Weekly Ed-Tech News Roundup: Schools are a Threat to National Security and other FUDs

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Politics and Policies

Lots of news this week about employers demanding employees hand over the keys to their Facebook accounts -- whether it's in order to be hired or remain employed. For its own part, Facebook issued a statement this week about password privacy, indicating that it might sue companies that demanded its employees and applicants hand over that information. But questions about who can and cannot use social media aren't so simple when it comes to teachers. Many districts continue to block Facebook and demand teachers refrain from interacting with students there. See Los Angeles USD's new policy. See New York City's.

Can't get enough of standardized testing? Move to New York, where it looks like kids will face the tests 9 times per year! To quote President George W. Bush, "rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?" Well, gosh darn thanks for NCLB, George W, we sure are asking something.

Legislation is making its way through state houses in Tennessee and Oklahoma that purports to help public school science teachers "teach the controversy" surrounding evolution, global warming and other areas where, quite frankly, there isn't any scientific controversy but rather a religious and political one, reports Ars Technica.

Inside Higher Ed examines a new policy at Lassell College that wants to see 100% of faculty using its Moodle-based LMS for 100% of classes. “'We’re basically mandating it,'” says Michael B. Alexander, Lasell’s president. The hope is that those baseline requirements, plus compulsory training, will lead to even more extensive usage over time."  Yeah, mandating will do that, I suppose.

In the Courts

A federal district court in Mississippi has ruled that a local district did not violate a student's First Amendment rights when the school suspended him for posting a rap song he'd written online. The song, which was written and performed off school property, accused two school coaches of inappropriate behavior with female students.

Launches, Updates and Upgrades

Dan Meyer has launched 101questions, a website that showcases some of the visuals that he has been collecting and tweeting with the hashtag #anyqs. The site displays photos and videos and asks visitors to write the first question that comes to their mind about these perplexing examples of "real world math." This is just "Act One of a larger project" says Meyer.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced the launch of expansion of its Albert Einstein archives, with more than 40,000 documents of Einstein's personal papers, from both his scientific work and his personal life now available online.

Frustrated that your Legos don't work with your Duplos and don't connect to your K'Nex or Bristle Blocks? Then check out the Free Universal Connection Kit, which as the name suggests is a collection of connectors to make all your building toys interoperable -- thanks to the wonders of 3D printing technology.  There are some concerns that lawyers will crack down on this as trademark infringement.  Lawyers... always spoiling the fun.

Research and Data

The Council of Foreign Relations has issued a report on education reform and national security, penned in part by Joel Klein (former NYC schools chancellor and currently the head of News Corp's education division) and Condoleeza Rice (former Secretary of State). The report argues that the state of the U.S. education system is a threat to national security. I can't help but wonder what happens when we use this sort of rhetoric to describe education, looking at the War of Terrorism and War on Drugs as examples. Will this report lead to union busting? More coercive governmental policies? More compliant citizens?

CSTA examines computer science education on a state-by-state level in its most recent publication. It's a rather fascinating look at how diverse the offerings are in different locations. 77% of schools in Maryland offer AP CS, whereas just 9% of schools in Kansas. Some schools treat CS as a business class; some as math.  Colorado is the only state that boasts Scratch as its most popular programming language taught.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released new data about teens' smartphone adoption and texting habits. Among the findings: the median number of texts sent by those age 12-17 rose from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011. Older teenage girls remain the most avid texters, sending 100 texts a day (boys, by comparison, send 50 per day).

Boys continued to dominate AP exams in several STEM fields, making up 74 to 77% of those who take the physics exam and 80 to 86% in computer science. "Gender differences were minor for Chemistry, European History, Latin, Statistics and U.S. Government and Politics," notes Joanne Jacobs.

Matthew Di Carlo examines some of the research surrounding the effectiveness of Teach for America teachers over on the Shanker Blog. "at least by the standard of test-based productivity, TFA teachers really don’t do better, on average, than their peers, and when there are demonstrated differences, they are often relatively small and concentrated in math (the latter, by the way, might suggest the role of unobserved differences in content knowledge)."

The Digital Reader takes a look at a survey out of the UK regarding students' adoption of digital textbooks. The results: students in the UK are not adopting them. The most common sources for studying remain printed textbooks, instructor handouts and online journals.

How do millennials search? Research from Rider University's Arthur Taylor examines the search patterns of those born after 1982. "Statistically significant findings suggest that millennial generation Web searchers proceed erratically through an information search process, make only a limited attempt to evaluate the quality or validity of information gathered, and may perform some level of 'backfilling' or adding sources to a research project before final submission of the work."

Money

U.S. student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion -- a new record. Congrats, everyone! Keep up the good work!

Following up on a crowd sourced inquiry into the state of adjuncts in higher ed, ProfHacker's Billie Hara notes that it seems as though most NTT (non-tenure-track) faculty do not make a living wage. "How do you pay the rent?" she asks, let alone pay back student loans.  (Looking at the student loan debt, the answer to the latter question is: you don't.)

Marjorie Scardino, Pearson's CEO, has been elected to chair the MacArthur Foundation's Board of Directors.  Ugh.

Recommended Reading

Alan Levine, "Bryan Alexander Paints Four Futures for Education"

Richard Hall, "Education Technology and the War on Public Education"

Michael Trucano, "An Update on the Use of E-Readers in Africa"

Daniel Hickey, "Some Things about Assessment Badge Developers Might Find Helpful"

Image credits: Joe Calhoun



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