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The History of the Future of Education Technology

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  • 09/22/17--10:20: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “The Trump Administration Has Revoked A Federal Directive On Campus Rape,” Buzzfeed reports. More on the decision in The New York Times.

    US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ “learning curve where higher ed is concerned is quite vertical,” quips UC president Janet Napolitano. The Chronicle of Higher Education has more on Napolitano’s remarks at a lunch at UC’s Washington Center.

    Via Education Week: “Q&A: One-on-One with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”

    “The Department of Education rejected two recent calls to improve its monitoring of the financial health of colleges and universities– despite findings that its metrics predicted only half of institutional closures in recent years,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    More on another Department of Education announcement this week – this one regarding the department’s inspector general and a potentially crippling penalty for WGU – in the “competencies” section below.

    Via NPR on Sunday: “President Trump Set To Meet With Presidents Of Historically Black Colleges And Universities.” Via NPR on Tuesday: “Trump, And Most Black College Presidents, Absent From Annual Meeting.” Trump has appointed former NFL star Johnathan Holifield (who never attended an HBCU) to run the White House’s HBCU initiative.

    More on the politics of student loans in the student loan section below.

    “There’s a new call for Americans to embrace Chinese-style education. That’s a huge mistake,” writes Yong Zhao in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via KPCC: “Ref Rodriguez has given up the role of president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board– but is not resigning his seat on the board altogether – one week after the announcement he’d face felony charges for alleged campaign finance violations during his 2015 run for office.”

    Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan,” says ProPublica’s Anne Waldman. The plan: “Converting into private schools– and using voucher programs to thrive on the public dime.”

    Chalkbeat on Success Academies: “Private managers of public schools, charter leaders enjoy extra buffer from public-records laws.”

    Via Education Week: “Assignment asking students to role play as KKK sparks anger.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “School segregation at center of new documentary from collective founded by Ava DuVernay.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via The New York Times: “Rolling Stone Faces Revived Lawsuit Over Campus Rape Article.”

    Rachel Cohen in The Intercept: “Authorities Close In On Pro-Charter School Nonprofit For Illicit Campaign Contributions.”

    “Free College”


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The California Community Colleges announced Tuesday that the Board of Governors Fee Waiver program, which provides nearly half of the system’s 2.1 million students with free tuition, would be renamed the California College Promise Grant, a name reminiscent of many free college programs.”

    The Business (and the Politics of the Business) of Student Loans


    Via The Washington Post: “Student loan companies reach $21.6 million settlement over dubious debt collection lawsuits.” More via Buzzfeed and via Reuters.

    Via NPR: “The Department Of Education Cuts Off A Student Loan Watchdog.” The watchdog: the CFPB.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Buzzfeed: “The Education Department Will Allow Two Large For-Profit Colleges To Become Nonprofits.” That’s Kaplan University and the Art Institutes. More on the Kaplan news via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Lynn Universitywill buy the for-profit Digital Media Arts College. (The latter had lost its accreditation in December of last year.)

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via Edsurge: “Peter Thiel May Finally Get His Flying Cars, Thanks to a New Udacity Nanodegree in 2018.” More predictions in Techcrunch: “Autonomous driving’s godfather and tech investors say the world is ready for flying cars.” And via the Udacity blog: “Self-Driving Cars for Everyone!” EVERYONE!

    Via The Hindu Business Line: “Pearson India set to launch K–12 online private school.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    “2 More Speakers Drop From Yiannopoulos’s ‘Free Speech Week’ at Berkeley,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The non-speakers: James Damore, the fired Google engineer, and Lucian Wintrich, a journalist with Gateway Pundit. Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Berkeley Casts Doubt on Motives of ‘Free Speech Week’ Organizers, Citing Missed Deadlines.”

    Inside Higher Ed reports that“The University of California Office of the President will pay half of the cost of security for conservative speakers at UC Berkeley this month.”

    “Who is blocking campus speakers now?” asks Inside Higher Ed. “Incidents at Harvard and Catholic Universities challenge idea that liberals are the only ones preventing ideas from being voiced on campuses.”

    “In Support of Dr. Dorothy Kimby David Perry.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A Georgia Tech police vehicle was torched and three people were arrested during a protest this week. Anger has grown over news that officer involved in fatal shooting was never trained in responding to situations involving people with mental-health issues.” More on the shootingvia The Washington Post.

    Via The New York Times: “Cornell Fraternity Closes Indefinitely After Racially Charged Attack.”

    Via Town & Country: “The Strange World of Sorority Rush Consultants.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Dust-Up Involving Conservative Student Sparks Political Uproar in Nebraska.”

    Via NPR Code Switch: “Starting School At The University That Enslaved Her Ancestors.” Mélisande Short-Colomb starts at Georgetown.

    Via The New York Times: “Harvard Endowment Reports ‘Disappointing’ 8.1 Percent Return.” Not sure how the university is going to stay afloat.

    Speaking of Harvard, Crystal Marie Fleming writes in Vox that “Harvard has shown its commitment to diversity was always a farce.”

    “When Affirmative Action Isn’t Enough” by The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein.

    More on Harvard via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Taking Stock of the Ties That Bind Harvard’s Kennedy School and the CIA.”

    Inside Higher Ed on“Fee for Honors”: “Arizona State’s honors college fee, currently at $1,500 per year, has enabled explosive growth, leaders say. Critics worry about dissuading poor students from enrolling, but others say public institutions need new sources of revenue and ways to offer value to top students.”

    BYU now sells caffeinated soda on campus.

    “Two Christian colleges in North Carolina, Piedmont International University and John Wesley University, plan to merge next year,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Education Department’s inspector general labels Western Governors as a correspondence-course provider, seeks reimbursement of $713 million in aid and may broadly threaten competency-based education,” Inside HIgher Ed reports. More via Edsurge.

    Via Times of Malta: “Malta becomes first country to explore blockchain education certificates.”

    “ What is the future of accreditation– and how do microcredentials impact it?” asks Education Dive.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The New York Times: “Playing Tackle Football Before 12 Is Tied to Brain Problems Later.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two college football players died after games last Saturday, following three off-season deaths this year, while a Harvard football player suffered a neck injury and remains paralyzed.”

    Via The Chicago Tribune: “5 Wheaton College football players face felony charges in hazing incident.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After Faculty Outcry, UNC Will Allow Athletics Course to Be Taught Again.” The class: “Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, 1956 to the Present.”

    The Business of Job Training


    Via The Guardian: “ Tech’s push to teach coding isn’t about kids’ success – it’s about cutting wages.”

    Contests and Awards


    The MacArthur Foundation has announced its “100&Change Finalists.”

    Via Edsurge: “Here Are the 5 Finalists for the $15M XPRIZE Global Learning Challenge.” (Forbes goes with a clickbait title: “Possibly Elon Musk’s Biggest Idea Yet – Revolutionizing Education.” Elon Musk doesn’t really have any idea here. He’s just on the board of XPRIZE and helped fund it.

    Via Education Week: “Carol Dweck Wins $4 Million Prize for Research on ‘Growth Mindsets’.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Via Edsurge: “Minecraft’s New Oregon Trail Experience Has Everything – Even the Dysentery.” It’s not apparent to me in the coverage whether “everything” includes Native Americans.

    Via Motherboard: “New System Knows How Hard You’re Thinking Based on Thermal Imaging.” Mmmhmmm. Sure. Okay.

    Ed Tech Products Should Make Educators More Efficient,” says EdWeek’s Matthew Lynch. The post recommends facial recognition, which is such a terrible, terrible idea.

    Edtech CEOs Seek to Change the ‘Adversarial Narrative’ With Public School Teachers,” says Edsurge. (See how much of that “adversarial narrative” you find in this week’s – or any week’s – ed-tech news.)

    College textbooks are going the way of Netflix,” Quartz predicts in part 2 of a ridiculously silly series on the future of the university.

    From the Knewton blog: “ Introducing Knewton Product Updates for Fall 2017.”

    Via Quartz: “An MIT Media Lab startup is creating beautiful wooden toys to teach children the basics of coding.” The startup is called Learning Beautiful.

    Via The Next Web: “Look no further: Universities are funding startups to ensure students succeed.”

    Via Boing Boing: “World Wide Web Consortium abandons consensus, standardizes DRM with 58.4% support, EFF resigns.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Imagine how great universities could be without all those human teachers,” says Quartz, lauding the fantasy that robots will replace teachers.

    Artificial intelligence will transform universities,” says the World Economic Forum.

    Via IDG’s CIO magazine: “How artificial intelligence is transforming learning.”

    Via Campus Technology: “BYU Researchers Aim to Stop Robots from Eating Tables with Wikipedia.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    ThinkCERCA has raised $10.1 million from Scott Cook, Signe Ostby, Chuck Templeton, Deborah Quazzo, Follett Knowledge Fund, Jeff Weiner, Mike Gamson, Plum Alley, and TAL Education Group. The literacy software company has raised $14.8 million total. (No disclosure on Edsurge’s coverage of the fundraising that Deborah Quazzo’s VC firm GSV is also an investor in Edsurge.)

    Tuition.io has raised $7 million in Series B funding from Wildcat Venture Partners, MassMutual Ventures, and Mohr Davidow Ventures. The student loan management startup has raised $15.15 million total.

    Packback has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from University Ventures and ICG Ventures. The company, which according to its Crunchbase profile is a “Q&A learning platform powered by a proprietary A.I. to quantify and improve critical thinking skills in college students,” has raised $4 million total.

    Another for-profit university has been acquired by a not-for-profit one. Details in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via Campus Technology: “Education Data Breaches Double in First Half of 2017.”

    “Why the State of Surveillance in Schools Might Lead to the Next Equifax Disaster,” according to Edsurge, with a strange selection of products that might expose students’ data – none of which share any investors with Edsurge.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    “Boys are not defective,” Amanda Ripley writes in The Atlantic. “Girls in the Middle East do better than boys in school by a greater margin than almost anywhere else in the world: a case study in motivation, mixed messages, and the condition of boys everywhere.”

    Via Times Higher Education: “Online courses ‘more time-consuming’ to prepare for, study says.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Brookings Institution has released survey results showing that many college students lack understanding of or support for the legal principles of the First Amendment.”

    “Rejecting Growth Mindset and Grit at Three Levels” by P. L. Thomas.

    Via Campus Technology: “Report: AI, IoT, Cyber Threats Will Shape the Internet’s Future.”

    “How Big is the LMS Market?” asks Inside Higher Ed’s Joshua Kim. Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill responds.

    Edutechnica offers its“5th Annual LMS Data Update.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Cloud Computing Market Poised to Grow in Education Sector, Report Finds.”

    The RAND Corporation has released a report on “Designing Innovative High Schools.”

    Via Education Week: “Student Research Looks at Sleep Habits After Technology Roll-Out.”

    WaPo’s Valerie Strauss covers a recent study from the Stanford History Education Group on NAEP: “The ‘nation’s report card’ says it assesses critical thinking in history– but NAEP gets an F on that score.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A survey by e-textbook provider VitalSource has found that 50 percent of students who delayed buying textbooks because of high prices saw their grades suffer as a result.”

    Edsurge writes up the latest report from EducationSuperhighway on e-rate connectivity at public schools.

    From the Navitas Ventures’ website: a report on the “Global EdTech Landscape 3.0– 15,000 teams building the future of education.” We’re only at 3.0, eh?

    Private equity investors are looking for someone to take an Amazon approach to online education,” says PEHub, demonstrating that private equity investors control a lot of money but understand very little about edu.

    Research from Catarina Player-Koro, Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt, and Neil Selwyn: “Selling tech to teachers: education trade shows as policy events.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 09/29/17--05:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    President Trump Earmarks $200 Million in Federal Grants for STEM, Computer Science Programs,” says Edsurge, later swooning thatGoogle, Facebook, Amazon Among Tech Titans Committing $300 Million to K–12 Computer Science.” “Amazon, Facebook and others in tech will commit $300 million to the White House's new computer science push,” says Recode. Not so fast, says Doug Levin: “Scant Details, Fuzzy Math in $500 Million Public-Private Computer Science Education Push.” Trump has, of course, proposed some $9 billion in funding cuts to the Department of Education, so this is hardly “new money.”

    “Dear Mrs. Trump” by Liz Phipps Soeiro– why the librarian refused the books the First Lady sent to her school.

    Via The New Republic: “Betsy DeVos is headlining Harvard’s Koch-backed conference on school choice– with no critics of school choice.”

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos speaks at Harvard– and guests were told they would be escorted out if disruptive.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “DeVos Says Obama-Era Consumer Rule Was Akin to ‘Free Money’.”

    Via Vice: “How DeVos’ New Rules on Campus Sexual Assault Discriminate Against Survivors.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What You Need to Know About the New Guidance on Title IX.”

    Via Education Week: “Betsy DeVos Viewed Unfavorably by 40 Percent of Voters, New Poll Says.” She has the highest “very unfavorable” rating of anyone in Trump’s cabinet.

    From the Department of Education press office: “U.S. Department of Education Awards $253 Million in Grants to Expand Charter Schools.”

    Also from the Department of Education press office: “Additional Senior Staff Appointments Announced by Secretary DeVos.”

    Via EdScoop: “Two edtech champions to join White House offices as fellows.” That’s Jake Steel, a TFA alum, and Crystal Moore, formerly at Fullbridge.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Justice Department Will Back Suit on ‘Free Speech’ Zone.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Jeff Sessions Adds to Trumpian Chorus on Campus Speech Limits.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Jeff Sessions Defends Trump On NFL Criticism At Campus Free Speech Talk.”

    “What Sessions doesn’t know about free speech on campus” – an op-ed by Davidson College’s Issac Bailey.

    Inside Higher Ed on the “Return of the College Scoreboard”: “The Department of Education published updated information on the College Scorecard Thursday, including a new feature that allows students to compare data from up to 10 institutions at once.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A newly proposed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would grant broad waivers to accreditors aimed at allowing them to bypass federal requirements in order to encourage innovation and to reduce ‘administrative burdens.’”

    Via Education Week: “FCC Seeks Comment on Access to WiFi for Schools and Libraries.”

    Via The Telegraph: “Saudi Arabia accidentally prints textbook showing Yoda sitting next to the king.” (Worth clicking on this link just to see the image.)

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The Dallas Morning News: “1 in 4 Texas students affected by Harvey, education chief tells Dallas business leaders.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Some Schools Are Banning Students From Kneeling During The National Anthem.”

    Via the ACLU’s website: “ACLU of Louisiana Condemns School Official’s Threats to Students’ First Amendment Rights.”

    Via The Intercept: “A Los Angeles School Board Scandal Could Upend Plans By Charter Backers to Take Over Public Schools.”

    Via the Associated Press: “The state says Ohio’s largest online charter school could owe another $20 million for failing to verify enrollment properly.” That’s the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which is already having to repay Ohio some $60 million.

    Meanwhile, the state has given initial approval for ECOT to become a “dropout school.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “After years of attempts, Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, has successfully eliminated the state’s Education Approval Board as an independent agency tasked with overseeing for-profit colleges.”

    Via Ars Technica: “Proposed New Mexico science standards edit out basic facts.”

    Immigration and Education

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “President Trump on Sunday evening issued new restrictions on travel to the U.S. to replace a 90-day ban on travel for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries. The 90-day ban, which expired Sunday, was widely opposed by colleges and universities concerned about the flow of international students and scholars to their campuses.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via The Baltimore Sun: “State Prosecutor investigating former Baltimore County School Supt. Dallas Dance.” The investigation has to do with Dance’s connection to SUPES Academy – the same thing that got Chicago Public Schools’ head Barbara Byrd-Bennett in hot water.

    Via the Future of Privacy Forum: “Law Enforcement Access to Student Records: What Is the Law?”

    Via The New York Times: “The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a case that could deal a crushing blow to organized labor. … [T]he court will consider whether public-sector unions may require workers who are not members to help pay for collective bargaining. If the court’s answer is no, unions would probably lose a substantial source of revenue.”

    The New York Times looks at“A Legal Industry Built on Private School Sex Abuse.”

    “Free College”


    Inside Higher Ed onBaltimore’s “free college” plans.

    Via The Tennessean: “Tennessee Promise students more likely to succeed in college, less likely to drop out, new data shows.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via The Detroit Free Press: “How freezing credit after Equifax will shut you out of some student loans.”

    Via Reuters: “After spate of suicides, China targets predatory student lending.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “National Default Rate for Student Loans Rises, Breaking Streak of Declines.” More via Buzzfeed.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “In Reversal, Former Globe U Campuses to Close.”

    Via The Phoenix New Times: “University of Phoenix Phasing Out Campuses; Current Students Not Affected, School Says.”

    More on the new for-profit higher ed – coding bootcamps – in the job training section below. And more on regulating for-profits (or not) in the state politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Responses to last week’s news about Western Governors University and the audit of its competency-based offerings: Via NPR: “Who Is A College Teacher, Anyway? Audit Of Online University Raises Questions.”

    Two responses from Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “WGU Audit Findings: Interpretations of ‘regular and substantive’ and self-paced’.” And “WGU Audit: Likely impacts for fragile movement of competency-based education.” (No disclosure on either of these that WGU has been a client of Hill’s.)

    Juilliard has joinededX.

    Via Open Culture: “Martin Scorsese to Teach His First Online Course on Filmmaking.” (This is via the celebrity teacher platform Masterclass.)

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via Citylab: “How America’s Most Integrated School Segregated Again.” That’s West Charlotte High School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    Via The LA Times: “ Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; some speakers plan rally on campus on Sunday.” More via Buzzfeed.

    Via The New York Times: “What Stunts Like Milo Yiannopoulos’s ‘Free Speech Week’ Cost.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “A Bronx student stabbed two classmates, killing a 15-year-old boy.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Emails Show How An Ivy League Prof Tried To Do Damage Control For His Bogus Food Science.” That’s Brian Wansink of Cornell University and his research on “smart lunchrooms.”

    Bryan Alexander with the latest in his monitoring of campuses’ “queen sacrifices” – “Stony Brook launches a queen sacrifice by cutting humanities and humanists.”

    Via The LA Times: “UC Irvine aims to transform public health with record-breaking $200-million donation.” A follow-up from Cory Doctorow: “Deluded billionaire gives UC Irvine $200M to study homeopathy and ‘alternative’ therapies.”

    Via CBS San Francisco: “Monsanto Caught Ghostwriting Stanford University Hoover Institution Fellow’s Published Work.”

    “I Taught At The XQ Houston Super Schoolby Gary Rubenstein.

    Via The Pacific Standard: “For the First Time, a Female Officer Completed the Marines’ Grueling Infantry Officer Training Course.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    Via the Northeastern press office: “Northeastern University and IBM partnership first to turn digital badges into academic credentials for learners worldwide.”

    Via Hackernoon: “A Revolutionary Approach to Academic Validation Using Ethereum.” See how many factual errors you can find in this article!

    Edsurge profiles the latest from Degreed: “This Company Wants to Help You Hire for Skills, Not Credentials.” (No disclosure that Edsurge shares investors with the company.)

    There’s more on accreditation in the national politics section above.

    Testing, Testing…


    Inside Higher Ed on the latest SAT scores.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via ESPN: “NCAA basketball coaches among 10 charged with fraud, corruption.” More on the fraud investigation from The Chronicle of Higher Education and from NPR.

    Via The New York Times: “Rick Pitino Is Out at Louisville Amid F.B.I. Investigation.” His attorney says he will fight for the right to be paid the full value of his contract, which runs through 2026 – that’s over $40 million in salary and bonuses.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Rutgers University escaped the most serious punishments by the National Collegiate Athletic Association after its football players failed drug tests and were still allowed to compete and the team’s former head coach tried to persuade a professor to help improve an athlete's grades.”

    There’s more on how schools are responding to their athletes’ decision to protest during the national anthem in the politics section above. And there’s more on how schools and companies violate athletes’ privacy in the data and privacy section below.

    From the HR Department


    Equifax CEO Richard Smith says he will resign from his position after news broke that the company had suffered a massive data breach. He’ll collect $90 million on the way out the door.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Edsurge: “As US Tech Companies Look to Mexico, Coding Bootcamps Follow.”

    “This Is What Coding Bootcamps Need To Do To Beat The Backlash” – according to Fast Company.

    From the Amazon blog: “Introducing Free Alexa Skills Courses by Codecademy.”

    There’s more “research” on the business of job training in the “research” section below.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Can machine learning unlock the keys to great teaching?asks Michael Petrilli.

    Can Technology-augmented Academic Advising Improve College Graduation Rates?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


    Via Edsurge: “20 By 2020: Quizlet’s Big Revenue Ambitions From Third-Party Content Partners.”

    “Caution: Chromebooks,” writes Gary Stager.

    Y Combinator has posted a“Request for Education Startups.” (Here’s the list of education-related companies and people involved with YC.)

    Via Techcrunch: “Uber adds a new feature for riders that teaches basic sign language.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Microsoft Moves to Enable Streamlined Purchasing of Bundled Products for Education.”

    NCTM and the Math Forumby Tracy Zager.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Education Week: “How ‘Intelligent’ Tutors Could Transform Teaching.”

    Via Getting Smart: “Using Robots to Teach Elementary Students About Human Nature.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation have announced $2 million for “education-related recovery from recent hurricanes,” the AP reports.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Gaosi Education has raised $83.52 million from AlphaX Partners Fund, China Media Capital, China International Capital Corporation, Loyal Valley Innovation Capital, Sinovation Ventures, and The Hina Group.

    Job recruitment platform EquitySim has raised $3.1 million in seed funding from 500 Startups, Peak Ventures, and University Ventures.

    Tutoring company Varsity Tutors has acquired tutoring company First Tutors.

    Testing company Taskstream-Tk20 has acquired testing company LiveText.

    Data company IO Education has acquired student information system company eSchoolData.

    Via Bloomberg: “Whitney Tilson to Shut Hedge Fund After ‘Sustained’ Poor Returns.”

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    New America’s Manuela Ekowo writing in Edsurge: “As the University of South Africa Considers Predictive Analytics, Ethical Hoops Emerge.”

    A new report from Data & Society: “Privacy, Security, and Digital Inequality– How Technology Experiences and Resources Vary by Socioeconomic Status, Race, and Ethnicity.”

    Via India Today: “In order to keep a track on efficiency and research skills, around 5,000 class 8 students of Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) are being given tablets as a part of a pilot project. They will especially be used for science and mathematics and will allow teachers to keep a track on whether students are actually studying at home.” (Kendriya Vidyalayas are central government-run schools in India.)

    Hacked Twitter Accounts a New Headache for Schools,” Education Week’s Ben Herold reports.

    Edsurge on“How to Protect Education Data When No Systems Are Secure.” The story features two companies who’ve experienced data breaches – Edmodo and Schoolzilla. No disclosure that Edsurge shares investors with both.

    Via The New York Times: “Technology Used to Track Players’ Steps Now Charts Their Sleep, Too.”

    What happens to all that data that these (unprofitable and likely to fail) startups collect in education? One answer: “Selling data to feed hedge fund computers is one of the hottest areas of finance right now,” says Quartz.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    From the World Bank blog: “A crisis in learning: 9 charts from the 2018 World Development Report.” More on the World Development report here.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “District Officials Think They Know Open Ed. Resources, But Grasp Is Surface-Level, Survey Finds.”

    Via Education Week: “U.S. Adults Outperformed by Rest of Developed World in Numeracy, New Comparison Finds.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “The high school grads least likely in America to go to college? Rural ones.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New Research on First Generation Students.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Survey: Faculty Getting More Confident in Tech Skills, but Students’ Skills Are Slipping.”

    Getting Smart’s Tom Vander Ark on a new report from Pearson: “The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030.”

    Via The Guardian: “ ‘Junk science’: experts cast doubt on widely cited college free speech survey.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New data from the U.S. Federal Reserve on changes in family income show that Americans without a college degree, and African-Americans and Hispanic families, had the most rapid increase in wealth from 2013 to 2016. However, college degree holders are still far more wealthy, as are white families (with almost 10 times the wealth of African-American households).”

    There’s new data on student loan defaults in the business of student loans section above.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new federal report projects that enrollment in American postsecondary institutions will climb 15 percent from 2014 to 2025, with larger proportional increases among adult than traditional-age students, women than men, graduate students than undergraduates, and minority students than white students.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Enrollment in graduate school is up, continuing a trend in first-time graduate students researchers have seen for five years. But growth rates are starting to dip, according to numbers from a new report the Council of Graduate Schools co-published with the Graduate Record Examinations Board.”

    The non-profit Youth Truth is out with a survey on student bullying.

    Via Chalkbeat: “When charter schools unionize, students learn more, study finds.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Annual report from Scholars at Risk tracks threats to students, academics and their universities worldwide.”

    “Young people oppose Fitbits in schools,” according to research reported by The Conversation.

    Via General Assembly: “Data Science Education Lags Behind in Diversity.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Number of single moms in college doubled in 12 years, so why aren’t they graduating?”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Black and Hispanic students in New York City most likely to be arrested and handcuffed, data shows.”

    Education Isn’t the Key to a Good Income,” Rachel Cohen writes in The Atlantic.

    “Some Technology Leaders Worry about Children and Digital Devices: They Should,” says Stanford University’s Larry Cuban.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 10/06/17--04:10: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    Ivanka Trump with an op-ed in The New York Post: “Why we need to start teaching tech in Kindergarten.” (Spoiler alert: because five-year-olds need coding skills so they can get jobs. Lazy, lazy, little children.)

    The Huffington Post filed Twitter’s response to Ivanka Trump’s announcement under “comedy.” Or maybe her announcement itself was comedy?

    Related, via Salon: “Silicon Valley’s $300M donation to STEM education is not what it seems.”

    Via Politico: “DeVos’ security detail could cost up to $6.54M over the next year.”

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos rejects invitation to meet with former for-profit college students.”

    “The White House on Monday announced that it would nominate Mitchell “Mick” Zais as deputy secretary of education,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Trump Taps Common-Core Foe Mick Zais for No. 2 Post at Ed. Dept.” is how Education Week describes the news.

    Via Buzzfeed: “The Justice Department Is Investigating Harvard’s Admissions Practices.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Inside the Free-Speech Case That Caught Jeff Sessions’ Eye.” It’s a case from Georgia Gwinnett College.

    Via The Seattle Times: “Glitch fixed, federal online student-aid application form is back online.”

    Andy Smarick worries that conservatives are divided over education reform.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Politico: “About 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s 1,113 public schools are accounted for, meaning the condition of most schools is unknown. Almost all of Puerto Rico’s schools remain without electricity or running water. Just 22 schools with running water and basic supplies will start holding informal classes today in an attempt to kickstart recovery.”

    Via The Washington Post: “D.C. says charter school board violated city law in vote on expanding charters.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Politico: “The Kansas Supreme Court rejected the state’s school funding system in a ruling issued Monday that found it runs afoul of the state’s constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund its school districts.”

    Via The Intercept: “Conservative Provocateur James O’Keefe’s Group Hit With Restraining Order, Blocking Latest Sting.” The case involves the Michigan affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

    More on lawsuits in the student loan section below.

    “Free College”


    “How to Pay for Free Community College,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

    NPR on New York’s “free college” program: “‘Biggest-Ever Free College’ Program Reaches 6 Percent Of New York Students.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans.”

    Via the AP: “A new federal lawsuit by Pennsylvania’s attorney general says the nation’s largest student loan company engaged in abusive practices that have cost borrowers billions of dollars.” The largest student loan company is Navient.

    More Navient news in “the business of ed-tech” section below. And there’s more on for-profits and student loans in the research section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via ProPublica: “For-Profit Schools Get State Dollars For Dropouts Who Rarely Drop In.” This story looks at EdisonLearning, formerly Edison Schools.

    There’s more on for-profits and student loans in the research section below. And there’s more on for-profits and the Trump administration in the national politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via Politico: Western Governors University, “the nation’s leading provider of competency-based education – which the Education Department’s independent watchdog last month said violated federal student aid rules – is expanding into North Carolina.”

    Academy Coinbitcoin for online education or something.

    In the future, you might want to look for most MOOC-related news in the “business of job training” section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    “Alt-Right: How the Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hateby Joe Bernstein in Buzzfeed. Do keep this in mind, universities, when you insist that Milo deserves a platform to speak on your campus.

    “Death at a Penn State Fraternityby The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan.

    White supremacist Richard Spencer will speak at the University of Florida, which says it will spend $500,000 on security for the event.

    Via Jezebel: “FBI Arrests White Man Who Threatened to Murder Howard University Students.”

    “According to my observations, the standard Seattle Nazi is a white male under 30 who either works in the tech industry or is going to school to work in the tech industry” – from David Lewis’ story in The Stranger about white nationalists in Seattle. Good thing Seattle isn’t the center of computer science or computer science education!

    Via NPR: “How Schools Are Dealing With Students’ Right To Protest.” More on student athletes protests in the sports section below.

    Via The Baltimore Sun: “Pumpkin spice scent prompts Baltimore school evacuation.”

    The Atlantic on the decision of the Las Vegas School District to keep schools open on Monday: “Returning to Class the Morning After a Massacre.”

    Grace University will close at the end of the school year.

    Via The LA Times: “At UCLA, a dorm floor dedicated to first-generation students.”

    Via EdScoop: “USC launches edtech research center focused on underrepresented youth.”

    University of Wisconsin System to Migrate From D2L Brightspace to Canvas LMS” by Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Ohio State University and Apple on Wednesday announced a collaboration that will start a digital learning effort at the university that Apple and university officials said may represent the company’s most ambitious program in higher education.”

    Via Education Week: “In hurricanes’ aftermath, technology eases return to school.” (The narrative structure of these sorts of articles is always the same: crisis occurs; tech will save the day. Let’s not worry that there are many people who do not have access to electricity, let alone Internet, let alone digital devices.)

    Accreditation and Certification


    Via Edsurge: “More Colleges Are Offering Microcredentials– And Developing Them The Way Businesses Make New Products.”

    Related? Via The New York Post: “CUNY professor allegedly sold fake medical certificates.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “AIR Poised to Win Three State Testing Contracts Worth At Least $84 Million.”

    Via Education Week: “Vendor wins $43M contract for Indiana’s ISTEP replacement.” Again, this vendor is AIR.

    Washington University in St. Louis will accept the GRE (not just the LSAT) for law school admissions.

    More testing news is framed by Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, below.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The Courier-Journal: “Rick Pitino raked in 98% of the cash from University of Louisville’s current Adidas deal.” That deal is worth $160 million. Pitino was suspended recently for his involvement in a corruption scandal. You do the math.

    Via The Washington Post: “Texas high school coach boots football players for anthem protest.”

    Via Raw Story: “Christian school boots black players off football team for protesting during anthem.”

    From the HR Department


    Albemarle County Public Schools’ superintendent Pam Moran– truly one of the great school administrators – has announced that she plans to retire in June.

    Via The Nation: “This University Suggested International Students Could Be Reported to ICE if They Unionized.” “This university” is Washington University in St. Louis.

    Another USC med school scandal. Via The LA Times: “ USC medical school dean out amid revelations of sexual harassment claim, $135,000 settlement with researcher.”

    Via the AP: “The superintendent of a suburban Cleveland school district who was caught on video at a high school football game pulling down the pants of the school board vice president has been suspended.”

    The Business of Job Training


    “Questioning the Unquestionable: Schools and the Economyby Larry Cuban.

    Via the edX blog: “Higher Education Needs a Re-think to Train Tomorrow’s Workforce.”

    “How can institutions build students’ 21st century workforce skills? Send them abroad,” says Education Dive.

    Via Techcrunch: “OpenClassrooms and Capgemini team up and launch an online apprenticeship program.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Salesforce, the world’s largest customer relationship management platform, has announced a new classroom-ready training scheme called Trailhead for Students.” The new software is supposed to get students ready for “the Salesforce economy,” whatever the hell that means.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    “‘Eton for all’: will robot teachers mean everyone gets an elite education?asks The New Statesman.

    Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Is Homework Compatible With Personalized Learning?asks Edsurge.

    No State Will Measure Social-Emotional Learning Under ESSA. Will That Slow Its Momentum?asks Education Week.

    ​Can Online Teaching Work at Liberal-Arts Colleges?asks Edsurge.

    Do Medical Schools Still Need Books?asks Inside Higher Ed. Shrug. Guess not.

    Will education publications stop using this formulation in their headlines?

    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


    Google had a big media to-do this week. Were there any education updates? Not sure. This story probably fits better under the surveillance section below. Via Ars Technica: “Google unveils a $249 smart camera that decides what’s worth photographing.”

    This, from Edsurge, is pretty awful: “Why Edtech Executives Are Keeping a Close Eye on Preschool Demographics.” It ties in to Ivanka Trump’s interest in the PreK market, no doubt – see the top story above. (She’s an investor in a company that targets that group.) So follow that narrative and network of financial relationships… But this article also underscores how everyone’s a market to ed-tech and how responsiveness to demographic shifts do not involve structural change but rather product development.

    More potential markets! Via Curbed: “School buses: A massive mass transit system in need of a tech upgrade.”

    Via Techcrunch: “A list of everything Magic Leap has released so far.” Useful for when you hear ed-tech evangelists swoon about how this company is going to revolutionize education.

    “Why Flipped Learning Is Still Going Strong 10 Years Later,” according to Edsurge.

    Via Edsurge: “NYC Keeps Its Edtech Accelerator Revving With New Funders and Markets.” Although plenty of other ed-tech accelerators have failed, this one – the “NYU Steinhardt Edtech Accelerator powered by StartEd” – is being bankrolled in part with funding from Rethink Education and Southern New Hampshire University.

    Via Techcrunch: “Kahoot launches premium version aimed at corporate training market.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Publisher Elsevier has announced the launch of ScienceDirect Topics, an information platform that has been compared to Wikipedia.”

    Via FT: “The secret lives of children and their phones.”

    Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will offer a scholarship“to ‘cut through’ unequal access to opportunity.” It’s only available to KIPP graduates so put a little asterisk next to this notion of equality.

    “Too Many People Dream of a Charmed Life in Academia,” says Bloomberg.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Mattel and Google: a double standard for AI toys?” by Nicholas Carr.

    There’s more about Mattel’s robots and privacy in the privacy section below.

    Via The Post and Courier: “Coming soon to some S.C. classrooms: An army of robots to help autistic students learn social skills.”

    Via Ed-Tech Magazine: “AI Is on the Upswing in Optimizing K–12 Education.”

    Via MIT Technology Review: “Colleges Are Marketing Drone Pilot Courses, but the Career Opportunities Are Murky.”

    Campus Technology with the latest robot predictions (a.k.a. market research press release): “AI, Merging of Digital and Physical Worlds Among Top 10 Tech Trends for 2018.”

    The latest Pew Research report addresses the future of automation. More in the research section below. And, of course, there are robot stories in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    The LMS Moodle has raised $6 million in its first ever round of venture funding. The investor was Education For The Many.

    Workbench Platform has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from Brown Advisory. The project-based learning startup has raised $2.95 million total.

    Biba has raised $1.3 million in seed funding – or rather, it did so back in September, but I’d miss the news. Investors in the company were Greg Zeschuk, Jason Kapalka, and Leonite Capital. The company makes AR games that supposedly encourage playground activities.

