Casual Gamer

For the second week in a row, I am compelled to open my round-up of education-related stories with news of ongoing harassment and threats against women in technology. This week, it's a look at #Gamergate, which has been going on for months now, but this week escalated to new levels.

Cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University. Because of a Utah law, campus officials told her that they could not stop attendees from bringing concealed weapons into her talk — even though the campus had received a threat from someone calling himself Marc Lépine and promising "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if Sarkeesian spoke. (Lépine was the man who, in 1989, killed 14 women at École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal, Quebec.)

Also chased from her home this week: game developer Brianna Wu. Someone posted her address on Twitter, then threatened her with rape and murder. (Here’s her first person account.)

I wrote about this as “What You Should Know This Week” over on Educating Modern Learners (free subscription required.) And I insist that this is an education technology issue. I received some pushback on Twitter last night (from men, go figure) when I made this assertion and asked why ed-tech publications have been so silent on the topic of this ongoing campaign of threats and harassment against women.

It’s an education technology issue, in part, because of the expectations that we all are supposed interact online – for profession, personal, and academic purposes. What does that look like for girls and women? You can’t just tell us to “not read the comments” when the threats against us escalate.

It’s an education technology issue because women like Sarkeesian and Kathy Sierra (who I wrote about last week) are educators (in gaming and in tech respectively).

It’s an education technology issue because we must address the culture of meritocracy misogyny that permeates so much of the technology industry, particularly as we bring more and more of its products, services, engineers, entrepreneurs, and ideology into education.

That so many men in ed-tech continue to minimize the experiences of harassment and violence against women in ed-tech is pretty telling about whose values and whose risks are being hard-coded into the infrastructure.

Duly noted.

And in other news…

Education Law and Politics

Karen Lewis announced last week that she was stepping down as the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, and this week, she confirmed that she will not run for Chicago mayor because she’s suffering from a brain tumor. Get well soon, Karen.

LAUSD will not release an inspector general’s report into the district’s decision-making process that went into its massive purchase of iPads and Pearson curriculum. The school board voted 4–3 against releasing the information to the public.

Via Reuters (which has a great photo to accompany this story, I must say): “Donald Trump is personally liable for operating a for-profit investment school without the required license, a New York judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General against the real estate entrepreneur.”

And in other celebrity-related education news: “Alex Trebek-Endorsed Education Program Duped Parents, FTC Says.”

According to the Wyoming Attorney General, students cannot opt out of state assessments.

The Michigan Department of Education is letting schools request waivers if they aren’t technologically prepared to offer assessments online. The schools will be allowed to use pencil-and-paper exams for one more year.

Texas is weighing whether or not to renew its testing contract with Pearson. “Texas is amongst America’s biggest and most influential states when it comes to education spending – the linchpin in the North American market, which accounts for 59pc of Pearson’s revenues and 66pc of its profits.”

“Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.” Read the whole story on ProPublica.

Louisiana “Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely block Louisiana from applying for a $15 million federal preschool grant that could help poor children in Louisiana because of concerns the money is tied to the Common Core academic standards.” You know, for the sake of the children.


Some schools were closed in Texas and Ohio due to the Ebola scare because if there’s one thing Americans do well it’s overreact to cable news and misconstrue science. I mean, FFS, folks aren’t immunizing their children against polio or measles but we’re gonna close schools because of Ebola?!

In Pennsylvania, “West African Teen Taunted With Chants of ‘Ebola’ at High School Soccer Game.”

Syracuse University has withdrawn its invitation to Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Michel du Cille to speak on campus because he’s been in Liberia.

Navarro College in Texas reportedly turned down an application from a student from Nigeria, according to Vocativ, “writing that it’s not accepting international students “from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.” The school has responded saying that some students ”students “received incorrect information regarding their applications to the institution" and it’s actually not recruiting students from anywhere in Africa. Oh. That clears things right up.


Coursera is expanding its Specializations program, which sells students special certificates if they pass multiple MOOCs. Specializations include Data Science, Data Mining, Cybersecurity, and a Virtual Teacher Program. All this is a clue to answer the question “How Does Coursera Make Money?

