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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Beware the marketing hype.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (State and Local) Education Politics

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

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

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

    Immigration and Education

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

    Testing, Testing…

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

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

    The Business of Student Loans

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    For-profit Hickey College will close.

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

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

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

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Accreditation, Certification, and “Competencies”

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

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

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

    From the HR Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Business of Job Training

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

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

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

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

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Carson-Dellosa has acquiredRourke Educational Media.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

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

    Data and “Research”

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

    The History of Pearson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 06/30/17--08:00: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics

    Via ProPublica: “Democratic Senators Condemn Betsy DeVos’ Record on Civil Rights.”

    “New Evidence Shows DeVos Is Discarding College Policies That Are Effective,” writes Kevin Carey in The New York Times. These include regulations for for-profit universities.

    Via Politico: “The Education Department may soon stop publishing a weekly list of colleges and universities under investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual violence claims– a list that started with 55 schools when it was first published in 2014 and has since ballooned to nearly 240 as of this week. Candice Jackson, the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, called it a ‘list of shame’ this week at the National Association of College and University Attorneys conference in Chicago where she said it’s high on the list of things the Trump administration may soon do away with.”

    Trump’s administration wants to hide colleges that have problems with sexual assault,” write Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky in The Washington Post.

    “What Would the Repeal of Higher Ed’s Foundational Law Mean for Colleges?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    More on the politics (and business) of student loans in the student loans section below.

    The TSA has been testing a new program for examining passengers’ carry-on luggage that included asking them to remove their books from their bags. After protest from libraries and civil liberties groups, the TSA said it would abandon the program.

    Mark Zuckerberg is totally not running for President

    “What Would a Mark ZuckerbergPresidential Run Mean for Education?” asks Education Week.

    More on Zuckerberg (and Facebook) in the upgrades/downgrades section and in the venture philanthropy sections below.

    NASA Denies That It’s Running a Child Slave Colony on Mars,” The Daily Beast reports, after InfoWars’ Alex Jones had a guest on his show explaining how kidnapped children are part of a space mission.

    (State and Local) Education Politics

    Via the CBLDF: “Florida Governor Signs School Censorship Bill into Law.” The law will make it easier to challenge classroom materials that fail to offer a “noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues,” whatever that means.

    “The Wisconsin State Assembly passed the Campus Free Speech Act in the House, which would suspend or expel University of Wisconsin students who disrupt a campus speaker they disagree with,” NPR reports.

    The New York State Assembly has approved a deal to extend mayoral control of NYC schools for two years.

    Via The Washington Post: “In a first, Texas Boys State votes to secede from Union.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “California’s ban on using state funds to travel to Texas highlights the dilemma facing national groups with meetings scheduled to take place there.”

    Immigration and Education

    Via Pacific Standard: “Supreme Court Allows Limited Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect.” It appears to exclude university students and faculty.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state Republican attorneys general sent a letter Thursday threatening to sue if the Trump administration does not ‘phase out’ the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, many of them now college students, have obtained two-year, renewable work permits and protection against deportation.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via NPR: “Supreme Court Rules Religious School Can Use Taxpayer Funds For Playground.” More via the NEA and via a very excited Betsy DeVos. (Via The Washington Post: “Why Betsy DeVos is cheering the Supreme Court’s church playground decision.”)

    More Supreme Court rulings in the immigration section above.

    Via Education Week: “K–12 and the U.S. Supreme Court: Highlights of the 2016–17 Term.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Colorado Supreme Court ordered to reconsider Douglas County school voucher case.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Federal appeals court upholds ruling against D.C. on special-needs students.”

    Via Politico: “The University of California-Berkeley late Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the school in which conservative student groups allege college administrators violated their free speech rights when they canceled a talk by conservative commentator Ann Coulter in April. Berkeley officials have said they canceled the original speech because of security concerns and they invited Coulter to speak at a later date.”

    Via Pacific Standard: “A Second Mistrial Declared for University of Cincinnati Officer Who Killed an Unarmed Man at a Traffic Stop.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “A Teacher Is Suing Breitbart And James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas For Defamation.”

    Via The New York Times: “New York’s Top Court Narrows Suit Seeking More Money for Schools.”

    California Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal from alumni trying to block admission of women” at Deep Springs College, Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Education Week: “Mistrial declared in case involving 5 ex-El Paso educators.” The case involves educators who’d allegedly conspired to alter test scores.

    The American Chemical Society has filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub, countering the article-sharing site violates the society’s copyrights.

    More on for-profit higher ed’s legal battles in the for-profit higher ed section below. More on sports-related court cases (that is, sexual assault by athletes) in the sports section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    More on testing in the courts section above.

    “Free College”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Oregon officials are planning to alter the requirements for the state’s tuition-free Promise program. The new requirements would cut off grants to wealthier families.”

    The Business of Student Loans

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student advocates say Education Department’s slow processing of borrower-defense claims and blocking of ban on mandatory arbitration put defrauded borrowers in a bind.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    The for-profit vocational school chain Vatterott Education Centers has filed for receivership.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal district court judge issued an order Wednesday partially blocking enforcement of the gainful-employment rule for cosmetology schools that sued in February to halt the regulation.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via the Community College Daily: “California governor calls for new online college.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trinity College in Connecticut places Johnny Eric Williams on leave over controversial comments about race. Faculty groups say college is undermining academic freedom.” More via Academe Blog.

    “Why Can’t ‘Free Speech’ Advocates Ever Defend Adjunct Professors and People of Color?” asks David Perry in the Pacific Standard.

    The Atlantic on prison education: “The Lifelong Learning of Lifelong Inmates.”

    Via The Daytona Beach News-Journal: “Tax documents show [Bethune-Cookman University] losses mounting to $17.8 million.”

    Via The New York Times: “A Battle Over Prayer in Schools Tests Canada’s Multiculturalism.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    The University of Missouri at Columbia has revoked the honorary degree it awarded Bill Cosby.

    Via ProPublica: “Despite Exposés and Embarrassments, Hundreds of Judges Preside in New York Without Law Degrees.”

    Via The New York Times: “A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree.”

    A report from New America: “Rethinking Credential Requirements in Early Education.”

    “Why Ph.D.s belong in the high school classroom” by Liana M. Silva.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on a group that wants to “disrupt” accreditation: “Backers of an Audit Model for Judging Education Quality Invite Feedback.” It would be great if, when writing about Entangled Solutions, journalists would mention its founder’s history of accreditation “problems.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Jury Convicts 3rd Former Vanderbilt U. Athlete in 2013 Gang Rape.”

    From the HR Department

    Google has released its latest employee diversity statistics. Spoiler alert: Google is not very diverse.

    The Atlantic looks at the right of graduate students to unionize and asks whether the NLRB will reverse its decision under Trump.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges With the Highest Average Pay for Full Professors, 2015–16.”

    City College of San Francisco has hired Mark Rocha as its new chancellor, a decision opposed by CCSF faculty.

    Williams College president Adam Falk is stepping down from that role to become the president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

    Inside Higher Ed reports that Ted Mitchell, former venture capitalist and Under Secretary of Education under the Obama administration, is one of the finalists to be the next president of the American Council on Education (ACE), a higher ed lobbying organization.

    More in the “meanwhile on campus” section above about academic freedom and faculty’s employment status.

    The Business of Job Training

    Via Edsurge: “​The Cost of Cutting in Line: Students Can Now Buy Their Way to a Job Interview.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Headstart wants to better analyze candidates to fit them with the best jobs.”

    Via Edsurge: “​Intel Announces $4.5M Grant Program Targeting 6 HBCUs.” The money is for “skills training.”

    An article by the founder of alumni networking company Switchboard in Edsurge: “The Rise of the Rest: How Black Colleges Are Redesigning Career Support.”

    (Pay attention to these job recruitment and job placement startups as they’re part of a larger narrative about disrupting higher ed, as well as HR. I think it’s probably worth paying attention too to how HBCUs are being wielded in this conversations.)


    Lots of updates from the massive vendor display called ISTE:

    Google issued a press release.

    Edsurge writes about“​Updates, Upgrades and Overheard: What Was Unveiled at ISTE 2017.” (It’s interesting to see what it chose to highlight.)

    Also via Edsurge: “Teachers at ISTE Share Their Definitions of Personalized Learning…and They’re All Different.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    “Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?” asks Peg Tyre in The New York Times Magazine.

    “Could XPrize tablets replace teachers in Tanzania?” asks the BBC.

    (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 History of Teaching Machines.

    Via Education Week: “‘Mass Personalization’ Drives Learning Experiment at AltSchool.”

    Via The New York Times: “How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms.”

    “We Regret to Inform You That Fidget Spinners Are Now Exploding,” says Gizmodo.

    Technical publisher O’Reillysays it is closing its e-bookstore at It will continue to offer its titles through Safari Books Online, as well as through other retailers.

    “What Happened to Amazon Inspire, the Tech Giant’s Education Marketplace?” asks Edsurge.

