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Hurricane, Law, and Politics

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the Northeast this week. Public school was canceled (and remains so in some places), with many schools turning into shelters. (Are charters required to do this the same way public schools are?) On the tech front, many people credited open data and social media tools for being able to spread the word quickly and effectively about Sandy's dangers and about relief efforts. But while Twitter gave its “promoted Tweets” functionality to relief agencies for free, Facebook still required users of its “Pages” to pay if they want their messages to reach beyond 5% of "fans" — food for thought for schools that use Facebook for sharing messages even in non-emergency situations.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier now faces numerous charges, including perjury and obstruction of justice, for his role in failing to report the sexual assaults being perpetrated by the school’s assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The U.S. holds an election on Tuesday, and like this little girl, I am damn relieved the presidential campaigning will be over. The HechingerEd blog has a good round-up of all the important education initiatives on ballots across the country.

MOOC Madness

Coursera and Antioch University have struck a deal — the first of its kind, says Inside Higher Ed — in which the university would license courses from Coursera and offer them for credit. “Antioch will pay Coursera an undisclosed amount for permission to use several courses, including ones from Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania. The company will share that revenue with the universities, which own intellectual property rights for their courses as part of their contracts with Coursera.”

Udacity signed a partnership deal with the University of Alberta this week — “a research partnership for the collaborative development of systems for delivery, measurement and assessment of online learning courses and experiences.” Hooray for Canada being involved in this, but weird that there’s this other university in Alberta where one of the fellows who actually launched this whole MOOC madness works — both with immense expertise here and both left out of this announcement.

Instructure wants in on the MOOC action too, launching the Canvas Network this week — a catalog of open enrollment classes available from its LMS customers. See my write-up here.

Launches and Updates

A cool tool from Boone Gorges: Participad, an Etherpad install for WordPress. The tool makes it easier to work collaboratively on writing and note-taking, without having to rely on Google Docs, which as Gorges notes “is alternatively benificent and malevolent, depending on the swings of the market.”

Imagine K12 held its Demo Day last week — the official unveiling of the startups in its latest (third) cohort. The 11 startups that graduated from the program: StudyRoom, NoRedInk, EdCanvas, Securly, CodeHS, Chalk, DSK, Raise, Smartercookie, DigitWhiz, and Tioki.

Research and Data

The latest study released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project involves how students conduct their research online — or at least, it addresses how teachers think students are conducting their research for AP classes (that’s an important distinction, I think). Among the results, 65% agreed with the statement “the Internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.”

The NCAA says that the graduation rates for college football and men’s basketball players has reached an all time high, with 74% of Division I men’s basketball players and 70% of football players completing their degrees within 5 years.

Fast Company’s Anya Kamenetz reports on a study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Yale that found that Internet-based sex education was effective for teens in Colombia. “While the lack of personal contact is often seen as a drawback in online education,” writes Kamenetz “in the case of awkward topics like sex ed, it could actually be a benefit. The researchers noted teens can experience the computer as an anonymous, private, and nonjudgmental place to get information.”

Money and Mergers

George Lucas sold LucasFilm to Disney this week for (only) $4.05 billion. He owns 100% of that company and his publicist has said Lucas plans to donate much of the money to education philanthopy. No word if that means a windfall for Edutopia. But if I could make one request, it be that he attone for the terrible IP practices of both Disney and Lucas himself by funding open educational resources.

According to Business Insider, Google’s biggest advertiser is the University of Phoenix, which spent $155,000 a day on ads in the third quarter of 2012. Wow, the Web is totally revolutionizing education, huh.

CBInsights, which researches and tracks angel and venture capital investment in startups, has released a couple of interesting reports regarding education-related funding. First, a list of the universities whose alumni have the highest deal flow (Number one on the list, not surprisingly, is Stanford). Second, a report on the amount of funding that education startups have received in the last year: $1.37 billion.

Techcrunch reports that the NYC-based General Assembly (one of my favorite edu startups of 2011) has raised $10 million in funding.

GoodSemester (which I covered here) is rebranding to Squareknot and has also raised its first round of angel funding.

The Penguin-Random House merger is a done deal, it appears, despite a last minute effort by News Corp to make a bid (so thankfully, there will be no "Fox in the Penguin House" publishing company. Yet.)

Photo credits: Kristina Alexanderson

Audrey Watters


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