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The History of the Future of Education Technology
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  • 05/19/17--07:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    Via The Washington Post: “Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice.”

    NPR’s Cory Turner on“The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers.” Also by Turner: “Indiana’s School Choice Program Often Underserves Special Needs Students.”

    Also via WaPo: “Here are K–12 education programs Trump wants to eliminate in 2018 budget.” This includes $10.1 million for Special Olympics because these are some cruel, cruel people.

    Via Politico: “DeVos expected to unveil school choice plans Monday.”

    “This is the new Betsy DeVos speech everyone should read,” according to WaPo’s Valerie Strauss at least. Bonus points for invoking the Prussians, Madame Secretary.

    “Why I Turned My Back on Betsy DeVos During Graduation” by Bethune-Cookman Class of 2017’s Tyler Durrant.

    Via The Washington Post: “Betsy DeVos was asked to address education reporters at their annual convention. She said no.”

    Via Politico: “DeVos’ designated ethics official found no conflict with her addressing the American Federation for Children in her official capacity, a spokesman said Monday. DeVos is the former chair of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice policies, such as tax credit scholarships and vouchers. She and her husband also donated $200,000 to AFC’s charitable arm in 2014 and 2015 through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. DeVos stepped down as AFC chair last year after President Donald Trump nominated her for secretary.”

    President Trump gave the commencement speech at Liberty University. Details via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The Washington Post: “Trump and DeVos plan to reshape higher education finance. Here’s what it might mean for you.”

    I’ve put all the student loan updates in its own section below.

    “The Privatization Prophets” by Jennifer Berkshire.

    Los Angeles Just Had the Most Expensive School Board Race Ever – and Betsy DeVos Couldn’t Be Happier,” says Mother Jones. Charter school-backed Nick Melvoin unseated school board president Steve Zimmer. More than $14 million was spent on this race.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A bipartisan group of influential U.S. senators released a bill Monday that would overturn the ban on a federal student-level data system that would allow for the tracking of employment and graduation rates. A bipartisan companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives followed Tuesday.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The Hill: “FCC votes to advance net neutrality repeal.” More via Education Week. (Here are the education technology companies that have raised money from ISPs. Watch to see what they have to say (if anything) about net neutrality and the future of education.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The States Where Campus Free-Speech Bills Are Being Born: A Rundown.” A related story via Inside Higher Ed: “Critics of proposed legislation to ensure First Amendment rights at Wisconsin public universities say it could backfire and limit expression. Requirement for political neutrality alarms professors and administrators alike.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Secret report shows ‘special’ treatment for public officials in D.C. school lottery.”

    Via The News & Observer: “At 3 a.m., NC Senate GOP strips education funding from Democrats’ districts.”

    The New York Times looks at “anti-tax fervor in southern Oregon, which will result in the one public library in Roseburg closing its doors.

    ProPublica looks at the lobbying group the Home School Legal Defense Association: “Small Group Goes to Great Lengths to Block Homeschooling Regulation.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via The Gothamist: “Federal Immigration Agent Allegedly Inquired About 4th Grader At Queens Public School.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students at Northwestern University drove out a representative from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was due to speak to a sociology class Tuesday.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via The New York Times: “4 Plead Guilty in Baruch College Student’s Hazing Death.”

    Elsevier Wants $15 Million Piracy Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen,” says TorrentFreak.

    More legal stories in the sports section below.

    Testing, Testing…


    Via The Post and Courier: “Citadel cadets score low on a critical-thinking exam. But there’s reason to be skeptical about their results.” That’s the Collegiate Learning Assessment exam (a.k.a. CLA+).

    Via Vox: “Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless.”

    Via NPR: “AP Test-Takers’ Tweets May Not Give Away Answers, But They Raise Questions.”

    More on venture philanthropy and test prep in the venture philanthropy section below.

    “Free College”


    “Should Students Get ‘Grades 13 and 14’ Free of Charge?” asks The New York Times Magazine.

    Via The New York Times: “Free Tuition? Tennessee Could Tutor New York.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Boston-area nonprofit will pay gang members who want to go to college and get off the street, with a goal of improving communities.” The non-profit in question: College Bound Dorchester.

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Slate: “Betsy DeVos Wants to Kill a Major Student Loan Forgiveness Program.”

    “400,000 were promised student loan forgiveness. Now they are panicking,” says CNN.

    Here’s Betsy DeVos in The Wall Street Journal: “Treating Students as Customers.” “How the Education Department is revamping its loan-serving program.”

    Reminder: Betsy DeVos has a financial stake in a student loan collection agency.

    Via NPR: “Can’t Pay Your Student Loans? The Government May Come After Your House.”

    Via Techcrunch: “SoFi gets into wealth management.” That’s a private student loan provider, but I forgot that everyone in ed-tech thinks this whole private student loan thing isn’t something we should be watching because it’s not really ed-tech.

    Via the Huffington Post: “Nicki Minaj Is Starting An ‘Official Charity’ To Pay Off Student Loans.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Edsurge: “Why Donald Graham Sold Kaplan University to Purdue for $1.” (And there’s even a disclosure about Edsurge’s financial ties to Graham on this story. Good job, team.)

    Via The New York Times: “U.S. Crackdown on For-Profit Schools Is Said to Go Idle.”

    Also via The New York Times: “For-Profit Charlotte Law School Is Subject of North Carolina Inquiry.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    “Why Haven’t MOOCs Eliminated Any Professors?” asks IHE blogger Joshua Kim. What’s his evidence that technology has not eliminated jobs – other than this weird insistence that there is no such thing as neoliberalism in ed-tech?

    Via The Verge: “Who is MasterClass for? Talking to the people who take online classes with big-name celebs.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Caltech Students Protest Return of Professor From Suspension.” That’s Christian Ott, an astrophysics professor, who has been accused of harassing his graduate students.

    Via NPR: “As White Supremacists Push Onto Campuses, Schools Wrestle With Response.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Where Kids Aren’t Allowed to Put on Sunscreen: in School.”

    Zynga and USC enter social and mobile game design partnership,” says Education Dive. I’d totally forgotten that Zynga was still a thing, but apparently the company has enough money to subsidize gaming courses.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: Mills College“announces layoffs (likely including tenured professors) and plans for curricular reform – amid a deficit that has grown to $9 million.”

    Via The New York Times: “500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bipartisan support for career and technical education is building, with Virginia Foxx and the Center for American Progress finding rare agreement Tuesday by calling for more of a policy focus on job training that doesn’t require a four-year degree.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via the Kansas City Star: “Lawsuit says Baylor football players videotaped gang rape, which was ‘bonding experience’.” This is the seventh lawsuit over the school’s sexual assault scandal.

    Reminder that Baylor’s former athletic director now works at Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University.

    Speaking of Liberty U, via Deadspin: “Liberty Was So Desperate For An FBS Home Opener, It Agreed To Pay Old Dominion $1.32 Million.”

    From the HR Department


    The open-access publisher PLOS has a new CEO: Alison Mudditt.

    Social Capital has hired Marc Mezvinsky as the investment firm morphs its business,” Recode reports. Yes, that’s the Marc Mezvinsky who’s married to Chelsea Clinton. (Here’s a look at Social Capital’s ed-tech portfolio.)

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    “Can a buzzword deliver on its promise?” asks the Clayton Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn. (He’s referring to “personalized learning,” but might as well be any buzzword when you frame the headline that way, bud.)

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Via The New York Times: “How Google Took Over the Classroom.” There’s a lot in this superb article – data, surveillance, testing, costs, branding.

    Via Edsurge: “Pearson, an Investor in Knewton, Is ‘Phasing Out’ Partnership on Adaptive Products.” No disclosure in the story that Edsurge shares investors with Knewton, nor that Pearson is, by way of Learn Capital, also an investor in Edsurge.

    Via Quartz: “Apple’s new $5 billion campus has a 100,000-square-foot gym and no daycare.”

    Via the BBC: “Computer giant Apple is expanding its supply line of talented young people with digital skills, by doubling the intake of its European academy.” I’m guessing those “talented young people” don’t need daycare at work, Apple?

    What the conservative ed-reform publication Education Next is watching: “Silicon Valley Billionaires Created AltSchool.”

    Edsurge interviews Stanford’s Candace Thille on “Why ‘Black Box’ Software Isn’t Ready to Teach College.”

    Edsurge profiles MEDSKL, which is like Khan Academy but for medical school. (What could go wrong?)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Online Exam Proctoring Catches Cheaters, Raises Concerns.” Concerns include privacy, racism.

    Edsurge writes that “U of Chicago, UPenn, Harvey Mudd Among Colleges to Join Scholarship App Raise.me” but does not disclose that it shares investors with the company in question.

    “​Intel Hits Pause on Edtech Accelerator,” says Edsurge.

    “The Sexual Harassment Allegations Against This Virtual Reality Startup Are Really Gross,” writes Buzzfeed. That’s UploadVR. (Here’s a look, from Edsurge, at the company’s involvement in education, so that’s just swell.)

    Via Campus Technology: “6 VR Trends to Watch in Education.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via The Verge: “Elon Musk-backed OpenAI is teaching robots how to learn just like humans do.” Just like humans do. LOL.

    “This robot helps kids with special needs to communicate,” according to Techcrunch. This robot is called Robota and is the creation of a team from Rutgers University.

    From the WCET blog: “Using Artificial Intelligence for Personality Insights.”

    Via Education Week: “In Kentucky, Rural Schools Betting on Drones to Stem ‘Brain Drain’.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is giving a grant– an undisclosed amount – to the College Board to expand test prep.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    CreativeLive has raised $25 million in Series C funding from GSV Acceleration, Creative Arts Agency, Greylock Partners, Jared Leto, REV, Richard Branson, and Social Capital. The online training company has raised $76 million total. (Disclosure alert.)

    Revolution Prep has raised $4 million in Series B funding from Kennet Partners. The test prep company has raised $9 million total.

    Marbotic has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Mirabelle investment fund, Marguerite Fournié, and Michelin Development. The company makes wooden blocks that interact with a tablet.

    Tutoring startup Byju’s will buy part of Pearson’s tutoring company TutorVista, according to The Economic Times.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    On the heels of news last week that Edmodo had been hacked and some 77 million users’ data leaked, privacy researcher Bill Fitzgerald uncovers targeted ad tracking in Edmodo. (The tracking has since been removed. But this isn’t the first time Edmodo’s had security issues, incidentally.) Edsurge writes that “Edmodo’s Tracking of Students and Teachers Revives Skepticism Surrounding ‘Free’ Edtech Tools” but does not disclose that it shares investors with Edmodo.


    Via Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill: “Uber Doesn’t Want You to See This Document About Its Vast Data Surveillance System.” This includes more than 500 pieces of information that Uber tracks for each user. Helpful for putting all those “Uber for education” folks in context.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Wisconsin at Madison Restores Twitter Account After Hack.”

    A cyberattack spread globally this week – WannaCry, ransomware that encrypts all files on a computer until the user pays (Bitcoin) to unlock them. “Colleges Dodge Massive Cyberattack,” according to Inside Higher Ed. “US universities race to contain WannaCry ransomware, officials say,” according to Cyberscoop. Other schools affected: the Brewer school system in Maine. Here’s Microsoft’s statement, which points the finger at the NSA. I’m sorry for citing the Daily Mail but I can’t help it here: “Cyber geek who halted global computer attack was suspended by teachers after being accused of hacking school’s system (…and failed his GCSE in IT!)”

    The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has released a “Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy.”

    Data and “Research”


    “Don’t Grade Teachers With a Bad Algorithm,” says Cathy O’Neil.

    From FdB’s ANOVA blog: “Campbell’s Law and the inevitability of school fraud.” Also: “norm referencing, criterion referencing, and ed policy.” And: “Study of the Week: What Actually Helps Poor Students? Human Beings.”

    Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults,” says the Pew Research Center.

    Via Mindwires Consulting: “State of Higher Ed LMS Market for US and Canada: Spring 2017 Edition.”

    The latest survey from Project Tomorrow: “Speak Up 2016 Research Project for Digital Learning.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. is not adequately developing and sustaining a skilled technical work force, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.”

    Via Times Higher Education: “Study examines traits British students like– and don’t like – in instructors.”

    “The average first-time, full-time tuition discount rate edged even closer to 50 percent in 2016–17 as net tuition revenue and enrollment struggled.” That’s according to a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

    Big Data in Education” – a new report from the National Academy of Education.

    Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: Five Guiding Practices for Ethical Use” – a new report from New America.

    Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ,” says Vox.

    Mindfulness training does not foster empathy, and can even make narcissists worse,” says the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.

    “Sorry, Graphology Isn’t a Real Science,” says Anne Trubek.

    Via NPR: “Whirring, Purring Fidget Spinners Provide Entertainment, Not ADHD Help.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    This talk was given today at CENTRO's symposium "Data, Paper, Scissors Tech-Based Learning Experiences for Higher Education" in Mexico City.

    Thank you very much for inviting me here today. I must apologize in advance for a couple of things about this presentation. First, I apologize that it’s in English. Second, I apologize that it takes such a grim tone. I’m well known, I think, for fierce criticisms and cautions about education technology, and what I’ve prepared today is perhaps even darker and more polemical than I’d like, strikingly so on this beautiful campus. I confess: I am feeling incredibly concerned about the direction the world is taking – politically, environmentally, economically, intellectually, institutionally, technologically. Trump. Digital technologies, even education technologies, are implicated in all of this, and if we are not careful, we are going to make things worse.

    History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we literally are criminals.

    "I attest to this: the world is not white; it never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank."– James Baldwin

    I want to be sure that anytime we talk about “the future of education,” that we always consider “the history of education.” We cannot break from history. We have not severed ourselves from the past through the introduction of computers or computer networks. Our institutions have not been severed from the past because of these. Our cultures have not. (At least not entirely. Not yet.) We have not.

    When we talk about “the future of education” as an explicitly technological future, I want us to remember that “the history of education” has long been technological – thousands of years of writing, hundreds of years of print, a century of “teaching machines,” 75 years of computing, almost 60 years of computer-assisted instruction, at least 40 years of the learning management system, more than 25 years of one-to-one laptop programs, a decade (give or take a year) of mobile learning. Education technology is not new; it has not appeared “all of a sudden”; and it is not a rupture. It is inextricably linked to history, to histories of education and to histories of technology.

    Education technology has its roots in traditional institutions, including and particularly the university and the military.

    To be clear, when I talk about education technology or technologies, I am not referring simply to tools or artifacts or products; and technologies certainly aren’t simply computing devices – software or hardware. Technologies, to borrow from the physicist Ursula Franklin, are practices. Technologies are systems. Technology “entails far more than its individual material components,” Franklin wrote. “Technology involves organizations, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.”

    When I say that education technology is not new, I’m not arguing that technologies do not change over time; or that our institutions, ideas, experiences, societies do not change in part because of technologies. But when we talk about change – when we tell stories about technological change – we must consider how technologies, particularly modern technologies like computers, emerged from a certain history, from certain institutions; how technologies are as likely to re-inscribe traditional practices as to alter them. We must consider how technology operates, in Franklin’s words, as “an agent of power and control.” We must consider how technologies carry this in their design, in their code, in their materiality, in their usage, in the ideologies that underpin them. Because of industry and because of institutions and because of capitalism and because of the weight of history and tradition, technologies are often hegemonic, even if, from time-to-time, we can seize them for counter-hegemonic stories and practices.

    All this is particularly important, I would argue, when we think about the technologies – practices, beliefs, systems – that are developed by or developed for educational institutions, when we think about education technologies and when we think about educational change.

    There are compelling stories, no doubt, about education technology. We’ll hear them today. Old stories and new stories. Education technology as disruptive. Education technology as transformative. Education technology as progressive (“progressive” as in progressive education like that envisioned by Maria Montessori or John Dewey; or “progressive” as related to social reform movements; or “progressive” as relating to technological progress). In the twenty-first century (as it has been for some time now) we are quite taken with the notion of technology as the force for “progress,” for change. But let’s not confuse new products and new practices and new politics with better.

    If technology is the force for change, in this framework, those who do not use technology, of course – schools and teachers, stereotypically – are viewed as resistant to or even obstacles to change.

    Seymour Papert, an early promoter of the narrative that personal computers would transform learning, wrote in 1993 that he’d already seen the ways in which educational institutions had dulled computers’ radical potential. “Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away,” he wrote in his book The Children’s Machine.

    Instead of cutting across and so challenging the very idea of subject boundaries, the computer now defined a new subject; instead of changing the emphasis from impersonal curriculum to excited live exploration by students, the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.

