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The History of the Future of Education Technology
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    This is part nine of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    We Need to Rethink How We Educate Kids to Tackle the Jobs of the Future.” It’s a core refrain in “the innovation gospel,” one of those arguments that certain pundits and politicians really lean into. You hear it all the time, accompanied by a standard set of justifications about the pressing need to reform education: something about the "factory model of education; something about radical shifts in the job market in recent decades; something about technology changing faster than it’s ever changed before. And almost inevitably at some point, this statistic will get invoked: 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet.

    All of these claims play pretty fast and loose with the facts – with the history of education, with the history of technology, and with the history of work. All of them. But the point of these sorts of stories is never historical accuracy (although certainly citing a number – “65%” – gives them all the air of science and truth).

    “65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet.” It’s a prediction – and a statistic – than Benjamin Doxtdator brilliantly dissects in an article he published this year called “A Field Guide to ‘Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet’.” And while on one hand, I’d like to see everyone stop citing that made-up figure, on the other, it’s always useful to be able identify who the bullshit artists are.

    What makes this narrative about the future resonate, I think, is that it taps into the fears many feel about the future, about their children’s future. This isn’t simply a matter of “robots are coming for your jobs.” They’re coming for your kids’ jobs.

    The future for younger generations does seem particularly grim: “millennials” carry more student loan debt than their parents; they’re less likely to own a home; their employment rates have been slower to recover after the recession; they earn less money. Oh, and then there’s global climate change.

    This narrative – robots are coming for your jobs (and your kids’ jobs) – involves tasking schools with retooling so they can better train students for “the jobs of the future,” although to a certain extent, workforce preparation has always been what (part of) the education system has been expected to do. A sense of urgency about financial precarity – now and in the future – might raise the stakes these days. Really, it’s no surprise that fears about an unsettled, uncertain economy are used to shift and control education’s mission, and it’s no surprise that parents go along with that.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupations that will add the most new jobs in the next decade are personal care aides (754,000 new jobs), food service workers (579,900 new jobs), registered nurses (437,000 new jobs), home health aides (425,600 new jobs), software developers (253,400 new jobs), and janitors and cleaners (233,000). The fastest growing occupations are solar photovoltaic installers (growing by 105%), wind turbine service technicians (growing by 96%), home health aides (growing by 47%), personal care aides (growing by 37%), and physicians assistants (growing by 37%). But just one of these occupations seems to dominate the storyline of how schools should prepare students for the “jobs of the future.” And it sure isn’t “everyone should learn nursing.”

    Everyone Should Learn to Code


    As I noted in the previous article in this series, the technology industry has continued this year to advocate for changes to both policy and curriculum to expand computer science education.

    In an attempt to counter the industry’s ongoing problems with diversity, many of the organizations pushing for more CS education – the College Board and Code.org, most notably – have touted the progress that has been made in getting more kids of color and more girls to participate in coding classes (and in the case of the College Board, more paying for AP assessments, including a second CS-related exam, first administered this year). “Is the College Board’s Newest AP Computer Science Course Closing the Gap?” Edsurge asked in February. Well, probably not as long as the culture of Silicon Valley remains profoundly racist and sexist. And it’s a nice thought too that an AP exam would be a lever for equality, I guess.

    The tech industry made a number of high profiledonations and pledges this year, coinciding with the Trump administration’s announcement this fall that it would earmark $200 million in grants for computer science and STEM education. (Arguably this focus on CS was the one education policy pursued by Obama that Trump did not try to loudly reverse.) The administration’s announcement did not make it clear where that $200 million would come from (it had, after all, submitted a budget that would slash the Department of Education’s funding by $9.2 billion) – but that didn’t stop some industry folks from crooning about what they saw as a windfall. The next day after the administration’s announcement, several tech giants– Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, and other – said they would help fund the White House’s commitment to CS, to the tune of $300 million more. Again, this all made for a flurry of headlines, even though there were few specifics about where that money would go or how schools or students would benefit– “Scant Details, Fuzzy Math,” as EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin put it.

    Computer science education need not be about job training and need not be in the service of industry. But with the millions of dollars being funneled by industry into this effort, that is very much the shape that this all is taking.

    Saturday’s Child


    One of the notable elements this year of both the “everyone should learn to code” narrative and the “we need to be training students for the jobs of the future” story was how young this is all supposed to start. “How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy” read a New York Times headline in July. “A Toy for Toddlers Doubles as Code Bootcamp,” said another NYT piece, this one profiling a $225 programmable wooden block toy. “PBS Show Will Teach Preschoolers How To Think Like Computers,” Edsurge declared this summer. And then there was the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who penned an op-ed in The New York Post in October explaining “Why we need to start teaching tech in Kindergarten.”

    No time for play, kids. Get to work.

    In November, Bloomberg reported that WeWork, a co-working space startup that acquired both the coding bootcamp Flatiron School and the meet-up company MeetUp this year, planned to open a private K–12 school in one of its facilities. The school would be focused on “conscious entrepreneurship.” “Children are ready to start creating their life’s work when they’re 5,” WeWork co-founder Rebekah Neumann told Fast Company. “In my book,” she told Bloomberg, “there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses.”

    There are plenty of reasons, to be quite frank. There are legal issues regarding children’s intellectual property, and there are issues surrounding child labor laws. But good grief, there are moral and ethical and pedagogical reasons too. Is their “life’s work” what we want five year olds to be thinking about? Are monetization strategies what we want elementary school students to be concerned with? (And, of course, let’s consider which students would be weighing monetization at the private WeWork school, and which students in the US are worried about their next meal.)

    What should we do with kids over the summer months, Senator Ben Sasse asked in an op-ed in The New York Times in July? Again: put ’em to work.

    “The logic of human capital is now the basis for the American education system, which means it’s the code that governs the day-to-day lives of America’s children,” Malcolm Harris argues in his 2017 book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials. Childhood, education – it’s all become “work,” Harris contends. Learning how to “work.” Learning as“work.” Work as learning. It’s part of what he describes as the “pedagogical mask” that obscures the labor children do in school.

    Kids These Days opens with an analysis of one of my very favorite books on education technology, Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. Published in 1958, the title character in the children’s story has built a homemade labor-saving device that allows him to handwrite two copies of he and his best friend’s math homework at once. “If only we could save even more time,” Danny says to his pal. “You’d think six hours of school would be enough for them, without making us take school home. If only I could build some kind of robot to do all our homework for us….” Danny’s mother, as it turns out, is a housekeeper for Professor Bullfinch, who happens to have a computer in a laboratory in his house. (A “miniac” – a miniature version of Harvard’s Mark I.) The resourceful young Danny programs it to do his homework for him – leaving him more time for playing baseball and for exploring his own curiosities. “Inquiry-based learning,” I think we’d call it. But a classmate snitches, and rather than admit to his teacher than he’s cheating, Danny tries to make the case – the very logical and accurate case – he’s simply using a new technology to work more efficiently, to be more productive like any good scientist would do. Rather than reward his ingenuity, his teacher gives him more homework.

    “Between 1981 and 1997,” Harris writes, “elementary schoolers between the ages of six and eight recorded a whopping 146 percent gain in time spent studying, and another 32 percent between 1997 and 2003…. Kids age nine to twelve, like Danny, have sustained near 30 percent growth in homework, while their class time has increased by 14 percent.”

    Harris argues that, despite all the stories told about lazy millennials – that op-ed from Senator Sasse, for example – today’s youth are already working incredibly hard. And that’s because, like Danny Dunn, new technologies are being used to ramp up the pace and the expectations of their productivity – the amount of school work and home work they are supposed to do.

    Helicopter Robots


    In Kids These Days, Harris argues that modern parenting has become all about risk management and even risk elimination parents try to ensure the best possible future for their children. The obsession with hand sanitizer. The elimination of wooden playgrounds. We all know the story.

    “Helicopter parenting” – or at least parental anxiety – might not be a new phenomenon, but it is now increasingly able to enlist new technologies to monitor children’s activities. A story this summer in The New York Magazine is, no doubt, an extreme example of this: “Armed with Nest Cams and 24/7 surveillance, one company promises to fix even the most dysfunctional child – for a price.” But many, many technology products boast features that allow parents to check up on what their kids are doing– what they’re reading, what they’re watching, what they’re clicking on, what they’re saying, who they’re talking to, how many steps they’re taking, where they’re at at any given money, and so on. It’s all under the auspices, of course, of keeping kids safe.

    This all dovetails quite neatly, as I noted in the article on education data, with the ways in which schools too are quite willing to surveil students. The New York Times family section cautioned in August about “The Downside of Checking Kids’ Grades Constantly.” But the expectation of many ed-tech products (and increasingly school policy) is that parents will do just this – participate in the constant monitoring of student data.

    When schools and parents surveil children, they aren’t the only ones collecting the data – companies are (obviously) as well. And as I noted in that article I wrote on data, this isn’t simply about a loss of privacy – although yes, there’s sure a lot of that (and there were a handful of FTC settlements and lawsuits this year regarding the unauthorized collection of data by products and apps aimed at kids). It’s also about the vulnerability of data to various cyberthreats.

    One of the major targets for cyberthreats – that is, a growing source of data vulnerability – is “the Internet of Things” or IOT. IOT now includes all sorts of everyday objects that, for some reason, folks think is a good idea to add Internet connectivity to. In February, Motherboard reported that“Internet of Things Teddy Bear Leaked 2 Million Parent and Kids Message Recordings.” Also in February, Germany warned parents that Cayla, a talking doll, could easily be hacked and criminals could use the toy “to steal personal data by recording private conversations over an insecure Bluetooth connection.” In July, the FBI issued a warning about the security of Internet-connected toys: “toys with microphones could record and collect conversations within earshot of the device. Information such as the child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities may be disclosed through normal conversation with the toy or in the surrounding environment.” In November, Germany banned smartwatches for kids due to concerns about surveillance and safety, and the same month, a UK consumer rights group called for the banning of Internet-connected toys, citing the privacy and security risks.

    I guess we’ll see how many parents ignore this advice and buy their kids holiday gifts that spy on them. For her part, the head of Mattel believes that “Internet-connected toys are the future.”

    Robots Raising Children


    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.

    I gave a talk this summer at NMC on the Aristotle and the history of baby monitors – “‘The Brave Little Surveillance Bear’ and Other Stories We Tell About Robots Raising Children” – and I won’t rehash the arguments here. (It’s one of my favorite talks I gave in 2017, I will say, so you should read it.)

    I was skeptical at the time about Mattel’s ability to pull off the promises it made about the functionality of the virtual assistant – it had already canceled the Amazon Alexa integration heralded at CES. Hell, I was skeptical it would ever be released. And indeed, Mattel announced in October that it was canceling its plans to bring the device to market. Mattel didn’t cite privacy concerns or the petition drive organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood when it did so. It simply said “leadership changes” at the company prompted the decision. The New York Times reported that “Sven Gerjets, the company’s new chief technology officer, ‘conducted an extensive review of the Aristotle product and decided that it did not fully align with Mattel’s new technology strategy.’”

    But where Mattel stumbled, Amazon seems to be thriving, convincingmillions of people to buy an Alexa and place the company’s Internet-connected “voice assistant” in their homes. The security and privacy flaws are still there, no doubt, as these devices “listen” to all conversations, gathering data so as to build a consumer profile on a household.

    As I argued in my article on “education platforms,” keep an eye on Amazon and how it tries to promote Alexa as a teaching and learning machine. Because Amazon’s power in the platform economy deeply implicates education in the practices of surveillance and in a pervasive culture of commercialism. It deeply implicates the home – family life, childhood – in the same.

    Some parents have expressed concern about the relationships – and yes, that’s the word that people use – that children are developing with devices like Alexa. “What will it do to kids to have digital butlers they can boss around?” the MIT Technology Review asked. “Alexa, Are You Safe For My Kids,” asked NPR. “Should Children Form Emotional Bonds With Robots?” asked The Atlantic. What happens, The Washington Post wondered, “When your kid tries to say ‘Alexa’ before ‘Mama’.”

    MIT professor Sherry Turkle recently argued that robots shouldn’t be given or promoted to children as “friends.” They offer “the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship,” she says, “the illusion of connection without the reciprocity of a mutual relationship. And interacting with these empathy machines may get in the way of children’s ability to develop a capacity for empathy themselves.” Of course, since so many folks in ed-tech like to lambast everything Turkle has written lately, her arguments will probably be used to justify more robots, not fewer. And certainly Amazon (and the Bezos Foundation) are ready with all sorts of (corporate-sponsored) research about “connected families” to convince parents that these devices are really quite wonderful for childrearing.

    As Stirling University’s Ben Williamson put it,

    it’s clear that parenting and child-rearing has now become the focus for ambitious technical imaginings and visions. Supported by the massive technical might of Microsoft and Amazon, companies like Mattel want to extend from supplying Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels tracks to become interactive participants in semi-automated luxury family life. To do this, they’ll need data about families and about children. The surveillance and datafication of the family has begun.