    Curiscope has raised $1 million in seed funding from LocalGlobe, Ascension Ventures, Force Over Mass, Richard Fearn, and ustwo Adventure. The company makes AR / VR education content (on t-shirts).

    Student loan provider Navient will acquire student loan provider Earnest for $155 million.

    Campus Management Corp has acquired the following tools from Hobsons: ApplyYourself, AppReview, Connect, Radius, and Retain CRM.

    The second education IPO of the year: RYB Education, a Chinese private preschool company. Wait, I sense a theme in this week’s stories about profiting from preschoolers, don’t you?

    My latest report on ed-tech and venture capital is in the research section below.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via The Washington Post: “Actually, every single Yahoo account got hacked in 2013.”

    Via The New York Times: “Mattel Pulls Aristotle Children’s Device After Privacy Concerns.”

    I’m not even sure how to describe this story, and the headline doesn’t really do justice to it: “‘Dark Overlord’ Hackers Text Death Threats to Students, Then Dump Voicemails From Victims.”

    Via Alternet: “How Hackers Held an Entire School District Hostage.”

    Via Motherboard: “Replacing Social Security Numbers Is Harder Than You Think.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Getting Faculty Members to Embrace Student Data.” Also via The Chronicle: “How 2 Professors Used Data to Improve Their Courses.” Keep playing that data drumbeat.

    There’s more about privacy and robots in the robots section above.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    My latest report on ed-tech and venture capital: “The Business of Ed-Tech: September 2017 Funding Data.”

    Via Edsurge: “Watch That Hand: Why Videos May Not Be the Best Medium for Knowledge Retention.” My favorite thing about this was that, just the day before, Edsurge had touted how “flipped learning” is still a big thing – story linked above – but neither piece recognize one another. It’s like the left hand has no clue what the right hand is up to.

    Via the AP: “Students who attended for-profit colleges were twice as likely or more to default on their loans than students who attended public schools, according to a federal study published Thursday.”

    Via Education Week: “RAND Researchers Make It Clear: Personalized Learning Is Difficult to Do.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Report: VR and AR Headsets to See 50% Growth Every Year Through 2021.”

    More predictions from Campus Technology: “IT Spending to Top $3.65 Trillion in 2018.”

    Via Education Week: “To Ban or Not to Ban? Technology, Education, and the Media.”

    Via The Guardian: “Growing social media backlash among young people, survey shows.”

    The latest Pew Research Center report: “Automation in Everyday Life.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    Inside Higher Ed asked a group of “experts”“what should Ivanka Trump read in order to learn about education technology?” I submitted an answer but it was not what they were looking for. So I’m publishing my thoughts (or 500 words, at least) here.

    Perhaps the better question is: what should Ivanka Trump not read in order to learn about education technology. It’s clear from her op-ed in The New York Post that she is quite familiar with the slogans and statistics that organizations like Code.org promote. She seems familiar too with the kinds of arguments readily found in tech and ed-tech industry publications and press releases: that computing is inevitable, and progress demands it. We have all heard these stories about the future: new technologies will make education more efficient, more accessible, more scalable; students’ education will become more “personalized”; and/or it will be increasingly oriented towards the demands of the technology industry and a “new economy” – “training” as Trump repeats five times in her op-ed.

    “Learning” is only mentioned once. Lots of other words that might be used to describe the purpose of school – higher education or otherwise – are also missing from Trump’s essay. Curiosity. Civics. Citizenship. Scholarship. Research. The liberal arts. We can probably tell a lot already about her reading list by their absence, because again, this reflects the monomaniacal focus on framing education as about “skills” and jobs – a focus shared by the Trump administration and by the educational marketing and storytelling emanating from the tech industry.

    Trump contends the White House will push for computer science to alter “not just what we teach, but how we teach.” This would require a shift not only in the curriculum but in the process, the pedagogy. But other than the repeated invocation of “training,” there’s no real sense of what a new pedagogical direction might involve – unless, that is, you read her call for more “problem solving” as some sort of twenty-first century update to “project-based learning.” But I don’t think Ivanka Trump has read much John Dewey.

    Problem-solving, Trump suggests, is not being taught in schools today. Of course it is, but in her formulation – one that’s been repeated by former Obama administration officials recently as well– computer science is touted as “the universal language of problem solving.” This implies that all problems are technical problems; all problems are engineering problems. There are no problems of ethics, beauty, or justice – or rather, ethics, beauty, and justice are now subsumed under the realm of “code.” To see coding as a “universal language” also subsumes the needs to communities – scholarly and otherwise – to the needs of the tech industry, to the demands of global capital.

    Trump has clearly read enough and knows enough already to recognize education technology is a perfect vehicle for Silicon Valley ideology. And there’s not much about much of that ideology – steeped in individualism and libertarianism – that she or her father oppose.

    I’ve also written about Ivanka Trump’s ed-tech industry network– what we know about her ed-tech investments and the people who’ve also invested in the same (and same types of) companies. To claim that she’s uninformed about all this seems to be to be wildly naive.


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  • 10/13/17--03:30: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “What Ivanka Trump Knows about Ed-Tech” by me. Thoughts from other “experts” in Inside Higher Ed. Also by me: “The Ivanka Trump Ed-Tech Industry Network.”

    “Even Pokémon Go used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort,” says CNN. Congrats to everyone who argued that Pokémon Go was the future of education. You have really done your part to extend civic values.

    Via The New York Times: “U.S. Will Withdraw From Unesco, Citing Its ‘Anti-Israel Bias’.” UNESCO is the UN’s educational and cultural organization.

    Via the AP: “The Department of Veterans Affairs abruptly dropped plans Wednesday to suspend an ethics law barring employees from receiving benefits from for-profit colleges. The move comes after criticism from government watchdogs who warned of financial entanglements with private companies vying for millions in GI Bill tuition.”

    Via Edsurge: “Betsy DeVos Visits Bay Area Public School for a Lesson in Personalized Learning.”

    Via The Huffington Post: “Roy Moore Once Compared Preschool To Nazi-Style Indoctrination.” Roy Moore recently won the Republican primary in the race for one of Alabama's Senate seats.

    Inside Higher Ed on“The New, Improved IPEDS.” IPEDS is the government’s database tracking post-secondary education statistics, including enrollments and graduations.

    Via NPR: “After 3 Years Under ISIS, Mosul’s Children Go Back To School.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via NPR: “The Monumental Task Of Reopening Puerto Rico’s Schools.”

    Via Education Week: “One of the nation’s largest online charter schools said it will close within four months, in the middle of the school year, if Ohio’s efforts to recoup $60 million or more in disputed funding aren’t halted.”

    Via Education Week: “Florida Virtual School Will Accept 20,000 Puerto Rican Students.” Do Puerto Rican students have Internet and electricity back yet?

    Via EdSource: “Virtual charter academies in California must refund nearly $2 million to state.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “A 1998 agreement that put the New York City police in charge of school safety has never been revised – until now.”

    Via NPR: “What’s Changed In South Carolina Schools Since Violent Student Arrest.”

    Immigration and Education


    “Losing My Legal Status In This Country Feels Like A Cruel Joke” by Buzzfeed contributor and DACA recipient Jason Koh.

    Education in the Courts


    Via Education Week: “A Maine teacher who pleaded guilty to shoplifting a $14.99 blouse after winning the $1 million Global Teacher Prize is accused of violating her conditions of release by stealing a $28 dog leash.”

    Via Edsurge: “Major Publishers Dismiss Lawsuit Against Follett Corporation.” Publishers dropped the lawsuit, more accurately, which claimed that Follett was selling counterfeit copies of textbooks.

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Bloomberg: “Black Americans Twice as Likely as Whites to Default on Student Debt.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via The Washington Post: “A hiccup in Purdue’s acquisition of for-profit Kaplan University.” Via The Journal & Courier: “Purdue disputes claims Kaplan deal leaves taxpayers on hook.”

    Via Mother Jones: “Betsy DeVos Champions For-Profit Schools That Are Deceiving Taxpayers and Vulnerable Students.”

    Via ProPublica: “For-Profit Schools Reward Students for Referrals and Facebook Endorsements.”

    There’s more news on for-profits in the national politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    MOOCs are dead, according to Udacity’s VP. The Economic Times of India reports that “Udacity to focus on individual student projects.” Never one to let a good MOOC story pass them by, Edsurge repeats the story. “MOOCs Are ”Dead.“ What’s Next? Uh-oh,” writes John Warner in IHE.

    Also via Edsurge: “MIT Moves Beyond the MOOC to Court Companies, Professional Learners.”

    More news about online education and virtual charter schools in California, Florida, and Ohio in the state news section above.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    “How the School-to-Prison Pipeline Works” by Mariame Kaba in Teen Vogue.

    This story from Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy is… something: “Meet The ‘Young Saints’ Of Bethel Who Go To College To Perform Miracles.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Inside an ‘Unprecedented’ Increase in Campus White-Supremacist Recruiting.”

    Via The Wisconsin State Journal: “University of Wisconsin officials announce plan to merge Colleges with four-year campuses.”

    Via The Washington Post: “‘In the event of a nuclear attack’: U-Hawaii’s curious email to students and staff.”

    Via The New York Times: “Yale Endowment, Often a Pacesetter, Is a Laggard This Time.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Drexel Puts Professor on Leave After Tweet About Las Vegas Draws Conservative Ire.” It’s so important to watch how the whole “free speech” thing on campus plays out – that is, whose“free speech” gets defended.

    Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Purdue’s President Says Free-Speech Policy Forces Him to Defend Faculty Critic.”

    Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Berkeley‘s $800,000 Did – and Didn’t – Buy During ’Free Speech Week’.”

    Via The Journal Sentinel: “The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Friday passed a policy pushed by Republican state lawmakers to punish students on UW campuses who repeatedly disrupt campus speakers with opposing views.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “An assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas has apologized for blaming President Trump for the recent shooting massacre in the city after a student secretly recorded her comments and shared them with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.” The White House wants an investigation.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Campus Carry in Spotlight After Police Officer’s Death.”

    Via The Hollywood Reporter: “USC Rejects Harvey Weinstein’s $5M Women’s Program Donation.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How the CIA secretly exploits higher education.”

    Boston University and Wheelock College have reached a deal on their merger.

    Via Edsurge: “​Inside the Incubators: The Anatomy of a University Innovation Team.”

    “The History of School Lunchesby Malcolm Harris.

    Accreditation and Certification


    Via The New York Times: “Some Charter Schools Can Certify Their Own Teachers, Board Says.” I look forward to this logic being applied to doctors.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Quality Assurance Commons for Higher & Postsecondary Education is a new group that is exploring alternative approaches to accreditation in higher education. With funding from the Lumina Foundation and through the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the QA Commons last week announced a pilot project to assess higher education programs at 14 institutions around the country.”

    Via Forbes: “How Blockchain Can Stamp Out China’s Fake Diplomas.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Pearson is fighting to halt a decision by the state of Iowa to award a $31 million testing contract to the American Institutes for Research, arguing that the scoring of bids was riddled with ‘preferential treatment and bias.’”

    Via The Fayette Tribune: “All West Virginia high school juniors will begin taking the SAT as the statewide summative assessment in spring 2018, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) announced earlier this month. The College Board was selected as the successful bidder following a competitive review process for the high school assessment.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association will not punish the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after it created fake courses in which students were given credit despite never attending classes, and no faculty members ever taught them.” Sham courses. Sham oversight from the NCAA.

    Via Deadspin: “How UNH Turned A Quiet Benefactor Into A Football-Marketing Prop.”

    Via MS News Now: “O’Bannon football players suspended from team for taking a knee during national anthem.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Albright College Athlete Is Dismissed From Team for Kneeling During National Anthem.”

    Via The New York Times: “An N.C.A.A. for Esports? Rivals Angle to Govern Campus Video Gaming.”

    Via The Atlantic: “Towns are weighing the practicality of artificial fields against the potential health risks for the kids who play on them.”

    From the HR Department


    I missed this news earlier this year. Coddy Johnson, hired last year as the COO of AltSchool, is back at the video game company Activision. “He was granted $15 million in stock options and performance-linked restricted shares that vest over four years, as well as a $2.2 million ‘contract inducement’ to come back,” Bloomberg reports.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via The New York Times: “Google Unveils Job Training Initiative With $1 Billion Pledge.”

    Contests and Awards


    The MacArthur Foundationannounced its new “geniuses.” Among the recipients of the fellowship: education writer Nikole Hannah-Jones.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Can VR be a tool for inspiring empathy in higher ed?asks Education Dive.

    (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


    Amazon is donating $10 million to Code.org. (You can see a list of all Code.org’s investors here.)

    Via Education Week: “Questions Linger Over Companies’ $300 Million Computer Science Pledge.”

    It’s 2017 and many critics agree that social media is full of trolls and harassers, that it helps subvert democracies here and abroad, but hey: “To Teach Digital Citizenship Effectively, Educators Say It’s Time to Unblock Social Media,” says Edsurge.

    And of course, there’s an app for that. Via Techcrunch: “Kudos wants to be a gentle introduction to social media sharing for kids.”

    Via Spectrum News: “Despite dearth of data, firms sell brain training as autism antidote.” US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is an investor in one of these companies: Neurocore.

    Edsurge on the Injini ed-tech accelerator in South Africa: “Why the World’s Youngest Continent Got an Edtech Accelerator.” The accelerator was founded by former State Secretary for Education Michael Gove’s policy advisor Jamie Martin.

    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Unizin Membership Now Set As Annual Fee Of Up To $427.5k.”

    Via LinkedIn: “Instructure is Utah’s newest $Billion Company.”

    Via the Microsoft press release: “Introducing Education Resources, a source of Open Educational Resources within Office 365.”

    Elsewhere in proprietary OER, via Inside Higher Ed: “Cengage will offer open educational resources, curated and adapted to include proprietary assessment tools, from $25 per student for general education courses.”

    Also via Inside Higher Ed: “ResearchGate, a popular tool used by scholars to share their work, is taking down many researchers’ work, apparently in response to demands from publishers.”

    TNW claims that “Socratic is morphing into a distraction-free ‘Snapchat for homework’.”

    Baruch College’s video-based feedback tool Vocat is now open source.

    “Why Do the Boy Scouts Want to Include Girls?” asks The Atlantic.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Techcrunch: “Mattel releases biologically inspired foldable robot bugs.”

    “New AI tool helps teachers tackle math,” eSchool News claims. The tool in question: IBM’s Teacher Advisor with Watson 1.0.

    10 Disruptions That Will Revolutionize Education,” according to Education Week. The list includes AI, of course.

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Via The New York Times: “Eli Broad, Patron of Los Angeles, to Step Down From His Philanthropy.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Andela has raised $40 million in Series C funding from GV (Google Ventures), Spark Capital, Salesforce Ventures, CRE Venture Capital, TLcom Capital Partners, VentureSouq, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, DBL Partners, and Amplo. The African coding bootcamp has raised $81 million total.

    Knowbox has raised $30 million in Series B funding from Bertelsmann Asia Investment Fund, TAL Education Group, Baidu Ventures, and New World Strategic Investment. The Chinese “homework help” company has raised $55.7 million total.

    Neverware has raised $6.5 million in Series B funding from Google Ventures. The company, which helps schools refurbish old computers by installing the Chrome OS, has raised $14 million total.

    Shaw Academy has raised $1.46 million in crowdfunding for its MOOC platform. Someone should inform them that MOOCs are dead.

    Qualified and Upswing have raised $75,000 from Village Capital, “which runs peer-selected startup competitions across the globe.”

    Venture capital firm Educapital has closed a $53 million fund to invest in education companies. Investors include Bpifrance, Hachette Livre, and Education for the Many.

    Apollo Global Management has acquiredWest Corporation, maker of SchoolMessenger, for $5.2 billion.

    Volaris Group has acquiredEdumate.

    I won’t include this in my calculations of ed-tech funding – despite all the proclamations that AR and VR are the future of education. Magic Leap– a wealthy vaporware company that claims it’s building something amazing with AR– is trying to raise $1 billion in funding. The company has raised $2.88 billion total – and has nothing to show for it.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Filter Bubbles and Privacy, and the Myth of the Privacy Settingby Bill Fitzgerald.

    Via The Verge: “Google’s Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything.”

    Similar news about Microsoft products. Via MakeUseOf: “Cortana Is Listening Into Your Skype Conversations.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Historians Blame Lack of Support for Slow Technology Uptake.”

    Via The New York Times Magazine: “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

    “Do You Know the Edtech Adoption Rules in Your State? SETDA’s New Guide May Help,” says Edsurge.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Demands From K–12 Schools for Contracts Surging at State, Local Level.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Small increases in course loads can increase the odds that students will stick with college and eventually graduate, particularly part-time students. That’s the central finding of a new report from Civitas Learning, a student success company with a focus on predictive analytics.”

    Via Bloomberg: “The Fraternity Paradox: Lower GPA, Higher Incomes.”

    Via the Pew Research Center: “Online Harassment 2017.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 10/20/17--04:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    From the White House Press Office: “President Donald J. Trump Proclaims October 15 through October 21, 2017, as National Character Counts Week.” The irony.

    “The U.S. Senate’s education committee on a party-line vote Wednesday advanced the nomination of Carlos Muñiz for general counsel at the Department of Education,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced a proposed settlement with a website whose ‘military-friendly’ rankings of colleges and universities allegedly promoted institutions that paid to be included.” The website: Victory Media.

    Also via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission and a group of states last week announced a coordinated law-enforcement action against deceptive student loan debt-relief scams. The crackdown so far has featured new cases and a judgment against scammers who allegedly used deception and false promises to reel in more than $95 million in illegal fees in recent years.”

    Via the BBC: “Tuition fee rise to £9,295 in Wales is scrapped.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “India tries coding camps, craft centers and all-girls schools to fight illiteracy.”

    Via The New York Times: “To Inspire Young Communists, China Turns to ‘Red Army’ Schools.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via WBEZ: “CPS Secretly Overhauled Special Education At Students’ Expense.” CPS, for those not up on their edu acronyms, is the Chicago Public Schools.

    Via The Los Angeles Times: “New law puts California on path to offering first year free at community colleges.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Eva Moskowitz looks back at her turn away from district schools, as she plans for 100 schools of her own.” Moskowitz is the founder of the Success Academy charter school chain.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Bill Would Bar U. of Wisconsin Employees From Working at Planned Parenthood.”

    Calling him an “unexpected ally” of Betsy DeVos, The Atlantic reports that “Jerry Brown, California’s Democratic governor, has vetoed a bill that would’ve codified into law Obama-era guidance on Title IX.”

    Via The LA Times: “ What Ref Rodriguez’s latest legal problems mean for the charter school movement.” The story notes that the LAUSD school board member does have support from Netflix’s Reed Hastings who has contributed $75,000 to his legal defense fund.

    New York City libraries have announced they plan to forgive the late fees of all children aged 17 and under in a one-time amnesty event,” The AP reports.

    Via CBS Minnesota: “Philando Fundraising Campaign Clears All St. Paul School Lunch Debt.”

    Via Edsurge: “The Makings (and Misgivings) of a Statewide Effort to Personalize Learning in Massachusetts.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies.”

    Bryan Alexander posits“One path forward for public higher education: ending in-state tuition discounts.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday blocking the implementation of a new iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban. The ban, which was scheduled to fully go into effect today, would block all would-be travelers from North Korea and Syria, in addition to prohibiting all immigrant travel and imposing various restrictions on certain types of nonimmigrant travel for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Venezuela and Yemen.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Attorneys general in 18 states have sued the U.S. Department of Education over the Trump administration’s move to pause enforcement of the so-called gainful-employment rule, which applies to vocational programs at nonprofit colleges and to all programs at for-profit institutions.” More via Buzzfeed.

    Via CNET: “Verizon to pay $17M to resolve FCC, Justice E-Rate probes.”

    “Free College”


    There’s more about free college plans in the state politics section above.

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Reuters: “SoFi withdraws U.S. banking application, citing leadership change.” “Leadership change” is really a nice way of putting a series of sexual harassment scandals. Anyway, looks like we’re back to referring to SoFi as a “student loan provider” and not some other new-fangled fin-tech darling. (SoFi is the ed-tech company that has raised the most venture capital. Pay attention.)

    More research on student loans in the research section below. And more on crackdowns on those who try to scam students into repayment plans in the politics section above. And more on who’s buying student loan companies in the “business of ed-tech” section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Edsurge: “Woz U? Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Launches Online School to Teach Software Development.” I suppose I could put this in “the business of job training” section, but as Woz U has partnered with the for-profit Southern Careers Institute, it probably should remain here in this section despite the glowing press it received from tech publications about how this venture is going to unlock tech careers. The school is listed in this 2015 story by Inside Higher Ed on for-profits “where more than half of federal student loan borrowers had not made a single dollar of progress in paying down their loans seven years after they became due.” Good job, Woz. And good job, tech journalists, on checking into the background of this for-profit and not just rewriting the press release. Oh wait… LOL.

    Via The NY Daily News: “Flatiron coding school to pay $375G for operating without a license, making false claims about its graduates.” More from Ars Technica and MarketWatch.

    “Who’s Holding Coding Bootcamp Accountability Accountable?” asks Edsurge. (I believe the answer is “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.”)

    Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “EDMC completes sale of schools to Dream Center.”

    More on legal actions surrounding for-profits in the courts section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via The GW Hatchet: “Oversight of online learning programs lacking in some schools, report finds.” The report was undertaken by the George Washington University Faculty Senate.

    Via the edX blog: “edX le da la bienvenida a la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba.”

    There’s more edX news in the HR section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via NPR: “White Nationalist Richard Spencer Met By Protesters At University Of Florida.” More on the event via Inside Higher Ed.

    Penn grad student says she’s under fire on campus and off for using a teaching technique that involves specifically calling on students from underrepresented groups,” Inside Higher Ed reports. More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Pro-Trump Protesters Shout Down Democrat’s Speech at Whittier College.”

    Via The New York Times: “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Removed From School in Mississippi.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ N.J. students walk out of high school to protest teacher’s ‘speak American’ comments.”

    “The Lure of the Lazy River” – The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jack Stripling on LSU’s new recreation center.

    Via The Clarion-Ledger: “A predominately black public school in Mississippi named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis will be stripped of that moniker next year and replaced with that of another president whose character students, parents and teachers have said is more fitting – Barack Obama.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “When Colleges Use Their Own Students to Catch Drug Dealers.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    “A Kayak for Credentials” – Inside Higher Ed onCredential Engine’s plans for a big database on post-secondary credentials.

    WGU Is Not Off the Hook,” says Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein, referring to the recent Department of Education report on the school’s status as a correspondence school (rather than a distance education provider).

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.” Because I can’t tell you how many times I have needed to prove I have a college degree but I didn’t have a digital copy of my diploma on my iPhone. So glad someone has solved this problem.

    Testing, Testing…


    More testing problems in Tennessee. Via The Tennessean: “Thousands of TNReady tests scored incorrectly.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In UNC Case, No Watchdog for Major Academic Fraud.” Also via The Chronicle: “Where the Buck Stopped in the UNC Fraud Scandal (Hint: Not at the Top).”

    From the HR Department


    EdX has a new COO and president: Adam Medros, formerly of TripAdvisor.

    More MOOC job changes: Techcrunch reports that “Coursera’s chief product officer just left to become a VC.” That’s Tom Willerer, who will join Venrock.

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches New Leadership Team,” according to EdWeek’s Market Brief.

    Changes too at another textbook company as David Levin, the CEO of McGraw Hill Educationannounced he’s stepping down.

    Leonard Medlock, formerly the head of Edsurge’s Concierge product, has moved onto another startup. It’s one of a number of departures from Edsurge recently: Mary Jo Madda is now at Google. And Allison Dulin Salisbury has become president of Entangled Studios.

    Grad students at the University of Chicago have voted to unionize.

    The Business of Job Training


    Once upon a time, Coursera updates went in the MOOC section. Most MOOC news these days more accurately fits here under “job training.” From the Coursera blog: “New on Coursera: start-to-finish learning paths for starting a new career.”

    Via Education Week: “CSforAll Announces Computer Science Pledges from Over 170 Organizations.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Is blockchain the answer to higher ed’s cybersecurity problems?asks eCampus News.

    “​Ohio State Will Give Incoming Students iPads. But Do Tablet Programs Work?asks Edsurge.

    Is the Five-Paragraph Essay Dead?asks Edsurge.

    Should College Professors Give ‘Tech Breaks’ In Class?asks NPR.

    (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


    Two different opinions on WIkipedia: “How Social Media Endangers Knowledge” by Hossein Derakhshan in Wired. And “Once Reviled in Education, Wikipedia Now Embraced By Many Professors” by Jeffrey Young in Edsurge.

    Internet Archive Hopes to Help Libraries Make Available Books Once Thought Trapped By Copyright,” writes Jen Howard.

    Sprint Rolls Out Effort to Boost Student Connectivity, Tech Access,” says EdWeek’s Market Brief.

    Edsurge has two stories on the Network for Public Education’s conference: “Public Educators Share Fallout on Personalized Learning, Privatization and Edtech” by Sydney Johnson and “Why Our Obsession With Edtech and Workforce Prep Concerns Parents and Public Educators” by Tina Nazerian.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Ng Has a Chatbot That Can Help with Depression.” After fixing education, I guess these folks are on to now automating mental health care. Whee.

    “Teachers Are Finding Innovative Ways to Use Robots in Class,” claims Education Week.

    AI-driven tool produces high quality online learning for global company in days not months,” claims Donald Clark.

    George Veletsianos asks us to “Imagine a future in which technologies teach humans.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    “Our Education Efforts Are Evolving,” says Bill Gates. He told the Council of the Great City Schools that the Gates Foundation would spend some $1.7 billion in U.S. public education in the next five years. Some of the details of this spending:

    First, although we will no longer invest directly in new initiatives based on teacher evaluations and ratings, we will continue to gather data on the impact of these systems and encourage the use of these systems to improve instruction at the local level.


    Second, we will focus on locally-driven solutions identified by networks of schools, and support their efforts to use data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions to improve student achievement.


    Third, we are increasing our commitment to develop curricula and professional development aligned to state standards.


    Fourth, we will continue to support the development of high-quality charter schools.

    Coverage of Gates’ announcements via Chalkbeat and WaPo’s Valerie Strauss. (It’s noteworthy, I think, that “personalized learning” is not mentioned in Gates’ remarks.)

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    The venture capital firm Owl Ventures has raised a $185 million fund to invest in ed-tech. No details on who its investors are. Here’s what we know about what Owl Ventures’ network (including investments and people involved) looks like.

    Coding bootcamp Galvanize has raised $7 million in Series C funding from University Ventures and ABS Capital Partners. The company, which laid off 11% of its workforce this summer, has raised over $102.4 million total.

    BridgeU has raised $5.3 million in Series A funding from Octopus Ventures, Downing Ventures, and Fresco Capital. The career guidance company has raised $8.2 million total.

    Fluent City has raised $3 million “to revolutionize language learning,” says Techcrunch. Participating in the funding round: New Ground Ventures, WorldQuant Ventures, ZG Ventures, John Katzman, Nick Hammerschlag, Matthew Hanson, and Lerner Investments. The company has raised $8 million total.

    Student loan servicing Nelnet has acquiredGreat Lakes Educational Loan Services for $150 million.

    It’s not ed-tech, but I’ll make note of it anyway. Facebook has acquired tbh, a 2-month-old app that’s purportedly popular with teens. Facebook paid “under $100 million” for it, says Business Insider. (Wonder how Facebook knew that the app was so popular? It tracks the usage of rivals’ apps through its VPN project.)

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via the BBC: “Child safety smartwatches‘easy’ to hack, watchdog says.”

    Via The Kansas City Star: “Easy-to-get hacking device puts KU professors’ information in student’s hands.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Institute for Higher Education Policy on Wednesday issued a set of recommendations on the nuts and bolts of creating a federal postsecondary student-level data system.” Does the Gates Foundation have another $100 million to invest in education data infrastructure?

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Who is keeping student data safe in the era of digital learning?” Trick question.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via Chalkbeat: “The $100 million question: Did Newark’s school reforms work? New study finds big declines, then progress.” That $100 million is, of course, the money Mark Zuckerberg gave to help distract folks from an unflattering biopic.

    Via WCET: “New Survey Tracks Online and Distance Education in Canada.”

    Young Children Are Spending Much More Time In Front Of Small Screens,” says NPR’s Anya Kamenetz (who’s also written a book on the topic).

    According to this press release, Technavio says that the global competency-based education spending market will grow by 18% between 2017 and 2021. This fortune-teller will charge you about $1000 to read its “market research.”

    Professors’ Productivity Declines With Age, Right? Maybe Not,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education on a study out of UC Boulder.

    The latest Pew Research Center report asks“experts” about “The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: "Half of all black students who took out federal student loansdefaulted in 12 years, according to two analyses of new federal data on student borrowers. More via Buzzfeed.

    Parent Notifications Have Become the Norm in K–12 Market,” EdWeek’s Market Brief claims.

    The New York Times on psychology’s “replicability crisis: “When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 10/27/17--03:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “Assessing Betsy DeVosRollback on Disability Rightsby Pacific Standard’s David Perry.

    “The 72 OSERS Documents Rescinded by Betsy deVos” – by Liz Ditz.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The White House announced Thursday that President Trump would nominate Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, as the next head of civil rights at the Department of Education.”

    Via Education Week: “The Polarizing Pick to Be Betsy DeVos’ Right-Hand Man.” (That’s Mick Zais.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Candice Jackson on Campus Sex Assault: ‘We’re Not Asking Schools to Step In as Courts of Law’.”

    Via The New York Times: “Melania Trump, in Michigan, Urges Middle Schoolers to ‘Choose Kindness’.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Rand Paul’s New Target: Peer Review.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Sessions’ Justice Dept. Is Wading Into Another Campus Free-Speech Case.” This one involves Pierce College.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “IRS Seeks to Tax Disabled Vet’s Forgiven Loans.”

    Via The New York Times: “Consumer Bureau Loses Fight to Allow More Class-Action Suits.” Challenging forced arbitration clauses has been one way the CFPB has taken on the student loan industry.

    More on the Trump administration’s approach to student loans in the student loan section below.

    Via Education Week: “FCC Delays, Denials Foil Rural Schools’ Broadband Plans.”

    Via Techcrunch: “FTC relaxes COPPA rule so kids can issue voice searches and commands.”

    The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a charter school advocacy group, announced it will cease operations at the end of the year. (Related, I think: “The Rift Among Charter Schools” by Rachel Cohen.)

    Via The Guardian: “Universities deplore ‘McCarthyism’ as MP demands list of tutors lecturing on Brexit.”

    Via Reuters: “Japan’s Abe vows to put education spending before budget balance.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via WBEZ: “Chicago Charter Schools Hired 163 Public School Staffers Banned For Misconduct, Including Sexual Abuse.”

    Via The LA Times: “L.A. schools Supt. Michelle King on medical leave through the end of the year.”

    Via The LA Times: “ His three allies on the L.A. school board want Rodriguez to take a leave. He says no.”

    Via KPCC: “Charter school law is murky when it comes to the Ref Rodriguez story.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via The Washington Post: “As DACA winds down, 20,000 educators are in limbo.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A professor at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said she was initially denied entry to the U.S. after the academic honorarium she was to receive from a U.S. university came under scrutiny.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Current: “Former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton no longer licenses the show’s brand from the public TV station that created the program, a result of two lawsuits that concluded Friday.”

    Via the Sacramento Bee: “Suicide, investigation and a lawsuit follow booze-fueled UC Davis ag school retreat.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Buzzfeed: “A Close Ally Of Mike Pence Is Helping The Shady Student Debt Relief Industry.” (That’s Marty Obst.)

    Via MarketWatch: “John Grisham’s new novel grapples with the $1.4 trillion student debt crisis.”

    Via TPM: “DeVos Delays Obama-Era Student Loan Protections Amid Writing New Rules.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “U.S. Considers Partial Relief for Defrauded Student Borrowers.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education Wednesday released the names of 17 panelists and alternates who will be charged with overhauling an Obama administration regulation for protection of student borrowers through a process known as negotiated rule making.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Techcrunch: “Holberton gets backing from more industry executives as it looks to scale its software engineering school.”

    There is some bootcamp acquisition news in the venture capital section below.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    MOOCs. They’re back?

    “Learning Creative Learning: It’s not a MOOC, it’s a community,” says the MIT Media Lab.

    “A Proposal to Put the ‘M’ Back in MOOCs” – an op-ed by Class Central’s Dhawal Shah in Edsurge.

    “Rethinking MOOCs” – an op-ed in Duke University’s newspaper The Chronicle.

    “Reviving the MOOC” – an op-ed by Stephen Downes.

    Edsurge profilesDr. Chuck about his work on MOOCs with Coursera. (No disclosure in this or its Class Central article that it shares investors with these MOOC companies.)

    This will be featured in “The Week in Predictions,” but I’ll note it here too. From the Coursera blog: “Building India’s Workforce for 2020.” (Like I’ve said previously, these corporate stories really do belong in “the business of job training” section below.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Controversy at George Washington U. Highlights Challenges of Diving Deeply Into Online Education.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Drexel Lets Controversial Professor Teach Online.” (That’s George Ciccariello-Maher.)

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The LA Times: “White nationalist shot at protesters after Richard Spencer speech in Florida, police say.”

    Via The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “ Police seeking Facebook release of Virginia Tech instructor’s activity.” The instructor is a regular poster on white supremacist websites.

    The College of the Ozarks will require students take a class aimed at encouraging patriotism.

    Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich tries to argue thatLeft-wing education cheats children.”

    Via The New York Times: “High School Students Explain Why They Protest Anthems and Pledges.”

    A misguided op-ed by the president of the University of Oregon: “The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism’.”

    “There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus,” says Vox.

    “How Campus Racism Could Affect Black Students’ College Enrollment” by The Atlantic’s Melinda D. Anderson.

    “The Chinese University of Hong Kong put in the winning bid to purchase the campus of the now-defunct Daniel Webster College,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    The Memphis College of Art will close.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “2 Are Shot and Killed on Grambling State’s Campus After Fight That Began in Dorm Room.”

    Harvard’s The Crimson on discrimination against women in the school’s math department.

    “‘I chose abuse, because it seemed safer.’” – “Dean Dad” Matt Reed on the #RealCollege conference on food insecurity on college campuses.

    Via the BBC: “Stephen Hawking PhD readers crash Cambridge University website.”

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Alabama will issue manufacturing industry certifications across its two-year college system in an effort to create a better educational pipeline to jobs in manufacturing and transportation.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Southern New Hampshire U to launch Competency-Based Master’s in Online Ed.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Sixth Tone: “China Announces Radical Overhaul of College Entrance Exam.”

    Via The New York Times: “Asian Test-Prep Centers Offer Parents Exactly What They Want: ‘Results’.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Donor Revokes $6 Million Pledge to Louisville Athletics.”

    There’s a sports-related headline better suited for the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines in that section.

    From the HR Department


    Duke University’s Kieran Healy posts his cover letter to a rather wild job announcement from MIT Media Lab.

    Via Politico: “Kevin Chavous is joining K12 Inc., the nation’s largest virtual charter school management company, as president of academics, policy, and schools. Chavous is a founding board member of the American Federation for Children, the school choice advocacy group formerly chaired by Betsy DeVos.”

    Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, announced he’d be stepping down from the position in January.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The growing number of jobs in the computing field far outpaces how many students are earning bachelor’s degrees in computer science and similar fields, according to a lengthy new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.”

    Contests and Awards


    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “A virtual reality platform that allows students to simulate hands-on orthopedic surgical training won the top prize in the EdSim Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Is The NCAA Equipped To Handle Scandals?asks 1A.

    Is Free Speech In A ‘State Of Emergency’?asks 1A.

    Has Strunk and White Struck Out of Writing Instruction?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


    “Top Charter Networks Turning Attention to Curriculum,” says Michael Petrilli. And in Edsurge, Amber Oliver and Michael Horn write, “Without the Right Curriculum, Personalized Learning Is Just Another Fad.” (Note: the focus on curriculum is something that the Gates Foundation says that, with its latest pivot, it plans to fund.)

    More on the Gates Foundation changes [in Education Week](With Latest Education Investments, Gates Pivots Again) and in Chalkbeat and on my personal blog.

    Via Mic: “On Thursday, Pearson, an education publishing company, apologized for publishing a nursing textbook section that contained racist material about treating patients from different cultural backgrounds who have acute and chronic pain.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Unizin Partners with edX, Cengage.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “African Ed-Tech Incubator’s First Class of Companies Step Into Market.”

    Via the AP: “Fisher-Price recalls 65,000 baby seats due to fire hazard.”

    Via Techcrunch: “HelloFresh co-founder is working on a prepared meal service for kids.”

    Also via Techcrunch: “Pair Eyewear, the Warby Parker for kids, launches today.”

    (No. These last two stories aren’t about “ed-tech” per se. But do watch how ed-tech is consumer tech and as such expects a certain amount of parental affluence.)

    Neuroeducation Will Lead to Big Breakthroughs in Learning,” says Singularity Hub.

    And here’s a “big breakthrough,” featured in Edsurge: BrainCo. “This Company Wants to Gather Student Brainwave Data to Measure ‘Engagement’,” Edsurge writes. Edsurge seems skeptical that this is “a thing,” but that doesn’t stop it from taking the company’s money to advertise a job opening. Ed-tech ethics.

    Speaking of ed-tech ethics, here’s a Techcrunch headline: “GitHub’s scandalized ex-CEO returns with Chatterbug.” That’s Tom Preston-Werner who resigned from GitHub after an investigation into sexual harassment claims at the company. Now he’s launching a new company – and of course it’s ed-tech. Chatterbug is a language learning startup. Wheee.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Disruptor Daily: “AI in Education: 10 Companies to Watch in 2018.”

    Via Getting Smart: “Artificial Intelligence in Education: Where It’s At, Where It’s Headed.”

    “Chirons will lead us out of the AI Technopanic,” says Pearson, “and you can be a chiron.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Via Politico: “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Ford Foundation are investing $1.5 million to bolster ‘student-centered learning’ through a competitive grant program that will award up to $150,000 to 10 school districts or communities of schools.”

    Via Vice: “Mark Zuckerberg has bigger plans than the White House.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Zuckerberg’s CZI donates to struggling towns near Facebook.”

    There's more on the Gates Foundation in the upgrades section above.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Brainly has raised $14 million in Series B funding from General Catalyst, Point Nine Capital, Runa Capital, Naspers, and Kulczyk Investments. The company, which Techcrunch calls “Quora for kids,” has raised $38.5 million total.

    Again, the next two investments aren’t ed-tech per se, but as I note in the upgrades section above, it’s important to track on the ways in which kids are seen as a target market for tech companies:

    Reserve has raised $12 million in Series C funding from Accel Partners, Aspect Ventures, and Mission Holdings. The company, which markets credit cards to college students, has raised $26.35 million total. (Deserve does not use FICO scores to determine “credit worthiness.” It uses “machine learning.”)

    Current has raised $5 million in Series A funding from QED Capital and Cota Capital. The debit card (for teens) company has raised $8.6 million total.

    Sex education startup O.School has raised $800,000 in funding from Cyan Banister, The House Fund, and XFactor Ventures.

    Fuel Education, a subsidiary of K12 Inc, has acquired the literacy platform Big Universe.

    WeWork has acquired the coding bootcamp Flatiron School (on the heels of the latter’s run-in with the NY Attorney General.)

    Chegg has acquiredCogeon for $15 million.

    Another education IPO– the second of the year. This time it’s English language learning site RISE Education Cayman.

    Venture capitalist firm Reach Capital is trying to raise a new $75 million fund. Here’s a list of its investments and the people involved in the investment company (which was spun out of NewSchools Venture Fund).

    The Financial Times reports that Charles Schwab was in talks to buy student loan provider SoFi.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Hackers Target Nation’s Schools,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

    Via The Times of India: “The education department has decided to take student attendance online in Gurgaon schools to deal with the growing menace of proxy attendance where students represent their friends when they are absent.”

    The Atlantic asks“How Much Does the Government Really Need to Know About College Students in America?”

    Via The Washington Post: “Education Department warns of new hacker threat as ’Dark Overlord’ claims credit for attacks on school districts.”

    Via The Independent: “Professor shames entire class by publishing students’ browsing history.”

    Online Trackers Help Promote Better Sleep in Indiana U Staff Study,” says Campus Technology.

    Via Business Insider: “Sweep of educational apps finds some fall short on privacy.”

    From Doug Levin: “A research project – in six parts – designed to shed light on select state and school district website security and privacy practices.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Liberia’s Experiment with Privatizing Education” – a working paper by the University of Maryland’s Steven Klees.

    Seed funding slows in Silicon Valley,” says Reuters.

    Via NPR: “Majority Of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Tuition and fees increased by a few percentage points across the board, and aid failed to keep pace, annual College Board report shows.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “State-Funded Student Aid Holds Steady.”

    Via NPR: “Teachers Report Stressed, Anxious Students In The ‘Age Of Trump’.”

    Technology overuse may be the new digital divide,” says The Hechinger Report’s Jill Barshay.

    “Higher Education, Digital Divides, and a Balkanized Internet” by Bryan Alexander.

    Via Politico: “ The One Simple Way to Help Poor Kids Stay in School.” Spoiler alert: one-on-one instruction.

    Via Reveal News: “Hidden figures: How Silicon Valley keeps diversity data secret.”

    Via Edsurge: “How to Improve Brain Function and Reverse Poverty’s Impact on Student Learning.” Spoiler alert: it’s not by addressing poverty. Oh no. It’s with some “mindset” bullshit. (And probably some product that measures brain function too.)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    The fourth book in my “Monsters of Education Technology” series is out. As with the other books in the series, it’s a collection of talks I’ve given through the course of the year.

    E-book versions are available for purchase via the usual online retailers: Amazon and Smashwords. Even better (as far as my royalties go, at least): you can buy from me directly via Gumroad. You can purchase the e-book there (a ZIP file that contains the MOBI, EPUB, and PDF versions) for $4.99. You can, of course, just read most of the content here on Hack Education for free.

    The Monsters of Technology 4 is likely the last book in the “Monsters” series, and as I’m switching my focus to finally finishing Teaching Machines, it’ll be my last book for a while. (I will try, however, to get print books and audio books of all four books in the series finalized – probably some time in mid–2018.)


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  • 11/03/17--07:20: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “The Education of Betsy DeVos” – a profile of the Secretary of Education in Politico Magazine.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “DeVosFalsely Suggests That Student Loans Were Federalized to Pay for Obamacare.”

    An op-ed in The New York Times by Gail Collins: “No Profit in Betsy DeVos.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos May Only Partially Forgive Loans Of Students Ripped Off By Fraudulent Colleges.”

    Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos’s Schedule Shows Focus on Religious and Nontraditional Schools.”

    Via The LA Times: “Betsy DeVos’ Halloween costume is not going over well.” She was Ms. Frizzle, the teacher in “The Magic School Bus.”

    Via Education Week: “Trump Moves to Fill Key Civil Rights Post.” That’s Kenneth Marcus, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, who if confirmed would become the assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. (Politico runs the number on the steps Trump has taken to fill openings at the Department of Education.)

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos offers buyouts to shrink Education Department workforce.”

    Via The Detroit News: “Husband’s donations cloud Betsy DeVos’ pledge.” That is, Betsy DeVos said during her confirmation hearings that she and her husband would suspend their political contributions while she worked for Trump. Of course, Dick DeVos also works for Trump in a way – or at least, he’s now on an FAA civilian panel. Swampy.

    The Department of Educationrescinds more regulations and subregulatory guidance.

    Via The Intercept: “Steve Bannon Tried to Recruit Teachers Union to Trump’s Agenda While in the White House.” I mean, one in five AFT members did vote for Trump after all.

    The Republicans in Congress unveiled their tax plan this week, with big cuts in corporate taxes. Education-related changes include the end to the student loan interest deduction and the imposition of a 1.4% tax on some college endowments at private universities. Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups.”

    From ACE, one the largest higher ed lobbying organizations: “Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on the House Tax Reform Proposal.” tl;dr: He doesn’t like it. (Mitchell was the Under Secretary of Education under Obama and the head of NewSchools Venture Fund before taking on this role at ACE.)

    The Department of Education announced some $95 million in grants for “education innovation and research.” It’s always interesting to see which stories like this get picked up by the tech press. Via Techcrunch: “Palo Alto nonprofit Benetech wins a $42.5M Dept. of Education grant, a nod to founder Jim Fruchterman’s quest to help the blind.”

    Via The New York Times: “Navy Orders New Training After Deadly Ship Collisions.” Apparently watching CD-ROMs isn’t sufficient training for driving Navy destroyers. Who’d have guessed?!

    Lots of details this week as tech executives testified in front of Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, as The New York Times reports: “Facebook, Under Fire in Russia Inquiry, Posts 79% Rise in Profit.”

    “Shadowy ‘Professor’ Is at the Center of the Latest Revelation in the Trump-Russia Probe,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education with the higher ed angle on this week’s indictments.

    Via Alternet: “Gavin Grimm Wants To Fix The Education System That Failed Him.”

    “Who’s Afraid of Title IX?” asks Anne McClintock in The Jacobin.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The 74: “Amid Hurricane’s Devastation, Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Sees an Opportunity for Reform.” When you hear someone invoke New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as a model, do remember what happened to all the Black teachers

    Via the AP: “Philadelphia moves to retake control of city school system.”

    Via The Oregonian: “Attorney who served as top Portland Public Schools lawyer during troubled year out.” That’s Stephanie Harper, who as the story notes, who “made high-profile legal calls that came under fire. They included a failed bid to keep secret investigation records about gym teacher Mitch Whitehurst, who was the subject of many sexual misconduct complaints; the choice to sue a parent and a journalist who filed another open records request; and the district lost a $1 million jury verdict on her watch.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via Pacific Standard: “Trump Calls for End of Immigration Lottery Program After Terror Attack.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via The New York Times: “Hartford Student Charged After Boasting About Contaminating Roommate’s Belongings.” White student. Black roommate. Racism kills.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “3 Dartmouth Professors Are Target of State Attorney General’s ‘Sexual Misconduct’ Investigation.”

    Juvenile Justice (Or Lack Thereof)


    Via Teen Vogue: “Youth Incarceration in the United States, Explained.”

    Via ProPublica: “Concern Grows Over Youths at Juvenile Correctional Facility Being Sent to Adult Prison.”

    “Free College”


    Free Community College Picks Up Steam,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via the CFPB press office: “CFPB Report Finds Consumer Complaints Spurred Actions That Brought More Than $750 Million in Relief for Student Loan Borrowers.”

    Via The New York Times: “A Student Loan Nightmare: The Teacher in the Wrong Payment Plan.”

    There’s lots more student loan news in the politics section above.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Strayer and Capella, two for-profit colleges, will merge in a $2 billion deal. More via The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein, and The Wall Street Journal.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “DeVry Parent Company Makes Pledges to Students.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “John Grisham’s Latest Villain? For-Profit Colleges.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Chalkbeat investigates the Indiana Virtual School: “As students signed up, online school hired barely any teachers – but founder’s company charged it millions.”

    Online Schooling: Who Is Harmed and Who Is Helped?” asks Susan Dynarksi in Education Next.

    “Clarity into the successful transition of UF Onlinefrom Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Inside Higher Ed profilesLiberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr.

    Liberty U. President Says Trump Could Be ‘Greatest President Since Abraham Lincoln’,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adam Harris. What sort of history does Liberty teach!? (Don’t answer that.)

    Via Buzzfeed: “Here’s How A Picture Of Protesters Became A Misleading Far-Right Story.” The picture is from a speech at Columbia University by conspiracy theorist and Trump promoter Mike Cernovich.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Columbia University on Tuesday dropped its disciplinary investigation into 16 students who disrupted a campus speaker last month.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Steve Kolowich examines the student protests at Evergreen College.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “7 Are Arrested Outside Milo Yiannopoulos Speech at Cal State-Fullerton.”

    Via In These Times: “The Breitbart-Fueled War on Leftist Academics.”

    Speaking of Breitbart, “The Mercers Wash Their Hands of Milo,” says The Atlantic. Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Billionaire Says Supporting Milo Yiannopoulos’s Campus Tours Was a Mistake.” Via NPR: “Billionaire Investor Robert Mercer To Step Down From Firm, Selling Stake In Breitbart.” (Selling it to his daughters, that is.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “University of Oregon officials offer to pardon students who drowned out the president’s speech last month if they meet with administrators.”

    “Colleges Should Protect Speech– or Lose Fundsby Frederick Hess and Grant Addison in The Wall Street Journal. Whose speech?

    Via The East Bay Times: “Amid backlash, National Park Service yanks $98,000 grant for Black Panther Party legacy project.” The grant was to UC Berkeley professor Ula Taylor. Free speech, or something.

    Do keep an eye on how education reformers talk about (speech, academic freedom, and) the curriculum now that it, apparently, is the newkey to fixing things. e.g. “Social justice miseducation in our schools” by J. Martin Rochester in The Fordham Institute’s Flypaper.

    Speaking of controlling the curriculum, via WDIO: “The University of Wisconsin-Superior is suspending nine academic majors, 15 minors, and one graduate program in what university leaders call an effort to ”remain responsive to regional needs." The majors include sociology, media studies, and political science.

    Via NPR: “Italy Takes Aim At Fake News With New Curriculum For High School Students.”

    The Columbian and NPR both cover the work that Mike Caulfield is doing on digital polarization and fact-checking online with students at Washington State University - Vancouver (and beyond).

    Via Chalkbeat: “‘Act of terror’ unfolds steps from New York City high school, injuring two students.”

    Via The New York Times: “Opioids on the Quad.”

    Via The West Australian: “Navitas to close several colleges.” This includes its affiliation with Western Kentucky University. The Australian company provides courses for schools that decide to outsource their educational services.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After Opposition, U. of Tennessee Campuses Opt Not to Privatize Facilities Services.”

    Via the South Bend Tribune: “Notre Dame to end no-cost contraceptive coverage for employees.”

    Via Education Week: “Schools Take a Page From Silicon Valley.” That is, some schools are having “scrum meetings,” or something.

    Via WKBN: “Youngstown charter school shuts down after running out of funds.” That’s the Mahoning Valley Opportunity Center.

    Details about the closure of AltSchool campuses in the “upgrades and downgrades” section below.

    Accreditations, Certifications, and Competencies


    “In the Era of Microcredentials, Institutions Look to Blockchain to Verify Learning,” says Edsurge. But let’s note this via Vice please, before we get too excited about moving education certification to the blockchain: “One Bitcoin Transaction Now Uses as Much Energy as Your House in a Week.” And elsewhere in blockchain land, “Alex Tapscott’s Crypto VC Firm Going Public With $100M CAD Falsely Touted 4 Blockchain Stars As Advisors,” says Forbes. (Perhaps you’ve heard of his father, Don?) But oh yes. Tell me more about how the blockchain is going to “verify learning.” LOL.

    Via Getting Smart: “Digital Promise and Facebook Developing New Micro-Credentials Program.” Because the way to teach people about Facebook according to Facebook is always more Facebook.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Green Light for Competency-Based Teacher Ed.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Edsurge: “How to Overcome Apathy and Disillusionment When Standardized Tests Fail Kids.” Spoiler alert: find new things to measure.

    A testing story uses a question in the headline, so you know where the link to that one is. (Below, in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section.)

    Go, School Sports Team!


    “When School Spirit Is a Slur” – photographs on Native American mascots by Daniella Zalcman.

    Via Deadspin: “High School Ref Who Walked Out Over Anthem Protests Worries About Babies Disrespecting Flag, Had Racist Facebook Posts.” Of course he did.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “NCAA president says after two recent scandals in college athletics, the public is losing faith and major reforms are needed.”

    From the HR Department


    Via Recode: “Coursera has ousted several senior executives along with many rank-and-file staffers.” (See also: Altschool, and just remember: venture capital and education do not mix.)

    The Digital Public Library of America has a new head: John S. Bracken.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Reuters: “Awaiting Trump’s coal comeback, miners reject retraining.”

    The tech industry is still bullish on the business of tech training nonetheless. This, via Techcrunch: “Kenzie Academy is an ambitious project to bring tech jobs to Middle America.”

    Via The New York Times: “Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t).” My favorite part of the graph is how it excludes health care from life sciences jobs, making it appear as though the latter is grossly overproducing graduates when, in fact, that’s where most of the jobs of the future may well be – in health services.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Demand for Pilots Sparks Instructor Shortage at Colleges’ Flight Programs.”

    “Education is not where it’s all at in the learning market. We spend only a fraction of our lives in school, less in college and most of it in work. The corporate training and apprenticeship markets have more headroom, offer more room for innovation and have sustainable budgets and revenues,” says Donald Clark.

    “​Filling the Other Skills Gapby Trace Urdan writing in Edsurge.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Without changes in education, the future of work will leave more people behind.”

    Ed-Tech Events


    Educause is holding its annual conference this week. Reports from the field from The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Ed-Tech Professionals Share What Keeps Them Up at Night.” Also via The Chronicle: “At Educause Meeting, IT Professionals Discuss Misconceptions on Campuses.” From Edsurge: “​Invasive or Informative? Educators Discuss Pros and Cons of Learning Analytics.” Inside Higher Ed also looks at how data is being talked about at the higher ed ed-tech event.

    Edsurge is also holding an event this week. Reports from Edsurge Fusion: “The Future Is Always Uncertain. So How Should Educators Prepare Today’s Learners?”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    2 Years After ‘Opt Out,’ Are Students Taking Fewer Tests?asks NPR.

    Alexa, Are You Safe For My Kids?asks NPR.

    (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 Mother Jones: “Inside Silicon Valley’s Big-Money Push to Remake American Education.” This looks primarily at Summit Public Schools, which works with Facebook to build a learning management system that folks will try to convince you is “personalized learning.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Silicon Valley Tried to Reinvent Schools. Now It’s Rebooting.” AltSchool is shutting a school in Palo Alto, Bloomberg reports, so that the company can focus on “strategy, path to growth and finances.” Sucks to be a student at that school, eh? And at this other one too: Business Insider reports that a school in Manhattan’s East Village will also close at the end of the school year. Altschool is one of the best funded education startups – it’s raised some $172 million in venture capital. Its investors include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Omidyar Network, the Emerson Collective, Learn Capital, Andreessen-Horowitz, Founders’ Fund (that’s one of Peter Thiel’s investment firms), John Doerr – you know, the luminaries. Education Week’s Ben Herold has a story that touches on the education, not just the business angle (and, hey, it cites me).

    “Why the Best Personalized Learning Programs Start Way Before High School,” according to Edsurge. Not sure what “the best” means here, to be honest. Perhaps not AltSchool though, eh?

    “ It’s Time to Take Back Personalized Learning,” says Phyllis Lockett in Edsurge. Take it back from whom? From tech companies, I guess? Although the op-ed was written by the head of a tech company. So I dunno.

    Via Techcrunch: “YouTube Kids update gives kids their own profiles, expands controls.” Start ’em young, I guess.

    Via Vice: “Google Docs Is Randomly Flagging Files for Violating Its Terms of Service.”

    “How Social Media Can Help Teach Good Writing,” according to Edsurge. Nice timing considering all we saw in DC this week about persuasion and Facebook.

    Via Education Week: “Fundraising Effort Launches to Help Teachers Forge Connections With Families.” It’s a fundraising effort run through DonorsChoose.org which will fund “family engagement nights.”

    Open, Value-Added Services, Interaction, and Learning” by Lumen Learning’s David Wiley.

    Math education startup Desmos has updated its “Challenge Creator” to that students can create challenges for one another.

    The Boston Globe profilesEdmit, a new startup that promises help finding out what you should pay for college. The company is co-founded by Nick Ducoff, formerly of the OER textbook startup Boundless.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    The IBM Watson PR machine hums along. Via Education Dive: “IBM’s Watson is helping educators choose relevant math lessons.”

    “Who’s Ready to Put Their Kid on a Self-Driving School Bus?” asks Wired.

    Via Techcrunch: “Sony reboots Aibo with AI and extra kawaii.” The $1700 robot dog also requires a subscription plan. I look forward to hearing people boast about how this puppy will revolutionize education.

    Robot stories are also Betteridge’s Law of Headlines stories, wouldn’t you know it?

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Although there’s been no public announcement, I noticed this in Edsurge’s disclosure on its rewrite of the AltSchool news: apparently the venture philanthopy firm Emerson Collective is now an investor. I’ve updated my Web page tracking Edsurge’s financial ties accordingly.

    Via The Dallas Morning News: “Steve Ballmer isn’t trying to re-engineer education, but to support local projects that are already working.”

    Via The Non Profit Quarterly: “Gates Foundation Takes Another Hair-Raising Stab at Fixing America’s Schools.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Tutoring company Changingedu has raised $55 million in Series D funding from Trustbridge Partners, TAL Education Group, Sequoia Capital, IDG Capital Partners, FREES FUND, and ClearVue Partners.

    Wonder Workshop has raised $41 million in Series C funding from CRV, Madrona Venture Group, Tencent Holdings, Sinovation Ventures, WI Harper Group, Softbank Ventures Korea, MindWorks Ventures, TAL Education Group, TCL Capital, and Bright Success Capital. The robotics company, formerly known as play-i, has raised $78.34 million total.

    Kano Computing has raised $28 million for its learn-to-code robotics kits. Investors in this Series B round include: Index Ventures, LocalGlobe, Collaborative Fund, Marc Benioff, TriplePoint Capital, Breyer Capital, Barclays PLC, Stanford University Venture Fund, John Makinson, and Thames Trust. The company has raised $44.5 million total.

    Fire Tech Camp has raised $863,525 in venture funding from Emerge Education and Cass Entrepreneurship Fund for its afterschool coding classes.

    Sunlight has raised $653,900 in seed funding from Seedcamp, Speedinvest, and Annection. The British company, which is building a corporate learning platform, has raised $832,700 total.

    Language learning company Blue Canoe Learning has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Kernal Labs.

    Discovery Communications reported “mixed results” in its third quarter, in part because of the “dismal show of the Education and Other division.”

    Coding non-profits Code/Interactive and Mouse have merged.

    There’s more merger news in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Behavior management company HeroK12 has acquired enrollment management company SchoolMint. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The venture capital firm Brighteye Ventures has raised $58 million in its first fund, which it plans to invest in ed-tech. Investors were not disclosed.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Part 3 of EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin’s look at schools’ data collection and data security: “Ad Tracking & Surveillance.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Purdue App Puts Learning Data into Students’ Hands.” It’s not really “learning data”; it’s data that purports to be about productivity.

    Via The Vancouver Sun: “Student information hacked at University of the Fraser Valley.”

    “Cheap devices, known as keyloggers, are being used by students to steal professors’ passwords on campus and to change grades,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Education Dive: “GreatSchools adds more indicators of school quality in new rating system.”

    Via Education Week: “Researchers Push Congress for Better Data Sharing in Education Partnerships.” Researchers from the Data Quality Campaign, that is.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    My latest calculations on VC funding in education: “The Business of Ed-Tech: October 2017 Funding Data.”

    From the Mozilla blog: “ 10 Fascinating Things We Learned When We Asked The World ‘How Connected Are You?’”

    Campus Technology summarizes a report from Gartner: “Most Higher Ed CIOs Expect Digital Transformation to Cause Significant Change to The Business Model.” ORLY. Compare with the story below…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Many campus investments in information technology aren’t necessarily paying off, according to the National Survey of Computing, eLearning and Information Technology.”

    Inside Higher Ed has posted the results of its latest “Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology.” Autumm Caines and Maha Bali respond in ProfHacker.

    Via Chalkbeat: “When teachers are better at raising test scores, their students are less happy, study finds.”

    Via Education Week: “Students Fare Better When Teachers Have a Say, Study Finds.”

    “More Districts Getting What They Pay For From Ed-Tech,” says EdWeek’s Market Brief– according to a study by a company of the districts using its product. Seems legit.

    A new report from NMC: “2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “A Snapshot of Students’ Online Coursetaking: Foreign Languages On the Rise.”

    From Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “State of Higher Ed LMS Market for US and Canada: Fall 2017 Edition.”

    “Revised Data Shows Community Colleges Have Been Underappreciated,” says Kevin Carey in The NYT. More on community college graduation datain Inside Higher Ed.

    The Edtech Edifice Complexby The World Bank’s Michael Trucano.

    “From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity By Design in Learning Technologiesby Justin Reich and Mimi Ito.

    Virtual reality headsets could put children’s health at risk,” according to The Guardian. Let’s count up all the things in this week’s “Weekly News” that Mark Zuckerberg has invested in that have really screwed things and could screw things up still for people. Good job, Mark. Good job.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 11/10/17--07:00: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    Listen, folks (particularly educators). If you’re going to decry “fake news,” then you best not be sharing it. If you’re going to talk about the importance of digital literacy or information literacy or media literacy or what have you, then you best practice it. Did you share this Raw Story story– “Education officials expect ‘ineffective’ Betsy DeVos to step down as her agenda collapses: report” – or this Salon story– “Expert: Expect DeVos to resign from Trump administration”? Why? Did you read the Politico profile of Betsy DeVos that these (and many other) pieces of clickbait were based on? Did you see evidence in that well-reported story that a resignation was imminent? Or did you just want a story to confirm your gut feelings that she should hit the road? Because, see, that’s part of the whole problem. It’s not just that these stories get written. It’s that folks share them so quickly and uncritically. Anyway, as Matt Barnum writes, “No, there’s no reason to think DeVos is planning to resign, contrary to viral news stories.”

    The American Oversight notes that “DeVos Calendars Show Frequent Days Off.” (In fairness, I’m not sure what the typical work-week looks like for a Secretary of Education.)

    Via The Washington Post: "Betsy DeVos lauds innovative teaching practices at awards ceremony.“ From the article that ”innovative teaching practice" appears to be project-based learning.

    Via Education Week: “Trump Nominee for Career-Tech Position Being Pulled Due to Offensive Blog Posts.” That’s Tim Kelly, a Michigan state representative who Trump had nominated head the office of career, technical, and adult education at the Department of Education. More via Politico.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Frank Brogan, the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State University System from 2013 until retiring this year, has joined the Department of Education in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development– likely ahead of a nomination to a separate position.”

    Reactions to the Congressional tax cut proposalVia Education Week: “Five Things to Know About the $250 Tax Break That Teachers Could Lose.” The CATO Institute doesn’t like 529 plansfor K–12. “Graduate students and higher education experts warn** GOP plan to tax tuition waivers** would be disastrous to both students’ finances and institutions’ teaching and research missions,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    The Senate Republications introduced their tax cut bill. The Washington Post reports that “Senate Republicans would leave student loan interest tax deduction untouched.” More on the tax reform proposal in IHE.

    The Trump Administration says it will reinstate some of the sanctions on Cuba that Obama rolled back. Inside Higher Ed says that “Experts expect new regulations on travel to Cuba published in the Federal Register to have limited effect on educational travel to the nation.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Representative Ron DeSantis introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow states to set up a parallel accrediting system to direct federal student aid money to a range of career training programs.”

    Via Wired: “Al Franken Just Gave the Speech Big Tech Has Been Dreading.”

    “Behind Randi Weingarten’s secret meeting with Steve Bannonby Mike Klonsky.

    The George W. Bush Presidential Center calls “accountability“a dirty word in education.”

    Via The New York Times: “A toxic cloud has descended on India’s capital, delaying flights and trains, causing coughs, headaches and even highway pileups, and prompting Indian officials on Wednesday to take the unprecedented step of closing 4,000 schools for nearly a week.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “E.U. Data-Protection Law Looms.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Mother Jones: “Voters in This Colorado County Just Sent Betsy DeVos a Helluva Message.” The message: “The election of seven anti-voucher candidates to Douglas County’s school board means a likely end to its controversial school choice program.”

    Chalkbeat has a round-up of all education-related results in Colorado. The 74 has results from Colorado and beyond, calling Tuesday“a blow to Republicans.”

    Via The Intercept: “Puerto Ricans Fear Schools Will Be Privatized in the Wake of Hurricane Maria.”

    Via NOLA.com: “Florida school lets parents buy bulletproof panels for students to put in backpacks.”

    Via The News & Observer: “New charter school for more than 2,000 students is coming to Cary.” It would be one of the largest in North Carolina.

    Via KPCC: “Charter schools, LAUSD reach deal to end ‘game of chicken’ that jeopardized schools’ futures.” Also via KPCC: “How LAUSD oversees charter schools just changed in a big way.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “As a major provider of Head Start exits the program, hundreds of vulnerable Detroit families brace for change.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A student loan bill of rights will be going into effect in Illinois after the state’s House of Representatives voted Tuesday night to override a veto by Governor Bruce Rauner.”

    Via Education Week: “The New York City Council is considering a requirement that all city agencies publish the source code behind algorithms they use to target services to city residents, raising the specter of significant changes in how the country’s largest school district assigns students to high school, evaluates teachers, and buys instructional software.”

    Via The 74: “Illinois Lawmakers Override Their Governor on Cursive, Say All Students Will Benefit From Handwriting Instruction.”

    Via The Voice of San Diego: “‘A Tax on Poor People’: San Diego Unified Sends Parents Who Can’t Pay for School Bus Rides to a Collections Agency.”

    Via the AP: “Iowa City schools to stop using padded seclusion rooms.”

    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Aldermen vote 48–1 for new police academy despite Chance the Rapper’s speech.” A $95 million police academy in a city that keeps closing down K–12 schools and firing teachers.

    Via the AP: “The Homeless Defy Stereotypes in Wealthy Silicon Valley.”

    Via The Post Gazette: “New Pittsburgh teachers contract could phase out performance pay.”

    Via In These Times: “When Unions Lead Education Reform.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Battling closure, Harlem charter school enlisted a high-profile PR firm that once repped Ivanka Trump.” Networks. They matter.

    The Nation’s Megan Erickson onSuccess Academy’s Eva Moskowitz.

    Immigration and Education


    Via Feministing: “Two Months After Trump Withdrew DACA, This Is Where the Program Stands.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Princeton University and Microsoft have joined together to file a lawsuit against President Trump’s rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A DACA-protected student at Princeton, Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez, is also listed as a plaintiff.”

    The New York Times with some fearmongering aboutThe Disappearing American Grad Student.” The article is accompanied by a photo of a classroom full of Asian students – as if Asian is not American.

    Education in the Courts


    Via the BBC: “Police investigate 17 child sexting cases a day.”

    More legal wrangling about DACA in the immigration section above.

    The Paradise Papers


    The Paradise Papers– “The new files come from two offshore services firms as well as from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that serve as waystations in the global shadow economy.”

    Via The New York Times: “Kremlin Cash Behind Billionaire’s Twitter and Facebook Investments.”

    Via The Guardian: “Russia funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate.”

    For those keeping track of how ed-tech is intertwined in all this, here’s a list of Yuri Milner’s education investments: 17zuoye, Remind, Coursera, Clever, Codecademy, ClassDojo, and General Assembly. And more generally, via Crunchbase: “These Are The US Startups That Russian Investors Are Backing.”

    Via The New York Times: “After a Tax Crackdown, Apple Found a New Shelter for Its Profits.”

    Via The New York Times: “Endowments Boom as Colleges Bury Earnings Overseas.” As I noted on Twitter, this is what happens when you tell schools they should be run like a business.

    Via The Guardian: “Paradise Papers: Oxford and Cambridge invested tens of millions offshore.”

    “Free College”


    Via The Tennessean: “Most Tennessee high school students apply for Tennessee Promise program.”

    Via Bklyner.com: “Brooklyn Public Library and Bard College to Offer Free College Degree Programs in 2018.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trump administration will ask negotiators of borrower-defense rule to reconsider institutions’ liability for claims of misrepresentation – a request that has some worried DeVos plans to let bad programs off the hook.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The long wind-down of Corinthian Colleges continued Wednesday with the planned closure of all but three of the remaining campuses that the defunct for-profit chain formerly owned.” More via Buzzfeed.

    “In a move that wouldn’t have been allowed a generation ago, a for-profit medical school is relocating from Dominica to Tennessee as its campus undergoes repairs from damage caused by Hurricane Maria,” says Inside Higher Ed. “Other for-profit medical schools are already operating in the U.S.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Which Colleges Do Students Say Defraud Them Most Often? For-Profit Colleges.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    “How Much Hollywood Glitz Should Colleges Use in Their Online Courses?” asks Edsurge.

    Speaking of Hollywood Glitz, Variety reports that “Kevin Spacey’s Online Acting Course Pulled by MasterClass.” MasterClass has raised some $56 million for celebrity-led classes. Awkward.

    Via The 74: “Inside the $1 Million Fight to Hold South Carolina’s For-Profit Virtual Charter Schools Accountable.”

    Via Education Week: “For Online Schools, Unique Challenges in Serving Transgender Students.”

    “Whatever happened to the promise of online learning?” asks WonkHE.

    “How can online learning help Canadian colleges meet the challenges ahead?” asks Tony Bates.

    More on online education research in the research section below. And there’s some human resources news in the HR section below too.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “2 Flagship Universities Surveyed the Campus Climate. Here’s What They Found.” Via The Cap: “Survey: Politically conservative students feel safe, respected and at home at UW-Madison.” But keep writing those op-eds about how ostracized conservative students are.

    Amy Silverman writes in The Phoenix New Times about ASU’s decision not to approve a disability studies major.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Oxford Professor Is on Leave Amid Allegations of Sexual Assault.” That’s Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies.

    “A Refuge for Jae-in Doe: Fugues in the Key of English Major” by Seo-Young Chu. In the essay, Chu accuses Jay Fliegelman, a Stanford literature professor, of rape and harassment.

    And another, different Stanford literature professor too has been accused of sexual assault: Franco Moretti.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Signs Naming Students Accused of Sexual Assault Reopen Wounds at Atlanta Colleges.”

    Purdue president “Mitch Daniels is shaking up higher education,” says Education Dive.

    Via NPR: “Air Force Academy Cadet Wrote Slur Outside His Own Door, School Says.”

    In a response to protests at Reed College, The Atlantic argues“Why Everyone Should Learn About Western Civilization.”