    “Misinterpreting the Growth Mindset: Why We’re Doing Students a Disservice” – a guest post in Education Week’s Common Ground blog by John Hattie.

    More on marketing mindsets from Edsurge: “Summer PD Feel Overwhelming? An Improviser’s Mindset Can Help You Keep Cool.”

    In other teacher PD news: “These Teachers Are Learning Gun Skills To Protect Students, They Say,” says NPR.

    And speaking of cognitive silliness, here’s a great headline from Edsurge: “Stop Calling College Teachers ‘Professors.’ Try ‘Cognitive Coaches,’ Says Goucher President.”

    Via ProPublica: “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Facebook equips admins to protect and analyze their Groups.” Among the ways you can “protect” your Groups: setting filter to block people whose Facebook accounts list certain genders or people from certain locations.

    More on Zuckerberg’s involvement in education in the venture philanthropy section and the politics section above below.

    Y Combinator Has Gone Supernova” by Wired’s Steven Levy. (This list is probably a little out-of-date, but here are the education companies Y Combinator has invested in.)

    OpenStax predicts students at its partner schools will save $8.2 million in the upcoming school year thanks to its freely available textbooks.

    Edsurge writes about“When ELA Tools Can’t Adapt to Students’ Native Language.” (Pay attention to how education technology companies see ELL as a “hot new market.”)

    Curriculet is back from the dead, says Edsurge, failing to disclose that it shares investors with the company.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “With the ‘Coming Battles’ Between People and Machines, Educators Are All the More Vital.” (An interview with Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng, who is on to his next gig,

    Via Techcrunch: “Disney experiments look to make kid-robot interactions more natural.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

    Via Education Week: “Chan-Zuckerberg to Push Ambitious New Vision for Personalized Learning.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Abl has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from Rethink Education, Sinovation Ventures, Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, and First Round Capital. The scheduling software has raised $12 million total.

    Mystery Science has raised $2 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Reach Capital, 500 Startups, and Learn Capital. The science lesson company has raised $2.8 million total.

    Curriculum company Verso Learning has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Ken Lowe.

    Outschool has raised $1.4 million from the Collaborative Fund, Sesame Workshop, Caterina Fake, FundersClub, Learn Capital, Spectrum 28, SV Angel, and Y Combinator. The startup, which offers a marketplace for homeschooled children to find online classes, has raised $1.52 million.

    Learning analytics company BrightBytes has acquiredAuthentica Solutions.

    Participate Learning has acquiredEduclipper.

    Certica has acquiredUnbound Concepts. Certica has also acquiredItemLogic.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    “How can educators measure and predict grit in their students?” asks Education Dive.

    Via Education Week: “Maryland Dad Wants June 30 to Be ‘National Student Data Deletion Day’.”From that dad, Bradley Shear’s blog post:

    I am calling for all K–12 public schools and their vendors to automatically delete the following data points each and every June 30th after the school year has ended:

    All student Internet browsing history

    All student school work saved on platforms such as the Google G Suite

    All student created emails (and all other digital communications)

    All behavioral data points/saved class interactions (e.g. Class Dojo data points)

    All student physical location data points (e.g. obtained via RFID tags)

    All biometric data collected and tied to a student account (e.g. meal purchase information)


    Via Edsurge: “​Report Finds Nearly 14M College Emails, Passwords For Sale on the Dark Web.”

    The Seattle Times asks, “Did you get the letter? WSU sends warning to 1 million people after hard drive with personal info is stolen.”

    Via Edsurge: “Carnegie Mellon Study Shows Edtech Startups Fall Flat on Student Privacy.”

    “Dear Parents: Your Concerns About Student Privacy Are Being Exploited,” says the Center for Data Innovation, an industry think tank run by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, whose funders include Google and IBM.

    Via The Guardian: “Google begins removing private medical records from search results.”

    Another week, another big “ransomware” attack.

    Data and “Research”

    “From Mexico to China: Why the World Is Interested in the US Edtech Market,” says Edsurge.

    An infographic from Pitchbook: “A second wind: VC investment in edtech is rising again.”

    “The Carefully Sculpted Reality of the Meeker Trends Reportby Tom Webster. Spoiler alert: Meeker’s “trends” showcase Meeker’s VC firm’s investments.

    Via Education Week: “The Market in India: Surging Demand for English-Language Schools.”

    Via eCampus News: “The size of the online learning market was estimated to be over USD 165 billion in 2015 and is likely to grow by 5 percent by 2023, exceeding USD 240 billion.” Yay. Predictions. Yay. Markets.

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Academic LMS Market Share: A view across four global regions.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “First study of Indiana’s voucher program– the country’s largest – finds it hurts kids’ math skills at first, but not over time.” More from NPR, which also includes information from a voucher study in Louisiana.

    The The LA Times: “1 in 5 L.A. community college students is homeless, survey finds.”

    Via SchoolHouse Connection: “New Report Highlights FAFSA Challenges for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.”

    More on changing US demographics from Bryan Alexander.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Spring Data Show Increase in Foreign Students.”

    There’s more HR-related data in the HR section above.

    Via Edsurge: “​Study Shows E-rate Improved Internet Speed for 79% of Applicants.”

    “The Disrespect of the TEF” by Liz Morrish. TEF is the “Teaching Excellence Framework,” a new ratings system for UK universities.

    Via Edsurge: “​Study Finds Institutions Could Generate $1M Annually With Higher Student Retention.”

    “What Teens Want From Their Schools” – a survey from the right-wing think tank, the Thomas Fordham Institute.

    Via Politico: “Adults see young black girls as needing less nurturing and protection than their white peers, according to a new study that may shed light on some of the reasons that black girls are disciplined at a higher rate than white girls.”

    Via the Pew Research Center: “Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries.”

    Also from Pew: “US Public Trust in Science and Scientists.” See also: the press release NASA had to release this week in the politics section above.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    There have been several articles in the industry and investor press recently that describe the ed-tech market as “on the rebound,” with venture capitalists getting their “second wind” and finding ed-tech once again to be something worth throwing money at.


    And indeed, according to my calculations too, the amount of money invested in education technology companies is up from this time last year and up from this time in 2015 as well. (And 2015 was a record-setting year for ed-tech investment.)

    For what it’s worth, investment analyst firm CB Insights predicts that funding this year will not exceed that 2015 level, but one of the reasons I like to track the data myself is that everyone’s numbers and everyone’s assessment of the industry seem to be different, depending in part on “what counts” as ed-tech.

    2017 vs. Previous Years

    So far this year, there have been 95 investments in ed-tech companies, totaling $1.8 billion. (And yes, I do include student loan companies here. If you’re an ed-tech analyst and you insist that private student loans are something you shouldn’t or needn’t monitor, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.)

    The average investment this year has been $21.2 million. (The median investment size: $4 million.)

    Here’s a comparison of what funding looked like in Julys of previous years:

    What Kind of Companies Are Raising Money?

    More than half of deals so far this year have been in what some call “early stage” companies – that is, companies raising seed or their first venture capital funding.

    But the bulk of dollars have gone to “late stage” companies. Companies raising seed funding have raised $55 million so far this year. Companies raising C, D, and F rounds have raised over $1 billion.

    Investment By Country

    Number of deals by country:

    $1.4 billion in venture capital has gone to US companies so far this year. $280 million has gone to Chinese companies. $34 million has gone to Canadian companies. $25 million has gone to Indian companies.

    What Do These Startups Do?

    Investors seem to really like “online education.” There have been 9 investments so far this year in companies that describe themselves that way – what a broad description, I realize – for a total of $320 million.

    Tutoring companies also remain popular: 8 investments totaling $151 million.

    There were 4 investments in coding bootcamps, totaling $37.6 million.

    The type of startup receiving the most funding: student loan companies, which have raised $540 million so far this year.

    To Whom Are These Startups Selling?

    Investments in companies serving the K–12 sector make up the majority of those funded so far this year. (But note: the kinds of companies that get coverage in the ed-tech and tech press – those that I’m likely to see and include in my research – are more likely to be those targeting K–12 and post-secondary education than those targeting the corporate learning market.)