    We should ask, of course, whose family life will be one of semi-automated luxury and whose will be one of surveillance and control. (And we should ask too what the hell is going on with the algorithms that are raising children – like the ones feeding kids content on YouTube.)

    Robot Teachers


    Which families will have a “robot butler” or “robot nanny”? Which students will have a “robot teacher”? The questions surrounding equity and algorithms should be paramount. But too often, there’s simply an assumption that more technology means “progress.” (And “technological progress” is so readily confused with “politically progressive.”) “‘Eton for all’,” NewStatesman wrote about robot teachers in October for example, suggesting that they would mean “everyone gets an elite education.”

    Spoiler alert: they wouldn’t.

    Robot teachers. I’m not sure there was any ed-tech fantasy repeated more often this year than this one: AI will be the “next big thing” in the classroom. “Amazon’s Alexa: Your Next Teacher.” Robots will revolutionize how people teach and learn. Machine learning will revolutionize how people teach. Artificial intelligence will transform how people learn. AI will choose better lessons. AI will improve graduation rates. AI will improve guidance counseling. Robots will improve “student engagement.”Robots will keep students “on task.”AI will replace testing. AI will facilitate testing. AI will be the key to “personalized learning.”AI will teach students how to be better writers. Robots will then grade those papers. AI will transform universities. AI will “optimize” K–12 education. And then, there were all sorts of claims and predictions about the future of educational chatbots – chatbots as teaching assistants, chatbots for sex and drug education.

    Again and again, as I noted in the previous article in this series, we were warned repeatedly this year that “robots are coming for our jobs.” We’re supposed to believe from the repetition of all these robot tales, that AI has made – is making – incredible breakthroughs. Sure, some say education will be particularly challenging to automate. But there’s clearly a strong political desire in certain circles to do just that.

    Robots will replace teachers by 2027.” “Machines will replace teachers in ten years.” “Within ten years, human teachers will be phased out, replaced by machines” – these are all the prediction of one guy, Sir Anthony Seldon, vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham. But boy, was this prediction repeated over and over in the media this year.

    Talk of robots is always talk about labor. And you can sense the disdain for teachers as labor in some of the arguments for teaching machines this year. “Let Robots Teach American Schoolkids,” George Mason’s Tyler Cowen wrote in July. “Imagine how great universities could be without all those human teachers,” Quartz wrote in September. Imagine.

    (Perhaps it’s worth noting here another story from the year: many teachers cannot afford to live in the school districts where they teach. Teachers cannot afford to live in parts of Colorado, for example. Teachers certainly cannot afford to live in the Bay Area. Good ol’ Mark Zuckerberg. His Chan Zuckerberg Initiative contributed $5 million to a fund run by the startup called Landed that helps teachers make down payments on homes. That $5 million will help about 50 teachers in the Bay Area, Edsurge estimates. Why address structural inequality when you can sell a couple of folks on a loan service.)

    As I have written about quite frequently, there is a long history to the push for teaching machines– it’s been the project of education technology since at least the 1920s. There has been renewed storytelling in the last year or so about “intelligent tutoring systems,” a phrase first coined in the early 1980s (and one that’s been updated with new, more Facebook-era friendly language“ personalized learning”). Praise for “intelligent tutoring systems” is often accompanied by invocation of the work – also from the 1980s – of Benjamin Bloom and his research on the effectiveness of tutoring itself. Can computers replicate that two standard deviation bump that Bloom found human tutors provided? And does it even matter if they can or can’t – as Politico put it in an article on tutoring low-income children in Chicago, “learning from a computer is going to be far cheaper than hiring a human being.”

    Who gets the robot tutor and who gets the human one? Who gets a tutor at all? Investors seem to believe that there are lots of parents who are willing to pay. Tutoring businesses were, by far, the most well funded type of education company this year. Many of these companies come with their own set of labor issues– they’re part of the growing “gig economy” that positions teaching and tutoring as part-time, freelance work rather than as a profession.

    Arguably, tutoring exacerbates educational inequalities, as it shifts the burden of enrichment activities onto individual families rather than onto a public institution like school. But it’s a price many parents are willing to pay so that their children can get ahead or stay ahead. Perhaps it’s not so much that “robots are coming for the children.” It’s that global inequality already has.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com. Even at 5000+ words an article, there are stories I have left out. You can read more at 2017trends.hackeducation.com.


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  • 12/22/17--01:30: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    The GOP passed their tax plan. Various education-related updates – via The New York Times: “How the Republican Tax Plan Uses School Savings to Hurt States.” Via Education Week: “Final Tax Bill Keeps Teacher Deduction at $250, Cuts State and Local Deductions.” Via Inside Higher Ed: “Final GOP Deal Would Tax Large Endowments.” Via Buzzfeed: “A Small College That Mostly Accepts Poor Students Is A Last-Minute Loser In The New Tax Plan.” (That’s Berea College. More on the Kentucky college in The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

    US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave a commencement speech in at the University of Baltimore this week. Via The Atlantic: “The Significance of Betsy DeVos’s Speech in Baltimore.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Four takeaways from Betsy DeVos’s summit on innovation in K–12 education.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Education Department proposes delaying Obama-era rule on racial disparities in special education.”

    More news on student loans in the student loan section below.

    Via Edsurge: “What’s In? What’s Out? And What’s Likely? Decoding Higher Ed Act Reauthorization.”

    More thoughts on the revocation of “Net Neutrality” regulations – from “Dean Dad” Matt Reed: “Net Neutrality and Online Teaching.” Via Edsurge: “From Neutrality to Inequality: Why the FCC Is Dismantling Equal Access and What It Could Mean for Education.” “Net Neutrality Was Never Enough,” says Ian Bogost in The Atlantic.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will step down from her position in the new year. More on the news in the HR section below.

    Two school districts in two states are scaling back their use of the Facebook-built Summit Public Schools’ learning management system. Via Edsurge: “Connecticut School District Suspends Use of Summit Learning Platform.” Via The Indiana Gazette: “Directors vote to scale back Summit Learning program.” That’s the Indiana Area School District in Pennsylvania.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have extended the state’s tuition-free scholarships to for-profit institutions.”

    Via Education Week: “A Cheating Scandal Rocked Atlanta’s Schools. Ten Years Later, Efforts to Help Affected Students Fall Short.”

    São Paulo has approved a bill that would allow companies to manufacture school uniforms and sell branding and sponsorship opportunities on the clothing.

    Via Motherboard: “New York City Passes Bill to Study Biases in Algorithms Used by the City.” The city uses algorithms, for example, to place students in public schools.

    Via Wired: “Koch Brothers Are Cities’ New Obstacle to Building Broadband.”

    From Chalkbeat’s Indiana newsroom: “Parents and educators worry about how new graduation rules will affect students with disabilities.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via NPR: “Grand Jury Report On Penn State Hazing Finds ‘Indignities And Depravities’.”

    The Business (and Politics) of Student Loans


    Betsy DeVos Is Slashing Student Loan Relief For Defrauded Students,” writes Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. “A new Education Department policy will dramatically limit the amount of student loan relief some students get after being misled by their schools.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    NPR reviews the year in for-profit education.

    Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


    A call to rebrand MOOCs, from Edsurge.

    Via Education Week: “Cyber Charters’ Struggles: An Update Showing New Troubles in 8 States.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The New Yorker: “A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity.” Why, it’s almost as if “free speech” is a smokescreen used by Turning Point USA.

    Via The Atlantic: “The Changing Landscape of Student Protest in Higher Education.”

    “The Education of Lyle Clinton May” – Inside Higher Ed on prison education.

    Via Edsurge: “The Possibilities for Tech (and Screentime) in the Preschool Classroom.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Sweet Briar College is eliminating more than 10 percent of its faculty, including tenured faculty positions, as it puts in place a new core curriculum and restructures academic programs.”

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via Edsurge: “​Blockchain, Bitcoin and the Tokenization of Learning.”

    Testing and Measuring


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Association of American Colleges and Universities on Wednesday announced the creation of the VALUE Institute, which will help colleges ‘leverage learning outcomes evidence to improve student success and ensure quality and equity in student learning.’”

    From the HR Department


    New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will step down from her position in the new year. [Here is the letter](chools Chancellor Carmen Fariña) she wrote to the department, announcing her retirement.

    From the New York Times: “Eric Schmidt to Step Down as Alphabet’s Executive Chairman.”

    William H. McRaven is stepping down as chancellor of the University of Texas System.

    ProPublica with more news about Facebook and discrimination: “Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads.” But yes, please do go on about how personalization will make education “more just.”

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Wired: “Impatient With Colleges, Employers Design Their Own Courses.”

    Contests and Awards


    From the MacArthur Foundation press release: “Sesame Workshop& International Rescue Committee Awarded $100 Million for Early Childhood Education of Syrian Refugees.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Can sadness be good for reading?asks The Hechinger Report.

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    The New Media Consortium announced in an email to its members that it would be immediately shutting down. Bryan Alexander, who has worked for and worked closely with the organization, has the most thoughtful coverage. More via Edsurge. (I have been busy with my year-in-review, but I will be updating my Horizon Report“data liberation” project with as much data as I can scrape from the NMC website before it all goes away.)

    Via Techcrunch: “Parenting Hero helps parents figure out how to talk to their kids.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Facebook Allowed Sellers To Target Teens With Ads For Penis Keychains.” “Personalized learning,” I believe Zuck calls this.

    It’s time, apparently, to move beyond “design thinking.”Systems thinking,” I guess, is the new entrepreneurial “mindset.” Or something.

    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “Pearson Open Sources Equella – Properly.”

    Also via Michael Feldstein: “Cengage Unlimited Draws the Battle Lines in the Curricular Materials War.”

    The New York Times promotes what it thinks are “The Best Toys That Teach Kids How to Code.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    A collection of stories from Education Week: “Artificial Intelligence, Schooling, & Tomorrow’s Jobs.”

    Via NPR: “Hi, Robot: Adults, Children And The Uncanny Valley.”

    “A robot called Bina48 has successfully taken a course in the philosophy of love at Notre Dame de Namur University, in California,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    In the UK, “Artificial intelligence school inspections face resistance,” says the BBC. (It’s good to note when people describe things as “algorithmic decision making” and when they blame robots.)

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    Mark Zuckerberg describes the “Lessons in Philanthropy in 2017.” Lots to say about “personalized learning,” but amazingly little reflection on if any of that vision actually works.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    Springboard has raised $9.5 million in Series A funding from Costanoa Ventures, Learn Capital, Jyoti Bansal, Blue Fog Capital, Rocketship.vc, and Moneta Ventures. The company, formerly known as SlideRule, has raised $11.2 million total. The company helps “learners upskill,” says Edsurge, which did not disclose it shares investors with the company.

    Career and college counseling startup Connecpath has raised $150,000 in seed funding from undisclosed investors.

    iContracts has acquired the EasyCampus LMS from Educadium.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Brief History of Students Secretly Recording Their Professors.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student blasts Georgia Tech for monitoring his social media accounts, including details about his travel plans and activist work on campus.” More via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Here are Edsurge’s calculations for the year of venture capital (in the US): “Fewer Deals, More Money: U.S. Edtech Funding Rebounds With $1.2 Billion in 2017.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Top Education Foundations Supporting K–12 Schools Score Record Funding, Report Says.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “College enrollments in the U.S. decline for a sixth straight year – although at a slower rate – while the bachelor’s degree got more popular.”

    “Two newly released academic research papers identify negative consequences linked to states’ performance-based funding formulas,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Of course, the Republicans in Congress will probably still push this idea forward even knowing that it doesn’t work and has unforeseen consequences.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on the latest report from the Babson Survey Research Group on OER adoption: “Use of Free Textbooks Is Rising, but Barriers Remain.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    This is part ten of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    Perhaps it’s no surprise that there was so much talk this year about education, technology, and emotional health. I mean, 2017 really sucked, and we’re all feeling it.

    As support services get axed and the social safety net becomes threadbare, our well-being – our economic and emotional well-being – becomes more and more fragile. People are stressed out, and people are demoralized, and people are depressed. People are struggling, and people are vulnerable, and people are afraid. And “people” here certainly includes students.

    All the talk of the importance of “emotion” in education reflects other trends too. It’s a reaction, I’d say, to the current obsession with artificial intelligence and a response to all the stories we were told this year about robots on the cusp of replacing, out-“thinking,” and out-working us. If indeed robots will excel at those tasks that are logical and analytical, schools must instead develop in students – or so the story goes – more “emotional intelligence,” the more “human” capacity for empathy and care.

    Talk of “emotion” has also been the focus of several education reform narratives for the last few years – calls for students to develop “grit” and “growth mindsets” and the like. (So much easier than addressing structural inequality.)

