The LAUSD iPad Saga Continues: A Federal Grand Jury Investigation

FBI agents took some 20 boxes of documents from LAUSD offices in what looks to be a federal grand jury investigation into the deal with Pearson, Apple, and the district. It's unclear if LAUSD or one of the companies is the target of the criminal investigation.

Education Law and Politics

Lest you think LAUSD is the only one with ed-tech shadiness: “An audit by the New York City comptroller’s office found what it called “grossly inaccurate” record keeping at the Education Department, where more than 2,000 computers and tablets at a sample of department locations were either unused — still swaddled in their original wrapping — or could not be located at all,” reports The New York Times.

“A months-long investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett’s use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by the Associated Press. Despite a recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution,” reports the AP.

The White House hosted a “star-studdedCollege Opportunity Summit this week. “Star-studded” in this case includes the President, the VP, the First Lady, college presidents and executives from tech and ed-tech companies. They event was a follow-up to last year’s summit where pledges were made. Via The Hechinger Report: “Colleges that pledged to help poor families have been doing the opposite, new figures show.”

Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell says that the DoE is looking at revamping how it services student loans.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in Elonis v the United States, a case about threats on the Internet and one that could have major implications for free speech online. More on the case by Sarah Jeong.

Also in court this week, the Google Books case. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Authors Guild’s appeal of an early judgment in favor of Google, that the company could digitize out-of-print library books.

A court in Maine has awarded the family of a transgender girl $75,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit following her school’s requirement that she use the staff bathroom, not the student one.

A lawsuit filed against the defunct for-profit FastTrain College accuses it of defrauding the government with false financial aid claims. Apparently it also used strippers as a recruitment tool too.

PARCC, one of the assessment consortia handling the new Common Core tests, has started testing.

The CEO of ExxonMobil supports the Common Core. So there’s that.

North Dakota May Require High School Students To Pass Citizenship Test

The Obama Administration is pledging more support for Native American youth and tribal education. It issued a report that “labels Native American youth the nation’s most vulnerable population, and places part of the blame on what it says are federal education policies that have a ‘devastating and continuing effect on Native peoples.’” How timely, from The Pacific Standard: “U.S. Schools Are Teaching Our Children That Native Americans Are History.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Britain’s Coalition government is rushing through an anti-terrorism bill that would require universities to take action to stop students and staff from being drawn into terrorist activity. According to Home Secretary Theresa May, this would require higher education institutions to ban extremists from speaking on campus.”


Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Are MOOC-Takers ‘Students’? Not When It Comes to the Feds Protecting Their Data

Via Politico: “Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws.”

MITx’s first high school course will launch in January: 8.MechCx: Advanced Introductory Classical Mechanics.

UC Berkeley is partnering with the company Databricks to offer a big data MOOC.

The UN is offering a “skill building” MOOC on climate change.

I’m not sure if this means we’ve reached “peak MOOC PR” but when the fact that you release an app in conjunction with your MOOC is worthy of a story… well… maybe."

Frustrated Father Creates Instructional Video to Teach His Teenage Children How to Turn Off the Lights” - someone get him some venture funding!

Via the AP: “Public school students in 13 districts across Kentucky will be home schooled - mainly via the Internet - during some snow days this year as part of an experiment aimed at keeping students learning amid the growing number of weather-related closings. The state’s solution has caused a new set of challenges for some districts in one of the country’s most impoverished areas. Some students don’t have computers or home Internet access. And the school district might lose some state and federal aid.”

Meanwhile on Campus

There have been a lot of questions about the reporting in the Rolling Stone’s story on a rape at the University of Virginia. In what feels like a huge setback to those working to end rape culture on college campuses and a huge slap-in-the-face to victims of sexual violence, the magazine now says it apologizes and “we have come to the conclusion that our trust in [the victim] was misplaced.”

Prior to these revelations, UVA President Teresa Sullivan announced changes to address the accusations that rape is widespread on the campus. These include a new trauma counselor at the UVA women’s center.

Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth has banned social events at Psi Upsilon for 2015 and placed it on probation after a student’s recent report of a 2011 sexual assault at the fraternity house,” reports the Hartford Courant.

Rape at Vassar: “An Open Letter to the Administration of Vassar College: I Have NOT Forgotten

Racism at Vassar: “My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK” by Kiese Laymon

Bill Cosby has resigned from Temple University’s Board of Trustees.