    The Biggest Investments So Far This Year

    The companies that have raised the most money so far this year:

    • SoFi (private student loans) – $500 million
    • EverFi (“critical skills” training) – $190 million
    • Hero K12 (behavior management) – $150 million
    • Yuanfandao (tutoring) – $120 million
    • Grammarly (grammar and spelling assistance) – $110 million
    • (homework assistance) – $100 million
    • Coursera (online education) – $64 million
    • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $40 million
    • MasterClass (online classes taught by celebrities) – $35 million
    • Trilogy Education (coding bootcamp) – $30 million
    • College Ave (private student loans) – $30 million
    • BYJU’s (test prep) – $30 million
    • MakeBlock (robotics) – $30 million

    The Most Well-Funded Ed-Tech Startups

    These are the ed-tech “startups” that have raised the most venture capital. That is to say, these companies have not IPO’d or been acquired so even if they’re years old, they still sorta count as “startups.” (Clearly not all this funding happened this year):

    • SoFi (private student loans) – $1.88 billion
    • Affirm (private student loans) – $420 million
    • EverFi (“critical skills” training) – $251 million
    • Yuanfudao (tutoring) – $244.2 million
    • HotChalk (online education service provider) – $230 million
    • Coursera (online education service provider) – $210.1 million
    • BYJU’s (test prep) – $204 million
    • Pluralsight (skills training) – $192.5 million
    • Udemy (skills training marketplace) – $173 million
    • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $173 million
    • Kaltura (video platform) – $165.1 million
    • D2L (learning management system) – $165 million
    • Udacity (skills training) – $160 million
    • Knewton (algorithmic textbooks) – $157.25 million

    The Most Active Investors of 2017

    Most of the investors who’ve participated in the 95 deals so far this year have only participated in one ed-tech deal. There are just 9 firms that have made three or more investments in 2017:

    • Reach Capital (2017 investments: AdmitHub, Holberton School, Nearpod, Epic!, BookNook, Mystery Science, Mrs. Wordsmith, Abl)
    • GSV (Voxy,, MasterClass, CreativeLive, Nearpod, Coursera, Motimatic)
    • University Ventures (investments: AdmitHub, OOHLALA, Motimatic, Examity, CollegeVine (formerly Admissions Hero), and Paragon One)
    • Y Combinator (investments: OOHLALA, Paragon One, KidPass, Outschool, Mystery Science)
    • Learn Capital (investments: Paragon One, Outschool, Mystery Science, Coursera)
    • First Round (investments: Wonderschool, CareDox, Abl)
    • FundersClub (investments: AdmitHub, Outschool, Wonderschool)
    • Owl Ventures (investments: Lingo Live,,Abl)
    • Rethink Education (investments: Voxy, Abl, Trilogy Education)

    Do note the overlap in their investments – the “herd mentality” of venture capitalists.

    Ed-Tech Exits

    There are only a couple of outcomes once a company has raised venture capital. I mean, it has to pay its investors back, of course. So either it gets acquired, merges with another company, goes public, or goes away.

    There have been 40 acquisitions so far this year. This is down from 68 this time last year and down from 64 this time in 2015. Acquisitions, that is to say, are down significantly.

    Companies that were actively acquiring startups in previous years – Blackboard, Pearson, and PowerSchool for example – have not bought any startups this year. (Frontline Education, which bought five startups last year, has acquired just one so far in 2017.)

    Only one education company has gone public this year: Laureate Education, which raised $490 million with its initial public offering.

    So What?

    Stating that the amount of ed-tech investment is up so far this year doesn’t really tell us much about what the ed-tech industry really looks like.

    No doubt, we should ask why it’s up – why are investors re-enthused about education companies (particularly when successful exits seem to be slumping)? What role do federal and state education politics play in ed-tech investment? (Private student loans. Coding bootcamps. Betsy DeVos. Donald Trump. For-profit universities. Voucher programs. Online charter schools. And so on…)

    Find an error in my calculations? Feel free to file an issue on – or better yet, contribute to – the GitHub repository that powers this analysis.

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  • 07/07/17--03:15: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Silence From the Secretary, Despite Major Rules Changes.”

    Lots, lots more about Betsy DeVos’ policies in the student loan and for-profit higher ed sections below.

    Via Politico: “The American Action Forum, a right-leaning public policy group, is recommending that DeVos consider gutting the federal student aid pilot programs created under the Higher Education Act. A new policy paper from the group published on Thursday says that ‘experimental sites’ – which waive some federal requirements for colleges that want to test out different ways of delivering federal financial aid– have not proved effective.” Some of these experimental sites included MOOCs and coding bootcamps.

    (State and Local) Education Politics

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Illinois House of Representatives voted Thursday to override a gubernatorial veto of a package of budget bills, ending a 736-day standoff that had left the state’s higher education institutions slashing expenses and scrambling to compensate for uncertain funding streams.”

    Via The Baltimore Sun: “Maryland becomes first state to outlaw scholarship displacement by public colleges.” Scholarship displacement is a practice of lowering financial aid when a student has a scholarship that boosts her aid over the cost of college.

    Via Chalkbeat: New York“Mayor de Blasio strikes a charter deal, making it easier for schools to expand, pay for space.”

    More on states’ legal actions against Betsy DeVos for her reversal of Obama-era regulations on for-profit universities in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Immigration and Education

    Via The Verge: “US denies visas to Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team.” The Gambian team, which was also initially denied entrance to the US, will be granted visas.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Assessing the Travel Ban: What New Data on Overseas Recruitment Does – and Doesn’t – Tell Us.”

    Education in the Courts

    The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is appealing a lower court’s ruling that it must repay $60 million to the state of Ohio as it cannot document students “attended” its online charter school.

    “A Wave of Disability-Lawsuit Threats Against Colleges May Have Receded,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a lawsuit against Baylor University, 10 women who brought complaints of sexual assault against other Baylor students say the university’s strict alcohol policy was used to ‘shame, silence and expel’ a student, and they included emails from a former university regent as proof.”

    For more on lawsuits about for-profit higher ed, see the for-profit higher ed section below.

    The Business of Student Loans

    Via The USA Today: “Millions of student loans could be headed for a shakeup in coming months.”

    More on the legal actions taken by states over Betsy DeVos’ rollback of the borrower defense rule in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    From the US Department of Education press release: “DeVos Presses Pause on Burdensome Gainful Employment Regulations.” More from The Chronicle of Higher Education and from Inside Higher Ed.

    18 States Are Suing Betsy DeVos Over For-Profit College Rules,” Buzzfeed reports. More on the legal actions over the delay of the borrower defense rule from NPR and from The NYT.

    Via The Washington Post: “SEC settles fraud charges against defunct for-profit college company ITT.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission began mailing more than $49 million in refund checks to former DeVry University students Wednesday as part of a settlement between the for-profit institution and the agency. DeVry agreed to the $100 million settlement after the FTC sued the institution for its use of employment statistics in advertising.”

    “College made millions by tricking Indigenous people, court finds,” The Guardian reports. “Unique International College used a misleading and unlawful scheme to target vulnerable communities in 2014 and 2015, pushing individuals to enrol in courses in management, salon management and marketing.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    Via Class Central’s Dhawal Shah, writing in Edsurge: “MOOCs Find Their Audience: Professional Learners and Universities.” (Edsurge, for what it’s worth, shares investors with Class Central, Udacity, and Coursera (although there’s no disclosure on that article to that end) – funny how the narratives about the “revolutionary” potential of MOOCs get spread, eh?)

    Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill follows up on the Edsurge article with his own analysis: “MOOCs Now Focused on Paid Certificates and OPM Market.”

    Tecnológico de Monterrey has joined edX.

    More on the ongoing legal battles between the state of Ohio and the virtual charter school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow in the courts section above.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is denying allegations that he helped use his office to help secure a loan for the now defunct Burlington College, which at the time was led by his wife.

    Inside Higher Ed reports that the University of Missouri at Columbia will prevent students from using their ID credit cards to buy “nonacademic items” from campus stores.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “One Activist Has Hundreds of Colleges Under the Gun to Fix Their Websites.” (That is, to fix them because they are inaccessible to those with disabilities.)

    Via Chalkbeat: “Aurora Public Schools, CSU online degree program hammering out details of new partnership.” The partnership includes the former constructing a new building to hold CSU’s Global Campus.

    Claremont Theology might join Willamette University, Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Pacific Standard: “In Pakistan, These Schools Are Putting Morality Back Into the Curriculum.”

    More on AltSchool in the surveillance section below. Because honestly, where else would you put news about that private school company but in the surveillance section.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via The Washington Post: “Chicago won’t allow high school students to graduate without a plan for the future.” That is, “They must show that they’ve secured a job or received a letter of acceptance to college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program or the military.” This seems like it’ll be a boon for for-profit higher ed, so good job, Rahm Emanuel.

    More on certifications in the MOOC section above.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Irregularities Lead to AP Scores Being Canceled.” That is, canceled at Scripps Ranch High School in California.

    Predictions about the future of test prep from Campus Technology: “Top 3 Trends Affecting U.S. Test Preparation Market Through 2021.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “From CSAP to PARCC, here’s how Colorado’s standardized tests have changed (and what’s next).”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    “Colleges are spending more on their athletes because they can,” says USA Today.

    From the HR Department

    “Did Amway Create the Gig Economy?” asks The Awl. (“Betteridge’s Law of Headlines” aside, the question’s worth asking for a number of reasons, but worth noting of course because Amway was founded by Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law.)

    Via The New York Times: “Microsoft to Cut Up to 4,000 Sales and Marketing Jobs.”

    The NEA, the largest teachers’ union in the US, held its representative assembly where, according to NEAToday, “Educators Vow to Hold Strong, Defend Public Education.”