    There has been plenty of speculation in the past few years that the latest law governing K–12 education in the US, ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by President Obama in December 2015), will promote programs and assessments thatfocus on “social and emotional learning,” not simply on the traditional indicators of schools’ performance – academics and test scores. Schools should “foster safe, healthy, supportive, and drug-free environments that support student academic achievement,” the law says, which might include “instructional practices for developing relationship-building skills, such as effective communication” or “implementation of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports.”

    Of course, when all these narratives about “social emotional learning” get picked up by education technologists and education entrepreneurs, they don’t just turn policy mandates or even into TED Talks. They turn into products.

    “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” – Eric Hoffer

    Hacking the Brain


    The current (and long-running, let’s be honest) fascination with AI is deeply intertwined with science and speculation about the functioning of the brain and the possibilities for that organ’s technological improvement. There’s a science fiction bent as well and a certain millennialism, an AI apocalypticism, to much of the invocation of “hacking the brain” – a religious fantasy about the impending merger of “man and machine.”

    While new “neurotechnologies” are primarily being developed to help those with disabilities regain speech, sight, and mobility, there is still plenty of talk about “linking human brains to computers” as consumer-oriented “enhancements” that everyone will want to pursue. A “symbiosis with machines” as Bryan Johnson puts it. He’s put $100 million of his own money into his company Kernel (which I guess means we’re supposed to believe it’s a real, viable thing) with the promise of developing computer chip implants that will bolster human intelligence. Elon Musk – a totally reliable person with his predictions of the future of the business of science – has founded a company called Neuralink that does something similar. It too will link human brains to machines. (There’s a cartoon explainer, which I guess means we’re supposed to believe it’s a real, viable thing). In eight to ten years time, Musk assures us, brain implants will enable telepathy.

    (I’m keeping track of all these predictions. It isn’t simply that folks get it right or get it wrong. It’s that the repetition of these stories, particularly when framed as inevitabilities, shapes our preparations for the future. The repetition shapes our imaginations about the future.)

    “Neuroeducation Will Lead to Big Breakthroughs in Learning,” Singularity Hub proclaimed this fall. Singularity Hub is a publication run by Singularity University, a for-profit (non-accredited) school founded by Ray Kurzweil, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest evangelists for the notion we’ll soon be able to upload human minds into computers. We’re on the cusp of being able to upload skills directly into the brain, Futurism.com wrote this spring. (Futurism.com is a website run by the New York Chapter Leader of Singularity University.) All these promises, if kept, would indeed make for breakthroughs in teaching and learning. “If kept,” of course, is the operative phrase there.

    If kept. If possible. If ethical or desirable, even.

    There are promises about “brain hacking pills” that will speed up learning. (Well, it turns out, they don’t actually work.) There are promises about “brain zapping” to speed up learning. (What researchers understand about the effectiveness of this procedure is pretty preliminary.) There are promises about “brain training” exercises that will keep the brain “fit” as one ages. (The research is iffyat best.)

    Edsurge wrote about Brainco in October, a company that says its devices can monitor students’ brainwave activity in order to ascertain who’s paying attention in class. A few weeks later, Edsurge wrote about InteraXon, a company that says its devices can monitor students’ brainwave activity “for meditation and discipline.” An ed-tech trend in the making, investors hope.

    But probably the biggest story in “neuroeducation” this year involved Neurocore, a company that monitors brainwaves and then, through “neurofeedback sessions,” trains people to train their brain to activate certain brainwave frequencies. Neurocore didn’t make headlines because it worked – to the contrary. It made headlines because it was under investigation for making misleading claims about its benefits. (It’s promoted in some circles as a “cure” for autism and ADHD.) And it made headlines because one of its financial backers is US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who despite the dearth of data about the effectiveness of Neurocore, invested even more money in the company this year.

    Don’t let the dearth of data fool you though. Many people find all this a compelling story, data or no data – a long-running fantasy about “Matrix-style learning”. And when the story is accompanied with colorful images from fMRIs, it all seems to be incredibly persuasive.

    It’s incredibly dangerous too, as Stirling University’s Ben Williamson cautions, as the kind of control that these devices promise should raise all sorts of questions about students’ civil rights and “cognitive liberties.” Williamson argues,

    Neuroenhancement may not be quite as scientifically and technically feasible yet as its advocates hope, but the fact remains that certain powerful individuals and organizations want it to happen. They have attached their technical aspirations to particular visions of social order and progress that appear to be attainable through the application of neurotechnologies to brain analytics and even neuro-optimization. As STS researchers of neuroscience Simon Williams, Stephen Katz & Paul Martin have argued, the prospects of cognitive enhancement are part of a ‘neurofuture’ in-the-making that needs as much critical scrutiny as the alleged ‘brain facts’ produced by brain scanning technologies.

    Marketing “Mindsets”


    While the brainwave monitoring headsets hyped by some in ed-tech might seem too far-fetched and too futuristic for schools to adopt, they are being positioned as part of another trend that might make them seem far more palatable: “social emotional learning” or SEL.

    SEL has powerful advocates in powerful places: MacArthur Foundation “Genius” and University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth. Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, who was awarded the $4 million Yidan Prize for Education Research this fall. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, whose vision for the future of education involves “whole child personalized learning” and who says it plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into education initiatives to that end. The World Economic Forum. The OECD.

    Oh, and the President of the United States, I guess. He did declare 15 - 21 October of this year “Character Counts Week.” Something about grit and determination and moral fiber and whatnot.

    For its part, Edsurge pushed hard with its marketing of SEL in 2017: “Want Social-Emotional Learning to Work? The Careful Balance of Tech and Relationships.” “Assessing Social-Emotional Skills Can Be Fuzzy Work; SELweb Offers Concrete Data.” “How Valor Collegiate Academy is Rethinking SEL.” “Can Grit Be Measured? Angela Duckworth Is Working on It.” “How Can Educators Strike a Balance Between Blended and Social-Emotional Learning?” “Panorama Offers New Platform to Help Teachers Track Student’s SEL Growth.” “Panorama’s Student Progress Reports Show More Than Grades (Think Behavior and SEL).” “Social-Emotional Learning Is the Rage in K–12. So Why Not in College?” “ClassDojo and Yale Team Up to Bring Mindfulness to the Masses.” “We Know SEL Skills Are Important, So How the Heck Do We Measure Them?” “​How Game-Based Learning Encourages Growth Mindset” (that’s sponsored content from MangaHigh.com). “Three Ways You Can Harness Personalized Learning to Promote a Growth Mindset” (that’s sponsored content from Edmentum). “What If Students Have More Confidence in Growth Mindsets Than Their Teachers?” “Free Tech Tools Teach Social Emotional Learning in Classrooms” (that’s sponsored content from EverFi). “Panorama Education Raises $16M to Connect Emotional, Academic Wellbeing With Data.” “How to Measure Success Without Academic Achievement.”

    The elements shared across many of these stories: the monitoring and measuring of students. Monitoring and measuring studentsdata, that is, and then managing their emotions, sure, but more likely, their behavior.

    One of the largest single rounds of funding this year was in the behavior management company Hero K12, which raised $150 million in private equity funding in June. (You can read more about who’s funding this and other trends in my year-end series on funding.hackeducation.com.)

    I wrote about this company, along with its better known competitor ClassDojo, in an article in The Baffler. ClassDojo, which is also used by teachers and schools to manage student behavior, boasts that it’s been adopted in 90% of schools– a statistic that cannot be verified since this sort of data is not tracked by anyone other than the company making the claim. With this popularity, ClassDojo has done a great deal to introduce and promote “growth mindsets” and “mindfulness” to educators. (“To the masses” as Edsurge puts it.)

    These apps – Hero K12, ClassDojo and other types of behavior management products – claim that they help develop “correct behavior.” But what exactly does “correct behavior” entail? And what does it mean (for the future of civic participation, if nothing else) if schools entrust this definition to for-profit companies and their version of psychological expertise? As Ben Williamson observes“social-emotional learning is the product of a fast policy network of ‘psy’ entrepreneurs, global policy advice, media advocacy, philanthropy, think tanks, tech R&D and venture capital investment. Together, this loose alliance of actors has produced shared vocabularies, aspirations, and practical techniques of measurement of the ‘behavioural indicators’ of classroom conduct that correlate to psychologically-defined categories of character, mindset, grit, and other personal qualities of social-emotional learning.” These indicators encourage behaviors that are measurable and manageable, Williamson contends, but SEL also encourages characteristics like malleability and compliance – and all that fits nicely with the “skills” that a corporate vision of education would demand from students and future workers.

    Classroom Management and Persuasive Technologies


    In that Baffler article, I make the argument that behavior management apps like ClassDojo’s are the latest manifestation of behaviorism, a psychological theory that has underpinned much of the development of education technology. Behaviorism is, of course, most closely associated with B. F. Skinner, who developed the idea of his “teaching machine” when he visited his daughter’s fourth grade class in 1953. Skinner believed that a machine could provide a superior form of reinforcement to the human teacher, who relied too much on negative reinforcement, punishing students for bad behavior than on positive reinforcement, the kind that better trains the pigeons.

    As Skinner wrote in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, “We need to make vast changes in human behavior…. What we need is a technology of behavior." Teaching machines, he argued, would be one such technology.

    By arranging appropriate ‘contingencies of reinforcement,’ specific forms of behavior can be set up and brought under the control of specific classes of stimuli. The resulting behavior can be maintained in strength for long periods of time. A technology based on this work has already been put to use in neurology, pharmacology, nutrition, psychophysics, psychiatry, and elsewhere.


    The analysis is also relevant to education. A student is ‘taught’ in the sense that he is induced to engage in new forms of behavior and in specific form upon specific occasions. It is not merely a matter of teaching him what to do; we are as much concerned with the probability that appropriate behavior will, indeed, appear at the proper time – an issue which would be classed traditionally under motivation.

    Skinner was unsuccessful in convincing schools in the 1950s and 1960s that they should buy his teaching machines, and some people argue that his work has fallen completely out of favor, only invoked when deriding something as a “Skinner’s Box.” But I think there’s been a resurgence in behaviorism. It’s epicenter isn’t Harvard, where Skinner taught. It’s Stanford. It’s Silicon Valley. And this new behaviorism is fundamental to how many new digital technologies are being built.

    It’s called “behavior design” today (because at Stanford, you put the word “design” in everything to make it sound beautiful not totally rotten). Stanford psychologist B. J. Fogg and his Persuasive Technology Lab teach engineers and entrepreneurs how to build products – some of the most popular apps can trace their origins to the lab – that manipulate and influence users, encouraging certain actions or behaviors and discouraging others and cultivating a kind of “addiction” or conditioned response. “Contingencies of reinforcement,” as Skinner would call them. “Technique,” Jacques Ellul would say. “Nudges,” per behavioral economist Richard Thaler, recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics.

    New technologies are purposefully engineered to demand our attention, to “hijack our minds.” They’re designed to elicit certain responses and to shape and alter our behaviors. Ostensibly all these nudges are supposed to make us better people– that’s the shiniest version of the story promoted in books like Nudge and Thinking about Thinking. But much of this is really about getting us to click on ads, to respond to notifications, to open apps, to stay on Web pages, to scroll, to share – actions and “metrics” that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors value.

    There’s a darker side still to this as I argued in the first article in this very, very long series: this kind of behavior management has become embedded in our new information architecture. It’s “fake news,” sure. But it’s also disinformation plus big data plus psychological profiling and behavior modification. The Silicon Valley “nudge” is a corporate nudge. But as these technologies are increasingly part of media, scholarship, and schooling, it’s a civics nudge too.

    Those darling little ClassDojo monsters are a lot less cute when you see them as part of a new regime of educational data science, experimentation, and “psycho-informatics.”

    Personalized Learning and the Nudge


    In May, The Australian obtained a 23-page document from Facebook’s Australian office detailing how the company had offered to advertisers the ability to target some 6.4 million young people (some as young as 14) during moments of emotional vulnerability – when they felt “worthless,” “insecure,” “defeated,” “anxious,” “silly,” “useless,” “stupid,” “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” or “a failure.” Facebook denied the reporting, stating that The Australian article was misleading and insisting that the company “does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state.” Of course, five years ago, the company did conduct a mass experiment on the manipulation of users’ emotions. It published those findings in an academic journal.

    Facebook might not offer tools to identify users’ emotions to others, but it certainly uses them internally. In November, it unveiled a service to detect if users are suicidal. And earlier this year Facebook IQ, the company’s research division, did publish a paper on how marketers could utilize the emotional experiences people will have in VR. (Remember: Facebook owns Oculus Rift.) “All participants wore EEG headsets to analyze their brain signals and measure their level of comfort and engagement.” The company also announced at its annual developer conference this spring that, like Elon Musk, it too is working on a brain-computer interface. Facebook won’t say if it plans to use brain activity for advertising.

