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The History of the Future of Education Technology
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  • 01/05/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    “The Free-College Dream Didn’t End With Trump’s Election,” The Atlantic pronounces, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his plan for tuition-free degrees at the state’s public colleges and universities. More details on the proposal, which would extend to families earning $125,000 or less, from Inside Higher Ed. Some have scoffed at the proposal, including Matthew Chingos who says it won’t really benefit low-income students, to which Sara Goldrick-Rab responds, “Of course, low-income students win with free tuition.” “Is Free College Really Free?” asks NPR’s Anya Kamenetz.

    Politico has the paperworkBetsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, has filed for her Senate approval process. In addition to all the campaign donations, do note all the yacht clubs and country clubs she’s a member of.

    Via The Washington Post: “‘School choice’ or ‘privatization’? A guide to loaded education lingo in the Trump era.”

    Via Politico: “Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stressed Tuesday that federal authorities should not use private information of so-called Dreamers to deport them – an implicit warning to President-elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to unravel executive actions that have granted key benefits to more than 740,000 young undocumented immigrants.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Thursday introduced and said he would push legislation – similar to a controversial North Carolina law– that would bar public colleges and universities from letting transgender people use multiple-unit bathrooms other than those associated with their biological gender at birth.” More via The Pacific Standard.

    Title IX Protects Identities But Can Complicate Justice,” says NPR.

    Via The Guardian: “Government plans to fast-track degree-awarding powers to new startup institutions as part of its controversial higher education proposals are ‘a risk too far’, experts in the sector are warning.”

    “Republicans Should Rethink Plans to Privatize Student Lendingsay Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos writing for Real Clear Education.

    Via Education Week: “Trump Taps Rob Goad as White House Education Adviser.” Goad was once the top aide to Congressman Luke Messer (R-Ind.).

    Education in the Courts

    Next week, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about IEPs and what benefits these must provide under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The SCOTUSblog has a preview.

    Via the AP: “A fired Kentucky high school principal has admitted to seizing students’ phones so that he could steal pornographic images and trade them online, investigators said.”

    Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Chicago State U. Settles Whistle-Blower’s Lawsuit for $1.3 Million.”

    Via the CBC: “Student charged with cyber crimes in U of A malware breach.” U of A here, for non-Canadians, is the University of Alberta.

    Via Reuters: “Judge blocks law limiting incoming North Carolina governor’s power.”

    More legal maneuvering in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    CSU signs deal to record, broadcast classroom lectures,” says the San Francisco Examiner. (The deal was signed with Sonic Foundry.)

    “The Future is Artificial Intelligence,” says edX.

    Star Pubs and Bars launch“free e-learning for all” about how to run a pub.

    Coding Bootcamps and the “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A Minnesota judge this week ruled that Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, two embattled for-profits, must pay restitution to more than 1,200 defrauded students.”

    Furniture, fixtures, and equipment from the bankrupt ITT are up for auction online.

    “A group of five former ITT Technical Institute students have filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana seeking to be named creditors in the defunct for-profit chain’s bankruptcy proceedings,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via the BBC: “Fake university degree websites shut down.”

    The coding bootcamp Springboard will guarantee jobs for its graduates, Edsurge reports. (This prompts a “disclosure alert” – a new feature I’m starting this year to call out the financial ties between ed-tech companies. Edsurge shares an investor with Springboard– John Katzman. The story included no disclosure of that relationship.)

    Meanwhile on Campus

    The University of California system is proposing the first tuition increase in six years.

    Via NPR: “Fisk University Works To Move Past Cash-Strapped History.”

    Via Willamette Week: “‘Sanctuary’ Designation Prompts Portland Community College Board Chairman to Quit.”

    Via “Enrollment doubles in North Carolina charter schools.”

    Via Education Week: “As two girls fought in the cafeteria area of a North Carolina high school, another student raised her cellphone to make a video, sparking a furor when she captured a police officer picking up and slamming a student to the floor.”

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via Bloomberg: “College Football’s Top Teams Are Built on Crippling Debt.”

    The University of Minnesota has fired its football coach Tracy Claeys. The Star Tribune reports that “Gophers football has been roiling since Dec. 13, when [athletic director Mark] Coyle suspended 10 players in connection with an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault. The players responded with a two-day boycott, and Claeys publicly supported their stance, pitting him against the administration.”

    Via Politico: “According to new research by the Centers for Disease Control, brain and spinal injuries killed about three high school or college football players a year between 2005 and 2014.”

