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Science and Curiosity

Congratulations to NASA for landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars late Sunday night after an 8-month, 352 million mile journey.

Politics and Policies

Lots of news from Louisiana this week following the state's move to privatize public schools by offering school vouchers that let public funding go for any sort of school, including religious ones. Policies at one charter require girls to get pregnancy tests before attending (and if they are pregnant, forcing them to leave school). And Mother Jones lists “14 wacky facts” that students will learn in some of textbooks used by the religious charters there, including dinosaurs probably lived side-by-side with humans within the last thousand years. Insert prediction about future NASA engineeers’ state of origin here.

Tim Arnold, a senior at University of Central Florida, has been placed on academic probation for creating a website that, for a small fee, would notify students when a seat became open in a class. The university says that the system was like a denial of service attack, something that Arnold disputes, along with the punishment for his innovation.

The California Student Aid Commission has axed 154 schools from its financial aid program, including the University of Phoenix. California students will no longer be able to receive state aid, including CalGrants, to attend these universities.

The FCC is seeking public comments on its revisions to COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Adam Thierer has a good breakdown of what’s new, what’s good, and what remains problematic with the updated rules.

Launches

Upstart, the new startup from former Googler Dave Girouard (formerly head of the Google Enterprise and Apps team), was unveiled this week. The startup applies the crowdfunding model of sorts to education, whereby students can get investment from others in exchange for promising to pay back a portion of their income to those who lend them money. Wired has more details on the company.

Boundless, a startup that provides free textbook alternatives to college students, opens its doors to the public (despite still facing a copyright infringement lawsuit from major textbook publishers). See my thoughts here.

Updates and Upgrades

The peer-to-peer learning startup Skillshare has launched hybrid classes, combining online lessons with in-person workshops.

The One Laptop for Child project is working on two interesting hardware peripherals: XOrduino and XO Stick. (As the name sounds, the XOrduino is an Arduino-compatible board that plugs into the XO laptop’s USB port.) The parts are available for free for those who are willing to do development work on the project (write apps, do Scratch or Turtle support work, etc).

For more hacking options, check out Adafruit IndustriesBabel Fish, a DIY language-learning toy.

And for still more Adafruit Industries’ hacks, check out the company’s educational distribution of Linux, specially customized for Raspberry Pi (the small, $25 computer.)

Digital textbook app-maker Kno announced that it will begin offering K–12-level textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The target consumer here isn’t schools, but parents. Perhaps this is aimed at that market who would’ve bought the ol’ Encyclopedia Brittanica sets for their kids?

StudyBlue has released a free iPad app (iTunes link), that lets students create digital flashcards.

Physics Gizmo, an app that helps students collect data for use in their science experiments, has just been open sourced. You can find the code on code.google.com.

Downgrades

Amazon has forced the e-book crowdfunding platform Unglue.it to suspend its receipt of pledges (Unglue.it, which I covered here, has been using Amazon to process payments). Although it might seem a little suspicious that a bookseller like Amazon is targeting a Creative Commons-oriented project lie Unglue.it, this appears to be part of a larger crackdown on crowdfunding.

Research and Data

ProPublica notes that while the industry has pushed back on last week’s report by Senator Tom Harkin regarding for-profit universities, there hasn't been much arguing with the figures cited in it, including the following: the average cost of a 2-year degree at a for-profit college: $35,000; the average cost of a 2-year degree at a comparable community college: $8,300. ProPublica offers a breakdown of the for-profit higher ed industry “by the numbers.”

Despite the handwringing about technology exacerbating bullying, research from Norway (based on both Norwegian and American students) finds incidents of cyberbullying may not be as common as headlines would lead us to believe. 18% of American students reported they’d been subjected to verbal bullying; just 4.5% reported that they’d experienced cyberbullying.

Where do invasive species come from? Science classes. Ouch. A survey of teachers from Canada and the US found that one out of four teachers who use animals in their classes as part of their science curriculum release those species into the wild when they're done.

Funding

Techcrunch reports that MeeGenius, a digital early reading platform, has just closed a $2.4 million round of funding.

Classes

The online learning startup Udacity announced that students enrolled in the Ohio eSTEM Academy will receive high school credit for courses they take via the Udacity platform (specifically, Intro to Statistics and Intro to Physics).

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Audrey Watters


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