin Inside Higher Ed. (The transcript.)

    Via The Hechinger Report: “DeVos praises virtual schools, but new research points to problems.” More on that research in the research section below.

    Via The New York Times: “Popular Domestic Programs Face Ax Under First Trump Budget.”

    More on the possible elimination of AmeriCorpsvia Chalkbeat: “Trump’s proposed AmeriCorps cuts would trim .03 percent of the federal budget – but slash support at 11,000 schools.”

    Via WaPo: “Trump’s hiring freeze leads some Army bases to suspend pre-K and other child programs.”

    “New Trump Deportation Rules Allow Far More Expulsions,” says The New York Times. DACA– purportedly – is not affected.

    Via The Intercept: “Civil Rights Groups, Funded by Telecoms, Back Donald Trump’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality.”

    Maine governor Paul LePage has finally nominated an education commissioner– the post has been open since 2014.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Iowa Bill Would Force ‘Partisan Balance’ in Hiring” at universities.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Feds Drop Investigation Into Los Angeles District Over $1 Billion iPad Purchase.”

    Oh, how very different “the politics of education (technology)” drumbeat sounds from some ed-tech publications:

    Trump will mean more “innovation” in higher ed, according to eCampus News.

    Via Edsurge: “​Rhode Island’s Plans to Become a ‘Lab State’ for Personalized Learning.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via the ACLU blog: “SCOTUS Rules Unanimously on Behalf of Michigan Girl with Cerebral Palsy Who was Prevented from Bringing Service Dog to School.”

    Via The 74: “Obama-Era Protections for Transgender Students to Be Revoked, Gavin Grimm Supreme Court Case at Risk.” That is, the Supreme Court could now punt on Grimm’s case, which involves his challenge to his school that had banned him from using the boys’ bathroom.

    Via Politico: “The Education Department must determine by next week if it will continue to enforce the Obama administration’s ban on collection of some student loan fees, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta said in an order Thursday night.”

    Via The New York Times: “Federal prosecutors have expanded their investigation of the financial dealings of the former president of the City College of New York into whether she received tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments over several years from the school’s oldest alumni fund.”

    More on the legalities surrounding the termination (or not) of the for-profit accreditor ACICS in the accreditation section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Large-Scale Assessment Without Standardized Tests.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ College Board takes ‘robust’ new SATsecurity steps – but is it enough to stymie cheating?” (This story could go in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section below.)

    Via Campus Technology: “AP Exam Pass Rates Rise Even as Participation Doubles.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via the Iowa City Press-Citizen: “Iowa families foregoing classroom for virtual school.”

    More research on virtual schools in the research below.

    +Acumen“senior innovation associate” writes about +Acumen in Edsurge: “The Flip Side of Abysmal MOOC Completion Rates? Discovering the Most Tenacious Learners.”

    “Free College”

    Via the University of New Hampshire press release: “UNH Announces Tuition-Free Plan for Hundreds of NH Students.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Tressie McMillan Cottom on her new book on for-profits, Lower Ed, and on credentialing and inequality in a Q&A with Inside Higher Ed. Elsewhere in IHE, a review from “Dean Dad” Matt Reed. Dr. Cottom in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Sociologist Looks at the Failure of the For-Profits and the Rise of Trump.” In The Atlantic: “The Coded Language of For-Profit Colleges.”

    Via Edsurge: “How One Coding School Hopes to Teach Thousands of Students, Without Professors.”

    Via The New York Times: “For-Profit Schools, an Obama Target, See New Day Under Trump.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Career Education Corp. on Wednesday announced that it had settled a false claims lawsuit with private plaintiffs. The suit against the for-profit chain and its American InterContinental University was originally filed in 2008.”

    More on the legalities surrounding the termination (or not) of the for-profit accreditor ACICS in the accreditation section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via ProPublica: “‘Alternative’ Education: Using Charter Schools to Hide Dropouts and Game the System.”

    Via The New York Times: “Universities Face Pressure to Hold the Line on Title IX.”

    “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?” asks Nikole Hannah-Jones. Perhaps this could go under the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section, but I think in this case the answer to the question is “yes.”

    “Welcome to Shark Tank U” – Steven C. Ward on “entrepreneur mania” in higher ed.

    Via The Washington Post: “A university takes on one of its own, alumna Kellyanne Conway.” The school in question: Trinity Washington University.

    Via the OC Weekly: “Off-Duty LAPD Cop Fires Gun During After-School Melee with Anaheim Teens.”

    Via the Star Tribune: “University of Minnesota police investigate flier with two swastikas posted on campus.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Michigan State plans to bar [whiteboards] from dormitory room doors, in attempt to limit bullying.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “In a city still struggling with segregation, a popular charter school fights to remain diverse.” The city: New Orleans. The charter: Bricolage Academy.

    The Atlantic on the history of segregation.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Politico: “A federal judge on Tuesday declined to put on hold the Obama administration’s decision last year to terminate the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges.” That’s ACICS.

    Also via Politico: “Congressional Republicans have appointed two new members to the federal advisory committee that oversees college accreditors” – Claude Pressnell, the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities Association, and Brian Jones, the president of Strayer University.

    More on professional development company Bloomboard’s pivot to micro-credentialing in the HR section below.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via NPR: “Go To College, Play Video Games. E-Sports Make A Play For The Big Ten.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Liberty University will join the Football Bowl Subdivision, college sports’ most competitive level, after receiving a waiver from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday.” Late last year, the school hired Ian McCaw as athletic director, who’d resigned from Baylor over allegations that his department had mishandled sexual assault cases.

    From the HR Department

    Via KTAR News: “Phoenix-area teacher resigns after tweeting about killing immigrants.”

    Via Edsurge: “BloomBoard Appoints New CEO, Restructures Focus Around Micro-Credentials.” The new CEO: Sanford Kenyon, formerly the startup’s Chief Revenue Officer.

    Via The New York Times: “Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture.” Good thing no one in ed-tech is describing themselves as “Uber for education,” right?

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Can ‘Sober High’ schools keep teenagers off drugs?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    “Is the College Board’s Newest AP Computer Science Course Closing the Gap?” asks Edsurge.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    The headline touts teaching computer science without computers; the article is better than that.

    “What Students Want Their Professors To Know About Edtech” – according to Edsurge.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What’s Up With Hive, a Nascent Successor to Yik Yak.”

    Via the Khan Academy blog: “Teachers using Google Classroom can now quickly and easily import their class roster to Khan Academy.” Wheee.

    Via Edsurge: “Battle of the Classrooms: Apple, Google, Microsoft Vie for K–12 Market.” “Comparing Apple Classroom to Google or Microsoft Classroom is sort of like comparing apples to oranges,” but this article was written anyway.

    Mark Zuckerberg on“Building Global Community” via Facebook.

    MakerBot Is Trapped in the Nastiest Part of the Tech Hype Cycle,” according to The Ringer.

    “Looking (again) to Domain of One’s Ownby Martha Burtis.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via Quartz: “The robot that takes your job should pay taxes, says Bill Gates.” I’d love to see the Gates Foundation extend this logic to their push for “personalized learning,” but I won’t hold my breath.

    Via the MIT Technology Review: “What Happens When Robots Become Role Models.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Galore has raised $1.65 million in seed funding from Norwest Venture Partners and DCM Ventures. The startup lets parents book activities for kids via a mobile app.

    Vkidz has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

    The private equity firm Francisco Partners has acquired the reading platform MyON.

    Higher Learning Technologies (HLT) has acquiredgWhiz.

    The excitement about Betsy DeVos continues in the pages of Edsurge: “5 Policy Headaches and Opportunities for US Education Businesses Under DeVos.”

    “The LMS Market is Quickly Losing Ground,” according to Chief Learning Officer at least.

    The Gates Foundation’s 2017 Annual Letter doesn’t really say much about education. Phew.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via The New York Times: “The Bright-Eyed Talking Doll That Just Might Be a Spy.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Suspension Lifted for Student Who Taped Instructor.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “N.J.Student-Teacher Videos Raise Privacy Concerns” – “A new rule that requires teaching candidates to submit tapes of their lessons to an education firm for review has sparked a backlash from some educators, parents.”

    Via Campus Technology: “‘Rasputin’ Hacker Targets 60 Universities, Government Agencies.”

    Via Education Dive: “Internet of Things helped Connecticut district cut electricity bill by 84%.” No mention of last week’s story about IOT devices were used to attack one university’s network.

    Data and “Research”

    “America Has Never Not Had a Childcare Problem,” writes Rebecca DeWolf in Pacific Standard.

    Via Education Week: “School Spending Ticks Up; Charters Still Spend Significantly Less.” (That is, they spend less on instruction.)

    Via NPR: “English Language Learners: How Your State Is Doing.”

    Via Eduventures: “Introducing the Higher Education Technology Landscape 2017.” Always fascinating to see how insistent industry folks are in not including private student loan companies or for-profit colleges (and coding bootcamps) in their reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student Debt Total Hits $1.31 Trillion.”

    Via The Pacific Standard: “Debunking Myths About Creativity and the Brain.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Tuition rose faster than state appropriations fell, and federal aid helped make that possible, study asserts.”

    Research from edbuild on property taxes and education funding.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study finds that physicists are more likely to describe women as ethical scientists, but in ways that potentially limit their productivity and competitiveness.”

    Via Kevin Carey in The New York Times: “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins.” SURPRISE! (Not really. I mean, I'm not surprised. Are you?)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    I have updated my Ed-Tech Funding project with the dollars and deals from February. This past month, ed-tech startups raised $566,950,000.

    But there’s an asterisk by that figure as it includes $500,000,000 raised by one company, student loan provider SoFi – money that SoFi says it plans to use to “push beyond lending.”

    Many ed-tech publications do not count SoFi as “ed-tech,” preferring to label it as “fintech” and thereby excluding it and other student loan startups from their calculations. Edsurge, for example, does not include student loan startups in the “ka-ching!” reports it sells as it says it only considers ed-tech to be those “technology companies whose primary purpose is to improve outcomes for all learners, regardless of age.”

    But that isn’t a particularly helpful delineation in my mind. Would a student information system or any sort of administrative software fall under that definition? Isn’t the point of financial aid – public and private – ostensibly “to improve outcomes”? Does a messaging app like Yik Yak count? It was marketed to students after all. Does a company that offers career assistance to college students count? Why not? (And you can’t say “because it doesn’t improve learning.” Most ed-tech doesn’t actually “improve learning,” let’s be honest.)

    I try to cast a wide net when I include companies in my funding research because I want to be able to have as full a picture as possible about the types of education companies that are getting funded. But I’m also incredibly interested in the types of market opportunities that venture capitalists have identified in education.

    That’s why excluding private student loans from “the state of ed-tech” strikes me as so dangerous if not disingenuous. Ignore student loan startups, and you have a very skewed sense of what the priorities are for investors, all of whom are actively trying to shape the narratives about the future of education. Think Peter Thiel and his proclamation of a “college bubble.” Think Ryan Craig and that mantra about the “unbundling” of higher ed. (Both partners in VC firms that are investors in student loan startups, funnily enough.)

    Tressie McMillan Cottom’s new book, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, is particularly useful in thinking about the “financialization” of education. (And there’s a reason why she and I have described “coding bootcamps” as “the new for-profit higher ed.”) Well beyond the push for “everyone learn to code,” it’s worth considering how digital technologies – in the classroom, in administrators’ offices, in human resources departments, at home – have become a core part of the “Wall-Street”-ification of education.

    Earlier this week, news broke that ResearchGate, a social network for scholars, had raised $52.6 million… back in November 2015. When Business Insider asked the founder why he hadn’t disclosed the investment (until required by law to do so by the German government), he said that “I didn’t really want to announce it because I think talking about funding generally is pretty boring.” Boring or not, disclosure about funding is incredibly important – for transparency, certainly, but also because it helps remind us that the for-profit companies involved with education have other missions besides simply “improving learning outcomes.”

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  • 03/03/17--10:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    President Trump gave a not-the-State-of-the-Union address to Congress on Tuesday. Details about the education-related elements of his speech from NPR, The New York Times, Education Week, and The Washington Post.

    Via The New York Times: “For Trump and DeVos, a Florida Private School Is a Model for Choice.” More on Trump’s visit to a school via The LA Times. Also via The LA Times, more on Trump’s call for a school voucher program.

    Betsy DeVos Says HBCUs are Pioneers of School Choice. She Is A Fucking Idiot. You Know This. But Still,” say the VerySmartBrothas.

    You can read the DeVos’s statement on HBCUs here.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Is Under Fire After Saying Historically Black Colleges Are ‘Pioneers’ Of School Choice.”

    From The New York Times Editorial Board: “Ms. DeVos’s Fake History About School Choice.”

    Via The New York Times: “After Backlash, DeVos Backpedals on Remarks on Historically Black Colleges.” More on changing her tune from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos’s Power Over Black Colleges.”

    “My Statement: White House HBCU Event” by Dillard University president Walter Kimbrough.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Executive Order Falls Short of Some HBCU Leaders’ Hopes.” More on the EO from Inside Higher Ed. And here’s how it differs from the one that Obama issued in 2010.

    Via The Root: “Morehouse College President: We Got Played.”

    Here it is: the worst education “take” of the year. Congrats, Federalist.

    More on HBCUs in the “on campus” section below.

    Kevin Carey’s latest op-ed in The New York Times: “DeVos and Tax Credit Vouchers: Arizona Shows What Can Go Wrong.”

    Via Education Week: “Fact Check: DeVos Doesn’t Control Who Gets a ‘Free Lunch’.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Education Department needs to better monitor colleges’ finances to prevent another costly fiasco like the 2014 collapse of Corinthian Colleges, says the agency’s Office of Inspector General.”

    Via CNET: “Trump signs laws to promote women in STEM.” Here’s the Department of Education press release.

    “Obama administration guidelines for LGBT student protections under Title IX remain in place, and the student codes at Liberty and Bob Jones Universities appear to violate them,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Paul Ryan Expresses Support for Year-Round Pell.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Republican Proposal Would Make Trump University Lawsuits ‘Almost Impossible’.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ Chance the Rapper is meeting with Illinois’ governor about education funding. Really.” (Did you know he recorded his first mixtape at the Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia studio?)

    Via Techcrunch: “FCC votes to negate broadband privacy rules.” More via The New York Times.

    “Here’s Why Net Neutrality is Essential in Trump’s America,” according to Motherboard.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Voucher-like proposal could take $71 million of public school funding from all Tennessee districts.”

    Via Business Insider: “A Colorado county is sending students to college on the $445,000 it made from legal weed.”

    Via The Tennessean: “A year after the General Assembly de-funded the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus in Knoxville, a panel of state lawmakers voted Wednesday to create an ‘intellectual diversity’ office there.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Lawmaker Pushing ‘Partisan Balance’ Fabricated Education Credentials.” More on this story from The Chronicle of Higher Education and in the credentialing section below.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “China Seeks Tighter Ideological Control of Its Top Universities.” Just like Republicans in Iowa and Tennessee!

    Immigration and Education

    Via LAist: “This Is What It’s Like When A Father Of 4 Is Detained By ICE While Dropping His Daughters Off At School.”

    Via Buzzfeed: DREAMer“Daniela Vargas was detained by federal agents moments after leaving a news conference where she spoke about her fear of being deported.” Via The Huffington Post: “Dreamer Arrested After Speaking To Media Will Be Deported Without Hearing, Attorney Says.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “DACA Remains Intact for Now, but Students Without It Are More Fearful Than Ever.”

    “How Much Can Schools Protect Undocumented Students?” asks Education Week.

    Via The Intercept: “Palantir Provides the Engine for Donald Trump’s Deportation Machine.” Reminder: here are the education companies Palantir founder Peter Thiel has invested in.

    Via “International scholar visiting Texas A&M‘mistakenly detained’ by customs officials.” The person in question is Henry Roussou, a French Holocaust scholar.

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Marshall Project: “Your Kid Goes to Jail, You Get the Bill.”

    Via Politico: “13 states, DOJ reach settlement in litigation over transgender student rights.”

    Via the Creative Commons: “Update on Great Minds v FedEx Office Litigation Involving BY-NC-SA.” Case dismissed.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Detroit lawsuit stops just short of accusing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of bribery.”

    Via The Washington Post: “White classmate avoids jail in coat-hanger assault of disabled black teenager.”

    Via The New York Times: “Corporations Show Support for Transgender Boy in Supreme Court Case.”

    Via The Kansas City Star: “Kansas Supreme Court rules the state has failed to ensure adequate education funding.” More on the ruling from NPR and The NYT.

    Via WOSU Radio: “What Privacy Do Students Have? Ohio Supreme Court Hears Backpack Seizure Case.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal grand jury has indicted the president of Ecclesia College, Oren Paris III, a former Arkansas state senator and a consultant, on multiple charges of mail and wire fraud. The allegations center on reports that Paris, through inappropriate means, asked legislators to provide state funds to the college, a Christian institution in Arkansas.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Uber loses legal challenge against English tests for London drivers.”

    Testing, Testing…

    Khan Academy announces“Free LSAT Prep for All.”

    Via Education Week: “Smarter Balanced Issues RFP for ‘Hybrid’ College Admissions, Accountability Test.”