“The Real Revolution in Online Education Isn’t MOOCs,” says the Harvard Business Review, which is definitely the publication I trust most to address “real revolution.”

From Times Higher Education: “Moocs ‘will not transform education’, says FutureLearn chief.”

But hey, via Marketplace: MOOCs go to high school.

And “in Texas political circles, massive open online courses — commonly known as MOOCs — have enjoyed a resurgence.” More on this exciting development via the Texas Tribune.

You can now sign up for the “first European Multilingual MOOCs” on EMMA, the European Multilingual MOOC Aggregator.

Via Campus Technology: “How Southern New Hampshire U Develops 650-Plus Online Courses Per Year.” In part, like this: “All that is designed in-house and built by our production team into Blackboard, our LMS. That becomes our one course model — our master course — and we then copy that out depending on how many sections are needed for that term. The instructor receives a fully completed course. It is great for us because we can ensure a lot of consistency across our sections.” Doesn't sound so great for the instructor or students, but hey.

Meanwhile on Campus

“Earlier this week a coalition of nearly 20 media organizations—including the Society of Professional Journalists—ratcheted up its support for the Playwickian’s staff,” reports The Atlantic. The student newspaper of Neshaminy High School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, announced earlier this year that it would no longer use “Redskins” to describe the schools’ sports teams as the word is a racial slur. In response, the principal punished the student editor and faculty advisor, removing the former from her position for the month of September, and cut the paper’s funding.

Inside Higher Ed takes a look at what Cathy Davidson has planned in her new role at the Graduate Center at CUNY.

A group of Harvard Law School professors say that the university’s new sexual assault policies “lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”

The AP reports that New York City is poised to end its ban on cellphones in schools.

In an effort to curb student loan debt, Broward College, a community college in Florida, will no longer allow students to borrow unsubsidized loans. NPR has the story.

The elite boarding school Phillips Academy is launching the Tang Institute, “a hub for innovative approaches to teaching and learning and a catalyst for creating partnerships with educators around the world.” Projects include its course development work with Khan Academy.

Via The Huffington Post: “A Detroit-area high school has suspended an honors student for the rest of the school year over a pocketknife the student says she had by accident.” Care to guess her race?

Go, School Sports Team!

Notre Dame football players DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, and Ishaq Williams will not play this season, following an investigation into academic fraud.

The University of Oregon football team beat UCLA last weekend. UO Matters notes that while the latter spends 2% of its budget on athletics, the UO spends 13%. Go Ducks!

Six football players at Sayreville High School have been charged with hazing and sexual assault after assaulting younger players in the locker room.

On Friday, the New York Times published a lengthy examination of criminal accusations against Florida State University’s football players (including theft, rape, and domestic violence) and the steps that the university and local police seem to have taken to stop investigations and prosecutions. Quarterback Treon Harris was suspended from the team after accusations of sexual assault, but following the NYT story the student accusing Harris dropped the charges. Here’s The Chronicle of Higher Education’s coverage. The university now says that Heismann Trophy winner Jameis Winston will face a disciplinary hearing into charges of sexual assault. Sports Illustrated suggests that his best legal move, in response, might be to drop out of school.

From the HR Department

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy resigned this week, on the heels of investigations into the district’s iPad procurement process and failures of its new student information system. Ray Cortines has been named interim superintendent.

Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe is now a visiting artist and scholar in residence at the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art.

Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is now the director of the jazz-studies program at Juilliard School of Music. (The Chronicle of Higher Education has a profile.)

Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Hunter Gehlbach is joining education survey company Panorama as its director of research.

Katrina Stevens will be the new executive director of EdTech Maryland. Edsurge has a nice profile.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Blah blah blah an Apple event blah blah blah

General Assembly is launching “The GA Credentialing Network,” an initiative in partnership with 20 companies, that will offer “competency-based credentials for high-skilled positions in technology, design, and business.”

You can now reward badges on Salesforce, thanks to a new app from Credly.

The American Library Association “decries confirmed reader data breaches by Adobe and calls for immediate corrective action to encrypt and protect reader information.”

