Ed-Tech Weekly News Roundup: Raspberry Pi Launches, Research Works Act Dies

Raspberry Pi pre-release board

Politics and Policies

Ding dong, the Research Works Act is dead. Following a mounting boycott from academics and researchers, Elsevier -- which was a major backer of the anti-open access legislation -- withdrew its support for the bill. Shortly afterwards, Representative Darrel Issa announced he wouldn't push the bill forward.

26 more states are seeking waivers from NCLB. Add this to the 11 that have already received waivers from the Obama Administration.

OER legislation has passed in Washington state. HB 2337 directs the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to support the state's school districts in developing and adopting open educational resources.

California is also weighing legislation regarding OER materials, specifically textbooks at the higher ed level. Two laws have been introduced that would create an Open Source Library and OER textbooks for some of the most popular college classes.

Legalities

The legal battle between Amazon and the National Association of College Stores has been settled, reports The Wall Street Journal. The NACS had challenged Amazon's claim that students can save "up to 90% on their textbooks," but now it says it no longer disputes that.

The Rapid City Area School District in South Dakota is weighing restrictions on social media contact between teachers and students. A proposed policy would have prohibited staff from "friending" students and required teachers who use email to send only group messages to students. Pushback from teachers and other staff are forcing the superintendent and the district's attorneys to reconsider the policy.

On the heels of a damning story in The New York Times about its efficacy and profits surrounding online charter schools, K12 is facing a class action lawsuit. Among the charges: that K12 engaged in deceptive recruiting practices, aiming at enrolling students regardless of their ability to successfully complete courses. There have been numerous investigations into these sorts of strategies with for-profit companies in higher ed. And now that these companies are taking aim at the K-12 level… well… students and stockholders beware, I guess.

Launches

Raspberry Pi, one of the startups that I chose as the best of 2011, finally had its launch this week. Demand for the $35 Linux computer was so high that the organization's retail partners found their servers crashing under the load.

Cynthia Germanotta and her daughter Lady Gaga launched the Born This Way Foundation this week. The Foundation is meant to "foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated." On board are a number of amazing people, including researcher danah boyd.

The MacArthur Foundation has launched a new research initiative called Connected Learning, which is focused on building models for, as the name suggests, connected learning -- "learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational opportunity." Here's Henry Jenkins' take on the new endeavor.

Techcrunch has a write-up of ClassPager, another entry in the text-messaging-for-schools space. This tool sounds like a replacement for "clickers," with students using their cellphones rather than other devices, in order to respond to quizzes and questions in class.

Updates and Upgrades

MIT Opencourseware is teaming up with the open source textbook publisher Flatworld Knowledge to create textbooks for the school's OCW Scholar courses (I've written about these courses here).

You can't buy a Harry Potter e-book yet. But Overdrive, a major e-book distributor to libraries, announced this week that its customers (it's library, not retail customers, I should make clear) will have access to the series' e-books soon. (Pottermore, the online e-bookstore featuring the Harry Potter content, was supposed to launch late last year but is on hold.)

The online education company 2tor has launched an Android app. Techcrunch has a gushing review of the startup, which irked me this week with one of those obnoxious emails offering me $30 per lead if I put an affiliate link on my blog.

Random House has just jacked up its prices to libraries by as much as 300%, reports the Digital Shift. For example, titles available in print as new hardcovers will cost a library between $65- $85 for an e-book license.

Research and Data

Answering a question I've had for a long, long time, Ken Libby, a UC Boulder grad student has a post on the Shanker Blog detailing how the Gates Foundation spends its education-oriented funds. Looks like the whole "small schools" thing doesn't really interest the organization as much as it once did, as funding has fallen almost 94% for those initiatives since 2008. The new hot thing? Common Core, which has had its funding from the Foundation jump from $4 million to $13 million between 2009 and 2010.

The New York Times reports that many community colleges are unnecessarily placing students in remedial classes by relying on placement exams rather than the students' GPAs. These placement exams not only have lots of errors, says the NYT, but by requiring students to do remedial work, colleges are often derailing students' academic progress.

Violent crime and gang activity at public schools may be on the decline, but according to government data, bullying and youth suicides are on the rise.

According to NYC school data, 5 students are arrested every day at school. 90% are Black or Latino.

The Education Business Blog has crunched the numbers on iPad textbooks versus those old expensive printed ones and finds that "It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books." Revolutionary!

Inside Higher Ed reports that more affluent students are opting to attend community colleges. 22% of college students with annual family incomes over $100,000 attended community colleges last year, up from 16% four years ago.

Funding

Making money from vending machines on campus. Putting ads on report cards. Putting ads on school buses. And now, from Toronto, news that the Toronto Public Library will be placing ads on its various printed materials in order to earn some additional revenue. First up: ads on library "due slips."

Resignations

ISTE's CEO Don Knezek is stepping down as of September 2012, after leading the ed-tech non-profit for over a decade.

Awards

The winners of the Badges for Lifelong Learning competition were announced at DML 2012 this week. The winners receive grants ranging from $25,000 to $175,000 and will use Mozilla’s “Open Badges” infrastructure to issue and display badges.

Recommended Reading

Matthew Di Carlo, "Reign of Error: The Publication of Teacher Data Reports in New York City

Seth Godin, Stop Stealing Dreams

Various authors, Manifesto for teaching online

Pew Internet & American Life Project, Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyper connected lives

Photo credits: a Raspberry Pi board (pre-release) via Jared Smith



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