    GitHub touts automated testing on its blog.

    ACT says it will invest in ProExam. (I’m not including this in the funding section because from what I can tell the investment hasn’t happened yet.)

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Inside Higher Ed on online education at Simmons College.

    EdX To Retire Foundational 6.002x Platform,” Class Central reports.

    edX has added 16 new “MicroMasters” programs.

    More on MOOC and online education research in the research section below.

    “Free College”

    “Keeping the Oregon Promise” by Sara Goldrick-Rab.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Free college tuition proposals will be moderately credit positive for the overall higher education sector, Moody’s Investors Service said Friday in a report issued after New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and San Francisco have recently introduced new or expanded proposals.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    “Credentials, Jobs and the New Economy” by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Via NPR: “To This Scholar, For-Profit Colleges Are ‘Lower Ed’.”

    For-Profit Schools Rebound Under Trump,” according to the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.

    “Mixed Picture for a For-Profit College,” says The New York Times in a profile of Berkeley College.

    Via Techcrunch: “Coding bootcamps commit to transparency in reporting around job placement.” “The effort is being drive by Skills Fund, an Austin-based student lending startup that also has developed its own methodology for quality assurance.”

    Via the Indianapolis Business Journal: “The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee for ITT Educational Services has hired ‘the most feared’ litigators in the nation to help with investigating and prosecuting claims against the former directors and officers of the defunct for-profit school.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via Buzzfeed: “Wave Of Bomb Threats Against Jewish Centers Soars To 100 This Year.” A map from ProPublica: “Bomb Threats to Jewish Community Centers and Organizations.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “2 U. of Missouri Students Are Arrested in Connection With ‘Anti-Semitic’ Messages.”

    Via the NEA Today: “As Opioid Crisis Alarms Communities, Drug Education Now Starts in Kindergarten.”

    “Losing Focus on the Mission: What’s Happening at UMUCby George Kroner.

    Via The New York Times: “Healthier Cereals Snare a Spot on New York School Menus.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Hundreds of students at Middlebury College on Thursday chanted and shouted at Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college.”

    Via The Buffalo News: “Culinary Institute in Falls now at heart of NCCC controversy.” Niagara County Community College“President James P. Klyczek and the college recently faced a federal lawsuit that accused him of misappropriating money to help pay for equipment inside the new center.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Eater: “Sorry Senator, You Can’t Call Sizzler Training a ‘Business Degree.’”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via the US News & World Report: “Transgender Wrestler Wins Texas Championship for Girls.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Baylor Coach Says of Skeptics: ‘Knock Them Right in the Face’.”

    From the HR Department

    Via The Register Guard: “UO laying off 75 nontenured faculty in cost-cutting plan, union says.” That’s the University of Oregon for those keeping score.

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Graduate Students Push for Unions at More Private Colleges.”

    The Business of Job Placement

    Via Edsurge: “What Colleges Should Know About A Growing ‘Talent Strategy’ Push By Companies.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    Via eCampus News: “Is higher ed ready for the big edtech explosion?”

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Apple’s Devices Lose Luster in American Classrooms,” according to The New York Times. Luster lost to Chromebooks, apparently.

    In other Google and edu news, via The Verge: “White nationalists seem to have manipulated Google search results for ‘Boasian anthropology’.”

    Via Education Week: “‘Fake News,’ Media Literacy Become Business Opportunities in Rush to Educate Students.”

    Digital storytelling site Cowbird has shut down.

    Amazon Web Services suffered a major outage this week, knocking many education companies who use AWS offline. The cause: a typo.

    Via The Atlantic: “The STEM Superhero of Sesame Street.” Grover. The only good monster of ed-tech.

    Via Education Week: “K–12 Math, Reading Programs Rated on New ‘Evidence for ESSA’ Website.”

    We’ve reached “Flipped Learning 3.0,” so that’s exciting.

    VR“comes of age,” says Campus Technology.

    Via Techcrunch: “Duolingo brings Tinycards to the web.”

    Via the press release: “Cengage, McGraw-Hill Education, and Pearson have joined forces with Ingram and Chegg, Inc. to have them adopt and implement a set of Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices designed to address the growing problem of counterfeit print textbooks.” You know what’s actually a growing problem? The price of your “real” textbooks.

    Via the BBC: “Watchdog to pursue essay-cheat websites.”

    Via Techcrunch: “DARTdrones pitches Shark Tank to build a flight school for drone pilots.”

    Via Campus Technology: “New Education Think Tank Debuts, Offering Online News and Research.” It’s called FutureEd. (Related: I don’t understand why folks claim their work is “nonpartisan.” Education is always political. And as Gramsci said, “I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan.”)

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Via The Guardian: “Education publisher Pearson reports biggest loss in its history.”

    Snap IPO’d this week, and while it’s not an education company, there is an education story here. Saint Francis High School invested $15,000 in the company back in 2012. It made about $24 million when Snap went public.

    SoFi has raised $500 million in Series F funding from Silver Lake Partners, DCM Ventures, SoftBank, and Third Point Ventures. The student loan company has raised $1.88 billion total.

    ResearchGate raised $52.6 million in funding from Wellcome Trust, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Four Rivers Group, Ashton Kutcher, LVMH, Xavier Niel, Bill Gates, Benchmark, and Founders Fund. The funding actually occurred in November 2015 but was not disclosed until required by law. Gee, that sounds like a trustworthy company. ResearchGate has raised $87.6 million total.

    Nearpod has raised $21 million in Series B funding from Reach Capital, Krillion Ventures, AGP Tech, GSV Acceleration Fund, Storm Ventures, the Stanford-StartX Fund, the Knight Enterprise Fund, Arsenal Ventures, Marc Benioff, Scott Cook, and Signe Ostby. The company, which makes multimedia presentation software, has raised $30.2 million total.

    Testing company Examity has raised $21 million from University Ventures and Inherent Group.

    CampusLogic has raised $10 million in Series B funding from 4.0 partners. The financial aid management company has raised $17.5 million total.

    Regent Education has raised $8.5 million from New Markets Venture Partners, Chrysalis Ventures, and Ares Capital Corporation. The financial aid management company has raised $32.75 million.

    Motimatic has raised $3.4 million in Series A funding from University Ventures and New Markets Venture Partners for its “automatic motivational support system.” Robo-motivation, ffs.

    Clark, which Techcrunch describes as “an app aiming to ‘turn every educator into an entrepreneur’,” has raised $1 million in seed funding from Human Ventures and Winklevoss Capital.

    Udacity has acquiredCloudlabs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Barnes & Noble Education has acquiredMBS Textbook Exchange.

    I’ve run the numbers on venture capital investments in education for the month of February: $566,950,000.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via Motherboard: “Internet of Things Teddy Bear Leaked 2 Million Parent and Kids Message Recordings.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “College Board pilots system to help colleges make admissions decisions about who is disadvantaged – and evidence from one college suggests 20 percent of decisions might be different. But lack of emphasis on race concerns some advocates.” Algorithmic decision making. What could possibly go wrong?

    School district boasts it’s giving laptops to migrant students. These sentences are horrifying: “Students will be allowed to take the devices with them when they migrate in or out of state. The devices will be monitored through a tracking system developed for this purpose.”

    Via The New York Times: “New York City Will Be Asked to Release More Data on Students.”

    Via The MIT Technology Review: “Big Questions Around Facebook’s Suicide-Prevention Tools.”

    Via Real Clear Education: “K–12 Predictive Analytics: Time for Better Dropout Diagnosis.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Students’ worry: education technology might predict failure before they have a chance to succeed.”

    Via The Chicago Sun Times: “CPS privacy breach bared confidential student information.”

    Beware Edtech’s Equivalent of the Flashlight App” – to my surprise, the story isn’t about how flashlight apps are full of malware, but golly it could be.

    More on violating students’ privacy rights in the courts section above.

    Data and “Research”

    More research on venture capital in ed-tech in the venture capital section above.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New paper casting doubt about the merits of online education raises concerns, but also questions from researchers who say it is ‘seriously flawed.’” “Deeply flawed,” says Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill. More on the study from The Chronicle of Higher Education. And still more from Hill.

    Via NPR: “Parent Alert! Your Child Just Skipped Class” – research on the effectiveness of texting parents about missed class or assignments.

    Via Boing Boing: “Psychology journal editor asked to resign for refusing to review papers unless he can see the data.”

    Inside Higher Ed on research published in the International Journal for Educational Integrity: “The proliferation of online tools allowing students to paraphrase academic work for their own assignments is facilitating plagiarism, according to the author of new research in the area.”

    Inside Higher Ed on research published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior: “Incoming first-year students at Michigan State University who felt a connection with the university during orientation were more likely to fit in and want to stay enrolled at the university, particularly students from ethnic minority groups.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “State-by-State Breakdown of Graduation Rates.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “American Academy of Arts and Sciences makes the case for increasing foreign language learning capacity in a political climate that’s increasingly anti-global.”

    Via The Pacific Standard: “If We’re Serious About Early Learning, Here’s How It Should Look.”

    “How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners” by Ed Yong.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new report from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University finds that computer-mediated developmental math benefited high school students more than those same courses when taught at Tennessee colleges.”

    Via NPR Code Switch: “HBCUs Graduate More Poor Black Students Than White Colleges.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Professors and Politics: What the Research Says.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Students Who Comment More in MOOCs Have Higher Rates of Completion.”

    “Which Colleges Might Give You The Best Bang For Your Buck?” asks NPR.

    Via Campus Technology: “Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending to Double in 2017.”

    Via the Council on Foreign Relations: “The Link Between Internet Access and Economic Growth Is Not as Strong as You Think.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    While much of the speculation about the future of education technology under President Trump has been focused on the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (her investment in various ed-tech companies, her support for vouchers and charter schools), it’s probably worth remembering that the Department of Education is hardly the only agency that shapes education and education technology policy.

    The FCC plays a particularly important role in regulating the telecommunications industry, and as such, it has provided oversight for the various technologies long touted as “revolutionizing” education – radio, television, the Internet. (The FCC was established in 1934; the Department of Education, in 1979; its Office of Educational Technology, in 1994.)

    Tom Wheeler, the head of the FCC under President Obama, stepped down from his role and left the agency on January 20– the day of President Trump’s inauguration. Wheeler had been a “champion” of net neutrality and E-rate reform, according to Education Week at least, but his replacement, Trump appointee Ajit Pai, seems poised to lead the agency with a very different set of priorities – and those priorities will likely shape in turn what happens to ed-tech under Trump. As an op-ed in The Washington Post put it, “The FCC talks the talk on the digital divide – and then walks in the other direction.”

    Indeed, one of the first moves made by the FCC under Pai was to block nine companies from providing subsidized Internet service to low-income families.The agency also rescinded a report about the progress made in modernizing the E-rate program, something that had been the focus of Wheeler’s tenure – a report that had been released just two days before Wheeler left office – removing it from the FCC website altogether. (An archived copy is available via Doug Levin’s website.)

    Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, issued a strongly worded rebuke to that move, calling E-rate “without question the single most important educational technology program in the country.”

    Despite this praise, the program has long been controversial, frequently criticized for fraud and waste. Arguably, E-rate is one of the key pieces of ed-tech-related legislation in the US, and as such it’s worth examining its origins, its successes, and its failures.

    What can E-rate tell us about the relationship between politics and ed-tech? Who has benefited?

    A History of E-rate Legislation

    E-rate is the name commonly used to describe the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, established as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act called for “universal service” so that all Americans could have access to affordable telecommunications services, regardless of their geographical location. The legislation also ordered telecom companies to provide their services to all public schools and libraries at discounted rates – from 20% to 90% off depending on the services provided and number of students receiving free and reduced school lunches. The program, whose subsidies were initially capped at $2.25 billion, was to be funded through mandatory contributions from telecom providers – the Universal Service Fund (USF). (Telecom providers added fees to customers’ bills in order to pay for their contributions.)

    The FCC initially appointed the National Carrier Exchange Association, the non-profit organization charged with managing the USF, with handling the E-rate program, but eventually a new organization was created to do this: the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

    From the outset, the program faced Congressional scrutiny, with questions about its scope, its management, and its funding. In particular, legislators were concerned that the charges levied on telecoms in order to pay for E-rate might be a tax (rather than a fee). (If the charges were a tax, it would be unconstitutional for the Executive branch and not Congress to exact them.) Some members of Congress also objected to the level of funding for E-rate. They argued that the program cost too much money and took needed funds away from other “universal service” efforts; some proposed that the program be replaced by block grants.

    In 2014, the FCC undertook a “modernization” plan for E-rate in part to address the changing demand for telecommunications services. The agency issued an order to support affordable access to high-speed broadband in particular (not merely “access to the Internet”) and to boost access and bandwidth of schools’ WiFi networks.

    As part of these modernization efforts, in 2015 the funding cap for E-rate was increased to $3.9 billion and the way in which funds were allocated was an adjusted – all in an attempt to “spread the wealth” beyond just a few large districts that had historically benefited most from the program.

    According its January 2017 report, the FCC’s modernization push enabled some 77% of school districts to meet the minimum federal connectivity targets by the end of 2016; just 30% had met those requirements in 2013. (That is, Internet speeds of 100 Mbps per 1000 users.) During the same period, the cost that schools paid for Internet connectivity fell from $22 to $7 per Mbps.

    “Progress,” the FCC boasted in the report. “No comment,” the FCC said in February when asked why the report on the modernization efforts had been pulled from its website. Commissioner Pai had voted against those efforts, for what it’s worth, back in 2014, saying that the FCC order did little to curb bureaucracy or waste.

    A Brief History of E-rate Fraud

    Throughout its history, the E-rate program has faced repeated scrutiny from Congress, from Republican members of the FCC like Pai, and from the General Accounting Office, which issued a report in 2005 that took issue with the “unusual” organizational structure of the USAC and questioned whether or not E-rate was sufficiently responsive to accountability standards that would “help protect the program and the fund from fraud, waste, and abuse.”

    And there have been plenty of accusations and lawsuits regarding “fraud, waste, and abuse.” Among them: an $8.71 million settlement paid by Inter-Tel in 2004 over accusations of rigging the bidding process. A $21 million settlement paid by NEC in 2006 for price-fixing. An $8.2 million settlement paid by AT&T in 2009 over accusations of non-competitive bidding practices and overcharging. A $16.25 million settlement paid by Hewlett Packard in 2010 over accusations of fraud. A $3 million settlement paid by the New York City DOE in 2016 over accusations of mishandling the bidding process. (Here is the full list of those who’ve been convicted of criminal or civil violations and have therefore been barred from participating in the E-rate program.)

    As some of these settlements highlight, while the E-rate program was supposed to ensure that schools received discounted telecommunications services, this hasn’t always happened. ProPublica reported on over-charging in the E-rate program in 2012,

    Lawsuits and other legal actions in Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York have turned up evidence that AT&T and Verizon charged local school districts much higher rates than it gave to similar customers or more than what the program allowed.

    AT&T has charged some schools up to 325 percent more than it charged others in the same region for essentially the same services. Verizon charged a New York school district more than twice as much as it charged government and other school customers in that state.

    Despite these issues, a court decision in 2014 blocked the USAC from prosecuting telecoms for making false statements about offering schools and libraries the “Lowest Corresponding Price,” arguing that this falls outside the False Claims Act, a statute that allows the government to pursue fraud claims against businesses. The burden of proof that schools and libraries are being offered a competitive price falls on the applicants themselves.

    E-rate and the History of the Future of the “Digital Divide”

    When the E-rate program was first established in 1996, only 14% of K–12 classrooms in the US had access to the Internet. Almost all schools are now connected to the Internet, although – as that FCC modernization report underscores – not all classrooms have access to high-speed broadband, and not all schools have WiFi networks that can support the heavy data demands on their bandwidth. According to EducationSuperhighway, a non-profit organization that lobbies for increased Internet access, 88% of public schools now have the minimum level of Internet access – that is, 100 kbps per student), although just 15% offer the FCC’s goal – that is, 1 Mbps per student.

    According to both EducationSuperhighway and the FCC, it is imperative to “level the playing field” so that schools and libraries, regardless of geographic location or the income level of students they serve, all have access to affordable high speed Internet. Certainly in the 1990s, when E-rate was introduced, its goal was to address this very issue – “the digital divide.”

    Cost has certainly remained a barrier for the poorest schools, as has the infrastructure itself in some areas – a lack of high speed broadband service altogether, for example. Some schools “cannot overcome the 19th century buildings to take advantage of 20th century technology,” Education Secretary Richard Riley told The New York Times in 2000.

    But there’s another access to “the digital divide” beyond simply who can afford “the digital,” and that’s something that Macomb Community College professor Chris Gilliard calls “digital redlining”: “the growing sense that digital justice isn’t only about who has access but also about what kind of access they have, how it’s regulated, and how good it is.” That issue with “what kind of access” is core to E-rate because of an associated law, the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

    The act, known as CIPA, was passed in 2000 – one of a series of pieces of legislation that attempted to curb if not criminalize “adult materials” online in places “where minors would be able to find it.” The Communications Decency Act, for example, was passed in 1996 – the same year as the Telecommunications Act – but was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court the following year. In 1998, Congress again sought to address children’s exposure to “harmful materials” with passage of the Child Online Protection Act, but this too was challenged in court. The Supreme Court also found the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1998 unconstitutional in 2002.