    “Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?” Facebook’s Director of Research David Ginsberg pondered in a company blog post last week. And certainly there has been a ton of ink spilled this year on this very question, noting the increased depression and anxiety (particularly among teens) that some researchers are tracing to the Internet in general and to social media specifically. “Increased Hours Online Correlate With Uptick In Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts,” Mindshift reported this fall. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” asked Jean M. Twenge in a widely-read article in The Atlantic, also published this fall. Many in education technology like to scoff at these sorts of claims, I realize. They’re prone to side with Facebook’s Ginsberg: “our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being.”

    Facebook is the largest social network in the world. As of June, it boasted some 2 billion active monthly users. The manipulation of users’ social and emotional experiences should not be minimized or dismissed. And for educators, it’s important to recognize that interest in social and emotional experience and behavioral design is not just something that happens on the Facebook platform (or with other consumer-facing technologies).

    Mark Zuckerberg and his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote his vision of “personalized learning.” It’s a vision that, as the head of its education work Jim Shelton recently wrote in an article on Medium, “embraces the role of social-emotional and interpersonal skills, mental and physical health, and a child’s confident progress toward a sense of purpose.”

    “More personal means more equitable and just,” Shelton insisted in that Medium essay. And I do not doubt that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook all believe that. They believe that they have our best interests at heart, and they will guide us – algorithmically, of course – to “good” academics and “good” thoughts and “good” feelings and “good” behavior, defining and designing, of course, what “good” looks like.

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com. You can read more at 2017trends.hackeducation.com.


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  • 12/29/17--00:50: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    “Where is Trump’s Cabinet?” asks Politico. “It’s anybody’s guess.” The story include updates about US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her failure to disclosure her complete schedule.

    “The Library of Congress No Longer Wants All the Tweets,” says The New York Times. Related thoughts from Ed Summers.

    Andrew Rotherham on the new tax code’s provision to allow 529s for private schools: “A Lousy School Choice.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Britain May Fine Universities That Limit Free Speech.”

    Via Wired UK: “UK’s Nudge Unit tests machine learning to rate schools and GPs.” “Nudge Unit.” JFC.

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via Education Week: “Two Districts Roll Back Summit Personalized Learning Program.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cuomo Wants Food Pantries at all New York Public Colleges.”

    Via The Boston Globe: “Boston drops plan to change school hours.”

    Education in the Courts


    I’m not sure the best section for this story as so many “hate crimes” actually never make it to the legal system. But here it is, nonetheless. Via ProPublica: “What We Discovered During a Year of Documenting Hate.”

    Via the AP: “A federal judge has issued a final judgment, blocking an Arizona state law that prompted the dismantling of a Mexican-American history program in Tucson’s largest school district.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Judge lifts restraining order against Project Veritas in case involving teachers union.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “A Look at Sexual-Harassment and Assault Settlements in Schools.”

    Via Security Boulevard: “Canada Proposes $17.5M Settlement for Student Loan Privacy Breach.”

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Atlantic: “The Intrusion of White Families Into Bilingual Schools.”

    Via The Boston Globe: “New college for conservative Christians planned in Boston.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via The Intercept: “The NCAA Makes Billions, College Athletes Get Nothing. LaVar Ball Wants to Shake Up the System.”

    From the HR Department


    George Ciccariello-Maher has left his position at Drexel, citing threats to himself and his family.

    The Business of Job Training


    “Best Online Classes for Job Skills,” according to MIT Technology Review.

    Contests and Awards


    From the press release: “Alexa Skills Challenge Offers $250,000 in Prizes for Best Kid Skills.” “The best kids skills,” I’m just gonna say, should never include surveillance capitalism, folks.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    “Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain,” says Hacker Noon. Except everyone in education who keeps insisting that it’s gonna “tokenize learning” or “revolutionize grades” or something. Or stuff like this, also on Hacker Noon: “Introducing The Crypto University.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “ YouTube Has A Massive Child Exploitation Problem. How Humans Train Its Search AI Is Partly Why.”

    OER, Capability, and Opportunity” by David Wiley.

    Via Edsurge: “OER Had Its Breakthrough in 2017. Next Year, It Will Become an Essential Teaching Tool.” “OER is about to become for course planning what LMS is for grading,” which frankly sounds awful.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, “Textbook Shopping Goes Online, Driving Prices Down.”

    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “Cengage Unlimited Textbook Author Update.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Via Today Online: “Robot tutors set to help students take on China’s daunting Gaokao college entrance exams.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    PeerGrade has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, byFounders, Project A, Nordic Makers Learn Capital and Futuristic.VC. The peer feedback company has raised $1.89 million total.

    Edlio has acquiredScholantis.

    Eurazeo and Primavera Capital have acquiredWorldStrides.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    The most Wired headline: “Science Says Fitness Trackers Don’t Work. Wear One Anyway.”

    Via The Hickory Record: “Newton-Conover City School use data walls to close academic gaps.”

    There’s more about legal cases surrounding privacy breaches in the courts section above.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via The Exstreamist: “Kids in ‘Netflix Only’ Homes are Being Saved from 230 Hours of Commercials a Year.” (I’m not so sure about this, but hey. Nice marketing for streaming services published on a site about streaming services.)

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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    This is part eleven of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories

    In May, venture capitalist and former securities analyst Mary Meeker released her annual “Internet Trends” report. The report is always a big deal in technology circles – “a tech industry event in its own right,” as Wired’s Steven Levy put it in 2012– and many publications and pundits dutifully cover Meeker’s observations, often adding very little analysis of their own.

    Among the major trends Meeker identified for 2017: mobile advertising, gaming, and healthcare. She also noted the growth of markets in China and in India.

    Another notable area of growth: the size of the report itself, which has expanded from 66 slides in 2011 to 355 this year, with the number of slides almost doubling in the last year alone. Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better or smarter (as readers of this series will surely attest), and some observers wondered if the length of Meeker’s report reflected a lack of focus on her part or a lack of innovation on the part of the industry itself. There are, after all, only so many times you can put “mobile” on your list of “what’s on the horizon” before folks begin to suspect your insights might not be that… insightful.

    Much of what Meeker says in this year’s report about education is placed under her category “gaming.” She posits gaming as the new site for “modern learning,” with an emphasis on skills training and data-driven self-improvement.

    I admit, I find this both an odd and a striking observation. Although I’ve written extensively in this series about the ways in which education is being framed in terms of “skills” and “data” and about how “behaviorism” – an older term for “gamification,” I’d wager – is growing more and more influential over how education products and policies are designed, I haven’t seen much indication this year that the future of education (or even the future of ed-tech) is “gaming” per se. (Although no doubt, Microsoft, now the owner of Minecraft, would like us all to repeat that particular storyline.) That this is how a venture capitalist would characterize the future of education is, nonetheless, quite notable.

    And it raises a number of questions, I think: how good is Mary Meeker at actually identifying and analyzing Internet trends? (Hacker News commenters complained that she made no mention in her report of the blockchain or cryptocurrencies or Initial Coin Offerings. But guys, that might mean those aren’t actually “a thing.”) How accurate are her observations? How accurate is her data? (I’d contend that the slide on the rapid acceleration of technology adoption, for starters, is dead wrong.)

    Why do so many people in the industry insist that this is “essential reading”? Why do people love to be told about “trends”?

    Tom Webster, the VP of strategy at the market research firm Edison Research, argued that the report should be viewed as “an extremely effective piece of content marketing,” pointing to the number of slides that cite data about or by a portfolio company of Meeker’s employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Smith Caulfield. “Why are there 72 slides about gaming, from a company invested in EA, Zynga, Mobcrush, and Magic Leap?” he asks. “Why is there a slide about Peloton? Is this really a trend? Would it be valuable to KPCB if it were?”

    (For what it’s worth, Kleiner Perkins made just one major investment in education in 2017, participating in Coursera’s $64 million round this summer. KPCB partner John Doerr also invested in the “college alternative” MissionU.)

    “Think critically about what has, and has not, been covered in this deck,” Webster urges. “Think about how much the report’s heft and quality lowers your defenses. And consider how much of the deck is about Internet Trends, and how much is a statement about KPCB’s portfolio. There is much to learn from the Meeker report. It’s just not what you think.”

    The same could be said about so many of the reports and so much the writing that came out of the ed-tech industry this year. (It holds true for my work too, of course.) Why are certain types of technologies (and certain types of users) featured? Who and what is missing? Who is telling the stories, and who is funding the stories, and how much of ed-tech journalism ends up reflecting their “portfolio,” if you will – the political and financial investments certain people have made in a certain type of future.

    Manufacturing Trends


    There may be no better example of this in 2017 than “personalized learning.” There were hundreds upon hundreds of headlines this year, many touting the promise of new technologies to tailor teaching to each individual learner.

    “Personalized learning” has powerful advocates, least of which US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who talks about it as part of her broader initiative to “rethink school.” DeVos likes to contrast stories about “personalized learning” with a narrative about school not changing in hundreds of years, about school not recognizing individual student’s needs, about schools forcing students to all learn the same material at the same pace. “It’s a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons and denies futures,” she told a crowd at a school in my hometown of Casper, Wyoming this fall. “Personalized learning,” we must imagine if we believe DeVos’s lyricism here, will be shinier.

    I say “must imagine” because there isn’t really much research that supports the claims that “personalized learning” advocates make about it. There was a RAND study, funded by the Gates Foundation and released this summer, that did find modest gains for students in schools (that were funded by the Gates Foundation to utilize “personalized learning”) that tailored instruction to their needs, but the researchers cautioned against reading too much into the results and urged schools not to rush into buying new products or implementing new initiatives. There’s really no agreed-upon definition of “personalized learning” after all, and as such no real way to measure how many or how well schools are actually implementing it. Whatever “it” is.

    So is “personalized learning” really a “trend”?

    The lack of research hasn’t stopped the positive press coverage. Nor has it stopped Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from making “personalized learning” a centerpiece of his venture philanthropy firm’s education work or from vowing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it. Indeed, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has paid for some of that very press coverage, funding for example “an EdSurge Research series about how personalized learning is implemented in different school communities across the country.”

    How Philanthropy Shapes “Ed-Tech Trends”


    It’s hard to overstate how much influence philanthropic organizations have had on education policy, now and throughout US history. According to David Callahan, editor of the website Inside Philanthropy and author of the 2017 book The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy, philanthropists have more power than ever before, and “that influence is likely to grow far greater in coming decades.”

    While civil society was a junior partner in the twentieth century relative to government and business, this is changing: Philanthropy is becoming a much stronger power center and, in some areas, is set to surpass government in its ability to shape society’s agenda. To put things differently, we face a future in which private donors – who are accountable to no one – may often wield more influence than elected public officials , who (in theory, anyway) are accountable to all of us.

    No longer is this simply a matter of making a donation and getting one’s name on a university building – although there is still plenty of that. Philanthropy today shapes policy. It shapes discourse.

    No contemporary billionaire has shaped the policy and the discourse in education quite like Bill Gates. The amount of money distributed by his philanthropy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is simply staggering: some $15 billion across some 3000+ grants since the organization was founded in 1998. The Gates Foundation has backed a variety of education reform initiatives: charter schools, the Common Core State Standards, “small schools,” inBloom, teacher evaluations, and yes, “personalized learning.” He has backed these initiatives financially; and he has backed the publications and conferences that promote these sorts of efforts. The policy and the discourse.

    In October, Gates announced to the attendees at the Council of the Great City Schools that his foundation plans to spend $1.7 billion in the next five years on education initiatives. But, Gates added, “our education efforts are evolving.”

    The foundation will no longer directly invest in new initiatives involving teacher evaluations and ratings, Gates said – something the foundation has spent almost a billion dollars on – but will continue to gather data on the impact of these kinds of reforms. The foundation will focus on “locally-driven solutions” that networks of schools say are working well, using “data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions to improve student achievement.” It will help to develop curricula and professional development aligned to state standards. It will continue to support charter schools, helping them with challenges like developing students’ “social and emotional skills.” And it will fund “innovative” research to “accelerate progress for underserved students.”

    No mention of “personalized learning” in that outline, something that the Gates Foundation first started funding back in 2000 in some of its earliest grants “to support personalized learning environments where all students achieve.” Why, it’s almost as though there is some other tech billionaire who will now pick up the mantle for that cause…

    There are many other billionaires – and not just tech billionaires, of course – who are active in education philanthropy and as such, education policy and education discourse. The Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame and fortune), for example, which pledged last year to spend $1 billion in K–12 education in the next five years, much of it going to fund charter schools. The Eli and Edith Broad Foundation, whose founder Eli Broad announced this year he was stepping down from his philanthropy. The Sackler family – dubbed by The New Yorker this year as “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” because of its role in funding the opiate industry – has backed a variety of education philanthropies and invested in a variety of education companies (including AltSchool). The Charles Koch Foundation, which gave some $50 million last year to universities and think tanks to support “free market ideas.” (I talk a bit about the Koch Brothers in part seven of this series that examines “free speech” on campus.) The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, which has given money to charter schools (including Success Academy Charter Schools), media organizations (including The 74), and conservative education organizations (including Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education). (Perhaps that name, Betsy DeVos, is familiar. I have mentioned her once or twice in this series.)