    From the HR Department

    Via The New York Times: “Facebook Hires Campbell Brown to Lead News Partnerships Team.” Brown founded the education reform site The 74 and is close friends with Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Facebook’s contempt for public education continues.

    Via Education Week: “Ruth Neild to Step Down as Head of Education Department’s Research Agency.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “NLRB Won’t Halt Adjunct Union Vote at Southern Cal.”

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

    Pearson execs writing in Edsurge ask, “Can Edtech Support – and Even Save – Educational Research?”

    (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

    There’s a rush of crap out of the Consumer Electronic Show this week – it’s all about surveilling children under the guise of innovation and such.

    Via Engadget: “Lego Boost teaches kids how to bring blocks to life with code.” It’s like Mindstorms except not.

    Facebook is donating 500 virtual reality kits to Arkansas schools under a first-of-its-kind partnership between the social media giant and the state,” says the AP. But I’m sure there are zero privacy concerns.

    Ev Williams says his Web publishing company Medium is “renewing its focus.” That means firing 50 staff, closing several offices, and looking for another business model. Third time’s the charm, Ev. Or something. Meanwhile, this is a good reminder that you should never write for free for a venture-backed startup.

    Google is closing down the Hangouts API. Hope no educators were building anything important with it.

    School districts in Colorado are acting as landlords, subsidizing housing for educators so they can afford to live there. Company housing has long been a great way to make sure your employees are compliant.

    PLOS ONE, the largest scholarly journal in the world, continues to shrink,” says Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Boing Boing: “Automated book-culling software drives librarians to create fake patrons to ‘check out’ endangered titles.” This is the future of algorithmic everything, you know.

    Via The Atlantic: “How Design Thinking Became a Buzzword at School.”

    It’s time for Forbes’ annual clickbait, 30 Under 30. Edsurge, hoping for its own share of clicks, covers those selected as education leaders. Congrats on those who did not click.

    The Business of Ed-Tech

    Show My Homework has raised $2.95 million in seed funding from LocalGlobe.

    JOY has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from undisclosed investors for Octopus, an “interactive scheduling watch” which you can strap on your child to remind them to do tasks. They get a badge. Sounds awesome.

    “Student engagement platform” ClearScholar has raised $1.25 million in seed funding from High Alpha Capital, Elevate Ventures, Butler University, Cindy and Paul Skjodt, and Stephen Simon.

    Study-abroad program GradTrain has raised $500,000 in seed funding from undisclosed investors.

    Educational app maker Tinybop received an undisclosed amount of funding from Sandbox Partners.

    BYU has received $527,112 from the Department of Homeland Security to build a Web authentication tool.

    LivingTree has acquiredClassMessenger.

    Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

    Via NBC 41 in Macon, Georgia: “Bibb schools installs new classroom cameras, microphones to help teachers.”

    “Baby’s First Virtual Assistant” is how Bloomberg describesMattel’s new Amazon Echo / baby monitor / surveillance tool. “Baby’s First Panopticon.” “It’s an AI to help raise your child,” says Fast Company, without a shred of horror at the possibility.

    Via The Guardian: “ Children in England sign over digital rights‘regularly and unknowingly’.” How much of this happens because they’re compelled to do so at school?

    Meanwhile, via Pearson: “Personalized learning and student privacy.”

    More on surveillance and cybersecurity in the “courts” section above and “research” section below.

    Data and “Research”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Older Americans are the fastest-growing group in the student loan market and nearly 40 percent of borrowers over 65 were in default in 2015, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report released Thursday.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “When Colleges Rely on Adjuncts, Where Does the Money Go?”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “A study released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) finds variation in the effectiveness of instructors at the University of Phoenix, using a required college algebra course to measure results.”

    Internet of Things Spending to Reach $1.29 Trillion by 2020,” says Campus Technology. “The ‘internet of things’ is going to invade your home, whether you like it or not,” says Business Insider. It’s inevitable, insist tech marketers. Inevitable.

    And yet…

    Via Education Week: “Pre-K–12 Education Companies’ Status Falls on 2016 Inc. 5000 List.”

    My year-end review of ed-tech funding: “How Much Venture Capital Did Ed-Tech Raise in 2016?” Spoiler alert: funding was down – way down – in 2016.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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  • 01/12/17--23:01: Hack Education Weekly News
  • Education Politics

    Coming at you from the “fashion” section of The New York Times, a profile on Peter Thiel: “Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself.” Highlights include his thoughts on Star Wars, corruption, and sex. OK, maybe “highlights” is the wrong word.