The latest security vulnerability: POODLE, which despite the ridiculous name, is pretty serious as it affects SSL 3.0.

But still nothing beats humans for the ultimate security vulnerability. In Virginia, “Richmond school officials are conducting an intensive internal investigation of student records after a School Board member shared confidential information about at least 20 students with a vendor that provides mental health services.”

Dropbox insists it wasn’t hacked, although someone claimed to have the username and passwords of some 7 million users. Snapchat also insisted that the leak of a massive trove of Snapchat photos (including many teen nudes) was not its fault.

Major downgrade: Simon Fraser University is retiring SFU Blogs and driving activity into its LMS.

Blackboard says that it will stop supporting Angel (which it acquired back in 2009) on October 15, 2016. No rush, guys.

Google’s pushed out the first round of updates to Google Classroom, including the ability to “export all grades” – which I’m guessing by the way it’s phrased does not mean via an API but via a download, that a teacher can then turn around and upload into a grade book. Super efficient.

Hewlett Packard “hopes its breakup will benefit schools.” LOL. Great spin.

Knewton is partnering with Santillana, a large Latin American textbook publisher.

Disney Accelerator Startups Mix Education and Entertainment,” prompting Edsurge to ask “Is this a sign that ”edutainment“ companies are back in vogue?” As if edutainment ever went out of fashion!

Pencil makers try to stay relevant.

Funding and Acquisitions

The for-profit wanna-be elite university startup Minerva has raised $70 million from TAL Education Group, ZhenFund, Yongjin Group, and Benchmark. This brings to $95 million the total raised by the company.

Brainly, a homework help site (or “social learning platform,” I guess that’s another way to describe it), has raised $9 million from General Catalyst Partners, Point Nine Capital, Learn Capital, and Runa Capital. This brings to $9.5 million the total raised by the startup.

Osmo, which makes a “hardware-based iPad game,” has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures, and K9 Ventures. This brings to $14.5 million the total raised by the startup.

KualiCo, the new for-profit company that emerged from the Kuali Foundation, has acquired rSmart’s technology. More via Inside Higher Ed.

Cornerstone OnDemand has acquired Evolv for $42.5 million. Via Edsurge: “Evolv creates a machine learning and data platform. Cornerstone OnDemand hopes to leverage Evolv’s predictive analytic tools to make data driven recommendations to users around the [professional development] resources they should be using.”

Evertrue, a “social donation platform,” has raised $8 million from Bain Capital. The startup, which helps schools manage fundraisers, has raised a total of $14.5 million.

From its press release, the online education platform iversity has “Receives Funding in the Millions.”

Fullbridge has raised $5 million from “undisclosed high-net-worth individuals and super-angels, joined by returning investor GSV Capital.” The company, which has raised $23 million total, offers online coaching to college students in “sales and marketing, workplace communication, Web-based collaboration, design thinking, financial analysis, business research and other areas.”

Cartwheel Kids has acquired Smart Toy (formerly known as Ubooly). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Navis Capital Partners, a Malaysian private equity firm, has bought a controlling stake in Modern Star Pty Ltd, an Australian education company, according to Reuters, “in a deal valuing that company up to A$250 million ($222 million).”

The stock price for for-profit online education company K12 is down. Way down.


“Why the blackboard-centered classroom is still the best place to teach and learn.” (Pretty much your basic Slate pitch.)

Research published in Anatomical Sciences Education has found that cadavers are more effective than computer simulations in teaching anatomy.

The European Union has released its annual report on teachers’ salaries (PDF). About half of the about 33 countries surveyed have frozen or cut salaries for public school employees during the period 2009–2014.

Robert Pondiscio argues that “high stakes tests damage reading instruction.”

The New York Times asks, “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?”

From the Aspen Institute: “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries

From Edublogs: “The State of Educational Blogging 2014

“The Public Sociology Association, made up of graduate students at George Mason University, has published what adjunct advocates are calling the most comprehensive study of one institution’s adjunct faculty working conditions ever.” More on the report via Inside Higher Ed.

The week in Vox’s education maps and graphs: college majors, mapped; college costs, charted.

Image credits: Brendan Lynch

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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