Happy 40th birthday to the distance learning pioneer, Open University!

Policies, Politics, and Procurements

The Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the US, has approved a $30 million contract with Apple to buy iPads for students in 47 schools. As part of the Common Core Technology project, iPads will cost $678 (higher than the normal price because it includes a case and pre-loaded software, including some from Pearson). Education professor Larry Cuban weighs in with some important critical questions about the plan, noting that no journalists called him for a comment. But hey, Apple issued a press release, so there ya go. This is phase 1 of a $500 million plan to equip every kid in the district with a device.

Florida’s Miami-Dade County School District approved a $63 million plan to lease computing devices to its students, part of its plan to go entirely make sure every student in the district has a laptop or tablet by 2015.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that the administration will offer some flexibility to states so that they can delay tying students’ performance on the new CCSS exams to teachers’ evaluations.

School officials at Stonybrook School in New Jersey have threatened to suspend 12-year-old Danica Lesko, who is hearing impaired, if she uses sign language to communicate with her friends while on the school bus. District officials say signing is a “safety hazard.” I’d add that it might well prove a legal hazard for the district, as Lesko’s parents say they might file a lawsuit over violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Law

The US vs Apple trial wrapped up this week, with the Department of Justice attorney Mark Ryan arguing that this was a simple antitrust case, with Apple engaged in e-book price-fixing. PaidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen has more details on the closing statements from the DOJ and Apple. The verdict could “be weeks or months,” she says.

Former college basketball star Ed O’Bannon and his lawyers have asked a federal judge to turn his lawsuit against the NCAA into a class action suit, representing potentially thousands of current and former student athletes. O’Bannon’s suit is challenging the ban on student athletes receiving compensation for their work and, according to the AP, demanding “that the NCAA find a way to cut players in on the billions of dollars earned by college sports from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales, video games and in other areas.”

Still no decision from the Supreme Court on Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, a closely watched case about affirmative action in university admissions. So tune in next week!


Facebook-owned Instagram added short-form video this week, attempting to rival Twitter’s Vine. WTF does this have to do with education, you might ask? Well, check out Krall Academy and its six-second-long math instructional videos. I mean, it’s clearly a “game changer.” If you can learn anything from a 10 minute Khan Academy vid, just think of how much more efficient learning from a Krall Academy Vine could be!

On Saturday, The New York Times published a story on data security, pointing to problems with Edmodo’s practices (namely its failure to provide SSL encryption, something that meant data could be intercepted). The company responded, saying that while it does offer SSL for schools that ask for it, it will turn on SSL for all users starting July 15.

Sesame Street has added a new Muppet to its cast: Alex, the first to have a dad in jail. As the Today Show notes, “According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, one in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars – more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed – so it’s a real issue, but it’s talked about far less because of the stigma.”

The free Web-based graphing calculator Desmos is now available as a free iPad-based graphing calculator. (iTunes link) One of the great features: offline support.

News Corp’s education wing Amplify announced a slew of games that will be playable on its own devices, as well as on iOS. "“Our games are like nothing you’ve ever seen,” according to CEO Joel Klein. “We’re not designing homework here. These games will improve learning not because kids have to play them in school, but because they want to play them in their own free time.”

The HathiTrust, a consortium of institutions focused on preserving digital scholarship, has partnered with the DPLA “to expand discovery and use of HathiTrust’s public domain and other openly available content.” This will make the HathiTrust the DPLA’s largest “content hub.”

Digital portfolio startup Pathbrite announced it’s struck a partnership with the e-transcript company Parchment, meaning that users will be able to integrate their transcripts into their Pathbrite portfolios.

The popular photo-messaging app Snapchat (the messages you send “self-destruct” after a few seconds) has updated its iOS app so that those under age 13 aren’t simply barred from signing up but are sent to “SnapKidz” a version of Snapchat that includes an interface for taking snaps, captioning, drawing, and saving them locally on the device, but does not support sending or receiving snaps or adding friends.”

PressForward, an open-access, Web-based scholarship platform from the good folks at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, launched the beta version of a WordPress plugin that will provide an RSS reader for collaborative editorial work.

Instructure officially launched its Canvas App Center during its annual developer conference. The App Center, which was announced earlier this year, lets teachers, administrators, and students easily add third-party apps to their LMS.

Engadget reports that Microsoft is offering its Surface RT tablets to schools for $199 (more than half off the $499 retail price). The discount runs ’til August 31st “or while supplies last.” (Snicker.)

Blackboard announced its plans to integrate Mozilla’s Open Badges into its LMS, so that instructors can offer students badges for assignments and course completion.

OCLC – the Online Computer Library Center, a library research and cataloging organization – announced its first private sector partner this week: Redbox. The two will sponsor a pilot program that will include arts festivals, concerts, and outdoor movies for 5 local libraries. More details via The Library Journal.

Pixar’s Monsters University hit theaters. (Here’s the Geek Dad review.) I have no idea if there are MOOCs in this movie, and frankly kids, I’m afraid to ask.

The Kaplan EdTech Accelerator has named the 10 startups that are joining its inaugural program. See the press release for details.


“Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room,” although widely attributed to William Blake, is not the work of the 19th century poet. And librarian Thomas Pitchford, who’s done some sleuthing on the poem’s origins, is “now in the process of contacting websites to try to overturn what has become a widely established belief that this is a work by Blake,” reports the BBC.


“The provosts of Big 10 universities and the University of Chicago are in high-level talks to create an online education network across their campuses, which collectively enroll more than 500,000 students a year,” reports Inside Higher Ed. According to a position paper, the provosts are keen to build their own online learning network and eschew some of the for-profits that are offering online courses and MOOC platforms.

The British MOOC platform FutureLearn is no longer just a British MOOC platform, as Australia’s Monash University and Ireland’s Trinity College (along with the University of Edinburgh) have joined.

On Tuesday, Tiffin University in Ohio announced it would be teaming up with Altius Education to offer a 3-credit MOOC for $50. But just one day later, the university said that the deal was off “due to concerns over accreditation.”

The University of Toronto has shared data and research on its Coursera MOOCs: a report on demographics and an overview of its evaluation plans.

P2PU shares the data on its recent “Data Explorer Mission” MOOC: how many signed up, what sorts of interactions various groups had, what worked and what didn’t, and so on.

Technion-Israel Institute and Tel Aviv University join Coursera.

EdX is partnering with the IMF to offer the latter’s training coursers in macroeconomics and finance via its MOOC platform.

EdX also boasted this week that it’s reached the one-million student mark, “meaning it’s one-thousandth of the way to its goal of educating one billion people,” says the Harvard Crimson. (Actually, I’d say that having one million people sign up means that one million people have signed up. Not sure it says much at all about educating them.)

Funding and Acquisitions

McGraw-Hill Education has acquired adaptive learning software maker Aleks Corp. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Stratasys has acquired the 3D printing startup MakerBot in a stock deal worth $403 million, reports Techcrunch.

Follett announced the creation of a $50 million “Follett Knowledge Fund, a capital funding source for new technologies that have the potential to improve and even disrupt the way educational content is delivered and consumed.” Disrupting delivery and consumption. Sigh.

The ed-tech video startup Mobento has raised £1.1 million in seed funding, reports Tech City News.

There are lots of ongoing education-oriented crowdfunding projects that you can invest in: Black Girls Code, Library For All, and several campaigns on the new IncitED platform.

“Research” and Data

The National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report released a report on the quality of US teacher colleges. According to the AP, “The nation’s teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs.” But there were many concerns about the report, for as Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond writes, “NCTQ’s methodology is a paper review of published course requirements and course syllabi against a check list that does not consider the actual quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn, or whether graduates can actually teach. Concerns about the organization’s methods led most schools of education nationally and in California to decline to participate in the data collection.” You can read a round-up of coverage on the report here.

Only one in three parents reads bedtime stories to their children every night, according to a survey by Reading is Fundamental.

Rosetta Stone is no replacement for in-class learning,” according to a study published in the most recent issue of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages’ Bulletin. More details via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle also reports on an article “Scientists Popularizing Science: Characteristics and Impact of TED Talk Presenters,” which found that giving a TED Talk did not increase the number of one’s scholarly citations.

Lest I appear to be mocking The Chronicle, I should say “kudos” for its launch of the PhD Placement Project, an effort to crowdsource what happens to those who obtain PhDs. Are they on the tenure track? Are they adjuncting? Are they working outside academia? The project was inspired in part by Chronicle columnist William Pannapacker’s call for more openness about PhD programs’ job placements.

And in a much-cited NYT interview this week, Google’s senior VP of “people operations” Laszlo Bock says the Internet giant has been revising how it recruits and hires people: “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.”


The National Science Foundation has given the College Board a $5.2 million grant to fund the creation of AP Computer Science Principles. (The first exam in the new subject will be offered in 2017.)

Oops. New York continues to struggle with testing as the city says that the electronic grading of the Regents exams, done through McGraw-Hill, have had some “serious glitches.” The delay has threatened the graduation status of students, reports Gotham Schools.


The Reclaim Open Learning project, a combined effort of the Digital Media and Learning Hub at UC Irvine and the MIT Media Lab, is sponsoring an “innovation contest.” More details here. (Disclosure: I am a judge.)

Instructure announced the winners of its LTI App Bounty contest – a reward created for those third-party developers who integrated with LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) so that their apps could function across any LMS. Winners included AspirEDU, Ayamel, BigBlueButton, CloudTime, Code Embed, QuestionPress, StudyRoom, and Tandem. (Disclosure: I was a judge.)


NYU gives “star professors” loans for summer homes in “East Hampton, Fire Island and Litchfield County, Conn., in what educational experts call a bold new frontier for lavish university compensation,” says The New York Times. “Bold”? Yeah, that’s not really the word I’d use to describe this.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan coalition of senators is working to prevent the interest rate from doubling on student loans as of July 1. The compromise would actually increase borrowing costs, so I’m not sure how this is a win for students. But hey kids! Study hard and become a professor at NYU! That seems like an awesome gig!

Image credits: The Noun Project, Flickr user Kinchan1

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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