Ed-Tech Weekly News Roundup: the New York City Teacher Data Reports, the School of Data, and More

As the sun grew old and tired

Politics

Following a New York State Court of Appeals ruling, the city of New York has released data about individual teachers' performance, based on the "value-added measurement." Arguing that "shame is not the solution," even Bill Gates thinks the public release of the Teacher Data Reports is a bad idea. I wrote an "explainer post" on what value-added means and some of the political machinations behind the release.

Legalities

In the latest "bone-stupid" copyright legislation news, two Canadian universities -- University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto -- have signed a deal that would make them have to pay for when students email links to copyrighted material. Emailing a link is the same as photocopying, under this strange and awful new rule, one that will cost each university $27.50 per student per year.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case challenging the affirmative action admission policies at the University of Texas, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The court did find affirmative action policies constitutional in 2003, but the make-up of the court has changed since then. A decision isn't expected until 2013.

Launches

Samsung is preparing to launch an iTunesU competitor for its Android tablets, says Electronista. The educational offering is apparently called Learning Hub, and we don't have many more details than that. The big unveiling is set to occur next week at the Mobile World Congress.

Blackboard has launched a new offering its calling Blackboard DevEd, a "developmental education" program that combines the Blackboard LMS, analytics tools and K12 Inc curriculum to offer remedial blended learning courses.

Updates and Upgrades

The Verge reports that Datawind, the manufacturer of the low-cost tablet launched last year, may be at risk of losing its contract with the Indian government as it hasn't been able to ship enough of the devices. According to ZDNet, the government might also be raising the price of the tablets from $35 to $50.

The California State University System has inked a deal with Cengage, Follett, and CourseSmart to offer students some 5000 digital textbook titles for rental during the course of an academic term. This will purportedly mean a discount of 60% off the price of purchasing a new textbook. As Inside Higher Ed reports, faculty will not be required to use these e-textbooks.

Closures

ISTE will close up the virtual doors of its "in-world" presence in Second Life effective March 1. The organization will have some sim-space in OpenSim-based Jokaydia Grid.

Research and Data

According to the U.S. Census, the number of Americans with Bachelor's degrees has exceeded 30% for the first time. Particularly notable in the increase is the number of Hispanics with a college degree, up 80% in the last decade.

ebrary has released the results of its student e-book survey, and Sue Polanka notes some interesting data from the addendum pertaining to student usage of social media. For example, 41% of students are currently using social media for research or study -- that means, of course, that 59% are not.

The latest data from the Book Industry Study Group's "Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education survey has been released. Responding to the continued high prices of college textbooks, the survey found that less than 60% of students buy the latest editions of their textbooks, preferring instead to use older, used versions. The survey also found a significant increase in students' usage of textbook rental students. Not increasing: students' usage of mobile devices for educational content (even though they are increasingly smartphone and tablet owners).

A new study published in Science looks at promotion, retention and tenure rates at major U.S. universities. The research examines both gender differences and academic disciplines -- which has interesting implications particularly in the STEM fields which are described as a "leaky pipe" when it comes to retaining women faculty. Among the findings, "The discipline with the shortest time spent on the tenure track was, by far, mathematics. Here, the median time for men to stay in a tenure track position was 7.33 years, and for women a scant 4.45 years."

New numbers from Nielsen about smartphone ownership in the U.S. based on age and income. Among the findings, smartphone ownership is increasing, even among low-incomg groups. 56% of those 18 to 24 year olds who make less than $15,000 own one; 43% of those age 25-34 own one.

Classes, Competitions, and Events

The Open Knowledge Foundation and P2PU are teaming up to create a School of Data, using the peer-to-peer model to offer training in data science. The school is looking for mentors, instructors, donors and other interested "data wranglers."

Using the challenge.gov platform, the government is running a National Education Startup Challenge, asking "students to tackle tough education challenges as innovators and entrepreneurs." Specific challenges include: "Middle Grades Matter"; "Skills, Skills, Skills"; "Education Pays"; and "Finish Faster."

Next Wednesday, InternMatch, a startup that helps match students with internships, is holding a day-long event via the Google+ Hangout platform.

In honor of Open Education Week, there'll be a hackathon of sorts in Boston on March 8. This event's a little different though -- rather than spending the day coding, participants will spend the day building an openly-licensed computer science textbook. You can sign up here.

More delays for Stanford/Coursera's online courses, it seems. The reason: "legal and administrative issues." But former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun's online learning startup Udacity is up and running. Its first 2 classes started on Monday.

MIT Opencourseware has launched more classes in its OCW Scholar series: Principles of Microeconomics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Coinciding with the Academy Awards this weekend, Launchpad Toys is holding its 2nd annual Golden Monkey Awards, honoring the best cartoons created using its Toontastic app. Be sure to watch these videos and vote. These are way better than that Tom Hanks flick that's up for an Oscar.

Funding

The learning management system Schoology has raised $1 million from Cempaka Schools, a for-profit education company that runs 5 schools in Malaysia.

Code Hero, a game that teaches programming, has just completed a successful Kickstarter funding round, raising almost $200,000 to build the game. Ars Technica describes the game as "much more like Portal or Minecraft than Guitar Hero."

Recommended Reading

Piotr Czerski, "We, the Web Kids"

danah boyd, "Are Librarians Encouraging Public Libraries to Abide by COPPA?"

Dan Meyer, "It's Called iBooks Author, Not iMathTextbooks Author, And The Trouble That Results"

Photo credits: Gregory Bodnar



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