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Papua Penguin I / Pingüino Papua I

Law and Politics

Following a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education noting that Coursera’s Terms of Service ban those in Minnesota from taking classes from the online education startup, the state has clarified its law. "No Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera," says Lawrence Pogemiller from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The 20-year-old law was originally designed to protect Minnesotas for wasting their money on substandard courses, but since Coursera is free… well… there you go. A revision to the law will be proposed in the next legislative session, says Pogemiller.

The Department of Justice is suing several schools in Mississippi saying that they are running a “school-to-prison pipeline” with policies that allow students to be arrested and shipped to a juvenile detention center 80 miles away without probable cause or legal representation. Reasons for incarceration include flatulence and wearing the wrong color socks. Seriously. Oh and from 2006 through the 2010 school year, all those students who were referred to law enforcement were Black.

The Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General issued a damning audit of states’ oversight of charter schools and of the Department’s management of charter school grant money. According to the report, “The main target of the audit was the Office of Innovation, which investigators said ‘did not effectively oversee and monitor’ targeted states and ‘did not have an adequate process to ensure’ states ‘conducted effective oversight and monitoring’ of local charter schools.” As Diane Ravitch points out, the head of that office is Jim Shelton, “formerly of Edison Schools, McKinsey, the NewSchools Venture Fund and the Gates Foundation. He is an avid proponent of charter schools.”

In news I missed last week, SETDA (the State Educational Technology Directors Association) has released a database of state policies related to ed-tech. The site includes information about broadband policies and online student assessments.

And in other news I missed last week, French President François Hollande has proposed banning homework, something he argues will help bring about more equality in education. The WSJ calls the move “out of step" (because what would happen to News Corp's plans for education technology if we optimized for equality, eh?) As for myself, along with thousands of French children I’m sure, I call it “magnifique!”

Updates and Upgrades

Something something Apple something something. Blah blah blah. “Amazing.”

Microsoft unveiled its latest hardware and software — a new operating system and its Surface tablet. (Here’s Joshua Topolsky’s review.)

Two great initiatives are teaming upGeneration YES and ObaWorld. The former helps empower students to be leaders in their schools’ technology efforts; the latter, a project by the University of Oregon’s Yong Zhao, is a global online learning platform. The partnership between the two organizations will help students will learn how to lead online learning efforts at their schools.

Downgrades and Closures

A not-so-good 48 hours for Diigo this week as the social bookmarking tool had its DNS hijacked. Everything appears to be back-to-normal now and the company says there was no data lost.

A story out of Norway that is pertinent to all of us who think we own the digital materials we’ve purchased. Not so, Amazon reminds us, as without warning or explanation, it closed down the account of a Norwegian woman and wiped her Kindle of all the e-books she’d purchased. Remember kids, “if you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

Research and Data

The Pew Research Center has released another study, this time about “Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits.” Among the findings, 83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year. And of those young Americans who read e-books, they’re far more likely to do so on their computer (55%) or on their cell phone (41%) than on a dedicated e-reader or a tablet.

Money and Mergers

Udacity announced that it has raised $15 million (bringing the company’s total investment to $22.1 million), with the round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Language learning company busuu has raised €3.5 million investment and is moving its offices from Madrid to London.

Clever, an education startup that’s built an API to help move student data from SISes and other silos into other third-party apps, has raised $3 million, reports Techcrunch. Investors include actor Ashton Kutcher [Make up your own punchline. Insert here.]

Pearson-owned Financial Times reported this week that Pearson and Bertelsmann, the parent companies of Penguin and Random House respectively, are in talks to merge. The Big 6 becoming the Big 5 might not be great news for readers, libraries, or writers, although it does make for some fun speculation about a company’s new name: I like “Random Penguin” personally.

Image credits: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero

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Audrey Watters


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