    It’s been almost 25 years since Papert wrote that book, and we can debate whether or not computers have actually failed to change educational institutions. (Certainly the title of this segment of today’s event – “the new normal” – seems to conclude that something in School’s ways, to borrow Papert’s phrase, has shifted.) We can debate too whether or not computers were ever really a “subversive instrument of change” in education. Or rather, what exactly do computers subvert? (Institutions? People? The public?)

    And this is the question, I think, that feels incredibly pertinent for us to consider, particularly as the education technology industry boasts about its disruptive capabilities and exerts its financial, political, and cultural power. What might be subverted? What might be lost? (That is, who will lose?)

    When I hear the phrase “the new normal,” I cannot help but think of the ways in which those same words were used in the US to describe the economy during and since the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and subsequent global recession. A period of slow economic growth, limited job creation, and stagnant incomes. A period of economic instability for most of us, and one of growing economic inequality globally as the super wealthy got super wealthier.

    That period was also one of enormous growth in new digital technology companies. Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity as social networks emerged to profoundly reconfigure information and media. Netflix moved from DVDs to a streaming service to a media company in its own right. Amazon introduced “The Cloud.” Apple introduced the iPhone, and “apps” became ubiquitous, leading some to pronounce the World Wide Web – a scholarly endeavor at its origin, let’s not forget – was dead. Venture capitalists became exuberant once again about investing in high tech startups, even those in education, which had for the previous decade been seen as a difficult and unprofitable market. Another Dot Com boom was predicted, this one centered on personal data.

    But the growth of Silicon Valley didn’t really do much to improve the economic well-being of most of us. It didn’t really create jobs, although it did create wealth for a handful of investors and entrepreneurs. It did help further a narrative that our economic precarity was not only “the new normal” but potentially liberatory. The “freelance” economy, we were told, meant we didn’t have to have full-time employment any longer. Just “gigs.” The anti-regulatory practices and libertarian ideology espoused by the CEO of Uber became a model for talking about this “new economy” – that is until Uber (and others) are able to replace freelance workers with robots, of course. “We’re like Uber,” became something other companies, including those in education, would boast, despite Uber’s skullduggery.

    This “new normal” does not simply argue that governmental regulations impede innovation. It posits government itself as an obstacle to change. It embraces libertarianism; it embraces “free markets.” It embraces a neoliberalism that calls for shrinking budgets for public services, including education – a shifting of dollars to private industry.

    Education needs to change, we have long been told. It is outmoded. Inefficient. And this “new normal” – in an economic sense much more than a pedagogical one – has meant schools have been tasked to “do more with less” and specifically to do more with new technologies which promise greater efficiency, carrying with them the values of business and markets rather than the values of democracy or democratic education.

    These new technologies, oriented towards consumers and consumption, privilege an ideology of individualism. In education technology, as in advertising, this is labeled “personalization.” The flaw of traditional education systems, we are told, is that they focus too much on the group, the class, the collective. So we see education being reframed as a technologically-enhanced series of choices – consumer choices. Technologies monitor and extract data in order to maximize “engagement” and entertainment.

    I fear that new normal, what it might really mean for teaching, for learning, for scholarship.

    Seymour Papert argued that “School’s ways” would persist, despite the subversiveness of computers, but I’m not so sure. Or rather, I’d argue that we do see a subversiveness from computers – let’s call it an Uberification – but it looks nothing like what he had hoped for. If School’s ways have been altered, it’s because of the political and fiscal pressures on them. I’d argue new technologies are prompting schools to acquiesce to, to merge with “Silicon Valley’s ways,” with surveillance capitalism, for example.

    Technologies may well be poised to redefine how we think about learning, intelligence, inquiry, the learner, the teacher, teaching, knowledge, scholarship. But remember: technological “progress” does not necessarily mean “progressive politics.” Silicon Valley’s ways also include individualism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, imperialism, the exclusion of people of color and white women from its workforce. These biases are now part of algorithms and algorithmic decision-making.

    Again my fear with our being comfortable or complacent with this “new normal”: Silicon Valley’s ways and Silicon Valley’s technologies are readily subverting the values of democracy and justice.

    The values of democracy and justice should be School’s ways. But to be fair, neither democracy nor justice are values that most educational institutions (historically, presently) have truly or fully or consistently lauded or oriented themselves around.

    If we want the future to be something other than an exploitative dystopia, I think our task must be to resist the narratives and the practices and the technologies that further inequality.

    We cannot do this through through technological solutionism (although technologies are absolutely part of what we need to address and fundamentally rethink). We need to rethink our practices. We have to forgo “personalization.” We must do this through collective action, through community. We do this through action oriented around social and racial justice. We do this through democracy. (And through art.)

    If educational institutions cannot take leadership in this crisis – a crisis of “the new normal” – then I don’t think we have any hope at all. My hope right now rests in the leadership of those outside Silicon Valley, indeed outside the US.


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  • 05/26/17--05:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • The Trump Budget


    Via The New York Times: “Trump’s Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts.”

    Via NPR: “Trump BudgetReduces Education Spending, Raises Funding For School Choice.” Also via NPR: “President Trump’s Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trump Budget Would Slash Student Aid and Research.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget Would Mean for Higher Ed.”

    Via Edweek’s Market Brief: “Trump’s Budget for Fiscal 2018: Cuts for Ed., Implications for K–12 Business.”

    No Sign of Edtech In Department of Education’s Full Federal Budget Proposal,” Edsurge frets.

    The Office of Educational Technology Under DeVos” by Doug Levin.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities issued a press release: “NEH Statement on Proposed FY 2018 Budget.”

    More news from the NEH in the HR section below.

    Thankfully, this budget is D.O.A. But it does underscore how central cruelty and ignorance are to the Trump administration.

    More Education Politics


    Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate,” The New York Times reports.

    Via NPR: “Here’s What Betsy DeVos Said Wednesday On Capitol Hill.”

    And here’s what DeVos said when she spoke to the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit. I really like the part where she compares those who defend the current education system to “flat-earthers.”

    “GOP lawmakers said Thursday they had planned to subpoena the former chief of federal student aid, Jim Runcie, to testify before a House of Representatives oversight subcommittee and may still do so,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “Runcie resigned from the Department of Education effective Wednesday rather than testify at a hearing on improper payments by the department. In a resignation memo and other correspondence leaked to the media, he also cited broader disagreements with the direction of the department under Secretary Betsy DeVos as reasons for his departure.” More on James Runcie’s abrupt resignation from The Washington Post, NPR, Buzzfeed.

    Via The New York Times: “Trump Administration Considers Moving Student Loans from Education Department to Treasury.”

    More on student loans in the student loan section below.

    Via the ACLU: “The Miseducation of Betsy DeVos (Apologies, Lauryn Hill).”



    “Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats,” says Diane Ravitch. TBH, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

    More on DeVos’s ed-tech investments in the research section below.

    Via Edsurge: “Possible ‘Fraud, Theft, Waste, and Abuse’: Report Questions NYC School Broadband Spending.”

    Via NPR: “Texas Lawmakers Revive ‘Bathroom Bill,’ OK Religious Refusal Of Adoptions.” Via WaPo: “Texas House passes ‘bathroom bill’ restricting transgender student access.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Appeals Court Refuses to Reinstate Trump’s Travel Ban.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via WaPo: “Private investigator accused of seeking Trump’s tax records through financial aid website.” More via Diverse Issues in Higher Education, who I believe broke the story.

    Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “Dubious arrests, damaged lives” – “How shelters criminalize hundreds of children.”

    Via Education Week: “Court Orders Pa. to Approve Thrice-Rejected Cyber Charter Applicant.” That’s the Insight PA Cyber Charter School.

    More on for-profits’ legal machinations in the for-profit higher ed section below. More on immigration in the courts in the legal section above.

    Testing, Testing…


    “The Standardized Test Monopoly That Secretly Runs America’s High Schools” by Liz Dwyer. Spoiler alert: it’s the College Board.

    Via The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: “Local students struggle after changes to GED test.”

    Via Education Week: “In Race for Test-Takers, ACT Outscores SAT– for Now.”

    Via The NYT: “As Pollen Counts Rise, Test Scores Fall.”

    Via Education Week: “Market Is Booming for Digital Formative Assessments.”

    Via Education Week: “Iowa schools to stop using $14M testing software after audit.”

    Via Education Dive: “Testing centers a growing source of higher ed revenue.”

    “Free College”


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation Board of Trustees approved regulations for the state’s new tuition-free public college tuition program Thursday, including some key regulations that would seem to address concerns about residency and credit-completion requirements.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Buzzfeed: “Trump Is Under Pressure To Deliver On Obama’s Student Loan Forgiveness.”

    “On track for Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Good news, you’re not in danger from Trump’s budget,” says The Washington Post. This is still terrible news for those not yet “on track,” including those weighing degrees and careers in public service.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Here’s How Trump’s Student Loan Proposals Could Affect You.”

    Via The New York Times: “Education Dept. Keeps Obama Plan to Streamline Loan System.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Education Dept. Says It Will Pick Single Loan Servicer.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Americans Are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “About 234,000 defaulted student loan borrowers with debt valued at $4.6 billion will be stuck in limbo and unable to get out of default if a judge’s order is not lifted this week, the Department of Education said in a court filing Friday.”

    More on the business (and the politics and the legality) of financial aid in the politics section above and in the for-profit higher ed section below. And more on data and research on student loan debt in the research section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A group of California for-profit colleges filed a lawsuit in federal court this week seeking to block the implementation of borrower-defense rules finalized last fall.”

    University of Colorado Denver students can earn college credit by taking courses at the coding bootcamp Galvanize. (Worth noting: the website promotes private student loan companies SkillsFund and Climb to students looking for tuition assistance.)

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via Slate: “The New Diploma Mills.”

    There’s more from Slate in its series on online credit recovery programs: “Why Bad Online Courses Are Still Taught in Schools.”

    George Mason University and Old Dominion University have launched the Online Virginia Network, “an online portal where students can browse both institutions’ online programs and calculate the cost of earning a degree.” Online portals still makin’ news.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via NPR: “Mark Zuckerberg Tells Harvard Graduates To Embrace Globalism, ‘A Sense Of Purpose’.” He mentioned something in his commencement speech about “personalized learning,” which I think – if we’re talking about Facebook’s vision of such things – means profiling users, getting them to click on things, and selling advertising based on their data. “Mark Zuckerberg Should Really Listen to Himself,” says Wired’s Nitasha Tiku.

    Related: “‘Harvard Crimson’ Site Is Hacked to Take Jabs at Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Also related:



    Via Buzzfeed: “Harvard’s Closed Captioning Malfunctioned And Turned Zuckerberg’s Speech Into A Jibberish Tone Poem.”

    Via The Daily Beast: “Over 100 Students Walk Out of Mike Pence’s Commencement Address” at Notre Dame.

    “Dozens of Middlebury Students Are Disciplined for Charles Murray Protest,” The New York Times reports in a story that does not cite a single student involved in opposing Murray’s presence at the school.

    Via The Baltimore Sun: “Police, FBI investigating University of Maryland killing as possible hate crime.” Richard Collins III was set to graduate Bowie State University this week. Sean Urbanski, a member of a white supremacist group, was arrested for stabbing him. More via The NYT.

    “It Runs Deep and We Can’t Talk It Out: On Campus Racism and the Murder of Richard Collins III” by Daniel Greene.

    Via The New York Times: “Surprise for a Mother Who Helped Her Paralyzed Son in Every Class.” They both graduated from Chapman University. Disability journalist David Perry responds: “Inspiration Porn Watch: Mom Gets Degree, Disabled Son Erased.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Mizzou’s Freshman Enrollment Has Dropped by 35% in 2 Years. Here’s What’s Going On.”

    Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy on allegations of racial bias in Princeton’s admission practices.

    Via The New York Times: “Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished by Christian School.” Maddi Runkles won’t be able to participate in graduation because she’s pregnant, her school says.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Caltech Professor Who Harassed Women Was Also Investigated For Creating An Imaginary Female Researcher.” The professor in question: astrophysics professor Christian Ott.

    Via NPR’s Code Switch: “Why Colleges Already Face Race-Related Challenges In Serving Future Students.”

    Via The Times-Picayune: “New Orleans principal loses job after wearing Nazi-associated rings in video.” Nicholas Dean was a principal at the charter school Crescent Leadership Academy. 99% of the students at this school are African-American. Can you fucking imagine sending your child off every day to this man’s school?!

    Via Chalkbeat’s Colorado newsroom: “Jeffco Public Schools suspended an average of four young students a day last year – and district officials are paying attention.”

    “How far should a university go to face its slave past?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education. Um…. all the way?

    Via Times Higher Education: “German Universities Oppose Plan to Compete on Teaching Quality.”

    “How teachers can support students during Ramadanby Rusul Alrubail.

    Via WFAA.com: “Channelview ISD [in Channelview, Texas] teachers are being disciplined after naming a student ‘most likely to become a terrorist.’”

    Via WaPo: “Teachers gave a teen with ADHD a ‘Most Likely to Not Pay Attention’ award.”

    Pull your shit together, teachers.

    Via The NYT: “Student Brought Loaded Gun to Brooklyn School, Police Say.”

    More on guns at schools in Georgia in the sports section below.

    Via Philly.com: “For these Philly librarians, drug tourists and overdose drills are part of the job.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    Via Edsurge: “Texas Partners With BloomBoard to Bring Competency-Based PD to the State.” (Disclosure alert: no mention that Edsurge and Bloomboard share investors.)

    Also via Edsurge: “Why There’s Little Consistency in Defining Competency-Based Education.” The story is part of a new guide, sponsored by D2L, on CBE. (Disclosure alert: no mention that Edsurge and D2L share investors.)

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via the Bleacher Report: “Georgia Law Will Allow Carry of Handguns at Public University Tailgate Events.” Guns will be allowed at more than just sports events, but as US News & World Report observes, “No Storage, Signs on Georgia Campuses as Gun Ban Lifts.”

    From the HR Department


    Bro Adams announced his resignation as the chairman of the NEH.

    Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “UC Berkeley fires instructor following sexual harassment claims.” That’d be Blake Wentworth, who taught in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies.

    Via Techcrunch: “SoFi co-founder Dan Macklin is leaving the company.”

    Via the ProQuest press release: “Matti Shem Tov, President of Ex Libris, a ProQuest company, will succeed Kurt Sanford as CEO of ProQuest in 2017.”

    The Business of Job Training


    A report from VC firm GSV Acceleration: “It’s a Breakout: Capital Flows In the Learning and Talent Technology Market.”

    According to this Techcrunch article, MOOCs like Udacity and Coursera weren’t working out for AirBnB so now it is “running its own internal university to teach data science.”

    Via Edsurge: “Would You Like Higher Ed With That? Guild Education’s Playbook to Educating Employees.” (No disclosure in this article that Edsurge shares investors with Guild Education.)

    The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus has held its final show. What’s going to happen to all those clown colleges and clown training programs?

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Via MinnPost: “Almost 50 years ago, Oregon Trail revolutionized educational software. Can the game’s creators do it again?”

    (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


    In January, Edsurge announced it was pivoting to focus on its procurement service to schools. Now, four months later, it says it’s shutting down its Concierge service to focus on building an “online diagnostic tool.” (Note what happens to the data.)

    Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill onBarnes & Noble Education’s Predictive Analytics Deal With Unizin.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    “Tracking Google and Microsoft Adoption in Higher Ed” by Jim Siegl.

    How Google is ruining the Web.

    Via The Guardian: “ Revealed: Facebook’s internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence.”

    Via Edsurge: “EDUCAUSE Adds Emerging Edtech Membership for Small Companies, Hints at Overhaul.”

    The New York Times profiles the College Advising Corps: “Bringing the Dream of an Elite College to Rural Students.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Raspberry Pi Foundation and CoderDojo to code club together.”

    “Ed-Tech Publishing Group Wrestles With Shift to ‘Student-Centered’ Learning,” says EdWeek Market Brief’s Michele Molnar, reporting from the Association of American Publishers’ PreK–12 Learning Group’s conference.

    Via Edsurge: “OER Pioneer David Wiley Predicts All Community Colleges Will Dump Traditional Textbooks By 2024.” (I’ll keep track of this via my new project that tracks these sorts of predictions about the future. Do remember: Clayton Christensen has predicted that by that date, half of all universities will be bankrupt.)

    Via Edsurge: “Turnitin Offers Lexile Scores to Help Teachers Better Assign Reading Passages.” (Both Lexiles and Turnitin are pretty terrible, I’d add, although for different reasons. One is a proprietary (mis)measurement of reading levels; the other makes proprietary decisions based on students’ IP.)

