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Rumors and Speculations

Again, Apple tops the week's news with speculation about its January 19 event. Invitations to the media have been issued and they do specify this is an education event. Rumors say it's going to deal with textbooks. Phil Hill asks four good questions about the announcement. It just so happens that I'll be in NYC, and I'll be reporting first-hand from the event.

Launches

NYC Major Michael Bloomberg announced this week the opening of the Software Engineer Academy in September. The new charter high school, funded in part by technology venture capitalist Fred Wilson, will focus on technical education. Bloomberg gave his State of the City address this week, in which education initiatives featured prominently (including merit pay, laying off teachers, and the expansion of charter schools).

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Updates and Upgrades

The Consumer Electronics Show has been going on in Las Vegas this week. One of the most important announcements: the unveiling of the OLPC XO 3.0. It's the long awaited tablet, with a solar charging option and a Linux or Android OS. You can read my review over on MindShift.

More news from CES and an indication perhaps that I was totally wrong with my 2012 predictions about Chrome OS: Samsung has unveiled some new fangled Chromebooks, scheduled to ship in April.

The programming instruction website Treehouse has launched a game that pits newbie coders against others -- a way, the site says, to help people learn to build websites. (I haven't had a chance to play yet) For a smart take on learning to code, I recommend reading Julie Meloni's thoughts on all this "learn to code" hullaballoo.

The makers of the $35 Aakash tablet have run into some problems fulfilling all the orders. But according to Good E-Reader, Datawind says that it is setting up new factories to manufacture the tablet. It also reports that the tablets will be available to students via their school or college libraries. Those devices will come preloaded with curriculum on them.

Academic journal database JSTOR announced that it is opening up its archives... a bit. A new service, reports Technology Review will allow anyone to register for the site and view a limited number of journal articles. There are limitations: just 3 at a time, for up to 14 weeks. The documents can't be printed or downloaded. Just 70 out of the 1400 journals in the JSTOR database will be available this way.

Online education platform WizIQ is rolling out a number of new features to its video platform, including 6-way video calls, better screen-sharing, and break-out rooms.

Google announced last year that it was "retiring" its 3D Body Browser as part of the Google Labs closure. This week, the company said that the Body Browser had become Zygote Body, an open source 3D body viewing tool.

Language learning startup Livemocha announced a scholarship program this week, aimed at helping support language instruction at high schools and colleges. Livemocha says it will make $5 million available to help subsidize language learning (okay, its language learning) efforts.

The LMS giant Blackboard is getting into the analytics business with the announcement this week of a field trial of its "Learning Analytics Solution." According to the company's press release, this will provide a "complete view of teaching and learning, monitoring usage patterns and data in the learning management system (LMS) along with information from the student information system. The real-time and longitudinal data generated by the system would be used to help better engage students, measure and improve learning outcomes, and assess the adoption and use of online learning tools."

Research and Data

Kids prefer e-books. That's the finding of a study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. It observed 24 families with children ranging in age from 3 to 6 reading both print and e-books. Most of the kids said they preferred the latter. Reading comprehension between the two formats was the same.

I don't know anyone that's shocked by the results of a major study by economists Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff insofar as they found that great teachers matter. The study, as reported by The New York Times looked at the standardized test scores of some 20 million students over 20 years -- lots of data. (Jon Becker makes a interesting argument about "academic blogging qua peer review.") There have been a lot of responses to the study and the NYC piece -- particularly the move from research to policy prescription. Can we really simply conclude that "fire the bad teachers" is the solution? Is looking at standardized testing really the metric we use to assess everything?

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has issued a report, analyzing the educational content in the Apple App Store. It's a very thorough look at the types of content out there. Over 80% of the top selling paid apps in the Education category target children, it found. Another factoid: while there's an abundance of content for pre-schoolers, there is actually very little for high school age students (just 10%). (Interesting to consider why, something that Steve Hargadon talk about on our podcast this week.)

GeekDad's Daniel Donahoo reports on research from Boston College that's "the latest shot across the bows of the 'video games rot your brains' brigade." According to researcher Dr. Peter Gray, it's not so much a question to "too much screen time." Rather it's "too much adult control over their lives and not enough freedom."

Acquisition and Hires

Congratulations to David Wiley who has been named a senior fellow for open education for Digital Promise, the government's initiative to help "transform the way teachers teach and students learn."

Via Dan Meyer, it looks like Khan Academy's hiring spree continues. This time, it's math video maker Brit Cruise that is joining the team.

You know Bill Gates' favorite education company (no, not Khan Academy) Academic Earth? Well, it's been acquired by an ad network. Go team.

Competitions

Google has announced its second (annual?) Global Science Fair, its effort to move the science fair from the school gym to the Web. This year, Google is accepting submissions in 13 languages, an attempt to really make this a global event. The judging panel and the prizes are as marvelous as last year's. You can read more about the event in my story on MindShift.

Some more details about the upcoming Kaggle contest to create robot graders. It's being underwritten by the Hewlett Foundation, which is sponsoring the prize to help find ways to automate the evaluation of students' essays.

The FIRST Robotics competition has kicked off its 2012 season. This year, students will have the opportunity to work with Kinect-powered robots.

The DML Competition has announced the winners of the first round of its "Teacher Mastery" badge competition. This particular competition was to help create "a teacher badge system that would recognize, reward, and offer peer feedback to teachers regarding mastery of capacities and skills. Submissions were to include systems for recognizing and rewarding some of the capacities, skills and content needed to effectively teach math, literacy, or digital literacy skills and/or to effectively teach to the Common Core State Standards."

Photo credits:  Flickr user Marlon Bunday

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Audrey Watters


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