Ed-Tech Weekly News Roundup: Department of Justice vs Apple and Major Publishers

Ghost in the Classroom

Launches

The Baltimore-area non-profit Digital Harbor Foundation has launched a new program called EdTech Link, that will involve students, teachers, and local area technologists. The technologists will train teachers in various programming and tech skills, who in turn will work with students in after school programs. Those students will then train the teachers in their schools. MindShift has more details about the program.

MIT Opencourseware has launched Introduction to Computer Science and Programming as an OCW Scholar course. This introductory Python class has long been one of MIT OCW's most popular courses.

Scholastic launched the beta version of "Storia," this week, a new e-book distribution platform for getting e-book content to schools. There are over 1300 titles available at launch, and the e-books will be platform agnostic (well, except for the little problem right now that Storia is Windows only)

After multiple delays, it appears as though Pottermore, the new online Harry Potter e-bookstore and platform, will get its official launch in early April.

Via FunnyMonkey, a new Drupal distribution for schools. Called Julio, the project allows schools to build their own websites, with features including blogs, calendars, sideshows, editorial control, and more. It's free, and it's open source.

The ed-tech newsletter EdSurge has launched the beta version of its website, which includes product review information about various ed-tech tools and companies.

Updates and Upgrades

Apple unveiled the latest iPad. This changes everything. Except not really. This changes the display resolution. Yay. To its credit, Apple did also announce a new app for Macs called the Configurator that will make it easy to sync up to 3 Apple iOS devices simultaneously.

The study tool StudyBlue has released a number of new features, including the ability to connect with other students and the flash cards they've build using the service.

The MIT Android App Inventor is now available in open beta. Anyone (with a Google ID) can sign up to use the tool to build Android apps.

Techcrunch reports that Classmates.com competitor schoolFeed has added a new feature that lets you mail in your school yearbooks for scanning and uploading into the site. Send me your physical edu materials, and we'll take your data. Brilliant. Ugh.

Downgrades

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Google is scaling back on its massive book-scanning initiative. According to sources at Google's partner libraries, the pace of scanning has slowed. Is Google abandoning the project? It's not clear. Meanwhile, the lawsuits from publishers and authors continue to drag on.

Legalities

The Department of Justice is apparently planning to sue Apple and 5 of the largest publishers for price collusion, according to TheWall Street Journal. The publishers include Simon & Schuster (which is owned by CBS), the Hachette Book Group, Penguin (owned by Pearson), Macmillan, and HarperCollins (which is owned by News Corp). The case revolves around price fixing and the introduction of the iPad (and iBooks), when Steve Jobs convinced publishers to move to the agency model (or else their titles wouldn't appear in iBooks) rather than the wholesale model, which allows booksellers to offer discounts.

College Media Matters reports that the University of Rhode Island is considering a new rule that would prohibit students from publishing "sensitive material" (specifically photos or videos) online. While the new language in the student handbook is meant to curb cyberbulling, there are a lot of concerns about the vague language. What exactly constitutes "sensitive material"? What about students' freedom of speech?

A $150,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by two blind students against Florida State University, reports The Chronicle. The students claimed that the university had adopted e-learning systems and "clickers" for math courses that were not accessible to those who are visually impaired.

Research and Data

Gotham Schools reports that the New York City Charter School Center will release data on Monday about the city's charter schools, "student test scores, as well as data points often used to criticize them, such as student demographic information and student and teacher attrition rates."

An interesting look at law students' technology use in the classroom that challenges those who'd claim that technology is necessarily a distraction or that being distracted in class necessarily means students perform poorly. According to research undertaken by Professor Kim Novak Morse of Saint Louis University School of Law, the students who've scored higher on the LSATs are actually off-task more in class. She's also found lots of interesting classroom practices that both keep students on-task and seem to correlate with their attention wandering.

At the recent DC Data Dive, a team came together to help work on tools for the DC Action for Children organization, a non-profit devoted to helping improve the education system in the U.S. capital. The team took a variety of data available at DC's data.gov site to build an interactive map, giving details about various local neighborhoods and schools, including information about poverty, number of libraries, and family income.

Funding and Acquisition

The textbook rental site Chegg has raised another $25 million in funding, according to Venture Beat, bringing the grand total that the company has raised to almost $250 million. "The funding is led by existing investors to fuel the growth of the business,” a Chegg spokesperson said. Um. Okay.

Blended learning startup Education Elements has raised $6 million.

Classes and Conferences

SXSWedu happened.

I'm helping mentor a new P2PU challenge: Writing for the Web. Sign up! It'll be fun.

Recommended Reading

William Johnson, "Confessions of a Bad Teacher"

Steve Hargadon, "A 'Tail' of Two Ed-Tech Agendas"

George Siemens, "MOOCs for the Win"

Bobbi Newman, "Should Libraries Get Out of the eBook Business?"

Photo credits: Ben W



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