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The State of the Union is…

President Obama delivered the State of the Union address Tuesday night, and the fifth word was “teacher.” So I guess we can forgive him for all his administration’s horrid education policies now. (Here’s a closer look at the speech’s “education highlights.”)

In Other Political News…

It’s Obama versus Art History majors.

A report from the House Education and the Workforce Committee examines the working conditions of adjunct labor in higher education. More via Inside Higher Ed.

In a story perfectly written to outrage the Silicon Valley libertarian set, “California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps” writes Venture Beat. There are rules surrounding academic and vocational training programs, but rules, schmules! Who cares why these might be in place! Disrupt! Disrupt! Disrupt!

Winter Weather in the US

Bad weather means I’m typing up this week’s round-up of education news from Hermosa Beach and not from Atlanta, where I was scheduled to speak at Emory University’s Domain of One’s Own Incubator.

At one point, some 10,000 Atlanta schoolchildren were stranded at school by the storm, and thousands had to spend the night there.

(For those keeping score at home, here’s a map of how much snow it typically takes to cancel school in the US.)

The students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took to Twitter to complain when they didn’t get a snow-day. Oh. And to be utterly racist and sexist to University Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

And In Other Mind-bogglingly Awful American Campus News…

“As many as 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City had their lunches—which they’d already received from the cafeteria—seized and trashed by school authorities because their parents were behind on payments,” writes Gawker. The school district says it’s sorry.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand…

Getting ride of the playground rules altogether at Swanson Primary School has meant “a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.”


News broke this week (first via Wamda, I think) that Coursera and Udacity are blocked in Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and Iran. Apparently MOOCs violate US export policy for these countries (because MOOCs are content delivery?). I guess there’s some paperwork that needs to be filed in order to rectify this (edX has done this apparently). Funny that Coursera has partnered with the State Department for Learning Hubs all over the world but didn’t know about these export policy rules. Didn’t read the Terms of Service or something, I reckon.

Meanwhile, Coursera has formed a partnership with the Carlos Slim Foundation (which has also partnered and funded Khan Academy) “to improve access to education among Spanish speaking students around the world, as well as support opportunities for career development and employment throughout Latin America.” No word in the Coursera announcement if there is funding attached to this partnership.

San Jose State plans to outsource more of its courses to edX.

For-profit Bridgepoint Education’s Ashford University will let students take certain MOOC classes for credit.

But Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby says that “Elite Colleges Should Not Give Credit for MOOCs.”

(I love those three items side-by-side. Speaks volumes about the state of higher ed today, no?)

Upgrades and Downgrades

Desmos, the free, online graphing calculator of awesomeness, has unveiled Function Carnival. Here’s Dan Meyer’s explanation of the project and how it helps address students’ misconceptions of graphing functions (he and Christopher Danielson worked with Desmos to create this).

UC Davis is testing a university-branded storefront that will give 2% of each sale back to the university. (That seems super low compared to the typical affiliate marketing rates at Amazon. Davis must’ve got the “special deal” wink wink.) It’s the end of the college bookstore as we know it, Techcrunch predictably predicts.

Because you just can’t have too many education non-profits funding by the Gates and Carnegie Foundations (I guess): the Digital Learning Institute (DigiLEARN).

Google unveiled “Build with Chrome,” a collaboration between its Chrome browser and Lego. “To hone your engineering skills and prepare for the upcoming “THE LEGO® MOVIE™,” you can explore the Build Academy, a series of short tutorials and challenges featuring characters and structures from the film.” Ugh.

At FETC, Google also announced several new education products: “K–12 Books in Google Play for Education,” some new Chromebooks, and some new tablets.

Blackboard is developing a “virtual bookstore” within its LMS says it’s expanding its sales territory into Southeast Asia.

The Library of Congress launched a new collection called “Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond,” which includes a number of resources that point to how Carl Sagan became interested in science.

Lumen Learning and OpenStax announced a partnership that would mean the latter’s free textbooks are combined with the former’s support services “to help higher education institutions and faculty members successfully transition to using readily available ‘open-educational resources’.”


The American Library Association announced its annual awards for children’s and youth literature. AMong them, this year’s John Newbery Medal which went to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.

1:1 Initiatives

The Houston Independent School District has launched its one-to-one computing initiative, starting with the distribution of 18,000 laptops to students and staff.

From The LA Times: “The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay substantially less for thousands of iPads under the latest deal with Apple. The cost of the tablets that will be used on new state tests will be about $200 less per device, although the computers won’t include curriculum. The revised price will be $504, compared to $699 for the iPads with curriculum. With taxes and other fees, the full cost of the more fully equipped devices rises to $768.”

Funding and Acquisitions

Edsurge reports that iProf Learning Services, which “delivers digital content aligned to India’s curriculum standards via tablets and mobile devices,” has raised $9 million in funding.

Techcrunch reports that the defunct tutoring startup Tutorspree has been acquired by WyzAnt. “The acquisition gives WyzAnt access to Tutorspree’s customers, their domain and technology at a very affordable price. (Like, we’re talkin’ rock bottom affordable.)”

Test prep app Gojimo has raised $1 million, according to The Next Web.

Flat World Education, which “designs and enables personalized learning solutions at scale,” has raised $9.5 million in funding.

Describing itself as an “all-you-can-read eBook subscription service,” the Epic iPad app announced its launch and that it’s raised $1.4 million in funding. More via VentureBeat.

From the HR Department

The Elizabeth City State University trustees are weighing eliminating seven top-level administrative positions for a savings of $450,000. :O

“Student Athletes”

The New York Times looks at the for-profit university DeVry and its role in educating members of the US Olympic team “courtesy of a partnership the university signed in late 2011 with the United States Olympic Committee.” The athletes can't profit, but schools sure can!

But look! Football players at Northwestern University are trying to form a union – the first effort like it in the history of college sports. The NCAA says the move "serves to undermine the purpose of college: an education." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. 

“Research” and Data

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a report this week: “Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America.” Among the findings: “children spend far more time with educational TV (an average of :42 a day) than they do with educational content on other platforms such as mobile devices (:05), computers (:05), or video games (:03).”

The Guardian’s Datablog runs the numbers on “Distance Learning: Who’s Doing It Now?”

Here’s the headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Open Course Library Sees Little Use in Washington’s Community Colleges.” The report comes from the National Association of College Stores, which surveyed the state’s 34 community college bookstores about how their campuses were using the Open Course Library. 25 campus stores responded; just 9 of those said that the library’s materials were used on their campuses.

The 1% likes charter schools and merit pay but doesn’t think we should ensure college access for everyone.

US PIRG released a report this week entitled “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives.” (Funnily enough, “buying textbooks inside Blackboard” was not one of their responses. Go figure.) Among the findings: 48% of respondents said they changed which classes they took based on textbook costs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected job growth in coming decade. Of the top five jobs with the biggest projected growth, just one earns more than $22,000/year. The future is so bright…

We Shall Overcome

RIP Pete Seeger. Thank you for everything. All the music. All the lyrics. All the lessons. All the spirit. All the fight. Yours in struggle...

Image credits: Irene Grassi and The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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