    Some of this is what Jane Mayer describes in her 2016 book Dark Money– the powerful and secretive networks of right-wing billionaire activists. Some of this is what was revealed this year in the release of the Paradise Papers– a trove of documents that show how wealthy individuals (and wealthy corporations and wealthy universities) keep their money in shell companies and offshore accounts, so as to avoid taxes. (According to The Givers, the US Treasury has estimated that charitable tax breaks will total some $740 billion over the next decade, although this calculation came prior the recent GOP tax plan that altered how the middle class benefits from these sorts of deductions.)

    To avoid taxes and to avoid scrutiny.

    To its credit, the Gates Foundation does make the list of its grant recipients publicly available on its website. (I spent some time this summer going through that list and compiling all the education-related ones – you can find that work on funding.hackeducation.com, including details of the $235-ish million in grant funding that went to education projects this year.)

    But others in education philanthropy, particularly venture philanthropy, are far less transparent. The Emerson Collective, the investment firm run by Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, is notoriously opaque about its investments. Edsurge, for example, received funding from the company this year, but there was no public announcement to that end.

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, for its part, has opted for a different organizational structure – an LLC – enabling it to avoid the kinds of disclosure that the IRS requires of foundations like the Gates’. As Jesse Eisinger wrote in a scathing article in The New York Times when Mark Zuckerberg announced the initiative back in 2015,

    An L.L.C. can invest in for-profit companies (perhaps these will be characterized as societally responsible companies, but lots of companies claim the mantle of societal responsibility). An L.L.C. can make political donations. It can lobby for changes in the law. He remains completely free to do as he wishes with his money. That’s what America is all about. But as a society, we don’t generally call these types of activities “charity.”

    Despite the promises that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has made about investing hundreds of millions of dollars in personalized learning and other education projects, we don’t know how much has been invested or how much has been granted or where all that money has gone.

    We did learn a little this year about what happened to that famous $100 million donation Zuckerberg made to Newark’s public schools– thanks to research underwritten by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: “by 2016, Newark students were making greater gains on English tests than they were in 2011. But the results are not uniformly positive. It finds no impact in math. And in both subjects, the reforms seem to have come with a cost: student achievement declined substantially in the first three years of the changes,” Chalkbeat reported this fall.

    And we learned a little too about other CZI efforts based on the odd press release and media coverage: money to the College Board; money to Chiefs for Change; investments in Brightwheel, Sawyer, Andela, and Panorama Education. CZI hired Bror Saxberg, whose previous work was with the for-profit online charter school K12 Inc and the for-profit college Kaplan, as its learning scientist. It hired David Plouffe, Obama’s ex-campaign manager who had most recently worked at Uber. It hired former PayPal exec Peggy Abkemeier Alford as its CFO. It hired Joel Benenson, former Obama and Clinton political strategist. (Don’t worry. Mark Zuckerberg is totally not running for President.)

    If the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a new model for ed-tech philanthropy, then it’s important to recognize how its lack of transparency reflects a growing influence of “dark money” in education and education technology. The policy and the discourse.

    Venture Capital in 2017


    You can find more data about “the business of ed-tech” – from 2017 and from previous years – on funding.hackeducation.com. Here are some of the numbers from this one:

    • Amount of venture capital invested in 2017: $3.48 billion
    • Number of investments: 198
    • Average investment size: $19 million / Median investment size: $5 million
    • Number of acquisitions: 86
    • Number of mergers: 4
    • Number of IPOs: 4
    • Number added to the “ed-tech dead pool”: 4

    The amount of investment is up from last year by over $1 billion. But it’s down from the record-setting year in 2015 – down by about $1 billion. The number of deals this year is also down from the two previous years, as is the number of acquisitions. That is, there were more large investments in fewer companies, but also fewer companies buying the little ones in turn.

    The companies that have raised the most money in 2017 (not including the venture capital firms that have raised new funds):

    • SoFi (private student loans) –- $500 million
    • VIPKID (tutoring) – $200 million
    • EverFi (“critical skills” training) –- $190 million
    • Zuoyebang (tutoring) – $150 million
    • Hero K12 (behavior management) –- $150 million
    • Yuanfandao (tutoring) –- $120 million
    • Grammarly (grammar and spelling assistance in exchange for your personal data) –- $110 million
    • Xueba100.com (tutoring) -– $100 million
    • Liulishuo (language learning) – $100 million
    • Gaosi Education (tutoring) – $83.5 million
    • BYJU’s (test prep) – $70 million
    • Coursera (online education) –- $64 million
    • Absorb (learning management system) – $59 million
    • Changingedu (tutoring) – $55 million
    • Yixue Education (online education) – $41 million
    • Wonder Workshop (robotics) – $41 million
    • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $40 million
    • Prodigy Finance (student loans) – $40 million

    These are (as far as I can tell) currently the most well-funded startups in education:

    • SoFi (student loans) – $2.156 billion
    • VIPKID (tutoring) – $325 million
    • EverFi (“critical skills” training) – $251 million
    • BYJUs (test prep) – $244 million
    • Coursera (online education) – $210.1 million
    • Yuanfandao (tutoring) –- $210 million
    • Zuoyebang (tutoring) – $210 million
    • Pluralsight (skills training) – $192.5 million
    • Age of Learning (educational apps) – $181.5 million
    • Udemy (skills training) – $173 million
    • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $172.9 million
    • Kaltura (video) – $166.1 million
    • D2L (learning management system) – $165 million
    • Udacity (skills training) – $160 million
    • Knewton (mind-reading robo tutor in the sky) – $157.25 million

    The most active venture capitalist firms this year:

    • University Ventures (with investments in Smart Sparrow, AdmitHub, CollegeVine, Examity, Motimatic, OOHLALA, Paragon One, PeopleGrove, Packback, EquitySim, Evertrue, Vemo Education, MissionU, and Galvanize. I would argue that University Ventures is not only the most active investor but also the one most actively shaping discourse, with regular op-eds by partner Ryan Craig in Techcrunch and in Edsurge)
    • Reach Capital (with investments in Abl, AdmitHub, BookNook, Epic, Holberton School, Mrs. Wordsmith, Mystery Science, Nearpod, PeopleGrove, Lightneer, Tinkergarten, Piper, BetterLesson, and OOHLALA)
    • Rethink Education (with investments in Abl, Clark, Knowledge to Practice, Trilogy Education, Vidcode, Voxy, MissionU, Upswing, and Lessonly)
    • GSV (with investments in CreativeLive, MasterClass, PeopleGrove, Raise.me, Voxy, Lightneer, Nearpod, Coursera, and Motimatic from GSV Acceleration, GSV Asset Management, and GSV Capital)
    • Owl Ventures (with investments in Abl, Lingo Live, Raise.me, Tinkergarten, Piper, BetterLesson, Panorama Education, and Noodle Partners)
    • Learn Capital (with investments in Coursera, Mystery Science, Outschool, Paragon One, MissionU, Springboard, and Peergrade)

    Manufacturing Markets


    Among the most popular areas of investment for venture capitalists:

    • Tutoring, with ~ $667.42 million in funding
    • Student loans, with ~ $583.8 million in funding (Financial aid management companies raised another $37.5 million this year)
    • Online education, with ~ $358.85 million in funding
    • Venture capital firms, with ~ $306.5 million in funding
    • Language learning, with ~ $185.6 million in funding
    • Behavior management, with ~ $150 million in funding
    • Grammar and spelling assistance, with ~ $110 million in funding
    • Coding bootcamps, with ~ $107.6 million in funding (Other learn-to-code companies raised about $22.89 million this year)
    • Robotics, with ~ $99 million in funding
    • Test prep, with ~ $80 million in funding
    • Learning management systems, with ~ $65 million in funding

    It’s worth considering, I think, whether or not the level of investment matches the hype: do the areas above coincide with the stories that we were most often told this year about what, supposedly, are “ed-tech trends.” Gaming – what Mary Meeker, if you’ll recall, positions as the future of learning – doesn’t make the list here, for example. Nor does “social emotional learning,” virtual reality, predictive analytics, wearables, or the other things likely to end up on various publications’ lists of trends. Are tutoring and test prep – pax Benjamin Bloom – actually what we can expect with investors’ and philanthropists’ push for “personalized learning”?

    Looking at investment dollars doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, of what might be “trending” – of what’s popular, of what’s profitable, of (god knows) what’s pedagogically useful or ethically desirable.

    One could look at other financial indicators, I suppose, to get a sense of the health and viability of certain trends (or at least, of certain businesses). Companies that were acquired in 2017, for example. The number of acquisitions was down from previous years, as some of the companies who, in previous years, gobbled up a lot of small startups, seem to be struggling financially. (Pearson, for one.) Or one could gauge “ed-tech trends” based on the companies that went out of business. This year, Yik Yak shut down, despite having raised some $73 million in venture funding. Two high-profile coding bootcamps, The Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp, closed their doors. Or one could look at ed-tech companies that laid off staff: the coding bootcamp Galvanize, the analytics company Civitas Learning, the learning management system Schoology, MOOC provider Coursera, the education giant Pearson, for example. One could look at companies that made major shuffles in the executive boardrooms: a new CEO at Coursera, the departure of Coursera’s chief product officer, a new CEO at Knewton, the departure of Altschool’s COO, for instance.

    Of course, it might not be possible (or wise) to glean “trends” from business patterns, despite the popularity of all those Mary Meeker slides. But it’s probably one way to surmise what investors are betting “the future of education” to look like. If that’s the case, that future might look like China, with over a quarter of venture capital in ed-tech this year going to Chinese companies – almost entirely to tutoring and test prep. Six out of the top ten largest rounds of funding went to Chinese companies. Three out of four of the education IPOs this year were Chinese companies. Three out of the best funded education startups are Chinese companies. There was lots of talk this year about Chinese’s growing influence and innovation in tech, so to borrow from a Fortune headline, will China emerge as an education technology superpower to rival the US? How will the growing demand for education in China shape the future of education technologically and the future of education globally?

    (Yes, this series is focused primarily on the stories we were told about education and education technology in the US. For a quick overview of some of the other stories from other countries, you can read more on the 2017trends.hackeducation.com blog.)

    For the past few years, I’ve noted that many in education technology have pointed to the procurement process as “the problem” – that that’s really what’s to blame when ed-tech (and the business of ed-tech) is terrible. Their “solution”: something I dubbed “procurement-as-a-service” – that is, a service offered to schools to help them make better and easier purchasing decisions. “Consulting” is probably the better word for it, in hindsight.

    There were a string of events at the beginning of 2017 that made me think that this was going to become “a thing”:

    • Edsurge announced in January that it would concentrate on its “Concierge” service, acting as a liaison between schools and industry and aiding the former in deciding which of the latter’s products to buy. “We’re taking a big step and committing ourselves to one goal,” Edsurge wrote. “Helping schools figure out what technologies can best help all of their students grow into people who can smartly navigate our complex, networked world.”
    • Noodle Companies announced in January it had raised $5 million in venture capital. The company, founded by Princeton Review and 2U founder (and Edsurge investor) John Katzman, runs Noodle Markets, which helps schools with procurement.
    • In February, Education Week reported that districts and schools will be able to make purchases online via Amazon through the US Communities cooperative.
    • Education Week also reported in February that the State Educational Technology Directors Association had released a new website that offered guidelines on purchasing digital materials.
    • In February, The Hechinger Report profiled LEAP Innovations, a Chicago-based non-profit, alongside the LearnLaunch startup accelerator program: “How some schools decide what education technology to buy.”
    • In February, Education Dive profiled the Technology for Education Consortium, an organization whose members share data about what they’ve paid for ed-tech products, and its partnership with LearnPlatform. In April, Education Week’s Market Brief reported on a study by the consortium claiming school districts could save billions if they shared with one another the details about what they were paying for hardware and software.

    But then in May, Edsurge suddenly pivoted again, announcing “the next stage” for its Concierge service: “Starting on June 1, EdSurge Concierge will no longer offer free, phone-based diagnostics to school and district administrators, nor will we make direct connections between administrators and company representatives.” Instead, it said it would offer some diagnostic tools online.

    Around the same time, The New York Times began publishing Natasha Singer’s year-long investigative series into how education technology is being sold to classrooms, chronicling the ways in which Silicon Valley is changing what hardware, software, and curricula schools purchase. “Some tech moguls are taking a hands-on role in nearly every step of the education supply chain,” Singer wrote, “by financing campaigns to alter policy, building learning apps to advance their aims and subsidizing teacher training.” Edsurge, I’d suggest, may be a key piece of that supply chain, funded by the very same investors who’ve backed the products it covers and “trends” it promotes.