    Related I predict the canon wars are going to be revived, particularly as education reformers turn to “curriculum” as their new focus. See also, this via The New York Times: “Why Arthur Schlesinger’s ‘Disuniting of America’ Lives On.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Florida State University has banned fraternities and sororities following the death of a student, its president announced Monday.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In Reversal, Notre Dame Will Continue to Cover Contraception for Employees.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Syllabus at Duke barred staffers of campus paper from class on hedge funds.”

    Another Duke story – The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at the school’s Technology Scholars Project: “Steering More Women to Silicon Valley.”

    And news from a well-known former Duke student:

    What does college look like in prison?” asks The Hechinger Report.

    Via The Washington Post: “ Students’ grades determine where they may eat lunch at Florida schools.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “To Help Combat Racism, Kansas State U. Will Cancel Classes (for 2 Hours).”

    “Activists leading protests at UNC-Chapel Hill about Silent Sam have identified and outed a campus police officer who went undercover in an apparent effort to keep tabs on what they were up to,” The Herald Sun reports.

    Via The NYT: “N.Y.U. Will Waive Tuition for Displaced Puerto Rican Students.”

    More NYU news – via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “NYU Faculty Members Shun Abu Dhabi Campus Over Academic-Freedom Issues.”

    St. Gregory’s University says it will close its doors.

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via Getting Smart: “Competency-Based Micro-credentials are Transforming Professional Learning.” Are they?

    Rasmussen College is expanding its CBE program, Campus Technology reports.

    Testing, Testing…


    Via The Hechinger Report: “Known for its intense testing pressure, top-performing South Korea dials it back.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    The Ringer profiles Brenda Tracy and her work to end college football’s rape culture.

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Coming Soon to Campus: The $100,000 Hotel Room.” To the Texas A&M campus, to be precise – just 96 feet away from the football stadium.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The proportion of athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top competitive division who graduated within six years of enrolling rose to 87 percent (by the NCAA’s count) this year, continuing what has been a consistent increase since the association altered its approach to academic performance 15 years ago.”

    From the HR Department


    Shernaz Daver, Udacity’s chief marketing officer, is leaving the company.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Edsurge: “​How Apple, Salesforce and Other ‘Platform’ Companies Can Help Close the Skills Gap.”

    Salesforce will start selling its online learning platform, which has helped its own employees change roles and get promotions,” says MIT Technology Review, going with the wonderful lie in the headline “Making Job-Training Software People Actually Want to Use.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Are Big Tech Companies Doing Right by America’s Students?asks MIT Technology Review.

    Does ‘The Mooch’ Belong on Tufts Advisory Board?asks Inside Higher Ed.

    Can a Mathematical Model Detect Fake News?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


    “How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom” by The New York Times’ Natasha Singer– through some pretty shady practices, no doubt.

    (Education Next suggests, as part of its “behind the headlines” takes, an article by Curriculum Associates’ Rob Waldron," How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Ed-Tech Vendors.” Waldron’s company is featured in Singer’s story and not in a very good light. More Curriculum Associates news in the VC section below, incidentally.)

    “Something is wrong on the internet,” says James Bridle. Via The New York Times: “On YouTube Kids, Startling Videos Slip Past Filters.” YouTube now says it has a “new policy” to flag this content. (Nice timing to promote “picting” in the classroom.)

    Maybe social media is broken, Cathy O’Neil suggests. And maybe educators will rationalize using it anyway…

    Google’s Mass-Shooting Misinformation Problem” by The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal.

    Media Literacy When the Platforms Are Complicitby Bill Fitzgerald.

    Teaching Tolerance is out with its own “Digital Literacy Framework.”

    Facebook will teach the unemployed digital/social media skills in 30 cities,” says Techcrunch. Facebook breaks democracy and then turns around and sells you the fix. Clever.

    In other Facebook news, “Facebook’s testing a new method to prevent revenge porn that requires uploading your nudes,” says Techcrunch.

    Via the BBC: “Facebook’s fake news experiment backfires.”

    Via Newsweek: “Meet Naomi Wu, Target of an American Tech Bro Witchhunt.” Maker CEO Dale Dougherty is accused of harassing Wu online “alleging that she’s only a model who serves as the face of engineering projects completed by a team of men.”

    Via Techcrunch: “How littleBits grew from side project to Star Wars.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Follett to Start Selling LEGO Education Materials for Hands-On Lessons.”

    Inside Higher Ed looks atinclusive access,” which is a very misleading way of saying you’re forcing everyone to buy the course materials or digital textbooks thru a fee tacked on to tuition. Publishers love this, of course.

    “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology,” says KQED Mindshift.

    Via Edsurge: “Educators Question AltSchool’s Pivot: Where Does Silicon Valley’s Philanthropy End and Profits Begin?” Two educators, at least, had questions for Edsurge.

    One tech industry CEO’s vision of revolutionizing schools withers, and another is there to take its place. This week, it’s WeWork, which recently acquired the troubled coding bootcamp Flatiron School. Bloomberg reports that “WeWork Is Launching a Grade School for Budding Entrepreneurs.” “In my book, there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” [says founder] Rebekah Neumann. Except maybe child labor laws. IP concerns. Ethics. A commercial-free childhood. Never one to shy away from promoting the techno-dystopia, Fast Company weighs in: “WeWork Founder Hopes Her New School Will Help 5-Year-Olds Pursue Their Life’s Purpose.” (This seems closely related to Ivanka Trump’s notion that 5 year olds need to learn to code so they can get a job. Good thing no one in the current administration actually advocates child labor. OH WAIT.)

    Via Business Insider: “An MIT psychologist explains why so many tech moguls send their kids to anti-tech schools.” That’s Sherry Turkle.

    “Why Moodle Supporters Should be Concerned,” according to Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein. And from Phil Hill: “A Note on Data Used for LMS Market Analysis.” Also by Feldstein: “How and Why the IMS Failed with LTI 2.0.”

    Via Times Higher Education: “Scholars launch non-profit rival to ResearchGate and Academia.edu.” It’s called ScholarlyHub, and I’d tell you more about it but like ResearchGate and Academia.edu, there’s a paywall that prevents me from reading the Times Higher Education article.

    “Inventor creates device to help fidgety kids learn better,” the AP reports. The device is called “Bouncy Bands.” It’s been featured on Dr. Oz so it must work.

    Tech is making ed more inclusive, accessible to students with special needs,” says Education Dive. I’m not quire sure this is true, as I’m working on my year-in-review series and see a lot of stories about how tech exacerbates inequalities and excludes those with disabilities.

    As I’m working on that series, I can see how certain “trends” in ed-tech are being carefully cultivated by ed-tech companies and the ed-tech press. One of those “trends” is surely “character development” (a.k.a. “grit” a.k.a. “mindsets” a.k.a. “social and emotional learning.”) The CEO of Schoolrunner writes in Education Week’s Market Brief, for example, that “Science of Character Development Initiative to Help Students Achieve Goals.” The 74 says that“There’s Lots of Social-Emotional Support for Students, but Not for Teachers. Here Are Some Programs Looking to Change That.” Getting Smart reviews The Flexible SEL Classroom. Via Education Dive: “Principals support SEL efforts, but want more teacher training.” Oh and there’s fundraising news on this topic too via Edsurge – that’s in the VC section below.

    It’s not “social emotional learning,” but it’s… something. “What is Agentic Learning and Why is it Important?” asks Getting Smart. Via The 74: “25 Years, 1 Million Kids. How Expeditionary Deeper Learning Engages Students Through Inquiry, Discovery & Creativity.”

    Education Week has published a new report on personalized learning. Among the articles, “The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning.” (Warning: I’m cited.)

    “The path to personalized learning is not straight,” says The Hechinger Report.

    The latest Have You Heard podcast episode: “What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda.”

    “As Corporate World Moves Toward Curated ‘Microlearning,’ Higher Ed Must Adapt,” says Edsurge.

    Via Techcrunch: “Apple’s ‘Everyone Can Code’ initiative expands to colleges and universities outside of the US.”

    Via Education Dive: “Tech for ELL students can bridge content and digital learning gaps.”

    Networked U.’s: This Is What Will Save Higher Ed,” says Jeff Selingo.

    “Mapping the open education landscapeby Martin Weller, Viv Rolfe, and Katy Jordan. See also: “Openness & Education– a Beginner’s Guide.”

    Edsurge talks withformer LAUSD superintendentJohn Deasy, who’s now the editor-in-chief for a new publication run by Frontline Education, a K–12 software company.

    I’m just including this because I think the headline underscores how some in technology think that technology adoption is simply a matter of tech and not of other social, cultural, economic forces: “A Mind-Bending Cryptographic Trick Promises to Take Blockchains Mainstream.”

    The idea that Sean Parker is a “conscientious objector” to social media is fucking hilarious. But anyway…

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    The Next Web says “This smartphone app is like an AI chastity belt for teens.” No. Just. No.

    Via the Observatory of Educational Innovation: “Can you predict your students’ final grade at the start of the course? Yes, you can with Artificial Intelligence.” Sigh.

    Via MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Ng Wants a New ‘New Deal’ to Combat Job Automation.” That is, he wants the federal government to invest in retraining workers.

    What will universities look like in 2030?asks Times Higher Education. Something something robots something something.

    Via Edsurge: “Who Controls AI in Higher Ed, And Why It Matters (Part 1).”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    NewSchools Venture Fund has announced the startups in its “early learning cohort”: AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, Brightwheel, CodeSpark, Cognitive ToyBox, Family Engagement Lab, Kaymbu, Learning Genie, Mawi Learning, MIND Research Institute, Sparkler, Peekapak, Reasoning Mind, Teachley, Waterford Institute, and WriteReader. These companies get $1.5 million in grant funding.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Panorama Education has raised $16 million from the Emerson Collective, Spark Capital, Owl Ventures, SoftTechVC, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Once upon a time, this was a school survey company but it now marketsitself as a social emotional learning company. That seems to have worked with investors – it’s raised $32 million total.

    Tutoring company Acadsoc has raised $15 million from Shenzhen Capital Group and IDG Capital Partners.

    Ink has raised $7 million from VTF Capital, Invest Nebraska, SQN Venture Partners, and NE Angels. The printing station company markets itself to colleges and has raised $13.65 million total.

    Language learning tutoring startup PandaTree has raised $1.5 million from Michael Dearing and Randy Ching.

    Montessorium has raised $1 million from Bluestem Capital, SD Angel Funds, Falls Angel Fund, Two Bridges Capital, Kampeska Capital, and SDSU/Brookings Angel Fund. The app maker has raised $2 million total.

    Once upon a time, Musical.ly was an ed-tech startup. Then it opted to become a “viral sensation.” Now it “is being sold for between $800 million and $1 billion to Bytedance, the company that controls the Chinese news aggregator Toutiao,” The New York Times reports.

    Curriculum Associates has acquiredMotion Math.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “New Venture Capital Firm Bullish on Future of Europe’s Ed-Tech Market.” I mean, I guess you’d have to be to start a new ed-tech venture capital firm, right?

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Jade E. Davis writes in DML Central on “The Importance of Student Privacy in Big Data.”

    “High School Safety Includes Protecting Teens’ Datasays US News & World Report.

    Via The Hans India: “District Education Officers asked to ensure 100% biometric attendance in schools.”

    Via KSN.com: “Derby schools computer software could track cyber bullying, suicide threats.” What could possibly go wrong in Kansas.

    Via NBC Connecticut: “Newtown Among 800 School Sites Attacked By Hackers.”

    Via Naked Security: “Student charged by FBI for hacking his grades more than 90 times.” 90. Times.

    Via The Guardian: “Big Brother isn’t just watching: workplace surveillance can track your every move.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via The Hechinger Report: “How preschool teachers feel about science matters, new research finds.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Hate at school: 90-plus ‘poisonous’ incidents reported on K–12 campuses in October.”

    “A Nation of Snowflakes” – Inside Higher Ed on a new survey on campus free speech.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “President of higher ed research group documents white dominance in the academy and urges scholars to use their work to help disenfranchised people.” That’s Shaun Harper, a professor at USC and executive director of the university’s Race and Equity Center

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study finds male Ph.D. candidates submit and publish papers at much higher rates than women, even at the same institution. One factor is that women teach more during their Ph.D. programs and men serve more often as research assistants.”

    A report from the Shanker Institute: “Public and Private School Segregation in the District of Columbia.”

    The 74 on a research brief from the American Institutes for Research: “The Hidden Mental Health Crisis in America’s Schools: Millions of Kids Not Receiving Services They Need.”

    Poverty Is Largely Invisible Among College Students,” writes Sara Goldrick-Rab.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Private colleges and universities are expected to grow tuition revenue faster than public institutions in 2018, breaking from recent trends, according to an annual survey of colleges rated by Moody’s Investors Service.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Federal data shows 3.9 million students dropped out of college with debt in 2015 and 2016.”

    Via UNESCO’s World Education Blog: “The Partnership Schools for Liberia: A critical analysis.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on“Why Faculty Members Still Aren’t Sure What to Make of Education Technology.” Bonus points for the Educause researcher who described this stance on ed-tech as “some very weird doublethink.” Perhaps the dangers actually lie with those who believe that nuanced views of technology are somehow problematic.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Oregon State University Ecampus has created a database compiling research on the efficacy of online learning. The Online Learning Efficacy Research Database, which launched this week, is a searchable resource of academic studies that was created in response to skepticism about online education.”

    Campus Technology writes up the results of a poll from McGraw-Hill that claims “More Than Half of Students Want Their Classes to Go Digital.”

    Via NPR: “Free Books Boost Early Literacy.”

    It’s not directly related to ed-tech, sure, but damn ed-tech sure does love this stuff so I’m including it here anyway. Via The New York Times: “Don’t Nudge Me: The Limits of Behavioral Economics in Medicine.”

    From Harvard’s Shorenstein Center: “Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking.”

    Here’s Forbes with some “fake news”: “Millennials And Their Kids: Why They’re Choosing DIY Education.” (n=2)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


    0 0
  • 11/17/17--06:15: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “15 Ways Taylor Swift’s Lyrics Solve Education Policy’s Most Pressing Issues” is, no doubt, the most godawful white lady thing I’ve seen this week in education news. And that is saying a lot.

    “The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students,” says Erin Rousseau in The New York Times. “House Republicans on Thursday pushed through tax reform legislation widely opposed by higher education leaders who say many of its provisions will make a college degree less attainable and hurt the financial strength of institutions,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    More on the Republicans’ tax plansVia Education Week: “New Senate Tax Plan Doubles Teachers’ Deduction for Buying Classroom Supplies.” Via CNN: “House tax plan allows unborn children to have college savings accounts.”

    This is terrible and will hurt poor people. Via the press release: “Congressmen Francis Rooney (FL–19) and Ralph Norman (SC–05) introduced the Pell for Performance Act. This legislation seeks to motivate students to graduate within six years. If students are not able to complete their degree within six years, this act would compel them to repay the grant in the form of an unsubsidized Stafford Loan.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Trump education nominee pleads ignorance about high-profile voucher studies showing negative results.”

    Via Politico: “The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights could lose 45 employees because of early separation offers – a big hit to an office that many argue is understaffed to handle the number of complaints it receives each year. In fiscal 2017, the office was funded to employ 569 staff members, according to the department’s budget request from earlier this year.”

    From the Bloomberg Editorial Board: “A Raw Deal From Betsy DeVos” – “Rolling back regulations on the for-profit college industry will cause the public pain.”

    Education Week reports that, in front of a room full of CEOs, Secretary of Education Betsy "DeVos argued that 65 percent of today’s kindergartners will end up in jobs that haven’t even been created yet." That’s fake news, Betsy– a completely made-up statistic. But weirdly there’s a ton of that in edu.

    “Schools across the country are about to be held accountable for student attendance– attaching stakes to a measure that previously had much less significance and increasing the risk that schools will try to manipulate that data,” according to Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education on Monday released the names of 16 negotiators and their alternates who will look to reach agreement on a new gainful-employment regulation.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Breaking with longstanding tradition – through Democratic and Republican administrations – President Trump will not host a meeting with this year’s American Nobel laureates.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ Trump personally asked Xi Jinping to help resolve case of UCLA basketball players arrested in China.”

    For those keeping track of how great social media is for the future of education and knowledge and civics and such: “Last Year, Social Media Was Used to Influence Elections in at Least 18 Countries,” says the MIT Technology Review.

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Mueller Probes Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Cleric to Turkey.” I’m including this in this weekly round-up of education news because the cleric in question, Fethullah Gulen, runs a chain of charter schools in the US.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The Mercury News: “Working homeless forced to move in East Palo Alto.”

    The housing crisis has shown acute symptoms in East Palo Alto schools. Ravenswood City School District Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff said the homeless student population in the district has swelled from 25 percent at the start of last school year to 58 percent today. The district has stepped up efforts to feed children at school and distribute groceries to families in need.

    Homeless families are being forced to move in order to make way for The Primary School, a new school founded and funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. How’s that “whole child” thing working for you, Zuck?

    Via Education Week: “Baltimore County School Officials in Hot Water Over Ed-Tech Contracts.”

    Google Is Being Investigated By Missouri Attorney General,” Fortune reports. Oh and look at this: “Google Critic [Peter] Thiel Gave Money to Official Probing Search Giant,” Bloomberg reports.

    More shadiness from Thiel in the campus news section below.

    Via Education Week: “Even When States Revise Standards, the Core of the Common Core Remains.”

    Via Maine Public Radio: “What Proficiency-Based Education Looks Like Inside One Maine District.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Parent files complaint saying New York City improperly shared student information to aid with charter recruitment.”

    Immigration and Education


    Post Office Fails to Deliver on Time, and DACA Applications Get Rejected,” The New York Times reported last Friday. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services initially said that there was nothing they could do, but the agency appears to have changed its mind and will review the applications.

    Via NPR: “As DACA Winds Down, DREAMers Turn Toward Different Futures.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Frustrated with the slow resolution of loan forgiveness claims at the Department of Education, two borrowers have filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and loan servicing company Navient in federal court.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Student-Loan Borrowers Await Debt Relief on Nearly 100,000 Claims That They Were Defrauded.”

    Via The New York Times: “Behind the Lucrative Assembly Line of Student Debt Lawsuits.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Recently released federal data show that 17 percent of federal student debt holders are over the age of 50. This group of older borrowers collectively hold $247 billion in student debt, an amount that has roughly tripled since 2003.”

    Via the BBC: “BBC Panorama spent 10 months investigating dishonest education agents and bogus students who are committing frauds that target private colleges – also known as alternative providers – which offer courses approved for student loans.”

    Still more student loan news in the legal section above.

    I’m not including these in my calculations of ed-tech funding, but it is worth noting how much attention (and money) the private loan industry is attracting at the moment. Here are a couple of headlines from the week from Techcrunch – This one boasts no human decision-making on applications: “Kabbage gets $200M from Credit Suisse to expand its AI-based business loans.” And this one is really something: “Kinder, gentler debt collector TrueAccord raises $22 million.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    The Chronicle of Higher Education with a look“Inside the Scramble to Save Ashford U.” And following that investigation, “Ashford University announced this week that it has temporarily suspended new enrollment of veteran students who receive the Post–9/11 GI Bill, ” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The Economist: “For-profit colleges in America relaunch themselves as non-profits.”

    From the press release: “William Hansen Joins Career Education Corporation Board of Directors.” Hansen is one of those figures that really demonstrates the political and financial networks that govern education. He was Deputy Secretary of Education under George W. Bush. He was the chairman of Scantron. He has been the president of the student loan org Strada Education Network (formerly known as USA Funds) since 2013.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Legal education observers say accreditation issues at Florida Coastal School of Law– whose graduates have struggled to pay off loans – should lead to tougher look at its parent company, InfiLaw.”

    All the fraud and all the deceptive practices and all the people that are hurt by for-profit higher ed and you still get headlines like this: “4 For-Profit Education Stocks to Enrich Your Portfolio.”

    More on debt relief for students defrauded by for-profits in the student loan section below. And there’s more on regulating the industry (or ya know, not) in the national politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via Edsurge: “Are You Getting a Pay Bump For Student Completion? Virtual Schools Dish Out the Dough.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Former Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz: Virtual schools ‘prey’ on vulnerable students.”

    “Whatever Happened To MOOCs?” asks Stanford’s Larry Cuban.

    Coursera announces on its blog that it’s expanding to Brazil.

    It’s good to shake up your “everyone should learn to code” messaging sometimes, I guess. Here’s Coursera arguing “Why Everyone Should Learn Sales.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education examines faculty objections to online education at Eastern Michigan University.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “California community colleges look to create a new statewide​, online-only college that will focus on helping adult students earn credentials.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    “Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years,” says CNBC. Clayton Christensen made the same prediction – “half of colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years” – five years ago.

    Perhaps I need to start a new section in this article where I look at these sorts of bullshit predictions and proclamations and cliches. “The industrial model of education is failing” and whatnot.

    Inside Higher Ed calls recent school closures“Days of Reckoning.” If you repeat these stories enough, it’s almost as if you can convince people to make it a trend.

    Via Ars Technica: “University could lose millions from ‘unethical’ research backed by Peter Thiel.” The details: “Questionable herpes vaccine research backed by tech heavyweight Peter Thiel may have jeopardized $15 million in federal research funding to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.”

    Via Business Insider: “Elon Musk launched a secretive LA private school for his kids 4 years ago and there are still almost no details available.”

    “Film company behind Love Actually to open school in London,” The Guardian reports.

    Via the NEA: “Follow the Money: The School-to-(Privatized)-Prison Pipeline.”

    CNN, following another school shooting this week: “How active shooters are changing school security in the US.” Many of these measures, I’d argue, do fall under the umbrella of “ed-tech,” but let’s see if it gets positioned that way by Silicon Valley-backed journalism.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Sexual Harassment and Assault in Higher Ed: What’s Happened Since Weinstein.”

    Via The Huffington Post: “Grad Student Says Princeton Prof Who Sexually Harassed Her Was Given Slap On The Wrist.”

    Inside Higher Ed looks at how Notre Dame is changing its policies and practices regarding campus sexual assault.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Dozens of Spelman Professors Support Student Campaign That Has Named Harassers.”

    “Professors from around the world say they won’t advise students to study or work at Rochester in light of institution’s alleged attempts to downplay serious harassment case. Is this next tactic in battle against discrimination?” Inside Higher Ed asks.

    Via The Columbus Dispatch: “Ohio State accuses 83 students of cheating in a business class.” The students allegedly used the group messaging app GroupMe to collaborate. Sounds scandalous.

    Via Education Dive: “Gordon Gee: For higher ed to survive, we’ve got to ‘blow up the box’.” Gee is the president of West Virginia University. “The box,” I guess, is what Gee believes universities fail to think outside of.

    Valparaiso University says it will no longer admit new students to its law school (but insists that the law school isn’t closing).

    The Wall Street Journal criticizes student protesters at Williams College. (They were protesting frequently WSJ contributor and anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.)

    Williams College President Adam Falk in WaPo: “Don’t ignore the real threats in the debate over free speech.”

    Inside Higher Ed onRichard Spencer’s speech at Stanford.

    Via The 74: “Educators Report Being Surprised by a Homecoming Surge in Hate Speech at Their Schools.”

    Inside Higher Ed has Judith Butler’s reaction to having an effigy of her burned outside a talk she gave in Brazil.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A University’s Free-Speech Committee Pledges Transparency – Then Closes Its Meetings to the Public.” The university in question: Ohio.

    Via Radio Free Asia: “University in China’s Guizhou Cancels Outspoken Economics Professor’s Classes.”

    In other news about academic freedom – via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Memphis is reportedly investigating Judy Cole, a professor of nursing, for comments she made on Twitter about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary.”

    Via The Columbus Dispatch: “Activities suspended at all Ohio State fraternities governed by IFC.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How a Defense Dept. Program Equips Campus Police Forces.”

    “Willing, able and forgotten” – a series on high school students with disabilities in The Hechinger Report.

    “The Ivory Tower Can’t Keep Ignoring Tech,” says Cathy O’Neil in a NYT op-ed, arguing that no one in academia is paying attention to algorithms. “Yeah, pretty sure we don’t, but thanks for minimizing our contributions and perpetuating ‘ivory tower’ stereotypes,” scholars responded.

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Accreditor Apologizes for Suggestion That UNC Might Be Investigated Again.”

    Questions about the accreditation of for-profits in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Chalkbeat: “Fired testing company seeks $25.3 million for work on TNReady’s bumpy rollout.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    More about the UCLA basketball players arrested in China in the national politics section… because Trump.

    From the HR Department


    More sexual harassment accusations in venture capitalism. Via Techcrunch: “VC Steve Jurvetson is leaving Draper Fisher Jurvetson.”

    Via Essense: “Being Black In Tech: A Black Female Engineer Says Google CEO Mistook Her For An Assistant.” Eric Schmidt told her to put a sign on her door explaining her role at the company. WTF.

    The Business of Job Training


    There’s often a pattern to the education news – or at least, to the stories that get shouted the loudest and spread the widest in any given week.

    Via The 74: “Report: 30 Million Well-Paying Jobs, Mostly in the West and South, Exist for Workers Without Bachelor’s Degrees.”

    You Can Get a Good Job Without a Bachelor’s Degree,” Bloomberg insists. You just need the right training apparently.

    Via Education Week: “Betsy DeVos: Stop ‘Forcing’ Four-Year Degrees as Only Pathway to Success.”

    Tech Illiteracy Will Get You Fired Long Before Automation Does” – that’s the headline from the MIT Technology Review on a new report from the Brookings Institution: “Digitalization and the American workforce.” Via Education Week: “Jobs of All Types Now Require More Digital Skills, Brookings Report Finds.” This is a particularly hilarious sentence: “It is probably fair to say that the social good of having every high school student in America learn Salesforce might outstrip other trendier agendas in tech.” I think many historians of ed-tech would note that this has long been the argument for teaching Microsoft productivity tools in lieu of computer science. (Related: last week, Edsurge touted Salesforce as helping close the "skills gap.")

    Via CNBC: “Trade school, not 4-year college, is a better bet to solve the US income gap, researchers say.”

    “Why the U.S. Fails at Worker Training” – according to The Atlantic at least.

    “Nearly Everyone Supports Career Education. But What Would Make It Work?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Do Professors Need Automated Help Grading Online Comments?asks Inside Higher Ed.

    As devices replace textbooks, should students be charged fees?asks Education Dive.

    Can These New Colleges Help Solve Higher Education’s Equity Problem?asks Edsurge.

    Does Academia Need Another Alternative to For-Profit Scholarly Platforms?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


    Edsurge with the second story on brain-wave monitoring startups in almost as many weeks: “Brainwave Headsets Are Making Their Way Into Classrooms – For Meditation and Discipline.” They’re not really making their way into classrooms, incidentally. This is a story about one experiment conducted with a Muse headset by a Kansas State University researcher. Did you know Ashton Kutcher is an investor in Muse? Must be legit then.

    The New York Times lists mind control as one of the “Five Technologies That Will Rock Your World.”

    Mindset marketing from Pearson: “3 steps to upgrade your GRIT in education.” GRIT is one of Pearson’s “mindset”-oriented career success programs.

    More wishful thinking via Getting Smart: “How Virtual Reality and Embodied Learning Could Disrupt Education.”

    Speaking of predictions about the coming disruption, I sure do seem to remember a lot of that hype about Second Life. Wonder what’s going on in that virtual world these days? Oh.

    Via Boing Boing: “Dupes gather at sold-out Flat Earth International Conference.”

    Digital Polarization on Pinterest Is Scary Aggressive,” says WSU’s Mike Caulfield.

    Via The Guardian: “ Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: ‘The system is failing’.”

    It is not entirely clear to me what, per this Edsurge op-ed, higher ed can learn from precision medicine.

    Via Techcrunch: “Facebook, Google and others join The Trust Project, an effort to increase transparency around online news.”

    Via Poynter: “Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? A sobering assessment and a warning.”

    Edsurge rewrites the news, which is of course the point – it’s clickbait: “Forbes’ 2018 ‘30 Under 30’ Came Early This Year. Here’s Who Made the Education List.” WaPo’s Valerie Strauss is shocked no teachers made the list. No teachers ever make the list, I don’t think, unless they’re affiliated with TFA. TFA’s Wendy Kopp was one of the judges this year, as were venture capitalist Arne Duncan and venture capitalist Stacey Childress and venture capitalist Marcus Noel.

    Stephen Downes and David Wiley debate OER: “The Cost Trap, Part 3” by David Wiley. “The Real Goal of Open Educational Resources” by Stephen Downes. “More on the Cost Trap and Inclusive Access” by David Wiley. “If We Talked About the Internet Like We Talk About OER” by Stephen Downes. “If We Talked About the Internet Like We Talk About OER: The Cost Trap and Inclusive Access” by David Wiley. I might have missed some in this back-and-forth.

    Pearson Closes DRM-Free eBookstore, Will Delete All eBooks From Customers’ Account,” The Digital Reader reports.

    Microsoft is building a new version of Skype for tutors and consultants,” says The Next Web.

    Via Techcrunch: “SnapType makes it easy for kids with learning disabilities to do their homework.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Pip is a retro games console for kids to learn coding.”

    “Why do so few schools try LiveCode? We let industry dictate our tools,” says Georgia Tech’s Mark Guzdial.

    Via Boing Boing: “For sale: surplus nightmare fuel vintage manikins from a defunct dental school.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Edsurge: “Help! This Edtech Company Says It Uses AI. (What Does That Mean? What Should I Ask?)”

    Via University Business: “The drone zone in higher education.” “Unmanned aerial vehicles see an increased role in campus safety and security,” the publication claims.

    Via Edsurge: “Learning From Algorithms: Who Controls AI in Higher Ed, And Why It Matters (Part 2).”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Chan Zuckerberg Backs Personalized Learning R&D Agenda,” says fellow investor Tom Vander Ark.

    More on CZI and homelessness in East Palo Alto in the local politics section above.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Where do the nation’s big charter boosters send their cash? More and more to charter networks.”

    Via Naked Capitalism: “The Super Wealthy Oxycontin Family Supports School Privatization With Tactics Similar to Those That Fueled the Opioid Epidemic.” That’s the Sackler family.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Chinese online education company Yixue Education has raised $41 million from NGP Capital, SIG China, CASH Capital, New Oriental Education & Technology, and Greenwood Management.

    Lessonly has raised $8 million in Series B funding from Rethink Education, Allos Ventures, High Alpha, and OpenView. The corporate training company has raised $14.1 million total.

    SAM Labs has raised $6.75 million in Series A funding from Touchstone Innovations and E15 Ventures. The learn-to-code company has raised $11.2 million total.

    Night Zookeeper has raised $793,000 in funding from Newable. The storytelling company has raised about $1.5 million total.

    School-Pass has raised an undisclosed amount of money from A3 Education.

    Tech Shop has closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. The workshop space for “makers” had raised $4.7 million in venture capital.

    ExploreLearning has acquiredIS3D.

    The Chinese tutoring company Four Seasons Education has gone public.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    “The Internet of Shit is so manifestly insecure that people are staying away from it in droves,” says Boing Boing. Except in education, of course, where we hear all the time about how IOT will revolutionize school.

    Via Techcrunch: “Call to ban sale of IoT toys with proven security flaws.”

    Via The Stanford Daily: “Privacy breaches in University file system affect 200 people.”

    Via EWA.org: “When Cyber-Hackers Attack, School Districts Are Paying the Ransom.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via The Huffington Post: “Prominent Scholar Calls Growth Mindset A ‘Cancerous’ Idea, In Isolation.” The scholar: San Diego State University’s Luke Wood.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Gutting Wisconsin teachers unions hurt students, study finds.”

    Via USA Today: “The charter school breakthrough doesn’t work for boys.”

    Via The Atlantic: “A new paper argues that using behavioral economics to ease families’ fear of change could help convince them to switch up their children’s routines.”

    Via Edscoop: “Report: Rural schools outpace urban, suburban peers in access to technology.” The report is from based on BrightBytes’ customers and data, so caveat emptor.

    Via Mindshift: “Increased Hours Online Correlate With Uptick In Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts.”

    EdWeek’s Market Brief on a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers: “State Spending on K–12 Rises Slightly in 2017, Despite Headwinds.”

    From UVA’s Daniel Willingham: “Three versions of personalized learning, three challenges.”

    Via Education Week: “Boys Read Better When There Are More Girls in Class, Study Finds.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Open Doors survey shows declines in new international students starting in fall 2016, after years of growth. This fall universities report an average 7 percent decline in new international students.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Better tests don’t lead to better teaching, study finds.”

    Via NPR: “New Study Finds That 4.2 Million Kids Experience Homelessness Each Year.” But onward with those corporate tax cuts, Republicans.

    More reports, research, and data in the student loan and job training sections above.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 11/24/17--04:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    The Republican War on College,” by The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson.

    Tax bill reflects rift between many Republicans and higher education,” The Washington Post reports. And perhaps it’s not just higher ed. The education reform-minded publication The 74 says that“Educators Warn of ‘Devastating’ Consequences for Charter Schools in New GOP Tax Bill.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Graduate Students Are Freaking Out About The New Tax Bill.”

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai– formerly of Verizon– has announced that “net neutrality” will be dismantled. That could give telecoms– hey! like Verizon!– the ability to throttle or block content online.

    Via The New York Times: “Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You.”

    Network Neutrality Can’t Fix the Internet,” Ian Bogost argues in The Atlantic.

    “Will Reversal of FCC’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Policy Help or Hurt Schools?” asks EdWeek’s Market Brief. I mean, I guess it depends in part on your financial relationship to a telecom, right?

    In other bad news from the FCC, this via The Verge: “FCC begins scaling back internet subsidies for low-income homes.”

    “Education Dept. Restores Pell Eligibility to Nearly 300,000 Students,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via Chalkbeat: “To back up claim that schools must change, DeVos cites made-up statistic about the future of work.”

    Via Education Week: “DeVos’ Team Hears Criticisms of Obama-Era Guidance on Student Discipline.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Education Department withdraws ‘bomb threat checklist’ that used ‘ebonics’ as an identifier.”

    An op-ed in Bloomberg says that “China’s Top Economic Risk? Education.” For what it’s worth, venture capitalists have heavily backed Chinese ed-tech startups this year. (Mostly tutoring companies.)

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Fredericksburg.com: “Virginia will require computer science education in high school.”

    Via The Detroit Free Press: “Vendor Norman Shy, convicted in Detroit school kickback scheme, cuts $1.5M restitution check.”

    Via Carolina Public Press: “Emails shed light on school canceling activist’s appearance.” The activist in question is Bree Newsome, best known for scaling the flag pole at the South Carolina State House to take down the Confederate flag.

    Note the completely unbiased headline here. “Despite Startling Achievement Gaps, San Francisco Board Rejects Bid to Bring KIPP School to Poor Neighborhood,” says The 74.

    Immigration and Education


    ICE officials have invited tech companies, including Microsoft, to develop algorithms that will track visa holders’ social media activity,” ProPublica reports. Schools should consider the ways in which their own social media surveillance re-inscribes these sorts of violent, nationalist policies.

