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Politics and Policies

The FTC announced this week that it has reached a settlement with Facebook over its deceptive privacy practices. Facebook will now be subject to periodic reviews of its privacy policies for the next 20 years. For his part, Mark Zuckerberg says he's sorry (apology number 10, says AllThingsD's Liz Gannes). For its part, the FTC still wants you to "like" it on Facebook. Ugh.

Shawnee Mission East High School senior Emma Sullivan tweeted the following about Kansas governor Sam Brownback after visiting her state capital: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot." Actually, she made no mean comments, but Brownback's staff called Sullivan's principal, demanding the teen apologize. She refused. Brownback later apologized for the overreaction, claiming that he does indeed think the First Amendment is a good thing.

As Techdirt's Mike Masnick puts it, "Another day, and another group of folks points out how SOPA/PIPA will cause problems." SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) is currently before Congress and has been widely challenged by those in the technology industry, arguing it could destroy the Internet as we know it. This week's opponents include a number of educational institutions and websites, including those associated with MIT OpenCourseware, the Internet Archive, and Creative Commons that point to the importance of remixing and redistributing educational content, contending that SOPA could "undermine this framework and chill the creation of educational content" on the Internet.

Legalities and Labels

The ESRB (the Entertainment Software Ratings Board), the organization that (self-)regulates computer software and video games, has indicated that it plans to extend its age-appropriate/warning labels to mobile games. But while Microsoft and several mobile providers are on board with the plan, Apple and Google are conspicuously absent.

The U.S. Department of Education announced "new measures to safeguard student privacy" -- in other words, the department says it's strengthened FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Details aren't clear on exactly what this means (at time of publishing this blog post, the link on the Federal Register website still lists the changes as "unpublished"). According to the department's press release, however, the changes to the act are meant to clarify what falls under FERPA and what data requires consent -- for schools as well as for researchers.

Other laws that are in need of updating, at least according to Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, are child labor laws. Last month, Gingrich raised eyebrows by suggesting that low-income students should get jobs as their school janitors. Following pushback, he now says laws should be changed so they can get jobs as school librarians.

Launches

Coursekit, an LMS founded by a trio of University of Pennsylvania students officially launched this week. Coursekit is aiming at professors, not at institutions, and offers an easy-to-use, Facebook-like newsfeed for course conversations. You can read my write-up here.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is finally available as an e-book. In a 2009 interview with The New York TImes, Bradbury scoffed at the idea of digitizing his books: "�To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet." But while you can now get Fahrenheit 451 for your e-reader, to hell with e-versions of Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles or any of Bradbury's other classics. To hell with e-books. Or something.

Cambridge Journals, the academic journal publishing wish of Cambridge University Press, announced this week that it plans to begin renting access to journal articles. 24-hour access to a read-only version of a journal article will cost you $5.99.

Competitions and Events

The deadline is fast approaching for YouTube's Space Lab challenge. The competition asks 14 to 18 year olds to design experiments designed to be conducted in space. (The deadline is December 14.)

Startup Weekend EDU travelled to London last weekend. The winning team was Night Zoo Keeper, a site that blends art, creative writing, and technology.

Academic social network and reference management tool Mendeley announced the winners of its $10,001 "Binary Battle," a contest that encouraged developers to build tools using the Mendeley API. The winner was OpenSNP, a tool that lets customers of genetic testing services like 23andme upload their genotype information, mash it up with research papers found in Mendeley, and discover research behind their personal genetic information.

Research and Data

Research from the SIIA (the Software & Information Industry Association) suggests that the U.S. market for "educational software and digital content" has grown to $7.5 billion.

The Department of Education released a report this week that finds that "more than 40 percent of schools that receive federal Title I money to serve disadvantaged students spent less state and local money on teachers and other personnel than schools that don't receive Title I money at the same grade level in the same district." [Insert snarky comment about how exactly "dropout factories" get built here.]

Research indicates chewing gum benefits cognition (for a short amount of time -- like, say 20 minutes). Food for thought before you ban it in the classroom, I suppose, right?

The U.S. Census Bureau released data this week about its 2010 estimates for income and poverty levels across the country's counties and school districts. Among the findings, 653 counties saw a significant increase in poverty for families with children ages 5 to 17, while 8 (woohoo! 8!) counties saw a significant decrease over the same time period.

Funding and Acquisitions

Academia.edu, a social network for researchers, has raised $4.5 million in funding. The company allows researchers to communicate and collaborate (it is a social network), but also provides a way for scholars to easily share their research papers. According to the Techcrunch story on the investment, the site's founder Richard Price says that Academia.edu has benefited from the open access and open science movements and the recognition that academic publications' paywalls may be damaging scholarship.

The K-12 learning community ePals has entered into an agreement to acquire Carus Publishing, the company that publishes Cobblestone and Cricket Magazines.

Firings

An obligatory note, here, as a UO alum: University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere was fired this week, after the Oregon State Board of Higher Education voted to terminate his contract at the end of the month. At issue, in part, was Lariviere's decision to offer faculty at the university a raise, at a time when the state's university system had decreed a pay freeze. The money for the UO faculty salary increases came not from the state, but from private donors and research grants (and it's worth pointing out here too that the UO has long struggled to retain quality faculty as its salaries are far lower than comparable institutions). For what it's worth, Phil Knight, who quite arguably contributes more money to the UO than the state of Oregon does, is very, very unhappy about the decision to fire Lariviere. Uh oh. Not only will we lose good faculty, we might lose good football!

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Audrey Watters


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