    Recognizing these legal challenges, Congress took a slightly different tact with CIPA. Rather than regulating content on the Web writ large, it opted to restrict what schools and libraries that receive federal funding – through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Act, the Museum and Library Services Act, or E-rate – could allow people to view online. CIPA requires schools and libraries to create “acceptable use” policies for Internet usage, to hold a public meeting about how it will ensure safety online, and to use a “technology protection measure” to keep Internet users away from materials online that are “obscene,” “child pornography,” or “harmful to minors.” That is, CIPA requires Web filtering.

    The law has faced its own share of legal challenges, including one from the American Library Association. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that CIPA does not violate the Constitution.

    One of the myriad complaints about CIPA is that it results in “over-filtering” – that schools and libraries block content that are not “obscene” or “harmful to minors.” There are many stories about how information about things like breast cancer or LGBTQ issues or drug abuse is inaccessible at certain schools. (I have found that my website is blocked by many because it contains that dangerous word “hack.”)

    Now that schools are increasingly providing students with laptops or tablets, filtering software often happens at the device-level, not simply at the school network level. That is, the Internet remains filtered, even when students are on their laptops at home.

    Clearly this is an equity issue – one that complicates how “the digital divide” has traditionally been framed and what E-rate was supposed to address. Those who rely on the Internet networks at E-rate supported schools have their Internet access restricted and monitored in turn.

    E-rate and the Future of Ed-Tech

    The decision by the new FCC to rescind its report on E-rate raises plenty of questions about the future of the program under President Trump. Will the FCC reduce spending on universal service? Will the agency revise regulatory oversight for the E-rate program? What might this look like?

    How might this, alongside Ajit Pai’s opposition to “net neutrality,” reshape access to information at schools and libraries (particularly those that serve a low-income population and those in rural areas)?

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  • 03/10/17--10:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    As if applying for financial aid wasn’t difficult enough already, it appears that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which pulls tax information into the FAFSA app, “will be unavailable for several weeks.” Great timing, IRS.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Congress, in an effort to limit federal involvement in higher education, has voted to eliminate Obama-era regulations on teacher-preparation programs.”

    Via PBS Newshour: “Senate votes to end Obama school accountability rules.”

    Via The LA Times: “Trump wants to create a national private school choice program. Here’s how it could work.”

    Via NPR: “‘Tax Credit Scholarships,’ Praised By Trump, Turn Profits For Some Donors.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Three months into Tennessee’s first voucher foray, 35 students are enrolled.”

    Via NPR: “Trump’s International Policies Could Have Lasting Effects On Higher Ed.”

    Via ProPublica: “Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government.” Education Department hires include a venture capitalist, members of the Trump campaign, and a KIPP school founder.

    Via Rolling Stone: “Betsy DeVos’ Holy War.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “A Surprising Number Of People Say They Have An Opinion About Betsy DeVos In This New Poll.”

    An op-ed in Techcrunch by Kadenze co-founder Ajay Kapur: “What Betsy DeVos’ confirmation means for innovation in education.”

    The Hechinger Report asks, “What can Betsy DeVos really do?”

    Including this news item here as there’s also an “odd” link to Betsy DeVos. Via CNN: “Sources: FBI investigation continues into ‘odd’ computer link between Russian bank and Trump Organization.”

    Via eCampus News: “The 2 edtech fields with the most potential under Trump.” (Spoiler alert: “workforce initiatives” and “accountability.” Saved you a click.)

    The New York Times on how Trump became “the first Silicon Valley President.”

    Via Mashable: “Trump’s favorite techie thinks there should be ‘more open debate’ on global warming.” Trump’s favorite techie is, of course, Peter Thiel.

    More about Trump’s immigration policies in a separate section below. And more about Trump and for-profit higher ed policies in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Chance the Rapper writes $1 million check to CPS as a ‘call to action’.”

    “The History of the Future of E-rateby me.

    According to the EFF, “A Dangerous California Bill Would Leave Students and Teachers Vulnerable to Intrusive Government Searches.” More on AB 165 from the ACLU, which also opposes the proposed law.

    Following up on ProPublica reporting, “Florida to Examine Whether Alternative Charter Schools Underreport Dropouts.”

    Via The Register Guard: “The Eugene School Board on Wednesday postponed until March 15 a decision on whether to further restrict information available in student directories, such as a student’s date or place of birth.”

    Via Education Week: “The Ohio education department could seek repayment of more than $80 million from nine full-time online schools, based on audits of software-login records that led state officials to determine the schools had overstated their student enrollment.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Muslim students tried to meet with a lawmaker. They were first asked: ‘Do you beat your wife?’” The lawmaker in question: Oklahoma State Representative John Bennett.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “177 Private Colleges Fail Education Dept.’s Financial-Responsibility Test.”

    Via Teen Vogue: “Virginia and North Carolina Schools to Close on ‘A Day Without a Woman’.”

    Via The New Inquiry: “A Women’s Strike Syllabus.”

    Immigration and Education

    Trump has issued an update to his Muslim ban. Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “New Travel Ban Still Sows Chaos and Confusion.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it is temporarily suspending premium processing of H–1B skilled worker visa applications for up to six months, beginning on April 3.”

    Via The New York Times: “A Rush for Birth Certificates, as Immigrants Try to Hold Families Together.”

    Also via The New York Times: “Educators Prepare for Immigration Agents at the Schoolhouse.”

    Via NPR Code Switch: “Teachers, Parents Struggle To Comfort Children Of Color Fearful Of Targeted Raids.”

    Via The Washington Post: “A U.S. citizen is denied college aid– because of her mother’s immigration status.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Republican State Lawmakers Seek to Ban ‘Sanctuary’ Campuses.” That is, legislators in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Texas.

    Education in the Courts

    The US Supreme Court will not hear a case regarding a trans high school student’s bathroom options at his high school. The case now goes back to the 4th Circuit Court. That student, the incredible Gavin Grimm wrote an op-ed in The New York Times: “The Fight for Transgender Rights Is Bigger Than Me.”

    Via The New York Times: “Trump University Lawsuits May Not Be Closed After All.”

    Via the BBC: “Facebook Reports BBC to Police Over Investigation Into Child Sex Images.” More on this story and concerns about how Facebook moderates content via Techcrunch.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Harvard Law School announced Wednesday that it will start an experiment in which it will accept the Graduate Record Examination for admissions, not just the traditionally required Law School Admission Test.”

    Via The Denver Post: “Colorado juniors face new, revamped college exam in SAT after state dumps rival ACT.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ School offers ‘incentives’ to get kids to take Common Core standardized test.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Data shows Indiana students are taking AP exams, but half aren’t passing them.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Tressie McMillan Cottom on The Daily Show. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s new book on for-profit higher ed reviewed by The New York Times.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Dream Center Foundation, a religious missionary organization based in Los Angeles, plans to buy EDMC, a struggling for-profit chain that enrolls 65,000 students. The resulting nonprofit college group will be secular.” “I Honestly Don’t Get This,” “Dean Dad” Matt Reed writes in response.

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Administration Delays Enforcement of Obama-Era Rules on For-Profit Colleges.” The “gainful employment” rules, that is.

    Via ProPublica: “These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like a Prison’.” The schools are run by Camelot Education.

    More on the for-profit “school” Trump University in the courts section above. More on HR changes at UofP in the HR section below.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    An op-ed in Forbes by University Ventures’ Ryan Craig: “Make Online Education Great (For The First Time).”

    Via The Financial Times: “Coursera chief on the future of online learning and the Trump era.”

    New Nanodegrees from Udacity: Digital Marketing and Robotics.

    More on the politics of online education in the politics section above.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    The Atlantic profiles“The Violent Fight for Higher Education” in South Africa.

    Via The Washington Post: “‘Unprecedented effort’ by ‘white supremacists’ to recruit and target college students, group claims.”

    Speaking of which, so many “takes” this week about protests at a talk by Charles Murray at Middlebury College.

    Via The Mercury News: “A conservative student organization, fighting for a toe-hold of official recognition in the liberal Bay Area, scored a victory at Santa Clara University where a vice provost overturned a student senate decision and granted a charter to Turning Point USA.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s a Roundup of the Latest Campus-Climate Incidents Early in the Trump Presidency.”

    Via The New York Times: “Campus Backlash After Leaders of Black Colleges Meet With Trump.”

    “Starting March 15, the university will begin removing more than 20,000 video and audio lectures from public view as a result of a Justice Department accessibility order,” reports Inside Higher Ed. That’s UC Berkeley. David Kernohan responds. (Here’s a story I wrote a couple of years ago about the history of webcasting at Berkeley.)

    Via The LA Times: “Inside Celerity charter school network, questionable spending and potential conflicts of interest abound.”

    Via CBC News: “Ottawa teacher sent home after cutting hair of 7-year-old boy with autism.”

    Via The New York Times: “College Student Suffers Severe Reaction After Hazing Involving Peanut Butter.”

    Via The Guardian: “Sexual harassment‘at epidemic levels’ in UK universities.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Northwestern U. Is Accused of Violating Academic Freedom.”

    Via The Mercury News: “University of California proposes first enrollment cap on out-of-state students.”

    Via The New York Times: “Years of Ethics Charges, but Star Cancer Researcher Gets a Pass.” The researcher in question, Carlo Croce from Ohio State University.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    “Why Sports and Elite Academics Do Not Mix” according to The Atlantic’s Jonathan R. Cole.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “In December, an association representing the country’s top athletics directors created a political action committee. It joins the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s own lobbying efforts, which have more than doubled in the past five years.”

    From the HR Department

    “Head of Savannah College of Art and Design was the top-paid college leader in 2014,” says The Wall Street Journal. She made $9.6 million.

    Timothy Slottow, the president of the University of Phoenix, will step down.

    Via GeekWire: “Amazon Education GM leaves; company says it ‘remains committed’ to K–12 technology.” That’s Rohit Agarwal, founder of TenMarks, a math startup that Amazon acquired in 2013.

    Via The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss: “Head of DeVos-founded group resigns after saying he wanted to ‘shake’ an official ‘like I like to shake my wife’.” That’s the Great Lakes Education Project and executive director Gary Naeyaert.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A National Labor Relations Board office rejected Columbia University‘s objections to a recent graduate employee union election Monday, recommending that United Auto Workers be certified as the students’ collective bargaining representative.”

    “Graduate student employees at Duke University on Tuesday withdrew their petition to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “President of Morehouse College Has Not Been Ousted, It Says.”

    The Business of Job Training

    An op-ed in Techcrunch by University Ventures’ Ryan Craig: “Blame bad applicant tracking for the soft skills shortage at your company.”


    Via Deadspin: “Five-Year-Old Set To Become Youngest-Ever Contestant At National Spelling Bee.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    Via Education Dive: “Can this Montessori’s AltSchool partnership help scale the model?”

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Remember the Thiel Fellows? Here’s a puff piece from Business Insider on what “some of the most successful” ones are up to these days.

    Via The Outline: “Google’s featured snippets are worse than fake news.”

    “How ‘News Literacy’ Gets the Web Wrong” by Mike Caulfield.

    Via The Guardian: “Essays for sale: the booming online industry in writing academic work to order.”

    John Deasy, former LAUSD Superintendent, is heading a new education publication, The Line– it has a corporate backer, Frontline Education.

    “What’s the problem with competency based education?” asks Graham Attwell.

    “When Social Media Assignments Increase Risks for Vulnerable Students” by Monica Bulger and Jade E. Davis.

    “I learned how to do math with the ancient abacus– and it changed my life,” says Ulrich Boser.

    Offering “modules” in an LMS is, apparently, newsworthy.

    USA Funds is changing its name to Strada Education Network.

    Techcrunch profiles a tutoring company: “Tutoring startup Toot launches into twin policy storms around education and immigration.”

    Also via Techcrunch: “Parental control serviceCircle with Disney’ to help with distracted driving, social media, kids’ chores & more.”

    Also via Techcrunch: “Current wants to digitize your kid’s allowance with an app and a debit card.”

    (Do note: startups selling to parents, rather than startups selling to schools.)

    Via Campus Technology: “Johns Hopkins U Website Ranks K-12 Reading, Math Programs Under ESSA Standards.”

    I’ve carved off all the “upgrades” and “downgrades” and press releases from SXSWedu into their own category, below.

    Dispatches from SXSWedu

    Keynotes from Sara Goldrick-Rab and Christopher Emdin.

    Via EdWeek Market Brief: “SXSWedu Speakers Break Down Ed-Tech Market Activity Around the Globe.”

    Also via EdWeek Market Brief: “Startup Founder Offers Peek Inside Venture Capital Dealmaking at SXSWedu.”

    Via The 74: “South by Southwest Education: 10 New Ed Tech Startups About to Grab the Spotlight in Austin.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Quizlet Debuts Study Feature That Helps Students Study Efficiently.”

    “At #SXSWEdu @TFerriss Espouses The Virtues of Discomfort. Then This Happened,” says Lisa Nielsen. The “this” that happened was an angry response from the audience to Tim Ferriss’ talk, particularly from teacher Derek Breen.

    Via Edsurge: “Startup Showdown: Recruiting Startup ‘The Whether’ Takes Home Launch Competition Prize.”

    Via SXSWedu: “At SXSWedu, ‘Mastery-Based’ Lessons Touted as Option for Equity.”

    Via Edsurge: “Is Edtech Worsening or Righting Inequities in Education? From the SXSWedu Floor.” I can’t think of a better place to ask that question than a corporate event, can you.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    “New study raises concerns about impact of automated social media advocacy on education coverage,” says Alexander Russo. Robots hate the Common Core.

    Via Reuters: “Amazon deepens university ties in artificial intelligence race.”

    Via The Washington Post: “How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Disney Research has robots matching verbal styles with kids.”

    Via PC Magazine: “Researchers Show Off ‘Mind-Reading’ Robot.”

    Via Big Tomorrow: “Imagining an AI-First Student Experience.”

    Via Motherboard: “Could AI Replace Student Testing?” (Clearly this story could also go in the “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines” section.)

    “‘Artificial Intelligence’ Has Become Meaningless,” says Ian Bogost.

    Via Quartz: “So long, banana-condom demos: Sex and drug education could soon come from chatbots.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Google is acquiring machine learning contest site Kaggle. (Kaggle hosted the robo-essay-grading competition, sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation.)

    Grading platform Kiddom has raised $6.5 million from Khosla Ventures. Edsurge notes the deal was led by Keith Rabois, does not note the allegations of sexual harassment against Rabois that prompted him to resign from Square in 2013 or the 1992 incident at Stanford where Rabois allegedly hurled anti-gay insults at a professor. Another great investor for the future of education technology!

    An op-ed in Techcrunch by University Ventures co-founder Daniel Pianko: “Rethinking return on education investment.”

    Via The New York Times: “Valuation Shell Game: Silicon Valley’s Dirty Secret.”

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via the Office of Inadequate Security: “University of Georgia student and employee data found in data dump.”

    Via the AP: “ Phishing Scam Hits Connecticut School District, Again.” That’s Groton Public Schools, which the AP helpfully informs us is pronounced GRAH’-tuhn.

    Via “Data Breach At Public School Board.” The board in question: the Greater Essex County District School Board.

    Via the CBC: “The University of Moncton says a ninth malicious email was sent to the campus community Thursday night, reaching almost 2,000 students and staff.” The president of the university calls this “cyber terrorism.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “When using data to predict outcomes, consider the ethical dilemmas, new report urges.”

    The Guardian onCambridge Analytica and the “misuse of data in politics.” More on Cambridge Analytica in The New York Times.

    There’s more about the politics of data in the politics section above.

    Data and “Research”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study details tool to help professors measure how much active learning is happening in their classrooms.” It records the voices in a classroom, which seems like a huge privacy violation to me but hey. How else could we possibly tell if there’s “active learning” happening?!

    Via Education Week: “New Database Helps Connect Education Researchers, Schools.” It’s called the National Education Researcher Database or NERD.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Regular drinking isn’t associated with meaningfully lower GPAs, study finds, but those who use alcohol and marijuana do see a decline.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Highest Representation of Racial and Ethnic Groups at Liberal-Arts Colleges, Fall 2015.”

    “A new study examines how six adult-serving institutions are defining and using alternative credentials such as badges, noncredit certificates and those issued for successful completion of MOOCs or coding and skills boot camps,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Campus Technology: “Report: iPad, Mac Use Growing in Higher Ed.” iPad use?! Seriously?!

    Via Futuresource Consulting: “US K–12 Education Digital Management Platforms & Tools Market to Grow at a CAGR of 4.5% to 2020, to Reach $1.83 Billion.” (I had to google “CAGR” – it’s “compound annual growth rate” in case, like me, you weren’t a business major.)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    This article first appeared on Points, a Data & Society publication in February 2017

    That inBloom might exist as a cautionary tale in the annals of ed-tech is rather remarkable, if for no other reason than ed-tech – at least its manifestation as a current blend of venture capital exuberance, Silicon Valley hype, philanthropic dollars, and ed-reform policy-making – tends to avoid annals. That is to say, ed-tech today has very little sense of its own history. Everything is “new” and “innovative” and “disruptive.” It’s always forward-facing, with barely a glance over its should at the past – at the history of education or the history of technology. No one had ever thought about using computers in the classroom – or so you might glean if you only read the latest marketing about apps and analytics – until this current batch of philanthropists and entrepreneurs and investors and politicians suddenly stumbled upon the idea circa 2010.