    Speaking of IP: “All the Second Life rabbits are doomed, thanks to DRM,” Boing Boing reports.

    Via Edsurge: “Massive Data Breaches, Billions in Wasted Funds: Who Is Holding Edtech Vendors Accountable?” Insert shrug emoji here.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Disability Scoop: “Mom Designs Drone To Track Kids Who Wander.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Coaching service Paragon One has raised $1.9 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Foundation Capital, Learn Capital, University Ventures, Li Yuan Ventures, Altair Ventures, Jimmy Lai, and Jeff Xiong.

    Publisher eDynamic Learning has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Gauge Capital.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via The Verge: “This French school is using facial recognition to find out when students aren’t paying attention.” The school: the ESG business school. The software: Nestor, creatored by LCA Learning. In Greek mythology, Nestor did not participate in the looting of Troy, but clearly this software – it’s a trap! – is very much interested in looting students’ data.

    Via Information Observatory: “Academic Surveillance Complex.”

    Via Education Dive: “School administrators want ability to filter Wi-Fi on school buses.”

    An update from Edmodo’s CEO about the company’s recent security breach and advertising program.

    Via The Intercept: “Facebook Won’t Say If It Will Use Your Brain Activity for Advertisements.” Man, Zuckerberg’s plans for personalized learning are gonna be so swell.

    Via MIT Technology Review: “Google Now Tracks Your Credit Card Purchases and Connects Them to Its Online Profile of You.” Aren’t you glad schools have embraced Google Apps for EDU so readily?!

    Data and “Research”


    “Here’s How a Student ‘Unit Record’ System Could Change Higher Ed,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via Edsurge: “Meet Caliper, the Data Standard That May Help Us (Finally) Measure Edtech Efficacy.”

    Speaking of extracting people’s data without their knowledge or consent, this via Joel Winston: “Ancestry.com takes DNA ownership rights from customers and their relatives.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “As ed reformers urge a ‘big bet’ on personalized learning, research points to potential rewards – and risks.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Report on online education landscape suggests potentially leaner times ahead for colleges hoping to profit in the market. Community colleges are already seeing it.”

    FdB’s “study of the week” looks at entrance exams.

    Via NPR: “Preschool, A State-By-State Update.”

    Music Teachers Believe a Lot of Myths,” according to research reported by Pacific Standard.

    Kevin Carey on William Sanders, “The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers” (and who gave us the “value-added” model.)

    Via Education Week: “Big Data in Education Needs Better Outreach, National Report Says.”

    Via NY Magazine: “Women Hold Nearly Two-Thirds of Outstanding Student-Loan Debt.”

    Via Bryan Alexander: “Higher education enrollment declined in 2017. Again.”

    Via Edsurge: “Study Finds Classroom-Response ‘Clickers’ Can ‘Impede Conceptual Understanding’.”

    A new study has found that “fitness trackers suck at counting calories,” as Techcrunch puts it. The devices were more accurate, however, at monitoring heart-rates – “approaching something useful in a clinical setting.” (Here’s a link to the study.) Remember: consumer tech does not pass the sorts of regulatory mechanisms required for medical tech – when it comes to the accuracy of the data tracking or the security and privacy of data storage. Perhaps something to think about as ed-tech proponents laud hardware, software, and consumer-oriented (ed-)tech as unleashing and reflecting new “learning sciences.”

    Speaking of “learning sciences,” this from Ulrich Boser: “Betsy DeVos has invested millions in a ‘brain training’ company that’s based on dubious science. I went to check it out.” I’m shocked – shocked! – that “dubious science” is at play at an education technology company.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 06/02/17--05:20: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Releases Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.” For a Secretary of Education to speak on this is odd, at best. For Banana Republicans, perhaps less so. More on DeVos and climate changevia The Washington Post.

    “Some Hires by Betsy DeVos Are a Stark Departure From Her Reputation,” says The New York Times. Key word: “some.”

    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is launching DeVos Watch, an initiative to hold the Department of Education“accountable.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “For Betsy DeVos and her former advocacy group, the future of education means ‘personalization,’ including virtual schools.” Her “former advocacy group” – although considering she spoke there last week, I’m not sure how “former” it really is – is the American Federation for Children.

    The Atlantic writes about the absence of Betsy DeVos at this year’s Education Writers Association conference.

    Via The Washington Post: “Eighth-graders from N.J. refuse to be photographed with Ryan.” That’s Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not one of the more beloved American Ryans: Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Seacrest.

    “U.S. Department of Education Launches New IDEA Website,” the Department of Education’s press release pronounces. The website went offline shortly after DeVos’ confirmation, causing many to panic since she seems to have little interest in her confirmation hearings in promoting educational equity and little knowledge about special education and federal law.

    More on federal financial aid in the business of student loans section below.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The Washington Post: “With state budget in crisis, many Oklahoma schools hold classes four days a week.”

    Via ProPublica: “Voucher Program Helps Well-Off Vermonters Pay for Prep School at Public Expense.”

    New Mexico’s Public Colleges Breathe Easier, as Governor Signs Budget Bill,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Immigration and Education


    Via Politico: “Trump administration asks Supreme Court to reinstate travel ban.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of State has received emergency approval from the Office of Management and Budget to collect additional information regarding certain visa applicants’ travel and employment histories, familial connections, and social media usage in accordance with a notice it posted in the Federal Register May 4. The approval from OMB is for six months rather than the usual three years.”

    Education in the Courts


    “A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a transgender student’s challenge to a Wisconsin school district’s policy limiting his restroom usage – a big win for those seeking to advance transgender rights in the courts,” Buzzfeed reports.

    Via the WFF: “Supreme Court Victory for the Right to Tinker in Printer Cartridge Case.” The case involved Lexmark, a major supplier to schools, which had tried to keep customers from refilling their printer cartridges.

    Via Edsurge: “BrightBytes Tried to Buy Hapara. Then a Better Offer – and a Legal Complaint – Emerged.” No disclosure in the article that Edsurge shares investors with both these companies.

    More on Trump’s legal efforts to reinstate his “Muslim ban” in the immigration section above.

    Testing, Testing…


    “At last weekend’s annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in Boston, Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg sounded an alarm about the influence of standardized tests on American society,” says Scientific American, publishing a Q&A with Sternberg about his concerns.

    “Free College”


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday a new tuition-free college program for low-income students in Boston. Boston Bridge would be available for 2017 high school graduates who live in the city.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    From the Department of Education’s press release: “The U.S. Department of Education today announced the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is now available for borrowers applying for an income-driven repayment plan. New encryption protections have been added to the Data Retrieval Tool to further protect taxpayer information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will return Oct. 1, 2017, on the online 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.”

    Via Edsurge: “A Basic Glossary to Income Share Agreements, a New Approach to Student Finance.” The op-ed is penned by someone from Vemo Education, who sells this “solution” to students. No disclosure, no surprise, that Edsurge shares investors with this company.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    For-profit tactics might be coming to public universities, and no one is talking about it,” says Salon, which is funny because I’ve been tracking on the “new” for-profit higher ed for years now, and my friend Tressie McMillan Cottom literally wrote the book on this. But hey.

    Bethune-Cookman Had a Reason to Invite Betsy DeVos to Give That Calamitous Commencement Speech,” The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani reports, suggesting that the HBCU wants to stay in the administration’s good graces because of its affiliation with for-profit law schools that are on probation.

    Via The Washington Post: “A coding school where college grads train and work without spending a dime.” No dime spent perhaps, but Revature takes a percentage of graduates’ pay.

    The coding bootcamp Andela is expanding into Uganda, Techcrunch reports.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Here’s a link to all the stories in Slate’s series on online credit recovery programs.

    “After the Hype, Do MOOC Ventures Like edX Still Matter?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education, with a question that’s probably better suited for the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section below.

    Via The Next Web: “Facebook is letting Groups create online learning courses– what could possibly go wrong?”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Hillary Clinton gave the commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley, and everyone’s got a goddamn opinion on this, don’t they.

    “A Princeton professor who recently criticized Trump in a commencement speech cancels planned public speaking events, saying she’s received death threats for her comments,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Funny how all those “free speech advocates” who wring their hands and claim that liberal students on college campuses are a danger to the First Amendment have little to say in support of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Why, it’s almost like “free speech” isn’t what many of these folks are interested in at all.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Puerto Rico’s Universities Are Facing An Unprecedented Crisis.”

    UC reverses policy, won’t pick up tab for regents’ parties,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports. However will they cope.

    Via The Seattle Times: “Evergreen State College closes after caller claims to be armed, en route to campus.”

    “When UConn broke up with Adobe: A parable of artists and copyright” by Tom Scheinfeldt.

    Via the BBC: “Edinburgh University blames a system error for ‘failed degree’ emails.”

    Politico profiles charter school chain founder Eva Moskowitz.

    Accreditation and Certification


    Inside Higher Ed writes about accreditation and the “Fine Print and Tough Questions for the Purdue-Kaplan Deal.”

    From the HR Department


    Carmen Twillie Ambar has been named the new president of Oberlin College.

    Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Troubled cops land jobs in Georgia schools.”

    Southern New Hampshire University“lays off dozens of remote, part-time staffers (with plans to hire full-timers) as part of a reorganization process ahead of projected enrollment growth for its competency-based division,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Adjuncts at Northwestern University have voted to unionize.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Techcrunch: “Walmart is bringing VR instruction to all of its U.S. training centers.”

    Contests and Awards


    NPR on the Scripps National Spelling Bee: “For First Time In 4 Years, Solo Speller Claims National Bee Crown.” Congratulations, Ananya Vinay.

    (Related, via WaPo: “The National Spelling Bee’s new normal: $200-an-hour teen spelling coaches.”)

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Via eSchoolNews: “Is VR education an answer to the U.S. inmate problem?” (This reminds me of this wretched “thought experiment” posted in 2015: “How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix The Prison System.” The answer in this case is not simply “no” à la Betteridge. It’s “no” and “fuck no” and “fuck you.”)

    (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 CNBC: “This start-up is offering $8,000 blood transfusions from teens to people who want to fight aging.” The startup is called Ambrosia, and it sounds a lot like a Peter Thiel fantasy.

    Via The New York Times: “The Rise and Fall of Yik Yak, the Anonymous Messaging App.”

    “As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating,” according to The New York Times.

    “The Turing Tumble lets you and your kids build real mechanical computers,” says Techcrunch.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Months after deleting controversial lists of “predatory” journals and publishers, the librarian behind them still faces anonymous harassment online.” The librarian in question is Jeffrey Beall. (Incidentally, I saw lots of harassment online this week from these predatory journal folks, but as Bill Fitzgerald notes, Twitter still does little to address abuse on its platform.)

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Venture Beat: “The AI Buddy Project is building an assistant to support kids of military families.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Yuanfandao has raised $120 million from Warburg Pincus and Tencent. The tutoring company has raised $244.2 million total.

    Epic! has raised $8 million in Series C funding from Reach Capital, Innovation Endeavors, Menlo Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Social Starts, Translink Capital, and WI Harper Group. The e-book subscription service has raised $21.45 million total. (There’s actually a disclosure on Edsurge’s reporting of the investment that it shares an investor with Epic!)

    Yogome has raised $6.6 million in Series A funding from Seaya Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, and VARIV Capital. The educational game maker has raised $9.63 million total.

    KidPass has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding from Javelin Venture Partners, Bionic Fund, Cocoon Ignite Ventures, CoVenture, FJ Labs, TIA Ventures, and Y Combinator. The subscription services for kids’ activities has raised $6.3 million total.

    Genext Students has raised $580,000 in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. The tutoring company has raised $780,000 total.

    Civitas Learning has received an undisclosed amount of investment from the Lumina Foundation and Valhalla Charitable Foundation. The predictive analytics company has previously raised $63.95 million.

    Viridis Learning has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Salesforce Ventures. The job placement company has previously disclosed investments totalling $3.2 million.

    Pinboard acquires Delicious. Do read the announcement.

    Not really ed-tech, but keep an eye on how Silicon Valley wraps itself in the language of “democracy” while taking steps to undermine its very systems. Via Techcrunch: “Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in Change.org.”

    I’ve updated my calculations on the amount of venture capital funding in the ed-tech industry for the month of May. (Note: I published this before the news about the $120 million invested in Yuanfandao, and I haven’t had a chance to update that report yet.)

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via the AP: “The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has released a study showing more than a dozen school districts can monitor how students use borrowed laptops and other electronic devices.”

    Mashable reports completely uncritically on “How a university campus is using facial recognition to keep its dorms safe.” The university in question: Beijing Normal University.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is encouraging its 237 member institutions to equip its campus police departments with body-worn cameras– or at least test the technology.”

    Data and “Research”


    Venture capitalist Mary Meeker released her “Internet Trends” report, giving tech publications an opportunity to decide if they’ll embed all the slides on one post or force folks to click through multiple pages – yay! pageviews! advertising! – to see what she has to say. As Inc notes, the report has ballooned to 355 slides, up from 66 in 2011. “Software is eating the world” or “venture capitalists have no fucking clue” – you decide.

    “From digital commons to the data-fied urge: Theorising evolving trends in the intersections of digital culture and open educationby Giota Alevizou.

    Via The New York Times: “Free Play or Flashcards? New Study Nods to More Rigorous Preschools.”

    Via Education Week: “Federal Data Give the Clearest Look Yet at America’s Homeless Students.”

    The New York Times (op-ed page) on the “2017 College Access Index.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Lots of people are excited about career and technical education. But new international research points to a potential downside.”

    Via The Bookseller: “Children’s love of reading at all-time high, research shows.” The research comes from the National Literacy Trust’s (NLT) Young Readers Programme, which found that 77.6% of primary school students it surveyed say they enjoy reading.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Most former college students say they would change either their major, college attended or credential pursued if they could do it all over again, survey finds.” The survey comes from Gallup and Strada Education Network (formerly USA Funds).

    Via Edsurge: “Where Do US Teacher Salaries Really Go the Furthest?”

    UVA’s Daniel Willingham responds to recent claims that valedictorians aren’t “disruptors.”

    Cincinnati.com on a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting: “As rates of suicidal youth increase, doctors look at influence of school, internet.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Government data single out schools where low-income students fare worst.”

    The Wall Street Journal offers analysis of the socioeconomic well-being of Americans in rural areas, and it’s not a rosy picture: “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’.”

    Edsurge describes“How Edtech Companies Blur the Lines Between Commercial and Research Data.” Me, I’m really looking forward to Edsurge’s new "research project testing the idea of an online diagnostic tool"!

    If you thought “digital natives” was one of the worst phrases ever to strike ed-tech, I give you the word “phigital.”

    RIP


    Sister Joel Read, the former president of Alverno College, passed away at the age of 91. “While president, she pioneered a program in which the curriculum was organized around abilities students needed for various degrees, and assessment programs were created for those abilities and the broader impact of the Alverno education,” Inside Higher Ed notes. “The assessment efforts at Alverno were adopted many years before such practices became common – and influenced many other colleges.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    I delivered this talk today at the OEB MidSummit conference in Reykjavik, Iceland

    I recognize that the theme of this conference is “shaping the future of learning” but I want to talk a little bit about the past. I want us to think about the ways in which the history of learning – how we tell that story – shapes the future of learning, and how the history of technology (education technology and otherwise) – and how we tell that story – shapes the future of technology. I want us to recognize there is a history even in the face of a fervent insistence that new, digital technologies are poised to sweep away traditional institutions and traditional practices. You know the stories: revolutions and disruptive innovations and other millennialist mythologies: the end of history, the end of work, the end of college, and so on.

    You hear a lot of these sorts of proclamations when it comes to “personalized learning,” which is (increasingly) frequently invoked in direct opposition to some imagined or invented version of learning in the present or in the past. Education technologists and futurists (and pundits and politicians) like to provide these thumbnail sketches about what schooling has been like– unchanged for hundreds or thousands of years, some people (who are clearly not education historians) will try to convince you. They do so in order to make a particular point about their vision for what learning should be like. “The factory model of education” – this is the most common one – serves as a rhetorical and political foil against which reforms and technological interventions can be positioned. These sorts of sketches and catchphrases never capture the complex history of educational practices or institutions. (They’re not meant to. They’re slogans, not scholarship.) Nevertheless these imagined histories are often quite central to the premise that education technology is different and disruptive and new and, above all, necessary.

    There is no readily agreed upon meaning of the phrase “personalized learning,” which probably helps its proponents wield these popularized tales about the history of education and then in turn laud it – “personalized learning,” whatever that is – as an exciting, new corrective to the ways they claim education has “traditionally” functioned (and in their estimation, of course, has failed).

