The Best Learning Story of the Week

The Legal and the Political

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit this week charging that Apple and 5 of the world’s largest publishers colluded to fix the price of e-books. (The Hachette Book Group, CBS-owned Simon & Schuster, and News Corp’s HarperCollins have settled with the government already, but Pearson-owned Penguin, Macmillan, and Apple itself have not). Wired’s Tim Carmody has some of the best analysis of the news, including his observation about the big winner in all this. Hint: it’s not you, the e-book reader.

Virginia becomes the latest state to require high school students to take at least one online class in order to graduate. The new requirement, which was signed into law late last week, will go into effect for students who enter 9th grade in 2013.

The World Bank has announced a new open access policy that requires all the organization’s research and knowledge outputs be licensed CC-BY.

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam refused to sign legislation that the state House and Senate had passed that would make it possible for science teachers to discuss “the flaws” in theories about evolution and global climate change. (The wording is such to get around the Supreme Court ruling that you can’t teach creationism in science class.) But Haslam didn’t veto the bill either, which means it become law.

A federal appeals court has revived much of language-learning company Rosetta Stone’s lawsuit against Google. The suit, which was thrown out last year, charges trademark infringement as Google allowed other companies to buy ads for the “Rosetta Stone” search keywords.

New and Improved

IBM and Desire2Learn are teaming up to build a new education platform, according to IBM’s Michael King, VP of Global Education. There aren’t a lot of details about what this will look like, but the focus will be on analytics and predictive modeling. Man, I hope they use some of that Watson technology that kicked ass on Jeopardy. That machine would rock at standardized testing.

Even though the OLPC project was blasted this week for failing to improve test scores (WTF), it’s clear there’s plenty of interest in building a low-cost, low-power, highly dirable educational tablet. To that end, Intel unveiled its Studybook this week, which runs Android or Windows, is 7“ long and is encased in plastic, and should cost about $200. ZDNet’s Christopher Dawson calls it ”what an education tablet should be.“ (I haven’t seen or test-driven one yet to comment intelligently on its ”holy grail-ness.")

Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure had its official beta launch this week. Among the features are a new API and a backpack that lets you store and manage your badges. The news means we’ll start to see more badges “in the wild,” such as those issued to students in one of BYU professor David Wiley’s graduate seminars.

EDUCAUSE, which manages the .edu domain name space, is seeking comments on its proposal to make changes on how .edu works. Among the changes: extending eligibility to higher education membership entities.

Common Sense Media has released a new ratings system to help parents, teachers and kids make smart decisions about the learning potential for digital media (video games, apps, and websites). Daniel Donahoo takes a closer look at the initiative in a story for The Huffington Post.


Social studying website GradeGuru will be shutting its doors, reports The Chronicle, which notes that in an EDUCAUSE survey last year found that almost 25% of college students said they use sites like GradeGuru. McGraw-Hill Higher Education, which ran the site, says that its social strategy in education is “is leaning in a new direction.”

Research and Data

Hit the COPPA panic button: Mashable reports that 38% of kids on Facebook are under age 12. There’s some reason to be suspicious of that figure as it was based on a survey of just 1000 parents by a company that sells online parents a monitoring tool for their kids’ Facebook activity. But it’s not the first survey to show that, despite the age restrictions to joining Facebook, there are plenty of young TOS-violators on the social network.

According to research cited in The Atlantic, some 20% of (Massachusetts) 3rd grade boys and 18% of 3rd grade girls have a cellphone. As kids get older, ownership gets more common with 39% of 5th graders and 83% of middle-schoolers having cellphones.

Inside Higher Ed looks at a research paper to be delivered at the American Education Research Association meeting next week that tracks the ways in which the Gates and Lumina Foundation’s philanthropy has changed higher ed. The paper’s authors Cassie Hall and Scott Thomas argue that the foundations “have taken up a set of methods – strategic grant-making, public policy advocacy, the funding of intermediaries, and collaboration with government – that illustrate their direct and unapologetic desire to influence policy and practice in numerous higher education arenas.”


Online education company StraighterLine that offers for-credit college courses has raised $10 million to help “expand marketing.”

Classes, Conferences, and Competitions

The University of Florida is planning to dismantle its Computer and Information Science Department. Georgia Tech professor Mark Guzdial has more information on the decision (and the petition to challenge the move) on his blog.

The Wall Street Journal profiles Udacity, the online learning startup that grew out of Stanford’s massive AI class from last year. Udacity is wrapping up its first round of classes, is launching 6 new ones, and plans to have 14 more by June. Buried in the story, mention of a relationship between Pearson and Udacity: “Udacity expects to offer its final exams at 5,000 physical testing centers run by Pearson PLC in 165 countries, after which students will receive a certificate that ‘carries weight,’ Mr. Stavens says. A Pearson spokeswoman declined to comment.”

A new world record for the largest Rube Goldberg machine goes to the University of Purdue, which broke its own Guinness Record to create a machine that inflates and pops a balloon in 300 steps.

Recommended Reading

Joi Ito, “Reading the Dictionary

Rob Reynolds, “Textbook TOCs and Their Possible Impact on Open Textbooks and OER Repositories

Jon Becker, “Twitter, professional identity, and the 1st Amendment

Steve Kolowich, “The MITx Factor

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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