    Via Longreads: “The True Story of Refugees in an American High School.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Politico: “The New Mexico Supreme Court will reconsider a case that could end up as voucher proponents’ next best shot at scrapping provisions in most states that prohibit public money from supporting religious schools. That’s especially the case now that another high-profile legal challenge, to a Colorado voucher program, is in question after anti-voucher candidates swept a recent school board race.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Justice Dept. Says Harvard Is Not Complying With Probe on Race in Admissions.” More via The Wall Street Journal and via Buzzfeed.

    Via The Root: “Virginia Mother Charged With Felony After Putting Recording Device in Daughter’s Backpack to Catch Bullies.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via The New York Times: “When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work.”

    Via Politico: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday accused Citibank of misleading student loan borrowers about tax benefits, incorrectly charging late fees and other practices it says violated federal consumer protection law. Citibank has agreed to pay a $2.75 million civil penalty, pay $3.75 million in borrower refunds and make changes to its servicing practices to resolve the allegations.”

    There’s more research on student loan fraud in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Almost all student loan fraud claims involve for-profit colleges, study finds.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    The University of Iceland has joined edX.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Policymakers agree virtual schools should get more teachers and less money. Will they make it happen?” Perhaps this headline is better suited for the Betteridge’s Law section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Here’s the Mashable headline: “This school plans to create an ‘unsafe space’ and it’s causing controversy.” “This school” is a grammar school in Kent. And it’s “announced plans to create an ‘unsafe space’ to discuss texts including Mein Kampf and topics such as the infamous memo by ex-Google employee James Damore, who claimed there are ‘biological causes’ that prevent more women from getting jobs in tech.” “Unsafe space” is the phrase used by many men of the alt-right to talk about ways in which they can continue to keep people of color and white women out of male-dominated spaces.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “After a special meeting of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the university announced late Tuesday that it would permit – if certain conditions are met – the white supremacist Richard Spencer to appear on campus.”

    “White nationalist Richard Spencer banned from 26 European nations,” The LA Times says. But he’s still welcome on college campuses and Twitter. What a time to be alive.

    Via The Washington Post: “ A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from his college campus in Florida – but allowed to remain a student.” That’s Ken Parker, former KKK grand dragon, who’s banned from the University of North Florida.

    “A recording of the way professors at Wilfrid Laurier University questioned a teaching assistant about her use of a debate video in class has set off a major dispute about academic freedom in Canada,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via The New York Times: “Questioning Evolution: The Push to Change Science Class.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Prominent Creative-Writing Professor at UVa Is Accused of Sexually Harassing Students.” The professor in question: John Casey.

    This isn’t a “meanwhile on campus story,” but I’m not sure where else to put articles about sexual harassment and sexual assault. So it’ll go here. From The Verge’s Sarah Jeong: “In chatlogs, celebrated hacker and activist confesses countless sexual assaults.” The celebrated hacker in question: Morgan Marquis-Boire.

    Oh look. Another story about harassment. Via The Washington Post: “ The TED talks empire has been grappling with sexual harassment, interviews and internal emails show.”

    Education Dive profiles Khan Academy’s Khan Lab School. (It will be interesting to compare the success or failure of Khan Lab School with the failure of AltSchool. Or the school below…)

    Via The New York Times: “Disrupting the World of Private School With Tech and Guinea Pigs.” That’s the Portfolio School.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “‘Ring by Spring’: How Christian Colleges Fuel Students’ Rush to Get Engaged.”

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies (and Dreams of the Blockchain)


    “Thanks To Blockchain, You Can See What Your Thanksgiving Turkey Looked Like As A Child,” Buzzfeed tells us. So just imagine the education applications!

    From the EU’s JRC: “Blockchain in Education.”

    Smartdiploma.io– “Blockchain Anti-Falsification Solution for Academic Diplomas and Certificates.”

    Pearson, WTF? Badges, patents, and the world’s ‘least popular’ education company” by Doug Belshaw.

    More research on a GED program – the GED is one of the original competency-based education efforts – in the research section below.

    Via Getting Smart: “How Competency-Based Education Can Lead to A More Equitable Classroom.” Just like the GED has done. Cough.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Luna CC Faces Loss of Accreditation.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via The Houston Chronicle: “Cancelling STAAR tests in Harvey’s wake could wipe out federal funding, TEA leader says.”

    From the HR Department


    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Big Changes at Unizin: CEO and COO resign after board meeting.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Diane Auer Jones, a former assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration, has joined the U.S. Department of Labor as a senior policy adviser.”

    The Business of Job Training


    Via The MIT Technology Review: “Finally, a Useful Application for VR: Training Employees.” Starring Walmart. (I don’t understand this at all. Why VR?)

    Via Techcrunch: “HBCU.vc trains students become venture capitalists.”

    Coding Boot Camps Are in Trouble, but New York City Has a Plan to Shape Them Up,” says MIT Technology Review. (“The Plan” is really more of “a report.”)

    Via the Google blog: “Investing £1 million in training for computing teachers in the U.K.

    Learning to code will eventually be as useful as learning Ancient Greek,” Quartz claims.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Challenge for Higher Ed: Modernize Manufacturing, but Protect Jobs.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Can Online Credit Recovery Recover?asks Michael Horn in Edsurge, perpetually hopeful that disruptive innovation will save the day.

    Are Parent-Teacher Conferences Becoming Obsolete?asks The Atlantic.

    (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


    “A Silicon Valley startup is quietly taking over U.S. classrooms,” Axios claims. Apparently the startup is Kiddom. And frankly it blows my mind that people want to chastise me for calling out the terrible PR that poses as ed-tech journalism.

    Via Edsurge: “Modeled on Zillow, Edmit Wants to Help Families Make Financially Savvier College Decisions.”

    More coverage of AltSchool in the tech press – via Business Insider: “Tech billionaires spent $170 million on a new kind of school – now classrooms are shrinking and some parents say their kids are ‘guinea pigs’.” And via Techcrunch: “AltSchool wants to change how kids learn, but fears have surfaced that it’s failing students.” “Fears have surfaced” – LOL. Here’s me, three years ago… “surfacing fears” or something.

    Remember how Apple recently claimed that its stores were like “the public square”? Yeah. About that vision of “the public.” As The Outline notes, “Apple only wants to put its stores where white people live.”

    YouTube Is Addressing Its Massive Child Exploitation Problem,” says Buzzfeed. YouTube gets little credit for this clean-up in my book, however, as it took journalists to uncover and talk about the problem.

    Speaking of child exploitation, this via The Financial Times: “Apple’s iPhone X assembled by illegal student labour.”

    Via ProPublica: “Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race.” “Personalization.”

    (Related, this assignment from Davidson College’s Mark Sample: “Hacking Facebook’s Ad Network for Justice.”)

    Via Education Week: “Why Neuroscience Should Drive Personalized Learning” – because of “the propagation of myths and misinformation.” As if neuroscience gets you out of that dilemma. Ha.

    Via Boing Boing: “Scientist puts his dog on the editorial boards of seven predatory journals as proof of their negligence.”

    Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill says that“A change in direction and a likely change in culture” is coming. TBH, I still can’t remember what Unizin actually is. There’s more on Unizin in the HR section above.

    The business of OER.

    The business of Peter Thiel. Via Buzzfeed: “Y Combinator Cuts Ties With Peter Thiel After Ending Part-Time Partner Program.” And Buzzfeed reports that “Peter Thiel May Be Looking To Buy Gawker.com.” (Here’s a story from last year I wrote on Thiel’s ed-tech investment portfolio.)

    Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein continues to fight the LMS fight: “Fear and Loathing in the Moodle Community.”

    “​We Don’t Need More Alternatives to College,” says Edsurge. Or more accurately, the advice here is “don’t market your ‘alternative to college’ business as an alternative to college.”

    I don’t always include partnership announcements here because they’re typically much ado about nothing. But consider how well-funded these two startups are, I think it’s noteworthy that that’s what they’re resorting to: the ol’ “partnership” press release. From the Edmodo blog: “We’re Partnering with Clever to Give Districts Automatic Digital Classrooms!”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via The Washington Post: “When your kid tries to say ‘Alexa’ before ‘Mama’.”

    Via Edsurge: “Educators on Artificial Intelligence: Here’s the One Thing It Can’t Do Well.” Spoiler alert: AI doesn’t care.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Real-World Learning Could Help People Compete With Machines.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    The student travel abroad company WorldStrides has raised $500 million from Eurazeo and Primavera Capital Group.

    UBTech has raised $400 million from Tencent Holdings. The company, which makes educational and entertainment robots, has raised $520 million total.

    HopSkipDrive has raised $7.4 million for its “Uber for kids” business. Investors include Upfront Ventures, FirstMark, and Student Transportation Inc. The company, which isn’t just driving is babysitting on demand too, has raised $21.5 million total. Why anyone would let “Uber for” anything near their kids is sorta beyond me.

    Edmit has raised $855,000 from Bessemer Venture Partners, Wan Li Zhu, Rob Biederman, Anthony Accardi, Bill Triant, Peter Temes, and Shereen Shermak. The company, which says it will help students find the cheapest college to attend, is profiled by Edsurge in a story above.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    A special shout-out to all the people who’ve called for an “Uber for Education.” Really, you couldn’t have picked a worse model. This week’s Uber news, via Bloomberg: “Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People.” More via The NYT: “Uber Hid 2016 Breach, Paying Hackers to Delete Stolen Data.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Germany bans smartwatches for kids over spying concerns.”

    This seems to fly in the face of the library profession’s belief in privacy. But hey. Big data!

    Via Quartz: “Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled.”

    Via EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin: “The COPPA Rule, FERPA, and the Security of Student Data.”

    More on surveillance in the courts section above.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    From investors Chian Gong and Jennifer Carolan, writing in Edsurge: “Spotting the 2017 Trends That Fuel Edtech Innovation and Investments.” (No surprise, my review of “2017 trends” will be very different.)

    A report funded by Amazonfrom the Family Online Safety Institute: “Connected Families: How Parents Think & Feel about Wearables, Toys, and the Internet of Things.”

    Via Education Week: “What 150 Years of Education Statistics Say About Schools Today.”

    More from the Paradise Papers, via ICIJ: “More than 100 universities and colleges included in Offshore Leaks Database.”

    Via Education Dive: “Study shows Bridge GED programs help students continue on to college.”

    There’s more research on student loan fraud in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    “When people move to different jobs, here’s where they go” – as visualized by Flowing Data.

    “Where Do Ideas of ‘Success’ and ‘Failure’ in Schooling Come From?” asks Stanford’s Larry Cuban.

    Variations on this argument. Again. Via The 74: “New Study Shows American Kids Do Better on Tests If You Pay for Answers.”

    This, via The Guardian, isn’t necessarily ed-tech. But my goodness, with all the “brain training” products and neurobollocks that schools are being told they should buy, pay attention nonetheless: “Can brain training reduce dementia risk? Despite new research, the jury is still out.”

    New Research Answers Whether Technology is Good or Bad for Learning,” Michael Horn claims. No. No it doesn’t.

    Via FOX News: “Rocket launch will prove Earth is flat, California man says.” Project-based learning, FTW.

    Via The NYT: “Cockatoos Rival Children in Shape Recognition.” Clearly they also rival people who refuse to believe the Earth is round.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2017: The Stories We’ve Been Told


    At the end of every year since I founded Hack Education in 2010, I’ve reviewed what I think are the most important and influential trends in education technology. I’ve called this “the Top Ed-Tech Trends,” but this has never been an SEO-optimized list of products that the ed-tech industry wants schools or parents or companies to buy (or that it claims schools and parents and companies are buying). No, fidget spinners were not a “top ed-tech trend” this year.

    “Trends” is certainly a misnomer, and I’m going to start moving away from that word this year. This is about the stories we’re told about education, about technology, and about education technology. (No doubt, some people hope these stories fuel markets and lead to trends.)

    This series is meant to serve in-depth exploration of the events of the past year and an analysis of how these events shape the way in which we imagine and prepare for the future of teaching and learning. We must think more critically about education technology – its technologies and its stories – and I believe that comes in part from scrutinizing its history. The world is not changing more rapidly than ever before– don’t let that story convince you to throw the past into a memory hole.

    This series always ends up being incredibly lengthy – I apologize in advance – and this year, it threatens to be even more so. 2017 has been an extraordinary year for education news and for technology news – two areas that provide crucial context for everything that happens with education technology.

    It’s the first year, of course, of the Trump Administration, and its attempts to change education policy and funding have been profound: the nomination of his most controversial and unpopular Cabinet member, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; a budget proposal that would have slashed $9 billion from the Department of Education (not to mention steep cuts to other education-related programs and services, including funding for scientific research); battles with HBCUs; the revocation of DACA and changes to immigration and visa policies, including an increase in deportations; the withdrawal from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational organization; Justice Department investigations into college admissions and free speech on campuses; the rollback of regulations relating to the rights of students with disabilities; the rollback of Obama-era guidance on Title IX and sexual assault policies on college campuses; the delay of Obama-era regulations on for-profit higher ed and reneging on promises of debt relief for the students defrauded by these institutions; the rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender students; the rollback of Obama-era rules on school lunch standards (are you sensing a trend yet?); and the scaling back of investigations into civil rights violations in schools.

    All this happened in the larger context of news from the US school system itself. And again, what a year: changing demographics of teachers and students (and the US population overall); changing enrollments; desegregation turning to resegregation; hate crimes; lead poisoning; “adjunct-ification”; school shootings (including those by school police officers); bullying; hazing; hurricanes; fraud; money laundering; FBI investigations; illicit campaign contributions; corruption charges; drug-fueled parties; white nationalists on campus; student protests; (ongoing) racial disparities in school discipline; the opioid crisis; school closures and mergers; rising poverty levels and growing income inequality; increasing student loan debt; food insecurity; “lunch shaming”; homelessness; and my god, somanystories of sexualassault and sexualharassment at school – stories that emerged well before the revelations regarding Harvey Weinstein have emboldened more victims to come forward and speak up.

    And I haven’t even touched on any news from the tech sector yet. There were scores of stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment in that industry too: accusations regarding the ride-sharing company Uber– Susan Fowler really should be credited for kicking off much of the discussion of sexism and Silicon Valley culture this year; the student loan startup SoFi; venture capitalist Frank Artale; venture capitalist Dave McClure; venture capitalist Chris Sacca; venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck; and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson. Then there was the infamous anti-diversity memo distributed by Google engineer James Damore and leaked to the press this summer that charged that efforts the company (and the industry more broadly) had taken to address diversity were misguided as women are biologically ill-suited to computer science – which is, of course, totally bullshit. And then there were the revelations – although, to be fair, many people had already noticed this last year– that the Internet had played a played a major role in a concerted dis-information campaign during the 2016 Presidential Election, that Twitter, Facebook, and Google were (and still are) ongoing sources of misinformation, that the major technology companies have become powerful monopolies and in the process serve to undermine democracy and reshape public institutions to suit their needs and visions for the future.

    One of the challenges of this end-of-year series has always been determining what is really within the purview of “education technology.” This isn’t a review of “the year in education” or “the year in tech,” after all. And yet it is naive and even misleading to pretend as though education technology exists separately from either of those – from the politics of DC, the politics of local school boards, or the politics of Silicon Valley, for example. The latter’s influence permeates education – politically, financially, and culturally; via venture capital, venture philanthropy, and lobbying efforts, and increasingly through algorithms that govern schools’ and teachers’ decision-making. As concerns about “fake news” make clear, Silicon Valley’s influence also extends to how we access information and build knowledge; it extends to the stories we hear and share.

    So that’s my focus of this project this year: analyzing the stories that we have told and were told in 2017 about and by education technologies.

    The series kicks off on Saturday, 2 December. (You can receive updates from Hack Education via email if you prefer to read articles that way.)

    Stories From Previous Years:


    Here are some of the stories that got us to where we are today:

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2012

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2011

    The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2010

    I’m fortunate to be a recipient of a Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship this year. But as a reminder, Hack Education is a completely independent publication. The stories I write here are not backed by venture capital or venture philanthropy or consulting dollars. Readers can support my work in a number of ways, but what would be awesome is if everyone took the time to think more critically about the stories they’re telling about the future of education. It’s getting pretty dystopian out there…

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 12/01/17--03:10: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    Via Chalkbeat: “DeVos calls America still ‘a nation at risk,’ cheers GOP tax plan.”

    As I type this up, the Senate has not yet voted, but it does appear to have enough votes to pass the measure.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “How the Tax Bills Would Hit Higher Ed.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Taxing college endowments will hurt red-state kids more than coastal elites.”

    Via NPR: “Graduate Students Across The Country Protest GOP Tax Plan.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Universities are also to blame for the GOP’s ‘grad student tax’.” That is, writes Yale University’s Sarah Arveson, "Charging us tuition, only to waive it, helps to define us as students instead of the essential workers we are.

    Republicans in Congress are also working on a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. From The Wall Street Journal, “Five Things on the House’s Higher Education Bill.” It’s good news for for-profits, says the WSJ and also moves towards “simplifying FAFSA.”

    From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Praises Senate Action on FAFSA Simplification.”

    Also from the Department of Education’s press office: “U.S. Department of Education Announces Vision to Transform Federal Student Aid, Improve Customer Service.” Apparently the FAFSA will soon be available on mobile devices.

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Administration Looks Beyond Traditional Servicers for Student-Lending Help.” A. Wayne Johnson, the head of the department’s financial aid division and a former executive at a student loan company, says that those “non-traditional” servicers could include companies like Visa, Amazon, or Goldman Sachs.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Department Signals Possible Changes to Gainful-Employment Rule.”

    Via US News & World Report: “DeVos Racks Up More Than a Dozen Visits to Florida Schools.” Remember: Jeb loves Betsy.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education secretary calls for more emphasis on work-force training. Many experts – including those focused on careers – say general education matters more than she suggests.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees – A Trump supporter explains rising conservative anger at American universities.”

    Via Politico: “ Victorious Trump moves to reshape consumer bureau.” That’s the CFPB, whose new leader is also addressed in this story from NPR: “What The Upheaval At A Federal Consumer Watchdog Could Mean For Students.”

    Via Education Week: “U.S. House Hearing on Algorithms& Big Data: 5 Takeaways for Schools.”

    More on the FCC’s plans to end “net neutrality.” Via Wired: “Ajit Pai’s Shell Game.” From Education Dive: “ How repealing net neutrality will disrupt higher education.” Via Education Week: “FCC Plans to Weaken ‘Net Neutrality’ Provisions, Raising Questions for K–12.”

    Via USA Today: “Lunchroom bosses across the nation are getting a bit more flexibility in what they serve under a new federal rule unveiled Wednesday amid criticism that easing restrictions means less healthy young Americans.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Education Week: “K–12 Spending in Most States Still Far Below Pre-Recession Levels, Report Says.”

    Via Chalkbeat’s Colorado outlet: “Fate of Douglas County’s high-profile voucher program to be weighed at special meeting.”

    Man, the offers that cities have made to lure Amazon HQ2 to their municipalities. So much for democracy, I guess.

    More on California’s lawsuit against Bridgepoint Education in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Education in the Courts


    Via Boing Boing: “Epic Games is suing a 14 year old for making a cheat tutorial and his brilliant mother is PISSED.”

    More on lawsuits in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    The Business of Student Loans (and Financial Aid)


    There’s been quite a bit of news this about potential changes to FAFSA and financial aid. That’s all in the national politics section above.

    Via The Washington Post: “Colleges puzzled by surge in FAFSA verification requests.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Buzzfeed: “California Is Suing A Giant For-Profit College For Allegedly Misleading Students.” That’s Bridgepoint Education, which runs Ashford University.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “3 Startling Claims From California’s Lawsuit Against a For-Profit College.”

    The Wall Street Journal profiles InfiniLaw, a company that runs for-profit law schools. According to the article, it’s looking to sell off its two remaining schools, Arizona Summit Law School and Florida Law School. Its third school, Charlotte School of Law shut down this summer.

    Commentary via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Selling Swampland: For-Profit Colleges in the Age of Trump.”

    “Why Betsy DeVos Just Might Be A Cosmetology School’s Savior” – Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy profilesPro Way Hair School in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

    More on the politics of higher education in the national politics section above.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    These headlines just kill me. Via The 74: “How an Online Personalized Preschool Experiment Could Change the Way Rural America Does Early Education.”

    More MOOC data in the “research” section below. And an update from Udacity in “the business of job training” section.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via NPR: “What Really Happened At The School Where Every Graduate Got Into College.” The school in question: Ballou High School in DC.

    An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present – missing more than 90 days of school.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Anthony Scaramucci resigned Tuesday from his position on an advisory board at a Tufts University graduate school.” Disclosure: the Mooch now follows me on Twitter.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Fresh Off Failed ‘Washington Post’ Sting, James O’Keefe Will Speak at SMU.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A controversial speech at the University of Connecticut Tuesday night ended up in chaos, with students in the audience shouting at the speaker and the speaker arrested over an altercation with an audience member who appeared to take his notes.” The speaker was Lucian Wintrich, whose presentation was titled “It’s Okay to Be White.”

    Via The Houston Chronicle: “Male studentsuncomfortable’ on Texas campuses, education official says.” Really.

    Via NPR: “Parents Allege Sexual Abuse At Chinese Kindergarten.” The kindergarten is run by a private school chain, RYB Kindergarten, which incidentally was one of the handful of education IPOs this year.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Cornell University Is Investigating This Controversial Research About Eating Behaviors.” That’s Brian Wansink, about whom Retraction Watch has counted eight corrections to published work so far this year.

    Testing, Testing…


    From the OECD: “PISA 2015 Results.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “U.S. ranks No. 13 in new collaborative problem-solving test.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    The University of Tennessee dropped its plans to hire Greg Schiano as its new football coach following outcry about Schiano’s role in covering up – or at least turning a blind eye to – the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse while Schiano was at Penn State.

    Via USA Today: “College football coaches owed more than $70 million in buyouts after run of firings.”

    “Lawsuits could lead to changes in the NCAA’s concussion rules and threaten some athletic conferences, while broader questions about college football’s viability begin to emerge,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    From the HR Department


    Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “Scholastic Education Revamps Its Executive Leadership Team.”

    The Business of Job Training


    Udacity’s Blitz.com, A Freelancing Platform for Nanodegree Alumni, Shuts Down,” Class Central reports.

    In their ongoing quest to convince people that VR is really going to be a thing, we get stories like this: “College teachers-in-training prep with virtual students.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    “Can Fan Fiction Bridge the Gaps in Sex Education for Marginalized Communities?” asks Pacific Standard.

    (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


    Although much of the focus of ed-tech involves what happens at school, it’s important to remember that the corporate and consumer markets for “learning technologies” are much larger. This sort of thing, from Buzzfeed – “Here’s What Baby Food Of The Future Looks Like” – or this from from Techcrunch– “12 of the best baby tech gifts for the little ones in your life” – is pretty pervasive and should help remind us of how ed-tech (and tech more generally) serves to exacerbate inequality.

    Speaking of ed-tech exacerbating inequality, Edsurge looks atPowerMyLearning’s plans to give parents homework– “family playlists” – to do alongside their children. (No disclosure that Edsurge shares funding – from the Gates Foundation – with this organization.)

    Seems like most people spent the last couple of weeks talking about this op-ed. Articles about laptop bansfor or against– are not quite the worst. (The worst is definitely the Beloit Mindset List.) But stop anyway. Stop.

    Grovo has apparently secured the trademark for “microlearning.”

    Mozilla is ending its Web literacy work.

    Via Vice: “YouTube kills ads on 50,000 channels as advertisers flee over disturbing child content.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Jellies is a kid-friendly, parent-approved alternative to YouTube Kids.”

    According to Edsurge, Knewton is now a courseware company and not a “robot tutor in the sky.” Knewton has raised some $157 million in venture capital. (No disclosure that Edsurge shares investors – GSV Capital – with Knewton.)

    Via Think Progress: “Textbook co-authored by Roy Moore in 2011 says women shouldn’t run for office.” Moore is Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate.

    Via Edsurge: “New Company Says by Using Its Service, Students Can Test Classroom Tech Before Arriving on Campus.” The company is called TechReady.io, and it scans your computer to make sure it meets all the requirements for an LMS and so on. No discussion of privacy or security, which would sure be nice.

    Via Bloomberg: “Uber Investor Shervin Pishevar Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Multiple Women.” It’s just the latest in a long line of venture capitalists who’ve been accused of harassment this year.

    Via The New York Times: “Andy Rubin, Android Creator, Steps Away From Firm Amid Misconduct Report.” The Information reported that Rubin was “involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate while he was at Google.”

    Bitcoin Hype is Ushering in Demand for Cryptocurrency Education,” says MIT Technology Review. Let’s hope this education includes some of the underlying conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism that fuels the “anti-banking” rhetoric among cryptocurrency supporters.

    Speaking of terrible ideas, “It Takes a Village: Parenting on the Blockchain,” says The Coin Telegraph.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    “How AI and Eye Tracking Could Soon Help Schools Screen for Dyslexia,” according to Edsurge, profiling one company, Lexplore.

    Via Getting Smart: “Ask About AI: The** Future of Learning and Work**.”

    Maha Bali writing for Prof Hacker: “Against the 3A’s of EdTech: AI, Analytics, and Adaptive Technologies in Education.”

    Via the CBC: “Virtual infant BabyX prompts question: how do we feel about AI that looks so much like us?”

    There’s some robot news in the privacy section below. I’m putting it there because it’s not “LOL, robots” it’s more “holy shit, Facebook why are you so consistently terrible.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy, “Dark Money,” and the Business of Ed Reform


    It’s not “venture philanthropy,” so I’ve added “dark money” to the header this week. But it is worth following Robert Mercer’s investments, as several involve education (funding Milo to wreak havoc on college campuses, for example) or technology (backing Cambridge Analytica). This week, on the heels of a failed attempt by James O’Keefe’s media company to conduct a “sting” on The Washington Post, we learn from Buzzfeed that“Conservative Megadonor Robert Mercer Funded Project Veritas.”

    Via International Business Times: “Who Funds Conservative Campus Group Turning Point USA? Donors Revealed.” Funders include the Ed Uihlein Foundation, the family foundation of Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the family foundation of healthcare products company CEO Vince Foglia, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus’ foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Gee, that last name seems familiar.

    Via Foreign Policy: “This Beijing-Linked Billionaire Is Funding Policy Research at Washington’s Most Influential Institutions.” Think tanks. The Chinese Communist Party. Etc.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Pearson is selling its language learning company Wall Street English to Baring Private Equity Asia and CITIC Capital for $300 million (although Pearson will get about $100 million of that as the rest goes to debt relief).

    Noodle Partners has raised $14 million from Owl Ventures. The company, founded by former Princeton Review and 2U exec John Katzman, has raised $18 million. Noodle Partners helps universities set up online degree programs. (Sorta like what 2U does, I guess.)

    BetterLesson has raised $10 million from Owl Ventures, The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, New Markets Venture Partners, and Reach Capital. The professional development company has raised $21.3 million total.

    Tutoring company Upswing has raised $1.5 million from Lumina Impact Ventures, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Rethink Education, and Village Capital. It’s raised $2.97 million total.

    Private school chain Fusion Education Group has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Leeds Equity Partners.

    Tech Edventures has raised an unknown amount of money from unknown investors. The after-school coding program has previously raised $775,000.

    WeWork, which recently acquired the coding bootcamp Flatiron School and has plans to launch a private K–12 school to teach kids how to be entrepreneurs, is buying the meet-up company Meetup.

    European private equity firm IK Investment Partners has acquired acquire the tutoring company Studienkreis GmbH.

    Via The Scholarly Kitchen: “PLOS Reports $1.7M Loss In 2016.”

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    “Once you have a student’s name, birthday and SSN, the US Department of Education will give you EVERYTHING else,” says Boing Boing. “Name+DOB+SSN=FAFSA Data Gold Mine,” says Krebs on Security.

    Oxford and Cambridge are said to be illegally spying on students for money,” says Quartz.

    Via Education Week: “Schools Struggle to Keep Pace With Hackings, Other Cyber Threats.”

    Via THE Journal: “Report: Ed Tech Startups Stink at Student Data Privacy.” The report comes from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College.

    “When Is The U.S. Going To Ban The Internet Of Things For Children?” asks Fast Company. Maybe when trade publications like Fast Company stop promoting these products as revolutionary? I don’t know.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Fitbit for education: Turning school into a data-tracking game.” That’s horrific.

    Via Techcrunch: “Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported.” There’s no way to opt out apparently. This from a company that was found earlier this year to be enabling advertisers to target teens who felt “worthless.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via CNBC: “This start-up raised millions to sell ‘brain hacking’ pills, but its own study found coffee works better.” The company isn question is called HVMN (formerly Nootrobox). Its backers include Marc Andreessen.

    How to Get Your Mind to Read” – an op-ed by UVA’s Daniel Willingham. (Spoiler alert: it does not involve taking venture capital-backed “brain hacking” pills.)

    I’ve calculated the numbers for “the business of education technology” – investments, acquisitions, mergers, IPOs, and so on – for the month of November.

    Via Campus Technology: “Study Uncovers How Ed Tech Decision-Making Works.” The study was conducted by the EdTech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium, which is housed at the University of Virginia.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The work of research institutions led to the formation of 1,024 start-up companies in 2016 as invention disclosures and patent applications also rose, according to an annual survey from the Association of University Technology Managers.” Well good thing the GOP tax plan will kill that off.

    Via The Washington Post: “Private school enrollment contributes to school segregation, study finds.”

    Class Central surveyed its users: “MOOC Users Highly Educated, Have Experienced Career Benefits.”

    Predictions! This one via The 74: “By 2022, America Will Need 1 Million More College Grads With STEM Training Than We Are on Track to Produce.”

    The Hechinger Report and Columbia Journalism School’s Teacher Project have a new research project out on “The Terrible Twos.”

    I love it when people list “collaboration” as a top ed-tech trend– as though until this very moment in the history of technology, humans have been utterly unable to work together.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    This is part one of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    Last year, I started this series – my annual review of the year in education technologywith an article on wishful thinking. It was a nod, in part, to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book that I’ve found useful in understanding how grief clouds our thinking, how grief makes use want to believe the unbelievable, how it “ruptures the rational,” as I wrote then. 2016 was such a terrible, terrible year, and as I composed my reflections on it for this annual series, I wanted to start by recognizing the pain and the loss.

    But I wanted to consider too why the stories we repeatedly tell about education and education technology were so fanciful – stories about impending disruptions and revolutions and robot teachers and brain zappers and so on. Why was so much ed-tech “fake news”?

    I didn’t use the phrase “fake news” in that article, although I’d like to think it was implied. The image above from Google Trends helps demonstrate how popular the phrase has become in the intervening months. It’s taken on multiple meanings too: first used to identify the misinformation that had occurred online surrounding the 2016 election, it was later embraced by President Trump to denigrate and dismiss “the mainstream media.”

    “Fake news” is partly a crisis of journalism and a crisis of civics; but it is also a crisis of education and technology. It’s a crisis of knowledge and expertise and science. (It’s also an opportunity – surprise, surprise – for lots of folks to try sell us some sort of “digital literacy” product.)

    Here Lies the President of the United States


    The lying did not start on Inauguration Day – 20 January 2017. Indeed, some 70% of the statements Donald Trump made on the campaign trail, as fact-checked by Politifact , have been deemed to be false; just 4% deemed true. But I suppose we should talk about Inauguration Day nonetheless, since that’s when this administration officially began.

    On his first full day in office, the President used a speech at CIA headquarters to call journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” chastising the media for reports that there had been low turnout at his inauguration. Trump claimed that 1.5 million people had attended the event. And at the new administration’s first press briefing the same day, then Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that“it was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”

    The photographic evidence clearly showed otherwise – the crowds on the mall were visibly smaller than those gathered for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. And even if those photographs were somehow misleading, the 1.5 million people that Trump claimed would have still been a smaller crowd than Obama’s.

    The photographic evidence clearly showed otherwise. And yet the Trump Administration insisted that what we saw and what we knew was untrue.

    Gaslight– that wonderful 1944 George Cukor film starring a very very young Angela Lansbury – has resurfaced as part of our vocabulary. To gaslight: to psychologically manipulate someone into doubting the truth that they have seen or experienced first-hand.

    Lying and exaggerating has long been a signature tactic of the real estate mogul turned politician. It is now a key feature of his presidency. The New York Times tried to keep track of all the 45th President’s falsehoods this year, but it seems to have abandoned its “definitive list” some time in July. When questioned by reporters from The New York Times and elsewhere, Trump has repeated his accusation that these journalists constitute “fake news.” Their reporting should not be trusted.

    Who Do We Trust?


    There’s been plenty of ink spilled this year on why Donald Trump won the election. There’s no way I’m going to re-hash that here (even though the length of this article might suggest I’ve tried). But I will say that, among the various appeals that he made to voters, Trump was able to tap into a strain of populism that’s been fomenting in this country for a while – one that seeks to dismiss and dismantle various political and cultural institutions, including the government, science, the media, universities, and the K–12 school system. These institutions – their practices, their research, their statements – cannot be trusted, this story tells us.

    This deep mistrust involves a rejection of expertise – something that has emboldened flat earthers and anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers and chemtrail conspiracy theorists and school shooting truthers and “deep state” conspiracy theorists and pizzagate believers, to name a few of the most popular story-lines. And in today’s information environment, all these stories have seemingly become a lot less “fringe.” These beliefs are readily amplified and shared by the very “network effects” baked into the infrastructure of social media platforms.

    But blaming social media is too easy and too simplistic.

    Blame Schools… “Government Schools”


    In July, famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that “The rise of flat-Earthers in society provides some of the best evidence for the failure of our educational system.” Many educators were angered, insisting that this wasn’t their fault.

    Nobody wants to take responsibility, which is fine. I get that. Whatever. But at some point, we have to figure out how to clean up this mess. Teachers. Educators. Journalists. I’m talking to you.

    No doubt, there’s long been hand-wringing about Americans’ knowledge of science. “A Nation at Risk” and such. Indeed, Americans don’t actively seek out scientific information, one survey found this year, relying on their general news source – “mainstream journalism,” if you will – to provide them with irregular updates on the latest research.

    And that’s a problem right there, no doubt, as journalism regularly gets scientific research wrong, often repeating the synopses from paywalled articles or the stories that industry hopes it will share: Is chocolate good for your health? Are standing desks? Is ESP real? Do cellphones cause brain cancer? Should you ban laptops? What does the science say?!

    But, to be fair to journalists, a lot of the time we do get it right. So what happens when, for example, we share the research that demonstrates that vouchers do not improve student achievement? Can we expect that – the science or the journalism – to alter public policy in an administration that does not believe in either science or journalism?

    See, what might be even more significant than how frequently (or infrequently) Americans learn about science news (or how well that science is explained) is how their personal beliefs influence whether or not they believe that science to be valid.

    That is, accepting science is not necessarily a function of education or scientific knowledge – parents who are anti-vaccine are often affluent and highly-educated, for example. It’s a function of politics. Or rather, according to research from Pew released this year, “how much people know about science only modestly and inconsistently correlates with their attitudes about climate and energy issues, while partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs.” (Emphasis mine.)

    But let’s be honest, industry and political groups do still try mightily to shape the science curriculum in American schools, challenging the teaching of evolution, subsidizing science lessons that promote fracking, suggesting everyone should learn to code, and promoting climate change skepticism, for example. Curriculum battles are going to be increasingly fraught as Americans’ beliefs – and beliefs in academic freedom – are increasingly polarized. (That’s another story for another article.)

