Politics and Policies
The Missouri legislature has passed a law revising its now infamous SB 54, a bill ostensibly aimed to protect students from sexual misconduct in school that would have also prevented students and teachers from communicating via social networking sites. Late last month, the Missouri State Teachers Association won an injunction against the law, claiming that it stifled free speech. The Missouri legislature has revisited the provisions in the bill that would curb social media access. The new bill has passed the State Senate and House and now awaits the Governor's signature.
President Obama will release details on his plans to roll back pieces of No Child Left Behind legislation on Friday. States that want to seek waivers for NCLB will have to demonstrate that they have adopted "college- and career-ready standards" in math and language arts and have established ways for measuring teacher effectiveness.
Barry Dahl is writing a very interesting series of blog posts about the proposals for a $10,000 college degree, something that Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry supports.
Want to build and play with electronics but fear soldering? Check out littleBits, a startup that launched last weekend at Maker Faire. littleBits consists of a growing library of pre-assembled circuit boards that snap together with magnets.
Google launched a new channel on YouTube called YouTube/Teachers. The channel will be a resource for teachers to help use YouTube in the classroom. YouTube.com/Teachers is an addition to YouTube EDU, the higher education-focused channel that showcases video-taped lecture content from universities around the world.
As the company announced it would do earlier this spring, Amazon announced that some 11,000 public libraries in the company would now be able to loan e-books for Kindles. Amazon is partnering with OverDrive in this effort, a company that already handles the digital distribution of content to many libraries throughout the country.
A new company called Origo launched this week that plans to build a 3D printer for kids. "Right now, I am just an idea," the blog explains. But "I will be as easy to use as an Xbox or Wii. I'll be as big as three Xbox 360s and as expensive as three Xbox 360s. I will sit on your desk and quietly build your ideas, drawings and dreams." (I want one!)
Updates and Upgrades
The social learning and test prep company Grockit announced a major shift in its business model this week. In what it's described as Grockit for Good the company will donate a one-year subscription to a student in need for every one premium account it sells. Customers will get to choose a non-profit organization through which the donation will be made.
Skype in the Classroom has rolled out a number of new features to help make it easier for teachers to use the VOIP service in the classroom, including better ways to share, promote and highlight projects. Skype CEO Tony Bates also spoke this week at Mashable's Social Good Summit about his hope to connect one million classrooms this way. Currently 16,000 teachers have signed up for the service.
The internet provider Comcast now offers its Internet Essentials program nationwide. The program offers low-income families in its service territory high speed Internet for $9.99 a month, as well as access to $150 computers. Any child of a family that qualifies for a free or reduced lunch at school qualifies for the Comcast program, which was mandated by the government when it approved its acquisition of NBC.
Google unveiled a number of updates to Google Hangouts, the video conferencing feature of its new social network Google+. These include the ability to broadcast your Hangout over the air so that others can watch online, as well as the ability to share screens and collaborate on Google Docs together while in a Hangout. These all make Hangouts an even better tool for teachers, although unfortunately, Google+ is still not integrated with Google Apps for Education.
Flash card maker Quizlet offers great look behind the scenes of education technology product development in a blog post about their recently added Speller feature.
Research and Data
Cyberbullying continues to be the focus of numerous town halls and government initiatives. Facebook and Time Warner launched an app this week called "Stop Bullying: Speak Up," designed to help create an "online community of support networks." But in an op-ed in The New York Times, danah boyd and Alice Marwick question some of the rhetoric surrounding efforts to curb cyberbullying. A must read.
Abilene Christian University reported on its research based on the school's adoption of iPads and iPods. Among its findings, "students who used an iPad to annotate text performed at a rate 25 percent higher on questions regarding transfer of information than their counterparts who used only paper." The university, which provides iPads to incoming freshmen, said that the students who used the devices reported high levels of satisfaction with them, particularly when doing research and collaborating in class.
The Knight Foundation released the results of a national study it conducted on students' understanding of the First Amendment. It found an interesting correlation between high school students' social media usage and their appreciation for free speech -- those who were daily users of social networking sites were far more likely than those who never use them to believe that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.
Harris Interactive released the results of its latest Harris Poll on e-books, e-readers, books and readership. Among the findings, something that runs counter to the notion that e-books are the death of books and bookstores: those with e-readers are actually more likely to buy and read books. "Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (20%). But, among those who have an eReader, one-third read 11-20 books a year (32%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (27%)."
The Pew Research Center released its latest study on American adults' technology usage (PDF). It found that 31% of those surveyed say they prefer text-messaging to phone calls. And no surprise, young adults remain the most avid texters, sending an average of 109.5 text messages a day.
Freakonomics posted a couple of interesting education data stories this week: one on teacher merit pay and one on student loan forgiveness.
Funding and Acquisitions
Glam Media says that it's buying the social network site Ning. Ning says the acquisition won't impact its special deal for educators that it struck with Pearson, and teachers will be able to opt out of the Glam ad network.
Lesson plan website Better Lesson announced that is has raised a $1.6 million round of funding.
At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, Microsoft announced a 3 year extension to its Shape the Future program, its effort to help provide technology and access to low-income students around the world.
The New York Times had a expose about the free trips that Pearson sends various state education commissioners on: Helsinki, Rio, London. While some claim the trips are in pursuit of "educational excellence," the story questions the ethics of these sorts of perks and examines Pearson's sweeping influence over textbooks and testing. "Mr. Jennings of the Center on Education Policy says there needs to be more of a wall between test companies and state officials. 'We shouldn't let these companies � that make tests, textbooks, curriculum materials � buy the loyalty of educators the way the drug companies have bought the loyalty of doctors,' he said."
ProPublica continues its coverage of education and testing scandals with a roundup of "the most outrageous teacher cheating scandals."
Random Acts of Kindness (and Good PR)
Apple donated some 9000 iPads to Teach for America this week. The company has been soliciting people to turn in their old iPads to Apple stores in lieu of selling them. Steve Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell, sits on the board of directors for TFA.
Awards and Honors
Among the winners of this year's MacArthur fellowships -- the "genius grants" -- is Harvard professor Roland Fryer, whose work addresses issues of race, inequality and educational achievement. You can read more about Fryer in this NPR profile.
The New York Times is holding its Schools for Tomorrow conference in New York this week. Speakers include columnist David Brooks and Harvard University president Larry Summers. A video archive of the presentations is available online.