    Perhaps that very deliberate dismissal of history helped doom inBloom from the start. Those who worked on the initiative seemed to ignore the legacy of the expensive and largely underutilized ARIS (Achievement Reporting and Innovation System) system that had been built for New York City schools, for example, hiring many of ARIS’s staff and soliciting the company in charge of building it, Wireless Generation, to engineer the inBloom product.

    While those making sweeping promises about data collection and data analytics wanted to suggest that, thanks to digital technologies, InBloom offered a unique opportunity to glean insights from data from the classroom, many parents and educators likely had a different sense – a deeper history –of what data had already done or undone, of what data could do or undo. They certainly had a different sense of risk.

    The compulsion to gather more and more data is hardly new, although certainly new technologies facilitate it, generating more and more data in turn. In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, tracing to the early twentieth century the eagerness of school leaders to adopt the language and the practices of business management in the hopes that schools might be run more efficiently and more “scientifically.”

    There’s something quite compelling about those hopes, it seems, as they underlie much of the push for education reform and education technology in schools still today. Indeed, this belief in efficiency and science helped to justify inBloom, as Data & Society’s new report on the history of the $100 million data infrastructure initiative demonstrates.

    That belief is evident in the testimonies from various politicians, administrators, entrepreneurs, and technologists involved in the project. Data collection – facilitated by inBloom – was meant to be “the game-changer,” in the words of the CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, providing a way to “actually use individual student information to guide teaching and learning and to really leverage the power of this information to help teachers tailor learning to every single child in their class. That’s what made inBloom revolutionary.” “The promise was that [inBloom] was supposed to be adaptive differentiated instruction for individual students, based on test results and other data that the states had. InBloom was going to provide different resources based on those results,” according to the superintendent of a New York school district.

    But this promise of a data-driven educational “revolution” was – and still is – mostly that: a promise. The claims about “personalized learning” attainable through more data collection and data analysis remain primarily marketing hype. Indeed, “personalized learning” is itself a rather nebulous concept. As Data & Society observed in a 2016 report on the topic,

    Description of personalized learning encompass such a broad range of possibilities – from customized interfaces to adaptive tutors, from student-centered classrooms to learning management systems – that expectations run high for their potential to revolutionize learning. Less clear from these descriptions are what personalized learning systems actually offer and whether they improve the learning experiences and outcomes for students.

    So while “personalized learning” might be a powerful slogan for the ed-tech industry and its funders, the sweeping claims about its benefits are largely unproven by educational research.

    But it sounds like science. With all the requisite high-tech gadgetry and data dashboards, it looks like science. It signifies science, and that signification is, in the end, the justification that inBloom largely relied upon. I’m someone who tried to get the startup to clarify“what inBloom will gather, how long it will store it, and what recourse parents have who want to opt out,” and I remember clearly that there was nevertheless much more hand-waving and hype than there ever was a clear explanation (“scientific” or otherwise) of “how” or “why” it would work.

    No surprise then, there was pushback, primarily from parents, educators, and a handful of high profile NYC education activists who opposed InBloom’s data collection, storage, and sharing practices. But as the Data & Society report details, “instead of seeking to build trust at the district level with teachers and parents, many interview participants observed that inBloom and the Gates Foundation responded to what were very emotional concerns with complex technical descriptions or legal defenses.”

    This juxtaposition of parents as “emotional” and inBloom and the project’s supporters as “scientific” and “technical” runs throughout the report, which really serves to undermine and belittle the fears of inBloom opponents. (This was also evident in many media reports at the time of inBloom’s demise that tended to describe parents as “hysterical” or that patronized them by contending the issues were “understandably obscure to the average PTA mom.”) The opposition to inBloom is described in the Data & Society report as a “visceral, fervently negative response to student data collection,” for example, while the data collection itself is repeatedly framed in terms of its “great promise.” While the report does point to the failure of inBloom officials to build parents’ trust, many of the interviewees repeatedly dismiss the mistrust as irrational. “The activism about InBloom felt like anti-vaccination activism. Just fear,” said one participant. “I don’t know how else to put it,” said another. “It was not rational.”

    But inBloom opponents did have reason – many perfectly rational reasons– for concern. As the report chronicles, there were a number of concurrent events that prompted many people to be highly suspicious of plans for the data infrastructure initiative – its motivations and its security. These included inBloom’s connection to the proponents of the Common Core and other education reform policies; the growing concern about the Gates Foundation’s role in shaping these very policies; Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance; several high profile data breaches, including credit card information of some 70 million Target customers; the role of News Corp’s subsidiary Wireless Generation in building the inBloom infrastructure, coinciding with News Corp’s phone hacking scandal in the UK, as well as its decision to hire Joel Klein, the former NYC schools chancellor who’d commissioned the failed ARIS system, to head News Corp’s new education efforts. As the report notes, “The general atmosphere of data mistrust combined with earlier education reform movements that already characterized educational data as a means of harsh accountability.”

    In the face of this long list of concerns, the public’s “low tolerance for uncertainty and risk” surrounding student data is hardly irrational. Indeed, I’d argue it serves as a perfectly reasonable challenge to a technocratic ideology that increasingly argues that “the unreasonable effectiveness of data” will supplant theory and politics and will solve all manner of problems, including the challenge of “improving teaching” and “personalizing learning.” There really isn’t any “proof” that more data collection and analysis will do this – mostly just the insistence that this is “science” and therefore must be “the future.”

    History – the history of inBloom, the history of ed-tech more generally – might suggest otherwise.

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  • 03/17/17--11:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • The Trump Budget

    This “skinny budget” is ridiculously cruel. More guns. Less butter. While it’s unlikely to be accepted by Congress, it does show Trump’s priorities.

    Secretary of Education Betsy "DeVos says Trump education budget‘places power in the hands of parents and families’," Michigan Live reports. DeVos’s statement from the Department of Education Press Office.

    According to the White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, “Proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels are compassionate to taxpayers.”

    What’s in the budget, other than this sort of “compassion”?

    $9.2 billion cut from the Department of Education’s budget. (That’s 13.5%.)

    $1.4 billion to expand vouchers.

    Cuts to work study. Via Inside Higher Ed: “Many experts on the program agree it needs changing with a greater emphasis on low-income students. But few agree that the large cut being sought by the Trump administration will help.”

    Cuts to the Pell Grant program. Via Inside Higher Ed: “By taking about a third of the program’s multi-billion-dollar surplus and cutting other college access programs, [advocates for low-income students] assert, the new administration would jeopardize Pell’s long-term sustainability and harm the prospects of low-income students.”

    Cuts to after-school programs. Via The Washington Post: “Trump budget casualty: After-school programs for 1.6 million kids. Most are poor.” Mulvaney said Thursday that“services intended to help feed hungry students in order to improve their academic performance deserve to be cut because proof of that progress has not materialized.”

    Cuts to the NIH and research at the Energy Department. Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trump Seeks Deep Cuts in Education and Science.”

    The elimination of funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which finances programs run by AmeriCorps. The elimination of funding for 18 other independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

    “The Real Cost of Abolishing the National Endowment for the Artsby The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert. (Spoiler alert: rural and underserved communities are the most affected.)

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on“What Trump’s Budget Outline Would Mean for Higher Ed.”

    EdWeek’s Market Brief on“Implications for K–12 Companies in Trump’s Big Proposed Cuts to Ed. Spending.”

    Education Week’s Sarah Sparks on the future for education research in light of these proposed budget cuts.

    Elsewhere in Education Politics

    “A Fumble on a Key Fafsa Tool, and a Failure to Communicate” by Susan Dynarski.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student aid advocates and financial aid administrators say shutdown of IRS data retrieval tool has consequences beyond the FAFSA process.”

    “Online Tool to Apply for College Aid Was Taken Down Due to ‘Criminal Activity’,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Top leaders of the congressional education committees from both parties wrote to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, Thursday to get answers on the ‘cause and scope’ of this month’s shutdown of a financial aid data tool by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which cited the vulnerability of student data to identity thieves.”

    Via Politico: “The nation’s governors say they’re ‘concerned’ the Trump administration’s new guide for crafting state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t prioritize outreach to a variety of groups and individuals, like civil rights advocates, parents and state lawmakers.”

    More on the politics of accreditation in the accreditation section below.

    Via Business Insider: “There’s a huge catch if the federal government forgives your student debt.” The amount of debt that’s canceled is taxable. Saved you a click.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “An Uncertain Future for Higher Education’s Federal ‘Cop on the Beat’.” That’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which I wouldn’t describe that way, but hey.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Trump administration on Thursday withdrew 2015 guidance issued by the Obama administration that barred student loan guarantee agencies from charging collection fees to defaulted borrowers who start repaying their loans quickly.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Officials Are Learning How Hard It Is to Sell $1 Billion of Their Assets.” This includes, of course, billionaire Betsy DeVos.

    Via The LA School Report: “Report card time for schools: California Dashboard goes live today, but some find it impossible to navigate.”

    “California Youth in Detention and Foster Care Deserve Internet Access,” writes the EFF in support of A.B. 811, a California bill that would establish the right to computer technology.

    Via The Atlantic: “California’s Plan to Eliminate Student Debt.”

    “What Can Florida Teach Us About School Choice?” asks The Pacific Standard.

    Via Politico: “Education Department beachhead hire Kevin Eck has drawn the wrath of ‘Star Wars’ star Mark Hamill, legendary for his role as Luke Skywalker. As CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski noted on Twitter Tuesday, Eck, who is now a special assistant to Secretary DeVos, tweeted last November that Hamill should ‘stick to playing Han Solo’s short little b—-’ after Hamill tweeted criticism of the Trump administration.”

    Immigration and Education

    “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the White House’s second effort to impose a travel ban that colleges have said would damage their appeal to international students and scholars but that President Trump has defended as necessary to protect the nation from terrorism,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via Reuters: “Apple, Google, Facebook skip legal challenge to new travel ban.”

    Via The Nation: “ICE Relents and Releases DREAMer Daniela Vargas.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Where Will the Government Look for Thousands of New Border Agents? On College Campuses.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Four in 10 colleges are seeing drops in applications from international students amid pervasive concerns that the political climate might keep them away.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via Education International: “In an attempt to silence Kenyan teacher union leader Wilson Sossion, Bridge International Academies have threatened him with legal action for exposing its activities undermining the attainment of inclusive and equitable quality education for all.” Last year, the Ugandan government decreed that company’s schools be shut down because they failed to meet education and sanitation requirements; Kenyan courts have also ordered the schools to close. (Investors in this education startup include the Gates Foundation, Learn Capital, and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.)

    Via CNN: “Mississippi school district ends segregation fight.”

    A fairly typical Valerie Strauss story/headline: “ A Florida court decision about third-graders and testing falls ‘on the side of stupid’.”

    More court cases in the sports section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via ABC News: “Test meant to screen teachers instead weeded out minorities.” Via The New York Times: “Regents Drop Teacher Literacy Test Seen as Discriminatory.”

    NoRedInk Adds New Exercises to Prepare Students for ACT, SAT,” says Edsurge. (Disclosure alert.)

    “Free College”

    “Can California Pull Off Debt-Free College?” asks The Pacific Standard.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles DeVry: “A For-Profit-College Company Embraces Its Technology-Focused Past and Its Evolving Future.”

    Via ProPublica: “For-Profit Colleges Gain Beachhead in Trump Administration.” Taylor Hansen, for-profit university lobbyist has joined the Department of Education.

    Via AZ Central: “Arizona Summit Law School moves to affiliate with a private, nonprofit university.” That’s Bethune-Cookman University.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Big for-profit American Public now offers competency-based undergraduate degrees that don’t rely on the credit-hour standard, but federal aid isn't part of the mix, for now.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    “A Corporate Learning Revolution” – a Coursera webinar. (Are MOOCs webinars? Are webinars now MOOCs?)

    Via Class Central: “FutureLearn’s New Pricing Model Limits Access to Course Content After the Course Ends.”

    Also via Class Central: “MéxicoX: Meet the MOOC Platform Funded by the Mexican Government.”

    Via Campus Technology: “edX Retiring Original MIT Circuits and Electronics Course.”

    VCU’s Jon Becker writes“More about online learning in Virginia.”

    “Institutions say they will not follow in Berkeley’s footsteps and delete publicly available educational content,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via Mic: “5th grade NJ students asked to make slave auction posters for history assignment.”

    Via Caged Bird: “White Howard University Professor Holds Mock Slave Auction.”

    Mark Zuckerberg visited North Carolina A&T State University on Monday, and the Gizmodo headline pretty much sums it up: “Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of a One Percent Black Company, Spoke to Black Students About ‘Diversity’.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Everyone Please Take This Very Wholesome Survey So Mrs. Porter’s Second-Grade Class Can Learn About Graphs.” (Actually, I bet at this stage Mrs. Porter’s class hopes you do not take the survey.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Characteristics of Colleges That Raised the Most in Private Donations, FY 2016.”

    Via The Atlantic: “Why One University Is Sharing the Risk on Student Debt.” The university in question: Purdue.

    Via USA Today’s Greg Toppo: “Charter schools’ ‘thorny’ problem: Few students go on to earn college degrees.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Silicon Valley Exploits Students and Their Universities” – “Musk’s Hyperloop Pod Competition, run by his company SpaceX, is just the latest, trendiest example of Silicon Valley’s increased efforts to unite the student workers of the world together into a labor force it does not need to pay.”

    It’s 2017 and we’re still writing stories about how students are distracted by technology.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via the Sunshine State News: “Marco Rubio Renews Effort to Reform Higher Ed Accreditation.”

    Badges, Proof and Pathways” by Doug Belshaw.

    Via Inside Story: “In praise of credentialism.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Southern New Hampshire University will offer competency-based degrees to federal employees through its College for America, the university announced this week.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “2 Former Penn State Officials Plead Guilty in Sandusky Case.”

    Via ProPublica: “Nothin’ but Debt: Which NCAA Tournament Schools Give Low-Income Students the Best Shot?”

    From the HR Department

    The Verge on layoffs (and a pivot) at the annotation startup Genius: “Brain Drain.”

    Contests and Competitions

    Via NPR: “As Braille Literacy Declines, Reading Competitions Held To Boost Interest.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Are online preschools signaling the future of education?” asks eSchool News.

    “Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?” asks The New York Times.

    “Does Nonresident Tuition Show that Privatization Works?” asks Chris Newfield.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    How long ’til some ed-tech company markets this as anti-cheating tech?

    “Why Ed Tech Will Fail to Transform Education (for Now),” Michael Feldstein argues.

    “We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem,” says Miriam Posner.

    “Why Are Asian Americans Missing From Our Textbooks?” asks The Pacific Standard.

    Antigonish 2.0

    Blockchain startup LBRY has made a copy of the course content that UC Berkeley pulled offline due to a lack of ADA compliance. The content was licensed CC-BY-NC, underscoring how companies seem to interpret “non-commercial” in some pretty odd ways. What would be nice, I’d say, instead of profiting off this material as a marketing ploy, would be to make it ADA compliant. That’s how you benefit the community.

    Via The Verge: “When your child’s favorite YouTube celebrity is a secret racist.”

    In other Google news, Google now allows anyone to use Google Classroom, even those without a GAFE account. I wonder about how data collection works with this. (Well, actually, I can guess…)

    “Problems with Personalized Learningby Dan Meyer.

    “CZI Takes Over Building Summit Learning Platform,” Edsurge reports. CZI stands for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The Summit Learning Platform is the learning management system that Facebook had been building for the Summit Public Schools charter chain.

    UNESCO on“Media and Information Literacy.”

    Via the Business Daily Africa: “Techie rakes in cash selling online exam papers to schools.”

    Tele-instruction has become the emerging tool in higher education for teaching and learning models,” says Education Dive. “Tele-instruction.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    “In the future there will be mindclones,” says Techcrunch, which I’m sure is never ever wrong about the future.

    Via the MIT Technology Review: “The Entrepreneur with the $100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers.”

    Via The Next Web: “How Artificial Intelligence enhances education.”

    “What Does it Mean to Prepare Students For a Future With Artificial Intelligence?” asks Edsurge.

    Via The Atlantic: “Training Students to Outpace Automation.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    CareDox has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding from Digitalis Ventures, First Round Capital, Giza Venture Capital, TEXO Ventures, and Prolog Ventures. The startup, which sells an electronic health record system to schools, has raised $13.54 million total.

    NeoStencil has raised $1 million from Brand Capital and Paragon Trust. The online education company has raised $1.06 million total.

    I read the Backchannel story“Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn” and I still don’t know why Microsoft bought LinkedIn. Because Reid Hoffman, I guess?

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via Stat: “House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results.”

    “How Should We Address the Cybersecurity Threats Facing K–12 Schools?” asks Doug Levin.

    Via Techcrunch: “Teen quiz app Wishbone hacked, users’ emails and phone numbers exposed.”