    Singer’s series examined how tech companies are wooing school “gatekeepers” and decision-makers – how the Baltimore County Public Schools in particular made some of its tech procurement decisions, noting a tangle of relationships among education foundations, ed-tech advocacy groups, technology companies, and public officials (including the district’s superintendent Dallas Dance, who resigned suddenly in April and is now under investigation, in part for his connections to SUPES Academy, according to The Baltimore Sun, a company run by the former head of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who pleaded guilty in April to a bribery and kickback scheme).

    Perhaps the most controversial (in some circles, at least) story in Singer’s series was her look at “brand ambassadors,” those educators who provide free marketing for ed-tech companies – receiving new products for use in their classroom (for free and as such outside the typical procurement process), promoting these products to other educators, and providing the companies with feedback. The story profiles two teachers – Nicholas Provenzano from Gross Pointe South High School in Michigan and Kayla Delzer from Mapleton Elementary School in North Dakota – who have leveraged their social media followings to become high profile “influencers” in education technology, shaping what other teachers learn about “ed-tech trends.”

    Here’s part of what I wrote in response to that article:

    “I am in this profession for kids,” these celebrity educators insist, not for money or fame. But altruism is not the same as justice.


    “My kids have access to awesome things that, as a district, we could never afford,” teacher Nick Provenzano tells The NYT in justifying his relationship with a 3D printer company. The article takes that assertion at face value; many readers probably did too. Again, we all know that school budgets are tight. But “tight” is relative; budgets are relative. And Provenzano’s school is quite affluent. Just 7% of the students at his school qualify for the free and reduced lunch program – the state-wide average in Michigan is 38%, and 74% of students in the neighboring Detroit Public Schools qualify. Provenzano worries his English lit students won’t have a 3D printer; teachers (and parents) just 8 miles away in Detroit still have to worry about the lead in the city’s drinking water.


    Inequality is rampant throughout public education in the United States (and yes, throughout the United States itself), and inequality affects not just how much money is allocated per student – funding is typically tied to property taxes – or how much teachers and families can afford and expect to spend in order to supplement that. These inequalities affect what sorts of education technology appears in the classroom and how these products are used. Some students get 3D printers; some students get digital drill-and-kill. Some students get colorful beanbags to sit in; some students have to walk through metal detectors.


    Educational inequalities are historical and they are structural and they are dependent on class and race and geography. 86% of the students at Provenzano’s school are white; 80% of those at Kayla Delzer’s, the other teacher in The NYT story, are white (which is, in fairness, a reflection of the overwhelmingly whiteness of North Dakota). This stands in stark contrast to the percentage of students enrolled in public schools across the entire US who are white: less than 50%. The student-teacher ratio at Delzer’s schools is 8 to 1; it’s significantly higher – no surprise – in those classrooms in Detroit, which makes it difficult to imagine how a teacher there could adopt the “flexible seating” options that Delzer promotes with her social media profile.

    The New York Times series raises a lot of questions about the ethics of ed-tech procurement – about “influence” and decision-making and one of today’s most powerful industries. But it raises questions too about the business of “ed-tech trends” and the power of ed-tech storytelling. We’d do well to consider how our imaginations about the future of education and education technology are shaped by the narratives we see promoted by education investors and education philanthropists and education trade shows and education companies and by the educators that regularly speak for them. What ends up on schools’ and students’ shopping lists because of these stories? What legislation ends up on politicians’ desks?

    Imagine that, instead of fawning over future-oriented “trends” or the future promise of products – be they virtual reality or “personalized learning” or “flexible seating” or what have you, that education technology actually centered itself on ethical practices – on an ethics of care. And imagine if education’s investors, philanthropists, and practitioners alike committed to addressing, say, economic inequality and racial segregation instead of simply committing to buying more tech.

    It’d be a whole different story…

    Financial data on the major corporations and investors involved in this and all the trends I cover in this series can be found on funding.hackeducation.com. You can read more at 2017trends.hackeducation.com.


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    I wouldn’t say these are all the stories about education technology we were told this year. But these are the ones I decided to analyze:

    In addition to these eleven (damn) articles, I wrote a bunch of supplemental pieces, mostly trying to fill in some of the gaps in the storytelling:

    I also wrote about the investors and corporations funding each of these powerful storylines (or at least, funding the new ed-tech companies associated with them):

    This was the eighth time undertaking this year-end project, and it was, by far, the most difficult one yet. In part, 2017 was just a very bad year. A bad year for the politics of education. A bad year for the politics of technology. A busy year, full of bad education technology. There were many ed-tech storylines to follow, almost all of them dystopian. In part too, this project is just a lot of work, as there’s a ton of writing and as (I hope) there’s some big thinking as well.

    This undertaking would not be possible without the scholarship of many other writers and thinkers. (So credit where credit is due.) And it certainly would not be possible without the financial and moral support of readers. Thank you everyone who read and shared my work this year.

    Except for the haters. Don’t @ me.


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  • 01/01/18--09:10: New Year's Updates
  • I’ve made some changes to this site, most obviously updating the header image. That’s thanks to Bryan Mathers, of course, who continues to capture what I am thinking so perfectly in his drawings. (Why a pigeon?)

    Those who look closely will also note that I have also changed how the work here is licensed. No longer is there a Creative Commons license on Hack Education material or on my personal blog. This really doesn’t change much, I promise. It does not change what you can read on my sites. Hack Education will remain free, without advertising or analytics or paywalls of any sort. Mostly it means you have to ask my permission before republishing my work. If you do wish to reprint or reuse my writing, please contact me directly.

    Like all decisions I make about my websites, I am quite certain that this will enrage a handful of people who feel as though it is my duty to make myself “open” and “accessible” on their terms, but not on mine. Instead of making demands and making presumptions about a writer (any writer, but particularly this woman), ask permission.


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  • 01/05/18--02:45: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics


    You know it’s amazing news when The Guardian publishes it one minute after midnight in the new year: “Toby Young to help lead government’s new universities regulator.” Happy New Year, England! And congrats on being first off the blocks to fuck up education in 2018! “Who’s Toby Young?” Americans wonder. Well… Ask any of your British education colleagues. They’ll tell ya.

    Via Buzzfeed: “A New Betsy DeVos Proposal Would Make It Much Tougher For Students To Get Loan Forgiveness.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Elizabeth Warren wants the Education Dept.’s use of earnings data investigated.”

    More on how the GOP tax plan will effect universities (particularly those with large endowments) in Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Edsurge: “After Net Neutrality, Experts Expect Changes to FCC’s E-Rate.”

    Former English minister of education David Laws onLiberia’s big school experiment.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via The Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore teachers call on city to close all schools amid heating issues.” More via NPR.

    Via The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Two-plus hours on a school bus: How a Chester charter taps Philly kids to grow.”

    Via CJonline.com: “Kansas GOP making moves to prepare for April vote on K–12 constitutional amendment” – this would rewrite "the state’s obligation to educate public school children."

    Via The New York Times: “Met Changes 50-Year Admissions Policy: Non-New Yorkers Must Pay.”

    Via The New York Times: “City of the Future? Humans, Not Technology, Are the Challenge in Toronto.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via The New York Times: “As Flow of Foreign Students Wanes, U.S. Universities Feel the Sting.”

    Via ProPublica: “Trump Justice Department Pushes for Citizenship Question on Census, Alarming Experts.”

    Education in the Courts


    Via Complex: “Federal Court Says High School Football Player Can’t Be Forced to Stand for National Anthem.”

    Via Education Week: “Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Online Charter School Funding Dispute.”

    Via The New York Times: “School Soccer Coach in California Charged With Trafficking Teenage Girls.”

    The Business of Financial Aid


    The Washington Post looks at income sharing agreements.

    There’s more about the politics of the business of student loans in the federal education above. And the business of student loans is off to a strong start in 2018 with fundraising news in the venture capital section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    For-profit colleges bought and sold in the “business of education” section below. And more too on accreditation for for-profits in the accreditation section below.

    Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


    Amazon Web Services (AWS) has joinededX.

    There’s data about distance education enrollments in the US in the research section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Via The Atlantic: “The Future of Trumpism Is on Campus.”

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Career Education Colleges and Universities, a trade group for the for-profit college sector, this week called on the U.S. Congress to give colleges that are accredited by an agency the Obama administration terminated more time to find a new accreditor.”

    Testing


    “Is the Smarter Balanced National Test Broken?” asks Education Dive, which I suppose is a question that should put this story into the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section.

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Feds Set Stage for ESSA‘Innovative’ Testing Pilots. But States, Vendors May Move Slowly.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    Via NPR: “Training For The Olympics Is Hard Enough. Try Doing That While Earning A Degree.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Arizona has fired its head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, following allegations by his former administrative assistant that Rodriguez sexually harassed her.”

    There’s sports-related news in the courts section above.

    Memos from HR


    Via The Guardian: “Google faces new discrimination charge: paying female teachers less than men.”

    More hiring and firing news in the sports section above.

    Contests and Awards


    From Chalkbeat: “Why we decided to launch the Great American Teach-Off, and how it will work.”

    “I Have Big Reservations About Chalkbeat’s Teaching Competition,” says Dan Meyer.

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Via The New York Times: “How Climate Change Deniers Rise to the Top in Google Searches.”

    Via Vanity Fair: “‘Oh My God, This Is So F—ed Up’: Inside Silicon Valley’s Secretive, Orgiastic Dark Side.” Good thing no one in Silicon Valley is trying to shape the future of education, otherwise this story would be even more horrific.

    Yes, this is ed-tech. Weapons training and metal detectors are ed-tech. School furnaces are also ed-tech. Perhaps if we paid attention to more than just the venture-backed gadgetry and philanthropy-backed stories about “innovation,” we could work towards schools that were actually safer and more just.

    The Atlantic on Logan Paul: “The Social-Media Star and the Suicide.”

    Via The Guardian: “Neurotechnology, Elon Musk and the goal of human enhancement.”

    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “Good Enough vs. Better Enough: The Macmillan Example.”

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    From the Amazon PR department: “University of Oklahoma Expands Student Engagement with Alexa Skills.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech


    The private school provider Taaleem has raised $14 million from Amanat Holdings.

    Frank has raised $10 million from Reach Capital,Aleph, and Apollo Global Management. “A TurboTax for student loan applications” according to Techcrunch, the company has raised $15.5 million total.

    The private equity firm KKR has sold its stake in Weld North Education to another private equity firm, Silver Lake. Edsurge reports that Weld North Education will still be run by former Kaplan exec Jonathan Grayer.

    The for-profit chain of colleges Education Corporation of America has acquired the for-profit chain of colleges Vatterott Educational Centers.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via Ars Technica: “‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’: Every modern processor has unfixable security flaws.”

    AngelSense GPS Tracker is the only monitoring solution designed by autism parents for autism parents.

    Via Buzzfeed: “India’s National ID Database With Private Information Of Nearly 1.2 Billion People Was Reportedly Breached.”

    Via The Times Leader: “Sutton Elementary School will be implementing a pilot program next school year that will digitally scan student fingerprints in an effort to make food lines more efficient.” The school is in Owensboro, Kentucky. Good thing is if this system gets breached, the school will just issue kids new fingerprints.

    Via Edsurge: “Measuring Learning Will Be Key to Improving It in 2018.” Featuring this gem: “The most obvious sign that measuring learning is not a priority in higher-ed is that administrators and educators throw away so much data about it.”

    Via The 74: “How One Program Is Closing the College Persistence Gap for Needy Students With Financial Aid, Social Supports, and a Powerful Data Tracker.”

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    Via NPR: “Many Large Public Universities Don’t Collect Data On Suicides, Report Finds.”

    Via Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2016 IPEDS First Look: Continued growth in distance education in US.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “New Data on Enrollments, Employees, Libraries.”

    From Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum: “What we’ve learned: 5 lessons from education research to take into 2018.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “Rival studies shed light on the merits of a Montessori education.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 01/12/18--05:45: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Each week, I gather a wide variety of links to education and education technology articles. All this feeds the review I write each December on the stories we are told about the future of education.

    (National) Education Politics


    I’ll lead off this week’s roundup of education news with this from England, from The Guardian: “Toby Young resigns from the Office for Students after backlash.” More from The Guardian. And more Toby Young (and eugenics) news in the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

    Still more education news from the UK: “Sam Gyimah replaces Jo Johnson as universities minister,” The Times Higher Education reports. “Damian Hinds is new education secretary, replacing Justine Greening,” says the BBC.

    Of course, the US can’t let the UK lead for too long when it comes to terrible people and terrible ideas in education. So here’s an early contender for “Worst Education ‘Take’ of 2018’” by Gary Wolfram in Education Week: “Make Public Education a Market Economy – Not a Socialist One.”

    Speaking of market economies, more financial aid news in the financial aid section below.

