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Politics and Policies

The Chicago Public Schools lifted its ban on YouTube this week, allowing teachers and staff access to the video-sharing website. Let's hope other districts follow!

As part of his State of the Union speech, President Obama talked about college affordability, blasting colleges for increasing tuition costs (and ignoring some of the reasons why that's the case -- such as the decreasing support coming from the states). At a speech at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor this week, he outlined more of his plans to address the issue, calling for a Race to the Top for Higher Ed, which means in part keeping colleges' costs in line by withholding their access to federal financial aid dollars. Sherman Dorn takes a closer look at the President's ideology as it plays out in his education policies.

Legalities

Newark must produce the documents related to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to the city's schools, reports the Associated Press. The ACLU, along with a local parents' group, had sued the city to open the records. "We don't want to make it seem that there was necessarily something nefarious going on," the ACLU said. "All we ask is for this to be transparent. The public should be aware what, if any, agreements were made prior to or as part of the grant of the money."

Apple updated the EULA for its new iBooks Author tool yesterday, clarifying the section that had made some question whether or not the company was claiming authorship to the works created with the tool. It is, however, retaining the exclusive rights to sell all files that are exported in the .ibooks. Wired's Tim Carmody takes a closer look at the new language here.

Launches

In honor of what would have been his 97th birthday, the Global Jukebox has released “The Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center,” a digital download of over a dozen field recordings from folklorist and ethnomusicology Alan Lomax. The New York Times has a look at Lomax's work, legacy and this important project.

The Digital Public Library of America released the first build of some of the proposed platform infrastructure. The source code, APIs and documentation are available. Hack away, folks. This is our digital public library under construction.

Closures

The local lesson marketplace TeachStreet is closing its doors. The team has been acquired by Amazon to work on its local deals project. Geekwire has a closer look at the news. While founder Dave Schappell says this is a good outcome for the company and investors, I think it's Amazon that should consider itself lucky because Schappell and his team are really good folks.

Never paid for that Ning you created? The company announced this week that it's in the process of closing down all the Nings that haven't upgraded to a paid plan. Act now, and the ax is coming in two weeks time.

Boycotts

Some 3250 academics and researchers have signed a petition saying they're boycotting the journal publisher Elsevier, not just because of the extraordinarily high price of research journals but as a response to the company's support of SOPA and the Research Works Act. For more information, see The Cost of Knowledge.

Windfalls

The Madison (WI) School District will be buying some 1400 iPads, using money that it's received from a state settlement against Microsoft. While we can chuckle at that irony, I suppose, the Wisconsin State Journal story describing the purchase contains this rather unfortunate note: "The state doesn't track how many districts are using tablet technology or other 21st century learning tools." Well, thank goodness that iPads are magic, so they'll "just work"!

Research and Data

The Pew Internet and American Life Project is always uncovering interesting tidbits about our digital habits. In its latest study, it has found that many teens are migrating to Twitter and away from Facebook. Why? In part, it's so they can follow their favorite celebrities. But one of the major reasons: better privacy controls, the ability to use pseudonyms and restrict their accounts, and a chance to get away from their parents who are on Facebook.

Funding, Acquisitions, and Quarterly Reports

Total revenue was down 6% in 2011 for McGraw-Hill Education reports Publishers Weekly, in part a result of a 14% drop in revenue from its school group.

The University of Phoenix also released its quarterly report this week. Among the academic stats: just 34% of those seeking an Associates Degree do so within 3 years, a figure that's up from 32% in 2010. Another interesting factoid: One-third of University of Phoenix's faculty is non-white. More than 18% of University of Phoenix's faculty is African American, compared to an average of over 6% at universities nationwide.

Okay, this isn't really "acquisition" news, but it falls into this category nonetheless: GothamSchools reports that the New York City Department of Education's communication director Natalie Ravitz is leaving to become Rupert Murdoch's chief of staff. Murdoch's relationship with the DOE seems to be awfully close as former chancellor Joel Klein is also on Team News Corp. Rah rah rah.

The GE Foundation is giving $18 million to help support states' implementation of the Common Core standards. Andrew Rotherham lauds the donation in his column in TIME, arguing "forget all the rhetoric about corporate education reform, since no one can really define what it means anyway." I dunno, man. I think a $18 million donation from General Electric is a pretty good place to start.

EDUKWEST reports that Accept.ly, a startup that seeks to help students with their college decision making process has raised $500,000 from Learn Capital.

Awards

Google announced the winners of its RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) awards this week. The awards go to organizations who help support STEM education at the university and K-12 level. Google gave away $340,000 in funding this year to 13 U.S., 8 European and 5 African organizations. Among the winners, the Saturday Academy in Portland that provides STEM workshops to area 2nd to 12th grade students.

Competitions and Conferences

ProfHacker's Brian Croxall reports from the New Faculty Majority Summit, a group that highlights the extent to which non-tenure-track faculty teach (as in, "most college classes") and the labor conditions. The summit addressed a number of issues, says Croxall, including how the use of NTT faculty impacts student learning.

The finalists for the startup Launch competition at SXSWedu have been announced. (You can read the full list here) The finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their products to the educators present at the event, as well as to a panel of judges.

The Saylor Foundation announced the first round of winners for its Open Textbook Challenge, its competition to create open source textbooks. The three new titles: Elementary Linear Algebra; Linear Algebra; and Computer Networking: Principles, Protocols and Practice.

Photo credits: Jeffrey Beall

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