    Silicon Valley Takes a Right Turn,” according to an op-ed in The New York Times. But frankly, it’s always leaned to the right.

    Via WaPo’s Valerie Strauss: “Yes, Bill Gates really compared Donald Trump to JFK– and said Trump could help education.”

    Via The New York Daily News: “A conservative Arizona lawmaker, Rep. Bob Thorpe, is proposing a far-reaching law in Arizona, House Bill 2120, banning virtually every college event, activity or course which discusses social justice, skin privilege, or racial equality. Violating the law would allow the state of Arizona to levy multimillion-dollar fines and penalties against universities – removing at least 10% of their state aid.”

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Lawmakers in two states this week introduced legislation that would eliminate tenure for public college and university professors. A bill in Missouri would end tenure for all new faculty hires starting in 2018 and require more student access to information about the job market for majors. Legislation in Iowa would end tenure even for those who already have it.” (“If colleges keep killing academic freedom, civilization will die, too,” says Judge José A. Cabranes in a WaPo op-ed. So that’s fun.)

    Via Newsweek: “Texas Among States With Anti-Transgender ‘Bathroom Bills’ on the Horizon.”

    Via “Mayor Walsh launches tuition-free community college for BPS graduates.” (BPS equals Boston Public Schools.)

    “Edushyster” Jennifer Berkshire has another profile of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education.

    Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Plays Hardball With Her Wealth.”

    DeVos’s confirmation hearing was delayed, in part because of an incomplete ethics review.

    Via The New York Times: “Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance.”

    Elsewhere in Trumplandia: “Columbia University has declined to comment on recent reports that Monica Crowley, an appointee of President-elect Donald J. Trump, plagiarized portions of her 2000 Ph.D. dissertation at the university,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

    Via Buzzfeed: “Trump Moves To Challenge Vaccine Science.”

    The Chronicle of Higher Education on news from the Department of Labor: “New Federal Guidance Is Hailed as Helping Adjuncts Collect Unemployment.”

    The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a national group supporting public and private HBCUs, announced a $25.6 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries, a well-known opponent of government spending on things like public education (among other things). More via Inside Higher Ed.

    The Department of Education has released a “Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan,” just in the nick of time I guess. More on the report via Edsurge.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education has released data showing there were 539 institutions placed on heightened cash monitoring as of Dec. 1, meaning they are subject to greater financial oversight than other institutions participating in federal aid programs.”

    Via The Guardian: “Peers have defeated controversial government reforms of higher education that would have made it easier for new profit-making colleges to award degrees and become universities.” (Peers are members of the House of Lords for those not up-to-date on UK government titles.) EDITED TO ADD: Apparently, The Guardian article is not quite right. "Defeated" is too strong a word here. Rather, an amendment has been added to define "university," something that is a blow to this particular piece of legislation.

    More about the politics of education data – particularly regarding undocumented students – in the data and surveillance section below. More news on the Department of Education, student loans, and for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below.

    Education in the Courts

    Via NPR: “Supreme Court Considers How Schools Support Students With Disabilities.” More via The New York Times. Disability rights journalist David Perry also weighs in.

    Via The Washington Post: “Teachers sue student loan servicer for converting their grants to loans.”

    Via The Huffington Post: “Native American Students Sue The U.S. Government Over Dismal Education.”

    Via McClatchy DC: “Forced to watch child porn for their job, Microsoft employees developed PTSD, they say.” They’re suing the company.

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    edX is offering an online master’s degree with Georgia Tech: an OMS (online master’s in science) in Analytics.

    edX has partnered with the World Bank Group.

    The Economist onThe Return of the MOOC.” As The Dead Kennedys would say,

    MOOC’s not dead It just deserves to die When it becomes another stale cartoon A close-minded, self-centered social club Ideas don’t matter It’s who you know If the MOOC’s gotten boring It’s because of the people who want everyone to sound the same Who drive the bright people out of our so-called scene Till all that’s left is a meaningless fad

    Via Zion Market Research: “Massive Open Online Course Market: Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecasts 2016-2024.” Price tag for the report: $3599.

    “ The growth of online learning: How universities must adjust to the new norm” is sponsored content on Education Dive.

    Via Salon: “Noam Chomsky: You can’t educate yourself by looking things up online.”

    Harvard/MIT Report Analyzes 4 Years of MOOC Data,” Campus Technology reports. More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “The Intended Consequences of California’s Online Education Initiative.”

