Road to nowhere

Law and Politics

The Chicago Teachers Union agreed on Tuesday to end its 8 day strike.

The government has revised the indictments against activist Aaron Swartz who was charged last year with multiple felonies for hacking into the MIT library to download some 4 million JSTOR articles. 9 more felonies have been added to the charges, and Swartz now faces roughly 35 years in prison and around $4 million in fines if convicted.

Late last week, a Wisconsin circuit judge overturned the signature law of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker that would have curbed collective bargaining for most public employees (including teachers.)

Launches, Updates, and Upgrades

Degreed, a startup that seeks to “jailbreak the degree” — that is, to help people get “credit” for all their learning, whether it happens at a 4 year college or not — opened its doors this week. It’s still in beta, and there are definitely kinks to work out. But the site lets you translate your degrees, transcripts, and badges into a score that recognizes what you know, not just what your diploma says.

The messaging app Celly launched a new service this week to make it easier for groups to create mobile social networks (or “cells”). The startup, which I chose as one of my favorites of 2011, also released an Android app.

The Internet Archive, which is already busy digitizing and archiving the world’s books and websites, has launched a new digital archive: all the TV news produced over the course of the last three years from some 20 different channels. As with other materials in the Internet Archive, access is free.

Coursera announced 17 more schools have signed up to offer courses on its platform. The new partners include: Berklee College of Music, Brown University, Columbia University (hey kids, remember Fathom?), Emory University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Ohio State University, University of British Columbia, University of California at Irvine, University of Florida, University of London, University of Maryland, University of Melbourne, University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, and Wesleyan University.

Techcrunch reports that YouTube is testing a feature that would allow multiple choice questions to be embedded on top of videos. Because what the world needs right now is more multiple choice questions alongside video presentations.

Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system. Among the new features in iOS6, “guided access,” a way to restrict how a device can be used (for example, limiting usage to just one app).

Downgrades and Closures

Emory announced this week its plans to close the Division of Educational Studies; the Department of Physical Education; and the Department of Visual Arts, in addition to the Program in Journalism. It will also suspend graduate student admissions into its Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts. 

Last week, the English department at Queensborough Community College voted to not adopt a new policy of the City University of New York that would reduce the number of composition credits from four to three, arguing that the change would not address students’ writing needs, would increase faculty work-loads and decrease pay. The college administration responded by dismanting the department, dismissing adjuncts and cancelling job searches.

On Thursday, IFTTT, the popular Web service that helps users link and automate various applications, announced that it would no longer support Twitter due to recent changes in the latter’s API. (I use IFTTT to archive all my Tweets, sending them automatically to a text file in Dropbox). Twitter is becoming increasingly hostile to third party developers and users — food for thought for all those (like myself) who find it to be an important part of our social learning networks.

Research and Data

A study released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center suggests that good old fashioned print books beat “enhanced e-books” when it comes to kids’ ability to recall story elements.

Even with the release of the new iPhone this week and all the buzz about smartphones, sales are still brisk for feature phones. According to ComScore, it’s teens who are driving sales in “dumb phones,” although the marketing firm admits that this may be because their parents are getting them these devices as “starter phones” and don’t want to pay for data plans.


Duolingo, the language learning and translation site founded by reCAPTCHA founder Luis von Ahn, has raised $15 million in funding, reports Techcrunch. (I chose Duolingo as one of my favorite education startups from 2011; here’s my initial write-up of the company.)

The Department of Labor announced the college and university winners of its second-round grants under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. The grants total some $500 million and come with an important OER requirement: “All educational materials developed through the grants will be available for use by the public and other educational providers through a Creative Commons license.” (Is it too much to ask that all publicly funded works have similar licensing requirements, whether for code or for content?)

The Web design and development education startup Treehouse says it’s giving some $3 million in tech “scholarships” to 2500 college students. The program will allow college students to sign up for Treehouse’s services (which normally cost $50 a month) for free for two years.

The Shared Learning Collaborative, a Gates Foundation-backed effort to help create a data infrastructure for U.S. schools, is offering $75,000 bounty for developers to create data-oriented applications.

Classes, Conferences and Competitions

The Imagination Foundation, a non-profit that was formed in the wake of Caine’s Arcade, is holding a Global Cardboard Challenge to encourage kids (young and old) to build something with cardboard and their imaginations. There will be a special event on October 6, the one year anniversary of the flash mob that visited Caine at his cardboard arcade in LA.

The Panel Picker for SXSWedu is now available. Here’s your chance to weigh in on what presentations you’d like to see at the 2013 event.

The Saylor Foundation says that it plans to take advantage of the newly released Google Course Builder to create open enrollment online classes. The Saylor Foundation has created some 200 courses which it will now start offering via the new Google platform.

The New York Times reports on a new effort to connect students with women working in STEM. “I think of this as a MOOC — a massive open online course — and a big mentor-fest,” said Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a sponsor of the project. Piazza, a social learning site, is the other sponsor of WitsOn, Women in Technology Sharing Online, which will run its six-week course beginning October 1.

Congratulations to this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners — “For achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think.” Winning research includes the physics of ponytails and brain activity in dead salmon. A special shout-out to the GAO “for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.” Science is awesome.

Photo credits: Andrew Basterfield

Audrey Watters


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The History of the Future of Education Technology

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