    But the challenges to the expertise of science and schools are even more insidious than the Heartland Institute or Discovery Institute or Code.org pamphleteering. And Americans don’t just struggle with facts about science. They struggle with facts about social studies. This too has been a long time in the making. As Kristina Rizga wrote in Mother Jones this year,

    In 2011, all federal funding for civics and social studies was eliminated. Some state and local funding dropped, too, forcing many cash-strapped districts to prioritize math and English – the subjects most prominently featured in standardized tests. A study by George Washington University’s Center on Education Policy found that between 2001 and 2007, 36 percent of districts decreased elementary classroom time spent on social studies, including civics – a drop that most affected underfunded schools serving working-class, poor, rural, and inner-city kids."

    We do not know our rights. We do not understand democracy. Many of us do not understand this moment – how it augurs authoritarianism. “Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government,” Timothy Egan lamented in an op-ed in The New York Times this fall. “When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.”

    It’s hard to know what’s “fake news” if you don’t know what’s “real news.” And many Americans do seemingly lack the content knowledge to tell the difference. Add to that, “content knowledge” is increasingly politicized and up-for-debate, as Americans live in a highly polarized society – a highly polarized information economy, one where one pole blasts public education as irretrievably corrupt and frighteningly collectivist. “Government schools.” Sites of indoctrination, not learning. It’s “fake news” all the way down.

    The annual Gallup poll gauging the public’s confidence in public schools did reach its highest level this year since 2009. But even with that uptick, just 36% of Americans polled say they are confident in US public schools. While the Gallup poll found just an 11 point difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ opinions on K–12 schools, the picture at the university level is quite different. According to a survey released by the Pew Research Center in July, 58% of Republicans now say that higher education has a negative effect on the country. (By comparison, just 19% of Democrats believe that colleges’ and universities’ effect is negative.)

    What are the implications – on knowledge-making and knowledge dissemination – of that divide?

    And why has public opinion about education shifted in recent years? (The Pew survey shows dramatic downward shifts in Republicans’ opinions on higher ed just since 2015.) Pundits have offered a variety of explanations for the distrust in universities: the rising cost of college (something I’ll examine in a subsequent article in this series); an economy that, according to one poll, has led some workers to feel like a college education is more of “a gamble” than a gain (another forthcoming topic); “identity politics” and protests on campuses (yet another forthcoming topic) and the ongoing “culture wars” that posit that colleges – and public schools at the K–12 level – are bastions of liberal indoctrination.

    Those “culture wars” are, of course, not new. Ronald Reagan, for example, ran for Governor of California in 1966 with a promise to “clean up that mess in Berkeley.” That is to say, the anti-college drumbeat has been played for and by conservatives for quite some time.

    What Does the FOX Say?


    While political polarization might not be new – case in point, Ronald Reagan’s campaign slogans in 1966 – the gap between the beliefs of political parties appears to be widening. This affects beliefs in things we typically think of as “political” – one’s stance on immigration, for example – but it also extends more generally, to our information diets – to the news and information we digest – and to what we know and think we know and who we trust to help us gain and build knowledge.

    In the same survey cited above, Pew found this year a pronounced divide between conservatives and liberals when it comes to their stance on how the media affects the country. 85% of Republicans now believe the national news media has a negative effect; 46% of Democrats say that the news media has a negative effect. That’s almost half of both parties. “Fake news” has become a powerful rallying cry among many Americans, 46% of whom believe that the news media invents stories just to make President Trump look bad.

    One of the most important media outlets for conservatives, FOX News, has been accused for years now – decades, even – of a right-wing slant that veers towards misinformation. Jon Stewart famously accused FOX of having the most misinformed viewers– something that became even more disconcerting this year as it’s clear the President gets much of his news and information from that outlet.

    The CEO of FOX, Roger Ailes, resigned last July amidst a sexual harassment scandal, and Ailes died in May of this year. His death prompted a number of reflections on his role in reshaping (and denigrating) public discourse in America. As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi put it, “Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever.”

    The problem of misinformation and “fake news” is not a recent one. And to be fair, nor is it simply the fault of FOX News.

    Rolling Stone, for its part, settled a libel lawsuit in April with a former administrator at the University of Virginia who claimed she was portrayed in the now-debunked magazine article about an alleged rape at a UVA fraternity as the “‘chief villain,’ indifferent to sexual assault on campus.” In June, Rolling Stone agreed to pay $1.65 million to the fraternity in question as part of its defamation lawsuit. In September, the magazine announced it was up for sale, but it appears as though the fallout from the retracted article – the ongoing court cases, that is – might stymy efforts to sell.

    Journalism is far from perfect. It was far from perfect during the election. (The gendered dimension of the treatment of the first female Presidential candidate to receive a mainstream party’s nomination is particularly noteworthy now that so many high profile male journalists are being accused of sexual assault.) It has been far from perfect in responding to the Trump Administration and “fake news” this year. Indeed, I’d contend that ed-tech journalism in particular – admittedly (supposedly) my focus here – has peddled “fake news” – “the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release,” as I like to say – repeating all sorts of specious marketing claims:

    School hasn’t changed in 100 years. Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years. Half of high school classes will be taught online by 2019. 65% of primary school students will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet. The college lecture is dying. Flying cars are coming, and you’ll be able to get a nanodegree from Udacity in the subject by 2018. Self-driving cars for everyone! Thermal imaging can now tell how hard you’re thinking. We can monitor students’ brainwaves to see if they’re sufficiently “engaged” in class. Virtual reality will be used to teach empathy. VR will revolutionize education. Second Life will revolutionize education. Khan Academy will revolutionize education. And on and on and on and on and on and on.

    Why would you ever trust ed-tech journalism?! (Unless you were politically aligned with the very forces spreading those narratives. Unless, that is, you want desperately for these things to be true.)

    Kill Your Television


    Our information ecosystem extends well beyond “journalism,” of course – beyond fact-checkers and sources on- or off-the-record and editors and legal departments, all of which ideally make sure the news is truly “fit to print.” It includes documentary filmmaking, for example, and it includes school curriculum. The latter was hardly foolproof this year either when it came to “getting things right.” (Yes, another year, another set of textbooks that had to be retracted because of misinformation and other “inadvertent errors.”)

    The History Channel aired a documentary in July – Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence– that claimed that the famous aviator, whose disappearance remains (somewhat of) a mystery, had actually been taken prisoner by the Japanese. The film showed a photograph that supposedly showed Earhart and her navigator at a harbor on one of the Marshall Islands. This claim was debunked after a 30-minute search online by military history blogger Kota Yamano. A 30-minute search.

    It’s easy to blame social media for the rise of “fake news” – certainly that’s what’s received the most attention this year – but television broadcasting is at least partly responsible for what seems to be this deep societal confusion about “what we know.” (It’s still where most Americans get their news. Although just barely.) The problem with television is not just the propaganda machine of FOX News; it’s also channels like History that show historical and scientific documentaries full of unsubstantiated historical and scientific claims.

    I wrote about the history of The Learning Channel a couple of years ago – how it moved away from its roots in educational TV. It’s a much more interesting story than the History Channel’s, which once focused almost exclusively on (US-focused) WWII military documentaries but that pivoted in the last decade or so to ridiculous shows like Ancient Aliens and Bigfoot Captured. The History Channel’s pivot to bullshit would suggest that we’ve been cultivating media misinformation for a very long time. Indeed, Kevin Young’s new book on the history of hoaxes, Bunk, which has just been released, suggests that America might just be, at its core, a post-fact nation. A racist post-fact nation, to be clear.

    If there is something profoundly appealing to Americans about P. T. Barnum types – “I’m a bit of a P. T. Barnum,” Donald Trump once claimed– then the media seems to quite keen to capitalize on their message, particularly when the truth can be sacrificed for business models, when it can be bent to generate more eyeballs, more clicks, more advertising revenue, more money.

    The Internet as Agitprop


    Here’s the Fortune headline from 11 November 2016 – two days after the Presidential election: “Mark Zuckerberg Says Fake News on Facebook Affecting the Election Is a ‘Crazy Idea’.” A year and a bit later, it’s not such a crazy idea after all – even Zuck has admitted as much.

    Executives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter testified before Congress in October, responding to questions about the role these Internet companies had played in the election, particularly as related to allegations of Russian interference. Initially Facebook had claimed that fake Russian accounts had purchased just $100,000 in ads on its platform – how bad could that be?! One month later, it admitted that 10 million people had seen the ads. A few weeks later, that figure was adjusted upward again: some 126 million people had been exposed to Russian-linked content via Facebook. Various protests, organized via the social media site, were linked to Russian accounts, including the most popular Texas secession page. Twitter too revealed it had sold ads to Russian accounts and the platform was (is) full of bots promoting and retweeting divisive messaging. Even Pokemon Go was purportedly used in the Russian mis- and disinformation campaign. (Phew. Good thing no one in education has penned stories predicting that any of these platforms are going to “disrupt education forever.”)

    To focus solely on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election via social media is, in many ways, to misconstrue the problem – its origins, its impact. But to ignore Silicon Valley’s role is also to dismiss its powerful role now, one in which it increasingly controls the public sphere. And to be clear, this isn’t simply about the relationship of these companies to “the news” – although my god, they’re so terrible at handling that. It’s the relationship of these companies to information and to education. (A subsequent article in this series will look at the role – and the power – of platforms in education.)

    Google’s motto, remember, is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But its search results repeatedly surface inaccurate information, for starters.

    “Google’s featured snippets are worse than fake news,” Adrienne Jeffries wrote in The Outline in March, pointing to highlighted content that was not just wrong but often racist. These search results, as we have seen so clearly this year, have been disastrous. As Safiya Noble wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education in January,

    That misinformation can be debilitating for a democracy – and in some instances deadly for its citizens. Such was the case with the 2015 killings of nine African-American worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., who were victims of a vicious hate crime. In a manifesto, the convicted gunman, Dylann Roof, wrote that his radicalization on race began following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen, and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. Roof typed “black on White crime” in a Google search; he says the results confirmed (a patently false notion) that black violence on white Americans is a crisis. His source? The Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “unrepentantly racist.” As Roof himself writes of his race education via Google, “I have never been the same since that day.”

    In her GQ profile of Roof this summer, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah underscores too how much of his “education” – his radicalization is, I suppose, how people would rather frame it – occurred online. But what are Americans learning online? And what are they learning in school to help them make sense of the information they find online?

    Buy My Media Literacy Product, Said the Moose Diarrhea Salesman


    Facebook and Google both launched (PR) efforts this year to try to address the “fake news” problems on their platforms. Google announced in April it was adding fact-checking sites to search and news results. Of course, it also ran ads for fake news on fact-checking sites. Facebook said it would beef up its content moderation staff and help users identify fake news on its platform. The latter backfired when Facebook’s algorithms simply promoted comments containing the word “fake.”

    Facebook also hired journalist Campbell Brown to run its news partnership efforts. (Incidentally, Brown, a former CNN anchor, also founded a pro-education reform publication called The 74. Small world, I guess.)

    So Google and Facebook – and a whole raft of other companies – have decided to get into the “digital literacy” business. Google launched a “Be Internet Awesome” digital citizenship campaign. Facebook said it would work with the ed-tech advocacy group Digital Promise to teach digital skills. The promise of all this industry PR: the solution to problems with social media is solved through more social media. Naturally.

    In April, Facebook launched what some called the largest media literacy campaign ever, publishing a list of “tips to spot false news.” Pity, the largest was also the worst. Or, as Washington State University’s Mike Caulfield put it, “Facebook’s News Literacy Advice Is Harmful to News Literacy.”

    Facebook’s list of tips are readily recognizable from many news literacy curricula: be wary of headlines, investigate the source, and so on. But this model “gets the Web wrong,” Caulfield has argued. And as he points out,

    There’s actually no evidence that this approach works. And conversely, there’s quite a lot history that shows this model does not work. We actually already trained a generation of students with variants of this method. Sometimes we called it CRAAP. In K–12, it often went by the name of RADCAB.

    Not only has media literacy not worked, it appears these efforts, as danah boyd worried this year, have backfired.

    But that sure hasn’t stopped the money flowing into media and information literacy products. “‘Fake News,’ Media Literacy Become Business Opportunities in Rush to Educate Students,” Education Week’s Market Brief reported in February. “Millions of Dollars Pour into New Literacy Initiatives,” Edsurge echoed in April. Various education organizations have released frameworks and guidelines and curricula (and, of course, press releases announcing that they were “on it”): Teaching Tolerance, UNESCO, and the New Media Consortium, for example.

    For his part, Mike Caulfield published a (free) textbook in February, Web Literacy for Student Fact- Checkers. But Caulfield’s work is more process than product – that’s a key difference. Writing in the Educause Review this fall, he says that

    Now is the time for an info-environmentalism curriculum. It’s true that information pollution has been a longstanding problem in mass media. But unlike the nightly news, the web is still a collectively maintained and produced environment. We can clean it up. We can pull those televisions and shopping carts and plastic bags out of our shared information streams and Google results.

    Caulfield’s textbook – and, more broadly, his work with the Digital Polarization Initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’s American Democracy Project, on his own campus and elsewhere – enlists college students in improving the information environment by not just understanding but by improving information online: editing Wikipedia, annotating news articles, creating video or written content. His guidance is designed for college classrooms, sure, but really the impulse is about an online, information civics in general.

    What Do We Believe? (And Why?)


    “Critical thinking is at the foundation of information literacy, but those selling it are not necessarily in a position to actually supply it. They may be hampered by an inability to think critically about their own practices and proposals.” That was the provocation from Seattle Pacific University’s Rolin Moe in an article in the publication Real Life. Moe blasts “information literacy” and the larger institutions that it supports – schools, libraries, the media – institutions that purport to want criticality, but only insofar as that criticality creates consumers and producers of content and information.

    It’s one of my favorite articles written this year. But it’s complicated…

    Real Life (the publication, that is) is funded by the technology company Snapchat. Maybe that helps hint at some of the problems we face with our current information ecosystem: it’s a mess. We’re all deeply implicated in its messiness. Not just students. And not just scholars. All of us. There is no responding to Neil deGrasse Tyson that it’s not your fault there are flat-earthers – particularly if you’re a teacher or a journalist or a person who has ever shared a story online that you didn’t read but really thought the headline was really-right-fucking-on.

    If you’re going to decry “fake news,” or the President’s version of “fake news,” then you best not be sharing “fake news” yourself. If you’re going to talk about the importance of digital literacy or information literacy or media literacy or what have you, then you best practice it. Did you share this Raw Story story– “Education officials expect ‘ineffective’ Betsy DeVos to step down as her agenda collapses: report” – or this Salon story– “Expert: Expect DeVos to resign from Trump administration”? Why? Did you read the Politico profile of Betsy DeVos that these (and many other) pieces of clickbait were based on? Did you see evidence in that well-reported story that a resignation was imminent? Or did you just want a story to confirm your gut feelings that she should hit the road? Because, going with your “gut feeling” on a story part of the problem. It’s not just that “fake news,” (or incorrect news) get written. It’s that folks share these stories so quickly and uncritically. Anyway, as Matt Barnum writes, “No, there’s no reason to think DeVos is planning to resign, contrary to viral news stories.”

    But that’s what people wanted to believe. That’s how “fake news” works.More facts might not actually save us.

    And maybe, just maybe, many of those who peddle education technology products and tell us stories about the future of education are banking on that.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com. And yes, this article is over 6000 words. But there are things I left out. You can find them in the supplemental reading section at 2017trends.hackeducation.com.


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    This is part two of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    I confess: most of my social media networks are focused on education. I’m friends with educators. I follow educators and education journalists. I pay incredibly close attention to education news, and as such I expect my news feed to be full of education stories. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this year when it comes to the public’s interest in – and horror at – education politics.

    We have Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to thank for that.

    Betsy DeVos is the most unpopular cabinet member in the Trump Administration, with a September poll finding that 40% of voters view her unfavorably and one in March finding that 52% disapprove or strongly disapprove of her.

    What’s striking about this isn’t simply that the Secretary of Education is unpopular. It’s not just that the Secretary of Education has become a part of popular culture, mocked on Saturday Night Live– although that’s something, for sure. It’s that Americans even know who the Secretary of Education is; that she’s known well enough to become a punchline, .

    When President Trump nominated the billionaire for the position in late November, DeVos was not a name known much outside of education reform efforts in her home state of Michigan, where she had funded the expansion of charter schools and donated extensively to the GOP and various conservative and religious groups. Her nomination, while supported by the likes of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who called her an “outstanding pick,” was denounced teachers unions and Democrats – that’s no surprise. More surprising: that she was immediately socontroversial to so many members of the public who reportedly jammed Senate phone lines voicing their opposition.

    DeVos’s nomination hearing proved to be high drama – even that she had a confirmation hearing at all felt rather scandalous in some circles, after not completing all her ethics paperwork, failing to disclose political donations, and not paying off election-related fines. (Fascinating how "accountability" applies to only some in education.)

    One of the “highlights” of her hearing: her insistence that schools need guns to protect against grizzly bears. And that’s just one example of how incredibly ill-prepared DeVos seemed for the questions she received from Senators, appearing to not grasp some of the basics of education policy– the difference between “proficiency” and “growth,” for example – misstating graduation rates for online charter schools (something she’s long advocated, a key piece of her policy efforts as Secretary, and a separate article in this series), and seeming to not know there were federal rules surrounding disability rights and education.

    Nevertheless, she was confirmed on 7 February as the Secretary of Education. The vote was split 50–50, with all Democrats and two Republicans – Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voting in opposition and Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to cast the deciding “yes.” (The Senate had scheduled Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation vote for the position of US Attorney General after DeVos’s so he could support her in this one.) It was the first time that a Vice President had to break a tie in the Senate to approve a Cabinet member.

    Arguably, her tenure as Secretary of Education has been as rocky as her confirmation hearing.

    Some of the problems have come from statements she’s made (and where she’s made them – speaking, for example, at a multitude of corporate and education reform events but declining an invitation to speak to education journalists, a traditional venue for the Secretary to appear.) DeVos has found herself in hot water by stating that Historically Black Colleges and Universities – schools founded because Black students were barred from attending white institutions – were the “real pioneers” of “school choice.” (Not a good look, especially as racial segregation in schools has been exacerbated in recent years, in part through the kinds of policies – “school choice” – DeVos advocates.) In response, no doubt, students at the HBCU Bethune-Cookman booed and turned their backs on her in May when she spoke at their commencement. DeVos earned the ire of educators when she told Town Hall in a February interview that she’d visited a school where the teachers were in “a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do.” She irritated politicians when, during testimony on Capitol Hill, she repeated 14 times that “schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law” when she was asked about discrimination and her plans for a federal voucher program. She decried an Obama era policy forgive the loans of students defrauded by for-profit schools: “all one had to do,” she told a group of Republicans in September, “was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.” DeVos also raised eyebrows by issuing a statement of support following Trump’s announcement that he was withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accord– all while remaining silent on other issues more directly related to her department, such as the revocation of DACA protections.

    (And then there were the typos. So very manymisspellings and grammatical errors.)

    But it’s likely the actions and the threat of actions – of the Department of Education and the Trump Administration more broadly – and not just the words and status updates that have made DeVos so incredibly unpopular. The rollback of Obama-era guidance on Title IX and sexual assault. The reversal of Obama-era guidance on transgender policies. The rescinding of documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities. The reversal of Obama-era policies designed to protect students from predatory for-profits, particularly with a series of decisions about student loans– enough that this warrants its own article in this series.

    (And I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t note somewhere that, while DeVos is attempting to shrink the size of the Department of Education workforce by offering buyouts to staffers, taxpayers aren’t seeing much of a financial break when it comes to the Secretary herself: “Federal marshals are protecting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a cost to her agency of nearly $8 million over nearly eight months, according to the U.S. Marshals Service,” The Washington Post reported in April. The previous four Secretaries have not used the Marshals, but rather the Department of Education’s own security service.)

    The Business of Betsy DeVos


    As with many departments and agencies in the Trump Administration, many positions in DeVos’s Department of Education – particularly those requiring Senate confirmation – remain unfilled. Many of the jobs that have been filled underscore the deep ties that this Presidency has with industry: Taylor Hansen, a former lobbyist for the for-profit higher ed group Career Education Colleges and Universities, was hired (and subsequently quit) as part of the administration’s “beachhead” team; Julian Schmoke, a former DeVry University administrator, was tapped to lead the Education Department’s Student Aid Enforcement Unit; A. Wayne Johnson, the head of a student loan refinancing company, was chosen to run the department’s student loan division; Robert Eitel, a former executive at the for-profit Bridgepoint Education, was pegged as senior counselor to the secretary; and Stanley Buchesky, a venture capitalist with The EdTechFund, was selected as the department’s interim CFO, for example. (And has also occurred repeatedly in this administration, several of the Department of Education hires have had to step down or remove their names for consideration because of their penchant for makingoffensivecommentsonline.)

    DeVos’s own ties to industry are noteworthy as well, as detailed in the disclosure forms that she had to file as part of her nomination. “For A Glimpse At The Billionaire Class,” as Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy put it in February, “Check Out Betsy DeVos’s Finances.”

    To be honest, Betsy DeVos and her family have so many investments, her finances need much more than a glimpse. The Center for American Progress also took a look“Inside the Financial Holdings of Billionaire Betsy DeVos,” and the list of education- and tech-related investments is long: KinderCare Education, the childcare company. MCF CLO IV LLC, a private equity firm with investments in – among other things – Caldwell & Gregory LLC, a company that makes laundry machines for university dorms. Theranos, the troubled blood-testing company. Discovery Communications, maker of education curriculum. The for-profit college company Sextant Education. Performant Financial Corp, a student loan debt collection agency that’s done business with the Department of Education. Avery Point VII CLO, which loaned money to for-profit college company Laureate Education. Apollo Investment Corp, whose subsidiary Apollo Global Management recently acquired the University of Phoenix. SoFi, the student loan company. n2y, a company that makes educational software for people with disabilities. Media Source, a company with several library-related products, including the publication School Library Journal. Neurocore, a “brain training” company under investigation for making misleading claims. (“Brain training” and related neuro-bollocks have become so pervasive this year that I’ll write about that in its own, separate article.) DeVos has divested from some, but not all of these. (Not Neurocore, for example.)

    There are other family connections too, least of all DeVos’ brother Erik Prince, founder of the private military company Blackwater who’s been trying to convince Trump to privatize the war in Afghanistan. (DeVos has also made investments in military contractors since being in office, incidentally.) DeVos’s son Rick DeVos sits on the board of The College Fix, a right-wing college publication that, among other things, has helped stir up controversy about “free speech” on campus. DeVos’s husband Dick DeVos was appointed by Trump to a civilian FAA panel. (His political contributions to two Michigan political action committees this fall run afoul of DeVos’s promise that she and her husband would not make campaign donations during her stint in the Trump Administration.)

    There are other powerful relationships too – as I’m investigating as part of my Spencer Education Fellowship, education technology’s political and financial networks are vast. Kevin Chavous, for example, a co-founder and board member of the American Federation for Children – a conservative “school choice” group co-founded chaired by DeVos until her nomination – joined the board of K12 Inc, the online virtual charter school company. (K12 Inc’s stock rallied after DeVos’s confirmation– notable considering how far it had fallen in recent years with repeated news about its academic failures.) But much of the billions that the DeVos family funnels into its networks is “dark money,” and as such is more challenging to track than the billions that, say, venture capital funnels into ed-tech.

    From the outset, the ed-tech industry has been bullish on Betsy DeVos (even though the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology still does not have an official nominee to head it.) Edsurge, which described her as a “mainstream outsider,” reassured its readers that DeVos “believes that technology has a role to play in the classroom.” “Her articulated commitment to trying different approaches to teaching and learning may bode well for the field of edtech,” Penn GSE’s Barbara Kurshan said in Forbes. “DeVos could be an ed tech champion as education secretary,” the trade publication Education Dive suggested hopefully. Venture capitalist Ryan Craig wrote in Techcrunch following her confirmation that that“By supporting charter schools and changing student financing for college, Secretary DeVos will usher in a new era of technology innovation in education.”

    What exactly do ed-tech’s proponents mean when they gush excitedly about Betsy DeVos and “innovation”? And what exactly might DeVos herself mean by “innovation”?

    The Cult of Innovation


    Many journalists have pointed to one core element of DeVos’s faith in “innovation,” and that’s the powerful alliance she represents among education reformers, education businesses, and conservative Christians: “The Privatization Prophets,” Jennifer Berkshire called them in an article in Jacobin, describing them as “Holy Warriors Against the Welfare State” in an article in The Baffler. “Betsy DeVos’ Holy War” was how Janet Reitman described the Secretary’s policies in Rolling Stone. “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom,’” Mother Jones’s Kristina Rizga argued.

    That goal – building “God’s Kingdom” – appeared in a 2001 interview that DeVos and her husband gave with a Christian philanthropic interview in which she argued “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” Her husband added that it is “certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.” Other organizations that DeVos has led or funded share similar agenda– reshaping curricula and softening the divide between Church and State.

    Of course, there are many obstacles to public funding for religious schools in the US, least of which being the Constitution – although the US Supreme Court did rule this year that a Christian school in Missouri could use taxpayer money to upgrade its playground, a move that was cheered by DeVos and one that some observers say could open up the possibility that vouchers be used to pay tuition at parochial schools.

    It’s an expansion of the meaning of “school choice,” perhaps, which has typically been used to describe efforts to expand charter schools and increasingly to allow taxpayer money to follow students to private schools via vouchers. It’s now part of a larger effort, some contend, to weaken “government schools,” to strengthen “Judeo-Christian values,” and to refute the public education system’s liberal and secular biases.

    “Choice” has been described by some, including historian Diane Ravitch, for some time now as part of an effort to privatize the public school system. DeVos’s commitment seems to go farther: “the merger of free-market ideology and the religious right.”

    But, as I’ve noted for years now, there’s long been an eschatological bent to the calls for “disruptive innovation.” Perhaps DeVos is closer to the mainstream investor class after all

    An Uber for Education


    There have been some murmurs this year of a fracturing of the “charter school coalition” in light of the Trump Administration’s policies and statements; but it seems as though education technology’s support for Betsy DeVos has remained strong. She spoke at the annual ASU-GSV investor event in May to a friendly audience, where she told the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in attendance she was committed to “get the federal government out of the way so you can do your job.” She also likened the ed-tech industry to a thousand flowers blooming, but I’m guessing she didn’t really mean to give a nod to Mao.

    A more common analogy in DeVos’s repertoire is likening “school choice” and school reform to Uber. She told the Brookings Institution in March that “Just like the traditional taxi service revolted against ride-sharing, so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice.”

    Nobody mandates that you take an Uber over a taxi, nor should they. But if you think ridesharing is the best option for you, the government shouldn’t get in your way.


    The truth is that in practice, people like having more options. They like being able to choose between Uber Pool, Uber X, Lyft Line, Lyft Plus, and many others. Or when it comes to taking a family trip, many like options such as Airbnb.


    We celebrate the benefits of choices in transportation and lodging. But doesn’t that pale in comparison to the importance of educating the future of our country? Why do we not allow parents to exercise that same right to choice in the education of their child?

    Of course, Uber and Lyft are for the wealthy. Just 15% of Americans have ever used one. And Ubers and even taxis are private transportation businesses; education, on the other hand, is a public good.

    But it’s a bad analogy for plenty of other reasons, not merely because it underscores how little DeVos understands the public school system.

    DeVos, to be fair, probably does understand “the gig economy” fairly well – her billions come, in part, from her family’s business, Amway, and the similarities between Amway and Uber’s business model are notable. We just don’t call Uber a pyramid scheme, I guess, because it has venture capital funding and a nice app. Uber is infamous for its terrible labor practices, relying on freelance drivers who must shoulder the cost of providing and maintaining their vehicles. Uber – and the gig economy more generally – is marketed as a path towards financial liberation, but really it’s simply a tool of survival in an increasingly precarious world. Uber has also found itself in hot water this year for a corporate culture rife with sexual harassment. And in March, The New York Times broke a story that showed how Uber had used a tool called “Greyball” to circumvent regulators trying to crack down on the ride-sharing service. (I’ll have more to say about this in the forthcoming article on “personalization” – because yes, that’s precisely what “greyballing” is.) In April, The NYT wrote about the company again, this time documenting “How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons.” (And yeah, there’s an ed-tech angle to that story too.) Founder Travis Kalanick stepped down from his position as CEO in June (although he remains on the board). But that hasn’t stopped the controversies. In November, Bloomberg reported that hackers had stolen the personal information of some 57 million Uber customers and drivers. The company had kept the breach secret for over a year, paying the hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen data.

    At this stage, if you think “Uber for education” is a good idea, you’re either not paying attention or you’re some sort of cartoon villain. (Or both.)

    Running Your School Like a (Silicon Valley) Business


    Despite all the evidence that it’s a bad idea, the argument that schools should be run more like a business remains a pervasive one in American culture – and it has been for over a century.

    This agenda takes many forms: it includes efforts to dismantle unions; it prioritizes talk (and measurements) of “efficiency”; it praises “unbundling” and outsourcing; it privileges “entrepreneurship” as a core value; it fetishizes technology as a vehicle for change.

    And so you get a lot of headlines like this: “Your Guide to Running a School Like Disney World.” “Bridging the School-to-Business Gap: What Public Schools Can Learn From Industry.” “How Boundaries Between Colleges and Companies Will Continue to Blur.” What higher education can learn from American Express. “Tesla’s Ride-Sharing Network and Our Higher Ed Futures.” “What Christian Slater’s HP Videos Tell Us About the Future of Higher Ed Communications.” “Supercuts and the Future of (Too Many) Jobs.” “‘Grocery’, the Amazon-Whole Foods Deal and Higher Ed.” “If teachers think like managers, they could make happier classrooms.” “Schools Take a Page From Silicon Valley With ‘Scrum’ Approach.” “The Decline of the Laundromat and the Future of Higher Education.” “Is Your Edtech Product a Refrigerator or Washing Machine?” and so on.

    By adopting its technology products– and more importantly, by adopting Silicon Valley’s culture and its obsession with “innovation” – schools have found themselves embracing values that run afoul of schools’ civic and social mission (whether they’re public institutions or not); values that posit students merely as objects of experimentation; that ignore research in order to further a political agenda (and that in turn tend to further inequality); that co-opt history, to borrow from John Patrick Leary, to suit the industry’s autocratic ends; that privilege a largely invented story about “the Great White Innovator”; that tout the slogan “move fast and break things” without thinking about the implications on the lives five- to twelve-year-olds, without thinking about the implications for civil society, .

    Because of his embrace of that practice – “move fast and break things” – The New York Times declared in March that Trump was the first Silicon Valley President. Thanks, Silicon Valley. Thanks a lot.

    Innovation and “New U”


    Arguably, the university most closely associated with the Trump administration this year is Liberty University, a religious college in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell and now headed by his son Jerry Falwell Jr.

    Falwell Jr. was an early proponent of Donald Trump and has stuck by him after his repeated racist and sexist statements. Trump apparently promised Falwell Jr a position on a new higher education task force, but as of yet, no task force has materialized.

    Liberty University’s online offerings have helped the school to expand dramatically – it boasts some 94,000 students online and is now the largest Christian university in the world. According to a profile of Falwell Jr in Inside Higher Ed this fall,

    Liberty’s net assets, measured in the tens of millions of dollars a dozen years ago, exceeded $1.8 billion in 2016. Next year it will move to the top division in college football, realizing a key vision of Jerry Falwell Sr. by becoming the evangelical equivalent of the University of Notre Dame or Brigham Young University – a nationally recognized religious institution of higher learning that uses its football program to capture hearts and minds on national television.

    Innovation.

    For several years now, Arizona State University has been one of the most high profile schools to embrace the ideology of “innovation,” describing itself in a book penned by its president Michael Crow as “The New American University.” In September, the school issued a press release– as one does when one is an innovator – boasting that, for the third year in a row, it had been named as the most innovative school in the US by US News & World Report.

    How does one become the most innovative school in the country? According to the US News & World Report’s own methodology, “College presidents, provosts and admissions deans were asked to nominate up to 10 colleges or universities in their U.S. News Best Colleges ranking category that are making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.” You become the most innovative school by innovating. Duh.

    “We now know that because of our innovation platform and our innovation culture, we’re just getting started,” President Crow said in the university’s press release. “Our pace of innovation is not just continuing, it’s accelerating.” And that, dear readers, is nonsense. It’s silly talk. “Innovation” – or the work that particular word does in those particular sentences, at least – is meaningless.

    The implications of “innovation,” of course, come from looking more closely at the kinds of policies and programs that ASU has adopted: using software to teach freshman math courses, for example, and hosting the annual ASU-GSV Summit (where all the innovative “thought leaders” apparently gather). It partnered this year with Draper University– not a real university – to offer students credits for spending a semester working for Silicon Valley companies.

    Related – a story from Politico this fall: “How U.S. News college rankings promote economic inequality on campus.”

    While initiatives like its Global Freshman Academy and its partnership with Starbucks have had ASU and its president in the news in previous years, in 2017 it was a different public university and a different university president that perhaps tried to capture the innovation flag. That’s Mitch Daniels, former Republican Governor of Indiana and now the President of Purdue University.

    Daniels – as governor and as university president – has pushed for a number of education policies that probably count as “innovation” on some score-cards: income-sharing agreements, for example, and competency-based degrees.

    In April, he orchestrated something else altogether. Purdue, Indiana’s most prestigious public university, announced it was buying the for-profit college company Kaplan University, one part of the larger Kaplan brand (which runs tutoring and test prep services and has invested as itself or under its owner Graham Holdings in many education technology ventures) and one of the many for-profit universities who has found itself in hot water in recent years for misleading students with deceptive recruiting practices (and in Kaplan’s case specifically, hiring unqualified instructors).

    The move was unprecedented – the first time a public university would acquire a for-profit college (a for-profit college whose classes are mostly conducted online) – and to many industry lookers, a total surprise. “Innovation,” right? The Chronicle of Higher Education described it as “a sign of the times.” A “bold move,” said Inside Higher Ed. “It’s kind of a head-spinner,” Edsurge admitted, bless its heart. “In the long-term Purdue risks inheriting all the problems of for-profit higher education and architects of the deal demonstrate little awareness of what that means for public higher education,” sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote with the most astute observations about the legitimacy and quality of the brand – what’s been dubbed “New U.”

    Mitch Daniels described the acquisition as “so much in the public interest,” arguing that it would expand access to higher education – a core part of a public university’s mission. The sale price: just $1. The fine print: Kaplan’s current owner, Graham Holdings, would continue to take some of the revenue from the school as it would serve as an OPM, of sorts (an online program management company), with a contract lasting 30 years.

    While Purdue’s trustees approved the deal, faculty at the university, who said they were not informed of the deal until one hour before it was publicly announced, passed a resolution rebuking the acquisition. There were many questions about the faculty of Kaplan too – would they become employees of the state of Indiana? Would they have access to the same sorts of tenure protections? And while Mitch Daniels pronounced Kaplan a public university, legislation passed in Indiana shielded Kaplan from certain open meetings and public records laws.

