Apologies for being a day late on the weekly news roundup. I turned 40 yesterday, and I'm using my birthday as the excuse for the paucity of posts. I share a birthday with several awesome folks in the tech world, including investor Fred Wilson. He turned 50 yesterday -- happy belated birthday, Fred -- and to mark the occasion he has requested folks make a donation to Here's a link to his Fifty for Fifty campaign.

Fans of Google's Android App Inventor can breathe a sigh of relief. Following on last week's news that Google planned to shut App Inventor down, the company announced that it was open sourcing the project and handing it over to MIT Media Lab. The Media Lab in turn, and with seed funding from Google, announced it would launch a new Center for Mobile Learning, focusing on how new mobile technologies can help enhance learning and utilizing App Inventor as its first project.

Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup released the results this week of their annual poll about "Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools." There are any number of interesting statistics to cite: things like when asked "Which do you think is most important for our nation's future � to encourage high school and college students with skills in science and math to become scientists or to become science and math teachers?" respondents were split, with 47% saying "scientists" and 48% saying "science teachers." Or that 72% responded that elementary school students shouldn't have access to e-books. Or that 50% of respondents said they'd rather have an ineffective teacher offline than an effective teacher online. Lots of food for thought here

This week marks the second anniversary of #edchat, the weekly education chats, Tuesdays on Twitter. A big thanks to its founders Shelly Terrell, Tom Whitby, and Steven Anderson and to all those who participate.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for MindShift asking whether MOOCs were the future of online learning. Well, at last count, some 100,000 people have signed up for the massively open online course on artificial learning this fall at Stanford. If that seems like a tad overwhelming, I recommend Introduction to Databases or Introduction to Machine Learning, both of which will also be offered as open online classes.

According to a study released this week by Campusbooks, six our of seven of the top e-booksellers (including Amazon) offer less than 50% of the books that college students need for back-to-school. The company -- which certainly has skin in the game, if you will, as a provider of digital content, said it looked at the top 1000 textbooks students will use this fall and found that most e-book retailers had few of the titles available. According to its findings, CourseSmart had 82.2%, Barnes & Noble offered 46.7%, Kno offered 43.6%, and Kindle (for either purchase or rental) offered 14.9%.

Amazon launched a new iPhone app this week aimed at the college student market. The app claims to make it easier for students to shop for textbooks (among other things, of course), promising the Amazon 70% discount, of course. More interestingly, perhaps, than the shopping features: the app will also let students scan the barcode from textbooks, see the trade-in price for their book, and submit it to Amazon for trade-in.

A busy week for the textbook rental company Chegg. Yes, it's back-to-school and textbook renting season, sure, but add to the excitement this week the announcement that Chegg was joining the e-textbook race with its own HTML5 offerings. Add to that news that Chegg was acquiring another company, the online tutoring service Student of Fortune. Will students see Chegg as their one-stop-shop for educational textbooks and services? The company sure hopes so.

Skillshare announced this week that it has raised $3.1 million from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital to help extend its offerings. Skillshare allows anyone to offer a class -- on or offline. A sign, perhaps of great and committed investors: USV's Alfred Wenger has taught a Skillshare class on Bayesian probability.

It's one thing to open up classes and learning opportunities to the public. It's another thing altogether to offer (alternative) accreditation. But if you take the new 10-week class in front development, offered by New York City's hot new tech-entrepreneur-education campus General Assembly, you'll get certification to that effect. A hat-tip to Betabeat's Adrianne Jeffries for the story.

Broken Thumb Apps, maker of kids' mobile apps, was fined $50,000 this week for COPPA violations. Although far smaller than a settlement earlier this year against now-Disney-owned Playdom (that one was $3 million), the fine against Broken Thumb Apps represents the first COPPA settlement regarding collection of children's data from a mobile app. The FCC found that the company had collected children's email addresses without parental consent.

Congrats to the team at ShowMe for raising a $800,000 seed round of funding. I've written about the whiteboard-meets-iPad app several times, and I have much praise for the dead simplicity with which the app allows users to make sharable video lessons.

Wolfram Alpha released another new app in its Course Assistant series for iOS. This time: Physics II for $2.99. [This is where the Bat signal goes up for physics teachers to chime in.]

Robots in zero gravity -- no, it's not Ridley Scott's remake of Blade Runner, a whole different story altogether. Rather, it's a new competition robotics competition announced this week by NASA and DARPA. Zero Robotics challenges teams to build robots that can complete tasks in zero gravity.

The reference management tool Zotero announced a number of features it plans to roll out over the coming weeks, including a standalone version of Zotero (for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Firefox browser no longer required) and browser extensions for Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.

Equity firms love education technology companies, or so it seems. On the heels of Providence Equity buying Blackboard, we have news this week that equity firm Permira Funds has acquired the student assessment company Renaissance Learning for $1.6 billion.

A Missouri teachers' union is filing a lawsuit against the state's new anti-social networking law. The Missouri State Teachers Association is seeking an injunction to prevent the law going into effect August 28, arguing that the law violates teachers' constitutional right to free speech and assembly.

The YongoPal app is in the iTunes app store. There's a pretty terrific entrepreneur behind YongoPal, and a good story too -- see Kirsten Winkler's stories on YongoPal to track the startup's iterations.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released its latest survey on Americans and their cell phones. In a nutshell: cellphones are nearly ubiquitous, with about 83% of adults over 18 owning one. There are a number of interesting insights in the survey, but The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal points to a particularly noteworthy one: texting is as popular an activity among 18-29 year olds as driving or having sex.

Did you miss EdmodoCon last week? Edmodo has released the recording of the day's presentations.

The transmedia storytelling website Inanimate Alice unveiled a newly redesigned website this week, along with a partnership with Promethean.

Thank you everyone who donated to the SETI Institute so that its Alien Telescope Array did not have to go dormant.

It's time for the SXSW 2012 Panel Picker, and I'm sure you'll see any number of tweets and blog posts, requesting votes for folks' panels. So here's mine: a panel on education and gaming with Edmodo's Nic Borg, Manga High's Toby Rowland, and myself.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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