    “Personalized learning” can mean that students “move at their own pace” through lessons and assignments, for example, unlike those classrooms where everyone is expected to move through material together. (In an invented history of education, this has been the instructional arrangement for all of history.) Or “personalized learning” can mean that students have a say in what they learn – students determine topics they study and activities they undertake. “Personalized learning,” according to some definitions, is driven by students’ own interests and inquiry rather than by the demands or standards imposed by the instructor, the school, the state. “Personalized learning,” according to other definitions, is driven by students’ varied abilities or needs; it’s a way of navigating the requirements of school bureaucracies and requesting appropriate accommodations – “individualized education plans” and the like. Or “personalized learning” is the latest and greatest – some new endeavor that will be achieved, not through human attention or agency or through paperwork or policy but through computing technologies. That is, through monitoring and feedback, through automated assessment, and through the programmatic presentation of new or next materials to study.

    “Personalized learning,” depending on how you define it, dates back to Rousseau. Or it dates back further still – to Alexander the Great’s tutor, some guy named Aristotle. It dates to the nineteenth century. Or to the twentieth century. It dates to the rise of progressive education theorists and practitioners. To John Dewey. Or to Maria Montessori. Or it dates to the rise of educational psychology. To B. F. Skinner. To Benjamin Bloom. It dates to special education-related legislation passed in the 1970s or to the laws passed the 1990s. Or it dates to computer scientist Alan Kay’s 1972 essay “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” Or it dates to the Gates Foundation’s funding grants and political advocacy in the early 2000s. Take your pick. (Take your pick. Reveal your politics.)

    I want to talk to you today about the history of personalized learning – in no small part because it’s taken on such political and financial and rhetorical significance. Andrew Keen alluded to this yesterday in his remarks about the efforts of Silicon Valley’s philanthro-venture-capitalism in shaping the future of education. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, are plowing billions of dollars into “personalized learning” products and school reforms. That seems significant – particularly if we don’t understand or agree on what the phrase actually means. (That means, it seems likely, that these billionaires get to decide, not progressive educators.)

    So, where did this concept of “personalized learning” originate? Who has propagated it? When? Why? How has the meaning of the phrase changed over time? That’s a lot to do in a 20 minute talk, so I’m going to offer you several histories, origins, and trajectories of “personalization” more broadly – as a cultural not just technological or pedagogical practice.

    The OED dates the word “personalization” in print to the 1860s, but the definition that’s commonly used today – “The action of making something personal, or focused on or concerned with a certain individual or individuals; emphasis on or attention to individual persons or personal details” – dates to the turn of the twentieth century, to 1903 to be precise. “Individualization,” according to the OED, is much older; its first appearance in print was in 1746.

    The Google Ngram Viewer, which is also based on material in print, suggests the frequency of these two terms’ usage – “individualization” and “personalization” – looks something like this:

    In the late twentieth century, talk of “individualization” gave way to “personalization.” Why did our language shift? What happened circa 1995? (I wonder.)

    Now, no doubt, individualism has been a core tenet of the modern era. It’s deeply enmeshed in Western history (and in American culture and identity in particular). I always find myself apologizing at some point that my talks are so deeply US-centric. But I contend you cannot analyze digital technologies and the business and politics of networks and computers without discussing how deeply embedded they are in what I’ve called the “Silicon Valley narrative” and in what others have labeled the “California ideology” – and that’s an ideology that draws heavily on radical individualism and on libertarianism.

    It’s also an ideology – this “Silicon Valley narrative” – that is deeply intertwined with capitalism – contemporary capitalism, late-stage capitalism, global capitalism, venture capitalism, surveillance capitalism, whatever you prefer to call it.

    Indeed, we can see “personalization” as both a product (and I mean quite literally a product) of and a response to the rise of post-war consumer capitalism. Monograms on mass-produced objects. Millions of towels and t-shirts and trucks and tchotchkes that are all identical except you can buy one with your name or your initials printed on it. “Personalization” acts as some sort of psychological balm, perhaps, to standardization.

    A salve. Not a solution.

    But “personalization” is not simply how we cope with our desire for individuality in an age of mass production, of course. It’s increasingly how we’re sold things. It’s how we are profiled, how we are segmented, how we are advertised to.

    Here’s Wikipedia’s introduction to its entry on “personalization,” which I offer not because it’s definitive in any way but because it’s such a perfect encapsulation of how Internet culture sees itself, sees its history, tells its story, rationalizes its existence, frames its future:

    Personalization, sometimes known as customization, consists of tailoring a service or product to accommodate specific individuals, sometimes tied to groups or segments of individuals. A wide variety of organizations use personalization to improve customer satisfaction, digital sales conversion, marketing results, branding, and improved website metrics, as well as for advertising.

    How much of “personalized learning” as imagined and built and sold by tech companies is precisely this: metrics, marketing, conversion rates, customer satisfaction? (They just use different words, of course: “outcomes-based learning,” “learning analytics.”)

    Online, “personalization” is how we – we the user and we the consumer as, let’s be clear, those are the frames – are convinced to take certain actions, buy certain products, click on certain buttons, see certain information (that is to say, learn certain things). “Personalization” is facilitated by the pervasive collection of data, which is used to profile and segment us. We enable this both by creating so much data (often unwittingly) and surrendering so much data (often voluntarily) when we use new, digital technologies. “The personal computer” and such.

    (You know it’s “personal.” You get to change the background image. It’s “personalized,” just like that Coke bottle.)

    The personal computer first emerged as a consumer product in the 1970s – decades after educational technologists and educational psychologists had argued that machines could “personalize” (or at the time, “individualize”) education.

    Among these first teaching machines was the one built by Ohio State University psychology professor Sidney Pressey. His device, “the Automatic Teacher,” was constructed out of typewriter parts. He debuted it at the 1924 American Psychological Association meeting. A little window displayed a multiple choice question, and the student could press one of four keys to select the correct answer. The machine could be used to test a student – that is, to calculate how many right answers were chosen overall; or it could be used to “teach” – the next question would not be revealed until the student got the first one right, and a counter would keep track of how many tries it took.

    The “Automatic Teacher” wasn’t Pressey’s first commercial move. In 1922 he and his wife published Introduction to the Use of Standard Tests, a “practical” and “non-technical” guide meant “as an introductory handbook in the use of tests” aimed to meet the needs of “the busy teacher, principal or superintendent.” By the mid–1920s, the two had over a dozen different proprietary standardized tests on the market, selling a couple of hundred thousand copies a year, along with some two million test blanks.

    Yes, standardized testing had already become commonplace (in the American classroom at least) by the 1920s, and this practice placed a significant burden upon those teachers and clerks tasked with scoring them. Pressey argued that the automation of testing could “free the teacher from much of the present-day drudgery of paper-grading drill, and information-fixing – it should free her for real teaching of the inspirational.” No doubt, these arguments echo those made today about how ed-tech will free the teacher for more individualized attention, instruction, and remediation.

    But I think Pressey’s work also serves to underscore this other tension that we find throughout the twentieth century. This isn’t simply about “labor-saving devices” or instructional or administrative efficiency. The “Automatic Teacher” was also a technology of individualization, one that Pressey and others since have insisted was necessitated by the practices and systems of standardization in schools, by the practices and systems of mass education itself.

    It’s significant, I think, that early teaching machines were developed by psychologists and justified by psychology – very much a science of the twentieth century. After all, psychology – as a practice, as a system – helped to define and theorize the individual, “the self.” Self-management. Self-reflection. Self-help. Self-control.

    Individualization through teaching machines is therefore a therapeutic and an ideological intervention, one that’s supposed to act as a salve in a system of mass education. And this has been the project of education technology throughout the twentieth century.

    I recognize that I put “pigeons” in the title of this talk and I haven’t yet made the connection between the history of personalization and the history of pigeon training. It’s there in the history of educational psychology, in the history of behavioral modification, in the history of teaching machines. But I opted to scrap the ending I’d originally written for this talk – one that, I promise, tied it all together. Instead of the pigeons of ed-tech, I feel compelled to end with some thoughts on the politics of ed-tech.

    Institutions face an enormous crisis today – one of credibility and trust, one that Chris Hayes identified in 2012 in his book Twilight of the Elites. He argued that

    We now operate in a world in which we can assume neither competence nor good faith from the authorities, and the consequences of this simple, devastating realization is the defining feature of American life at the end of this low, dishonest decade. Elite failure and the distrust it has spawned is the most powerful and least understood aspect of current politics and society. It structures and constrains the very process by which we gather facts, form opinions, and execute self-governance. It connects the Iraq War and the financial crisis, the Tea Party and MoveOn, the despair of laid-off autoworkers in Detroit to the foreclosed homeowners in Las Vegas and the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans: nothing seems to work. All the smart people fucked up, and no one seems willing to take responsibility.

    We can add to Haye’s list, of course, more recent events: Brexit and Donald Trump and the latter’s withdrawal last week from the Paris Climate Accord. They can’t even get the weather report right, the President of the United States of America reportedly quipped to friends over golf; why should we trust climate scientists? This “death of expertise” has profound implications, no doubt, for the future of education, scholarship, teaching and learning, democracy. And, as Andrew Keen observed yesterday, we must consider the ways in which “populism” and “personalization” as cultural and political and economic forces might actually be intertwined – how the algorithmically-driven Facebook’s News Feed, most obviously, has only served to make things worse.

    A journalist recently asked the US Secretary of Education about different rates of discipline for students of color and students with disabilities, and if this was a problem her office intended to address. Addressing the racial disparities in school discipline – and addressing this as a civil rights issue– had been a major focus of the Obama Administration’s final few months. Betsy DeVos responded, “I think that every student, every individual is unique and special and we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs of each individual student.”

    For DeVos – and for many, many others – “personalized learning” means just this: “we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs to each individual student.” The needs of the individual to the benefit of the individual. But to DeVos – and to many, many others – exalting the freedom of the individual here also means freedom from government control (from government control over the education system). It’s not freedom from corporations, oh no; it’s freedom from the state and more explicitly freedom from the regulations that have been put in place in the last sixty years to try to force educational institutions to be more equitable. We heard Donald Clark argue yesterday that schools need to become unsafe spaces again, but let’s recognize that schools have never been “safe spaces” for most of the people on this planet.

    When Betsy Devos and others say that “we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs to each individual student,” what she doesn’t add is that all risk, in this worldview, would fall on the individual as well, of course. In a world with no institutions – unbundled and disintermediated as Silicon Valley is clearly keen to do – there are no institutional protections. With no government oversight, there is no appeal to civil rights.

    So this is our challenge in the face of those calling for “personalized learning” – the Betsy DeVoses and the Mark Zuckerbergs. And it’s our challenge, not only in education technology, but in democracies more generally: can we maintain a shared responsibility for one another when institutions are dismantled and disrupted? Will we have any semblance of collective justice in a “personalized,” algorithmically-driven world?


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  • 06/09/17--07:20: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics


    US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee this week to talk about Trump’s budget proposal. “Asked About Discrimination, Betsy DeVos Said This 14 Times,” NPR reports: “Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law.” That is, she completely hedged on whether or not schools could discriminate against LGBTQ students.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Betsy DeVos’s comments on discrimination drew headlines, but her stance isn’t unique among private school choice backers.”

    Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Thursday that he is still part of a higher education initiative for President Donald Trump,” Politico reports. “But he said the initiative is different from the group he had been tapped to lead in late January.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Will Push Apprenticeships, Using Accreditation and Student Aid.”

    Via ProPublica: “Here Are the Financial Disclosures of 349 Officials Trump Has Installed Across the Government.”



    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has appointed Adam Kissel, formerly of the Koch Foundation and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.



    Via Chalkbeat: “Indianapolis businessman Al Hubbard won’t join Betsy DeVos at the U.S. Department of Education.”

    “After nearly seven years on the job, New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is stepping down,” The Albuquerque Journal reports.

    Via Pacific Standard: “What L.A.’s Mumps Outbreak Tells Us About Our Vaccine Policies.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Canadian province of Ontario will invest about $740,000 (one million Canadian dollars) toward developing free online textbooks, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development said this week.”

    Education Aid Eludes Countries That Need It Most,” says NPR.

    More on for-profit higher ed policies in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Education in the Courts


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined without comment to hear an appeal of a ruling that bars a technical college from drug testing all students.”

    Via The Washington Post: “A Georgia sheriff ordered pat-down searches for every student at a public high school. Now they’re suing.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Graham Spanier, 2 Other Ex-Penn State Officials Get Jail Time in Sandusky Case.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via The Wall Street Journal: “ACT Scores Go Missing in Los Angeles, Leaving About 125 Students in Limbo.”

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via ProPublica: “A Federal Regulator Is Probing Wells Fargo’s Mortgage Practices.” Yes, I know this is a loan for a house not for a college education. But pay attention anyway.

    Edsurge plugsEntangled Solutions’ recent report on** income sharing agreements**.

    More on student loans (namely, people in powerful political office with connections to the student loans industry) in the politics of education section above.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Update on Moves by ACICS-Accredited Colleges.”

    “Education Dept. Gives Firm Hint at Rollback of Gainful-Employment Rule,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    The New York Times profiles the teacherless coding bootcamp Holberton.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    If you can’t create revenue, raise venture capital. That seems to be Coursera’s business model. Details on the investment in the business of ed-tech section below.

    Kiron and Red Hat have joined edX.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Notre Dame to launch its first online master’s. University joins growing number of institutions opting to outsource online course development on fee-for-service basis.”

    Via Education Week: “Online charter school in Ohio set to graduate 2,000 students.” The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow has been in trouble with Ohio about how it reports attendance.

    Via Edsurge: “As LinkedIn’s Video Library Grows, Company Says It Has No Plans to Compete With Colleges.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    “Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It,” says Buzzfeed, winning this week with the headline “The Kids Are Alt-Right.”

    Southeastern Bible College will close its doors.

    Via The LA Times: “At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard.”

    Via The Harvard Crimson: “Harvard Rescinds Acceptances for At Least Ten Students for Obscene Memes.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Penn State Says It Will ‘Take Control of Greek Life’ After Student’s Death.”

    Via The New York Times: “Colleges Get Proactive in Addressing Depression on Campus.”

    “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that it will receive a $140 million gift from an alumnus who seeks to remain anonymous,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The New York Times: “Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “180 College and University Leaders Sign Pledge on Climate Change.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    Digital Badges Are Gaining Traction,” according to MIndwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

    Related, via Doug Belshaw: “Some thoughts on the future of the Open Badges backpack.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A panel of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers has released guidance to its members on how to include disciplinary notations on transcripts of students who are seeking to transfer to other institutions.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “White paper explores changing the accreditation system to encourage continuous improvement and open the door to ‘alternative’ education providers.” The white paper comes from Ithaka S+R.

    More on accreditation issues in the politics and in the for-profit sections above.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Why did UNC cancel a class on athletic scandals, including the one at Chapel Hill?

    Inside Higher Ed onVideo Games as a College Sport.”

    From the HR Department


    Udemy has a new CEO: “Kevin Johnson, former CEO of EBates, a marketplace for coupons and shopping discount deals.”

    Boyd Bischoff, formerly an executive at Amazon, will be the new CIO for WGU.

    “​Shortly Before Raising More Funding, Civitas Laid Off 10% of Its Staff,” says Edsurge.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via The New York Times: “With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Can Technology Help Teachers Start Tough Conversations about Race?asks Edsurge.

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    The New York Times’ Natasha Singer onThe Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools.”

    Via Fortune: “Inside Odyssey: The Decline of a College Media Empire.”

    Oculus Rift boasts that it’s opening an education pilot program in 90 California libraries.

    Meanwhile, Oculus Rift founder and Hillary Clinton shit-poster Palmer Luckey has moved on to his next project: making surveillance technology for Donald Trump’s wall. But I’m sure the VR you’re promoting in your school is going to be lovely.

    Google has launched a curriculum called “Be Internet Awesome” to encourage digital safety and citizenship. So many reasons why Google is the wrong entity to claim any sort of leadership position here, but hey.

    Via Edsurge: “How U of Michigan Built Automated Essay-Scoring Software to Fill ‘Feedback Gap’ for Student Writing.”

    Textbook publishers announce new measures to curb counterfeiting of physical books, including certification seals on book covers,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Can we just say that if counterfeiting textbooks is a problem it’s because they’re too damn expensive, not because students are buying “fakes”?

    Sunny Lee writes on the WCET Frontiers blog on “Relaunching the EdSurge Product Index.”