    In August, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education okayed the deal. In September, the Department of Education signed off on the acquisition. In October, there was “a hiccup,” as The Washington Post put it: “The U.S. Education Department wants Purdue University to absorb the debts and liabilities of Kaplan University as a condition for approving the state school’s controversial purchase of the for-profit college, a request that critics say could place Indiana taxpayers at risk.” There’s still one more hoop too: the school’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, still must approve the deal. A decision is expected in February or March.

    Can faculty stop Mitch Daniels? (There’s a petition.)

    Remember, of course, any criticism will inevitably be framed as opposing “innovation.” That’s how this narrative always plays out.

    Innovation and the End-Times


    It’s never so much that educators or others are against “innovation” per se. Please, schools are not as moribund as their critics (or ed-tech salespeople) would have you believe. It’s that “innovation” has come to mean a specific set of practices – political practices, financial practices, and ecclesiastical ones. (Yes, Betsy.)

    Wayne State University professor wrote about “innovation” in his “Keywords for the Austerity” series back in 2014. (I get to include it in this year’s series because he just announced he’s secured a book deal for the project.) “Innovation,” Leary chronicles, is intertwined with “Yankee ingenuity” – although that’s certainly part of the reason why the Silicon Valley story plays so well in the US, no doubt. And “innovation” has become a fundamental mantra for the twenty-first century, whereby genius entrepreneurs are suddenly struck with ideas that will help them gadgetize and productize something miraculous. “Innovation” is opportunity; “innovation” is speculation. And there is a religious element to all of it too.

    “The verb ”to innovate“ has… seen a resurgence in recent years,” Leary writes.

    The verb’s intransitive meaning is “To bring in or introduce novelties; to make changes in something established; to introduce innovations.” Its earlier transitive meaning, “To change (a thing) into something new; to alter; to renew” is considered obsolete by the OED, but this meaning has seen something of a revival. “Who’s the Best at Innovating Innovation?” asks the Harvard Business Review; the same publication sponsors a lucrative prize called the “Innovating Innovation Challenge.” The transitive construction “innovating innovation” thus uses the word in a form that was last common in the 18th century. Then, the word referred to a process of transformation or renewal that often carried religious implications: the salvation promised through Christ, but importantly also that offered though deceit by false prophets. (emphasis mine)

    “Innovation” as salvation. Or “innovation” as deception by false prophets. It’s “innovation” either way. Whether or not it’s just or fair or good is a very, very different moral question.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com.


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    This is part three of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    As an education technology writer, I’m often chastised for considering student loan companies as part of my analysis. Certain folks try to explain “that’s financial tech, Audrey” as though I hadn’t realized that student loans involve money. Student loan companies are “not really ed-tech,” some people still try to insist. What counts as ed-tech are only “technology companies whose primary purpose is to improve learning outcomes for all learners, regardless of age,” one ed-tech publication has argued. Of course, this is a silly delineation as much of what people count as ed-tech doesn’t improve learning at all, and many individuals who are actively seeking to improve themselves – their “learning outcomes” – require financial assistance in order to do so.

    Here’s why I insist that student loans are ed-tech: if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on with student loan companies – among the most well-funded venture-backed education-oriented companies for the last threeyears now – then you’re really only painting a partial picture of what investors and what industry is up to. If you pretend like student loans don’t matter, you don’t just get investors’ interests wrong; you cannot fully grasp what most students’ lives (past and present) are actually like.

    I mean, even John Grisham’s new novel is about student loans. Don’t try to tell me the topic of student loans matters for pop literature but the business of student loans doesn’t matter for ed-tech.

    Financial aid-related startups were among the most well-funded and most commonly-funded this year.

    Why are student loan companies so popular among investors and entrepreneurs? In part, this reflects the state of the industry overall right now: personal loans, commercial loans, industrial loans are booming. Investor interest in loan companies also reflects the promise of new technologies – AI and analytics, for example – that lead both established financial institutions as well as upstarts to think that this will continue to be a lucrative market. (One loan startup that recently raised $200 million from Credit Suisse boasts no human decision-making in its application process, for example. It’s all machine learning and algorithms.)

    Americans are deep in debt– credit card debt, auto loan debt, student loan debt. According to a CFPB survey released in January, one out of three Americans had been contacted by a debt collected in the previous twelve months. So that’s also a business opportunity, of course.

    Investors and entrepreneurs are not only interested in the business of issuing loans: they’re interested in the business of consolidating loans, collecting on loans.

    Education and Indebtedness


    The message has long been – whether during economic boom or bust – that education is a key way to expand one’s opportunities: Go to school. Borrow money if need be.

    And borrow students must. As Sara Goldrick-Rab demonstrated in her 2016 book Paying the Price, financial aid often does not cover tuition, let alone living expenses. This year, tuition and fees continued to rise faster than financial aid (although the increase was the slowest it’s been in decades).

    The push for free college, a central part of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign message in 2016, did continue in some cities and states this year: Tennessee, Rhode Island, Oregon, New York state, New Hampshire, Pasadena, San Francisco, and Boston, for example– with varying degrees of success (and various strings attached). And that push is, no doubt, partially a response to the growing problem of student loan debt.

    The amount of student loan debt owed by Americans is staggering – over $1.31 trillion. (And again, this is all part of the appeal of debt financing and refinancing startups for investors.)

    Some numbers from the year:

    • In January, NPR reported that “as of 2015, more than 2.8 million Americans over 60 had outstanding student loan debt – up from some 700,000 in 2005.”
    • In March, Inside Higher Ed reported that the “number of federal loans in default at the end of 2016 increased 14 percent from 2015.”
    • “The number of borrowers with balances over $100,000 has more than quadrupled in the last 10 years,” MarketWatch reported in April.
    • “Women currently hold two-thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding student-loan debt in the U.S., but because of the gender pay gap, it takes them far longer to pay off their loans than men,” The Cut reported in May.
    • “Students and parents are borrowing more to pay for college, according to the latest installment of a survey by Sallie Mae,” Inside Higher Ed reported in July.
    • “The percentage of student loan borrowers leaving college owing $20,000 or more doubled over about a decade,” Inside Higher Ed reported in August.
    • “The percentage of borrowers defaulting on their student loans within the first three years of entering repayment ticked up fractionally, from 11.3 percent to 11.5 percent, for those who began repayment in 2013–14,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in September.
    • “Students who attended for-profit colleges were twice as likely or more to default on their loans than students who attended public schools,” the AP reported in October.
    • “Black students who started college in 2003 had a 50–50 chance of defaulting on their federal student loans, according to a new analysis of government data – a virtual coin-flip of default that stands in stark contrast with a 21% default rate for white borrowers,” Buzzfeed reported in October.
    • “7 percent of federal student debt holders are over the age of 50. This group of older borrowers collectively hold $247 billion in student debt, an amount that has roughly tripled since 2003,” Inside Higher Ed reported in November.
    • “3.9 million undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out during fiscal years 2015 and 2016,” The Hechinger Report reported in November.

    The Politics of the Business of Student Loans

    In early January, Rohit Chopra, formerly the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, observed that stocks in student loan companies had risen– in some cases quite dramatically – since November of the previous year:

    After Election Day, a slew of student loan outfits scored big gains before 2016 came to a close. Nelnet, which collects payments from 5 million borrowers, climbed 39 percent. Discover, the credit card company that has bet big on student loans, rose 29 percent.


    But the biggest haul belongs to Sallie Mae, whose investors saw their stock surge 64 percent – just one month after Election Day.

    Chopra sounded hopeful at the time that, under President Trump, investors would not see the financial windfall that they and the loan industry were wanting. “I’m crossing my fingers that a sweetheart deal for Sallie Mae and the student loan industry that soaks Americans with more debt won’t be high on Trump’s list,” he wrote.

    Crossing his fingers hasn’t worked so well.

    Reforming student loan policies has been near the top of Trump’s policies – and not in a positive or progressive way. The new administration is – quite literally – invested in the business. As I noted in the previous article in this series, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has personally invested in the student loan industry. She’s hired student loan industry executives to manage the federal student loan program.

    For its part, Chopra’s agency, the CFPB, has faced the ire of the new administration. (Of course, it’s been a target of Republicans’ ire for quite some time.) And that’s despite (or because of, perhaps) the work that the CFPB has done to help consumers address their complaints with the financial industry. According to a press statement from the agency in October, the CFPB received some 20,000 complaints from student loan borrowers in the last year alone, and these complains have “driven actions that have produced more than $750 million in relief for student loan borrowers and strengthened the student loan repayment process for millions more.” In January, for example, the CFPB filed a lawsuit against the largest student loan company Navient“for failing borrowers during every stage of repayment.” The agency said in April that it was investigating discrimination in the industry and “whether loan servicing companies are making it difficult for people with past-due student debt to work out a solution because of their race, ethnicity, gender or age.” In September, it reached a $21.6 million settlement with National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts for making false and misleading claims. In November, it fined Citibank $6.5 million for illegal student loan practices. But good work never goes unpunished in the Trump administration. The Department of Education announced in September that it was ending an agreement with the CFPB to share information about the businesses involved in the student loan program. And in October, Senate Republicans voted to strike down a rule, written by the CFPB, that would allow consumers to file class-action lawsuits against financial institutions. In November, Richard Cordray, the head of the CFPB, announced he was stepping down. Trump’s pick to replace him: Mick Mulvaney, a long-time critic of the agency, who’s frozen all hiring and rule-making.

    Dismantling the CFPB is just the tip of the iceberg.

    There were concerns this spring that the Trump Administration was going to end loan forgiveness for public servants– a move that would affect some 400,000 borrowers. (That threat seems to be back on the table in legislation the House GOP is currently drafting that would re-authorize the Higher Education Act.) In March, the Department of Education revoked an Obama-era policy that had prevented some student loan collection programs from collecting fees. In April, the Secretary of Education withdrew three Obama-era memos aimed at streamlining the student loan process. In May, the Department of Education rehired two debt collection agencies that had had their contracts canceled by the previous administration. Trump also announced his budget in May, which called for large budget cuts to federal financial aid programs. James Runcie, who’d led the Federal Student Aid office under Obama, abruptly left his position the day after that budget was announced. This spring, the Department of Education began to ramp up a program to sue borrowers who were in default on their loans. In May, debt collection ground to a halt when a judge issued a restraining order against the system as part of a pending legal case. If all this doesn’t sound chaotic or frightening enough for borrowers, the administration also toyed with the idea of moving the loan program from the Department of Education to the Treasury. The Department of Education also indicated in the spring it planned to give the contract to handle the entire student loan program to one single vendor. (After an outcry, the department changed its mind.) Oh and meanwhile, the interest rate on student loans went up.

    But that’s not all– there’s also the ongoing issue of the hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit colleges and who were promised a chance at loan forgiveness.

    It’s hard to separate the business (and politics) of student loans from the business (and politics) of for-profit higher ed. Some elements of the latter I’ll cover in more detail in a subsequent article in this series on the future of work and “the new economy.” For-profits have been limited by the “90–10” rule from receiving more than 90% of their revenue from federal financial aid – that includes loans, grants, and work-studies. But as a Brookings report found in January, “a sizable percentage of for-profit colleges get between 80 percent and 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid.” And as in previousyears, there were many stories in 2017 about for-profits losing their aid eligibility, for one reason or another: The Charlotte School of Law, perhaps most notably.

    The Department of Education did initially make some moves this year to help those student defrauded by for-profits. In January (before the Trump inauguration, to be fair), it announced that those who’d attended the now-defunct American Career Institute would have their loans discharged. The department reached a settlement in August with the Wilfred American Educational Corporation to wipe away the debt of the (mostly low-income, immigrant) women who’d attended its beauty and secretarial schools. But for most of the students who have filed claims that their schools misled them, the wait for loan forgiveness continues. Indeed, it’s not clear whether these students will ever have their loans erased.

    The “borrower defense” rules, negotiated by the Obama Administration, were set to take effect in July. The Department of Education’s website explains those rules like this: “Borrowers may be eligible for forgiveness of the federal student loans used to attend a school if that school misled them or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain laws.” But under Trump, the Department of Education froze the rules before they could be implemented. (Eighteen states responded with lawsuits, as have some individual borrowers.) In a speech to the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference this fall, Secretary DeVos described the borrower-defense policy this way: “Under the previous rules,” she said, “all one had to do was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.” (The application process is actually quite burdensome, Betsy.)

    Perhaps one reason why student loans have become a focus for the Trump administration: efforts to curtail fraud by the for-profit higher education sector was seen as one of the Obama Administration’s key higher ed “wins.” And undoing anything “Obama” seems to be the impetus for much of what happens under the current President. Furthermore, many Republicans seem to believe too that Obama had nationalized the student loan industry in order to pay for Obamacare. In an interview with Politico this fall, DeVos said as much.

    More likely: student loans are simply too big a business opportunity (and too powerful a lobbying force).

    Interlude: The FAFSA


    Federal student loans are, of course, just one part of federal financial aid. There are other forms of federal aid – grants and work-study, for example. In order to qualify for assistance, students must complete the dreaded FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). (Don’t think that it’s dreaded? Try searching on Twitter to see what students are saying about it.) The form is notoriously long and difficult to complete, in no small part because it requires students provide not only their own tax information but that of both their parents.

    In early March, the tool that lets students autocomplete their FAFSA with tax return data pulled from IRS suddenly went offline. There had been no announcement from either the Department of Education or the IRS that there was a planned outage, and it took the agencies six days to issue a joint statement: “The IRS Data Retrieval Tool on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov is currently unavailable. We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. However, at this time, the IRS anticipates the online data tool will be unavailable for several weeks.” March, as anyone who’s completed the form knows, is near the height of FAFSA season, as many states’ financial aid deadlines loom. The timing was terrible; the lack of communication made things worse, as many observers feared that students would miss out on aid opportunities. (No doubt many students, because of the difficulties with completing FAFSA under “normal” circumstances, already do.) The tool’s removal didn’t just affect current students; its shutdown also complicated the application process for those students enrolling in income-based repayment programs for their existing loans.

    Eventually, the IRS revealed that the tool was taken down because of “criminal activity,” as hackers had used the tool to gain access to the tax records of some 100,000 people. The information security analyst Brian Krebs called the IRS tool“a terrific resource to help identity thieves successfully file fraudulent tax refund requests with the agency.” That was March. In November, Krebs wrote about the FAFSA again: “Name+DOB+SSN=FAFSA Data Gold Mine,” detailing the 100+ pieces of data one could learn by logging into the system with a student name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Even with the IRS data retrieval tool offline, “this post shows how easy it remains,” Krebs wrote, “for identity thieves to gather this same information directly from the FAFSA Web site.”

    Students’ data is a commodity– that’s a theme that runs through almost all the stories in this series.

    Student Debt “Innovations”


    It was SoFi’s two enormous rounds of funding in 2015 – one for $1 billion and one for $200 million – that first made me take note of the student loan industry as a key part of “the business of ed-tech.” That year, several other companies offering student loans raised venture capital: Earnest raised $275 million; Affirm raised $275 million. CommonBond raised over $600 million in 2016.

    These companies have continued to grow and evolve since then. CommonBond began issuing student loans directly this year rather than simply being in the debt refinancing business. Earnest was acquired by Navient.

    Despite their pitch of being “good guy student loan companies” – this is in opposition to the “bad guys” who service loans for the Department of Education, I guess – a Buzzfeed investigation found that these startups, with their reliance on student data and algorithms, tend to only serve an affluent population, cherrypicking the “best borrowers”:

    In their buzzy ad campaigns, SoFi, Earnest and other fintech startups say they want to help fix the student loan crisis by bringing Silicon Valley-style meritocracy to one of the oldest financial instruments in the world, the loan. In practice, however, private student loan refinancing looks more like an updated version of the same wealth management services that have always catered to the rich – except these startups capture customers while they’re still young.

    Initially, it looked like SoFi would spend 2017 using all that venture capital it had raised to expand its reach and its offerings. “SoFi buys Zenbanx to offer banking and money transfer services to its users,” Techcrunch reported in February. “SoFi plans to apply for a bank charter in the next month,” Techcrunch reported in May. “SoFi gets into wealth management,” Techcrunch reported that same month, detailing the startup’s plans to expand from student loans into low-cost wealth management services.

    Then mid-year the headlines shifted. (Perhaps we should have anticipated this when The Wall Street Journal called SoFi“the Uberization of Banking.”) “Another Silicon Valley Start-Up Faces Sexual Harassment Claims,” The New York Times reported in August. From The NYT in September: “‘It Was a Frat House’: Inside the Sex Scandal That Toppled SoFi’s C.E.O.” And from Reuters in September: “SoFi withdraws U.S. banking application, citing leadership change.”

    This doesn’t really map onto Gartner’s “Hype Cycle,” does it?

    In August, The Outline published a story headlined“You can now buy $400 pants with a subprime loan.” The subhead: “Affirm is trying to convince millennials that taking out loans for things you don’t need is cool.” And on one hand, this accusation of predatory lending runs counter to the arguments made by that Buzzfeed piece that claims these loan startups tend to carefully (and algorithmically) target a more affluent clientele. But there’s something to this incredible marketing push to take on more debt; and it’s no surprise that all these loan providers work quite closely with the bourgeoning coding bootcamp industry – the incredibly socio-economic push to take on more credentials.

    I’ll look at this industry’s promises about career opportunities and advancement – promises that certainly echo those long made by for-profit higher ed– in a subsequent article in this series. But I’ll note here that the trend to watch in the coming months and years – one that the loan industry, coding bootcamps, and their investors all started pushing this year: income-sharing agreements.

    Income-sharing agreements typically involve some sort of deferred tuition in exchange for a cut of a student’s future income. Some schools in the news this year for offering this financing option:: Purdue (didn’t I just mention how hard it was trying to be run like a business), New York Code and Design Academy, and Revature. As the student loan industry moves towards a more pervasive data-mining of students’ history in order to identify who has the “best potential” for repayment, these sorts of new funding agreements raise all sorts of questions about both overt and algorithmic discrimination.

    Edsurge, a good indicator of the sorts of stories investors want to hear, wrote about ISAs eight times this year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). One of those, I’ll note, was with sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab who called them “a dangerous trend.” Goldrick-Rab argues that these agreements move all the risk of financial aid and student loans) onto individuals’ backs, and as such are steps towards privatizing funding for education.

    Of course, those are exactly the reasons why many are hoping student loan and financial aid startups will be profitable investments.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com.


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  • 12/08/17--04:55: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    Late last Friday, the US Senate did pass its version of a tax reform bill, one with scribbles in the margins and handwritten addenda because everyone now thinks “move fast and break things” is a genius tactic. Thanks, Zuck.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Senate Passes Tax Bill With Major Implications for Higher Ed.” Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Passage of Senate Tax-Reform Bill Leaves Colleges Scrambling.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ After a high-drama vote, here’s what the Senate tax bill means for schools, parents and students.”

    “8 Grad Students Are Arrested Protesting the GOP Tax Bill on Capitol Hill,” The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adam Harris reported on Tuesday. But now “House Republicans May Be Backing Away From Taxing Grad-Student Tuition Waivers,” Harris says.

    Via The Hill: “GOP bill would eliminate student loan forgiveness for public service.” That bill: the move to re-authorize the Higher Education Act.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A graduation rate requirement for access to special funds for minority-serving institutions in a proposed House Republican rewrite of the Higher Education Act would exempt historically black colleges and universities.” HBCUs would be exempted.

    Higher-Ed Lobbyists Are Told to Make Peace With Republicans,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via NPR: “School Voucher Programs Should Be Clear About Disability Rights, Report Says.” That’s a report from the GAO.

    Via Edsurge: “How a ‘New’ GI Bill May Shape Tomorrow’s Education-to-Employment Pipeline.” Let’s watch how the “new” for-profit higher ed takes advantage of this, shall we?

    “Without Net Neutrality, How Would Internet Companies Treat K–12 Districts?” asks Education Week’s Market Brief.

    I’m not sticking this story in “the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines” section even though the headline is in the form of a question, and that’s because I very much hope that we can get to the answer “yes” here. Indeed, our future depends on it. From Rachel Cohen and Will Stancil, “Will America’s Schools Ever Be Desegregated?

    “How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Partyby Jennifer Berkshire in The Baffler.

    Hey, what’s Betsy DeVos’s brother up to these days? Oh.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    A couple of profiles of Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz this week – good to read side-by-side. “Success Academy’s Radical Educational Experiment” by The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead. “The Charter-School Crusader” by Elizabeth Green in The Atlantic. (Green also penned a piece in Chalkbeat: “Why my Eva Moskowitz story is the scariest one I’ve ever written.”)

    “A ‘portfolio’ of schools? How a nationwide effort to disrupt urban school districts is gaining traction” by Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum. Any time you hear that word “disrupt,” taxpayers, get out your wallets.

    Via the AP: “Colorado school board votes to end voucher program.” Specifically, the Douglas County school board, in the suburbs outside of Denver.

    Privacy advocate Leonie Haimson visits a Summit Charter School.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Gov. Eric Holcomb says Indiana’s low-rated online charter schools need ‘immediate attention and action’.”

    Via Motherboard: “Half of West Virginia has Applied for Broadband Assistance.”

    Via the Bangor Daily News: “White Maine students are least likely in nation to see kids of another race at school.”

    Via ProPublica: “How Students Get Banished to Alternative Schools.”

    Education in the Courts


    “As lawsuits mount over access to learning technologies for people with disabilities, universities consider banding together to share accessibility reviews of vendor products,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Brock Turner Is Appealing His Sexual Assault Conviction.” Of course he is.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Supreme Court Allows Travel Ban to Go Into Effect.”

    Via The New York Times: “Too Many Children in California Can’t Read, Lawsuit Claims.”

    Via The New York Times: “Harvard Agrees to Turn Over Records Amid Discrimination Inquiry.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Adtalem Global Education, the company that owns DeVry University, announced Monday that ownership of the for-profit institution would transfer to Cogswell Education LLC.” “Troubled DeVry University Gets Sold Off For A Pittance,” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports. “Huh?” says “Dean Dad” Matt Reed.

    Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


    Via The Columbus Dispatch: “ECOT again fights repaying millions in taxpayer money.” ECOT is the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school company that has been battling Ohio for quite some time now.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Huffington Post: “Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.”

    Via the AP: “US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation.” “Racial isolation” here is a nice way, I guess, of saying “segregation.” Even with the euphemism, this story made education reform folks mad mad mad.

    Via The New York Times: “Now on Oracle’s Campus, a $43 Million Public High School.” Curious if students are allowed to use any tech products made by Oracle’s arch-nemesis, Google.

    Via The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “In CodeRVA, a high school experiment with hopes for a diverse region.” CodeRVA is a new high school in Richmond, Virgina focused on computer science.

    “Auditors Reviewed How UVa’s Police Prepared for White Supremacists. They Didn’t Like What They Found,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. More on the report in The Washington Post.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Steve Kolowich: “Spotted at a White-Power Rally, but Still Popular With Campus Republicans.” Popular with campus Republicans at Washington State University, that is, who just re-elected him their president.

    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Bus company serving University of Illinois criticized for ’racist and bigoted’ ad.”

    Via Teen Vogue: “School Shooting in New Mexico Leaves Three Dead.” It’s heartbreaking that this was hardly news at all this week.

    Via The Atlantic: “The Two Clashing Meanings of ‘Free Speech’.”

    Via the BBC: “Oxford University raises £750m from biggest bond issue.” Phew! I was so worried about its financial wellbeing and ability to stay afloat.

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via Edsurge: “​Why New Jersey is Banking on a Credential Registry to Boost its Middle Class.” I hope the state isn’t really banking on it. Seems like there are some other things one might do to boost the middle class other than create a database that lists all available higher ed credential. But what do I know.

    Testing


    “Worried about the drop in U.S. scores on international literacy test? Well, stop it,” says Valerie Strauss.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Fire Dana Altman now.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “University of Mississippi has been punished yet again by the NCAA for giving cash to recruits, its third such violation since 1986.”

    From the HR Department


    Via The Washington Post: “Georgetown University refuses to recognize graduate student union.”

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Motherboard: “To Solve the Diversity Drought in Software Engineering, Look to Community Colleges.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Everyone Agrees on Value of Apprenticeships. The Question Is How to Pay for Them.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Is Protesting a Privilege?asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Is Private Education in Africa the Solution to Failing Education Aid?asks the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

    Can Entrepreneurs Balance Educational and Financial Returns?asks Edsurge.

    Should Children Form Emotional Bonds With Robots?asks The Atlantic.

    Will Open Online Education Disrupt the Master’s Admissions Funnel?asks IHE blogger Josh Kim.

    (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


    It’s Computer Science Education Week, which means everyone had to crank out articles on why, to prepare for the future of work, “everyone should learn to code” (or not): Edsurge. Techcrunch. Edsurge again. Mashable. And many others but I got bored of jotting down the links. So much industry-driven fun fun fun. “Should Teachers Get $100 For Steering Kids To Google‘s ’Hour of Code’ Lesson?” asks a poster on Slashdot. More details about more industry money for Code.org in the venture philanthropy section below.

    Silicon Valley Takes Over Classrooms: Yes and No (Part 1)” by Stanford University’s Larry Cuban.

    Facebook is coming for your children. Via The New York Times: “New Facebook App for Children Ignites Debate Among Families.” More coverage in Techcrunch and the MIT Technology Review.

    This is my new favorite analogy for “personalized learning” and “algorithmic, predictive, adaptive blah blah blah” in education:

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cengage, the publisher and technology company, is introducing a subscription service that will enable students to access Cengage’s entire digital portfolio for one set price, no matter how many products they use.” The price tag: $179.99/year. Just what ever college student wanted.

    Dubai Private School Market Presents Opportunities for Curriculum Providers,” says Education Week’s Market Brief.

    Via David Perry in The Atlantic: “The Futile Resistance Against Classroom Tech.” I’m cited in this but I strongly disagree that “classroom tech” is inevitable and that resistance is futile. I just have zero time right now to weigh in on the “ban laptops” debates.

    Via NPR: “A Tech-Based Tool To Address Campus Sexual Assault.”

    Via Mic: “Neo-Nazi wealth is rapidly growing. Why? Bitcoin.” Enjoy those blockchain transcripts, everyone.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Robot Learning Improves Student Engagement,” the Communications of the ACM claims.

    “If the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Work is Unclear, What Can Schools Do?” asks Education Week.

    Kiwicampus: a robot delivery service on campus.

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Via The Verge: “Code.org gets $12 million in funding from the Gates Foundation and others.” Here’s a list of the other companies backing this “learn to code” initiative.

    Via The Chicago Tribune: Google gave $1.5 million to the Chicago Public Schools and to Chance the Rapper’s education foundation.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    ALO7 has raised $37.5 million in Series D funding from Legend Capital, GuoHe Capital, UG Investment, Qualcomm, New Oriental, and Vickers Venture Partners. The language learning company has raised $45.7 million total.

    Graduway has raised $12.7 million from Susquehanna International Group for its alumni software. The company has raised $15.8 million total.

    Early childhood education company Kinedu has raised $1.1 million from Dila Capital, Promotora Social Mexico, Social + Capital, Advenio, Stella Maris, and the Stanford-StartX Fund.

    Instructure has acquired the video-based assessment platform Practice. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    VitalSource has acquired corporate learning company Intrepid Learning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    I guess I’ll take TechShop off my list of startups in the “ed-tech deadpool,” as The Washington Business Journal reports“TechShop to be acquired, reopen maker space locations.” The new company will be TechShop 2.0 LLC, and while it’s not quite clear who the new owners all are, I’m sure the “2.0” insures this is all gonna work out great.

    More acquisition news in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via CSO: “Company with no privacy policy to collect brainwave data on 1.2 million students.” That’s BrainCo, which recently inked a deal to sell the product in China and was featured in a story by Edsurge.

    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Data mining program designed to predict child abuse proves unreliable, DCFS says.” “Unreliable” is an understatement here. This story is just layers and layers of awful solutionism.

    Rutgers has suffered a data breach, exposing some 1700 students’ information.

    Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “Stanford University data glitch exposes truth about scholarships.” Spoiler alert: Stanford University is not a meritocracy.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    The best way to predict the future is to issue a press release. Or maybe a slide deck that includes the products you’ve invested in, and then get the folks at Fast Company to cover it…

    Via The Outline: “How brands secretly buy their way into Forbes, Fast Company, and HuffPost stories.”

    FutureSource is out with its latest report on trends in the education mobile OS market.

    “There’s an implosion of early-stage VC funding,” says Techcrunch, “and no one’s talking about it.”

    “Educators are ill-equipped to help victims of dating violence,” writes Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic, pointing to research about the lack of training and preparedness among teachers and administrators to address the issue.

    Self-Affirmation Gets Minority Students on a College Track,” says Pacific Standard. What a great example of placing the expectation of change on the individual and not on the structure.

    Via Vox: “Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from.”

    Via Education Week: “U.S. Graduation Rate Hits New All-Time High, With Gains in All Student Groups.”

    This story. Again. “The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone,” Bryan Caplan argues in The Atlantic. Of course, we don’t have “college for everyone.” Caplan, for those keeping score at home, is an economics professor at George Mason University, a Cato Institute scholar, and the author of a new book The Case Against Education. This is what Koch money buys you, folks.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    This is part four of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    Way back in 2012, I chose “The Platforming of Education” as one of my “Top Ed-Tech Trends.” Re-reading that article now makes me cringe. I have learned so much in the intervening years, and my analysis then strikes me as incredibly naive and shallow.

    At the time, I wrote about the importance of APIs; the issues surrounding data security and privacy; the appeal of platforms for users and businesses; and the education and tech companies who were well-positioned (or at least wanting) to become education platforms. I was inspired, I think, to select that topic because talk of “platforms” was incredibly popular in Silicon Valley – it had been for a while – as companies strove to become “the next Facebook.” And I wondered at the time if that would be the outcome for MOOCs. (2012, you will recall, was “the year of the MOOC.”) It was certainly the outcome that investors were hoping for Edmodo, which raised $25 million in 2012, boasting that it had 15 million users.

    Remember Edmodo?

    Edmodo was back in the news this year when Vice broke the story this spring that hackers had stolen millions of account details, including usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords. 70+ million users’ account details. I’ll look in more details at the insecurity of education data in the next article in the series – but recognize, this is one of the grave problems with digital technologies currently, whether they’re platforms or not: they rely on data as the central element of their business model – extracting data, controlling data, selling data… and far too often losing data during security breaches.

    It wasn’t a good look for Edmodo, which was discovered by privacy researcher Bill Fitzgerald that same week to be targeting users – students and teachers – with a range of ad trackers.

    Edmodo was one of the early stars of the most recent resurgence in ed-tech startup founding and funding (circa 2008 onward, that is). The company has raised some $77.5 million in venture capital from high profile names like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and from firms active in ed-tech investing such as Learn Capital. Investors surely hoped that Edmodo would become a “social learning platform” – a central place for classroom assignments, assessments, and readings; a place for student and teacher collaboration in and out of the classroom; a site that third party developers (you know, other startups in investors’ portfolios) could install their apps and expand their reach; a system where student and teacher data could be collected, integrated, analyzed. Edmodo did garner a lot of sign-ups – all those millions of stolen usernames underscores that, no doubt – but it has struggled to do much more. It has struggled, most importantly, to find a reliable revenue stream or a “path to profitability.” As such, I think it’s fair to say that Edmodo hasn’t really become a powerful education platform, despite all the hope and hype.

    It’s not even an LMS, quite frankly – something Edmodo tried to use as a selling point for a little while.

    One might ask, I suppose, if LMSes are platforms. Are any education technologies, for that matter? But first, a definition (or two) might be helpful.

    What is a “Platform”?


    If you look for a definition of “platform” online, you’re likely to get something along the lines of Wikipedia’s– fairly straightforward, although quite technical:

    A computing platform is the environment in which a piece of software is executed. It may be the hardware or the operating system (OS), even a web browser or other underlying software, as long as the program code is executed in it. Computing platforms have different abstraction levels, including a computer architecture, an OS, or runtime libraries. A computing platform is the stage on which computer programs can run.

    Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen offered the following definition in 2007:

    A “platform” is a system that can be programmed and therefore customized by outside developers – users – and in that way, adapted to countless needs and niches that the platform’s original developers could not have possibly contemplated, much less had time to accommodate.

    I’d love to provide a link but Andreessen deleted his blog in 2009. Someone generously re-posted all the content from that blog to a Posterous site. But Posterous, if you’ll recall, was acquired by Twitter in 2012 and shut down one year later. Platforms. They’re amazing.

    Andreessen’s definition does begin to get at some of the reasons why platforms have been so appealing to investors – ideologically as much as technologically. They’re supposedly “engines of innovation.” Those “countless needs and niches” can be met thanks to all the data generation and data collection that happens on them.

    In his 2017 book Platform Capitalism, Nick Srnicek posits that platforms are poised to become the fundamental business model of our digital world – key to the new economy, clearly, but also key to political and social systems (and what these will become under the control of these powerful technology companies). “At the most general level,” Srnicek writes

    platforms are digital infrastructures that enable two or more groups to interact. They therefore position themselves as intermediaries that bring together different users: customers, advertisers, service providers, producers, suppliers, and even physical objects. More often than not, these platforms also come with a series of tools that enable their users to build their own products, services, and marketplaces. …This is key to its advantage over traditional business models when it comes to data, since a platform positions itself (1) between users, and (2) as the ground upon which their activities occur, which thus gives it privileged access to record them.

    He argues that platforms can be characterized by their reliance on “network effects” – that is, the more people who use a platform, the more valuable and important the platform becomes. Think Facebook. As platforms gain more users, they tend towards monopolization. It’s a cycle, Srnicek argues, that then encourages more usage, which in turn generates more data.

    Platforms are “an extractive apparatus for data.”

    In reviewing Srnicek’s book in March, New York Times media journalist John Hermann wrote,

    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.”

    In his book, Srnicek identifies five kinds of platforms: advertising platforms (like Google and Facebook), cloud platforms (like Salesforce and Amazon Web Services), industrial platforms (like GE and Siemens), product platforms (like Spotify), and lean platforms (like Uber and AirBnB). In light of Hermann’s ominous description, one might feel inclined to celebrate that there really aren’t any powerful education platforms described in Platform Capitalism. To believe that would require, of course, that we overlook the role that the major technology platforms – Google, Facebook, and Amazon – play in education.

    Education’s Proto-Platforms


    So again: are there any platforms in or specific to education? If so, what are they?

    Arguably, one of the best candidates is the learning management system. The LMS has long positioned itself as an “operating system,” of sorts for higher education. The LMS constructs (and, I’d argue, circumscribes) “digital pedagogy,” and it has come to define the ways in which professors and students interact online. Indeed, while there are handful who work arduously to undermine its privileged position in education technology– god bless them – to many more, it is simply impossible to imagine a future of teaching and learning without the LMS.

    The LMS predates the “platform economy” by several decades – five decades if you date its history to PLATO. The LMS giant Blackboard celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. (I mean, one of its founders celebrated. Not sure anyone else did.) The earliest learning management systems were portals of sorts, offering Internet access to and a browser-based interface for the student information system (SIS) and the data it stored on students and courses: student records, rosters, class schedules, and the like. But LMS providers have sought to extend the functionality of their products, acquiring other companies that offered administratively adjacent features and extracting more data from students’ and professors’ activities online than was contained in the original SIS. (Would there even be “learning analytics” without the LMS, I wonder?)

