Politics and Policies


Legislators in DC have reached an agreement on student loans, but it’s really not worth celebrating. Much of the debate about this issue has revolved around not raising the interest rates on federally subsidized student loans. And the rates won’t go up. But no longer will students have a six-month grace period after graduation before having to start paying back their loans. And no more subsidized loans for graduate study either.

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met on Tuesday and voted to reinstate president Theresa Sullivan, a complete reversal of their decision June 10 to fire her. I’d just like to note here that after all the hullaballoo that the BOV made that she was failing to prepare the university for a technological future, that some 13,000 people were able to tune in to the U-streams broadcasting their meeting and the reactions from the Lawn. That doesn’t really strike me as a technology infrastructure that’s not forward facing. Just sayin’

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed a law eliminating state funding for public libraries.

The Texas Republican Party has updated its party platform. Of note, in the “Protecting Our Children” section, it states that “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”


The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration’s federal health care law, this week. As analysts and pundits and politicians have sought to interpret the ruling, some are asking how this might impact education. Will the Court’s ruling on Medicaid expansion influence things like NCLB? Education Week’s Mark Walsh looks more closely at this issue.

The free textbook company Boundless, which I covered here when it was sued by major publishers for copyright infringement, has filed a motion to dismiss two of the publishers’ claims.


On Tuesday, Twitter, Google, GE and eBay announced that they were joining the Girls Who Code initiative, a program that will launch in New York this summer and that will help support young women in engineering and programming career paths.

Apple has launched a podcasting app (iTunes link), that pulls the podcasts available in iTunes out of that application and into this new setting. It’s supposed to make it easier to discover new podcasts.

Clever, a Y-Combinator-funded startup that aims to address some of the questions about data silos in education, came out of stealth this week. Clever is building APIs to help connect SISes to other third-party apps.

Updates and Upgrades

Microsoft announced a change to the name and the terms of service of its email and productivity suite aimed at the education market. Live@EDU will end, to be replaced by Office 365 (the same version that companies can already use). No longer will Microsoft charge schools for each user – Office 365 will be free for students.

Google Apps for Education announced at ISTE that it now offers grade-level-specific “app packs.” It’s an effort to help make it easier to find and install Web apps.

The online study group website OpenStudy is now offering certificates so you can highlight with others what you've been doing on their site.  It looks like these will start at $50 apiece.

I guess I’m in the minority with my less-than-enthusiastic response to the new Reading Rainbow app. But good news: all the original TV show episodes are now available for free on YouTube.

A sign of the times: one of the longest running education technology publications, THE Journal, will no longer publish a print magazine. As of the June/July issue, it will be digital only.

Research and Data

This research isn’t about human learning; it’s about machines learning – and that makes it even more fascinating and frightening. The New York Times reports on Google’s research on creating a simulation of the human brain, using some 16,000 computers to create an artificial neural network. By pouring through YouTube videos, the network has taught itself to recognize cats.

Another study has been released from the Pew Research Center, this one about cell internet usage. Among the findings: 17% of cellphone owners do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than on a computer or other device. While some do this for the sake of convenience, there are those for whom their cellphone is the only way they can access to the Internet.

According to a new article from David Wiley (published in IRRODL!), he’s identified an open textbook deployment model that reduces the cost by 50% of traditional proprietary textbook implementations.

Funding and Acquisition

Following the posting onto YouTube of a group of teens bullying 68-year-old school bus monitor Karen Klein, the Internet stepped in to crowdfund over $666,000 to “send her on vacation.”

The digital course materials management company Rafter (which recently spun out of the textbook rental company Bookrenter) has made its first acquisition: HubEdu. HubEdu offers similar services – price comparison and textbook adoption information.


The San Diego School District has purchased 26,000 iPads for the new school year. The price tag for what’s being touted as the largest iPad deployment in K–12: $15 million. In other San Diego School District news, the district and teachers’ union have reached an agreement to bring back the 1372 teachers that were laid off this year, to hold off on all pay raises promised by the district two years ago, and to extend five unpaid furlough days for an additional two years. The district has shortened the school year by 19 days to help overcome a $150 million shortfall. But OMG YAY those kids will have iPads.


Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp will be splitting into two separate and publicly-traded companies (with Murdoch still at the helm of both). The division seems to be between “old” and “new” – the publishing wing and the entertainment wing. The former includes News Corp’s newspaper holdings, where Murdoch got his start. The latter includes Fox News and 20th Century Fox. Any guesses which one the company’s education interests fall into? (The New York Times has some speculation on that.)


ISTE announced its new CEO as the current CEO Don Knezek is stepping down. Brian Lewis will take over leadership of the organization this fall. Most recently, Lewis has been the chief strategy officer for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

Classes, Conferences and Competitions

ISTE 2012 was held this week in San Diego. I haven’t heard the official count yet on how many attendees or vendors were there. But despite the budget cuts everywhere, the event seemed big and the vendors exhuberant.

Google is jumping on the MOOC bandwagon – what it describes as the “learning format pioneered by Stanford and MIT.” (Ouch. Sorry Dave and George and Alec, et al.) It’s offering an online class on Power Searching with Google. I’ve signed up, not so much lured by the promise of a certificate from The Goog but by some of the tricks I read about from Google’s “anthropologist of search” Daniel Russell’s recent talk at the recent Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.

Dan Meyer and Justin Reich are sponsoring the MTT2K Prize, a response to the Mystery Teacher Theater 2000 Episode 1 created by John Golden and David Coffey. Much like Mystery Science Theater 3000, the two offered a running commentary on a video – but not a low budget SF film, but on a Khan Academy video. They highlighted a number of errors in a video, prompting Khan Academy to pull the video in question. The story and the parody video have been picked up by numerous media outlets, prompting Sal Khan to tell The Chronicle that those who criticize him are “a bit arrogant and disparaging.” So if you’re the arrogant and disparaging type – you know, an experienced teacher, perhaps, who sees there’s something awry in a KA video – you can submit your own MTT2K video to Meyer and Reich.

More money for robot graders: the Hewlett Foundation is sponsoring another competition on automated grading – this time for short answers.

Photo credits: Daniel Blume

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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