    Handshake today said its career-services platform is now in use at more than 350 colleges and universities, a jump from the 160 institutions that the start-up touted earlier this year,” Inside Higher Ed reports. That’s despite privacy concerns about the company.

    Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “LearnZillion, Lemann Foundation Partner on Curriculum in Brazil.”

    GeekDad reviews a “wellness tracker” to strap to your child.

    GeekWire on an app called LAUGH that purports to help kids with mindfulness.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Techcrunch: “Sesame Workshop and IBM team up to test a new A.I.-powered teaching method.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Gates, Zuckerberg Philanthropies Team Up on Personalized Learning,” Education Week reports. “Two of the biggest names in technology and education philanthropy are jointly funding a $12 million initiative to support new ways of tailoring classroom instruction to individual students.” The money goes to New Profit, which will in turn dispense the funds.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Coursera has raised another $64 million in funding from GSV Asset Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lampert Foundation, Learn Capital, and New Enterprise Associates. The MOOC provider has now raised $210 million total.

    The coding bootcamp Trilogy Education has raised $30 million in Series A funding from City Light Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and Rethink Education.

    Apptegy has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding from Five Elms Capital. The school messaging system has raised $6.8 million total.

    Snapask has raised $5 million in seed funding from Kejora, Cai Wensheng , and Welight Capital. The “personalized learning” company has raised $6.8 million total.

    Literacy app BookNook has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Reach Capital, the Urban Innovation Fund, Impact Engine, and Better Ventures.

    The Tennessee Book Company, a subsidiary of the Ingram Content Group, has acquired the assets of learning and analytics platform Thrivist.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via The New York Times: “The Teenage Life, Streamed Live and for Profit.”

    “The Telltale Data That Can Identify College Students at Risk” – according to The New York Times at least.

    Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life” by Cracked Labs’ Wolfie Christl.

    Data and “Research”


    Stanford professor claims to have discovered something called active learning.” News at 11.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Does State Support Have ‘Weak’ Connection to Tuition? Association Begs to Differ.” Beware: think tank “research.”

    The Pew Research Center is out with a report that asks “experts” about the future of the Internet of Things.

    Times Higher Education writes about a pan-European survey: “Poll indicates stronger popular support across countries for job-related training than for universities.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Declines in bachelor’s degrees awarded are particularly notable for English and history, but trends at community colleges may cheer advocates for the liberal arts.”

    UVA’s Daniel Willingham onAdaptive practice, personalized learning, and what will ‘obviously’ work in education.”

    The wearables market is growing, according to Campus Technology.

    Dubious Study by xkcd

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    I delivered this talk today at the NMC Summer 2017 conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts

    Thank you very much for inviting me to your conference. I know there have been lots of murmurs about what it means that someone who’s been quite critical of the Horizon Report project would be invited to speak, let alone to get to offer the closing remarks.

    So I’ll say at the outset that I’m not here to offer solutions or resolutions or absolutions. The latter’s the job of your priest, and none of these the job of your keynote speaker. I will not be assigning penance today – although as a scholar of history and culture, I do want you (all of us, really) to think about what we’ve done; to think about what we’ve said; to think about the stories we tell about the future of technology and education.

    That is the purpose of the Horizon Report, of course: it’s a story about the future. It’s a story designed to share, one you can tell others; and like certain genres of storytelling, it’s one particularly well-suited for urging people to behave in certain ways. It’s one that aspires to shape the future in a certain direction. Or in the seasonally inappropriate words of John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie: You better watch out, you better not cry / you better not pout / I’m telling you why / artificial intelligence is four to five years on the horizon.

    I spend a lot of time talking about what I call “the history of the future” of education technology. I’m interested in the stories we tell and the stories we have long told about the shape of things to come. (That is to say, the shape of things we believe, we hope, we imagine, we worry, and we predict will come.)

    I am interested in how technology functions in those stories as a motif, a symbol, a theme, and sometimes even a protagonist in its own right. I’m interested in how technology functions in those stories as a set of imagined practices, as a reflection of a certain mindset – a mindset that, no matter the sweeping sagas, is bound to and bound by its teller’s contemporaneity. I’m interested in what we believe technology will do. I’m interested in why we believe technology will work, and in why technology is featured so prominently in stories about the future. Why and where.

    I realize this is an education conference, but I’m going to shift the “where” of my focus today to stories about the future of technology that take place outside of the school and the classroom. I want to talk about the history of the future of technologies of the home. My rationale is severalfold:

    First, education technology is boring; or at least its stories, repetitive. You’ve sat here through a couple of days’ worth of presentations on ed-tech, and perhaps you’re a little tired of it too. (Or perhaps I’m projecting.) To borrow from “Norman’s Law of eLearning Tool Convergence,” no matter the stories we tell about innovation, no matter the predictions we make about disruption, in time everything in ed-tech becomes indistinguishable from the learning management system. I do not want to talk about the LMS – not today, not ever to be perfectly frank; not as a portal, not as a “personalized learning environment,” not as a “next generation learning environment,” not as infrastructure, not as ideology, not as a conduit for our failed imagination.

    Second, I want to talk about the future of the home because I want us to think about the history of consumer products. Although in many ways, education technology has been more closely associated with what some people call “enterprise technology” – that is, the kinds of mostly administrative software and services sold to large organizations (corporations, governments, K–12 school districts, universities) – education technology is deeply intertwined with consumer tech and trends. I’m not sure those in education technology always want to talk about this consumer framework – we like to pretend we use technology because it will “improve teaching and learning,” not because we’ve been heavily marketed certain products and certain stories about the necessity of our technology consumption. We prefer to think of ourselves as professors or pedagogues or scholars or students, not as consumers or users.

    No doubt, today’s technology companies view students and schools as a largely untapped market. But that’s not new. Technology companies – particularly those hawking aspirational, education-related products – have long viewed parents in a similar way. But now “software is eating the world,” as venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wants to us all to believe. That is to say in my mind at least, Silicon Valley ideology – libertarian, individualist, consumerist, capitalist – seeks to mediate all relationships: social, professional, civic, familial.

    So I want to consider the history of technologies of the home – the social and the economic history. What do we expect this technology to do? How does this technology actually function? Who does it benefit? What does it signal? Whose values, whose imagination does it reflect? Who builds it? Who buys it? Whose home is this technological imaginary that we are apt to tout?

    Sidenote: Someone from the Clayton Christensen Institute recently invoked the history of household appliances in an op-ed for Edsurge, asking “Is Your Edtech Product a Refrigerator or Washing Machine?” These two appliances are meant to serve in the article as an analogy for ed-tech adoption – something about how quickly we embrace products that fit into the home as-is as compared to ones that require we restructure entire rooms and lay new pipes – “incrementalism” versus “transformation,” I suppose. “Reform” versus “revolution.” The historical timeline in the op-ed’s a bit off, historian Jonathan Rees has pointed out, noting that many of us still get by just fine without having a washing machine at home. New technology replacing and displacing and disrupting older technology is not inevitable, no matter how often those from the Clayton Christensen Institute like to tell that story.

    Sidenote to the sidenote: A press release from early May pronounced that “Global Innovation Guru Clay Christensen Predicts Disruption in the Domain of Parenting.”

    Pay attention to these stories. Pay attention to these storytellers. But pay critical attention. Pay attention critically. Ask better questions about why they’re inventing these histories and predicting these futures.

    The third reason why I want to talk about technology and the home: I want us to think specifically about technology and labor, about sites of production and reproduction – yes in a Marxist sense – particularly the production and reproduction of knowledge and culture; and I want us to think about love and care. Affective labor. Emotional labor. Who do we imagine is doing this work? Do we value it?

    My aim here is to “defamiliarize” a discussion of education technology, shifting the focus so that we can perceive it differently. As I explore with you some technologies of child-rearing (new and old), I want you to think, at every turn, about how these technologies and these practices are prescribed for the home and for the schoolhouse – or at least for some homes and some classrooms.

    In January of this year, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mattel (or rather, its subsidiary Nabi) unveiled Aristotle, a “smart baby monitor” – what it claimed was the world’s first. Companies always hope they’ll be able to make headlines at CES, and Aristotle received a fair amount of attention this year. There were stories in the usual tech publications – Engadget, PC World, CNET – as well as in the mainstream and tabloid press – USA Today, ABC News, Fox News, The Daily Mail. Bloomberg heralded the device as “Baby’s First Virtual Assistant.” And here’s how Fast Company described the voice-activated speaker/monitor, which is set to launch some time next month (the release day keeps getting postponed):

    Aristotle is built to live in a child’s room – and answer a child’s questions. In this most intimate of spaces, Aristotle is designed to be far more specific than the generic voice assistants of today: a nanny, friend, and tutor, equally able to soothe a newborn and aid a tween with foreign-language homework. It’s an AI to help raise your child.

    Now that’s obviously a series of sentences that situates the device among its competitors today (those “generic voice assistants”), but that also serves as a very imaginative marketing of a technological future (one where a machine can “aid a tween with foreign-language homework”). It is not a list of actual technical specifications. Indeed, since CES the specifications for Aristotle have changed substantially. Mattel has cancelled its integration with Amazon Alexa, for example, which was supposed to power the speaker and facilitate the parts of “parent mode” that involved shopping for baby supplies.

    Here’s how the Mattel website, where you can pre-order the device, now describes Aristotle’s features:

    Aristotle™ combines multiple nursery devices into one convenient, hands-free system. It’s a smart baby monitor, multi-color LED nightlight, WiFi HD camera, Bluetooth® speaker and sound machine, all in one!


    The convenient Aristotle™ App lets you keep a close eye and ear on your baby from your smart device via WiFi internet connection. Easily track and store your baby’s feeding, changing and sleeping patterns, and receive notifications to alert you of important reminders in real time. You can even find out if your little one is fussy with the cry detector!


    With the App’s “Do this When” tool, you can create customized actions that respond automatically to your baby. For example, you can program Aristotle™ to respond to your baby’s cries with a personalized soothing light and sound combination.

    There is a lot packed into that marketing material, not just about the specifics of the device for sale but about the cultural and commercial expectations of parenting. It’s also full of buzzwords that will be familiar to those who work in education technology: personalization, analytics, real-time notifications, convenience.

    But gone from the Mattel website are the boasts made at CES about what one of its executives said was “the fundamental problem of most baby products, which is they don’t grow with you.” Aristotle was couched in much of the CES coverage as a virtual assistant that would offer, if not “lifelong learning” explicitly, then at least an AI that would learn about the child and teach her as she grew into a teen. All those promises that this $350 device would be something parents would keep in their child’s room long after the supposed need has passed for a “smart baby monitor” – they’re now nowhere to be found. What remains is some fairly boilerplate language about an Internet-connected device.

    What happened? Was this a matter of promising too much about a technology? Or did the marketing actually create fear and uncertainty rather than excitement?

    (Let’s be clear: these gulfs between marketing’s promises and technologies’ capabilities and consumers’ interests and desires appear regularly. Think the repeated failures of VR or AI to live up to the hype.)

    To give you a flavor of what company executives, and in turn technology reporters, gushed about at CES, here’s more from Fast Company, which I apologize for quoting at length, but it’s amazing how swept up in the story about the future of high-tech parenting that the publication seemed to be:

    …It’s the child-to-Aristotle connection that makes the device such an interesting entrant in the rapidly commoditized voice-assistant market. …


    Key to that is Aristotle’s ability to understand young voices. “It was one of the core things we tried to resolve from the get-go,” says [one executive]. “Our audience often says words completely differently [even from one another].” To deal with that complication, Mattel partnered with PullString, a San Francisco–based company that focuses on AI conversation and speech recognition. Embedded with PullString’s platform, Aristotle will mature alongside its young listeners, constantly improving its recognition capabilities as children get older. For toddlers, Aristotle will turn its LED various colors and ask the listener to identify them; older kids can ask Aristotle factoids like, “Who was the 16th president of the United States?” or request to play a game.


    All of this points at Aristotle’s greater intent: It’s built for play. Mattel is, after all, a toy company with lots of intellectual property. “Imagine what happens with Hot Wheels and Thomas the Tank Engine when you have this connected hub,” says [a Mattel executive] of Aristotle’s future ecosystem. “Do you hear sound effects? Can you have greater interactions?” Mattel imagines that even cheap, simplistic die-cast cars can be loaded with low-cost chips to connect to Aristotle. Meanwhile, the device’s camera will use object recognition to identify flash cards, or even a toy without any special electronics, essentially adding interactions to make it feel more dynamic. The company is aiming to roll out these features early next year.

    I mean, I guess we’ll see about that – if any of this particular techno-fantasy ever materializes from Mattel, let alone “early next year.” We, the reader and consumer, are asked to believe a lot of bullshit in that passage: that the device works, that the AI “learns,” that quizzing children on factoids is a technological and pedagogical breakthrough, that this is the future of play.

    Mattel is already selling an Internet-connected Barbie – Hello Barbie – and an Internet-connected Barbie Dreamhouse, much to the consternation of privacy and information security advocates who caution that these devices are incredibly insecure, that the microphone and the stored audio files are readily accessible to hackers. Incidentally, these two Barbie toys use the same voice-recognition technology as the Aristotle: ToyTalk, now rebranded as PullString.

    Perhaps we might recognize, as we wait to see if Mattel’s or Clayton Christensen’s predictions about the future come true, that this fantasy of the robot companion or caretaker has its own, long history – stories that elicit fear as often as comfort. There’s Olympia in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s 1816 short story “The Sandman,” for example, which Sigmund Freud used as the basis for his analysis of “the uncanny” – that unsettling feeling of something strangely, frighteningly familiar. “Das unheimlich,” Freud observed, is a German word that contains in it an ambivalence: “heimlich” – meaning the home, something familiar, and also something hidden – and its reverse and its pair, “unheimlich” – the unspoken, the repressed. The robot, or rather a seemingly living automaton in “The Sandman,” veers towards “das unheimlich.” Making the familiar unfamiliar. The basis for many horror stories.

    And yet at CES and elsewhere, technologists insist this is what we will want in the home. (The liberal arts matter, technologists, I promise you.)

    Now, the difference between the PR at CES in January and the marketing on the Mattel website in June might be striking, but it’s not really surprising. The point of CES, after all, is not so much to showcase what technology can do but to suggest what it might be able to do. Each and every year, the event is full of promises and vaporware – prototypes that never make it into production, products that never make it onto store shelves. CES truly encapsulates what I’ve argued elsewhere: that “the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release.” One tells powerful stories about what’s “on the horizon” in order to help shape imaginations and markets. Imaginations and markets.

    What stories, what forces helped shape the market for baby monitors? Baby monitors have a history, of course – a social history and a history of the technology itself. We did not “need” baby monitors until quite recently, in no small part because our current system of sleeping – adults in one room, children each in their own – did not exist before the late nineteenth century. The idea that babies should sleep alone is even newer, reinforced by the rise of the disciplines of psychology and pediatrics in the early 20th century and by the market for parenting books and child-rearing products that developed alongside the “science.”

    The first baby monitor – the “Radio Nurse” – was built by Zenith Radio Corporation in 1937. Zenith’s president, Eugene F. McDonald Jr., had cobbled together his own experimental system for his yacht using what was already a popular and accessible medium of the time: radio broadcasting. Zenith engineers polished McDonald’s prototype into a two-piece set: the “Guardian Ear,” which was plugged in next to the baby’s crib, transmitted sounds; and the “Radio Nurse,” which was plugged in next to the listening caregiver, received them. Isamu Noguchi, a well-known Japanese-American sculptor, was commissioned to design the latter, something he made out of Bakelite, which according to the curator of the Henry Ford Museum, was “an impressive abstract form that managed to capture the essence of a benign, yet no-nonsense nurse.”

    “The essence” of a nurse. A curved plastic box. “Das unheimlich.”

    The Radio Nurse was never a commercial success; the monitor picked up all sorts of other radio broadcasts, not just those from the baby’s room. Nevertheless, the baby monitor has since become a consumer product that parents are expected to own, often justified as a medical precaution, even though there’s no evidence that these devices prevent or even reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

    Interestingly, infant mortality was not the inspiration for the Radio Nurse – or so the story goes. Zenith’s president felt compelled to build a monitor for his own child following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932.

    The “crime of the century” and its trial were covered extensively by newsreels, and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby shaped Americans’ imagination. It prompted the passage of several laws relating to abduction. Now, I don’t want to overstate the importance of this particular crime in fostering the notion that babies need more monitoring, particularly in light of the various reform efforts made in the early twentieth century to protect children’s safety and well-being in general. But we can see in the Radio Nurse, I think, a technological intervention to that end – the embrace of a popular story that children are in danger, that they need to be surveilled when they are out of sight for their own protection; and it’s an early embrace too of a story that parenting can and should be mechanized. For the sake of “progress,” the twentieth century demanded it.