    Via The New York Times: “State Dept. Restores Job Offers to Students After Diplomat Outcry.”

    “Why Did a UCLA Instructor With a Popular Free-Speech Course Lose His Job?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    The Business of Job Training and Job Placement

    Via Edsurge: “Swedish Startup Hopes to Replace Resumes With ‘Gamified’ Job Matching System.” The company in question is called Sqore.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    A series of stories in The New York Times about sexual harassment in the tech industry. “Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment,” writes Katie Benner. Among those accused of harassment, Chris Sacca (perhaps best known as one of the investors on the TV show Shark Tank) and Dave McClure (the founder of 500 Startups, one of the most active ed-tech investors in recent years). Since The NYT story broke, McClure has stepped down from his firm. More via The NYT: “Harassment in the Tech Industry: Voices Grow on Social Media.”

    Via Bloomberg: “Twenty-five years ago, U.S. tech companies pledged to stop using chemicals that caused miscarriages and birth defects. They failed to ensure that their Asian suppliers did the same.”

    “In the knowledge economy, we need a Netflix of education,” say Karl Mehta and Rob Harles in an op-ed in Techcrunch. (No, we don’t.)

    “Tracking Attributes like Grit and Character – There’s an App for That,” writes Charlie Coglianese, the “Chief Data Wizard” at Schoolrunner in an op-ed in EdWeek’s Market Brief. (No, there’s not.)

    Two very different responses to Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” marketing. One by Donnie Piercey in Edsurge: “Trolls, Catfish, Cyberbullies – Oh My! How to Help Students Stay ‘Internet Kind’.” The other by Benjamin Doxtdator: “Frontier notes on metaphors: the digital as landscape and playground.”

    Inside Higher Ed profiles EAB, which has trademarked “student success management system.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Six months after acquisition, SoFi is shutting down Zenbanx.” SoFi is a student loan provider, trying to become a more mainstream banking and financial services company.

    “Why don’t teachers use Minecraft?” asks Dean Groom.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    “PBS Show Will Teach Preschoolers How To Think Like Computers,” says Edsurge, which seems like a bad idea since computers don’t “think” and since humans need more empathy these days and less bullshit technofuturist ideology.

    Robotics and AI tech can revolutionize classroom ed,” says Education Dive.

    “Need jobs? Get robots, and education right,” says Techcrunch.

    Via Wired: “AI Is Making It Extremely Easy for Students to Cheat.”

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    I probably won’t include this in my calculations of ed-tech investments, but I’m noting it here nonetheless because it dovetails so nicely with “mindfulness” and “social emotional learning” hoopla. Headspace, has raised $36.7 million in Series B funding. The meditation app (which does market itself to schools) has raised $75 million total.

    Side has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding from Xavier Niel, Anglae Ventures, Antoine Martin, Connect Ventures, Fly Ventures, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, and TheFamily. The short-term job placement startup has raised $7.15 million total.

    Education publisher Nelson has acquired digital grade book company Edusight.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    The BBC on AltSchool: “The futuristic school where you’re always on camera.”

    Not directly related to education, but certainly relevant to those who care about what Google does with data – via Techcrunch: “UK data regulator says DeepMind’s initial deal with the NHS broke privacy law.”

    Data and “Research”

    Inside Higher Ed covers controversy surrounding an article about net neutrality in the International Journal of Communication that did not disclose funding from an industry group, CALinnovates.

    Via Chalkbeat: “How much money does Aurora Public Schools spend and on what? New online tool has answers.”

    Education Week’s Sarah Sparks writes about research on how data changes the way schools make decisions (and not necessarily for the better).

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges That Received the Highest Amounts in Pell Grants and Federal Student Loans for Undergraduates, by Sector, 2014–15.”

    Via MIT Technology Review: “The most popular people on Twitter are disproportionately white males, according to the first study of race and gender inequality in the Twitterverse.”

    According to anthropologist Lauren Herckis, professors hesitate to adopt “innovative teaching methods” because they fear looking stupid in front of students.

    UVA’s Dan Willingham“On fidget spinners& speeded math practice.”

    Via The Telegraph: “Smartphones blamed for dramatic rise in head lice as schoolchildren gather together to view screens.”

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    Beth Holland, a doctoral student at JHU and “EdTech Researcher” at Education Week, sent an email asking some questions about the history of ed-tech. The gist of these: how did ed-tech get from the early, inquiry-based pioneers like Seymour Papert to the crap we see today. Once my response hit more than 500 words, I thought I’d better “blog” my thoughts rather than just answer via email…

    There’s a popular origin story about education technology: that, it was first developed and adopted by progressive educators, those interested in “learning by doing” and committed to schools as democratic institutions. Then, something changed in the 1980s (or so): computers became commonplace, and ed-tech became commodified – built and sold by corporations, not by professors or by universities. Thus the responsibility for acquiring classroom technology and for determining how it would be used shifted from a handful of innovative educators (often buying hardware and software with their own money) to school administration; once computers were networked, the responsibility shifted to IT. The purpose of ed-tech shifted as well – from creative computing to keyboarding, from projects to “productivity.” (And I’ll admit. I’m guilty of having repeated some form of this narrative myself.)

    But what if, to borrow from Ian Bogost, “progressive education technology” – the work of Seymour Papert, for example – was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?

    There’s always a danger in nostalgia, when one invents a romanticized past – in this case, a once-upon-a-time when education technology was oriented towards justice and inquiry before it was re-oriented towards test scores and flash cards. But rather than think about “what went wrong,” it might be useful to think about what was wrong all along.

    Although Papert was no doubt a pioneer, he wasn’t the first person to recognize the potential for computers in education. And he was hardly alone in the 1960s and 1970s in theorizing or developing educational technologies. There was Patrick Suppes at Stanford, for example, who developed math instruction software for IBM mainframes and who popularized what became known as “computer-assisted instruction.” (Arguably, Papert refers to Suppes’ work in Mindstorms when he refers to “the computer being used to program the child” rather than his own vision of the child programming the computer.)

    Indeed, as I’ve argued repeatedly, the history of ed-tech dates at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and the foundation of the field of educational psychology. Much of we see in ed-tech today reflects those origins – the work of psychologist Sidney Pressey, the work of psychologist B. F. Skinner, the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike. It reflects those origins because, as historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has astutely observed, “One cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”

    Ed-tech has always been more Thorndike than Dewey because education has been more Thorndike than Dewey. That means more instructivism than constructionism. That means more multiple choice tests than projects. That means more surveillance than justice.

    (How Thorndike's ed-tech is now being rebranded as “personalization” (and by extension, as progressive education) – now that's an interesting story...

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  • 07/14/17--04:30: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics

    After rolling back for-profit higher ed regulationslast week, Betsy DeVos turns her attention to dismantling civil rights as she holds a series of Title IXlistening sessions.”

    More on the Department of Education’s for-profit university machinations in the for-profit section below.

    Via Broadly: “Betsy DeVos to Meet with Men’s Rights Groups, Reports Say.”

    Via The New York Times: “Campus Rape Policies Get a New Look as the Accused Get DeVos’s Ear.” Here’s a choice quotation from the head of the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office, Candace Jackson:

    Jackson later apologized.

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After Meeting With DeVos, Title IX Activists Say They Still Have Many Questions.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Wants To ‘Quickly’ Change The Way The Government Treats Campus Sexual Assault.”

    Via The New York Times: “DeVos Says She Will Revisit Obama-Era Sexual Assault Policies.”

    Who Does DeVos’s Department Really Represent?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Via The New York Times: “DeVos’s Hard Line on New Education Law Surprises States.”

    Via The Washington Post: “A brief history of DARE, the anti-drug program Jeff Sessions wants to revive.”

    Via ProPublica: “Trump Has Secretive Teams to Roll Back Regulations, Led by Hires With Deep Industry Ties.”

    Via Military Times: “Lawmakers reach initial deal to expand GI education bill.” The proposed bill would eliminate the 15-year time limit on accessing education benefits.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bipartisan support builds for expanding Pell Grant eligibility to short-term certificates, although some experts worry about quality control and funding.” I guess you won’t be able to use Pell Grants at Dev Bootcamp tho (more on that below).

    On the US House of Representatives’ proposed budget: “$2 Billion for Teacher Training, Salaries Eliminated in House Budget Plan,” Education Week reports. Inside Higher Ed describes the budget plan as “(Largely) Shunning White House on Higher Ed Spending.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics

    Via Chalkbeat: “Report: Special education voucher program leaves some of New York City’s poorest families without services.”

    Via The Denver Post: “Outdated, sagging Colorado schools get $300 million boost from pot sales, other taxes.”

    Via NPR: “Reading, Writing And Fracking? What The Oil Industry Teaches Oklahoma Students.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “John Behling, the new president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, said Friday that he wants institutions to recruit leaders from the private sector and otherwise ‘streamline’ the process for hiring chancellors and other top administrators. In so doing, he might have shed light on why a state budget proposal includes language – opposed by faculty members – that would ban the regents from ever considering only academics as top administrators.”