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

    Via Buzzfeed: “Hundreds Of College Programs Could Be Shut Down For Breaking Student Debt Rules.” “Over 800 Programs Fail Education Dept.’s Gainful-Employment Rule,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. More via Bloomberg. Here’s the gainful employment data from the Department of Education itself. A reaction from Robert Kelchen. Kevin Carey also has thoughts about Harvard's appearance on the "predatory program" list.

    From the press release: “The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced today plans to grant borrower defense relief for federal student loan borrowers who attended the now-defunct American Career Institute (ACI) in Massachusetts.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

    Race, student debt, and for-profit graduate schools” – a report from The Brookings Institution.

    Also via The Brookings Institution: “How much do for-profit colleges rely on federal funds?”

    Via the ABA Journal: “Charlotte School of Law students reportedly will receive spring loan money.”

    More on accreditation of for-profits in the accreditation section below.

    Meanwhile on Campus…

    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on more university mergers in Georgia: “Armstrong State University, in Savannah, and Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, will merge under the Georgia Southern name, bringing the total number of students at the university to around 27,000. And Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, in Tifton, will be merged with Bainbridge State College. Both campuses will use the Abraham Baldwin name and have a total of about 6,000 students.”

    Via The Mercury News: “In Apple’s backyard, iPads ignite furor in schools.” Parents in the affluent school district are pushing back on the mandate that middle schoolers use iPads.

    Via Edsurge: “Mountain View District Cuts Digital Program in Half After Parent Backlash.” The program: Teach to One.

    (Fascinating how affluent parents in the shadow of Google and Apple HQs respond to ed-tech, no?)

    “The University of California, San Francisco, has announced a $500 million grant from the Helen Diller Foundation, one of the largest gifts ever to American higher education,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

    Via NPR: “Activists Fear Reversal Of Strict Rules On Campus Sexual Assault.”

    Via Infodocket: “University of Delaware Library Joins Open Textbook Network.”

    Accreditation and Certification

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “ACICS-Accredited Colleges Meet Federal Deadline.” That is, they met the deadline to maintain their financial aid eligibility for the next 18 months while they look for a new accreditor.

    “The ‘poor man’s MBA’ can boost salaries by 20%,” says CNN in a puff piece about LinkedIn,, and project management certificates.

    Go, School Sports Team!

    Via The New York Times: “Clemson Upsets Alabama to Win the College Football Championship.” Coach Dabo Swinney thanked God for taking such good care of the Tigers – which probably explains why the rest of the world has gone to shit this football season.

    Via The Denver Post: “ New pro football league aims to be a college alternative for players.”

    Via the AP: “Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal has cost Penn State nearly a quarter-billion dollars.”

    Via The Undefeated: “Spending gap for football players vs. nonathletes by bowl-eligible schools is enormous.”

    Via The Washington Post: “College athletic directors bring gala business to Trump International Hotel.”

    From the HR Department

    Via The LA Times: “How the University of California exploited a visa loophole to move tech jobs to India.”

    Via CNBC: “Uber’s David Plouffe to join Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.” Before joining Uber, Plouffe was President Obama’s campaign manager. Let’s keep an eye on Zuck’s political aspirations.

    Upgrades and Downgrades is shutting down. The social media platform had raised $2.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz and others.

    Via Techcrunch: “Nickelodeon gets into e-books with new reading app for kids, Nick Jr. Books.”

    Google’s Toontastic storytelling app for kids goes 3D,” says Techcrunch. (Well, you’re still moving your cartoons around in a two-dimensional space, but it’s a great headline.)

    Google boasts that “New Google Classroom features make it easier to learn, teach, manage and build” – that is, by adding notifications and metrics. Good god, the bar is low, isn’t it. More on the Classroom API via the G Suite Developers Blog. (LOL. “G Suite.”)

    Via the ALA press release: “Equipping librarians to code: ALA, Google launch ready to code university pilot program.” “This work will culminate in graduate level course models that equip MLIS students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation’s youth.”

    Nothing says “progressive education” like shilling for Unilever.

    Education Week has a Q&A with Stanford professor Larry Cuban on personalized learning and progressive education.

    Robots and Other (Ed-Tech) Science Fiction

    I’m adding this subsection to the Hack Education Weekly News this year, as I am fascinated by the narratives surrounding artificial intelligence and robots– if not the “fake news” of the (ed-) tech sector, certainly some of the most hyped and unsubstantiated crap you’ll read…

    Via Edsurge: “What Makes a Smart Course ‘Smart’?” I believe the answer is “adding the adjective ‘smart’ to your press release or headline.”