    I would be remiss if I neglected to talk at an education technology conference about one of the most controversial “parenting machines” of the twentieth century: the “air crib” designed by behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, the infamous trainer of pigeons and inventor of teaching machines. First called the “baby tender” and then – and I kid you not – the “heir conditioner,” the device was meant to replace the crib, the bassinet, and the playpen. (There are echoes of this “efficiency” in Mattel’s Aristotle – “multiple nursery devices” in “one convenient, hands-free system.”)

    Skinner fabricated the climate-controlled environment for his second child in 1944. Writing in Ladies Home Journal the following year, Skinner said,

    When we decided to have another child, my wife and I felt that it was time to apply a little labor-saving invention and design to the problems of the nursery. We began by going over the disheartening schedule of the young mother, step by step. We asked only one question: Is this practice important for the physical and psychological health of the baby? When it was not, we marked it for elimination. Then the “gadgeteering” began.

    The crib Skinner “gadgeteered” for his daughter was made of metal, larger than a typical crib, and higher off the ground – labor-saving, in part, through less bending over, Skinner argued. It had three solid walls, a roof, and a safety-glass pane at the front which could be lowered to move the baby in and out. Canvas was stretched across the bottom to create a floor, and the bedding was stored on a spool outside the crib, to be rolled in to replace soiled linen. It was soundproof and “dirt proof,” Skinner said, but its key feature was that the crib was temperature-controlled, so save the diaper, the baby was kept unclothed and unbundled. Skinner argued that clothing created unnecessary laundry and inhibited the baby’s movement and thus the baby’s exploration of her world.

    As a labor-saving machine, Skinner boasted that the air crib meant it only would take “about one and one-half hours each day to feed, change, and otherwise care for the baby.” Skinner insisted that his daughter, who stayed in the crib for the first two years of her life, was not “socially starved and robbed of affection and mother love.” He wrote in Ladies Home Journal that

    The compartment does not ostracize the baby. The large window is no more of a social barrier than the bars of a crib. The baby follows what is going on in the room, smiles at passers-by, plays “peek-a-boo” games, and obviously delights in company. And she is handled, talked to, and played with whenever she is changed or fed, and each afternoon during a play period, which is becoming longer as she grows older.

    Much like the Radio Nurse, the air crib did not catch on, quite possibly because of that very Ladies Home Journal article. Its title – “Baby in a Box” – connected the crib to the “Skinner’s Box,” the operant conditioning chamber that Skinner had designed for his experiments on rats and pigeons, thus associating the crib with the rewards and pellets that Skinner used to modify these animals’ behavior in his laboratory. Indeed, the article described the crib’s design and the practices he and his wife developed for their infant daughter as an “experiment” – a word that Skinner probably didn’t really mean in a scientific sense but that possibly suggested to readers that this was a piece of lab equipment, not a piece of furniture suited for a baby or for the home. The article also opened with the phrase “in that brave new world which science is preparing for the housewife of the future,” and many readers would have likely been familiar with Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, thus making the connection between the air crib and Huxley’s dystopia in which reproduction and child-rearing were engineered and controlled by a techno-scientific authoritarian government. But most damning, perhaps, was the photo that accompanied the article: the Skinner baby enclosed in the crib, with her face and hands pressed up against the glass.

    The article helped foster an urban legend of sorts about Deborah Skinner – that being raised in the crib had caused grave psychological trauma, that she’d gone mad, that she’d committed suicide. None of these are true. “I was not a lab rat,” she wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian in 2004. But that’s the story that gets told nonetheless. That’s the popular perception of what this particular piece of parenting technology might do: deprive the child of love and socialization.

    The air crib, psychologists Ludy Benjamin and Elizabeth Nielsen-Gamman argue, was viewed at the time as a “technology of displacement” – “a device that interferes with the usual modes of contact for human beings, in this case, parent and child; that is it displaces the parent.” It’s a similar problem, those two scholars contend, to that faced by one of Skinner’s other inventions, the teaching machine – a concept he came up with in 1953 after visiting Deborah’s fourth-grade classroom. These technologies both failed to achieve widespread adoption, according to Benjamin and Nielsen-Gamman, because they were seen as subverting valuable human relationships – relationships necessary to child development.

    Now arguably, the most significant (and in some circles, alarming) parenting technology of the twentieth century was neither the baby monitor nor the air crib; it was the television. Children in post-war America were increasingly left alone while their parents were at work, some feared, without adequate adult supervision. (Children being left alone, of course, wasn’t new. But white, middle-class fears about “unaccompanied minors” were heightened for a number of reasons – and no doubt connected to changing cultural expectations and socio-economic pressures regarding working mothers as well as the social construction of a category of young people – “the youth.”) Subsequently (or ostensibly) children were being “raised,” educated, entertained by television – again, a technology that people worried might serve to undermine healthy childhood development by displacing parental authority, by exposing them to “inappropriate content” and to commercials.

    Some of that moral panic has extended these days to other “screens,” even though American children do still watch a phenomenol amount of television – 19 hours a week for those age 2 to 11, according to the latest figures from Nielsen– much of it “unsupervised.” But one of the promises of new screens and new parenting technologies: unlike the television, these can watch children back. Again, I give you the marketing materials from Mattel: “The convenient Aristotle App lets you keep a close eye and ear on your baby from your smart device.” You can monitor the sounds the child makes through the microphone; you can monitor the movements the child makes through the camera; you can monitor all activity – physical and digital – through the computer’s activity logs. You can monitor them wherever they go without you: in their bedroom, in their classroom.

    These new parenting devices try very hard to convince us that they are not a “technology of displacement,” but rather one of enhancement. They insist they do not interfere with parental relationships but enable them and extend their reach, even in a parent’s physical absence. This is not a matter of replacing parents with machines, but rather augmenting parenting with machines. As Stirling University’s Ben Williamson describes Mattel’s Aristotle, the “smart baby monitor” purports to be “the algorithmic solution to many parents’ problems – the automated in-loco-parentis figure that possesses endless energy, requires no sleep, does the shopping, and keeps the baby entertained and educated in ways that exceed human capacity.”

    This argument should be quite familiar to those of us in ed-tech. This is the story we hear and we tell about computers, about algorithmic systems like adaptive learning, predictive analytics, personalization. Enhance, not replace. It’s the story B. F. Skinner told some sixty years ago about teaching machines too. “Will machines replace teachers?” he asked. “On the contrary,” he said,

    they are capital equipment to be used by teachers to save time and labor. In assigning certain mechanizable functions to machines, the teacher emerges in his proper role as an indispensable human being. He may teach more students than heretofore – this is probably inevitable if the world-wide demand for education is to be satisfied – but he will do so in fewer hours and with fewer burdensome chores.

    “Chores” – an interesting word choice, one that posits the work of the classroom alongside the work of the home. It’s not really clear in this passage by Skinner what these tasks might be. What are “mechanizable functions” and what, by extension, are not? In the case of Mattel’s Aristotle, these functions seem to include not only monitoring a sleeping child, alerting a parent to her cries, but playing with the child, comforting the child, talking and singing and reading to the child.

    Raising a child, this story suggests, can be mechanized. Interacting with a child can be mechanized. Caring for a child can be mechanized. That’s quite an unsettling story, I think. “Das unheimlich.” But Fast Company likes it. And perhaps if people tell us the story often enough, they’ll change the way in which we all think. Maybe they’ll change how we think about robots. Maybe they’ll change how we think about parenting.

    Indeed, last week I was on stage with someone from Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank co-founded by Ray Kurzweil, who insisted that this would be our future: we will love and be loved by robots. We will be raised by robots. (She cited Mattel’s Aristotle as an example.) We will be taught by robots. We will age and we will die with robot caretakers.

    But robots don’t love. Robots don’t care. They don’t now; they never will – no matter the stories futurists tell us. “I think eventually [robots will] be able to act just like they are falling in love,” Google AI expert Peter Norvig told The Daily Beast in 2013 in response to the Spike Jonze movie Her. But is being programmed to act like love the same as love?

    This is a philosophical question, to be sure. But it’s a political one as well, I’d contend, and maybe a pedagogical one too. And it’s a question we must ask, particularly as companies try to extend their reach with their products and their promises of thinking machines. How might programmatic, algorithmic child-raising technologies change our notions of love, of care, of humanity? How might they already be doing precisely that?

    Through their design and their implementation, through the way in which they incentivize certain activities, technologies shape and reshape our practices and our relationships. They shape our imaginations, and technologies in turn are shaped by the imaginative stories we tell and we hear, by our beliefs and our practices.

    Will a robot raise your child? Sixty years ago, when B. F. Skinner was trying to convince families and schools to buy air cribs and teaching machines, the answer from parents and teachers was overwhelmingly “No.” But now?

    I’m not sure we are as resistant to the language of engineering and optimization, even in our most intimate spaces and relationships. It’s not that the technology is better either. Mostly, it’s not. New technologies, and the ideologies that underpin them, have brought the language of efficiency and productivity out of the workplace and into the classroom and into the home – into the realm of reproductive labor. Everything becomes a data-point to be tracked and quantified and analyzed and adjusted as (someone deems) necessary. Everything must be made perfectly observable, even when no human is there to watch.

    And so: the quantified parent. The quantified baby. The quantified child. The quantified family. The quantified bedroom. The quantified bathroom. The quantified laundry room. The quantified kitchen. Quantified feedings. Quantified diaper changes. Quantified nap times. Quantified gurgles. Quantified smiles. Quantified word use. Quantified play.

    All of this will be facilitated by “smart devices” in our “smart homes” under the guise of engineering (and that is the operative word) “smart children.” New, networked systems will optimize parenting and child development algorithmically. Or so we’re told.

    It seems quite likely that the ways in which a white child from an affluent two-parent family would experience these parenting and education technologies would be quite different from the way in which a brown child with a poor single mom would. (There are no people of color in any of the images I used today. This science fiction imaginary. Did you notice?) A brave new world indeed.

    We’re supposed to be thrilled about this “enhancement.” Or so I gather from the marketing for parenting and education technologies. So we’re told by CES. So we’re told by the Horizon Report.

    Somewhere along the way, I think, we have confused surveillance for care. This is not necessarily a recent or emergent phenomenon – we can trace it back, at the very least, to the Radio Nurse and this compulsion to monitor our babies. This confusion – surveillance for care – has profound implications for how we raise children, no doubt. It has profound implications for how we teach and learn. It has profound implications for how we trust and respect one another.

    Love and care and respect for one another – I’m an idealist, yes –that must be the work of all humans. That is the work of parenting (even for non-parents). That is the work of teaching too. I truly, truly hope we never convince ourselves that this can, that this should be the work of a machine.


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  • 06/16/17--07:25: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “To Understand Betsy DeVos’s Educational Views, View Her Education,” says The New York Times.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Task Force With Falwell Is Happening, White House Says.”

    “More than 150 House and Senate Democrats sent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter Monday that objected to her department’s recently announced shift in how it chooses the contractors that service federal student loans,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Buzzfeed: “How Betsy DeVos Could Break Up The Charter School Coalition.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “The Education Department Quietly Invited Anti-LGBT Groups To A Father’s Day Event.” The groups, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, both advocate for “gay conversion therapy.”

    More on the reversal of Obama-era rules regulating for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Via ProPublica: “Trump Administration Quietly Rolls Back Civil Rights Efforts Across Federal Government.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education last week outlined changes to civil rights investigations that advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges.”

    More on lawsuits against the Department of Education relating to Title IX in the courts section below.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Signs Order to Ease Federal Restrictions on Apprenticeships.” “What’s At Stake in President Trump’s Order to Revamp Apprenticeship Programs,” according to Edsurge. More via Inside Higher Ed.

    “The Department of Education appears ready to update the College Scorecard later this year,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week would create a demonstration project for competency-based education programs. The project would grant statutory and regulatory flexibility to participants, such as in the application of federal financial aid rules, while also creating new requirements aimed at accountability and transparency.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “President Trump is expected today to direct changes to American policy toward Cuba, including by stepping up enforcement of the statutory ban on travel to Cuba for tourism-related purposes and by eliminating an option for Americans to travel to the island for individual people-to-people exchanges outside the auspices of an organized group, according to senior White House officials. However, 12 other forms of travel – which would include various forms of academic travel – will continue to be permitted.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Foreign faculty and researchers traveling to Canada to work on projects at public universities and affiliated research institutions will be allowed to stay for up to 120 days without a work permit as part of a new Global Skills Strategy announced Monday by Canada’s government.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, said to be in a coma, released from North Korea.”

    Trump Orders Government to Stop Work on Y2K Bug, 17 Years Later,” Bloomberg reports.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A pending Connecticut law will now mandate that the University of Connecticut and the state’s four other public universities publicly release data on which transfer student credits they accept and which they reject.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a higher education bill that would have capped bachelor’s degree enrollments at [**Florida’s two year] colleges**, removed the two-year institutions from the purview of the State Board of Education and renamed the state institutions ‘community colleges,’ as they were called eight years ago.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A second federal appeals court ruled Monday against President Trump’s travel ban, upholding an injunction imposed by a lower court.”

    Trump Ditches His Promise to ‘Terminate’ DACA,” The Atlantic reports. “Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Long-Term Fate Is Unclear,” says The New York Times.

    Via Reuters: “U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum on Thursday rescinding an Obama-era plan to spare some illegal immigrant parents of children who are lawful permanent residents from being deported, the department said in a statement.”

    Via The Washington Post: “ICE nabs teenager hours before his senior prom, days before his graduation ceremony.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via The Washington Post: “The National Women’s Law Center filed suit Monday against the Education Department in an effort to force the release of information about federal enforcement of Title IX, a law that governs how schools handle campus sexual harassment and assault.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal district court judge last week ordered the Department of Education to rule within 90 days on an application for loan relief by a former Corinthian Colleges student. The application has been pending for more than two years.”

    Via Politico: “Carl Paladino, the Buffalo school board member who was quoted making derogatory and racist comments about President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama last December, filed a civil rights complaint against the school board, which is seeking to boot him.”

    Via The New York Times: “Success Academy and other charter schools won a victory in a long-running dispute with New York City when a state appeals court ruled on Thursday that the city cannot regulate a charter school’s prekindergarten programs.”

    Via The New York Times: “Rolling Stone to Pay $1.65 Million to Fraternity Over Discredited Rape Story.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A state-court jury in Connecticut on Thursday sided with a fraternity whose house was closed by Wesleyan University in the fall of 2015 after the fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, resisted complying with a university mandate to admit women.”

    Via The New York Times: “Penn State Student’s Dying Hours Play Out in Courtroom Video.”

    “America Keeps Criminalizing Autistic Children,” David Perry writes in the Pacific Standard.

    Via Ars Technica: “A federal appeals court today struck down price caps on intrastate phone calls made by prisoners. Inmates will thus have to continue paying high prices to make phone calls to family members, friends, and lawyers.”

    More on legal cases regarding for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below. More on legal cases regarding immigration in the immigration section above.

    “Free College”


    NPR on free college in Tennessee.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The free public college movement crept into another state Thursday when the University of Michigan rolled out a new program offering four years of free tuition in Ann Arbor for full-time in-state undergraduates with family incomes up to $65,000 per year.” (Probably worth checking out Sara Goldrick-Rab’s comments on Twitter about this one.)

    Via The Times Higher Education: “British Election Restores Tuition Debate” – that is, school should be free, and young voters went for Labour in the recent elections in part over this issue.

    The Business of Student Loans


    There’s more on the politics of student loans in the politics section above and on various legal battles in the courts section above.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via The New York Times: “U.S. Halts New Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges.” These rules are the “gainful employment” rule and the “borrower defense to repayment.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Is Halting Protections For For-Profit College Students.”

    Here’s the Department of Education’s statement on the news, giving some bullshit excuse that this is “protecting students”.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two former students of an Education Management Corporation-owned for-profit college have filed suit to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit challenging borrower-defense regulations.”

    The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has given its okay to the sale of Education Management Corp to the Dream Center.

    An op-ed in Inside Higher Ed from EAB’s Melanie Hoe: “What the Purdue-Kaplan Deal Means for You.”

    Via Education Dive: “The Purdue-Kaplan Earthquake.”

