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The Week in Ed-Tech News: Harvard plus MITx, Microsoft plus Barnes & Noble, and more


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The Week in Ed-Tech News: Harvard plus MITx, Microsoft plus Barnes & Noble, and more

by Audrey Watters on 05 May, 2012

What a crazy week for US education. Unrelated: I spent the week in Canada.

History

42 years ago yesterday, National Guard troops opened fire on student anti-war protestors at Kent State University, killing four and injuring nine.

Partnerships

Harvard MOOCs are in the works, with the big news this week that Harvard and MIT are teaming up to expand on the latter’s MITx platform. The new initiative is called edX. HypeX , observes education professor Sherman Dorn. Bionic , according to Alan Levine. A fairly traditional mother if indeed this is the Mother-of-all-MOOCs , suggests Bonnie Stewart.

Michael Feldstein takes a look at the proposed merger of the open source Sakai and Jasig projects to create an Apache-like foundation for higher education.

Policies

The New York City Department of Education issued new rules this week for how school employees interact and communicate with students online. The new social media policy requires teachers separate professional and personal social media activities and identities. They cannot friend or communicate with students via their personal pages or profiles. Teachers must get their supervisors’ permission before setting up a professional online identity, where they should have no expectations about privacy. Comments should be turned off on blogs. Administrators will monitor.  No word on student-teacher text-messaging, however.  You can read the entire document on The Wall Street Journal .

Portland, Maine will install filtering software on the laptops it issues its high school students, in order to block access to pornography, streaming video sites, and social networks. These filters will be in effect even when students are using the laptops at home and off the school networks. This goes beyond the mandates of CIPA by most interpretations of the law . 

Pineapples and Pearson

The Pineapple-gate saga continues . The New York Times reports that more questions have been thrown out from the latest Pearson-generated state standardized test in New York. Pearson insists its tests are “ valid and reliable .” There’s a leaked memo – how convenient – in which Pearson claims this same Pineapple question that everyone's upset about has been used since 2004 in tons of states . See everyone?!  It's fine!  I’m not sure how that’s supposed to reassure New York, which gave the company a $35 million to create it some new tests, but there ya go. More digging finds this old test was “ normed ” over a decade ago.  Some things, I guess, just don't change.

Legalities

The US Justice Department has filed a civil fraud case against the test prep company Princeton Review for charging the city of New York for millions of dollars of tutoring services that it never provided, reports GothamSchools .

The "Google Books” case continues to drag on, with the latest court appearance involving Google’s arguments that the Authors Guild portion of the lawsuit against it should be thrown out as the guild doesn’t constitute a “class” and individual authors need to come forward and file complaints against Google for infringement.

Wired reports on the case of 14-year-old Alex Boston who, along with her parents, is suing two of her classmates and their parents for cyberbullying via Facebook. Boston and her parents say they tried to get her school to intervene but the school claimed they had no power to do so since the harassment occured off campus.

Funding and Acquisitions

Microsoft invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble – specifically in a new subsidiary that will handle the Nook and the B&N College division (which operates some 600 college bookstores). Rob Reynolds takes a look at how this might impact the higher ed digital textbook market. But with the Google Books lawsuit, the Apple price collusion lawsuit, and Amazon’s e-book dominance, and the struggles of the brick and mortar (text)bookstore who knows what the future holds.

Education startup incubator ImagineK12 held its second Demo Day this week, graduating 9 startups. Inigral’s Michael Staton has a report from the front lines.

Professional social network LinkedIn announced this week that it has acquired the document-sharing site Slideshare . Techcrunch’s Leena Rao puts the price-tag at just under $119 million.

GeekDad’s Jonathan Liu profiles Reading with Pictures , a non-profit organization which is currently Kickstarter-ing its 144-page textbook/comics anthology.

Online gradebook  Engrade announced it’s raised $3 million in seed funding.

Techcrunch’s Rip Emerson examines the financial success of online learning company Lynda.com , which has some $70 million in revenue without having ever taken venture funding.

Degrees

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin has introduced 5 BS degrees that’ll cost you less than $10,000, filling Governor Rick Perry’s challenge to the state’s universities to come up with a degree that cheap. Hey Texas. EdX is cheaper, for what it’s worth.

Congratulations to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal who receives his PhD in Organizational Learning and Leadership from Barry University this weekend.

Research and Data

The New York City Charter School Center has released a report on “ The State of the Sector ,” detailing some of the statistics about the city’s charter school population and performance.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution continues its series on test score anomalies, suggesting that a local "blue ribbon" school might have cheated in order to see great improvements in its scores (The series is getting “ mixed reviews ” observes The Educated Reporter).

Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries have announced their first crowdsourcing project , asking the public to help describe some 4000 piano music pieces. These have been digitized and are available online, although they’ve never been cataloged as part of the libraries’ collection, and volunteers are asked to take a listen and help write a description.

A new study by Lawrence Bacow and William Bower, the former presidents of Tufts and Princeton Universities respectively, examines the “Barriers to Adoption of Online Learning Systems in U.S. Higher Education.” The study, funded by the Gates Foundation, found that faculty skepticism was the major barrier to adoption of automated instruction software. Those pesky faculty.

Project Tomorrow has released the results from its Speak Up 2011 report. There’s a ton of interesting information here on students’ personalized learning. Mobile access and tablet usage are up, not surprising. One fifth have used a mobile app to organize school work. One quarter have watched a video online to help with homework. “30% of middle school students and 46% of high school students have used Facebook as an impromptu collaboration tool for classroom projects.”

Launches and Updates

Google has launched a Search Education Hub , a place for teachers to find lesson plans and training on search literacy.

The safe messaging service Remind101 has released an iOS app, bringing the functionality of its website to the iPhone. The free app ( iTunes link ) lets teachers easily send text messages between the classroom and home.

Contests

The Doodle 4 Google contest has announced its state winners , which means it’s open voting time for the national finalists. Google says it received some 114,000 submissions.

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Audrey Watters is a technology journalist, freelance writer, ed-tech advocate, recovering academic, rabble-rouser, and single mom.

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