Budding Cherry Trees

Law and Politics

President Obama offered his proposed 2013 budget to Congress this week, including $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for education, up 2.5% from 2012. The budget includes $1 billion for a "Race to the Top" for higher ed.

The FTC released a report entitled Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures Are Disappointing. (Really. That's it's title.) It's a critical look at the way in which the mobile app markets handle children's personal data, questioning whether or not these apps violate COPPA. The report is particularly critical of Google and Apple's role in not better policing developers and clarifying permissions.

Mashable's Sarah Kessler has the scoop on the lawsuit between Kno and Cengage Learning. According to court documents, the digital textbook app-maker Kno is suing Cengage for breach of contract as the textbook publisher wants to pull its content out of Kno's digital bookstore. Loss of Cengage content, says Kessler, "could be disastrous" for Kno. The scuffle appears to be over the recent addition of highlights to the Kno platform, which apparently Cengage viewed as copyright infringement.


"You know it's a good day," writes Creative Commons head Cable Green in an email, "when you testify about how OER will help more students learn; and the Committee Chair so strongly supports the idea that the American Association of Publishers and Elsevier opt not to testify." Via Stephen Downes.

Launches and Updates

Nature Education launched its digital textbook Principles of Biology this week. For $49, the textbook comes as an interactive, constantly-updated website. Techcrunch's Scott Merrill reviews the release.

The Guardian reports on Wikipedia's efforts to expand its Arabic content by working with two universities -- Ain Shams University and Cairo University -- where students will add and edit articles as part of their classwork. Wikipedia's education initiative is also active in 33 universities in the US and 7 in Canada.

Closures and Endings

E-book link site went dark this week following a cease-and-desist letter from a group of international publishers, including Oxford University Press and Elsevier. The publishers claimed that offered links to some 400,000 pirated e-books. Many of the e-books on the site were academic texts and textbooks.

From the Harvard Crimson, Harvard University will be offering a librarians over 55 early retirement as part of the library's restructuring program. There's been talk of mass layoffs at the library since earlier this year.

Research and Data

"Does Wikipedia have an accuracy problem?" asks The Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen, scrutinizing a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay by professor Timothy Messer-Kruse. Messer-Kruse's research includes a closer look at the Haymarket Bombing and trial, but he has a different story than the one commonly told: that there's no evidence that any of the 7 men convicted (and 4 hung) were involved in the attack. When Messer-Kruse tried to adjust the Wikipedia article he ran into volunteers who wouldn't let the edits go through as its policy that "articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views."

Research from the Girl Scouts of America looks at girls' attitudes to STEM, particularly hands-on experiments (they love it), versus their attitudes to STEM careers (they're not so thrilled).

Lots of headlines about iPads as babysitters following the release this week of some new numbers from Nielsen, which described how children in tablet-owning households played with the devices. For most, it was for games.

The education gap is growing between rich and poor, according to a study cited in The New York Times. To me, it's not terribly surprising that this is the case, but let's make this a good opportunity to point out how much poverty plays a role in education.


Memrise announced that it has raised $1.05 million for its mnemonics-meets-gamification language learning app.

Parchment announced it had raised $6 million this week, bring the company's total investment (Crunchbase) to $10.5 million. Parchment, which was founded by Blackboard co-founder Matthew Pittinsky, offers digital transcript services along with assessments and recommendations about if and where students might get accepted to college.

While ed-tech startups are turning to investors to raise capital, Houston ISD is turning to advertisers, specifically by selling ad-space on the school buses in order to raise money and make up for budget cuts.


Google announced the winners of its Code-In, its student coding competition for 13 to 17 year olds. 525 students entered, and 10 grand prize winners were chosen from all over the world.

Recommended Reading

Stephen Downes, E-Generations of Learning

Daniel Donahoo, Curating Children's Content: Who's Doing It, and Why?

Megan McArdle, Envisioning a Post-Campus America

Brett Victor, at CUSEC 2012 (particularly 3:00-16:00)

Photo credits: Melissa Doroquez

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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