    Via Education Week: “Detroit District May Rethink Authorizing Charter Schools.”

    Immigration and Education

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “DHS Head Won’t Commit to Defending DACA.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Administration Considers Measure to Make Staying in U.S. Harder for Foreign Students.”

    Via The Atlantic: “The Schools Transforming Immigrant Education.”

    Via The New York Times: “In Blow to Tech Industry, Trump Shelves Start-Up Immigrant Rule.”

    More on the Afghan robotics team in the contest section below.

    Education in the Courts

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Federal Judge Dismisses Suit Against Texas Campus-Carry Law.”

    Via The Washington Post: “Columbia University settles Title IX lawsuit with former student involving ‘mattress girl’ case.”

    Via the AP: “The Ohio Supreme Court won’t stop the state from starting Thursday to recoup $60 million from one of the nation’s largest online charter schools amid a legal battle.”

    More legal cases in the testing section below.

    Testing, Testing…

    Via The New York Times: “California Supreme Court Moves to Make Bar Exam Easier to Pass.”

    Via The New York Times: “How Universal College Admission Tests Help Low-Income Students.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “When states pay for the SAT or ACT, more poor students go to college.”

    Financial Aid and the Business of Student Loans

    The Department of Education explains“how marriage impacts your student loans.”

    Via The Wall Street Journal: “Number of Students Applying for Federal Aid Rises 6%, After Several Years of Decline.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Kaplan is closing Dev Bootcamp, a coding bootcamp it acquired in 2014. More from Inside Higher Ed, from Edsurge (disclosure alert!), and from Hacker News.

    Also via Edsurge: “How Boundaries Between Colleges and Companies Will Continue to Blur.”

    Also via Edsurge: “What a Reinvented College Looks Like: 4 Alternative Higher-Ed Models.” The models: Minerva, MissionU, “New Research University,” and “New Urban College.” No disclosure, no surprise, that Edsurge shares investors with at least one of these.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education asks if, with the rollback to Obama-era regulations, states can do more to hold for-profit colleges accountable.

    Via US News & World Report: “Trump Administration Begins Rewriting For-Profit Regulations.”

    Via NPR: “Back To The Starting Line On Regulating For-Profit Colleges.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    “The University of California, Los Angeles, is planning a major expansion in the online certificate and graduate degree markets that it hopes will reach as many as 15,000 students by early next decade,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Enrollment Implications Regarding Directive for Online Community College in California.”

    Via Education Dive: “Coursera’s Tom Willerer talks personalization, access.” Willerer was previously at Netflix (just to give you an idea of the meaning of “personalization” in the headline).

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How a BYU Campus Is Reshaping Online Education – and the Mormon Faith.”

    Online courses will eventually replace traditional education,” The Daily Californian predicts. Sigh.

    Speaking of predictions about the future of online education, EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin pens part 2 of his look at Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn’s prediction that “by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet.”

    More on court cases involve online charter schools in the legal section above.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    Tampa Bay Times’ Cara Fitzpatrick revisits the schools she covered as part of her Pulitzer winning series on “failure factories”: “The Fight for Fairmount Park.”

    Via Pacific Standard: “The Dangers Lurking in California School Drinking Fountains.” Spoiler alert: it’s not just lead.

    Emily Kim, formerly a lawyer for charter chain Success Academy, is launching her own charter chain. It’ll be focused on integration, she promises.

    Via The New York Times: “Long After Protests, Students Shun the University of Missouri.”

    University of Michigan adds an automated text-analysis tool to a growing program intended to give more students a chance to learn through writing,” Inside Higher Ed reports. IHE blogger John Warner responds: “Algorithmic Assessment vs. Critical Reflection.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite Forged Signature, Bethune-Cookman U. Proceeds With $306-Million Dorm Contract.”

    NPR examines recovery schools– that is, schools geared towards students with addictions.

    Accreditation and Certification

    Congratulations to Malala Yousafzai who has finished high school.

    Via Chalkbeat: “Some New York charter schools could soon be allowed to certify their own teachers. What could that look like?”

    WBUR reports that“This New MIT Master’s Program Doesn’t Require A College Or High School Degree.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via SB Nation: “What football will look like in the future.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cornell University has announced that it is ending its contract with Nike, saying the athletic apparel company was unwilling to sign a ‘standard’ agreement pledging to follow a code of conduct for its workers, a code developed and endorsed by many colleges and universities.”

    From the HR Department

    “Mind-reading robo tutor in the sky” company Knewton has a new CEO, Brian Kibby, formerly with Pearson.

    The Business of Job Training

    Jobsolescence” is not a word but it’s used in this headline nonetheless.

    Larry Cuban on “Coding: The New Vocationalism” (Part 1 and Part 2)

    Contests and Awards

    Via the AP: “Denied Visas Twice, Afghan Girls Will Come to U.S. for Robotics Contest.”

    Google profiles Niji Collins, a winner in the latest Google Code-In contest.

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Edsurge profiles “personalized learning” software used in a virtual school that has some 450 incarcerated students. The software in question, Odysseyware, is featured in a recent series of articles in Slate, chronicling the worst online classes, particularly those used for credit recovery programs. No mention of that or of any problems with this sort of ed-tech in the Edsurge piece, no surprise, which was sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, just to give you an idea of how these organizations see the future of “personalized learning.”

    Africa is a Country profilesBridge International Academies: “No education crisis wasted: On Bridge’s ‘business model’ in Africa.”

    More on Bridge from Business Insider: “Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are backing a controversial education program in East Africa.”

    For the second time in as many weeks, Edsurge wants to know if educators’ job titles should be changed. First it was “professor.”Now it’s the word “teacher” that should be scrapped. Sensing a trend here?

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “OpenStax Launches Learning Platform.”

    Adaptive software is not the same as personalized learning, says eSchool News. Fortunately for pundits and PR, personalized learning can be anything you want it to be.

    Via MIT Technology Review: “Another Price Slash Suggests the Oculus Rift Is Dead in the Water.” But I’m sure VR is still the future of education for many marketers.

    Speaking of the future of education, via Complex: “How Pokemon Go Went From Viral Sensation To Wasteland in Just One Year.”

    Via The New York Times: “To Close Digital Divide, Microsoft to Harness Unused Television Channels.”

    Via Edsurge: “Genius, Crowdsourced Annotation Service, Discontinues Education Offerings.”

    Via Techcrunch: “Kids app maker Toca Boca debuts its first consumer product collection at Target.”

    Axios reports that “Another VC resigns after accusations of ‘misconduct’.” This time, it’s Frank Artale, co-founder of Ignition Partners. (To my knowledge, this firm has not made any ed-tech investments. So yay?)

    But never fear women in tech! “Ashton Kutcher plans to host an open dialogue on gender equality,” Techcrunch reports.

    Edsurge reports that 100Kin10, an organization that promises to train 100,000 STEM educators in the next decade, has received some $28 million in corporate pledges.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    The Getting Smart blog predicts that “By 2025, Swarms of Self-Driving Vehicles Will Transport Students to Learning Sites.” And it opts to go full Orwell with this prediction: “You can remind the troublemakers that with facial recognition you can run, but you can’t hide.”

    The Getting Smart blog also highlights a recent PwC report: “AI Boosts Value of Thinking, Creativity and Problem-Solving.”

    Via MIT Technology Review: “U.S. to Fund Advanced Brain-Computer Interfaces.”

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

    It’s not (necessarily) venture philanthropy, but The Chronicle of Higher Education tracks the “Major Private Gifts to Higher Education.”

    Recode profiles Priscilla Chan, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

    Via The New York Times: “Award-Winning Philanthropists Explain the Roots of Their Giving.”

    Charity is no substitute for justice withheld – St. Augustine

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    It’s not an ed-tech investment, but let’s note it nonetheless. “Betsy DeVos Invested In Military Tech Contractor Run By Son-In-Law, While Brother Shaped Afghan War Policy,” International Business Times reports. DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. DeVos’ investment is in LexTM3, which she’s funded three times since Trump became POTUS.

    Tutoring company Clark has raised $2.2 million in seed funding from Lightspeed Ventures, Rethink Education, Flatworld Partners, and Winkelvoss Capital.

    Vidcode has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from BrainPOP, Cherry Ventures, CoVenture, Rethink Education, Stephano Kim, and ZhenFund. The learn-to-code company has raised $1.62 million total.

    NetDragon has acquiredJumpStart, currently the developer of a game inspired by the ed-tech classic Math Blaster.

    BYJU’s has acquired tutoring company Edurite from Pearson.

    Pearson sells off a 22% stake in Penguin Random House to majority owner Bertelsmann.

    Industry analysis: Bloomberg looks atSilicon Valley’s Overstuffed Startups,” noting that IPOs and acquisitions have stalled. But Techcrunch reports that “US venture investment ticks up in Q2 2017,” so who knows.

