This Week in Ed-Tech News: Making More Makers

Maker Faire 2012-43

Making More Makers

The Maker Education Initiative was announced at Maker Faire this past weekend. Sponsored by Intel, Cognizant and O’Reilly Media, the Maker Education Initiative will help “create more opportunities for young people to make, and, by making, build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts—and learning as a whole. We want young people to join—and eventually lead—the growing Maker Movement.”

Mozilla unveiled Mozilla Webmaker this week, “a new program to help people everywhere make, learn and play using the open building blocks of the web. The goal: help millions of people move from using the web to making the web.” Mozilla Webmaker will include tools like Hackasaurus and Popcorn and community efforts like Hive.

Politics and Policies

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney laid out his education platform this week. (The Washington Post has the complete transcript of his speech.) Among the “highlights,” allowing banks to once again make student loans, loosen restrictions on for-profit schools, offer vouchers that enable more “choice.” No mention of Common Core, special ed, or pre-K education, notes Dana Goldstein.

More Race to the Top races were announced by the Department of Education this week. This time, the competition for funding will be targeted at the district, not the state level. School districts will be able to compete for some $400 million in funding by creating “plans for individualized classroom instruction aimed at closing achievement gaps and preparing each student for college and career.” (It is without a shred of irony that “personalized learning” is DOE code for more assessments.)

Legalities

Judge Berman sentenced former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail for using a webcam to spy on his roommate. That roomate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide days after Ravi saw him kissing another man. 30 days is awfully short, but Slate’s Emily Bazelon argues the light sentence is the right length.

Launches

Social test prep company Grockit launched Learnist, a "Pinterest for education." See my coverage here for more details (and for invites).

The Atlantic’s Megan Garber covers the launch of Civitas Learning, “a digital-education platform that uses predictive analytics to help guide educational decision-making” founded by former Kaplan exec Charles Thornburgh.  Hmmm, folks are moving away from test prep... I don't think I'm going to get my hopes up that less test prep means less testing though. 

Updates

I’m not sure how new this feature is, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless: the learn-to-program site Udacity has beefed up the profiles for its students, enabling them to add more personal information (profile pictures, location, languages, etc), as well as upload resumes and other professionally relevent details. It’s all in the service of helping tech companies identify and recruit students from the site.

Acquisitions

Macmillan New Ventures, the corporate/development arm of the publisher Macmillan, has acquired the assessment company Education Benchmarking, Inc (EBI). The financial details were not disclosed.

Well, it’s not quite news about an acquisition – not yet at least, but McGraw-Hill held a press conference this week stating that it really wants to acquire education startups. (In other news about how McGraw-Hill wants to “innovate,” see its Forbes op-edabout requiring college students to purchase digital textbooks.)

Closures

A shout-out here that's full of respect and concern for George Mason University history professor T. Mills Kelly whose website and Twitter profile “went dark” this week following the Internet’s outrage and subsequent stupid jerkiness over his Lying about the Past class (in which he has students create and try to perpetuate a hoax online.) See The Atlantic’s coverage last week about the class’s assignments.  

Research and Data

Inside Higher Ed’s Steve Kolowich reports on research by Ithaka that found that students enrolled in a “hybrid-format” statistics class (where they met with instructors once a week but otherwise moved through content via AI software) “took about one-quarter less time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional-format students.” A win for the robo-tutors, says Kolowich. OMG, says me.

From The Atlantic, this sobering statistics: for the first time, a majority of the unemployed have attended college. This isn’t the argument that college degrees are irrelevent (see Peter Thiel on this past weekend’s 60 Minutes for more on that line of thinking); rather, it’s a reflection that while lots of students enroll, far fewer actually complete their college degrees.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) released a report titled “The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K–12 Educational Infrastructure Needs.” As the name suggests, the report stresses the importance of high-speed Internet in providing students the educational resources they need in school.

The digital textbook provider CourseSmart released the results of a study on college students’ adoption of digital tools. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader dives into the data, highlighting some of the stats – particularly about smartphone versus laptop versus iPad ownership – that point to the importance of cross-platform support for digital content.

Classes

The P2PU School of Ed unveiled a set of free and open professional development classes for K–12 educators that it plans to offer over the summer. Classes include: PhET Simulations for Science and Math, ePortfolios for Teachers, and Making Writing and Literacy Learning Connections.

Competitions

Google announced the 90 regional finalists in its online Science Fair, selected from the thousands of entries it received for the contests. Google will announce its 15 Science Fair finalists in the next few weeks. These students will travel to Mountain View in July for the final round of competition.

Campaigns

Worldreader, a non-profit that sends Kindles and by extension digital libraries to children in the developing world has launched a new campaign to raise funds to send 1 million e-readers to sub-Saharan Africa. Worldreader has partnered with FC Barcelona, not only to raise awareness of the campaign but to send children messages from their football favorites encouraging them to read.

Mathalicious is going back to the drawing board with its Kickstarter campaign (which I wrote about here). It’s canceled its initial fundraising effort and set the goal for its new campaign much, much lower.  This means fewer Math52 videos, but I've backed this one again.

Contracts

In the ongoing battle between Microsoft and Google over who wins school contracts for cloud-based productivity tools, Microsoft has scored a couple of big successes in recent weeks. The company announced on Thursday that it has made an agreement with the Catholic International Education Office to deploy Office 365 to some 4.5 million students over the next 3 years. The news comes on the heels of India’s AICTE deploying the Microsoft tools to some 7.5 million students.

And in the battle among LMS providers, it was Instructure that could boast this week that it’s landed the contract for The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, whose 34 institutions will replace Blackboard with Instructure’s Canvas.

Recommended Reading

Stephen Downes, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks (PDF)

Photo credits: Patrick Giblin



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