    Via Geekwire: “New $27 million fund backs research into artificial intelligence for the public interest.” The money comes from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, the Omidyar Network, the Knight Foundation, and others.

    Via Edsurge: “​Are False Connections with AI Robots Putting Your Student’s Emotional Health at Risk?”

    Via The New York Times: “Robots Will Take Jobs, but Not as Fast as Some Fear, New Report Says.”

    Via Campus Technology: “Carnegie Mellon AI Ups the Ante in 20-Day Poker Fest.”

    A.I. Is the New T.A. in the Classroom” – by Rose Luckin and Wayne Holmes and sponsored by Pearson, of course.

    “Ten Questions about AIfrom Roger Schank, who remains the best person to follow on puncturing the AI hype both in and out of the classroom.

    A chatbot startup received funding – more details in the business of ed-tech section below.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

    Sallie Mae’s stock has soared since the election,” notes Rohit Chopra. For-profit higher and student loan companies. The future of ed-tech. has raised $5.27 million in funding from HENQ Invest and Real Web. The student housing startup has raised $6.27 million total.

    Unacademy has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding from Blume Ventures, Nexus Venture Partners, Ananth Narayanan, Binny Bansal, Girish Mathrubootham, Kunal Shah, Sachin Bansal, Sandeep Tandon, Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs, Tashish Tulsian, Tracxn Labs, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, and Waterbridge Ventures. The online education platform has raised $6 million total.

    AdmitHub has raised $2.95 million in seed funding from Reach Capital, Relay Ventures, Bisk Ventures , Charlie Cheever, Chris Gabrieli, FundersClub, Kevin Morgan, The Yard Ventures, and University Ventures. According to Edsurge, AdmitHub is “creating conversational artificial intelligence (AI) to guide students to and through college.” It’s raised $3.68 million total.

    ClassWallet has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Brentwood Associates.

    “Blended learning” company Learntron has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Kae Capital.

    Via Techcrunch: “Salesforce’s Marc Benioff joins Valley notables backing Gaza’s first ever coding academy.” The funding is part of a crowdfunding campaign, also backed by Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Dave McClure, Fadi Ghandour, Samih Toukan, the Skoll Foundation, and Freada Kapor Klein.

    Via Edsurge: “Curriculum Associates to Be Owned by Iowa State University– For Now.”

    Via Edsurge: “Rethink Education Re-Ups Commitment to Edtech With $107.5 Million Fund.”

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via NPR: “The Higher Ed Learning Revolution: Tracking Each Student’s Every Move.”

    The LA Times reports that Los Angeles Valley College has paid $28,000 in Bitcoin to ransomware hackers.

    Via Quartz: “A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s privacy policy so kids and parents can have a meaningful talk about privacy.”

    Via The Register: “TV anchor says live on-air ‘Alexa, order me a dollhouse’ – guess what happens next.”

    Via The New York Times: “N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications.”

    Via Education Week: “Trump’s Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Fuels Data Concerns.”

    Data and “Research”

    “American higher ed enrollment declines, again,” says Bryan Alexander, drawing on data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Some of this come from the “collapse” – we wish, right? – of for-profit higher ed.

    Also via Bryan Alexander: “How academia adjunctified faculty and mainstreamed the queen sacrifice.”

    Still more from Bryan Alexander: “The next 15 years of high school graduates.”

    Via Medical Xpress: “Parents’ presence when TV viewing with child affects learning ability.”

    It’s always worth noting the scholars that Rick Hess does not see when he calculates his “RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.” Not Tressie McMillan Cottom, for example.

    Inside Higher Ed covers a new study, published in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Ed comparing RateMyProfessors and institutional evaluations: :Study of millions of online ratings of professors suggests scores vary with an instructor’s gender, discipline and perceived ‘easiness.’"

    Via The New York Times: “For Young Entrepreneurs, College Debts Can Snuff Out Start-Up Hopes.” (Let’s add that ditching the ACA will also damage these hopes.)

    Via “Directory of Vendors of Online Learning Products and Services.” (I’d be curious in how this 2500 entry database compares with Edsurge’s.)

    Via EdTech Magazine: “How Learning Analytics Can Help Inform K–12 Decisions.”

    Via The Hechinger Report: “School of Me: Letting students study what they want, when they want is the latest education trend.” Not entirely what they want, of course. Let’s be clear.

    Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students at for-profit institutions achieve learning results that are similar to those of students who attend comparable nonprofit colleges, according to a new study by the Council for Aid to Education. The study was funded by the for-profits that participated in the research.” (And the methodology is pretty LOL.)

    Via The New York Times: “Sticker Shock, and Maybe Nausea, Hamper Sales of Virtual Reality Gear.” But I’m sure ed-tech evangelists still believe VR is the future of education.

    Via Mark Guzdial: “Computer Science added to US Dept of Ed Civil Rights Data Collection.” (As long as the Department of Education still collects this data, of course.)

    “​How Should We Measure the Impact of Makerspaces?” is a depressing, but probably inevitable question posed by Edsurge.

    US News & World Report ranks things.

    More research on MOOCs in the MOOC section above. More research on for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section above.

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

    Education Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

    Testing, Testing…

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

    Justin Reich on “assessment” versus “evaluation.”

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

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

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

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

    The University of Mumbai will open a US campus.

    Accreditation and Certification

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

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

    From the HR Department

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

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

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

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

    Contests and Awards

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Macmillan Learning has acquiredIntellus Learning.

    Interfolio has acquiredData180.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

    Via the Lowell Sun: “Dracut schools hacked.”

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

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

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

    Data and “Research”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

    Education Politics

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

    “Betsy DeVos’ Alternative Factsby Jennifer Berkshire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Testing, Testing…

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

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

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

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

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

    “Free College”

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

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

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

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Accreditation and Certification

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

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

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

    From the HR Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Business of Job Training and Job Placement

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

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

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

    Contests and Awards

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

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

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

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

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

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

    Google has released the latest generation of Chromebooks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

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

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

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

    More robot crap in the Betteridge’s section above.

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Speakaboos has acquiredHomer. (Disclosure alert.)

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

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A reminder to avoid Adobe products.

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

    Data and “Research”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Perhaps they do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Big data.

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Command. Control. Intelligence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

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

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

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

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

    “Free College”

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

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

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

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

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Accreditation and Certification

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

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

    From the HR Department

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

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

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

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

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

    Data dashboards. Whee.

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

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

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

    Elsevier has acquiredPlum Analytics.

    Student loan company SoFi will acquireZenbanx.

    The Education Testing Services (ETS) has acquiredQuestar.

    Hobsons has acquiredRepVisits.

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

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

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

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

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

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

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

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

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

    Data and “Research”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Holy Warriors Against the Welfare State” by Jennifer Berkshire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Looks like the new FCC is terrible, no surprise:

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

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

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

    More on federal court orders in the surveillance section below.

    Testing, Testing…

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

    MOOCs: A Postmortem” by Jonathan Rees.

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

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

    “Free College”

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

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

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thomas Aquinas College will open a campus in Massachusetts.

    Saint Joseph’s of Indiana will close its doors.

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

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

    “Scaling Educational Accessby Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

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

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

    Accreditation and Certification

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

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

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

    From the HR Department

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

    Sweet Briar College has named Meredith Wooas its new president.

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

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

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

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

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

    The Business of Job Training

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

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

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

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

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

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

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

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

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Data and “Research”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

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

    Click for full-size

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

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

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

    One Year or Less

    • Adaptive Learning Technologies
    • Mobile Learning

    Two to Three Years

    • The Internet of Things
    • Next-Generation LMS

    Four to Five Years

    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Natural User Interfaces

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

    Click for full-size

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

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

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

    One to Two Years

    • Blended Learning Designs
    • Collaborative Learning

    Three to Five Years

    • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning
    • Redesigning Learning Spaces

    Five or More Years

    • Advancing Cultures of Innovation
    • Deep Learning Approaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More on DACA in the campus section below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Education in the Courts

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

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

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

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

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

    Testing, Testing…

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

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

    Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

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

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

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

    NPR on MOOC Micromasters.

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

    “Free College”

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

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

    The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Meanwhile on Campus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Dissent at Berkeleyby Michael Meranze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Accreditation and Certification

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

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

    Go, School Sports Team!

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

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

    From the HR Department

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

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

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

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

    Contests and Awards

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

    This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

    Upgrades and Downgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

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

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

    Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

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

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

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

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

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

    CampusLogic has acquiredCegment.

    WayUp has acquiredLookSharp.

    VitalSource has acquiredVerba.

    Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Data and “Research”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Icon credits: The Noun Project

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

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

    A Brief History of Accountability

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

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

    Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit

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

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

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

    What Accountability Practices are Missing

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

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

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