    Congratulations, STEM folks and learn-to-code evangelists, for being featured in President Trump’s list of his 2017 accomplishments. You must be so proud.

    Via The New York Times: “Texas Illegally Excluded Thousands From Special Education, Federal Officials Say.” The Department of Education’s press release has more. Kudos to the Houston Chronicle for the original reporting on this in 2016.

    Via Education Week: “Trump Signs Orders on Rural Broadband Access.”

    It’s pretty terrible to report on how a “President Oprah” would shape education policy and not talk about how she has actively promoted pseudoscience. But maybe a lot of education policy is based on pseudoscience, so that’s why we can just let that slide… Via Chalkbeat: “President Winfrey? Here’s what we know about Oprah’s education outlook.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Vox on segregation in US public schools: “We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.”

    Via NPR: “Outcry After Louisiana Teacher Arrested During School Board Meeting.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In New Budget Proposal, California Higher Ed Gets Modest Funding and a Big Online College.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Despite enthusiasm for four-year degrees offered by California community colleges, a state report calls for more time before expanding the programs.”

    More on California community colleges in the online education section below.

    Lots of very excited and uncritical reporting on the new charter school on Oracle’s campus.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Charter and online schools report the largest increase in students in Colorado.”

    Via The LA Times: “LAUSD chief Michelle King won’t return from medical leave for cancer, plans to retire.”

    Immigration and Education


    Via The LA Times: “Federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocks Trump’s decision to end DACA program.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Berkeley Breaks Silence on Arrest of Undocumented Student.”

    Education in the Courts (and in the AGs’ Offices)


    Via The Verge: “James Damore sues Google for allegedly discriminating against conservative white men.” 69% of Google’s employees are men. 56% are white. Clearly it’s tough there for white guys.

    Via The New York Times: “Former Financial Aid Chief at Columbia Is Accused of Taking Kickbacks.”

    “A Wisconsin school district has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender high school student for $800,000,” the AP reports. The student “alleged staff at Tremper High School monitored his use of the bathroom and made him wear a special bracelet to single him out from other students.” “Special bracelets” are, of course, ed-tech.

    Via The Washington Post: “Richard Spencer supporter sues university, calling security fee for campus speech unconstitutional.” The school in question: University of Cincinnati.

    Via The New York Times: “Big Tech to Join Legal Fight Against Net Neutrality Repeal.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether the ethics code of the National Association for College Admission Counseling violates federal antitrust law.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A Pennsylvania judge has banned fraternity Pi Delta Psi from the state for a decade, a punishment for a hazing death in 2013, and an unprecedented step likely to rock the national Greek system.”

    More legal wrangling in the immigration section above.

    The Business of Financial Aid


    Via The Washington Post: “Education Dept. awards debt collection contract to company with ties to DeVos.” That would be Windham Professionals and Performant Financial Corp, which DeVos has invested in (but divested since her nomination as Secretary of Education).

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Department of Education officials said Monday that they do not have any estimates of how many borrowers would clear new, tougher standards proposed for claims of loan relief when a student is defrauded or misled by their college. The department’s proposed language would require a student borrower to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that their college intended to deceive them or had a reckless disregard for the truth in making claims about job-placement rates, credit transferability and other outcomes.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Here’s How A Student Loan Debt Relief Company Preyed On Its Customers.” The company: the Student Loan Assistance Center.

    “The looming student loan default crisis is worse than we thought,” says Brookings.

    “Where student loan debt is a real problem,” according to Jeff Selingo.

    More financial aid news in the “courts” section above.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    “It’s not every day that a university fires nearly all of its faculty. But that’s what happened last week at the American University of Malta, a start-up institution operated by a Jordanian construction and tourism company without a track record in higher education,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Grand Canyon U. Will Again Try to Become a Nonprofit.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “VA Backs Off Threat to Cut GI Bill Funding for Ashford University.”

    The interview in Logic deals with more than just for-profit higher ed, but always read Tressie McMillan Cottom on the topic of “lower ed” (and coding schools).

    More on the for-profit formerly known as Kaplan University in the online education section below. More funding for coding schools in the venture capital section below.

    Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


    From the press release: “Purdue announces name for new public university: Purdue University Global to serve working adults, online.” This new school is a result of Purdue’s acquisition of the for-profit Kaplan University. PUG. Woof.

    California Could Soon Have Its First Fully-Online Community College,” Edsurge says excitedly.

    Speaking of online higher ed in California, Udacity’s blog says thatUdacity and Baidu Announce Groundbreaking Self-Driving Car Partnership at CES.”

    Via the AP: “The sponsor of one of the nation’s largest online charter schools says it’s cutting that tie, which could halt the Ohio e-school’s operations for its roughly 12,000 students within days.” The school: the Electronic Classroom of the Future. The sponsor: the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Public school buildings are falling apart, and students are suffering for itby Rachel Cohen.

    “Under Trump, a Hard Test for Howard Universityby Jelani Cobb.

    “The Fight to Rebuild a Ravaged University” – The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz on the University of Puerto Rico.

    Via the Naples Daily News: “FGCU police presence planned for start of ‘White Racism’ class.” That’s Florida Gulf Coast University.

    “UCL to investigate eugenics conference secretly held on campus,” says The Guardian. That’s University College London, and apparently Toby Young (who just resigned from his appointment as the head of the Office of Students) was a “prominent attendee.”

    “No College Kid Needs a Water Park to Study,” says James Koch in a NYT op-ed, criticizing schools spending money on lavish amenities. I wonder what costs more: water parks or big-time college sports? (See the sports section below for one calculation.)

    The Guardian on the Open University’s vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks: “A visionary” or “the man who will run it into the ground?” Those are the choices?!

    “Don’t Expect a Wave of Private Nonprofit College Closuressays Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen.

    “Has UMUC Turned Enrollment Woes Around?” asks Inside Higher Ed. Edutechnica has more thoughts: “The Real Reason Behind UMUC’s Recent Success.” That’s University of Maryland University College, by the way.

    Via the Dallas Morning News: “Abilene Christian University urges students: Don’t work at Hooters.” No word if students are discouraged from going to Hooters. I guess we’re just policing women’s bodies.

    Via Hacker Noon: “$3.5k to $80k: Pay for Business School with Cryptocurrency Investments.” (Don’t make me start a section for blockchain news, guys.)

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Stackable Credentials May Not Boost Earnings,” says Campus Technology.

    “Why Requiring Daycare Workers to Head Back to School Hurts the Working Class,” The Pacific Standard argues.

    Every once in a while, there’s a headline in the form of a question to which Betteridge’s Law – see below – does not apply. Like this one in Edutopia: “Will Letter Grades Survive?”

    Testing


    “Can a Test Ever Be Fair?” asks Edsurge. “How Today’s Standardized Tests Get Made.”

    Go, School Sports Team!


    An op-ed in The LA Times by Victoria L. Jackson: “Take it from a former Division I athlete: College sports are like Jim Crow.”

    Via USA Today: “College football coaching moves costing schools at least $110 million.”

    Memos from HR


    Via The LA Times: “Five women accuse actor James Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior.” I’m including this story here because four were his students.

    Via The Root: “Substitute Teacher Fired After Private High School Discovers He Works for Richard Spencer’s White Supremacist Think Tank.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Rochester’s President Resigns as Report Supports Handling of Harassment Case.” More on the University of Rochestervia Inside Higher Ed.

    Subsidized Housing May Help School Districts Retain Teachers,” says NPR. Or. And it’s a strange idea, I know. Bear with me. Or, you could just pay teachers more.

    Via Chalkbeat: “In many large school districts, hundreds of teaching positions were unfilled as school year began.”

    From the press release: “Blackboard Announces Organizational Changes to Better Serve Clients Worldwide.” It’s creating two new divisions: Global Client Operations & Success, and Global Markets. Lee Blakemore will lead the former; Mark Gruzin, the latter. Blackboard’s Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Mayr, is also leaving the company.

    More HR changes in the education politics and in the for-profit higher ed sections above.

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Is Your Institution Really Ready for Predictive Analytics?asks Edsurge.

    Is advertorial content really something education technology journalism should foster? asks Audrey.

    (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 annual “Consumer Electronics Show” was held in Las Vegas this week. The power went out. Perfect, really.

    The Looming Digital Meltdownby Zeynep Tufekci.

    Via The New York Times: “Apple Investors Warn iPhones and Other Technology May Be Hurting Children.”

    From the Blackboard blog: “Advertising In Schools: This Parent Says It’s Time to Embrace It.” JFC. No.

    According to Edsurge, “Amazon’s Education Hub, Amazon Inspire, Has Quietly Restored ‘Sharing’ Function.”

    Oh look. It’s another great example of why people who call for “Uber for Education” are probably pretty shady.

    Via The New York Times: “Facebook Overhauls News Feed to Focus on What Friends and Family Share.”

    Speaking of algorithms and major technology companies… Via Gizmodo: “Google Censors Gorillas Rather Than Risk Them Being Mislabeled As Black People – But Who Does That Help?”

    “What Can the CEO of a $1.6-Billion Enrollment-Services Giant Tell Us About the Student Life Cycle?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education in a profile of EAB. That student data is big bucks? I dunno…

    Via Techcrunch: “IBM led on patents in 2017, Facebook broke into top 50 for the first time.”

    Textbooks are expensive. News at 11.

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Top Hat Marketplace: What is it and should we care?”

    Education Week has a report on the “10 Big Ideas in Education.” Among the “big ideas,” “A Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Takes on the Master Schedule” – a profile of Abl Schools’ founder Adam Pisoni, who founded Yammer.

    Inside Philanthropy profiles The Conversation, a new site that encourages academics to write for the public. But it doesn’t pay its writers which sucks.

    Via Techcrunch: “URB-E’s launching a scooter sharing network at college campuses and hotels.”

    Also via Techcrunch: “Facebook brings Messenger Kids to Fire tablets.”

    An op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Why we shouldn’t teach tech in kindergarten.”

    Personalized learning gives students a sense of control over chaotic lives,” says The Hechinger Report, in a very glowing look at the Summit Public Schools’ (Facebook-built) learning management system.

    Subscription boxes for teachers are somehow “personalized learning.”

    So, you take the “deficit model” and you apply it to parents. Or, you take the military model – break someone down so you can rebuild them as you deem fit – and you apply it to parents. Anyway. Edsurge writes about “bootcamps” and educational retraining camps for parents.

    Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF


    Voyage, a self-driving car company spun out of Udacity, has launched a self-driving taxi service in a private city in Florida. Yes. Private city. In the future there will only be private cities, and Udacity has a shot at being one of them. Or something like that.

    Via The Verge: “Aflac’s toy robot for kids facing cancer is the smartest toy of all.” No camera. No Alexa or Google voice assistant.

    Via Techcrunch: “The Root robot teaches kids to code through Spirograph-style drawings.”

    From the Getting Smart blog, which is really heavily promoting AI in education stuff these days: “Artificial Intelligence: Implications for the Future of Education.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform


    “Is Personalized Learning the Next Big Thing in K–12 Philanthropy?” asks Inside Philanthropy. No. It’s charter schools. But “personalized learning” sounds nicer than “privatization” and “segregation,” doesn’t it.

    Khan Academy now Accepts Bitcoin Cash Donations,” says bitrazzi. Ah yes, a future of philanthropy where all charitable donations are anonymous and untraceable. What’s not to love.

    “What are the Big Questions for 2018?” asks venture philanthropy firm NewSchools Venture Fund. Among the questions: “An increased focus on social-emotional learning opened an innovation window over the last few years. Has it closed already?” I have a question: WTF is an “innovation window”?

    Venture Capital and the Business of Education


    The tutoring company Zhangmen has raised $120 million from Genesis Capital and Warburg Pincus.

    DadaABC has raised $100 million in a Series C from Tiger Global Management and TAL Education. The English-language-learning company has raised $608 million total.

    Area9 Lyceum has raised $30 million in funding from the Danish Growth Fund. (Area9, an adaptive learning company, was acquired by McGraw-Hill in 2014, but the press release suggests that Area9 Lyceum is a new company founded by the same people with some of the same IP. IDK.)

    Ellevation has raised $10 million (or so) from Reach Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, and Emerson Collective. The English-language-learning company has raised $22.25 million total.

    Thinkful has raised $9.6 million from Owl Ventures and Tribeca Venture Partners. The coding school has raised $16 million total.

    Boomwriter Media has raised $4.1 million from Avila Venture Capital, Precorp, and Suinvex. The collaborative writing tool has raised $6.5 million total.

    Student monitoring company eSafe Global has raised $2.6 million from Maven Capital Partners.

    Wonderschool has raised $2.1 million from Omidyar Network, Be Curious Partners, Rethink Education, Edelweiss, and Learn Capital. The company, which helps people start daycare facilities in their homes, has raised $4.1 million total.

    Math game company Sokikom has been acquired by Jumpstart World, a subsidiary of the Chinese conglomerate NetDragon.