    Via the Office of Inadequate Security: “Victims of W–2 phishing scams (2017 list).”

    Via “School administrators fall victim to possible scam.” Administrators with Ben Bolt I.S.D. in Texas, that is.

    And the phishing attacks on schools spread to the UK. Via Schools Week: “Ofsted email scam asks people to ‘confirm’ Paypal details.”

    Data and “Research”

    Via The Economist: “Tests suggest the methods of neuroscience are left wanting.”

    Educational attainment in the US, mapped.

    Via Gizmodo: “Report Shows AT&T Ignores Poor Neighborhoods in Cleveland.”

    Via Edutechnica: “LMS Data– Spring 2017 Updates.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “An analysis of new student loan data finds the number of federal loans in default at the end of 2016 increased 14 percent from 2015.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Two analysts at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy organization in Washington, D.C., have … concluded that colleges with more-affluent students are disproportionately unwelcoming to free speech.” Many methodological flaws. Much confirmation bias.

    Via Education Dive: “New research from University of South Florida vice president of economic development Paul Sanberg suggests that colleges and universities should be more aggressive in developing startup projects on and around campus, which can lead to great gains in revenue and positive development of institutions.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the University of California, Riverside, shows that student veterans attending rural community colleges struggle with integrating into campus communities.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Institutions Tap Student-Level Data to Improve Learning.” That’s according to analysis from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities and the Institution for Higher Education Policy.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Market for PCs in the U.S. Is Growing, But Global Sales Take a Hit.”

    “Who lost the most marks when cheating was stopped?” asks the BBC.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Institutional costs per degree at California’s two public four-year higher education systems dropped by almost one-fifth from 1987 to 2013, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.”

    Via the BBC: “Graduates aren’t skilled enough, say employers.”

    Via ProPublica: “Debt by Degrees – Which Colleges Help Poor Students Most?”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Study: Half or more of community college students struggle to afford food, housing.”

    Via The Guardian: “Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say scientists.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 03/24/17--11:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    “Former Lobbyist With For-Profit Colleges Quits Education Department,” ProPublica reports. That’s Taylor Hansen who was a lobbyist for Career Education Colleges and Universities. He’s the son of Bill Hansen, the son of USA Funds, another student loan guarantee agency, Inside Higher Ed notes.

    Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos’s Hiring of For-Profit College Official Raises Impartiality Issues.” That’s Robert Eitel, a lawyer for Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit that recently settled with the federal government over charges of deceptive student lending.

    Via The Atlantic: “Trump Reverses Obama-Era Protections on Student Debt.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two debt collectors said in separate statements this week that they will not assess collection fees on defaulted student loan borrowers who quickly enter repayment, despite new guidance from the Department of Education.” That’s the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and TG.

    Via PR Watch: “Betsy DeVos Ethics Report Reveals Ties to Student Debt Collection Firm.” That’s Performant Financial Co for those keeping track of who’s charging fees on student loan repayments.

    Via Wired: “The Senate Prepares to Send Internet Privacy Down a Black Hole.”

    Via The New York Times: “School Choice Fight in Iowa May Preview the One Facing Trump.”

    Via The Atlantic: “How Betsy DeVos Could End the School-Integration Comeback.”

    Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) claimed during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development that Pell Grants discourage marriage. He also suggested low-income students spend their financial aid on “goodies and electronics.” Vote these assholes out.

    Via Edsurge: “How Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s iZone Went from ‘Cool’ to Cold.”

    “A Public University Mends Fences With Its State” – that’s UW Madison mending fences with the state of Wisconsin. Mended fences according to The Chronicle of Higher Education at least.

    “How Budget Battles Are Stacked Against Higher Education,” according to The Pacific Standard.

    Via WBEZ News: “ChicagoAfter-School Programs Face Axe Under Trump’s Budget.”

    The state of New Jersey is poised to pass a bill that would cap public university speaker fees at $10,000. “The Snooki bill” is a response to $32,000 that the Jersey Shore star received from Rutgers in 2011.

    Via The Sacramento Bee: “Lawmaker wants tuition-free college in California by taxing millionaires.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ Is your school worth one star or five? D.C. officials approve new rating system.”

    More on how the IER, the Department of Education’s research arm, fails to protect student data in the infosec section below.

    Racism, Immigration, and Education

    Via The USA Today: “Kids on winning robotics team told, ‘Go back to Mexico’.” The kids were from Pleasant Run Elementary School in Indianapolis.

    Via The New York Times: “Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via NPR: “The Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of A Special Education Student,” ruling 8–0 in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. “Supreme Court sets higher bar for education of students with disabilities,” says The Washington Post. More via The New York Times.

    Via The Atlantic: “An Israeli American Teen Has Been Arrested in the JCC Bomb Threats Case.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “After explosive allegations of anti-union intimidation, KIPP files a federal lawsuit against the UFT.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Princeton University filed a lawsuit against the Education Department on Friday in an effort to stop the release of hundreds of pages of documents that would reveal some of the university’s private admissions procedures.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on the opening day of the trial of Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president for his role in ignoring the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. And The Chronicle of Higher Education on the trial’s closing arguments.

    “Free College”

    Free college didn’t die with the Clinton campaign. It’s just getting started,” says The Hechinger Report’s Jon Marcus.

    More on legislation relating to free college in the politics section above.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via Politico: “The cost to taxpayers of the implosion of ITT Tech last fall has so far exceeded $141 million, according to court documents filed last week by attorneys representing the Education Department in the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings of the now-defunct for-profit college giant.”

    “How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study” – Elie Mystal in The New York Times on a partnership between the HBCU Bethune-Cookman and the for-profit Arizona Summit Law School. Tressie McMillan Cottom weighs in.

    Predator Colleges May Thrive Again,” says The New York Times Editorial Board.

    More on for-profit lobbyists who’ve been hired by the Department of Education in the education politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Coursera Removes Biometric Identity Verification Using Keystroke Matching,” Class Central reports.

    An update on Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng’s employment status in the HR section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports on Camelot Education– “Inside all of Camelot’s publicly funded schools, security, order, and behavior modification take precedence over academics.”

    Also via Buzzfeed, which does some of the best education reporting around right now: “A Former Student Says UC Berkeley’s Star Philosophy Professor Groped Her And Watched Porn At Work.” The accused: John R. Searle.

    “Who Gets a Bathroom Pass? The History of School Bathroomsby Jennifer Borgioli Binis.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “U of Maryland University College pursues a strategy of spinning off units into stand-alone companies, seeking financial gain for itself and affordable tuition rates for its students.”

    Via The Washington Post: “The heartbreaking reason some schools never seem to grant snow days.”

    Via The Guardian: “Boston public schools map switch aims to amend 500 years of distortion.” Bye, Mercator.

    Via Google’s blog: “Howard University opens a new campus at the Googleplex.” It’s a three-month summer program with classes taught by Google engineers and Howard faculty.

    Via The Washington Post: “Rick Perry challenges election of Texas A&M’s first gay student body president, says it was ‘stolen’ in ‘name of diversity’.” Because clearly all is well with the US nuclear arsenal and there’s nothing else the Secretary of Energy should be fussing about.

    Trump Will Deliver Keynote Address at Liberty U. Commencement,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The New York Times: “CUNY to Revamp Remedial Programs, Hoping to Lift Graduation Rates.”

    Bryan Alexander looks at the shift of Aquinas College and its shift away from offering liberal arts undergraduate degrees and back towards being a “normal school.”

    “Universities are changing their business model,” Microsoft’s Ray Fleming claims. Something about unbundling.

    Via The New York Times: “How the Depressed Find Solace on Yik Yak, Believe It or Not.”

    Another (typical) NYT story: “Where Halls of Ivy Meet Silicon Dreams, a New City Rises.” NYU. Cornell. Columbia.

    And The NYT strikes again: “How Colleges Can Admit Better Students,” writes Devin Pope. Me, I’d rather see colleges better support the students they already have.

    Accreditation and Certification

    “Despite the buzz, competency-based education remains a challenging market for software vendors,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    MissionU Says It Can Replace Traditional College With a One-Year Program,” Edsurge’s Jeffrey Young writes. The founder, of course, has a degree from an Ivy League school. MissionU seems like a pretty raw deal with its plan to take a cut of participants’ income. An even rawer deal: not having a (prestigious) higher ed degree when you’re not affluent, white, male. Paging Tressie McMillan Cottom.

    In other news of white men with degrees arguing that folks don’t really need degrees: “Independent study, a replacement for college” by Larry Sanger. Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has a PhD incidentally.

    That these sorts of stories still make headlines should prompt us to think about why and to whom credentialing matters. Via Buzzfeed: “This Biotech CEO Doesn’t Have A PhD, But He Did Leave School Under A Cloud.” That’s Gabriel Otte, ceo of Freenome, which is backed by the dukes of due diligent, Andreessen Horowitz.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    More on the trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier in the courts section above.

    From the HR Department

    Via the MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Ng Is Leaving Baidu in Search of a Big New AI Mission.” Ng is, of course, the co-founder of the MOOC startup Coursera.

    Sara Schapiro, co-founder of Digital Promise, is the new education VP at PBS.

    HR news as “fake news.” Via “Superintendent: I’m a consultant for fed govt. Feds: We’ve never heard of this guy.” This story is something.


    Via The New York Times: “Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women's Colleges, Dies at 85.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “William Sanders, pioneer of controversial value-added model for judging teachers, dies.”

    Contests and Awards

    Maggie MacDonnell is the winner of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize.

    More on racism at a robotics competition in the immigration section above.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Could blockchain tech make the registrar’s office obsolete?” asks Education Dive.

    “ Can Silicon Valley’s autocrats save democracy?” asks the Idaho Press.

    “Will Dropping the LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers?” asks The New York Times.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Via The Verge: “Google built a new app so your kids can have a Google account, too.” This app is gross on so many levels – surveillance, privacy, data collection, behavior modification. pledges $50 million over the next two years to support “organizations that use technology and innovation to help more children get a better education.” Edsurge covers one of them, Learning Equality, which makes educational videos and textbooks available offline.

    Via Techcrunch: “The 52 startups that launched at Y Combinator W17 Demo Day 1.” And via Techcrunch: “All 51 startups that debuted at Y Combinator W17 Demo Day 2.” Honestly, I can’t even bear to look.

    “Julia, A Muppet With Autism, Joins The Cast Of ‘Sesame Street’,” NPR reports. More on Julia from disability rights journalist David Perry.

    More on UC Berkeley and publicly accessible video content. Via Phil Hill on the e-Literate blog: “Clarifications On UC Berkeley’s Accessibility Decision To Restrict Video Access.” A follow-up to the blockchain startup LBRY’s claims last week that it had rescued the videos from Mike Caulfield. “What is LBRY and what does it mean for education?” asks Bryan Alexander. Well, they’re the kind of folks who would retweet a story from William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, one that calls the ADA and Berkeley’s decision part of the “grievance industrial complex.” So they can fuck right off, IMHO.

    Via the MIT Technology Review: “Controlling VR with Your Mind.”

    VR makes a big classroom impact,” Education Dive claims.

    More on how VR makes women puke in the research section below.

    “A Continuum on Personalized Learning: First Draft” by Stanford professor Larry Cuban.

    Via Nature: “Gates Foundation announces open-access publishing venture.”

    TechDirt on ResearchGate: “Bill Gates And Other Major Investors Put $52.6 Million Into Site Sharing Unauthorized Copies Of Academic Papers.”

    One of the resources I use to pull together this list of education stories has been RealClear Education. But I have to note that since the election (perhaps since editor Andrew Rotherham left for The 74) is has taken a hard, hard turn to the conspiracy-theory right. One headline it curated this week: “Colleges May Break IRS Rules With Trump-Hating” from The Washington Times (a conservative paper owned by “the Moonies”). Another headline, this one from the LA Daily News: “The Hate Group That Incited Middlebury College Melee.” That “hate group”? The Southern Poverty Law Center. (FWIW, if you’re looking for a good source of curated headlines, particularly about digital access and digital security, I recommend Doug Levin’s“A Thinking Person’s Guide to EdTech News.”)

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    “By 2030 students will be learning from robots,” the World Economic Forum claims. Hopefully it’s not the robots that power Google’s search algorithm. (See the upgrades/downgrades section above.)

    “Living with an AI: A Glimpse Into The Future” by The Scholarly Kitchen’s David Smith.

    More on AI expert Andrew Ng in the HR section above.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    MakeBlock has raised $30 million in Series B funding from Evolution Media Capital and Shenzhen Capital Group. The robotics company has raised $36.03 million total.

    WayUp has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding from Trinity Ventures, Axel Springer, BoxGroup, CAA Ventures, Female Founders Fund, General Catalyst, Index Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, OurCrowd-GCai, and SV Angel. The startup, which offers a job placement marketplace for college students has raised $27.47 million total.

    Pear Deck has raised $4 million from Growth Street Partners, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and Village Capital. The presentation software startup has raised $5.15 million total.

    Tutoring company Nactus has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Sandeep Aggarwal, Gautam Chhaochharia, and R Balachandar.

    Education Brands has acquiredRavenna Solutions.

    Testing companies Taskstream and Tk20 are merging.

    Rethink Education and Southern New Hampshire University have launched a $15 million seed fund to invest in ed-tech startups. Here’s the SNHU press release.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via Krebs on Security: “Student Aid Tool Held Key for Tax Fraudsters.” This is an update on the FAFSA / IRS tool.

    Via the Go to Hellman blog: “Reader Privacy for Research Journals is Getting Worse.”

    Via The Register Guard: “Virus possibly exposes Lane Community College data.” Specifically, data from its health clinic.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Schools collect reams of data, inspiring a move to make sense of it all.” (Or! Or! You could not collect it if you don’t need it.)

    Via Education Week: “With Hacking in Headlines, K–12 Cybersecurity Ed. Gets More Attention.”

    Internet of Things could have eventual data-collection impact on K–12,” says Education Dive.

    Via the AP: “Google Maps already tracks you; now other people can, too.”

    Via Education Week: “The U.S. Department of Education’s office of inspector general has released an audit sharply critiquing the Institute of Education Sciences’ security screenings for federal education contractors.”

    Data and “Research”

    Placement rates, other data colleges provide consumers are often alternative facts,” says The Hechinger Report.

    “Do After-School Programs Positively Impact Children?” asks The Atlantic. “Proponents of President Trump’s budget say no. Their evidence may be faulty.”

    Via NPR: “Kids Who Suffer Hunger In First Years Lag Behind Their Peers In School.”

    Via Quartz: “Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early.” Or! Or! We could make kindergarten kindergarten again.

    The Atlantic writes about a Century Foundation report on private school vouchers and segregation.

    The Atlantic also covers research linking food quality and student achievement.

    Via New World Notes: “Confirming danah boyd’s Early Concerns, Studies Suggest Women Much More Likely to Get Motion Sickness from Using VR.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Report on Role of College Search-and-Review Sites.”

    Via the Foundation Center: “Visualizing Funding for Libraries,” a database of library funding.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Internet speeds at colleges have nearly tripled since 2012 as IT departments have fought to keep up with students bringing new internet-connected devices to campus, streaming music and video, and gaming online, a new study found.”

    Via The Dallas Morning News: “15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped, survey says.”

    Via NPR: “The Earth Is Flat? Check Wikipedia.” Shaq. Dude. Check Wikipedia.

    Also via NPR: “You Probably Believe Some Learning Myths: Take Our Quiz To Find Out.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    This talk was presented at The University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education

    Let me begin with a story. In December 2012 – we all remember 2012 right? “The Year of the MOOC” – I was summoned to Palo Alto, California for a small gathering to discuss the future of teaching, learning, and technology. I use the verb “summoned” deliberately.

    The event was organized by Sebastian Thrun, who at the beginning of the year had announced that he was resigning his full time professor position at Stanford in order to launch Udacity, his online education startup. It was held at Stanford in its artificial intelligence lab, which was a little awkward a venue as Thrun’s office – he still had an office on campus, of course – was right next to those of Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, his fellow Stanford AI professors who’d announced in April that they were launching a competitor company, Coursera.

    When Thrun first invited us all to this event – about ten of us – he promised that at the end of the weekend, we would take a ride in a zeppelin over San Francisco. And I thought “like hell I will.” I’ve seen A View to a Kill. I know what happened to the dissenters who got into a zeppelin in that movie. But as it turned out, the zeppelin company had gone out of business – I imagine that many people, like myself, could only think about Christopher Walken and Grace Jones’ characters and opted not to go.

    So instead of a zeppelin, we got to ride in one of Google’s self-driving cars, which was of course the project that Thrun had been working on when he gave his famous TED Talk in 2011 – and that, in turn, was where he heard Salman Khan give his famous TED Talk. It was when and where Thrun decided that he needed to rethink his work as a Stanford professor in order to “scale” education.

    Thrun “drove.” He steered the car onto I–280 and then let the car take over, and I have to say – and I say this as a professional skeptic of technology – it was this strange combination of the utterly banal and the utterly impressive. (It was 2012, I should reiterate, so it was right at the beginning of all this hype about a future of autonomous vehicles.)

