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Politics and Policies

Last week, the Republicans laid out their vision for education; this week, it was the Democrats’ turn. Lots of rhetoric — “You can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education,” said San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. But many of the key parts of Obama’s education policies went unmentioned at the Democratic Party National Convention, including Race to the Top.

The California State Senate passed an open textbook bill this week — it now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk — that would create an OER library for the textbooks in the most popular undergraduate classes at the state’s public universities.

There’s been some back-and-forth among the education punditry over the last few weeks about the state of Virginia’s NCLB waiver, in part because it establishes different target levels of proficiency for students of different races and ethnic backgrounds. Virginia says it will amend its application in response to some of the criticisms, and as usual the Shanker Blog has a great analysis of what the proposals and measurements mean.

From the “Are You Friggin’ Serious” Department: the conservative education think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report this week suggesting that the country could save $10 billion a year annually by cutting staffing levels for special education.

From the “I’m Not Making This Up” Department: British authorities froze the stake that the Libyan Investment Authority holds in Pearson — about a 3.01% stake in the company. The actions were taken as part of the government’s attempts to “ block the assets of Muammar Gaddafi and five members of his family,” reports The Guardian.

Launches, Updates, and Upgrades

The Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation launched a new program called “ProgeTiger” aimed at teaching computer programming to all kids from grades 1 through 12.

Amazon unveiled updates to its Kindle e-reader line this week with a bunch of new devices, including a Kindle Fire HD, at a range of prices.

Low-cost Linux computer-maker Raspberry Pi announced plans for version 2.0 of its boards. The non-profit also said that it was moving manufacturing to the UK.

Digital textbook app-maker Inkling made available a set of O’Reilly Media books this week. The learn-to-program guides include an interactive coding widget. (As with all the O'Reilly books, it's hard to not make a purchasing decision based on the animal on the cover. So hey, it looks like I'm gonna learn JavaScript!)

Social network Edmodo released a new version of its platform with a cleaner UI and new features, including “insights,” a way for teachers (and others) to get more data about students’ interaction with content.

The non-profit Worldreader announced that it has secured partnerships with several major publishers, a move that will greatly expand its library of digital content. Worldreader provides e-book libraries via Kindles to children in Africa.

Downgrades, Closures, and Scandals

I guess this should go in the “update” category, but frankly I’m sticking it squarely in the “downgrade” category as I think it’s bad news for students: EDUCAUSE and Internet2 are teaming up for a series of digital textbook pilot program that will bundle materials with college tuition. (I just covered this last week, noting that it was a growing trend.)

Due to funding cuts, some 470,000 students in California will not be able to get into the classes they need at the state’s community colleges. In numbers from a blog post by Tony Bates: “California’s community college system, the nation’s largest, has suffered about $809 million in state funding cuts since 2008. It faces another $338-million hit midyear if voters reject a tax measure on the November ballot supported by Gov. Jerry Brown.”

In an embarassing blow to a tool once touted as one of the ten best inventions of 2009 and heralded as a savior of education, two of the three NYC schools piloting the School of One math software (since rebranded to New Classrooms) have abandoned the program, finding it did nothing to improve student achievement. The software, designed by a former DOE employee with secret-sauce algorithms from Wireless Generation was championed by former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (Wireless Generation and Joel Klein are now part of News Corp — and wow, doesn’t this bode well for its new education plans, eh?). The School of One program has cost the city $9 million over the past 3 years, and the DOE was planning to spend $45 million to expand the program.

Responding to last week’s news that about half of a Harvard undergrad history class had been busted for cheating on their take-home exam, the students now insist that collaboration was allowed. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo argues these students should be praised not punished for learning how to work together.

Funding

The learning management system Desire2Learn, once best known for being sued by Blackboard for infringing on its virtual learning system patent, can now be known as the startup that raised the largest seed round in Canadian history: $80 million from OMERS Ventures (a Canadian pension fund) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) (who’ve recently invested in Edmodo and Coursera).

The Next Web reports that Fingerprint Digital, a maker of digital learning games for kids, has raised $7 million.

iPad educational app directory eSpark Learning has raised $5.7 million in its Series A round, according to Techcrunch.

Techcrunch also reports $5 million invested into the Russian education platform Dnevnik.ru.

Education app-store-plus-LMS Chalkable has raised $1.3 million. (My story about the startup is here.)

The Chicago-based design company 37signals announced that it has bought a stake in the Starter League, the learn-to-code startup formerly known as Code Academy. (My coverage here.)

Classes, Credits, and Tours

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok from the blog Marginal Revolution are starting an online education platform — Marginal Revolution University. The first class is on Development Economics.

Steve Hargadon is going on the road with the “Hack Your Education” tour. (You can see the dates on the calendar here.) His plans are for local conversations about education and learning — our kids’, our own. There are likely some cities that I’ll head to too, and we’ll record our weekly podcast in front of an audience.

And so it begins: Colorado State University’s Global Campus will accept transfer credit for online education startup Udacity's CS 101.

edX, the MIT and Harvard MOOC initiative, will now offered proctored final exams to the students that sign up for its open enrollment online classes, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. These tests will be given by Pearson (which also provides testing for Udacity). Vive la revolution.

Image credits: Banksy, photo by Dominic Robinson

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Audrey Watters


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