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Politics and Policies

Citing the recent phone hacking scandal, New York officials have rejected a contract that the News Corp subsidiary Wireless Generation had initially been granted. The company was initially granted the $27 million no-bid contract to develop testing software.

Teachers in Dayton, Ohio are the latest to find their ability to communicate with students via social media curbed. The Dayton Public School District has banned teachers from friending students on Facebook and from responding to "student-initiated attempts at conversation through nondistrict approved media, whether personal or professional accounts.

Syrian virtual protesters took aim at Columbia University's Facebook page this week, but missed. Hundreds and hundreds of messages in support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad filled the pages of an unofficial Columbia Facebook page. Oops.

Legalities

Sprint is suing the learning management system Blackboard over a dispute over the latter's Mobile Learn app. Sprint had agreed to pay Blackboard millions of dollars for an exclusivity agreement that would enable Blackboard's app to work only on the Spring network. But as the iPhone and iPad apps can access the Internet via universities' wireless networks, Sprint is now suing Blackboard and withholding at least $3 million in referral fees, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Updates and Upgrades

The number one feature requested by schools adopting Chromebooks -- heck, a feature we've all been waiting for -- is here: offline access to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. There are still some kinks to work out, and you can't edit Google Docs offline yet. But it's a start.

The popular provider of wikis, Wikispaces, has added a great new feature this week: Projects. The feature means that project teams can be established -- comprised of certain wiki members and with access to their own unique pages, files, and permissions. This means, for example, that student teams can work on their group projects without other groups having access to what they're working on.

The online gradebook LearnBoost has long enabled educators to match assignments with Common Core Standards, but now those using the tool can import their own standards into the system.

The future of reading is, indeed, social, and a new feature launched this week by Amazon brings the author into the conversation. Highlight a passage in your Kindle, "@" the author, and you'll be able to direct a question to her. Only a limited number of authors are participating currently.

Classes and Conferences

The Big Think blog has launched a new endeavor called the Floating University, which brings together professors and students from Harvard, Yale and Bard for a massive online course. The first class, "Great Big Ideas," featuring lectures from Steven Pinker, Tamar Gendler, and Joel Cohen and others, costs $495.

If you're interested in a massive open online course and in open education more broadly, then do check out Professor Alec Couros's Social Media and Open Education.

Research and Data

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the website College Choices for Adults now tracks information on student retention and graduation rates, along with other data about student demographics for online colleges. (For the curious: the graduation rate from Kaplan University hovers around 30%.)

Some conflicting statistics about smartphone penetration in this country: Nielsen reports that 40% of Americans own smartphones (and 40% of those, for those keeping track at home, are Android). But comScore gives a lower number: just 35%. And according to comScore's data, less than half of all phone customers use their data plans for anything other than texting. Regardless -- it's a good reminder that despite all the excitement over the educational potentials of apps, that there's still a big gap between the smartphone haves and have-nots.

A version of this post is available at KQED's MindShift

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Audrey Watters


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