    The car was covered in cameras and sensors, inside and out – even a QR code on the driver’s side glove compartment that you were supposed to scan to sign Google’s Terms of Service before riding. Seemingly the most dangerous element of our little jaunt was that other drivers swerved and slowed down as they stared at the car, with its giant camera on top and Google logo on the sides. There was Thrun with his hands off the wheel, feet off the pedals, eyes not on the road, sometimes turning around entirely to face the passengers in the back seat, explaining how the car (and Google, of course) collected massive amounts of data in order to map the road and move efficiently along it.

    Efficiency. That’s the goal of the self-driving car. (You’re free to insert here some invented statistic about the percentage of space and energy that are wasted by human-driven traffic and human driving patterns and that will be corrected by roads full of autonomous vehicles. I vaguely recall Thrun doing so at least.)

    It was then and there on that trip that I had a revelation about how many entrepreneurs and engineers in Silicon Valley conceive of education and the role of technology in reshaping it: that is, if you collect enough data – lots and lots and lots of data – you can build a map. This is their conceptual framework for visualizing how “learners” (and that word is used to describe various, imagined students, workers, and consumers) get from here to there, whether it’s through a course or through a degree program or towards a job. With enough data and some machine learning, you can identify – statistically – the most common obstacles. You can plot the most frequently traveled path and the one that folks traverse most quickly. You can optimize. And once you’ve trained those algorithms, you can apply them everywhere. You can scale.

    We can debate this model (we should debate this model) – how it works or doesn’t work when applied to education. (Is learning “like a map”? Is learning an engineering problem? Is the absence of “data” or algorithms really a problem?) But one of the most important things to remember is that this is (largely) a computer scientist’s model. It’s the model of human learning by someone who claims expertise in machine learning, a field of study which has aspired to model if not surpass the human mind. And that makes it a model in turn that rests on a lot of assumptions about “learning” – both how humans “learn” and how machines “learn” to conceptualize and navigate their worlds.

    It’s a model. It’s a metaphor.

    It’s an aspiration – a human aspiration, to be clear. This isn’t what machines “want.” (Machines have no wants.)

    I think many of us quickly recognized back in 2012 that, despite the AI expertise in the executive offices of these MOOC companies, there wasn’t much “artificial intelligence” beyond a few of their course offerings; there wasn’t much “intelligence” in their assessments or in their course recommendation engines. What these MOOCs were, nonetheless, were (and still are) massive online honeypots into which we’ve been lured – registering and watching and clicking in order to generate massive education datasets.

    Perhaps with this data, the MOOC providers can build a map of professional if not cognitive pathways. Perhaps. Someday. Maybe. In the meantime, these companies continue to collect a lot of “driving” data.

    Who controls the mapping data and who controls the driving data and who controls the autonomous vehicle patents are, of course, a small part of the legal and financial battles that are brewing over the future of autonomous vehicles. Google versus Uber. Google versus Didi (a Chinese self-driving car company). We can speculate, I suppose, about what the analogous battles might be in education – which corporation will sue which corporation, claiming they “own” learning data and learning roadmaps and learning algorithms and learning software IP.

    (Spoiler alert: it won’t actually be learners – just like it’s not actually drivers – even though that’s where the interesting data comes from: not from mapping the roads, but from monitoring the traffic.)

    As we were driving on the freeways around Palo Alto in the Google autonomous vehicle, someone asked Sebastian Thrun what happens if there’s an unexpected occurrence while the car is in self-driving mode. Now, the car is constantly making small adjustments – to its speed, to its distance to other vehicles. “But what would happen if, say, a tree suddenly came crashing down in the road right in front of it,” the passenger asked Thrun.

    “The car would stop,” he said. The human driver would be prompted to take over. Hopefully the human driver is paying attention. Hopefully there’s a human driver.

    Of course, the “unexpected” occurs all the time – on the road and in the classroom.

    Recently the “ride-sharing” company Uber flouted California state regulations in order to start offering an autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service in San Francisco. The company admitted that it hadn’t addressed at least one flaw in their programming: that its cars would make a right hand turn through a bicycle lane (the equivalent of a left-hand turn here in the UK). Uber didn’t have a model for recognizing the existence of “bike lane” (and as such “cyclists”). It’s not that the car didn’t see something “unexpected”; that particular “unexpected” was not fully modeled, and the self-driving car didn’t slow, and it didn’t stop.

    In this testing phase of Uber’s self-driving cars, it did still have a driver sitting behind the wheel. Documents recently obtained by the tech publication Recode revealed that Uber’s autonomous vehicles drove, on average, less than a mile without requiring human intervention.

    The technology simply isn’t that good yet.

    At the conclusion of our ride, Thrun steered the Google self-driving car back to his house, where he summoned a car service to take us back to our hotel. Giddy from the experience, one professor boasted to the driver what we’d just done. He frowned. “Oh,” he said. “So, you just put me out of a job?”

    “Put me out of a job.” “Put you out of a job.” “Put us all out of work.” We hear that a lot, with varying levels of glee and callousness and concern. “Robots are coming for your job.”

    We hear it all the time. To be fair, of course, we have heard it, with varying frequency and urgency, for about 100 years now. “Robots are coming for your job.” And this time – this time– it’s for real.

    I want to suggest – and not just because there are flaws with Uber’s autonomous vehicles (and there was just a crash of a test vehicle in Arizona last Friday) – that this is not entirely a technological proclamation. Robots don’t do anything they’re not programmed to do. They don’t have autonomy or agency or aspirations. Robots don’t just roll into the human resources department on their own accord, ready to outperform others. Robots don’t apply for jobs. Robots don’t “come for jobs.” Rather, business owners opt to automate rather than employ people. In other words, this refrain that “robots are coming for your job” is not so much a reflection of some tremendous breakthrough (or potential breakthrough) in automation, let alone artificial intelligence. Rather, it’s a proclamation about profits and politics. It’s a proclamation about labor and capital.

    And this is as true in education as it is in driving.

    As Recode wrote in that recent article,

    Successfully creating self-driving technology has become a crucial factor to Uber’s profitability. It would allow Uber to generate higher sales per ride since it would keep all of the fare. Uber has currently suffered losses in some markets partly because of having to offer subsidies to attract drivers. Computers are cheaper in the long run.

    “Computers are cheaper in the long run.” Cheaper for whom? Cheaper how?

    Well, robots don’t take sick days. They don’t demand retirement or health insurance benefits. You tell them the rules, and they obey the rules. They don’t ask questions. They don’t unionize. They don’t strike.

    A couple of years ago, there was a popular article in circulation in the US that claimed that the most common occupation in every state is “truck driver.” The data is a little iffy – the US is a service economy, not a shipping economy – but its claim about why“truck driver” is still fairly revealing: unlike other occupations, the work of “truck driver” has not been affected by globalization, the article claimed, and it has not (yet) been affected by automation. (The CEO of Otto, a self-driving trucking company now owned by Uber, just predicted this week that AI will reshape the industry within the next ten years.)

    Truck driving is also a profession – an industry – that’s been subject to decades of regulation and deregulation.

    That regulatory framework is just one of the objects of derision – of “disruption” and dismantling – of the ride-sharing company Uber. Founded in 2008 – ostensibly when CEO Travis Kalanick was unable to hail a cab while in Paris – the company has become synonymous with the so-called “sharing” or “freelance” economy, Silicon Valley’s latest rebranding of technologically-enhanced economic precarity and job insecurity.

    “Anyone” can drive for Uber, no special training or certification required. Well, anyone who’s 21 or older and has three years of driving experience and a clean driving record. Anyone with car insurance. Anyone whose car has at least four doors and is newer than 2001 – Uber will also help you finance a new car, even if you have a terrible credit score. Your loan payments are simply deducted from your Uber earnings each week.

    All along, Uber has been quite clear, that despite wooing drivers to its platform, using “independent contractors” is only temporary. The company plans to replace drivers with driverless cars.

    Since its launch, Uber has become infamous for its opposition to regulations and to unions. (Uber has recently been using podcasts broadcast from its app in order to dissuade drivers in Seattle from unionizing, for example.)

    And I’ll note here in case this sounds too much like a talk on autonomous vehicles and not enough on automated education, I am purposefully putting these two “disruptions” side by side. After all, education is fairly regulated as well – accreditation, for example, dictates who gets to offer “real” degrees. There are rules about who gets to run a “real school.” Trump University, not a real school. And there are rules as to who gets to be in the classroom, rules about who can teach. But any semblance of job protections – at both the K–12 level and at the higher education level in the US – is under attack. (Again, this isn’t simply about replacing teachers with computers because computers have become so powerful. But it is about replacing teachers nonetheless.) You no longer need a teaching degree (or any teaching training) in Utah. And while the certification demands might still be in place in colleges and universities, they’ve been moving towards a precarious teaching labor force for some time now. More than three-quarters of the teaching staff in the US are adjuncts – short-time employees with no job security and often no benefits. “Independent contractors.” Uber encourages educators to earn a little cash on the side as drivers.

    Like I said, I’m not sure I believe that the most prevalent job in the US is “truck driver.” But I do know this to be true: the largest union in the United States is the National Education Association. The other teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, is the sixth largest. Many others who work in public education are represented by the second largest union in the US, the Service Employees International Union.

    Silicon Valley hates unions. It loathes organized labor just as it loathes regulations (until it benefits from regulations, of course).

    Now, for its part, Uber has also been accused of violating “regulations” like the Americans with Disabilities Act for refusing to pick up riders with service dogs or with wheelchairs. A fierce proponent of laissez-faire capitalism, Uber has received a fair amount of negative press for its price gouging practices – it uses what it calls “surge pricing” during peak demand, increasing the amount a ride will cost in order, Uber says, to lure more drivers out onto the road. It’s implemented surge pricing not just on holidays like New Year’s Eve but during several weather-related emergencies. The company has also actively sabotaged its rivals – attacking other ride service companies as well as journalists.

    None of this makes the phrase “Uber for Education” particularly appealing. But that’s how Sebastian Thrun described his company Udacity in a series of interviews in 2015.

    “At Udacity, we built an Uber-like platform,” he told the MIT Technology Review. “With Uber any normal person with a car can become a driver, and with Udacity now every person with a computer can become a global code reviewer. … Just like Uber, we’ve made the financials line up. The best-earning global code reviewer makes more than 17,000 bucks a month. I compare this to the typical part-time teacher in the U.S. who teaches at a college – they make about $2,000 a month.”

    “We want to be the Uber of education,” Thrun told The Financial Times, which added that, “Mr Thrun knows what he doesn’t want for his company: professors in tenure, which he claims limits the ability to react to market demands.”

    In other words, “disrupt” job protections through a cheap, precarious labor force doing piecemeal work until the algorithms are sophisticated enough to perform those tasks. Universities have already taken plenty of steps towards this end, without the help of algorithms or for-profit software providers. But universities are still bound by accreditation (and by tradition). “Anyone can teach” is not a stance on labor and credentialing that many universities are ready to take.

    Udacity is hardly the only company that invokes the “Uber for Education” slogan. There’s PeerUp, whose founder describes the company as “Uber for tutors.” There’s ProfHire and Adjunct Professor Link, Uber for contingent faculty. There’s The Graide Network, Uber for teaching assistants and exam markers. There’s Parachute Teachers, which describes itself as “Uber for substitute teachers.”

    Again, what we see here with these services are companies that market “on demand” labor as “disruption.” These certainly reflect larger trends at work dismantling the teaching profession – de-funding, de-professionalization, adjunctification, a dismissal of expertise and experience.

    Anyone can teach. Indeed, the only ones who shouldn’t are probably the ones in the classroom right now – or so this story goes. The right wing think tank The Heritage Foundation has called for an “Uber-ized Education.” The right wing publication The National Review has called for “an Uber for Education.” Echoing some of the arguments made by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, these publications (and many many others) speak of ending the monopolies that “certain groups” (unions, women, liberals, I don’t know) have on education – ostensibly, I guess, on public schools – and bringing more competition to the education system.

    US Secretary of Education in a speech earlier this week also invoked Uber as a model that education should emulate: “Just as the traditional taxi system revolted against ridesharing,” she told the Brookings Institution, “so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice. In both cases, the entrenched status quo has resisted models that empower individuals.”

    All this is a familiar refrain in Silicon Valley, which has really cultivated its own particular brand of consumerism wrapped up in the mantle of libertarianism.

    Travis Kalanick is just one of many tech CEOs who have praised the work of objectivist “philosopher” and “novelist” Ayn Rand, once changing the background of his Twitter profile to the cover of her book The Fountainhead. He told The Washington Post in a 2012 Q&A that the regulations that the car service industry faced bore an “uncanny resemblance” to Rand’s other novel, Atlas Shrugged.

    (A quick summary for those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the plot: the US has become a dystopia overrun by regulations that cause industries to collapse, innovation to be stifled. The poor are depicted as leeches; the heroes are selfish individualists. Eventually business leaders rise up against the government, led by John Galt. The government collapses, and Galt announced that industrialists will rebuild the world. It is a terrible, terrible novel. It is nonetheless many libertarians’ Bible of sorts.)

    I’ve argued elsewhere (and I’ve argued repeatedly) that libertarianism is deeply intertwined in the digital technologies developed by those like Uber’s Kalanick. And I don’t mean here simply or solely that these technologies are wielded to dismantle “big government” or “big unions.” I mean that embedded in these technologies, in their design and in their development and in their code, are certain ideological tenets – in the case of libertarianism, a belief in order, freedom, work, self-governance, and individualism.

    That last one is key, I think, for considering the future of education and education technology – as designed and developed and coded by Silicon Valley. Individualism.

    Now obviously these beliefs are evident throughout American culture and have been throughout American history. Computers didn’t cause neoliberalism. Computers didn’t create libertarians. (It just hooked them all up on Twitter.)

    Indeed, there’s that particular strain of individualism that is deeply, deeply American which contributed to libertarianism and to neoliberalism and to computers in turn.

    I’d argue that that strain of individualism has been a boon for the automotive industry – for car culture. Many Americans would rather drive their own vehicles rather than rely on – and/or fund – public transportation. I think this is both Uber’s great weakness and also, strangely, its niche: you hail a car, rather than take the bus. The car comes immediately; you do not have to wait. It takes you to your destination; you needn’t stop for others. As such, you can dismiss the need to develop a public transportation infrastructure as some cities in the US have done, some opting to outsource this to Uber instead.

    In a car, you can move at your own pace. In a car, you can move in the direction you choose – when and where you want to go. In a car, you can stop and start, sure, but most often you want to get where you’re going efficiently. In a car – and if you watch television ads for car companies, you can see evidence of this powerful imaginary most strikingly – you are truly free.

    Unlike the routes of public transportation – the bus route, the subway line – routes that are prescribed for and by the collective, the car is for you and you alone. The car is another one of these radically individualistic, individualizing technologies.

    The car is a prototype of sorts for the concept of “personalization.”

    Branded. Controlled. Manufactured en masse. Mass-marketed. And yet somehow this symbol of the personal, the individual.

    We can think about the relationship too between education systems and individualism. I believe increasingly that’s how education is defined – not as a collective endeavor or a public good, but as an individual investment.

    “Personalization” is a reflection of that.

    “Personalized” education promises you can move at your own pace. You can (ostensibly) move in the direction you choose. You can stop and start, sure, but most often you want to get where you’re going efficiently. With “personalized” software – – and if you read publications like Edsurge, you can see evidence of this powerful imaginary most strikingly – the learner is truly free.

    Unlike the routes of “traditional” education – the lecture hall, the classroom – those routes that are prescribed for and by the collective, “personalized software” is for you and you alone. The computer is a radically individualistic, individualizing technology; education becomes a radically individualistic act.

    (I’ll just whisper this because I’d hate to ruin the end of the movie for folks: this freedom actually involves you driving.)

    Let me pause here and note that there are several directions that I could take this talk: data collection and analysis as “personalization,” for example. The New York Times just wrote about an app called Greyball that Uber has utilized to avoid scrutiny from law enforcement and regulators in the cities into which it’s tried to expand. The app would ascertain, based on a variety of signals, when cops might be trying to summon an Uber and would prevent them from doing so. Instead, they’d see a special version of Uber – “personalized” – that misinformed them that there were no cars in the vicinity.

    How is “personalized learning” – the automation of education through algorithms – a form of “greyballing”? I am really intrigued by this question.

    Another piece of the automation puzzle for education (and for “smart car” and for “smart homes”) involves questions of what we mean by “intelligence” in that phrase “artificial intelligence.” What are the histories and practices of “intelligence” – how have humans been ranked, categorized, punished, and rewarded based on an assessment of intelligence? How is intelligence performed – by man (and I do mean “man”) and by machine? What do we read as signs of intelligence? What do we cultivate as signs of intelligence – in our students and in our machines? What role have educational institutions had in developing and sanctioning intelligence? How does believing there’s such a thing as “machine intelligence” challenge some institutions (and prop up others)?

    But I want to press on a little more with a look at automation and labor: this issue of driverless cars and driverless school, this issue of “freedom” as being intertwined with algorithmic decision-making and precarious labor.

    I am lifting the phrase “driverless school” for the title of this talk from Karen Gregory who recently tweeted something about the “driverless university.” I believe she was at a conference, but in the horrible way that Twitter strips context from our utterances, I’m going to borrow it without knowing who or what she was referring to and re-contextualize the phrase here for my purposes because that’s the visiting speaker’s prerogative.