    A couple of years ago, I was part of a year-end webinar with MindWires’ Consulting’s Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein and one or other of them – I don’t remember now – predicted that 2016 would be a big year for the LMS. I’m not sure it was, but then again, understanding the LMS industry is really their thing and not mine (something for which I am eternally grateful). It seems to me as though this year was pretty momentous too, if for no other reason than the open source LMS Moodle – first released 15 years ago and by far the most popular LMS in the world – raised its very first round of venture capital in October.

    Raising venture capital isn’t (necessarily) good news. Indeed, a few weeks after the funding news, Feldstein wrote about “Why Moodle Supporters Should be Concerned,” questioning the sustainability of the project. Perhaps that seems counter-intuitive to those not familiar with the machinations of investors and their expectations of an ROI. But raising venture capital can make a company’s prospects of sustainability worse. VCs, remember, are looking for “high growth” and “high returns.” And how much growth can we really expect in the size of the LMS market?

    For updates on the other major LMS providers – or at least, dispatches from their annual conferences, read Mindwires’ Consulting on Instructure, Blackboard, and D2L. Subscribe to their blog. Buy them a beer when you see them at an event and thank them for covering the LMS industry so I don’t have to.

    Investors, it appears, do still expect quite a lot of growth in the market, as learning management systems were among the types of companies raising the most venture capital this year. (Okay, okay. That’s because I now count AltSchool as an LMS. For more details on who invested in LMSes this year, see funding.hackeducation.com.) Perhaps this is simply because of investors’ long-running faith in the profitability of platforms – in these types of companies’ “funneling of data extraction into siloed platforms,” as Nick Srnicek puts it in Platform Capitalism.

    But for education entrepreneurs too, the LMS is an obvious product to build and sell (and brand oneself as). There’s an existing market there. No need to convince anyone of that. There’s an understanding – even if it’s a disgruntled one – among those in the classroom and those making procurement decisions of what the LMS is for, what it should do, and so on.

    I’ve joked before that “the arc of ed-tech history is long and it bends towards the LMS.” MOOCs looked – for a short while, at least – like they were going to pivot to become LMSes. (Instead, they’ve re-branded as job training sites. More on that in a subsequent article in this series.) Facebook’s partnership with the charter school chain Summit Public Schools to build “software that puts students in charge of their lesson plans” resulted in an LMS. (Product development was officially handed over to Mark Zuckerberg’s investment company the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative this year.) AltSchool, that high-profile darling of the Silicon Valley set– initially a private school promising “personalization” through a pervasive (invasive, even) collection and analysis of student data – also announced this year it would pivot to selling its software to schools. It’s now an LMS too.

    Perhaps these last two hint at ways in which platforms might also infiltrate education: tech-oriented charter schools as platforms; tech-oriented private schools as platforms. Corporate platforms attempting to control if not monopolize what has been (or should be) public institutions. (Think the private school startup Bridge International Academies that operates in Africa, for example, which Peg Tyre documented so devastatingly in The New York Times Magazine this summer.)

    How technology companies are increasingly shaping the public sphere to suit their needs is one of the most important developments we must start paying closer attention to – particularly in education. It’s a theme that runs throughout almost every article in this series.“Fake news,” “robots coming for our jobs,” “the new economy,” “surveillance capitalism,” “personalization,” “the cult of innovation,” and so on – these are all narratives intertwined in the power of major technology companies, platforms, data, and algorithms. “They want to overhaul the entire chain of culture production,” former New Republic editor Franklin Foer cautions in his 2017 book World Without Mind:The Existential Threat of Big Tech. As such these companies – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and the like – are the most significant education companies.

    Education’s attention – and its anger – I think, has been focused elsewhere.

    Pearson is Not a Platform


    I’m not sure if we can still call Pearson “the world’s largest education company.” The last few years haven’t been good, with repeatedscandals, job cuts, corporate losses, and ongoing attempts to convince us that the latest “restructure” is really going to fix things this time ’round.

    That restructuring has involved shedding some of the products and subsidiaries unrelated to education, Pearson executives have said. The company sold The Financial Times and its stake in The Economist in 2015, for example.

    And I’ll note here because it suits my argument about platforms so neatly: Pearson announced last year that it was leaving the learning management system market. Pearson does not have a platform. It has a lot of content – it’s still one of the largest textbook publishers. It still runs testing centers and has testing contracts. But Pearson is not a platform.

    Pearson represents an older business model – the conglomerate. Pearson was founded in 1856 in Yorkshire, England as a construction company but expanded throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to own newspapers, book publishers, airline companies, oil companies, electric companies – the information and infrastructure of the material world. Pearson has been – until recently, that is – an active acquirer of education technology companies. That’s how it’s attempted to make a move from the material world to the digital one.

    Pearson has not made any acquisitions this year. Rather it has continued to divest itself of products. It sold a 22% stake in Penguin Random House to the publisher Bertelsmann for about $1 billion. It sold its tutoring companies TutorVista and Edurite to the tutoring company BYJUs. (The terms of the deals were not disclosed.) It also sold its adult language learning company Wall Street English to two private investment firms. (The deal was for $300 million, but Pearson said its proceeds would be only a third of that – after taxes and paying off debts.) As The New York Times noted this summer, “Pearson Is Running Out of Assets to Sell.”

    In February, Pearson announced a record loss – £2.6 billion for 2016, the largest loss in its history. In August, it announced another round of layoffs – 3000 more jobs cut. It is all part of the plan, according to CEO John Fallon, to become “a simpler and more digital company.”

    But it’s a content company. It’s a curriculum company.

    We can scoff, I suppose, that that’s what Pearson believes will help it remain viable – “sustainable,” or dare we say “profitable” – particularly in a platform economy. But I’m reminded here of what I wrote in my weekly newsletter back in early July. The Thrillist had just published an article on “The Netflix Prize: How a $1 Million Contest Changed Binge-Watching Forever.” Education journalist Alexander Russo quipped that this was what the XQ Prize and similar contests were trying to replicate in education. But Washington State University’s Mike Caulfield argued that a focus on Netflix’s algorithm was misplaced:

    Since Netflix is a business and needs to survive, they decided not to pour the majority of their money into newer algorithms to better match people with the version of Big Momma’s House they would hate the least. Instead, they poured their money into making and obtaining things people actually wanted to watch, and as a result Netflix is actually useful now.

    In other words, it’s not the prize-winning algorithm and it’s not the recommendation engine and it’s not the predictive analytics that makes Netflix so vaunted lately. It’s the high quality content– “something that education technologists would do well to keep in mind,” I wrote then.

    Of course, for this to apply to Pearson, it would have to turn out high quality content.

    I don’t emphasize the importance of content to diminish the importance of algorithms in education. Not at all. And data is still crucial to Netflix’s business, as a content creator and content provider – let’s be clear. In education, both algorithms and data are integral to the push for “personalization.” But “personalization” doesn’t (necessarily) require a platform. Pearson promises “personalization” through its “adaptive learning” products, for example. (It announced this year it was “phasing out” its reliance on Knewton provide those algorithms.)

    But how will content creators compete in a platform economy – particularly when the platform has exponentially more data? How will Pearson specifically compete if one of the most powerful platforms in the world is also in the book business?

    That’s Amazon, of course, whose interests in education remain perhaps less well-known than the other technology behemoths.

    Big Tech’s Bets


    I won’t detail everything that happened with regards to the tech giants this year. I can’t. They issue a lot of press releases; technology journalists happily rewrite them. But here’s a brief summary of some of the education-related updates (those noted by the ed-/tech press):

    Facebook: I addressed Facebook’s role in the building (or dismantling, rather) of knowledge in the first article in this series. The organization has also been, as I mentioned above, working with Summit Public Schools to build its LMS. And then there’s Mark Zuckerberg’s venture philanthropy firm and its commitment to fund “personalized learning.” But what did Facebook do? “New Facebook features intended for developers could, if expanded, turn the social networking site into an online learning platform,” Inside Higher Ed reported in June. “Facebook Giving Virtual-Reality Kits to Every Arkansas High School,” Education Week reported in August. “Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported,” Techcrunch reported in November. There’s no way to opt out apparently. This from a company that was found earlier this year to be enabling advertisers to target teens who felt “worthless.” In December, Techcrunch reported that Facebook would be launching a Messenger service for kids– those under the age of 13.

    Microsoft: “Microsoft launches Intune for Education to counter Google’s Chromebooks in schools,” Techcrunch reported in January. “Some colleges cancel their contracts with online education provider Lynda.com after double-digit price hikes, saying the company is pricing itself out of the higher education market,” Inside Higher Ed reported in January. “Microsoft’s new education push plays to its strengths, the cheap and familiar,” Techcrunch reported in May. “As LinkedIn’s Video Library Grows, Company Says It Has No Plans to Compete With Colleges,” Edsurge reported in June. “Now Any Organization Can Create Content for LinkedIn Learning,” Edsurge reported in June. “‘Schoolifying’ Minecraft Without Ruining It,” NPR reported in June. “Microsoft is really scared of Chromebooks in businesses and schools,” The Verge reported in June. “Microsoft Moves to Enable Streamlined Purchasing of Bundled Products for Education,” Education Week’s Market Brief reported in September.

    Apple: “Apple iPad Sales to Schools Jump 32%, Selling 1M Tablets in Fiscal Q3 2017,” Edsurge reported in August. “Ohio State collaborates with Apple to launch digital learning initiative,” the university announced in October. Students will receive iPads.

    Amazon: “Amazon Education GM leaves; company says it ‘remains committed’ to K–12 technology,” GeekWire reported in March. That’s Rohit Agarwal who headed the K–12 education division after his math company TenMarks was acquired by Amazon in 2013. “What Happened to Amazon Inspire, the Tech Giant’s Education Marketplace?” Edsurge asked in June, following up in July with the announcement“Amazon Inspire Goes Live (But Without Controversial Share Feature).” (Amazon Inspire is the company’s OER platform.) From the Amazon press release in August: “Amazon Announces TenMarks Writing – New Online Curriculum for Teachers That Combines Rigor and Fun to Unlock the Writer in Every Student.”

    Google: No surprise, the company with the mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” has the largest footprint in education. Google extended the availability of its pseudo-LMS, Classroom, to those without G Suite for Education accounts in April. Google launched a “Be Internet Awesome” digital citizenship campaign in June. “Google Launches $50 Million Effort on the Future of Work,” Education Week reported in July. “Forget ‘US News’ Rankings. For Online College Programs, Google Is Kingmaker,” Edsurge reported in September. “Google Unveils Job Training Initiative With $1 Billion Pledge,” The New York Times reported in October. “YouTube Kids update gives kids their own profiles, expands controls,” Techcrunch reported in November. (I will look at YouTube and the dangers of algorithmic content delivery in more detail in an upcoming article in this series.)

    Dear Jack: stop providing a platform for Nazis and maybe I’ll include you in a list of “powerful tech companies” some day.

    While there were obviously a variety of software releases and updates, the major efforts of Apple, Microsoft, and Google still involve wooing schools to buy their hardware. These devices, to be clear, provide the gateway to their respective platforms – offering access to software and also gaining in return a privileged sort of access to users’ activities – to users’ data.

    The Battle for the Educational OS


    Updates from the ongoing battle for the K–12 market came this year with headlines like this: “Microsoft Looks to Regain Lost Ground in the Classroom.” “Apple’s Devices Lose Luster in American Classrooms.” “Apple’s Bid To Reclaim The Classroom From Chromebooks May Be Too Late.” “How Google Chromebooks conquered schools.” “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”

    According to a report released by the market research firm Futuresource, Google’s Chromebooks accounted for 58% of the 12.6 million devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the US last year – that’s up from 50% in 2015. Apple’s share of the market – which includes its sales of both iPads and Mac laptops – fell to 19% – down from about a quarter of the market. Microsoft Windows devices – again, that’s laptops and tablets – remained at about 22%.

    Google offers plenty of PR as to why it’s become so popular. It heavily courts educators through its certification programs, for example. (The company doesn’t actually run these itself anymore. They’ve been outsourced to other companies such as EdTechTeam. But teachers still readily pursue the credentialing – and the branding– opportunity.)

    The most important feature of Google for schools – despite all its talk of “collaboration” and whatnot – is undoubtedly that its software suite is free. Or “free,” rather. You pay with your data. Schools pay with their data. Schools pay with their students’ data. (Google might not sell advertising against student data, but it does still utilize this information to fuel its product development and its algorithms. More on algorithms and surveillance capitalism in the next article in this series.)

    And certainly the appeal of Chromebooks is their low cost – some are available for less than $200 a pop. (Google doesn’t make money directly on Chromebooks. The device manufacturers, Samsung and Acer, do. But Google does charge schools a per device management fee.) But there are trade-offs. The Chromebooks are not fully-functioning laptops. They cannot perform many tasks that require more than a browser-based interface, and they’re quite reliant on Internet-connectivity in order to function. (In fairness, Google has added some offline capabilities to its productivity suite.)

    As long-time educator Gary Stager argued this fall, “The Chromebook might be sufficient if you believe that the primary purpose of school to be taking notes, looking stuff up, completing forms, and communication. I find this to be an impoverished view of both learning and computing. Children need and deserve more. If you find such uses compelling, kids already own cellphones capable of performing such tasks.”

    The problem might be more than simply limiting what students can do on their devices to note- and test-taking. It’s that these limitations in turn start to dictate what schools imagine students can and should do. How we imagine the future of teaching and learning is shaped by the constraints and affordances of a technology platform. By the data we surrender.

    I plan to discuss Alexa and “voice assistants” in more detail in a subsequent article in this series, but I do want to note briefly here that Amazon is taking a slightly different approach to its move to platform education. While some schools have adopted Kindles and other Amazon tablets – I’m kidding. No one really uses the Amazon Fire, right? – Amazon has not heavily marketed its devices in education. (Librarians have long complained that these devices are terrible to manage.)

    But Amazon has begun marketing Alexa to schools, making a high profile donation to – you guessed it– ASU to place the devices in college dorms. “In a ‘first-of-its-kind’ partnership, Amazon is working with Arizona State University to create a voice technology engineering program, which includes an option for students to get customized Alexa-powered Echo Dots in their dorm rooms,” GeekWire reported in August. “ASU’s main motivation was to develop an opportunity for its engineering students to gain skills in voice technology, an emerging field,” a university spokesperson told Edsurge. Amazon’s motivation: to establish its voice-activated platform as the way in which people interact with the digital world. This isn’t simply about how the voice commands will be used in educational settings, of course – although you can now talk to Alexa and get some information in response about the Canvas learning management system, which I am certain is the ed-tech breakthrough everyone’s just been dying for. But it’s also an indication that the move towards a platform economy will increasingly implicate education in the practices of surveillance and in a pervasive culture of commercialism.

    Education Disrupted: How Silicon Valley is Shaping Public School


    To understand the power of these technology platforms – power that goes well beyond any product feature or press release, read the articles that The New York Times reporter Natasha Singer has published this year in her series “Education Disrupted – A series examining how Silicon Valley is gaining influence in public schools.”

    Technology Platforms and the Future of Democracy


    As I detailed in the first article in this series, these technology platforms have an incredible amount of influence on knowledge and information – shaping what we see, what we know. As such, these platforms threaten not only to re-shape journalism, but to re-shape education.

    Their positions are already incredibly politically powerful. The tendency of platforms, as Nick Srnicek has argued, is towards monopolization: control of data and control of the governance.

    Google, for its part invests heavily in political lobbying. It is now the largest corporate lobbying spender in the US. Google also invests in think tanks, the policy and research institutions that are so prolific in Washington DC and so influential in turn in helping to shape policy and the narratives about the future.

    In August, The New York Times reported that the Open Markets team, a group of scholars and analystswho research monopoly power and influence, had been dismissed from New America after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt expressed his displeasure with the group. Google is a major donor to the think tank, having previously given some $21 million to it. (Google gives a lot of money to similar sorts of groups, including many, many education-related ones.)

    How is Google influencing policy? How is Google influencing research?

    In July, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled“Paying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign.” Drawing on a list of names created by The Campaign for Accountability, the article accused Google of helping to finance academic research that would suit its needs legally, in particular defending it against regulatory challenges. The article came under fire almost immediately. Many scholars questioned the list of names altogether, challenging the contention that they’d been paid by Google for their work. Whether Google’s influence is direct or indirect, “it’s complicated,” Wired admitted. And one of the funders of The Campaign for Accountability? Google’s arch-nemesis, Oracle.

    In November, Fortune reported that Google was being investigated by the Missouri Attorney General John Hawley for violating the state’s anti-trust laws. Turns out that effort has ties to some of Google’s enemies too. Peter Thiel, an investor in several of Google’s key competitors including Facebook and his own data surveillance company Palantir, made a $300,000 political contribution to Hawley’s campaign.

    Monopolies are good for society, Thiel has argued. Unless they’re monopolies he doesn’t have a financial stake in, I guess.

    In his book World Without Mind, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer talks about the tech giants as “a new style of firm: the knowledge monopoly.” He admits, in a footnote, that his “casual use of the term ‘monopoly’” is likely to annoy economists and antitrust lawyers.

    It has a technical meaning, they will grump. “Oligopoly” might be a more accurate description of some of the markets I describe. These criticisms are fair but I am not making a technical argument. Indeed, I believe that technical arguments have strangled the discussion. My hope is that we revive “monopoly” as a core piece of political rhetoric that broadly denotes dominant firms with pernicious powers. This might not fly in the bar association, but such usage has a proud and productive lineage tracking back to Thomas Jefferson.

    The sweeping powers of these technology companies must be challenged, particularly as they turn their sights on public policy, public research, public education, and public infrastructure: Apple’s attempts to brand its stores as the new “town square” (and let’s do note: where those stores get built– who are the imagined consumer-citizens with access to this corporate-civic space). Google’s plans to redesign the waterfront in Toronto. Bill Gates’ acquisition of land in Arizona to build his version of a “smart city.” Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing attempts to define “community” based on the roadmap for the Facebook platform, not to mention his plans to revive “the company town.” Amazon’s plans for a new headquarters, in which cities trying to lure the corporate giant to move there, offered up control over municipal taxation and decision-making– using “democracy itself as the bargaining chip,” as The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat put it.

    As more data flows into these companies’ systems and as they use the “network effects” to amass more users and more money, the Web – that other major technology platform, but one without one powerful corporate owner – dwindles. “The system is failing,” its creator Tim Berners-Lee lamented in an op-ed in The Guardian this fall. Mozilla, which once sought to secure a foothold for education on the Web through its Web literacy initiative, announced this year that it was ending its work in digital learning. Silicon Valley has been declaring that “The Web is Dead” for a long time now, of course. More accurately, perhaps, the Web is undead, propped up by Google AdSense and bent to serve the needs of the platform economy.

    One of the key questions that education technology’s evangelists must ask: are students and schools also being bent to serve those same needs? Are we compelling students to more become “productive” – through free labor, of course– on these platforms, not just as data points but as the very raw material that these companies are building their billion dollar businesses upon?

    Can democracy co-exist with the powerful technology monopolies that dominate the platform economy? (Peter Thiel doesn’t think so. And remember, he’s pretty stoked about that.)

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com.


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    This is part five of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    As in previous years, it would be quite easy to fill a whole article in this series on “data insecurity,” on the data breaches and cyberattacks that continue to plague education – both schools and software. The issue extends well beyond education technology, of course, and in 2017 we witnessed yet again a number of high profile incidents (including some corporate admissions of breaches that had happened in years past): that over 140 million Social Security Numbers and other personal data had been stolen in a data breach at Equifax, for starters; that every single account at Yahoo– some 3 billion in all – had been affected in its 2013 breach.

    In education, there were breaches at colleges and universities, breaches at K–12 schools, breaches at the Department of Education, breaches at education technology companies, and breaches with software schools commonly use. 77 million users accounts stolen from Edmodo. A file configuration error at Schoolzilla that exposed the data of some 1.3 million students. A ransomware attack at a school system in Maine. A ransomware attack at a community college in Texas. Computers affected by the WannaCry virus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity College, the University of Washington, North Dakota State University, the University of Maine, and elsewhere. 14 million college email username and passwords for sale on “the dark Web.”W2 phishing scams at a school district in Texas. W2 phishing scams at a school district in Connecticut. W2 phishing scams at a school district in Minnesota. Phishing emails posing as Ofsted. Phishing emails posing as the University of California student health plan. $11.8 million scammed from MacEwan University. Keyloggers at the University of Iowa. Keyloggers at the University of Kansas. A hacked school Twitter account in Florida. A privacy breach at Stanford. Data stolen from a community college’s health clinic. A data breach at a school board in Ontario. A data breach at the Chicago Public Schools. A malware attack at the University of Alberta. And then there was the ominously named “Dark Overlord,” who held the data of multiple school districts for ransom, in one case sending parents text messages threatening to kill their children if they did not pay up.

    And that’s not even remotely close to the complete list of hacks, scams, breaches, and thefts this year.

    EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin launched a new project in 2017– “The K–12 Cyber Incident Map” – that visualizes the breaches, ransomware attacks, DDOS attacks, phishing attacks, and so on that have been reported at US public schools. Some 280 incidents since January 2016. Levin’s message has been consistent this year and in the past: schools are simply not prepared to address the cybersecurity threats they’re facing – they’re unprepared for the attacks on their IT infrastructure (including vulnerabilities in the various technology products they’ve adopted), and they’re unprepared for attacks on individuals associated with schools (more on this in a forthcoming article about “free speech” on campus).

    And yet schools continue to invest millions and millions of dollars in more and more technology. Investing in hardware and software. Investing, as I chronicled in the previous article in this series, in “the platform economy.” Investing, that is, in technology companies and in the ideology that underpins them: that schools and their vendors must collect an ever-increasing amount of data.

    We heard plenty of stories this year, arguing for precisely that: Every student is a potential data point, we were told. “Super users” of certain ed-tech products demand more data collection. More data collection will help schools gauge student well-being. More data collection will improve course design. More data collection will improve student learning and student outcomes. More data collection will mean more diversity at schools. More data collection will mean more customization – a “Netflix-and-Amazon-like experience.” It will enable “personalization.” “The Higher Ed Learning Revolution,” as NPR put it: “Tracking Each Student’s Every Move.” And students are totally on board, we were told: they want even more of their data to be collected. (I call bullshit.) And perhaps my favorite: “Want Your Students to Remember You in 20 Years? Start Holding Weekly Data Conferences.”

    These justifications for more data collection aren’t new; nor is an opposition to education’s data regime. The research organization Data & Society published a report this year on “the Legacy of inBloom,” a proposed data infrastructure initiative that shut down three years ago but that has surely left its mark on how schools and ed-tech companies frame discussions about data and “personalization.” And yet, even in the face of ongoing pushback against data collection and concerns about data insecurity – from parents, educators, students, and others – even with the hundreds of hacks and breaches, some industry groups do still try to argue that that “Your Concerns About Student Privacy Are Being Exploited.”

    But 2017 made it clear, I’d like to think, that the dangers education technology and its penchant for data collection aren’t simply a matter of a potential loss of privacy or a potential loss of data. The stakes now are much, much higher.

    Education Technology in a Time of Trump


    Immediately following the 2016 elections, I tweeted that “Under a Trump administration: I very much want ed-tech companies and schools to reconsider collecting so much data about students.” I’d embed the tweet here in this article, but I deleted it. I delete all my old social media now on a regular and ongoing basis. I do so because I am uncomfortable about the ways in which our personal data is so easily used against us.

    The first public talk I gave this year was on 2 February at the University of Richmond – “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump.” I repeated my call again: education institutions and education companies must rethink their collection of data. I pointed to several historical examples of how the collection, categorization, and analysis of data led to discriminatory and even deadly political practices – racism and the US Census, for example, and the history of IBM and how its statistical analysis helped the Nazis identify Jews.

    Even in the earliest days of the Trump administration – even in the campaign itself – it seemed obvious to me that immigrants to the US would targeted, that immigration data, whether overtly collected or algorithmically inferred, would be weaponized.

    Just one week after taking office President Trump signed an executive order banning all refugees from entering the US, as well as barring entry for citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. The order had an immediate effect on scholars and students, many of whom had returned home over the holidays and were stuck outside the country – some even stranded mid-transit. There were immediately protests at airports and objections in the courts, the latter led in part by public universities who claimed they had legal standing to challenge the travel ban as it harmed their mission as research and teaching institutions. The ban was blocked, altered by the administration, blocked again, altered, blocked, altered, blocked… (The latest, almost one year later: the US Supreme Court has allowed the ban to take effect while legal challenges to it continue.)

    No surprise, colleges and universities have expressed some concern about how the travel ban – and attitudes in the US towards foreigners more broadly – will affect their ability to recruit and retainstudents and scholars. There were other high profile incidents as well: the refusal, for example, to give visas to the all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan.

    The actions of the administration should not come as a surprise. President Trump ran on a white ethno-nationalist platform and from his opening campaign speech promised that he would strength the country’s borders and boost immigration enforcement. ICE, the agency responsible for the latter, has dramatically increased the number of arrests of immigrants this year, many of whom did not fall into categories previously targeted by law enforcement – they did not have criminal records, for example – and many of whom were detained at places not previously targeted by ICE either, including schools. Parents in LA were picked up as they dropped their children off at school. School officials in Pasadena were accused of threatening to call ICE on students or on their family members. Washington University in St. Louis threatened to report international students to ICE if they unionized. Some students were arrested during their regular check-ins with immigration. One teenager was arrested hours before his prom. A fourth grader in Queens was allegedly interrogated about his family’s immigration status. After an ICE raid outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, over 2000 students in the district missed school, fearing more ICE activity.

    Students and families are afraid. They’re afraid to go to school. They’re afraid to collect benefits that, as citizens they have every right to receive. They’re afraid to seek medical care.

    According to data from Pew Research Center, there are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. How this number affects schools is a bit harder to calculate, as students might be citizens and live with family members who are undocumented or students might be undocumented and live with families who are citizens and so on. Education Trust-West said this year that it believed one in eight students in California schools had at least one parent that was undocumented, for example, and the Los Angeles Unified School Board announced this year that it was committed to protecting its students and their families from ICE. Other campuses and cities also reaffirmed they would act as “sanctuaries,” a move some Republican lawmakers tried to outlaw.

    In September, the Trump administration announced its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “Unprecedented,” Vox’s Dara Lind called it: “There’s never really been a time when a generation of people, raised and rooted in the United States, has been stripped of official recognition and pushed back into the precarity of unauthorized-immigrant life.”

    DACA was established by the previous administration, providing a protected status to those who were brought to the country illegally when they were children. Some 800,000 undocumented immigrants qualified for the program, which had enabled these DREAMers to legally pursue work and education opportunities. An estimated 20,000 are educators– some 5000 in California, 2000 in New York, 2000 in Texas. They are in limbo, along with many of the students in their classrooms. Again, universities have said they would protect their students who are DREAMers, and some have sued the Trump administration for violating these stduents’ rights. Meanwhile, DREAMers are already being arrestedanddeported.

    Some technology companies have joined some of these lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The tech industry has also expressed its own frustrations over curbs to visas for foreign technical workers and foreign entrepreneurs – “startup visas” – as well as threats to green cards.

    But technology companies – some of the very same technology companies– are also working with the Trump administration to build the software for its “extreme vetting” programs. This software would track and analyze the social media and digital activity of visa holders in order to identify those who might be “high risk.”

    It’s a process incredibly similar to what’s marketed in education as “learning analytics” – tracking the social media and digital activity of students to identify those who might be “at risk.”

    What happens to all the DREAMers’ data– data that they willingly handed over to the federal government? Will it be weaponized, as The Daily Beast argued in September it might?

    What happens to all the data that schools and their software vendors have collected about students? Can that data be used to glean their immigration status (or their religion)? Can their status be deduced even if the specific data points about nationality or immigration status are not collected? Because this is, of course, the promise of algorithms and analytics – making inferences based on the data that’s available. Profiling. Grouping. Predicting.

    What education technology practices and products have schools already adopted that might be putting their students at risk – adding geo-tracking devices, for example, to laptops given to students in migrant education programs.

    Will this data be used to punish students – to refuse them admission or aid?

    How will all the education data and analysis that’s gathered be used? Education technology companies and big data proponents always have the sunniest futures to sell. But what are the implications of algorithmic decision-making in a time of Trump?

    Algorithmic Discrimination


    “Should big data be used to discourage poor students from university?” ZDNet asked this summer, describing an algorithm that could help predict whether or not low-income students would be successful at school – but not so more resources could be directed their way to help them succeed. Not so that they received more help, more money, more support. Nope. Rather, the big data would be utilized so these students could be discouraged from going to school in the first place.

    Typically, stories about predictive analytics in education aren’t framed that way, no surprise. Education technology proponents like to say that big data will be used to encourage low-income students – or at least to send them nudges and notifications when students appear, algorithmically at least, to be struggling. These algorithmic products are marketed as helping students succeed and – no surprise – helping schools make more money by retaining their tuition dollars.

    There are major ethical implications of these sorts of analytics in education. If, for example, a school doesn’t have the resources to help struggling students, perhaps as that ZDNet article suggests, it would rather discourage them from attending.

    There seemed to be much more discussion in the media this year about ethics and the discriminatory tendencies in algorithmic decision-making, as more mainstream attention was brought to the topic through a combination of investigative journalism and academic scholarship. (Through the work, for example, of Cathy O’Neil, Zeynep Tufekci, Julia Angwin, Frank Pasquale, and many others.)

    That attention came in part because of the ongoing concerns about the role technology companies played in the 2016 election – something I discussed briefly in the first article in this series. How do algorithms shape news and information sharing? What did Facebook and Google’s algorithms show people in their news feeds and in their searches during the election? How were specific groups targeted for certain kinds of advertising, messaging, and “promoted content”? ProPublica found, for example, that“Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’” during the presidential campaign. Google similarly allowed advertisers to target people who were searching for racist phrases. To reiterate: algorithms on these platforms dictate what you see and what you don’t see. And that view isn’t simply a matter of political party affiliation. ProPublica had discovered last year that Facebook let advertisers target housing ads to white audiences only – a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act – and in follow-up reporting this fall the publication found that it was still able to place discriminatory ads, despite Facebook’s insistence that it had fixed the problem.

    The algorithms of these platform companies are increasingly inscrutable– a “black box,” as Frank Pasquale has described them – and that’s certainly part of the problem. Journalists and scholars are not allowed to peer “under the hood,” if you will (although there has been some talk of requiring companies to “open” their algorithms to scrutiny.)

    So how do we know their algorithms “work” – or rather, what sorts of work do these algorithms do? Again, it’s not just about the news feed. Facebook, for its part, has also promised that its algorithms will identify terrorists and individuals who might be suicidal. Its algorithms are not merely informative; they are extra-judicial.

    And clearly the use of this sort of algorithmic decision-making extends well beyond what happens in high profile technology companies and what happens on social media. Algorithms are being used to determine prison sentences. They’re being used to predict criminal activity. They’re being used to identify children who might be at risk of abuse. In all these cases, algorithms raise serious questions about the potential for discrimination. In the latter, it’s also simply a question of the algorithm failing altogether – that is, failing to accurately identify children at risk as the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services recently discovered after spending $366,000 on data-mining software.

    And yet, despite the repeated concerns about the discriminatory potential for these algorithms and the ongoing questions about whether or not these systems are accurate or effective or just, many schools have plowed forward with adopting these sorts of tools. Algorithmic decision-making is the basis for “personalized learning,” a trend that venture capitalists and venture philanthropists and education reformers and technology companieswant very much to happen (whether the research says “it works” or not).

    And whether they’re “all in” on “personalized learning,” many schools are adopting analytics and surveillance technologies to monitor and predict student behavior: to identify cyberbullying and suicide threats; to recommend what students should be reading; to recommend what lessons students should be working on; to ascertain if teachers should be awarded tenure; to determine school bus routes; to identify learning disabilities; to identify college students who are struggling with classes; to identify K–12 students who are struggling with classes; to recommend students enroll in certain courses or pursue certain degrees; to help colleges decide who to admit in the first place. “Can you predict your students’ final grade at the start of the course?” Technológica de Monterrey asked on its website, “Yes, you can with Artificial Intelligence.” “Will You Graduate?” asked an article in The New York Times. “Ask Big Data.”

    Education technology, as a field and as an industry, places an incredible amount of faith in data and algorithms to address social problems that are incredibly complex.

    But that faith in data is just part of the problem. Just collecting data alters how decisions get made, some research suggests. And the types of data that are collected is facilitated by the types of technologies and systems already in place – the learning management system, most obviously.

    Algorithms get layered on top of these existing structures. And artificial intelligence comes with deep, deep biases – biases at the very core of the discipline. Racism. Sexism. Biases in language and in image recognition. Biases based on the training data. Biases that comes from the engineers. Wrapped in the shine of science (and pseudoscience) and backed with billions of dollars of venture capital and PR, these biases are, as Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Margaret Mitchell and Alexander Todorov have argued, “Physiognomy’s New Clothes.”

    If these algorithms make use of existing data and are layered on top of existing practices and systems, then it seems even more likely that they will reinforce the education system’s existing biases rather than radically upend them. Racial biases in school discipline, for example. Biases in admissions decisions. Teachers’ biases. Administrators’ biases. Department of Education biases. Long-standing beliefs and practices about who students are and what students need. Legal precedent as to what rightsstudents have and do not have while at school (and perhaps even while at home).

    Indeed, perhaps some of these beliefs and practices (and fantasies) are why surveillance technologies have such a powerful appeal to many in education.

    “This will go down on your permanent record…”

    Education Technology and School Surveillance


    Schools surveil to prevent cheating, which we’re told is now more pervasivebecause of new technologies. They install cameras. They install microphones. They monitor social media. They demand biometric data from students in order to prove their identity. They use proctoring software with facial recognition. They buy software that scans for plagiarism and software that monitors students’ location while they’re doing schoolwork. They adopt devices that monitor students at school and students at home.

    Schools surveil to prevent violence. They put body cameras on campus police.

    Schools surveil to track attendance. They install finger print scanners at the schoolhouse door. Schools surveil to monitor students while they’re at school. They use facial recognition devices to make sure students are paying attention. They install finger print scanners in the lunch room. They install iris-scanners in the cafeteria.

    Schools surveil to ensure student safety and well-being. They use heart-rate monitors to track students’ physical activity. They use fitness trackers to monitor students’ sleep. They monitor all sorts of activities – sleep, exercise, and more – of student athletes. They scan the license plates of those who come on campus. They install facial recognition devices in dormitories. They filter websites, blocking content deemed “inappropriate.” They monitor students’ ID cards to track their location– before, during, and after school.

    Students can see how these systems work, you know – the decisions that are human-made and the decisions that are machine-made and the decisions that are historical and the decisions that are structural. They worry that they are being set up to fail. They worry that their data – their very identities – are being weaponized against them. It’s not simply “the algorithm” that causes educational inequalities to persist. Students know that. It’s just becoming an easier way to justify unjust decision-making.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com.


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