College students get drunk, and The Chronicle of Higher Education is on it: “If Students Have Time to Get Drunk, Colleges Aren’t Doing Their Job.” “6 Campuses and the Liquor Surrounding Them.” “A River of Booze” which I thought was a pretty great headline until I saw this one: “Riots, Keggers and the Clap.” Slate’s Rebecca Schuman responds to The Chronicle series by looking at faculty drinking.

With all the handwringing that students are graduating without “real world skills,” I applaud those that choose to minor in “craft beer studies.”

Keene State Punishes 170 Students After Pumpkin Riots

Vermont Technical College is making what Bryan Alexander calls “the queen sacrifice,” cutting faculty jobs and academic programs.

The Orinda Union School District hired a private investigator to determine whether a 7-year-old Latina – whose single mother works as a live-in nanny for a family in the wealthy town – actually “resides” in the district. They decided she did not and kicked her out. They also twice denied the girl access to its free lunch program. Thanks to publicity about this, the district has reversed its decision. “The district now says the youngster can stay in school as long as the employer of Vivian’s mother becomes her caregiver.”

In case you were concerned, the mystery of the missing brains at UT Austin has been solved.

A great visualization from historian Angus Johnston: “American Student Protest Timeline, 2014–15

50 years ago this week:

Police are investigating claims that their officers used excessive force during a student protest at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK. The students were protesting the rising tuition fees. Three were arrested. Video showed the police using pepper spray on them and threatening to stun them with a Taser.

At least two Bay Area universities are claiming exemptions so that they do not have to pay student workers the new, higher minimum wage.

Surveillance solutionism.

On the criminalization of students: “Research indicates that zero-tolerance policies do little to reduce inter-student violence. Instead, [Marsha] Weissman finds, the policies work mostly as a way to set black students and students of color up for failure, and ultimately for prison.”

The Greater Works Charter School will not open in Rochester, New York in 2015 after investigations uncovered that the 22-year-old founder had lied about his resume.

Kean University is defending its decision to spend $219,000 on a conference table.

Princeton Eating Club Ousts 2 Officers Over Emails Ridiculing Women” – thank you, New York Times, for continuing to cover the important issues in higher education.

Go, School Sports Team!

Two teammates of Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston apparently refused to testify in his code of conduct hearing. Winston is being accused of sexual assault. FSU is expected to be chosen to play in the new college football playoffs.

The University of Michigan fired football coach Brady Hoke. The team has faced a number of problems this season.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham announced this week that it was scrapping its football program, “becoming the first university in college sports’ top tier to do so in nearly 20 years and providing the most visible sign yet that athletic officials throughout the country are considering radical options in the face of mounting financial burdens.” When the austerity hits the football team, you know higher ed is in trouble.

The University of Florida will pay $7 million to Colorado State University for its football coach, the “largest such buyout in college football history.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Knox College has lifted a one-game suspension it had imposed on a women’s basketball player who staged a protest before a game of the recent decision by a Missouri grand jury not to make any indictments in the shooting death of Michael Brown.”

Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge was found dead this weekend of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot would. Karageorge had texted his mother last week that “I am sorry if I am an embarrassment but these concussions have my head all [messed] up.” It was the last anyone heard from him.

A former high school star quarterback has filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association, claiming that organization“ didn’t do enough to protect him from concussions when he played and still doesn’t do enough to protect current players.”

Why are high school football players dying?

From the HR Department

The graduate students at the University of Oregon went on strike this week. (#Solidarity with my former union.) The university had refused to give in to the union’s demand for two weeks of medical and parental leave. Graduate Teaching Fellows at the UO teach about one-third of undergraduate classes.

Investor and entrepreneur David Tisch is joining Cornell University as the Head of the Startup Studio at Cornell Tech.

UNLV has fired professor Mustapha Marrouchi over charges of repeated plagiarism.

More than 4000 teachers achieved National Board Certification this year.

Ben Austin is stepping down as the head of the group Parent Revolution, an organization that worked to create California’s “parent trigger” law.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Lego Minifigure: Four Troopers

Start the surveillance at birth with the “smart nursery.”

Data-Driven Parenting App Gives Personalized Tips for Every Kid

Google plans to create specific versions of its products targeting those under age 13.

After School Is The Latest Anonymous App Resulting In Student Cyberbullying And School Threats,” Techcrunch wrote yesterday. The app is now gone from the app store, but it’s not clear if Apple or the publisher pulled it.

Disney has launched a “technology-driven learning initiative called Disney Imagicademy” and plans to make ed-tech apps for kids age 3 to 8. Hmm. “Imagicademy” might just replace “teacherpreneur” as the worst word in ed-tech.