    Via Edsurge: “What Is ‘Quality’? Task Force Seeks Comment on Higher-Ed Outcomes Reporting Standards.” The task force, put together by Entangled Solutions, includes “25 members from think tanks (including education policy wonk Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute), colleges (University of Texas), coding bootcamps (Galvanize), investment banking (Tyton Partners), and accounting firms (Ernst & Young).” Fox. Henhouse. Etc. Entangled Solutions’ consultants Deborah Seymour and Michael B. Horn write about this for Inside Higher Ed: “For-Profit University 2.0.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Big HR news about Coursera in the HR section below.

    Here’s the headline from Inside Higher Ed: “For-Credit MOOC: Best of Both Worlds at MIT?” But if you look closer, it’s not a MOOC; it’s just an online class at MIT.

    Via Education Week: “Ohio Orders State’s Largest Cyber Charter to Repay $60M in Attendance Dispute.”

    Tony Bates on a new report on the future of Athabasca University.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Guardian: “Open University jobs at risk in £100m ‘root and branch’ overhaul.”

    Via Wired: “Schools Tap Secret Spectrum to Beam Free Internet to Students.” This is at Monticello High School in Albemarle County, Virginia.

    Still in its early stages, this ambitious project relies on a little-known public resource – a slice of electromagnetic spectrum the federal government long ago set aside for schools – called the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). Some internet-access advocates say EBS is underutilized at best, and wasted at worst, because loose regulatory oversight by the FCC has allowed most of the spectrum to fall into the hands of commercial internet companies.

    Via The New York Daily News: “Mom banned from Brooklyn Success Academy charter school until she says sorry to principal for saying ‘damn’ near kids.”

    “Records Show Nearly a Dozen of the Biggest School Districts Lack Air Conditioning,” The 74 reports.

    Via The Washington Post: “Can they unplug? A principal will pay students to forgo screen time this summer.”

    Accreditation and Certification


    “The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges restored Compton Community College’s accreditation last week,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The accrediting agency for the Southern United States has granted initial accreditation to Bob Jones University, another step in a years-long process by the Christian institution – which has a long history of discrimination – to try to join the higher education mainstream. Bob Jones long shunned all federal accreditation.”

    More on accrediting for-profits in the accreditation section above.

    “Providing some clarity on Open Badges 2.0by Doug Belshaw.

    Via The Hechinger Report: “How diplomas based on skill acquisition, not credits earned, could change education.”

    Also via The Hechinger Report: “The future of proficiency-based education.”

    Digital Promise and Education Elements have released a “toolkit” on competency-based education.

    Via Raw Story: “BUSTED: Trump Treasury pick took 4-week course on Dartmouth campus and called it a degree.”

    Testing, Testing…


    Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan sign on to Atlanta school cheating movie.” Ryan Coogler will direct the film, based on the Atlanta School District’s cheating scandal, and Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the screenplay.

    Via The New York Times: “New York to Shorten Standardized Tests in Elementary and Middle Schools.”

    Via NPR: “Advanced Placement Exam Scores In Alabama On The Rise.”

    “Faulty AP exam data spells problems for California Department of Education,” says Education Dive.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cal State to End Placement Exams.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Louisville’s head basketball coach has been suspended for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season, a piece of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s punishment stemming from a prostitution scandal that has roiled the institution for two years.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Colorado chancellor suspended 10 days for not telling authorities of allegations of domestic violence by assistant coach. Athletics director, head coach ordered to each pay $100,000.”

    From the HR Department


    Coursera has a new CEO: Jeff Maggioncalda. As Edsurge observes, “New CEO at Coursera Comes From Financial Tech, Not Higher Ed” – he was the co-founder of Financial Engines, a retirement planning company. He places former Yale president Richard Levin.

    Tracy K. Smith has been named the next US poet laureate.

    Drew Faust Will Step Down as Pioneering President of Harvard,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Cory Reid, who previously ran two edtech companies – Instructure and MasteryConnect – as their chief executive, has landed a new gig at Tyton Partners,” says Edsurge, failing to disclose that it shares investors with MasteryConnect.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Six years after adjuncts at Manhattan College voted to form a union, a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board this week certified the election.”

    Student workers at the University of Chicago’s library have voted to unionize.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The College of New Rochelle on Monday announced 32 layoffs, including 10 tenured faculty members.”

    More on HR changes in the sports section above.

    The Business of Job Training


    Edsurge interviews the CEO of Guild Education as part of “thought leader” series out of ASU-GSV, but fails to disclose that these companies share investors.

    Via the press release: “Amazon Announces More Than 10,000 Employee Participants in Career Choice and Expects to Reach 20,000 Participants by 2020.”

    Contests and Awards


    Via Chalkbeat: “New York City’s largest school charter network, Success Academy, has won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    “Are Virtual Schools the Future?” 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


    “What’s Wrong With Letting Tech Run Our Schoolsby “Math Babe” Cathy O’Neil.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Facebook, an Online Learning Platform?”

    Via Edsurge: “Now Any Organization Can Create Content for LinkedIn Learning.”

    Stanford University’s Larry Cuban on Class Dojo.

    Via Edsurge: “Kahoot Toots 50 Million Monthly Active Users – and a Timeline to Revenue.” The company has raised $16.5 million in venture capital.

    A helpful guide of places to avoid from Business Insider: “Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse– here’s where they’re going.”

    “The Case for Learning Platform Grade Bookby Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

    Google Drive will soon back up your entire computer,” says The Verge. But only if you let it. Don’t.

    “ The top 5 trends in K–12 ed tech– and where they’re headed,” according to Education Dive. Bonus points for having the gall to include on this list devices you can strap to students’ heads to monitor their “cognitive activity.”

    Virtual Reality Can Teach Altruism, Empathy – and Why You Should Use Less Toilet Paper,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Yelp for Colleges? An Economist Rates Its Usefulness.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Rural America Is Stranded in the Dial-Up Age.”

    “A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitinby Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.

    Hey, I wonder what the blockchain is up to these days? Oh.

    “After Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship from the New York Public Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, scholars were quick to lampoon the decision,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Microsoft is really scared of Chromebooks in businesses and schools,” according to The Verge.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Journals’ Retreat From Data-Sharing Mandate Puts Onus on Universities and Government.”

    Teach for America but for Afghanistan.

    Via Scientific American: “Revenge of the Super Lice.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Via Edsurge: “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced it will contribute $5 million into a fund operated by Landed, a startup that helps teachers pay down payments on homes in the Redwood City, Ravenswood City, and Sequoia Union High School districts in the peninsula region.”

    Landed, founded in 2015, will pay half of a teacher’s down payment for a home. A typical down payment is 20 percent, so Landed will typically cover 10 percent. Teachers do not have to pay back this loan. Rather, the company takes 25 percent of the gain or loss when the house gets sold again. (If the teacher never sells, he or she will have to repay Landed before the end of the investment term.)

    Via The New York Times: “Jeff Bezos Wants Ideas for Philanthropy, So He Asked Twitter.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Top Hat has raised $7.5 million from Learners Fund. The digital clicker company has raised $49.4 million total.

    Mrs. Wordsmith has raised $2.5 million from Kindred Capital, SaatchiNvest, Ropart Asset Management, and Reach Capital. It’s a digital worksheet company.

    Zzish has raised $180,000 in funding from LEAF Investments. The company, which helps developers monetize education apps, has raised $4.62 million total.

    Resume Clip has raised $50,000 in seed funding from Swami Shrikanthanand. The company helps students make videos to market themselves to recruiters.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    “Want Your Students to Remember You in 20 Years? Start Holding Weekly Data Conferences,” says Edsurge. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

    Also via Edsurge: “From High School to Harvard, Students Urge for Clarity on Privacy Rights.”

    The Calgary Board of Education has sent a notice to parents, warning them of the data breach at Edmodo. I wonder how many schools and districts that use the software have done this?

    Data and “Research”


    One in four Muslim bullying incidents involves a teacher, Mic reports.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Pre-K boosts future incomes and reduces risk of jail, especially when schools spend more.”

    “More Than Half of School Expenditures Spent on Classroom Instruction,” says the Census Bureau.

    From the press release: “Only thirteen percent of educators give their school/university an ‘A’ when asked to rank their available technology’s ability to improve the learning experience for students, according to a new study from public relations and digital marketing agency, Walker Sands Communications.”

    Via Edsurge: “Education Technology Tools for Adult Learners Get Mixed Results From SRI Study.”

    Via Columbia University Teacher College’s press release: “Ed Tech Purchasers Prefer Independently Researched Products.”

    Research published in the journal Science, as reported by Inside Higher Ed: “Adolescents who see widespread layoffs around them as they grow up are less likely to enroll in college – even if no one in their family loses a job.”

    Via NPR: “How To Apply The Brain Science Of Resilience To The Classroom.”

    Via Ed Week’s Market Brief: “Wave of New Ed Tech In K–12 to Usher In Classroom Redesigns, Survey Finds.”

    Via Campus Technology: “IoT to Represent More Than Half of Connected Device Landscape by 2021.”

    According to Education Week’s “Inside Research” blog: “For Education Interventions, a Little ‘Nudge’ Can Go a Long Way.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, students who are the least well prepared for traditional college also fare the worst in online courses. For top students, taking an online course didn’t definitively have a negative effect on a student’s grade point average. But for others – especially lower-performing students – taking online courses was associated with higher dropout rates and lower grades, both at the time the course was taken and in future semesters, when compared to students who took classes in person.”

    “Study of the Week” from FdB: “Of Course Virtual K–12 Schools Don’t Work.” And I guess I missed his “Study of the Week” last week: “Study of the Week: Trade Schools Are No Panacea.”

    “​OER Researchers Don’t Disaggregate Data on Diverse Students. Here’s Why They Should,” New America’s Manuela Ekowo argues.

    Via NPR: “DeVos Says More Money Won’t Help Schools; Research Says Otherwise.”

    “Whither Moodle?” – data about LMS adoption from Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    These were my remarks as a guest speaker in Donna Murdoch's class “Online Teaching and Learning – Applying Adult Learning Principles” this evening. I was asked to speak about learning analytics, but like I said in my keynote last week at NMC, ed-tech is boring. So this is a talk about pedometers.

    “Know thyself” – this is an ancient maxim, of course. But it’s become not so much a philosophy of introspection or reflection but a compulsion for data collection and data analysis. We now live in a culture of quantification. (We have for a while now, no doubt.) All this is aided today, no doubt, by new computing technologies that create and collect massive amounts of personal data.

    Learning analytics, in some ways, is a symptom of this data-driven culture – one that also is not new to education. Learning analytics are technologies that support and reflect the idea that we can collect and measure and analyze data about learners in order to know what they know, in order to optimize what and how they learn.

    I want to invoke the guest speaker’s privilege and talk about something slightly different than what I was asked to speak about: that is, learning analytics. Now, I hope you’ll see that almost everything I say is very much related to learning analytics and to education technologies more broadly – to how we’re asked to hand over our personal data to various hardware and software companies, to our employers, to the government, to our schools under the guise of better “outcomes,” more productivity, and so on.

    I want to talk a little bit about fitness trackers this evening.

    “Wearables,” for what it’s worth, were featured in the 2016 Horizon Report for K–12, an annual report that predicts which education technologies are “on the horizon.” The “Quantified Self” appeared on the 2014 Horizon Report for Higher Education. In both cases, the Horizon Report predicted these technologies were four to five years from widespread adoption.

    You hear these sorts of predictions all the time – that everyone is going to own or use X, Y, or Z technology in the next few years – but according to a recent study, only about 10% of Fitbit owners (and that’s of the less than 12% of US consumers own fitness trackers) are still wearing the device after a year.

    Beware the marketing hype.

    Like all technologies, fitness trackers have a history – one that certainly predates Fitbit or Jawbone or the Nike Fuelband.

    There’s some debate about who invented the first pedometer, which remains a core functionality of most activity trackers: that is, counting how many steps one takes per day. Wikipedia lists three possible inventors: Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched the design for a gear-driven device with a pendulum arm that would swing back and forth with every walking leg motion and measure distance traveled; Abraham-Louis Perrelet, a Swiss inventor who built a self-winding watch in 1770 that wound when the wearer walked and then built another device, based on that watch, in 1777 that could measure walking distance; and Thomas Jefferson (Americans do like stories in which we feature prominently in the invention of things, don’t we), who purportedly brought the first pedometer to the US, although it’s not known if he ever improved on the design as he never filed any patents for his inventions. A website that reviews fitness devices also suggests that Jean Fernel, a French craftsman, might have invented the first pedometer in 1525 or Robert Hooke, an English scientist, might have in 1674, or Hubert Sarton, another Frenchman, might’ve in 1778. It was John Harwood, a British man, who was awarded the first patent for a pedometer in 1924. So even if we date pedometers from that patent, we’re still looking at about 100 years of history; if we credit da Vinci, we’re looking at about 500 years of pedometers.

    500 years, and still less than 12% of Americans own a fitness tracker. Be a little skeptical of those who insist that technologies are changing faster than ever or that we’re adopting new technologies more quickly than ever before.

    Now, it’s worth asking why so many inventors have been interested in the pedometer concept. For these men I’ve just named, at least, their interest was not in improving “fitness” per se but in measuring distance. For da Vinci, the device had military applications; he also imagined it would help improve mapping.

    The promotion of the pedometer as a fitness device started in the 1960s when Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a professor at the Kyushu University of Health and Welfare, undertook some applied research into exercise and calories. Concerned about the rise in obesity in Japan and wanting to promote and reinforce daily activity as part of “good health,” Hatano began selling a device known as “Manpo-kei” – the 10,000 steps meter. Hatano had calculated that the average Japanese person walked about 3500 to 5000 steps a day. By increasing the number of steps to 10,000 (roughly 5 miles), the amount of calories burned obviously would increase as well – up to about 500 calories a day, which could translate into about 20 kilos of weight loss in a year, he claimed. 10,000 steps was, according to the marketing for the Manpo-kei, ideal.

    There are plenty of reasons to question that claim. 10,000 steps is less some medically-advised threshold than it is a marketing gimmick. Hatano could have picked 7500 steps or 13,333. 10,000 steps is a nice round number, one that will take you about 100 minutes of moderate activity to accomplish – but it’s also an arbitrary number. 10,000 steps is a goal that’s based on a lot of assumptions about bodies and activity and physical ability too. Nevertheless the number – and the connection between “steps” and “fitness” – has stuck with us for 50 some-odd years now. 10,000 – that’s the goal that almost all fitness trackers set for us.

    And so, we can debate whether or not measuring “steps” is the same as measuring “fitness.” But we should ask too: How well do these devices actually track “steps”? (Rather, how accurate are they in counting “steps” and converting all our physical activity into “steps”?)

    Surprise, surprise. They’re far from perfect. It depends on where you wear the device – on your wrist, in your bra, in your pocket, in your purse. It depends on what kind of activity you undertake. A study published in 2013 found that these devices tended to underestimate the energy expended while standing or bicycling or jogging uphill. And it depends on the device, the brand. A recent study from Stanford found that six out of seven wristband activity monitors measured heart rate with an error rate of less than 5%. Not too bad. But none of these monitors measured energy expended – a.k.a. calories – accurately. The most accurate fitness device was off by an average of 27%. Off, in other words, by roughly one McDonald’s Cheeseburger.

    These errors are pretty important if you’re making decisions about your diet based on the data you glean from your fitness tracker– like should you have a McDonald’s Cheeseburger or another glass of wine. These errors are really important if someone else is making decisions about you based on this data – like your employer deciding whether your participation in the company wellness program is adequate. Or your health insurance company deciding whether to deny you coverage based on your physical activity or lack thereof. Or your school tracking how much you exercise and what you eat and how much (and where) you sleep and giving you a grade for it.

    Oral Roberts University, for example, beginning in the spring of 2016, required its incoming students to wear a Fitbit and encouraged them to log their personal data in the learning management system.

    Also in 2016, the University of Michigan signed a $170 million deal with Nike. One provision of the contract allows Nike“to harvest personal data from Michigan athletes through the use of wearable technology like heart-rate monitors, GPS trackers and other devices that log myriad biological activities.”

    Are these examples of “learner data”? They’re certainly examples of “student data,” right?

    Whose data does the data collected by a fitness tracker belong to? What do the Terms of Service say? (You’ve read the Terms of Service, right?) What else, in addition to how many steps a wearer has taken in a day, do these devices track? What does the fitness tracker maker use this data for? Who does the fitness tracker maker share the data with? Who does the fitness tracker maker sell the data to? How long does the company retain it? Can a user request a copy of their data? Can the user delete it? These aren’t medically-approved devices, of course, but what is being collected is, no doubt, sensitive health data. Is that data safe, secure, private? Are there any legal protections regarding this data – that is, does it count as part of someone’s “medical record”?

    What are the implications when we compel people – through health insurance or through employment or through the learning management system – to be monitored in this way?