    Boomwriter Media has acquiredLookUp.

    Strada Education Network (formerly USA Funds) has acquired the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).

    Knowledge First Financial has acquiredHeritage Education Funds.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via Techcrunch: “After breach exposing millions of parents and kids, toymaker VTech handed a $650K fine by FTC.” Yeah. You read that number right.

    Via Freedom to Tinker: “Website operators are in the dark about privacy violations by third-party scripts.” Many education institutions and companies implicated here.

    Via The Register: “Amazon coughs up record amount of info to subpoena-happy US government.” (See also: “Amazon Is Thriving Thanks to Taxpayer Dollars,” via New Republic.)

    Via the ACLU: “The Privacy Threat From Always-On Microphones Like the Amazon Echo.”

    “What’s Slack Doing With Your Data?” asks Gizmodo. What are schools doing adopting things like Echo and Slack, that’s what I wanna know.

    Oh, there’s a raft of privacy-violating stuff in almost every section in this article, I reckon.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    According to Metaari (formerly known as Ambient Insight), “Global Edtech Investment Surges to a Record $9.5 Billion in 2017.” That’s about $6 billion more than my calculations, but hey. Probably just a rounding error somewhere or something.

    EdWeek’s Market Brief on a report by Allovue: “K–12 District Spending Analysis Raises Red Flag About ESSA School Comparisons.”

    EdWeek’s Market Brief on a report from CoSN: “Snapshot of K–12 Tech Landscape: More Districts Reach 1-to–1, But Equity Gaps Persist.”

    The Pew Research Center is out with a new report on STEM and workplace equity.

    AEI on“The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s Degree: In Search of the Labor Market Payoff.” Shocking, I know, but the return on investment depends on what you get your degree in.

    Via Edsurge (which does not disclose it shares an investor with NoRedInk, the company that this infomercial is based upon): “These Are the 10 Most Common Writing Errors Students Make.” Education Week also publishes this NoRedInk “research”: “What Are the Top Grammar and Writing Errors of 2017?” Perhaps one of the biggest writing errors is not thinking critically about the material you promote and cite. Weird. Wonder why that’s not included here.

    “Here’s How People Say Google Home And Alexa Impact Their Lives,” says Fast Company, rewriting a Google blog post. So really it’s what PR says voice assistants are up to. And with that, we’re off to a good start in 2018 with technology journalism as “fake news”, I see…

    Icon credits: The Noun Project


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  • 01/19/18--04:45: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Each week, I gather a wide variety of links to education and education technology articles. All this feeds the review I write each December on the stories we are told about the future of education.

    (National) Education Politics


    Compare and contrast the Department of Education’s government shutdown plans– Secretary John King’s versus Secretary Betsy DeVos’s. Among the changes: removing en dashes and replacing them with em dashes and deleting Oxford commas. Monstrous, really.

    Via Chalkbeat: “DeVos criticizes Bush-Obama policies, saying it’s time to overhaul conventional schooling.” Here are the “Prepared Remarks by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to the American Enterprise Institute,” from the Press Office. Here’s Edsurge’s take on the AEI event.

    “The U.S. Department of Education is looking for nonprofit organizations to help support its #GoOpen campaign to nurture state and district take-up of ‘open’ educational resources,” says EdWeek’s Market Brief.

    From the Department of Education Press Office: “Secretary DeVos Announces Approval of 11 ESSA Plans.”

    Via The Huffington Post: “Ministers Turned Down 5 ‘Appointable’ People To Give Toby Young A Job.” I believe this is what one calls “meritocracy,” – is that right, Toby’s dad?

    From Liberia, “Government to crackdown on unlicensed schools,” New Vision reports. This includes Bridge International academies, which the country has said cannot operate in the country.

    Via Politico: “How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics


    Via the Charleston Gazette-Mail: “Free community college bill would require staying in WV 2 years.” WV is West Virginia, of course.

    Via WLRN: “National Charter School Chain Favored by House Speaker Heads For Miami, Amid Performance Concerns.” The chain: KIPP. The concerns: the only other KIPP school in Florida, in Jacksonville, is one of the lowest performing schools in the state. The House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, wants to run for governor and is a fan of charter chains, apparently.

    Via NPR: “Students Across D.C. Graduated Despite Chronic Absences, An Investigation Finds.”

    From the Governor of Iowa’s press office: “Gov. Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Gregg announce new research on state’s regulatory framework.” I’m including this here because the research comes from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and I want to keep an eye on how “dark money” includes research and policy.

    Immigration and Education


    Via Chalkbeat: “As Washington decides their fate, ‘Dreamers’ preparing for college are stuck in limbo.”

    There’s DACA-related PR in the venture philanthropy section below.

    Education in the Courts


    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “State Attorneys General Sue to Block FCC’s Repeal of Net Neutrality.”

    Via the Hartford Courant: “The state Supreme Court has overturned a Superior Court judge’s controversial ruling that would have upended the state’s educational-funding scheme and mandated a vast overhaul of teacher evaluations, educational standards and special-education services.” That’s the Connecticut state Supreme Court.

    Via The New York Times: “Horror for 13 California Siblings Hidden by Veneer of a Private Home School.” An op-ed in The LA Times: “The Turpin child abuse story fits a widespread and disturbing homeschooling pattern.”

    Via Techcrunch: “The nanny of former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski has filed an excruciatingly detailed lawsuit.” (Remember, this guy the founder of a church of AI. But I’m including it here because I still hear people talking about “Uber for Education,” goddammit.)

    “Free College”


    There’s some “free college” news in the state education political section above.

    The Business of Financial Aid


    There’s an article in the venture philanthropy section below about how private student loans are being pitched as “impact investing.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


    Via The New York Times: “Black Colleges Swept Up in For-Profit Crackdown Find Relief From DeVos.”

    Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


    “Online and the Color Line” – Chris Newfield on students of color and online education in California.

    Indiana Virtual School has the lowest graduation rate of any public school in the state,” says Chalkbeat.

    Doane University has joinededX.

    There’s more MOOC news in the job training section below. And more online education news in the “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines” section and in the research and data section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…


    Sara Goldrick-Rab on food insecurity on college campuses: “It’s Hard to Study if You’re Hungry.”

    Edsurge explains“How a Master’s Program From the ’80s Quietly Keeps Up With Coding Bootcamps.” The program, an MA in Interdisciplinary Computer Science, is at Mills College. Apparently it’s “from the 80s” because it was founded in the 1980s. So you could, I suppose write a headline about Harvard teaching computer science that goes “How a College from the 17th Century Quietly Keeps up with Coding Bootcamps.” But that would be silly, wouldn’t it. (Of course, Harvard doesn’t keep quiet about anything, does it.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Richard Spencer, the inflammatory white supremacist who has unsettled college campuses with his appearances, will speak at Michigan State University in March.”

    Budgets Suffer After A Drop In International Student Enrollment,” says NPR. College budgets, that is.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “UT Austin says it will not accept funding from a foundation after concerns were raised about its connections to the Chinese Communist Party.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Johns Hopkins Just Got the Largest Donation Ever Given to a Philosophy Department.”

    “How Colleges Foretold the #MeToo Movement,” according to The Atlantic.

    More on University College London and its eugenics conferences via DC’s Improbable Science.

    Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


    Via the BBC: “‘Staggering’ trade in fake degrees revealed.” “Staggering” equals 3000.

    Testing


    “PISA for personality testing – the OECD and the psychometric science of social-emotional skillsby Ben Williamson.

    Personality Tests Are Failing American Workers,” says Cathy O’Neil in a Bloomberg op-ed.

    A new project from the Learning Policy Institute and EducationCounsel: “Reimagining College Access: Performance Assessments From K–12 Through Higher Education.”

    More news about a data breach at a testing company in the infosec section below.

    Go, School Sports Team!


    This is digusting on many levels. (And compare all this to what happened at Penn State with the Sandusky abuse case.) Via the Detroit News: “What MSU knew: 14 were warned of Nassar abuse.” Dr. Larry Nassar is the ex-USA Gymnastics team physician who has been accused of sexually assaulting over 140 women. He was a faculty member at Michigan State.

    The Business of Job Training


    Via Techcrunch: “Google and Coursera launch program to train more IT support specialists.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


    Will Online Ever Conquer Higher Ed?asks Edsurge.

    “Relationships Are Central to the Student Experience. Can Colleges Engineer Them?asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades


    Edsurge covers Clever’s new product “Clever Goals,” which takes the data that the company gleans about student usage of technology and sells it back to schools. Very clever indeed.

    “Why big tech thinks voice control will conquer the world” by Navneet Alang.

    “Irish startup SoapBox Labs is building speech recognition tech for kids,” says Techcrunch.

    “Who Is Pulling The Muppet Strings?” asks Alison McDowell.

    Via The Outline: “Pyramid schemes target Snapchat teens.”

    More on teen social media usage, this time from Buzzfeed: “‘Tweetdecking’ Is Taking Over Twitter. Here’s Everything You Need To Know.”

    The Atlantic on what it’s like being a parent of a social media star.

    Google is jeopardizing African-American literature sites,” says The Outline.

    From the press release: “Knewton Launches Alta, Fully Integrated Adaptive Learning Courseware for Higher Education, Putting Achievement in Reach for Everyone.” There is no mention here about mind-reading robo tutors in the sky, but there are some questionable claims about what the software can do.

    Via Techcrunch: “Education quiz app Kahoot says it’s now used by 50% of all US K–12 students, 70M users overall.” The article features this edutainment gem: “According to Kahoot’s CEO Erik Harrell, Disney is working with Kahoot on ways of incorporating some of its iconic brands into its quizzes, as another way of engaging students to use them.”

    Via Techcrunch: “The BecDot is a toy that helps teach vision-impaired kids to read braille.”

    Via KQED’s Mindshift: “Setting School Culture With Social And Emotional Learning Routines.”

    I’m not sure I’d call the launch of a product from a for-profit research management company (Digital Science) “Democratizing Research Funding Data,” but there you go.

    I don’t recall if I talked about Elsevier when I wrote about platforms as part of my 2017 review. That’s certainly it’s aspiration. Anyway, here’s Richard Smith on Elsevier and “A Big Brother future for science publishing.”

    Henry Jenkins interviews Justin Reich on “ed tech and equity.”

    A fascinating photo essay in The New York Times goesInside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories.”

    The Pacific Standard explains“How Educational Podcasts Are Making Us Smarter Citizens,” but I hear people are eating Tide Pods so I’m a little skeptical.

    Robots and Other Education Science Fiction


    No, machines can’t read better than humans,” says The Verge. That’s despite all the headlines you saw this week that claimed that now they can.

    Via Geek Dad: “Little Robot Friends Teach Kids to Code With Empathy.” Empathy?!

    College Rankings Revisited: What Might an Artificial Intelligence Think?” asks Metametrics’ Steve Lattanzio.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A New Home for AI: The Library.” That’s at the University of Rhode Island.

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Education Reform


    From the Stanford Social Innovation Review: “A New Impact Investing Model for Education.” Private loans for students in the Global South to attend private schools. JFC.

    I’m not sure where to put this story, but again, I want to make note of it – this loving profile of Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Bezos was in the news with a philanthropic effort this week, I suppose. “After Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Comment, Amazon CEO Donates $33 Million To DACA Students,” Buzzfeed reports. You know what’s better than making a $33 million donation? Paying taxes.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Education


    ParentPowered has raised $2.7 million in seed funding from the Omidyar Network for an “on-demand library of parenting tips.”

    Centre Lane Partners has acquiredInfobase Holdings.

    Data, Surveillance, and Information Security


    Via The Chicago Tribune: “Google’s art selfies aren’t available in Illinois. Here’s why.” (If you used the app and handed over your biometric data to Google, don’t worry. You can just get a new face.)

    Via the Harvard Business Review: “How Georgia State University Used an Algorithm to Help Students Navigate the Road to College.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Personal data of 52 New York students is compromised after testing-company breach.” The company: Questar Assessment, Inc.

    Research, “Research,” and Reports


    It’s not directly education-related but there’s so much talk about predictive analytics in education (see above), I thought I’d include this nonetheless. Via The Atlantic: “A Popular Algorithm Is No Better at Predicting Crimes Than Random People.”

    Predictions from investor Tom Vander Ark: “Not Much New in EdTech in 2017; 3 Things Could Change That in 2018.”

    From Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2016 Top 20 Largest Online Enrollments In US– With Trends Since 2012.” Also from Hill: “Fall 2016 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Less money for schools after the recession meant lower test scores and graduation rates, study finds.”

    According to a new survey from Gallup and Strada Education (the loan guarantor formerly known as USA Funds), “Current College Students Do Not Feel Prepared for the Workforce.”

    A report from RAND: “Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life.”

    From Rick Hess: “The 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.”

    Nation Earns a C on Quality Counts Report Card,” says Education Week.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project