    CB Insights lists“15 Early-Stage Ed Tech Companies To Watch.”

    Data and “Research”

    The RAND Corporation is out with a study on personalized learning– “Modest Gains, Big Challenges,” reads the Education Week headline. Doug Levin looks at this recent Gates Foundation-sponsored research and asks“Why Do Students in Personalized Learning Programs Feel Less Positive About School?”

    The Wall Street Journal looks atPaying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign.” Google responds. (And there’s been quite a bit of pushback on the research and the reporting.)

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Federal obligations to universities for science and engineering declined by 2 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, new federal data show.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “Do school vouchers‘work’? As the debate heats up, here’s what research really says.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students are more likely to graduate from colleges that are more expensive and have larger budgets, a new study out of Oregon State University shows.”

    Oh look. This story about laptops. Again.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the Urban Institute found limited interest among prospective college students about graduates’ labor market outcomes, despite the data’s appeal to policy makers and researchers.”

    Press releases as predictions. Via The Telegraph (and based on “market research”): “E-books sales to drop as bookshelf resurgence sparks ‘shelfie’ craze.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Online PD Pays Dividends for Teachers’ Tech Learning, Survey Suggests.” The survey was from Project Tomorrow.

    The Atlantic looks at research on “The Diminishing Role of Art in Children’s Lives.”

    Via Education Week’s Inside School Research blog: “Reading ‘on Grade Level’ May Depend on Your School’s Test, Study Finds.”

    Pew Research Center has released the results of its latest survey on how Americans view institutions. One of the big headline grabbers: the sharp decline in Republicans’ favorable view of higher education. 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents “now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.” More thoughts on the survey from Alex Reid, from the ANOVA, from Bryan Alexander, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, and from Inside Higher Ed.

    Pew Research Center releases its most recent report on online harassment– “Roughly four-in-ten Americans have personally experienced online harassment, and 62% consider it a major problem.”

    Via Buzzfeed: “Many Women Of Color Feel Unsafe Working In Science, New Study Finds.”

    Via The Atlantic: “Most Scientific Research Data From the 1990s Is Lost Forever.” Oops.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    In early June, I gave a keynote at the OEB MidSummit on the history of "personalization.“ I only had 20 minutes, so it’s a partial history at best. But as ”personalized learning" has become one of the most prominent buzzwords in education technology, I think it’s worth investigating its origins and its trajectory at length.

    ”Personalized learning" is often tied to the progressive educators of the early twentieth century – to John Dewey and Maria Montessori, for example – even though much of the educational software that’s marketed by Silicon Valley and education reformers as “personalized learning” has very little to do with progressive educational theory, except perhaps at the most superficial level. Sure, there’s an invocation of “choice” and “moving-at-your-own-pace,” but the progenitor for much of today’s “personalized learning” seems to be ad-tech rather than ed-tech.

    As part of my Spencer Fellowship, I’m investigating the networks of investors and entrepreneurs who are shaping education technology policies and products, and I’ve decided to focus on how “personalized learning” has come to dominate the narratives surrounding technology-based education reform.

    There are two obvious sources of funding and PR for “personalized learning” – the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The former has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on “personalized learning” products and projects; the latter promises it will spend billions.

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative does not list on its website where its money goes. (It’s a for-profit company, not a charitable foundation so it does not fall under the same reporting requirements as the Gates Foundation does.) As such, it’s going to take me some work to piece together exactly what CZI is funding. (Organizations we know have received CZI money: Chiefs for Change, the College Board, Edsurge (to promote personalized learning projects), and tutoring company BYJU’s, for starters.)

    The Gates Foundation’s investments in “personalized learning” are much easier to track. And to that end I have a couple of projects of my own to unveil:

    The amount of money that the Gates Foundation has awarded in education grants is simply staggering: some $15 billion across some 3000+ grants since the organization was founded in 1998.

    The Gates Foundation first started funding grants “to support personalized learning environments where all students achieve” in 2000, and it has backed the development, adoption, and marketing of “personalized learning” every year since then. (It’s not clear when a school gets a grant for “personalized learning” what software it purchases – is that software also funded by the Gates Foundation? I am assuming here that “personalized learning” necessarily means buying software.)

    With billions of dollars spent on shaping policies and narratives, the Gates Foundation remains one of the most influential (and anti-democratic) forces in education. As such, it gets to define what “personalized learning” is – what it looks like.

    (Still want to insist that “personalized learning” is progressive? Never forget: Bill Gates once called constructionism, progressive educator Seymour Papert’s theory of learning, “bullshit.” Or at least, I’ll never forget…)

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  • 07/21/17--05:00: Hack Education Weekly News
  • (National) Education Politics

    US Secretary of Education spoke to ALEC this week. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a right-wing organization that pens model legislation, including the “Stand Your Ground” gun laws, anti-union legislation, and laws that expand virtual schools. (Here’s a list of education organizations that are members or sponsors.) Betsy DeVos has previously invested in K–12 Inc, a prominent ALEC member. Education Week reminds us“Why Betsy DeVos and ALEC Are Natural Allies on School Choice.”

    The Department of Educationreleased DeVos’s remarks to ALEC, which include an invocation of Margaret Thatcher’s famous quotation “There is no such thing as society.”

    Via The Washington Post: “DeVos tells conservative lawmakers what they like to hear: More local control, school choice.” Protestors were outside the meeting in force.

    “Local control,” sure. But as Education Week reports, “States Bristle as DeVos Ed. Dept. Critiques Their ESSA Plans.”

    Elsewhere in irony, WaPo’s Valerie Strauss writes about“The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education.”

    President Trump Made a Promise to Black Colleges. It Hasn’t Happened,” writes The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adam Harris.

    Via Politico: “DeVos: Civil rights office will return to being a ‘neutral’ agency.” I do not know what it means to be “neutral” on civil rights unless you just replace “neutral” with “whiteness.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “More than 50 groups have signed a letter demanding that Candice E. Jackson, acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, reject a statement she made this month in a New York Times interview. Ms. Jackson told the newspaper that ‘90 percent’ of campus sexual-assault accusations resulted from an accuser’s regret over a sexual encounter.” Also from CHE: “Key Democrat Calls for DeVos to Remove Top Civil-Rights Official.”

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “White House Touts FCC Chair’s Plan to Scale Back Net Neutrality.”

    Inside Higher Ed reports that “The Republican budget resolution envisions more than $236 billion in cuts to mandatory spending for education programs over 10 years.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The House veterans affairs committee on Wednesday unanimously approved an update to the Post–9/11 GI Bill, an ambitious package of legislation that would lift the lifetime time limit on use of benefits and restore aid for veterans affected by closures of for-profit colleges, among other provisions.”

    The Kenyan Ministry of Education says that the Bridge International Academies are not complying with the country’s laws, and the company, which runs chains of schools across the developing world, has not received approval for its curriculum.

    Africa is a Country continues its coverage of Bridge, “Why is Liberia’s Government rushing to sell its public schools to U.S. for-profits?”

    Of course none of this – not Africa is a Country’s excellent reporting nor Peg Tyre’s recent story in the NYT– stops Nicholas Kristof from touting Bridge as a “solution.”

    (State and Local) Education Politics

    Via Education Week: “Minecraft Party to Raise Money for Technology in Philly Schools.”

    Via Chalkbeat: “New York City continues to lose track of thousands of school computers, audit finds.”

    Immigration and Education

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Twelve higher education associations this week registered ‘serious concern’ about a proposal under consideration at the Department of Homeland Security that would require international students to reapply annually for permission to stay in the U.S.”

    Education in the Courts

    Via NBC: “Arizona: Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination In Mexican American Studies Ban Back in Court.”

    The curriculum company Great Minds is appealing a lawsuit in which it claimed that FedEx had violated the “open” in its open educational resources by making copies.

    Via The Washington Post: “Iran sentences Princeton graduate student to 10 years for espionage, report says.”

    Testing, Testing…

    Via Education Week: “Thousands of English-Learners Fall Short on Test of Language Skills.” The test in question in ACCESS 2.0, which recently changed how it was scored.

    More colleges are going “test optional” for applicants: Dominican College, High Point University, the University of Evansville, and Hanover College.

    The Business of Student Loans

    Via The New York Times: “As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away.”

    Via NPR: “Private Student Loans: The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again?)” (Sallie Mae says that student borrowing is rising.)

    Via NPR: “Teachers With Student Debt: The Struggle, The Causes And What Comes Next.”

    There’s more research on student debt in the research section below.

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via Edsurge: “Dev Bootcamp Community Reacts to Closure Decision.” (Disclosure alert.)

    Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “Dev Bootcamp couldn’t tough out industry shakeout.”

    The Iron Yard announced this week that it will also be closing. This coding bootcamp was acquired by the University of Phoenix’s parent company, Apollo Education Group, in 2015.

    “Troubled Colleges Rebrand Under Faux-Latin Names,” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports. The for-profit Everest College is now “Altierus,” and DeVry is “Adtalem.”

