Boston Wiki Meetup

RIP Aaron Swartz

One week since the suicide of 26-year-old hacker-activist Aaron Swartz, we are still reeling from the loss. Early Redditer, founder of Demand Progress, and co-developer of many important Web technologies including RSS, Swartz was facing multiple federal charges for allegedly “stealing” some 4 million digital documents, downloaded from JSTOR while on the MIT campus. MIT has announced an internal investigation, led by Hal Abelson, into its role in the prosecution.

College Credits

San Jose State University has partnered with the online education startup Udacity to offer 3 online classes for credit. Although Udacity has been at the forefront of the recent MOOC-hype, these classes aren’t really “MOOCs.” They aren’t massive — just 100 students apiece. They aren’t open — they’re limited to a select group of SJSU, community college, and high school students. They aren’t free. The credits will cost $150 a piece. MOOCs or not, this is pretty big news. My write-up is here.

In related news, ACE (the American Council on Education) will evaluate 4 Udacity courses for credits. ACE announced in November that it was similarly evaluating Udacity’s competitor Coursera to see if its courses could be eligible for credit.

AP classes will no longer count towards college credit at Dartmouth, the Associated Press reports. A recent story in The Atlantic called the AP exam “a scam” but with David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core State Standards now running the College Board, the organization that offers both the AP and the SAT, somehow I doubt that standardized testing — such a very profitable endeavor — is going away any time soon. After all, this won’t take effect at Dartmouth ’til 2018.

Updates and Upgrades

A cool new vending machine, of sorts, at Drexel University allows students to check out laptops while they’re in the school’s library.

Google Chromebooks come in a new flavor with the unveiling this week of the Lenovo ThinkPad version. Despite a heftier pricetag than other Chromebooks ($429) Google is marketing these to schools and plans to showcase them at FETC.

GigaOm’s Ki Mae Heussner looks at a non-profit that’s being sput out of the Minerva Project, a recently founded for-profit college. (I covered news of its $25 million seed investment here.) The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship will help “create new programs to finance students’ education and recruit top-level teaching talent,” writes Heussner. Former Senator Bob Kerrey, who served as the President of The New School, will head the institute.

PBS will begin airing specially-made-for-TV TED Talks this spring. The first one will focus on education and will be given by the person TED has crowned world’s leading expert on the subject, Bill Gates.

Inkling founder Matt McInnis penned a blog post this week titled “Unseating the Giant.” In it, he decries Amazon’s control of the e-book market arguing that “there are umpteen reasons this is bad for everyone.” So perhaps to compete a bit better with Amazon’s giant marketplace, Inkling and the publishers it works with have now agreed to allow Google to index the full contents of Inkling titles. That means that book content will show up in Google searches, and people will be able to buy the chapters or the whole book they’re viewing in the search results.


It’s time again for Google’s Doodle4Google contest, its annual program that asks K–12 students to create a drawing for the search engine’s home page. More details, along with the entry form, here.

Hires and Hoaxes (and Football)

There’s a job opening at the University of Oregon for Head Football Coach as Chip Kelly is headed to the Eagles. Wait, why is Audrey writing about college football on Hack Education? Well, in part because the UO is my alma mater. And in part because it was a very weird week for college football -- and not because Kelly would actually want to coach a Philadelphia sports team. If you haven’t read this story on Deadspin about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his fake dead girlfriend then you haven’t been paying enough attention to the Internet, college sports, or journalism this week.

Research and Data

Here’s a website containing links scraped from Twitter to all the PDFs that were shared as part of the #PDFTribute to Aaron Swartz. (And some thoughts from Dan Cohen on why we need to do more to open access to scholarly research than just tweet links to PDFs.)

A survey from Scholastic finds that the number of kids reading e-books has nearly doubled since 2010. Despite the interest expressed by those age 6 to 19 about e-books, 80% said that they still read books for fun “primarily in print.”

A study commissioned by Duolingo — one of my picks for the top education startups of 2011 — found the language-learning startup to be effective in helping folks, well, learn a language. According to the study, students “would take on average 26 to 49 hours of study with Duolingo to cover the materials for the first semester of college Spanish” (as tested by the vocabulary test WebCAPE, at least).

A study conducted by Intel and the United Nations examines the gender gap with regards to Internet access. There’s a gap of 4% between men and women in the US who use the Internet; but in the developing world, that increases to 23%. Wired has more details.

Oops. It appears as though there was a sampling error in the recent PISA tests, meaning that the United States’ scores were lower than they should have been. According to Stanford University’s Martin Carnoy and the Economic Policy Insitute’s Richard Rothstein, the PISA scores didn’t correctly account for the class inequalities in this country. “Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.” So it's not so much that “public education in this country is failing." It’s that social justice is.

Funding and Acquisitions

The richest man in the world backs Khan Academy. (No, not Bill Gates. He’s number two.) Mexico’s Carlos Slim, via the Carlos Slim Foundation, will give Khan Academy support for an Education Alliance “para dar acceso gratuito a la población de México y Latinoamérica a educación de clase mundial.” No dollar figure has been announced, but the foundation says it will pay all the expenses to support Khan Academy’s activities in Mexico, including the translation of videos into Spanish. Khan Academy has previously received money from Google and others to help translate videos, partnering with Universal Subtitles in 2011 to crowdsource their translation.

Elsevier In Advanced Talks To Buy Mendeley For Around $100M To Beef Up In Social, Open Education Data” reads the headline in Techcrunch. “Open Education”?! "Disruption"?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! See also: Elsevier and SOPA, Elsevier and the Research Works Act, and Elsevier and arms fairs.

The online education website has raised $103 million in funding — the first outside investment for the 18-year-old company. Why now? Shrug. Why not?

EdSurge reports that the assessment tool MasteryConnect has raised $4.125 million in funding. (The startup, whose products include an app to auto-grade bubble sheets, just announced it had raised $1.1 million last month.)

According to Campus Technology, a Stanford computer science class has 7 corporate sponsors that, for a $75,000 “affiliate fee” apiece, get to suggest the projects that the students work on. According to the course website for "Project-Based Software Design, Innovation, & Development,” the fee “covers all costs and includes university infrastructure charges, teaching team time, laboratory services, travel, telecommunication services and any prototype fabrication requirements.” (As I read that, the students all still have to pay tuition. Suckers.)

And because it’s been such a wild week for education and sports, let’s end with this gem: according to a new report from the American Institutes for Research, “Division I universities and colleges tended to spend roughly three to six times as much on athletics per athlete as on academics per student, with the ratio exceeding 12 times in the Southeastern Conference, home of the last seven NCAA national champions in football.” Go team.

Photo credits: Sage Ross

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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