    I do think that in many ways MOOCs were envisioned – by Thrun and by others – as a move towards this idea of a “driverless university.” And that phrase and the impulse behind it should prompt us to ask, no doubt, who is currently “driving” school? Who do education engineers imagine is doing the driving? Is it the administration? The faculty? The government? The unions? Who is exactly going to be displaced by algorithms, by software that purport to make a university “driverless”?

    What’s important to consider, I’d argue, is that if we want to rethink how the university functions – and I’ll just assume that we all do in some way or another – “driverlessness” certainly doesn’t give the faculty a greater say in governance. (Indeed, faculty governance seems, in many cases, one of the things that automation seeks to eliminate. Think Thrun’s comments on tenure, for example.) More troubling, the “driverlessness” of algorithms is opaque – even more opaque than universities’ decision-making already is (and that is truly saying something).

    And despite all the talk of catering to what Silicon Valley has lauded in the “self-directed learner,” to those whom Tressie McMillan Cottom has called the “roaming autodidacts,” the “driverless university” certainly does not give students a greater say in their own education either. The “driverless university,” rather, is controlled by the engineers who write the algorithms, those who model the curriculum, those who think they can best navigate a learning path. There is still a “driver,” but that labor and decision-making power is obscured.

    We can see the “driverless university” already under development perhaps at the Math Emporium at Virginia Tech, which The Washington Post once described as “the Wal-Mart of higher education, a triumph in economy of scale and a glimpse at a possible future of computer-led learning.”

    Eight thousand students a year take introductory math in a space that once housed a discount department store. Four math instructors, none of them professors, lead seven courses with enrollments of 200 to 2,000. Students walk to class through a shopping mall, past a health club and a tanning salon, as ambient Muzak plays.

    The pass rates are up. That’s good traffic data, I suppose, if you’re obsessed with moving bodies more efficiently along the university’s pre-determined “map.” Get the students through pre-calc and other math requirements without having to pay for tenured faculty or, hell, even adjunct faculty. “In the Emporium, the computer is teacher,” The Washington Post tells us.

    “Students click their way through courses that unfold in a series of modules.” Of course, students who “click their way through courses” seem unlikely to develop a love for math or a deep understanding of math. They’re unlikely to become math majors. They’re unlikely to become math graduate students. They’re unlikely to become math professors. (And perhaps you think this is a good thing if you believe there are too many mathematicians or if you believe that the study of mathematics has nothing to offer a society that seems increasingly obsessed with using statistics to solve every single problem that it faces or if you think mathematical reasoning is inconsequential to twenty-first century life.)

    Students hate the Math Emporium, by the way.

    Despite The Washington Post’s pronouncement that “the time has come” for computers as teachers, the time has been coming for years now. “Programmed instruction” and teaching machines – these are concepts that are almost one hundred years old. (So to repeat, the push to automate education is not about technology as much as it’s about ideology.)

    In his autobiography, B. F. Skinner described how he came upon the idea of a teaching machine in 1953: Visiting his daughter’s fourth grade classroom, he was struck by the inefficiencies. Not only were all the students expected to move through their lessons at the same pace, but when it came to assignments and quizzes, they did not receive feedback until the teacher had graded the materials – sometimes a delay of days. Skinner believed that both of these flaws in school could be addressed by a machine, so he built a prototype that he demonstrated at a conference the following year.

    Skinner’s teaching machine broke concepts down into small concepts – “bite-sized learning” is today’s buzzword. Students moved through these concepts incrementally, which Skinner believe was best for “good contingency management.” Skinner believed that the machines could be used to minimize the number of errors that students made along the way, maximizing the positive behavioral reinforcement that students received. Skinner called this process “programmed instruction.”

    Driverless ed-tech.

    “In acquiring complex behavior the student must pass through a carefully designed sequence of steps,” Skinner wrote, “often of considerable length. Each step must be so small that it can always be taken, yet in taking it the student moves somewhat closer to fully competent behavior. The machine must make sure that these steps are taken in a carefully prescribed order.”

    Driverless and programmatically constrained.

    Skinner had a dozen of the machines he prototyped installed in the self-study room at Harvard in 1958 for use in teaching the undergraduate course Natural Sciences 114. “Most students feel that machine study has compensating advantages,” he insisted. “They work for an hour with little effort, and they report that they learn more in less time and with less effort than in conventional ways.” (And we all know that if it’s good enough for Harvard students…) “Machines such as those we use at Harvard,” Skinner boasted, “could be programmed to teach, in whole and in part, all the subjects taught in elementary and high school and many taught in college.” The driverless university.

    One problem – there are many problems, but here’s a really significant one – those Harvard students hated the teaching machines. They found them boring. And certainly we can say “well, the technology just wasn’t very good” – but it isn’t very good now either.

    Ohio State University psychology professor Sidney Pressey – he’d invented a teaching machine about a decade before B. F. Skinner did – said in 1933 that,

    There must be an “industrial revolution” in education, in which educational science and the ingenuity of educational technology combine to modernize the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education. Work in the schools of the future will be marvelously though simply organized, so as to adjust almost automatically to individual differences and the characteristics of the learning process. There will be many labor-saving schemes and devices, and even machines – not at all for the mechanizing of education, but for the freeing of teacher and pupil from educational drudgery and incompetence.

    Oh not replace you, teacher. To free you from drudgery, of course. Just like the Industrial Revolution freed workers from the drudgery of handicraft. Just like Uber drivers have been freed from the drudgery of full-time employment by becoming part of the “gig economy” and just like Uber will free them from the drudgery of precarious employment when it replaces them with autonomous vehicles.

    Teaching machines – the driverless school – will replace just some education labor at first, the bits of it the engineers and their investors have deemed repetitive, menial, unimportant, and let’s be honest, those bits that are too liberal. But it doesn’t seem interested, however, in stopping students from having to do menial tasks. The “driverless university” will still mandate students sit in front of machines and click on buttons and answer multiple choice questions. “Personalized,” education will be stripped of all that is personal.

    It’s a dismal future, this driverless one, and not because “the machines have taken over,” but because the libertarians who build the machines have.

    A driverless future offers us only more surveillance, more algorithms, less transparency, fewer roads, and less intellectual freedom. Skinner would love it. Trump would love it. But we, we should resist it.

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  • 03/31/17--01:01: Spencer Fellow!
  • Columbia Journalism School has awarded me a Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship for the 2017–2018 academic year. I can’t even begin to articulate how truly thrilled and humbled I am for this opportunity.

    It’s not going to change much here on Hack Education. The fellowship will help me pursue the work I already undertake here. It will change my home base as I will be relocating from Los Angeles to New York City for all or part of the school year.

    The project that I proposed involves studying the networks of education technology investors and how they are shaping education policies (as well as our imagination about what the future of education might look like). I already pay quite close attention to how venture capital flows into ed-tech, and during my fellowship I’ll expand this research in a couple of ways. First, the selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, with her 108-page financial disclosure form, serves as a reminder that venture capital (particularly “Silicon Valley” venture capital) is really just one of the players here. Private equity and hedge funds are particularly important too (although much less boastful than their VC counterparts), as are the socio-political relationships among the various investors and entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

    During my fellowship, I’ll be investigating and tracing out these networks in order to identify some of the more powerful groups – education technology’s equivalent to the “Paypal Mafia,” if you will – and the ideas and policies that they are pushing. “Personalization” is an obvious one.

    I posted a rough draft of my fellowship proposal on a new subdomain where I’ll be posting some of my research and analysis along the way: But most of my stories will, as usual, appear here on Hack Education.

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  • 03/31/17--10:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    Via The New York Times: “North Carolina’s Love of College Sports Spurred Move to Repeal Bathroom Law.” Welp. It’s not clear, however, if the NCAA and others will end their boycott of the state.

    Via PBS Frontline: “Climate Change Skeptic Group Seeks to Influence 200,000 Teachers.” The group in question is the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank.

    Via The New York Times: “Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says.”

    It seems like the Department of Education is doing everything it can to screw over students’ financial aid.

    From the Department of Education press release: “To protect sensitive taxpayer data, the IRS and FSA announced today the Data Retrieval Tool on and will be unavailable until extra security protections can be added. While we are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, students and families should plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Trump signs bills overturning Obama-era education regulations.”

    Via Politico: “After proposing a $9.2 billion cut to the Education Department’s budget for next year, the President Donald Trump is now calling on Congress to slash nearly $3 billion in education funding for the remaining five months of this fiscal year, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Proposal to Cut Indirect Research Payments Would Hit State Universities Hardest.” And via WaPo: “Trump budget cuts could hit research universities hard, Moody’s warns.”

    More on the Trump budget via Inside Higher Ed: “Cutting College Prep.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump‘s Proposed Cuts Threaten Colleges’ Key Job-Training Programs.”

    Via Education Week: “DeVos Compares School Choice Fight to Uber vs. Taxis; Decries State of Test Scores.” (Nice timing, Betsy, as this was a useful comment to include in the talk I gave this week on the future of the "driverless school.")

    Via The Washington Post: “Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas.” That’s Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and that’s SWAT, as in a militarized police force.

    “The Mad Rush to Undo Online Privacy Rulesby Siva Vaidhyanathan writing for Bloomberg. “ISPs Can Continue to Collect and Sell All of Our Browsing History, and We’ll Never Know,” says Bill Fitzgerald.

    “Higher education and library associations called on the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to uphold Obama-era rules requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic on the internet equally,” Inside Higher Ed reports. (Sadly, I think “net neutrality” under Trump is toast.)

    “House bill would further politicize the Register of Copyrights,” Creative Commons cautions.

    Immigration and Education

    Via The Washington Post: “Virginia judge sides with Trump administration on new travel ban.”

    Via The Guardian: “Hawaii judge refuses to overturn block on Trump travel ban.”

    Via The New Yorker: “After an Immigration Raid, a City’s Students Vanish.”

    Via the Daily Kos: “Fearing deportation, immigrant parents are now canceling their U.S. citizen kids’ food assistance.”

    Via Education Week: “High School Rape Case Becomes Flashpoint in Immigration Debate.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Spanier Is Found Guilty of Child Endangerment in Sandusky Sex-Abuse Case.” That’s Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State.

    More on Penn State in the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    “How the SAT and PSAT collect personal data on students – and what the College Board does with it,” by The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.

    “Free College”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s a Map of ‘Free College’ Programs Nationwide.”

    Via the Pasadena Star-News: “Pasadena City College offering tuition-free first year for local high schools students.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Trump administration defended the gainful-employment rule in federal court Wednesday, suggesting that it may not quickly roll back the regulation designed to crack down on programs graduating students unable to pay down high student loan debt loads.”

    Also via Inside Higher Ed: “A new report from the American Enterprise Institute argues that state and local funding of public colleges stacks the deck against for-profit institutions under the gainful-employment rule, an Obama administration regulation that measures the ability of graduates of vocational programs to repay their student loans.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The Closing of the Republican Mind on For-Profit Colleges.”

    Fresh Air’s Terry Gross talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about her new book, Lower Ed, and “How For-Profit Colleges Sell ‘Risky Education’ To The Most Vulnerable.”

    Via The New York Times: “Arizona Summit Law school, a troubled for-profit institution owned by the InfiLaw System, has been placed on probation by its accrediting body, the American Bar Association.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Coding Schools Build Tuition-Back Guarantees Into Business Model.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Online education platform Coursera has set a goal of offering 15 to 20 degree programs by the end of 2019. The company took another step toward that goal Wednesday, announcing new degree offerings from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and France’s HEC Paris.”

    Via Edsurge: “Coursera’s Rick Levin on the Evolution of MOOCs and Microcredentials.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via MuckRock: “The same billionaire that funded Trump’s campaign bankrolled Milo’s college speaking tour.” That’s Milo Yiannopoulos, the speaker, and Robert Mercer, the billionaire. Small world!

    Via The New York Times: “In School Nurse’s Room: Tylenol, Bandages and an Antidote to Heroin.”

    Via The LA Times: “After therapy dog refuses to drink, San Diego Unified finds lead in water.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Louis J. Freeh, who five years ago produced a scathing report on the culpability of Pennsylvania State University administrators in the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal, released a two-page statement on Friday that tore into the university’s leaders and called for the resignation of President Eric J. Barron.”

    Via The LA Times: “UC Berkeley chancellor improperly accepted free fitness benefits, probe finds.”

    “What it’s like at San Quentin’s coding school,” according to Techcrunch.

    Via Education Dive: “‘Mall of America of colleges’ provides one-stop shop for local ed needs.”

    Via NPR: “Concerns After Texas School Opens ‘Prayer Room’ That’s Attracting Muslim Students.”

    Via NPR Code Switch: “Muslim Schoolchildren Bullied By Fellow Students And Teachers.”

    Camelot Education, a for-profit manager of alternative schools, is facing challenges nationwide after our report on alleged physical abuse of students by staffers,” says ProPublica.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Louisiana Monroe says it’s getting rid of two major natural history collections to make way for a sports field.”

    Via the BBC: “Students must swim before they graduate, says China university.” That’s Tsinghua University, a.k.a. “Harvard of the East.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After a Student Dies, Penn State Bans a Fraternity and Liquor at All Greek Houses.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Schools Shift to Free, Public-Domain Curricula.”

    The Wall Street Journal is concerned that students at Harvard are studying authors “marginalized for historical reasons.”

    “Western-style universities are challenged in Hungary and Russia,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via the Starbucks press release: “Starbucks and ASU Expand College Achievement Plan.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “2 Think Tanks Weigh In on Accreditation” – that’d be the Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress.

    Via Edsurge: “BloomBoard Partnership Gives Teachers Graduate-Level Credit for Micro-Credentials.”

    Fast Company profiles David Blake, the co-founder of the alt-credentialing startup Degreed.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via The News & Observer: “Cost of bills in UNC academic scandal nears $18 million.”

    “Why Is a Suspect in the Vanderbilt Rape Case Talking to Athletes About Sexual Assault?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The Washington Post: “Transgender high school wrestler to compete against boys thanks to new USA Wrestling policy.”

    More on sports in the politics and courts sections above.

    From the HR Department

    Via The New York Times: “Oculus Founder, at Center of Legal Battle Over VR, Departs Facebook.” That’s Palmer Luckey, funder of anti-Clinton “shit-posting” efforts.

    Via WSLS: “Liberty University online education drops, staff layoffs.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “AAUP report concludes that a professor at Community College of Aurora was likely fired for refusing to compromise on rigor in his courses as part of a ”student success“ initiative.” More on this story from Jonathan Rees.

    Via The Detroit News: “In a move rarely seen in academia, Wayne State University is trying to fire multiple faculty members depicted as abusing their tenure by doing as little work as possible.”

    Cornell Grad Union Election Too Close to Call,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Also via Inside Higher Ed: “Ithaca College’s new non-tenure-track faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution this week, averting a threatened strike.”

    The American Arbitration Association declared this w From The New York Times’ “Corner Office” series: “Jessie Woolley-Wilson on Creating Benevolent Friction at Work.” (She is the CEO is Dreambox Learning.)

    The Business of Job Recruitment and Training

    “Save Your College (and America’s Workforce) Through Corporate Training” – a really god-awful op-ed in Edsurge by venture capitalist Ryan Craig and for-profit higher ed CEO Frank F. Britt.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The rapid growth of Handshake, a career-services platform, is also raising questions about whether some students’ grades are made visible to employers without permission.”

    Contests and Awards

    The 2017–2018 Spencer Education Journalism Fellowships have been awarded by Columbia University’s J-School: Antonio Gois, Cara Fitzpatrick, Nick Chiles, and me. (!!!)

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Can Grit Be Measured?” asks Edsurge.

    “Will Personalized Learning Become the New Normal?” asks The Atlantic.

    “Was the ‘Open Education’ movement of the ’70s ahead of its time?” asks Education Dive.

    “Do You Have What It Takes to be a Successful Edtech Product Manager?” asks Edsurge.

    (Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    “Can We Afford Free Textbooks?” is a terrible op-ed by Robert S. Feldman, a deputy chancellor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Thankfully, IHE added a disclosure to the end of the article: “He also serves as chair of the McGraw-Hill Education Learning Science Research Advisory Council.”

    iPads Did Not Revolutionize Campus Teaching,” Edsurge informs us, “(But a Few Colleges Give Every Student One).”

    Apple’s Bid To Reclaim The Classroom From Chromebooks May Be Too Late,” says Fast Company.

    “Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit” by Nancy Bailey– a story on Playworks.

    Technology ‘Disrupting’ Teaching, Part 1 and Part 2" by Larry Cuban.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “The Future of Curriculum: Playlists, Open Ed., and Tough Choices for Teachers.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via Campus Technology: “AI Market to Grow 47.5% Over Next Four Years.” Education Dive rewrites the story with this headline: “Report predicts AI spike in education.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    MasterClass has raised $35 million“to expand celebrity-led courses.” Investors in this Series C round include Institutional Venture Partners, Advancit Capital, Bloomberg Beta, GSV Acceleration, Javelin Venture Partners, MX Investments, New Enterprise Associates, Novel TMT Ventures, Sam Lessin, and Yan-David Erlich. The company has raised $56.4 million total.

