Ed-Tech News of the Week: Open Access Archeology Classes, Assessments for Preschoolers & More

A version of this post can be found on NPR's ed-tech blog MindShift

Want to learn about Egyptian archeology? Well, here's your chance to sit in on a class at Michigan State University, taught by Ethan Watrall. Professor Watrall has made his online class open access, meaning anyone can view the course materials.

The Chronicle reports that Microsoft has paid the University of Nebraska $250,000 to move to its Office 365 platform. We did not solicit this—they offered this, said Walter G. Weir, chief information officer at the University of Nebraska. I think they saw that the stumbling block would have been the cost of migration. The university had been using LotusNotes.

FatMinds launched this week with the aim of serving the adult education market by providing the largest catalog of continuing education classes. Describing the service as "Yelp meets Kayak," Co-founder Tejash Unadkat says he wants to provide a place where people can find continuing ed classes based on their specific interests, as well as time, budget, and travel constraints. FatMinds launches with a catalog of over 10,000 courses -- including public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit, online and offline classes -- available from institutions in Massachusetts and California.

Zynga launched a new game this week, PrivacyVille, to help teach about the company's privacy policy. OK, it's not really a game as much as it is an interactive tutorial of Zynga's policies. Nonetheless, it does raise interesting questions about how best to educate people about best practices online -- lengthy, written policies and Terms of Service? Or a social game?

Google seems to have killed the Google Wonder Wheel, a tool that offered a visual representation of search relationships. While designed as a tool to help advertisers and others best identify ways to optimize for search, it was also a great tool for helping teach students about research. Bill Ferriter suggests the Wiki Summarizer as an alternative.

Jason Kottke points to the research by Samuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City and who has found that teens there (and elsewhere) are using text messaging and YouTube to help preserve what are otherwise dying languages.

HarperCollins has released the iBooks and Nook versions of its popular "I Can Read" series. The series includes characters like the Berenstein Bears and Frog and Toad. The digital versions of the books help early readers with narration and word highlighting.

Dr. Lara Lomicka Anderson, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at USC, will be awarded the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques (the Order of Academic Palms) for advancing the French language. Her method for doing so? Encouraging her students in French class to use Twitter.

The research firm Bezinga says that it seems Macs outselling PCs for back-to-school tech 8-2. The researchers point to the $100 iTunes gift certificate that accompanies a new Mac purchase as part of the motivation. I dunno... I would think there are other things at play that make Apple's brand more compelling to students.

Verbling, a video-based language-learning app, launched this week. Techcrunch's Leena Rao describes the service: "The site allows you to sign up and choose the language you want to learn. Since the site doesn't have a massive userbase just yet, Verbling hosts sessions as specific times daily (12 pm PT and 7 pm PT) where people can show up and chat with each other. Once you join the site during a session time, you are automatically paired with a language speaker who is fluent in the language you wish to learn. The site encourages users to talk to a number of different speakers within each session."

The public interest journalism organization ProPublica has created a new tool using data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. The tool draws from a database of all public schools in districts with more than 3000 students and lets users examine how well schools -- both poor and wealthier ones -- provide access to educational opportunities, including to advanced classes. You can read more about the methodology behind building the tool here.

Looking for more data? The Pew Internet and American Life Project has just posted a list of its teen-related data resources.

Open Study, the startup aiming to become the world's largest online study group, has added composition classes to its list of academic subjects around which it offers study groups. In conjunction with Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, Open Study has launched a new service to let users get help with their writing questions.

The Obama Administration has released the requirements for its new Race to the Top/Early Education grants. Yay, early education funding, but ugh, assessments.

The big education news of the week is the cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. Is it an ed-tech story? Maybe.

Photo credits: Flickr user Hans Kylberg


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