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    The LA Times asks, “ In this digital self-help age, just how effective are MasterClass’s A-list celebrity workshops?”

    Campus Technology rewrites the press release that Examity will be used for identify verification and proctoring in edX classes.

    Coursera has a new partner, the insurance company AXA, which will offer some 300 Coursera classes to its employees.

    “What if the US had an OU?” the Open University’s Martin Weller asks.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    This LA Times story is something else: “An overdose, a young companion, drug-fueled parties: The secret life of USC med school dean.”

    Anya Kamenetz interviewsPurdue’s president Mitch Daniels about the future of higher ed.

    Campus Reform continues to make accusations against professors and stir up hate mobs against them. From The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Case of Mistaken Identity Spurs Hateful Messages for a Sikh Professor.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Central Florida Student Says He Was Suspended for Viral Tweet of Ex’s Apology.”

    “My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges– and I almost lost myself in the process,” writes Anisah Karim. This is a good example of why we should be more critical when we hear about schools that boast everyone was admitted to college – at what cost?

    “Students who can’t afford uniforms in New Orleans all-charter-system are routinely barred from attending school. And their parents can end up in jail,” AlterNet reports.

    Via NPR: “When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code.”

    “My Black Stepson Is Proof That Our Schools Put White Culture First” by Andre Perry. Important thoughts here on social emotional learning and structural racism.

    Via The Washington Post: “Some D.C. high schools are reporting only a fraction of suspensions.”

    Via Education Week: “For Principals, Student Sexting a Speeding ‘Freight Train,’ Full of Peril.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Credly Receives Open Badges Certification,” Campus Technology reports.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Hugh Freeze resigns as Ole Miss’ football coach,” The Clarion-Ledger reports. The move comes after it was revealed he made a call to an escort service.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Former National Football League player and current Fox NFL analyst Chris Spielman has filed a federal lawsuit against his alma mater, Ohio State University, claiming his image and those of other athletes were used without permission.”

    Via Deadspin: “Teens Discover The Boston Garden Has Ignored Law For Decades, May Owe State Millions.”

    From the HR Department

    Rebecca Schuman is back with her annual “Rate My JIL,” where she skewers the higher ed job market. She takes on a job posting at the University of Illinois Chicago that pays just $28K, for starters. IHE writes about the “outcry,” and “Dean Dad” Matt Reed responds with his own “speculative postmortem.”

    Former Under Secretary of Education and former NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Ted Mitchell is the new head of the lobbying group American Council on Education (ACE).

    Via Patheos: “BYU-Idaho Professor Fired After Defending LGBT Rights in Private Facebook Post.”

    Personalized learningequals cutting the teacher workforce in Oklahoma.

    Via NPR: “Number Of Teens Working Summer Jobs Declines.”

    The Business of Job Training

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Ads Spell Out What Career and Technical Education Really Is – and Who It’s For.”

    Stanford University’s Larry Cuban publishes part 3 of his series “Coding: The New Vocationalism.”

    Edsurge investigates the validity of a claim it published that “people will change careers 15 times over their lifetimes.” Perhaps fact-check these sorts of things before publishing them?

    Via the Google blog: “Google introduces Hire, a new recruiting app that integrates with G Suite.”

    Google boasts about teaching skills” using VR.

    Sound the “factory model of education klaxon”! Edsurge on“Bridging the School-to-Business Gap: What Public Schools Can Learn From Industry.”

    Contests and Competitions

    Via NPR: “Students Compete In First-Ever International High School Robotics Competition.”

    The New York Times reports that “Burundi Robotics Team Vanishes After U.S. Competition.” Authorities do not believe foul play is involved – two of the students were seen crossing into Canada.

    Via Techcrunch: “Literacy XPRIZE starts field tests of semifinalist apps in LA, Philadelphia and Dallas.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?” asks Edutopia.

    Is gender inequality in technology a good thing?” asks Donald Clark, using “neurodiversity” as an excuse to justify the ongoing exclusion of women from the field.

    Can predictive analytics help higher ed save $1M a year?” asks Education Dive.

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

    Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla insists that “Venture capital has less sexual harassment than other industries.” (Khosla’s education portfolio includes Kiddom, Affirm, Bridge International Academies, littleBit, and Piazza. His wife is the co-founder of OER organization CK–12.)

    Via Wired’s Nitasha Tiku: “VC Firms Promise to Stamp Out Sexual Harassment. Sounds Familiar.” That is, it sounds a lot like the industry’s promises to address diversity.

    The Teaching Channel, a video-based professional development organization heavily backed by the Gates Foundation, is becoming a for-profit company.

    Via KQED’s Mindshift: “MIT’s Scratch Program Is Evolving For Greater, More Mobile Creativity.”

    Via Edsurge: “Amazon Inspire Goes Live (But Without Controversial Share Feature).”

    The Verge profiles the SocialStar Creator Camp, a summer camp for teens wanting to become viral Internet stars.

    “Together, technology and teachers can revamp schools,” says The Economist, touting Skinner’s work – it’s like the author read my work but didn’t really read my work.

    Via Education Week: “Personalized Learning: ‘A Cautionary Tale’.”

    eCampus News offers“9 online learning predictions for the upcoming term.” The list includes cloud computing, ffs.

    It’s 2017, and ed-tech is so “disruptive” that we’re still debating the LMS, a technology that is at least 30 years old (and that’s just if you date it to the founding of Blackboard. It’s about 50 years old if you recognize some of PLATO’s functionality is LMS-like.) From WCET: “In Defense of the LMS.” Via Bryan Alexander: “Moodle and the next LMS: reflections and more questions.” Brian Lamb and Jim Groom offers some challenges to the next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) – because if all else fails, go with a new acronym. More on the LMS in the research section below.

    Speaking of a very strange sense of history: most of these items touted by Edsurge as “90s ed-tech” were not invented in the 1990s.

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

    Let Robots Teach American Schoolkids,” says George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen. Hell, why not let robots teach economics at George Mason University?!

    Via Edsurge: “At Louisville Summer Camps, Robots Meet Literacy to Support Vulnerable Students.” (Disclosure alert.)

    More on robots in the contest section above.

    (Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

    Who’s received Gates Foundation grant money since 1998? I’ve published descriptions of the 3000+ grants here.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    University World News reports that the private equity firm has invested $275 million to build a platform for African universities – Honoris United Universities.

    Kahoot has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Creandum, Northzone, and Microsoft Ventures. The gaming company has raised $26.5 million total. Edsurge reports it’s also joined the Disney Accelerator program.

    Ironhack has raised $3 million in Series A funding form JME Venture Capital. It’s another coding bootcamp. Good luck, guys.

    Career development company Learnerbly has raised $2.09 million in seed funding from Frontline Ventures, Claire Davenport, Future Planet Capital, Jason Stockwood, London Co-Investment Fund, Playfair Capital, Renaud Visage, R Ventures, and Stephan Thomas.

    PeopleGrove has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from Reach Capital, Bisk Ventures, Collaborative Fund, FLOODGATE, GSV Acceleration, Karl Ulrich, LaunchCapital, RiverPark Ventures, and University Ventures. The mentorship platform has raised $2.53 million total.

    KickUp has raised $730,000 in seed funding from Red House Education. The professional development company has raised $2.27 million total.

    Escape Technology has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Alpine Investors.

    Advertising company AcademixDirect has acquired“career exploration app” PathSource.

    Silverback Learning has acquired testing company EdifyAssess.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Schools collect more data, but how is it used?” asks The Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo.

    From the Ed-Fi Alliance’s blog: “The Ed-Fi Alliance Releases Evolutionary Data Standard v2.1.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Average Cost Per Record of US Data Breach in Ed: $245.”

    Via Education Week: “University, middle school partner on cybersecurity education.”

    Data and “Research”

    According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of colleges and universities eligible to award financial aid has fallen precipitously in the last year. “The Culling of Higher Ed Begins,” says Inside Higher Ed. “Numerous schools shut down programs due to the threat of the Obama administration’s ‘gainful employment’ rules, which yank financial aid eligibility from for-profit college programs where students take on too much debt and earn little in return,” Buzzfeed points out.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new report from Third Way, a centrist think tank, attempts to measure higher education’s performance across sectors and types of institutions. The group used federal data on completion, students’ earnings six years after enrollment and loan repayment rates. The report features aggregate figures for four-year institutions, community colleges and certificate-granting institutions, with breakouts by sector.”

    “Research for Action has released the results of a two-year examination of three states’ performance-based funding formulas for public colleges,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Edsurge: “How Much Do Educators Care About Edtech Efficacy? Less Than You Might Think.”

    Via Edsurge: “‘Precision Education’ Hopes to Apply Big Data to Lift Diverse Student Groups.” (This headline pairs nicely with the one above and one below, don’t you think?)

    Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Adaptive Learning Products Gain Ground in K–12, Market Survey Finds.” boasts that “Girls set AP Computer Science record…skyrocketing growth outpaces boys.” The industry-backed group is taking credit for the increase in the number of AP CS test-takers. There’s a nifty infographic, which Melinda Gates shared on Twitter. (No disclosurein the Edsurge coverage that the College Board,, and Edsurge itself are all backed by Gates Foundation money.) Like Tim Stahmer, I have some questions about that graph. I mean, the number of AP exams in CS recently doubled too. Is it that surprising that, in turn, the number of exams taken grew as well? How well are these students doing in the AP courses (and not just on the exam)? And “why are underrepresented minorities and poor over-represented in courses?” Mark Guzdial asks.

    Well, I suppose Senator John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis was bound to elicit these sorts of stories. From The Atlantic: “Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer or Not?”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “An overwhelming majority of colleges and universities did not change priority aid deadlines in response to an earlier financial aid cycle last year, according to a survey of member institutions by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.”

    “A new research paper finds that excess credit hour policies don’t lead to completion, just more student debt,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that rising student debt levels are a substantial contributor to the decline in home ownership among young Americans.”

    Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill provides data on the “Academic LMS Market Share By Enrollments” – part 1 and part 2.

    “Why Americans Think So Poorly of the Country’s Schools” – Jack Schneider on polls and surveys about public education.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the Campaign for Accountability has had to update its list of scholars who’ve been funded by Google, due to a number of criticisms and flaws in the data. Worth noting: the group is funded by Google’s arch-nemesis, Oracle.


    Maryan Mirzakhani, the first woman to with math’s Field Medal, has died from cancer. A professor at Stanford, she was 40. What a loss.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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    Within the past week, two well-known and well-established coding bootcamps have announced they’ll be closing their doors: Dev Bootcamp, owned by Kaplan Inc., and The Iron Yard, owned by the Apollo Education Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix). Two closures might not make a trend… yet. But some industry observers have suggested we might see more “consolidation” in the coming months.

    It appears that there are simply more coding bootcamps – almost 100 across the US and Canada– than there are students looking to learn to code. (That is to say, there are more coding bootcamps than there are people looking to pay, on average, $11,000 for 12 weeks of intensive training in a programming language or framework).

    All this runs counter, of course, to the pervasive belief in a “skills gap” – that there aren’t enough qualified programmers to fill all the programming jobs out there, and that as such, folks looking for work should jump at the chance to pay for tuition at a bootcamp. and other industry groups have suggested that there are currently some 500,000 unfilled computing jobs, for example. But that number is more invention than reality, a statistic used to further a particular narrative about the failure of schools to offer adequate technical training. That 500,000 figure, incidentally, comes from a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection about the number of computing and IT jobs that will added to the US economy by 2024, not the number of jobs that are available – filled or unfilled – today.

    Perhaps instead of “everyone should learn to code,” we should push for everyone to learn how to read the BLS jobs report.

    There isn’t really much evidence of a “skills gap”– there’s been no substantive growth in wages, for example, that one would expect if there was a shortage in the supply of qualified workers. And while we can talk about jobs that will be added to the overall economy in the coming years, it’s important to remember that the job market isn’t national; it’s local. A Haskell programmer in Silicon Valley might earn $250,000 a year, for example; a Haskell programmer in Des Moines probably won’t. Hell, there might not be any Haskell jobs in all of Iowa.

    For its part, Dev Bootcamp had coding bootcamps in Austin, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Iron Yard had coding bootcamps in Atlanta, Austin, Charleston, Dallas, Durham, Greenville, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh, Tampa Bay, and Washington DC. (An Iron Yard location in Detroit had already closed its doors.) In all these locations, the bootcamps boasted that they were working with high profile local employers. But the question remains: did local employers really want or need bootcamp grads? Or rather, there are (at least) two questions: were there a sufficient number of tech jobs in these cities to make the bootcamp tuition and time spent worthwhile; and was the training at a bootcamp sufficient to get hired?

    In December of last year, Bloomberg published a warning to prospective students: “Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools.” The article contended that many companies have found coding bootcamp grads unprepared for technical work: “These tech bootcamps are a freaking joke,” one tech recruiter told the publication. “My clients are looking for a solid CS degree from a reputable university or relevant work experience.” Google’s director of education echoed this sentiment: “Our experience has found that most graduates from these programs are not quite prepared for software engineering roles at Google without additional training or previous programming roles in the industry.”

    Of course, with all these regional schools, the bootcamps aren’t really training employees for work in the Bay Area (although I think that is part of their marketing – get a certificate, and you can land a job with a famous tech company). And despite the poor reputation bootcamps might have among some tech firms, Course Report, a review site for bootcamps, touts these schools’ successful job placement rates. Course Report claims that among those graduates it surveyed, 73% had found full-time employment using the skills they’d learned, and those had seen an average salary increase of $26,000. No doubt, it’s worth pointing out that there is very little independent research to validate these sorts of claims – much of the research is industry-sponsored, and much of the data, self-reported.

    Also worth noting: that of those surveyed by Course Report, 60% already had bachelor’s degrees. Arguably, this makes the bootcamp certification more of an addition to the college degree than a substitute for one. And this complicates any discussion of credentialing and hiring – does someone land a programming job because she or he has a college degree or because she or he has a coding bootcamp certificate? How might gender and race play into this?

    How might the school itself play into this? I don’t just mean coding bootcamps in general, but specific bootcamp brands. Brands like Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard, obviously, have taken a hit to their “legitimacy” by closing (and their students will feel this in turn) – I’m borrowing this term from sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom– but arguably these schools were also associated with what McMillan Cottom calls “lower ed” in the first place. That is, they’d become subsidiaries of the for-profit colleges Kaplan and the University of Phoenix respectively – coding bootcamps as “the new for-profit higher ed.” Does that association matter to bootcamp students, and just as importantly, does that association matter to employers? Again, there's not much research.

    For-profit higher ed has been in the news a lot in the last couple of years, and the news hasn’t been so good: stories about the high rate of student loan debt, charges of fraudulent marketing, and the closures of chains like Corinthian Colleges and ITT (a technical college, to boot). According to one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average student at a for-profit college is actually worse off after attending. That is, these students are less likely to be employed; and if they do have jobs, they are more likely to earn less.

    But of course the “average student” at a for-profit college is not the same as the “average student” at a coding bootcamp. As McMillan Cottom documents in her book Lower Ed, “the typical for-profit college student is a woman and a parent. For-profit colleges dominate in producing black bachelor’s degree holders.” According to the latest survey (again, survey) from Course Report, 55% of bootcamp students are male; 70% are white. 39% paid for their bootcamp tuition themselves; and 17% took out loans. 96% of those enrolled for-profit colleges, by comparison, take out loans.

    Much of the latter is federal loan money. Bootcamps, on the other hand, are not eligible for federal financial aid. The Obama Administration did launch a pilot program – the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) initiative– to evaluate the possibility of “non-traditional providers” like bootcamps becoming aid-eligible. But there’s been no word from the Trump Administration if this will be continued or expanded. (Among those bootcamps participating: The Flatiron School in partnership with SUNY Empire State College, MakerSquare in partnership with the University of Texas Austin, HackerRank in partnership with Wilmington University, and Epicodus in partnership with Marylhurst University.) Perhaps bootcamps (and their investors) were hoping that federal financial aid would subsidize their operations like it has done the rest of for-profit higher ed; but that money hasn’t materialized.

    Nevertheless, coding bootcamps – and “learn-to-code” startups more generally– remain one of the most active areas for ed-tech investment. Over $70 million in venture capital has been funneled in coding bootcamps so far in 2017. But unlike in the recent past, there have yet to be any big acquisitions in the industry this year. In 2016, Capella Education, another for-profit college chain, acquired the bootcamps Hackbright Academy and Dev Mountain; and fellow for-profit Strayer Education acquired the New York Code and Design Academy. (Other 2016 bootcamp buys: General Assembly acquired Bitmaker, Bloc acquired DevBridge, and Full Stack Academy acquired Starter League.) There’s been some criticism of those bootcamp founders who sold their companies to for-profits and subsequently “checked out,” allowing the quality of their offerings to suffer. But that’s likely what happens if your company raises venture capital: a bigger company buys you (and crushes you).

    When Dev Bootcamp announced it was closing, the company admitted that it had been “unable to find a sustainable model” that didn't compromise its vision for “high-quality, immersive coding training that is broadly accessible to a diverse population.” Indeed, despite the tech industry’s disdain for the education system and particularly for the politics of its (unionized) labor force, “high-quality, immersive coding training” is going to be an expensive, labor-intensive proposition. For its part, the for-profit higher education industry has not been known to invest heavily in instruction (faculty or curriculum); its dollars – primarily federal financial aid dollars at that – have gone instead to marketing and recruitment.

    So it may just be that the business of teaching everyone to code (and to code well and to do so without federal money) isn’t a very good business at all, particularly at the sort of scale that for-profit higher ed chains – career colleges and coding bootcamps alike – and their investors have sought.