    BYJUs has raised $30 million in Series F funding from Verlinvest. The test prep company has raised $204 million total. Yay! Test prep! has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Redpoint, GSV Acceleration, Owl Ventures, and SJF Ventures. The startup claims it’s “reinventing financial aid” and has raised $16.5 million total.

    Voxy has raised $12 million in Series C funding from SJF Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, GSV Acceleration, Inherent Group, Rethink Education, and Weld North. The English language-learning startup has raised $30.8 million total.

    Edlio has acquiredSangha.

    Excelligence Learning Corporation has acquiredChildCare Education Institute.

    Here’s Pearson’s annual report for 2016. It’s bad news. And yet! Via the BBC: “Pearson boss sees pay boost despite firm’s struggles.”

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    “Introducing the K–12 Cyber Incident Mapby Doug Levin.

    And speaking of incidents, here’s one from Montana, “Hackers hit Forsyth schools server, cause disruptions,” reports KTVQ.

    Via Dark Reading: “Millions of Stolen US University Email Credentials for Sale on the Dark Web.”

    Via the EFF: “Privacy By Practice, Not Just By Policy: A System Administrator Advocating for Student Privacy.”

    “Who Owns Your Face?” asks The Atlantic. I bet you can guess the answer.

    More on testing data in the privacy section above.

    Data and “Research”

    Forbes perpetuates the worst sorts of stereotypes about college students as it reports on a survey by a student loan company LendEDU: “College Students Using Loans For Spring Break, Alcohol, Drugs.”

    “A shortage of job candidates with fluency in data science and analytics is among the nation’s most yawning of skills gaps, one requiring substantial changes by higher education institutions and employers alike,” according to a report by the Business-Higher Education Forum.

    Via NPR: “A Surprising Explanation For Why Some Immigrants Excel In Science.”

    Higher Ed Analytics Market Is Growing in Complexity,” according to a report by Eduventures.

    School-Choice Data Reveals Parents Opting Out of Private Schools for Charters and Virtual,” says Edsurge, drawing on a report from the Brookings Institution’s Education Choice and Competition Index.

    Via DML Central: “Google Scientist Tells How Tech Affects Learning.”

    “More on demographics: American white people’s declining lifespan and what it means for education” by Bryan Alexander.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study: Income-Based Repayment Reduced Defaults.”

    “The World’s Top Venture Capitalists” – according to The New York Times at least.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

    0 0

    This talk was presented at Coventry University as part of my visiting fellowship at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab

    Every year since 2010, I’ve undertaken a fairly massive project in which I’ve reviewed the previous twelve months’ education and technology news in order to write ten articles covering “the top ed-tech trends.” This is how I spend my November and December – researching and writing a series that usually tops out at about 75,000 words – which I didn’t realize until print copies were made for my visit here is about 240 pages.

    Now, all those words and pages make this quite a different undertaking than most year-in-review stories, than much of the “happy new year” clickbait that tend to offer a short, bulleted list of half a dozen or so technologies that are new enough or cool enough to hype with headlines like “these are the six tools poised to revolutionize education.” To be honest, these sorts of articles are partly why I undertake this project – although each year, when I’m about 15,000 words in, I do ask myself “why am I doing this?!” (This talk will hopefully serve as an explanation for you and a nice reminder for me.)

    Last year, I gave a lecture at Virginia Commonwealth University titled “The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Issue a Press Release.” (The transcript is on my website.) It was one articulation of what’s a recurring theme in my work: we must be more critical about the stories we tell and we’re told about the future of education. Indeed, we need to look at histories of the future and ask why certain people have wanted the future to take a certain shape, why certain technologies (and their stories) have been so compelling.

    To be clear then when when I write my “trends” series, it’s not meant to be predictive. Rather it’s a history itself – ideally one that’s useful for our thinking about the past, present, and future in the way in which the study of history always should be. It’s a look back at what’s happened over the course of each year, not simply – to counter that totally overused phrase from hockey player Wayne Gretsky’s dad – to “skate to where the puck is going,” but to examine where it has been. And more importantly, to ascertain where some folks – those who issue press releases, for example – want the puck to head.

    So I am not here to tell you, based on my analysis of ed-tech “trends,” what new tools you should buy or what new tools you should incorporate into your teaching or what old tools you should discard. That’s not my role – I’m not an advocate or evangelist or salesperson for ed-tech.

    I realize this makes some people angry – “she didn’t tell us what we should do!” some folks always seem to complain about my talks. “She didn’t deliver a fully fleshed-out 300-point plan to ‘fix education.’” “She didn’t say anything positive about technology, dammit.”

    That’s not the point of my work. I’m not a consultant hired to talk you through the implementation of your next project. My work is not “market research” in the way that “market research” typically functions (or in the way “market research” hopes it functions). According to the press releases at least, ed-tech markets are always growing larger. The sales are always increasing. The tech is always amazing.

    I want us to think more critically about all these claims, about the politics, not just the products (perhaps so the next time we’re faced with consultants or salespeople, we can do a better job challenging their claims or advice).

    As you can see, much of what I write isn’t really about technologies at all, but rather about the ideologies that are deeply embedded with them. I write about technologies as practices – political practices, pedagogical practices – not simply tools, practices that tools might enable and that tools might foreclose.

    Throughout the year, I follow the money, and I follow the press releases. I scrutinize the headlines. I listen to stories. I try to verify the (wild, wild) claims of marketers and salespeople and politicians. I look for the patterns in the promises that people make about what technologies will do for and to education. And it’s based on these patterns that I eventually select the ten “Top Ed-Tech Trends” for my year-end review.

    They’re not “trends,” really. They’re themes. They’re categories. They’re narratives.

    And admittedly, because of my methods, how I piece my research together, they’re narratives that are quite US-centric. I’d say even more specifically, they’re California- and Silicon Valley-centric.

    I use “Silicon Valley” in my work as a shorthand to describe the contemporary high tech industry – its tech and just as importantly, its ideology. Sticklers about geography will readily point out that the Silicon Valley itself isn’t the most accurate descriptor for the locus of today’s booming tech sector. It ignores what happens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example: the site of Harvard and MIT. It ignores what happens in Seattle: the home of Amazon, Microsoft, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (The influence of Bill Gates in education and education technology policy really cannot be overstated. Bill Gates is not part of Silicon Valley per se, but the anti-democratic bent of his philanthropic efforts – justified through claims about “genius,” through a substitution with charity (which is also tax relief) for justice – I would contend is absolutely part of the “Silicon Valley narrative.”)

    Silicon Valley is itself just one part of Northern California, one part of the San Francisco Bay area – the Santa Clara Valley. Santa Clara Valley’s county seat and the locus of Silicon Valley (historically at least) is San Jose, not San Francisco or Oakland, where many startups are increasingly located today. Silicon Valley does include Mountain View, where Google is headquartered. It also includes Cupertino, where Apple is headquartered. It includes Palo Alto, home to Stanford University, founded in 1885 by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford.

    The “silicon” in “Silicon Valley” refers to the silicon-based integrated circuits that were first developed and manufactured in the area. But I extend the phrase “Silicon Valley” to all of the high tech industry, not just the chip makers. And those chip makers aren’t all located in the area these days. Arguably the phrase “Silicon Valley” obscures the international scope of the operations of today’s tech industry – tax havens in Ireland, manufacturing in China, and so on.

    But if the scope is international, the flavor is distinctly Californian. A belief in the re-invention of the self. A “dream factory.” A certain optimism for science as the penultimate solution to any of the world’s problems. A belief in technological utopia. A belief in the freedom of information technologies, in information technologies as freedom. An advocacy for libertarian politics – think Peter Thiel (a Stanford graduate) now advising Donald Trump. A faith in the individual and a distrust for institutions. A fierce embrace of the new. A disdain for the past.

    California – the promised land, the end-of-the-road of the US’s westward (continental) expansion, the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, colonization upon colonization, the gold rush, the invention of a palm-tree paradise. The California too of military bases and aeronautics and oil. California, the giant economy. The California that imagines itself – and hopes others imagine it – in Silicon Valley and Hollywood but not on the farms of the Central Valley. The California that ignores race and labor and water and war.

    The California that once could boast the greatest public higher education system in the US – that is until Ronald Reagan became governor of the state in 1966 after campaigning on a vow to “clean up that mess in Berkeley” and promising during his first year in office that he’d make sure taxpayers in the state were no longer “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” We can see in Reagan’s pledge the roots of ongoing efforts to defund public education, something that enabled for-profit schools to step in to meet the demand for college. We can see too in Reagan a redefinition of the purpose of higher ed – it’s not about “intellectual curiosity”; it’s about “jobs,” it’s about “skills.”

    Despite thinking of themselves as liberal-learning, today’s tech companies re-inscribe much of this. “Everyone should learn to code,” as they like to tell us. “Higher education is a bubble,” as Peter Thiel has said. “Disrupt.” “Unbundle.” “It’s like Uber for education.” And so on.

    “The Californian Ideology,” as Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron described all this in their terrifically prescient essay from 1995, does not tend to make many lists of the “top ed-tech trends.” But the ideology permeates our digital technologies, whether we like it or not. And if and when we ignore it, I fear we misconstrue what’s going on with Silicon Valley’s products and press releases.

    We’re more likely to overlook the role that venture capital plays, for example. 2015 was a record-setting year for investment in education technology, with some $4 billion flowing into the industry globally. But the total dollars fell sharply in 2016 – “only” $2.2 billion. The number of investments fell by 11%. (It’s a bit too early to tell what 2017 will bring.)

    I repeatedly select “the business of ed-tech” as one of my “top ed-tech trends” because I think it’s crucial to questions about investors’ interest in education and education technology. What sorts of companies and what sorts of products do venture capitalists like, for example? What’s the appeal – profits, privatization? (Turns out, lately investors like testing companies, tutoring companies, “learn to code” companies, and private student loan providers.) Why has investment fallen off? (Turns out that “free” might not be the best business model for a for-profit company, particularly one that cannot rely on advertising the same way that other “free” products like Facebook and Google can. Turns out too that a lot of the education startups that have been promising “revolution” or hell even “improved outcomes” for the past few years have been selling snake oil. Turns out that the typical timeline that venture capitalists work with – about three to five years after making their investment, they expect a return in the form of an acquisition or a public offering and very, very few ed-tech companies go public. Turns out that Pearson, which once funded and acquired a lot of startups, isn’t in particularly good financial shape itself.)

    Now, it’s so very typically American to come to the UK to talk about ed-tech and to insist “oh really, it’s all about the US – our values.” “It’s all about the state I live in” even – to invoke Pearson, a company founded in Yorkshire in 1844, the largest education company in the world, and still insist that the “Silicon Valley narrative” and the “California ideology” are the dominant forces shaping education technology. (I’m not thrilled about this either, mind you!)

    In Distrusting Educational Technology, sociologist Neil Selwyn identifies three contemporary ideologies that are intertwined with today’s digital technologies – my reference to “Silicon Valley narratives” are meant to invoke these: libertarianism, neoliberalism, and “the ideology of the ‘new economy.’” Selwyn writes,

    Most people, it would seem, are happy to assume that educational technologies are “neutral” tools that are essentially free from values and intent (or, at most, shaped by generally optimistic understandings and meanings associated with educational change and improvement). In this sense, it is difficult at first glance to see educational technology as entwined with any aspect of the dominant ideologies just described. Yet, as was noted earlier, one of the core characteristics of hegemony is the ability of dominant ideologies to permeate commonsensical understandings and meaning. Following this logic, then, 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.

    I’d add another ideological impulse that Selwyn doesn’t mention here: that is, a fierce belief in technological solutionism (I’m building on Evgeny Morozov’s work here) – if students are struggling to graduate, or they’re not “engaged,” or they’re not scoring well on the PISA test, the solution is necessarily technological. More analytics. More data collection. More surveillance.

    I would point to this “ideological freighted-ness” in almost all of the trends in which I’ve written about since 2010. You can see neoliberalism, for example, in efforts towards privatization and the outsourcing of core technological capacities to third party vendors. (This is part of the push for MOOCs, we must be honest.)

    I’m not sure there’s any better expression of this “Silicon Valley narrative” or “California ideology” than in “personalization,” a word used to describe how Netflix suggests movies to us, how Amazon suggests products to do, how Google suggests search results to us, and how educational software suggests the next content module you should click on. Personalization, in all these manifestations, is a programmatic expression of individualism. The individual, as the Silicon Valley narrative insists, whose sovereignty is most important, whose freedom is squelched by the collective. Personalization – this belief that the world can be and should be algorithmically crafted to best suit each individual individually (provided, of course, that individual’s needs and desire coincide with the person who wrote the algorithm and with the platform that’s promising “personalization.”)

    Personalization. Platforms. These aren’t simply technological innovations. They are political, social – shaping culture and politics and institutions and individuals in turn.

    In 2012, I chose “the platforming of education” as one of the “top ed-tech trends.” I made that selection in part because several ed-tech companies indicated that year that this was what they hoped to become – the MOOC startups, for example, as well as Edmodo, a social network marketed to K–12 schools. And “platforming” was a story that technology companies were telling about their own goals too. To become a platform is to be “the next Facebook” or “the next Google” (and as such, to be a windfall for investors).

    Platforms aim to centralize services and features and functionality so that you go nowhere else online. They aspire to be monopolies. Platforms enable and are enabled by APIs, by data collection and transference, by data analysis and data storage, by a marketplace of data (with users creating the data and users as the product). They’re silos, where all your actions can be tracked and monetized. In education, that’s the learning management system (the VLE) perhaps.

    I wondered briefly last year if we were seeing a failure in education platforms – or at least, a failure to fulfill some of the wild promises that investors and entrepreneurs were making back in 2012. A failure to “platform.” Despite raising some $87.5 million in venture capital, for example, Edmodo hadn’t even figured out a business model, let alone become a powerful platform. Similarly MOOC startups have now all seemed to pivot towards corporate technology training, but certainly all corporate training isn’t running through these companies. Neither Coursera nor Udacity nor edX have become corporate training platforms, although perhaps that’s what Microsoft hopes to become, as a result of its acquisition of the professional social network LinkedIn, which had previously acquired the online training company

    Platforms haven’t gone away, even if specifically education technology companies haven’t successfully platformed education – yet. Technology companies, on the other hand, seem well poised to do so – not just Microsoft, but Google and Apple, of course. And even Facebook has made an effort to this end, partnering with a chain of charter schools in the US, Summit Public Schools, in order to build a “personalized learning platform.” From the company’s website:

    The platform comes with a comprehensive curriculum developed by teachers in classrooms. The base curriculum is aligned with the Common Core, and each course includes meaningful projects, playlists of content and assessments, all of which can be customized. Teachers can adapt or create new playlists and projects to meet their students’ needs.

    “Playlists” – this seems to be one of the latest buzzwords connected to personalization. “Students build content knowledge by working at their own pace and take assessments on demand,” the Summit website says. But while students might be able to choose which order they tackle the “playlist,” there isn’t really open inquiry about what “songs” (if you will) they get to listen to.

    AltSchool is another Silicon Valley company working on a “personalized learning platform.” It was founded in 2014 by Max Ventilla, a former Google executive. AltSchool has raised $133 million in venture funding from Zuckerberg Education Ventures, the Emerson Collective (the venture philanthropy firm founded by Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs), Founders Fund (Peter Thiel’s investment firm), Andreessen Horowitz, and others.

    The AltSchool classroom is one of total surveillance: cameras and microphones and sensors track students and teachers – their conversations, their body language, their facial expressions, their activities. The software – students are all issued computing devices – track the clicks. Everything is viewed as a transaction that can be monitored and analyzed and then re-engineered. Stirling University’s Ben Williamson has written fairly extensively about AltSchool, noting that the company describes itself as a “full stack” approach to education. From the AltSchool blog,

    As opposed to the traditional approach of selling or licensing technology to established organizations, the full stack startup builds and manages a complete end-to-end product or service, thereby bypassing incumbents.

    So why take a full stack approach to education?

    “You want to own the total outcome,” says A16z General Partner and AltSchool investor, Lars Delgaard. “We are building the world’s biggest private school system. To make that experience the one we want – one that is more affordable, better, and revolutionary – you need to have full ownership.”

    While the company initially started as with aspirations of launching a chain of private schools, like many education startups, it’s had to “pivot” – focusing less on opening schools (hiring teachers, recruiting students) and more on building and selling software (hiring engineers, hiring marketers). But it retains, I’d argue, this “full stack” approach. Rather than thinking about the platforming of education as just a matter of centralizing and controlling the software, the data, the analytics, we have this control spilling out into the material world – connected to sensors and cameras, but also shaping the way in which all the practices of school happen and – more frighteningly, I think – the shape our imagination of school might take.

    John Herrman recently wrote in The New York Times that

    Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”

    Platforms are not substitutes for community. They are not substitutes for collective political action. We should resist the platforming of education, I’d argue. We should resist because of the repercussions for labor – the labor of teaching, the labor of learning. We should resist because of the repercussions for institutions, for the law, for democracy.

    And these are the things I try to point out when I select the “top ed-tech trends” – too many other people want us to simply marvel at their predictions and products. I want us to consider instead the ideologies, the implications.

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