Ed-Tech News of the Week: Kindle Textbook Rentals, OLPC Updates, Google Scholar Citations, & More

A version of this post can be found on KQED's Mindshift, where you can find me posting regularly about learning and technology

The adaptive learning platform PrepMe has been acquired by Ascend Learning, which in turn is owned by Providence Equity Partners. If that name sounds familiar, it's because the firm just acquired the learning management system Blackboard.

Microsoft announced a $15 million investment over the next three years that will go towards the research and development of immersive learning technologies, including game-based instruction and a lifelong learning digital archive.

Amazon is launching a textbook lending program for the Kindle. The Kindle Textbook Rental program will enable students to rent electronic versions of their textbooks (when available, of course) for a period of 30 to 360 days. Although more publishers are making textbooks available in a digital format, it isn't clear that by renting books that students will save any money, particularly when there's still the option to buy books used.

Education-oriented blog host Edublogs has made all of its blogs ad-free, including its free blogs.

Via Microsoft education blogger Alfred Thompson, Small Basic 1.0 has been released. Small Basic has been in beta for several years. It's another good resource for teaching kids to program.

Wolfram, the makers of the math software Mathematica and the computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, have released a new document format. The Computable Document Format (CDF) is designed to include real-time interactivity and computation into documents, so that readers can actually manipulate inputs in graphics, rather than just look at static images. The new format, if adopted widely, could have a lot of potential for math and science textbooks, among other things.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a compilation of its research, highlighting the technology usage of college students. Young people across the board -- whether in school or not -- tend to use the Internet more than the general population. But Internet usage is even higher for undergraduates and graduates. 93% of grad students have broadband at home, compared to just 66% of the general adult population. Undergraduates were less likely than non-students to own desktop computers, and 88% of them (and 93% of graduate students) own laptops.

According to a study by the Teachers College at Columbia University, community college students perform more poorly in online courses than they do in face-to-face ones. Researchers found an 8-point gap in completion rates between the two.

Check out Highlighter, a new tool that will enable marginalia on any website. Here's my ReadWriteWeb story. (OMG! Exclusive!) There's tons of great potential with Highlighter in education, I think, and I plan to follow up next week with a story on MindShift about just that.

Google introduced a new feature for Google Scholar, its academic search engine. Google Scholar Citations will allow scholars to track the metrics on their citations and will also give them a way to create public profiles where their publishing history can be viewed.

A new study from University of Rhode Island researchers has found that sexting is very common among college students. Nearly 80% of college students surveyed said they'd received sexually suggested texts. The vast majority of these were sent to someone they were in a relationship with, but 10% were sent without consent.

Digital textbook platform Coursesmart unveiled a new HTML5 reader this week, providing on- and offline access to its Web-based textbooks.

A couple of announcements this week pointed to attempts to offer a standardized way to handle student data. Both the Common Education Data Standards Initiative and the Dell Foundation offered their proposals for making it easier for students to move their data from different systems, when they transfer to different schools either due to moving or graduating. You can see my story at MindShift for more details.

The online gradebook LearnBoost has rolled out several major updates recently, including a new administrative platform, unweighted grade calculations, and a couple of enhancements to the calendar feature.

PC World reports that the latest version of the One Laptop Per Child devices are under development. They will include solar charging and satellite Internet functionality. One interesting note: according to the report, the OLPC machines will ditch the Windows operating system and are investigating alternatives, including Google's new Chrome OS.

Photo credits: Flickr user Paul L


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