Politics and Policies

Idaho will become the first state to mandate that all high school students take at least 2 credits online in order to graduate. The move has been very controversial, with the Idaho Education Association blasting the Board of Education's decision.

The FCC announced this week that it has more cable providers on board to offer discounted Internet access to low-income families. Comcast was the first cable provider to roll out its $9.99 a month deal, a requirement as part of its merger with NBC. Most of the major cable companies are now doing the same, says the FCC, which has also started a program to provide these families with refurbished computers (with software furnished by Microsoft).



The Department of Education and the Department of Defense launched the Learning Registry this week. The site is a joint effort between the two departments, the White House and numerous other federal agencies. The Learning Registry is meant to serve as an online clearinghouse of sorts for educational content. (That content includes information from various publishers and organizations, including the National Archives, the Smithsonian, PBS Learning Media, and OER Commons.) But it's not a portal or a website that educators will visit per se. Rather it's both an open technology platform that will allow for the exchange of data about learning resources (metadata, ratings, reviews, and so on), their usage, their standards alignment, and so on. The aim of the Learning Registry is to help remove some of the silos for educational resources.

Barnes & Noble unveiled its new Nook tablet this week, a would-be competitor to the soon-to-be-released Amazon Kindle Fire. The specs are similar, so one of the main differences between the two devices is their respective online bookstores. Arguably, the Nook has been the most successful Android tablet so far, but with the impending release of the new Amazon tablet, will B&N be able to keep up?

Treehouse launched to the public this week, another online education startup aimed at helping people learn Web development skills. According to Techcrunch, the startup offers a broad range of classes -- HTML and CSS classes, for example -- and is already profitable as it charges users between $29 and $49 to use the service. Treehouse rewards its users badges for correctly answered quiz questions, and apparently has made deals with several companies like LivingSocial and Automattic/Wordpress to look at these badges as part of their recruitment practices.


Adobe waved the white flag this week, announcing its plans to shelve development of mobile Flash to focus on HTML5. Back in August, I looked at the future of Flash, not just because of Steve Jobs' vociferous opposition to allowing Flash onto iOS but in light of all the educational content that's Flash-based. For its part, Adove says it's not giving up on the desktop version of Flash� yet.

Updates and Upgrades

This news is a little old, but it's still noteworthy: During the annual meeting late last month of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), the group voted unanimously (that is, all 50 state librarians agreed) to form an alliance with the Internet Archive's Open Library, a move that will help libraries expand their digital lending programs.

The online grade book Learnboost continues to roll out new languages, based on its users' crowd sourced translation efforts. This week: Hindi and Arabic.

Codecademy added a new course to its learn-to-program website: jQuery. The startup also added a "scratchpad," an "in-browser JavaScript editor that allows you to play around with what you've learned."

The Facebook-based study app rolled out several new features this week, including a special tagging system to mark questions and answers and the ability to actually record the app's video sessions.

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week that it plans to give its 450,000 alumni lifetime access to their email accounts. The university switched to Google Apps for Education last year.

Google rolled out "Pages" for Google+ this week, allowing companies, schools and the like to create their own branded pages on the new social network. Techcrunch's Josh Constine noted that creating a new Page requires selecting its age-appropriateness and wonders if this is a sign that G+ will open soon to those under age 18.


Wake Forest University and Odigia have partnered to create BioBook, a digital alternative to the traditional Intro to Biology textbook, reports Campus Technology. The collaboration is funded in part by a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant. The textbook is based on the idea of "nodes," which will be interconnected, bringing together text and multimedia resources. The BioBook is being tested at several colleges right now and should be available publicly next year.

Teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin school district have created their own math textbooks, using in part the free resources from the CK-12 Foundation. The district touts the money saved, as well as the teachers being able to craft curriculum suited to Minnesota standards. As the textbooks are digital, they can be continually updated, unlike the printed textbooks which in the case of the Anoka-Hennepin district are only renewed (repurchased) every decade.

"What happens when you tweet an open access paper?" Melissa Terras asks. Her blog post is a great read, not just about the importance of open access publications, but how social media actually makes the difference in who reads the articles.

Research, Data, and Archives

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that while online course enrollments at colleges are continuing to grow, they're doing so at a slower pace. Enrollments are up 10% in the latest Sloan Survey, compared to 21% in last year's report. Approximately 31% of all college students now take at least one online course during their higher ed careers.

The latest research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project examines teens thoughts about social media and relationships. Despite all we hear about cyberbullying, it's interesting to see that 69% of the study's respondents say that their peers are mostly nice to one another. However, some 88% of teens say they've witness cruelty on social media sites, with 15% saying they've been the targeted of mean behavior there.

Although bullying has been getting a lot of attention recently, a report released this week finds that sexual harassment remains a major problem for middle and high school age students. 48% of students surveyed said they were sexually harassed during the 2010-11 school year. 44% said they were harassed in person; 30% said they were harassed online. 52% of girls said they were harassed in person; 36% online. That's compared with 35% of boys who said they were harassed in person and 24% harassed online.

ProQuest announced this week that it would begin digitizing the archives of the NAACP. That collection contains nearly 2 million pages of internal memos, briefings, and direct action summaries from throughout the country and throughout the NAACP's history. Some of the archives are already preserved on microfilm -- and it apparently the most heavily used collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. But the digitization project will make sure that the collection is available online.

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has released its latest study about consumers' attitudes toward e-books. Among the findings: half of those book consumers who've acquired an e-book within the last 18 months say they'll wait up to 3 months for the digital version of a book rather than buying it immediately in print. In last year's BISG study, just 38% of consumers said they'd wait this long.

A study by the Center for Scholastic Journalism -- the largest survey done of its kind -- examined the types of media programs that high schools offer. It found that while 96% of schools do have some sort of journalistic programs for their students, only 33% offer any online media programs. The Knight Foundation notes that this means schools are not adequately preparing student journalists for the type of work in which they'll do upon graduation.

Acquisitions and Hires

Blackboard announced this week that it has acquired CerBibo, a Chinese online learning company. Blackboard has been working in partnership with CerBibo for almost a decade, and Blackboard is already in over 270 schools and universities in the country.

The Canadian e-reader company Kobo was acquired Rakuten, the Japanese equivalent of this week for $315 million.

The private equity company RLJ Equity Partners has acquired Media Source, the parent company of the School Library Journal and Library Journal.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Milliron, the deputy director of higher education at the Gates Foundation, will become the new chancellor at a new Texas spinoff of the Western Governors University. No word if he plans to resign his position at the Gates Foundation in doing so, but the Chronicle story makes it sound as though he won't.


SXSWedu has unveiled its list of featured speakers and panel presenters. The keynote speaker is actor and literacy-advocate Levar Burton.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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