The Week in Ed-Tech News: #AskArne, the Mindset of the Class of 2015, & Digital Textbooks Aplenty

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held his first Twitter Town Hall on Wednesday. People were asked to use the #askarne hashtag in order to direct questions to Duncan, which were asked in turn by journalist John Merrow. The Department of Education has posted a selection of the Q&A on its website, but watching the Twitter stream on Wednesday, many felt disappointed that the Secretary of Education did not address their questions.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Newark on Tuesday as the city has refused to release records relating to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to the city schools.

A judge in Missouri has issued an injunction, blocking Senate Bill 54 that would ban teacher/student messaging via social networks.

The Beloit College has released its annual welcome to its incoming class. This year's freshmen -- the class of 2015 -- have a certain mindset, the college contends, listing the cultural milestones of these students lives. This is an important class, as most of them were born in 1993, the same year that Mozaic introduced its Web browser. This is the beginning of the Internet generation.

The language learning startup busuu.com has added a special audio-visual dictionary for all its languages -- English,Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Polish. The dictionary includes recordings by native speakers as well as pictures to help you visualize the words.

A depressing "chart of the day" from The Atlantic shows that student loan debt has grown 511% since 1999.

Google is conducting a survey about the accessibility of Google products. Earlier this year the National Federation of the Blind filed a complaint with the Justice Department claiming that Google Apps for Education had accessibility problems.

According to survey data released this week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 7 out of 10 college students have skipped buying a college textbook because of its price.

A study from the U.K. finds that fewer than 50% of children eight to 17 read a novel outside class every month, research suggests. They're more likely to read text messages or email. (In all fairness, I am more likely to read text messages or email too, but I blame George A. A. Martin's awfully long novels for that speed with which I'm consuming fiction lately.)

The New York Times and WNYC announced this week the launch of SchoolBook, a site for news, data, and dialogue about the New York City Schools. The site, which will launch September 7, will feature content from The New York Times and WYNC education reports, as well as stories from GothamSchools and Inside Schools. Nieman Journalism Lab reports that stories that are accessed won't count against readers' monthly allotment of paywall-free NYT stories. Furthermore the partnership will producecustomized pages for each of the 1,700 pubic schools and 800 private schools in the city," and will encourage community contributions.

GOOD's Liz Dwyer reports that The New York Times is also getting into the teacher training business. Its Knowledge Network is partnering with Arizona's Rio Salado College to offer an online teaching certification program for elementary, high school, and special education teachers. has partnered up with Arizona-based Rio Salado College to offer online teaching certification programs for elementary, high school, and special education teachers.

Lego Education is running a back-to-school contest, asking teachers to create a video -- no more than 150 seconds -- showcasing how they use Lego Education to "spark student innovation." Wired's GeekDad has more details.

One year after its launch, e-textbook app maker Inkling updated its iPad app to Version 2.0, adding a number of new features. Inkling's textbooks now include an interesting social feature -- a study group of sorts --

Another e-textbook app maker Kno also released a number of new features for its iPad app this week. It added 3D modeling for certain diagrams. It added what it's calling a "Smart Links" feature that links to applicable Khan Academy content. Kno can now boast that it is the number 1 education app in the iTunes App Store.

With back-to-school textbook buying in full swing (or thereabouts), Flat World Knowledge is reporting that it's doubled its growth, arguing that it's seeing an uptake for digital textbooks that exceeds what the National Association of College Stores estimated would be the market for the fall semester.

Hey Seattle educators! Get thee to the Seattle Startup Weekend EDU -- September 30 through October 2 -- where you'll have a weekend to work with other technologists and entrepreneurs to pitch and build an ed-tech startup project. I'll be there as a mentor. More information is here.

The social learning network ePals has acquired Newstogram and Daily.me. These two sites offer news personalization services, and according to the press release the acquisition will help ePals offer more personalized learning content.

"Calling all digital divas, web chix, and coder girls." NCWIT (the National Center for Women in Information Technology) is accepting applications for its Award for Aspiration in Computing. The award recognizes young women who are interested and active in computers and technology.

The Department of Education has launched Version 2.0 of its education data website, with new tools including a mapping feature, a trend line tool, and a conditional analysis tool. Ed Week's Sarah Sparks reports that a third update will come this winter and will include more data on the state level.

Dartmouth is apparently struggling with its move from its old email server to Microsoft Office 365. The university lost service to the productivity suite -- an outage that affected all the school's customers and was the first failure of the Microsoft cloud in over a year.

I have fond memories of Little Golden Books -- both as an early reader and as a parent. Random House says it's bringing the popular library of books to the digital format, starting with -- of course, The Poky Little Puppy.

"The Russian educational system is going digial," reports Good E-Reader, pointing to both investment and adoption in e-readers in Russian classrooms. Bonus points for this quip from Vladimir Putin: "However, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had a strange word of praise for the Plastic Logic device that a Ministry of Education trial will place in over 1,000 classrooms: the lack of a glass screen will prevent students from being injured during school time brawls. While it isn't clear what kinds of safety issues Putin is alluding to, at least he saw the progressive nature of the device and appears ready to implement state-of-the-art technology in Russian schools."

Photo credits: Flickr user Kevin Zollman


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