There’s a new episode of the interactive story Inanimate Alice out, the first in six years.

The New York Public Library is expanding its WiFi hotspot loan program.

Girl Scout cookies can now be sold online.

Some Flickr users were upset this week when a story broke that Yahoo would be taking CC-BY photos and selling printed copies of them. Yes, the CC license allows them to do that, and some have suggested that if they didn’t want their stuff to be used for commercial purposes, they should have chosen a different license. I don’t disagree, but it does feel like most who chose that license probably weren’t considering that the platform they were using would be the ones who’d sell their content.

All research papers published in Nature will be freely to view. It’s not open access. You can’t save or print or copy or cut (and there’s no accessibility for the visually impaired), and you have to use the publication’s proprietary tool to read the articles which do not work on a mobile device. “Fauxpen access.”

“Is Kuali Guilty of ‘Open Washing’?” asks Michael Feldstein, who concludes it’s complicated and that he doesn’t like the term.

Oh hey, I published a book: The Monsters of Education Technology!

Edublogs now offers a WordPress plugin called CoursePress “that adds course and student management tools to any WordPress site.”

Bloomboard Uses Topsoil To Fertilize Teacher Driven PD

The Einstein Papers Project has launched the Digital Einstein Papers, a free, searchable database of thousands of the scientist’s papers.

Racist becomes the first Nobel laureate to sell his medal.


News about Ebola has died down in the US as there are no longer any active cases here. That’s not to say that the epidemic is over. It’s still raging in West Africa. And I received two pitches in my inbox this week for Ebola-related projects. Sigh.

Funding and Acquisitions

Ace Learning has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A investment “to link learning content to outcomes,” reports Edsurge.

Test prep startup Higher Learning Technologies has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from “led by a group of New York Super Angel investors,” reports Silicon Prairie News.

Language-learning app maker QLL has raised $450,000 from B Dash Ventures, Incubate Fund, Pinehurst Advisors, Viling, and Coent Venture Partners.

Microsoft is selling its stake in the Nook e-reader business back to Barnes & Noble for roughly $115 million – at a $185 million loss on Microsoft’s original investment.

Apollo Education, parent company of the University of Phoenix, has launched a venture fund.

“The Brazilian investment firm Bozano Investimentos has raised a new 800 million reais (about $309 million) private equity fund focused on the education sector,” reports The New York Times.


Imperial College London says it will “review procedures” following the death of Professor Stefan Grimm, “who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.” Publish and perish.

The New York Times obituary for Stanford professor Patrick Suppes, an early pioneer in computer-based learning and the founder of the Computer Curriculum Corporation, “the first company to pursue interactive computer-assisted learning in the classroom.”

Ada Meloy, the general counsel of the American Council on Education, was killed in a car accident last week.

“Germans are mourning the death of young student Tugce Albayrak, who died after confronting a group of men harassing two teenage girls in the city of Offenbach,” reports Buzzfeed.


Dan Meyer on “What Students Do (And Don’t Do) In Khan Academy”: “If one of Khan Academy’s goals is to prepare students for success in Common Core mathematics, they’re emphasizing the wrong set of skills.”

A study by the Columbia University Teachers College has found some increased gains for students who use Teach to One, math software based on New York City’s School to One. Not surprisingly, proponents of “personalized instruction” hailed the study, although one of its authors cautioned that “the data in the study did not allow him to conclude definitively that Teach to One: Math caused the skills improvements.”

From Jisc: “Code of practice for learning analytics: A literature review of the ethical and legal issues” (PDF)

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a new report out on teacher pay.

Poor Kids in Baltimore Have It Worse Than Those in Nigeria” isn’t really the headline I would have gone with.

Via Education Week: “Census researchers found Americans ages 18 to 34 earn $2,000 less per year than earlier generations, after correcting for inflation, though the percentage graduating college has risen from a little more than 15 percent to more than 22 percent since 1980.”

Cengage surveyed students and professors about cellphones in the classroom. Some day edu will move beyond discussions of “is tech a distraction?” Some day.

The number of doctorates awarded by US universities was up in 2013, but graduates’ job prospects are “bleak” – particularly if they’re looking for faculty positions in English and foreign language departments.

Most College Students Don’t Earn a Degree in 4 Years, Study Finds

According to this headline, “Learner Revolution in, Ed Tech Revolution out,” so rethink your allegiances and weapons accordingly, I guess.

Sam Walton’s Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America” – phew. I guess we can all go home now.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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