    The marketing tells us that this sort of tracking should be done for our own good, for our health and well-being. We should want to track and be tracked. The science? Well, the science, not so much. Indeed, one study published last year in the journal of the American Medical Association, found that those who wore fitness trackers lost less weight than those who did not.

    Yes, that’s just one study. I hear a lot of people say – anecdotal data – that they like their fitness tracker because it motivates them to move. They say they like the “gamification” of exercise – earning points and badges, sharing their efforts via social media, and so on. They insist they need this extrinsic motivation as their intrinsic motivation simply isn’t enough. Not 10,000 steps worth of enough, that is.

    And Americans have been tracking calories for quite some time now. Again, there’s a history here – why the calorie is the unit of measurement. Like the invention of the pedometer, there are many origin stories we could tell here – the development of the science of human nutrition in the early twentieth century. I’ll give you one name (because I’ve only mentioned men so far): Lulu Hunt Peters, an American doctor, who published the bestselling diet book Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories in 1918 and who popularized the idea that if you counted calories, you can lose weight.

    500 years of pedometers. 100 years of counting calories. 50 years of connecting “steps” and “fitness.” Today’s fitness tracker isn’t new, but rather fits quite neatly into a long social and technological history. We are very accustomed to the stories about measuring these data-points for the sake of our personal health and well-being. There’s a cultural logic to the fitness tracker.

    Of course, as the familiar saying (often misattributed to Einstein) goes, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

    Is this meaningful data? Are “steps” or “calories” meaningful units of measurement, for example? What can we truly know based on this data? Are our measurements accurate? Is our analysis, based on the data that we’ve collected, accurate? What sorts of assumptions are we making when we collect and analyze this data? Assumptions about bodies, for example. Assumptions about what to count. Assumptions and value judgments about “health”? How much is science, and how much is marketing? Whose data is this? Who owns it? Who controls it? Who gets to see it? Is this data shared or sold? Is there informed consent? Are people being compelled to surrender their data? Are people being profiled based on this data? Are decisions being made about them based on this data? Are those decisions transparent? Are they done via algorithms – predictive modeling, for example, that tries to determine some future behavior based on past signals? Who designs the algorithms? What sorts of biases do these algorithms encode? How does the collection and analysis of data shape behavior? Does it incentivize certain activities and discourage others? Who decides what behaviors constitute “good health”?

    Those are questions we should consider regarding fitness trackers, sure. But they’re questions for all sorts of technologies – education and otherwise.

    Please ask these questions when you hear the marketing for “learning analytics.” I’m going to re-state that previous paragraph:

    Is this meaningful data? Are “test scores” or “grades” meaningful units of measurement, for example? What can we truly know based on this data? Are our measurements accurate? Is our analysis, based on the data that we’ve collected, accurate? What sorts of assumptions are we making when we collect and analyze this data? Assumptions about bodies, for example. Assumptions about what to count. Assumptions and value judgments about “learning”? How much is science, and how much is marketing? Whose data is this? Who owns it? Who controls it? Who gets to see it? Is this data shared or sold? Is there informed consent? Are people being compelled to surrender their data? Are people being profiled based on this data? Are decisions being made about them based on this data? Are those decisions transparent? Are they done via algorithms – predictive modeling, for example, that tries to determine some future behavior based on past signals? Who designs the algorithms? What sorts of biases do these algorithms encode? How does the collection and analysis of data shape behavior? Does it incentivize certain activities and discourage others? Who decides what behaviors constitute “a good student” or “a good teacher” or “a good education”?

    Is learning analytics (or your fitness tracker) a way you can “know thyself”?


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  • 06/23/17--05:00: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    Via Pacific Standard: “Government Watchdog Will Investigate Trump Administration on Civil Rights.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Campus Rape Loses Special Status in Trump’s Education Department.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Education Dept. closes transgender student cases as it pushes to scale back civil rights investigations.”

    Via The New York Times: “Trump Move on Job Training Brings ‘Skills Gap’ Debate to the Fore.”

    More on the business of job training in its own section below.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Summer Pell Grants will be available to students beginning July 1, the Department of Education announced Monday.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday offered a first glimpse at how it is carrying out the Trump administration’s push to ease federal regulations– and asked for advice on what rules it should eliminate.” Among those regulations: FERPA. So that’ll be fun. More via The Hill and via the Department of Education’s press office.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Landmark Law on Higher Education Should Be Scrapped, DeVos Suggests.” That’s the Higher Education Act of 1965.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s Every Major Statement Trump and DeVos Have Made on Higher Ed.”

    There were so many falsehoods in Trump’s rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this week, that The New York Times had a “fact-check” in almost every paragraph of its coverage, countering the claims Trump made on stage. Edsurge runs with Trump’s promise to boost rural broadband like it’s a truth anyone can count on.

    Tech CEOs visited the White House to talk about “modernizing” a.k.a. “technologizing” the government. “Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges Trump To Mandate Coding In Schools,” according to Edsurge. Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt praises Trump.

    Via The Washington Post: “A teacher’s decision to be ‘visibly queer’ in his photo with President Trump.” Teacher of the Year indeed.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The British government releases the results … of its new three-tiered rating system of teaching quality at universities.”

    More on the politics of student loans in the student loan section below. And more on the US Department of Education activities in the campus section and HR section below.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The LA School Report: “LAUSD approves $7.5 billion budget under cloud of declining enrollment and future cuts.”

    Louisiana Becomes First State to Ban the Box,” Inside Higher Ed reports. That is, to ban the box on an application (for a job or to a public college) asking about criminal history.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Sweeping New Fla. Law Set to Shake Up Charter School Landscape, Testing.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via AZ Central: “Arizona Appeals Court overturns in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’.”

    Via NPR: “For Some Students, Getting An Education Means Crossing The Border.”

    Via Axios: “Trump plans to scrap rule allowing foreign founders into U.S.”

    Via the BBC: “Accenture and Microsoft plan digital IDs for millions of refugees.” What could possibly go wrong?

    Education in the Courts


    Via Nature: “One of the world’s largest science publishers, Elsevier, won a default legal judgement on 21 June against websites that provide illicit access to tens of millions of research papers and books. A New York district court awarded Elsevier US$15 million in damages for copyright infringement by Sci-Hub, the Library of Genesis (LibGen) project and related sites.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Three major textbook publishers sue the bookstore provider Follett, alleging failure to stop selling pirated versions of their books.” The publishers in question are Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson.

    Via The LA Times: “Lawsuit alleges hostile environment for Jews on San Francisco State campus.”

    More on the legal battles of “Dreamers” in the immigration section above.

    Testing, Testing…


    Via Chalkbeat: “Calculator mix-up could force some students to retake ISTEP, and Pearson is partially to blame.” ISTEP is the Indiana state standardized test.

    Via The Dispatch: “Miss. Dept of Education fires testing firm after exams wrongly scored.” The testing firm in question: Pearson.

    The Business of Student Loans


    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Picked A Student Loan CEO To Run The Student Loan System.” A. Wayne Johnson is the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services. Nothing to see here… Move along…

    Via Buzzfeed: “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Isn’t Working, Watchdog Says.”

    Via CBS: “Here come higher student loan interest rates.”

    Via the AP: “The nation’s largest servicer of federal student loans has lobbied against states’ efforts to license student loan servicers in Maine and elsewhere this year as it seeks to become the nation’s single servicer of student loans under a plan backed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.” That would be Navient Corp.

    Via NPR: “Federal Officials Turn To Private Law Firms To Chase Student Loan Debtors.”

    Research from New America says that “allowing borrowers to refinance federal student loans finds that most of the benefits of refinancing would be seen by a small number of households with relatively high debt.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    For-profit Hickey College will close.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The as-yet unnamed online university resulting from the proposed acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue University has set discounted tuition rates for in-state students and free tuition for Purdue employees.”

    Regulations regarding for-profit higher ed are too heavy-handed, according to an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed written by a member of the board of Walden University, a for-profit university.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”


    Via The Post and Courier: “South Carolina’s online charter schools: A $350 million investment with disappointing returns.”

    “Students’ Rising Expectations Pose Challenge to Online Programs,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via NJ.com: “Charter school won’t pay teachers for final 2 months, union says.” The charter school, which is closing it doors, is the Merit Preparatory Charter School, run by “personalized learning” charter chain Matchbook Learning. (Here’s a sponsored article, paid for by the Gates Foundation and published by Edsurge promoting the school and its technology.)

    Via The Lens: “Charter school kept two homeless children out of class for a month because they didn’t have uniforms.” That is the Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans.

    Via The 74: “Montessori Was the Original Personalized Learning. Now, 100 Years Later, Wildflower Is Reinventing the Model.” (This reminds me that I need to write something about the history of Montessori and why all sorts of companies have appropriated the brand.)

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Education Dept. Closes Title IX Investigation of Liberty U.”

    Via The New York Times: “A College Built for Canadian Settlers Envisions an Indigenous Future.” That’s the University of Saskatchewan.

    Via The New York Times: “Dallas Schools, Long Segregated, Charge Forward on Diversity.”

    “Why So Many Top Hackers Hail from Russia,” according to information security journalist Brian Krebs. Spoiler alert: computer science is required in school.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Conservative Media Outlets Turn Faculty Viewpoints Into National News.”

    Via The New York Times: “The Media Brought the Alt-Right to My Campus.”

    Via The New York Times: “A Campus Argument Goes Viral. Now the College Is Under Siege.” That’s Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

    Accreditation, Certification, and “Competencies”


    Inside Higher Ed reports on the appearance of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission before a federal panel on accreditation.

    Via CNN: “ The Girl Scouts are adding a cybersecurity badge.”

    “The Competency-Based Education Network, a grant-funded group of 30 institutions with competency-based programs, has become a free-standing nonprofit association and is opening up its membership,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Oregon Athlete Played a Season While Under Investigation for Sexual Assault.” The athlete was Kavell Bigby-Williams, a UO men’s basketball player. “Mr. Bigby-Williams has been under investigation by the campus police of the Northern Wyoming Community College District since September 19, the newspaper said. He is accused of sexually assaulting a woman near Gillette College, where he was a student before transferring to Oregon, the Daily Emerald reported.” Fire Coach Dana Altman now.

    From the HR Department


    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has hired Bror Saxberg to handle its “learning engineering” efforts. Saxberg had previously been the Chief Learning Officer at Kaplan (and Edsurge, when covering the news, fails to disclose its financial ties to Kaplan).

    Via Education Week: “Teachers’ Union Faces Backlash Over Publication on Personalized Learning.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Staffing Woes at the Education Department.”

    More on Department of Education hires in the student loan section above.

    Via NPR: “At Yale, Protests Mark A Fight To Recognize Union For Grad Students.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “AAUP Considers Paying Adjuncts in Its Leadership Posts.”

    The Business of Job Training


    This piece– “We Need to Rethink How We Educate Kids to Tackle the Jobs of the Future” – is a couple weeks old but I’m including it here nonetheless because of this priceless line: “The truth is, there is little taught in school that today can’t be handled with a quick Google search and an Excel spreadsheet.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “German-Style Apprenticeships Simply Can’t Be Replicated.”

    Via Andy Smarick, writing for the American Enterprise Institute’s blog: “Pumping the brakes on apprenticeships.”

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    “Mark Zuckerberg just unveiled Facebook’s new mission statement,” says The Verge. It changes from making the world more open and connected“ to ”give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This wasn’t really what I was talking about, Zuck, when I talk about the ideology of personalization.

    Via Buzzfeed: “ Violence On Facebook Live Is Worse Than You Thought.” Because, you know, Facebook’s mission is “community.”

    Via Creative Commons: “Toward a Better Internet: Building Prosocial Behavior into the Commons.”

    Also via Creative Commons: “Community update: Unsplash branded license and ToS changes.” Unsplash is a photo sharing website.

    Via Edsurge: “How Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods Highlights the Hybrid, ‘Omnichannel’ Future of Higher Ed.” #NotTheOnion

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Media Startups Try a Lower-Cost Model: Unpaid Student Writers.”

    Via The Verge: “Google Glass gets its first update in nearly three years.” Phew! Just in time for all those ISTE sessions claiming Google Glass is the future of education.

    In other Google news, “Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails for Gmail Ads,” Bloomberg reports.

    Stanford University’s Larry Cuban continues his analysis of behavioral management tool ClassDojo.

    LMS news from Edsurge: “​University of Michigan’s Gamified LMS Opens Up to Other Institutions.”

    “Stale Words and Hackneyed Ideas That Make Edtech Investors Cringe,” according to an investor in Edsurge. Among those cringeworthy ideas: the LMS.

    Via Bloomberg: “Mattel’s CEO Thinks Internet-Connected Toys Are the Future.”

    “New houses will have Alexa and Wi-Fi built into the walls,” according to Mashable.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Bill Cosby Is Going To Educate People On How To Avoid Sexual Assault Allegations.”

    Via Pando: “Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck accused of unwanted sexual advances towards female founders. Where’s the outrage?” (Among those education companies in Binary Capital’s investment portfolio: Educents.)

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Edsurge: “Why a Robot-Filled Education Future May Not Be as Scary as You Think.” It’s also going to apparently be full of bullshit, made-up “statistics” about the future.

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    There’s HR news from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in the HR section above.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Behavioral management company Hero K12 has raised $150 million from BV Investment Partners.

    Tutoring company Ruangguru has raised $7 million in Series B funding.

    Lingokids has raised $4 million in seed funding from HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Big Sur Ventures, JME Venture Capital, and Sabadell Venture Capital. The vocabulary game maker has made $5.15 million total.

    MyTutor has raised $3.82 million in Series A funding from Mobeus Equity Partners, Clive Cowdery, and Thomas Hoegh. The tutoring startup has raised $5.36 million total.

    Wonderschool has raised $2 million in seed funding from Cross Culture Ventures, First Round, Edelweiss, FundersClub, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and SoftTech VC. According to the company description, “Wonderschool offers a platform where people can start infant and toddler programs and preschools out of their homes.”

    Hugsy has raised $226,460 in seed funding from the Leapfunder European angel investor network. Hugsy makes a “smart baby blanket.” (Yes, I’m tracking on this sort of thing as part of my 2017 “Top Ed-Tech Trends.”)

    Carson-Dellosa has acquiredRourke Educational Media.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Congrats to the education company Road Scholar for appearing in this Gizmodo story about how companies surreptitiously collect your data. “Before You Hit ‘Submit,’ This Company Has Already Logged Your Personal Data.”

    Data and “Research”


    Via investment analysis firm CB Insights: “The Ed Tech Market Map: 90+ Startups Building The Future Of Education.” The map isn’t that useful, to be honest. The list of which education technology companies have raised the most money is more so.

    The History of Pearson.

    Via Education Week: “Online Classes for K–12 Students: 10 Research Reports You Need to Know.”

    Via IRRODL: “Khan Academy as Supplemental Instruction: A Controlled Study of a Computer-Based Mathematics Intervention.”

    Via IHE blogger Joshua Kim: “The Institutional Impact of Maryville’s 1:1 iPad Program.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Last year Achieving the Dream began a $9.8-million project to use open educational resources (OER) to create degree programs at 38 community colleges. A study on early returns, which was conducted by SRI International and the rpk GROUP, found that faculty members are changing their teaching in the OER courses and that students are at least as engaged in the courses as they are in conventional ones.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “5 Cocktail-Party-Conversation Findings From the Latest Survey of College Presidents.”

    Speaking of cocktail party conversations, The Hechinger Report notes that “Unlike the students they oversee, most college presidents are white and male.”

    Education Next publishes an excerpt from Daniel Willingham’s new book The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.

    Via Edsurge: “Low Income and Looking For a Successful School. Study Shows Choices Are Slim.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Measuring Learning Outcomes From Military Service.”

    Via Education Week: “Immersive Tech, Virtual Reality Market to Soar Worldwide, New Analysis Predicts.”

    Via NPR: “U.N. Says World’s Population Will Reach 9.8 Billion By 2050.” More on population changes and how this might affect higher education from Bryan Alexander.

    “Published in 2008, ‘Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns’ predicted that the growth in computer-based delivery of education will accelerate swiftly until, by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet,” writes EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin, asking “Are We On Track?

    (For what it’s worth, I’m tracking all these predictions about the future at predictions.contrafabulists.com.)

    RIP


    Via The Washington Post: “Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention.”

    Gary Stager pens an obituary for Bob Tinker who passed away this week. A proponent of constructivist learning (particularly with regards to science and technology), Tinker created “probeware” and founded the Concord Consortium, among many other contributions to the field of ed-tech.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project