Weekly Ed-Tech Roundup, from the Barricades

#OccupyEDU and "Generation Debt"

I've been struck by the prominence of education issues in the Occupy Wall Street movement -- people angry about reform, testing, the cost of college, and the loudest complaint, student loan debt. A sampling of stories and sites from the past week: Occupy Education. Occupy College. Occupy Scholarly Communications. Occupy the Laboratory. Occupy Librarianship. "Generation Debt at the Barricades." "How Does Occupy Wall Street Speak to a Broken Education System?"

President Obama introduced a plan this week to help students struggling to repay their student loans. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt to be the number 2 source of household debt (only behind the mortgage). Obama's plan will accelerate the relief from a law recently passed by Congress, reducing the maximum required payment on student loans from 15% of discretionary income annually to 10%. He will put it into effect in 2012, instead of 2014. And the new plan would have the remaining debt forgiven after 20 years instead of 25. (For more info -- maybe -- see the Department of Education press release.)

The Obama Administration also announced its support of a new program, conjunction with the Young Entrepreneur Council, to create a new startup incubator program and investment company: Gen Y Capital Partners. Not only will the program help fund those entrepreneurs under age 35, it will also tap into the new student debt adjustment program that the President unveiled.

Politics and Policies

Missouri governor Jay Nixon signed into law the revisions to the infamous Senate Bill 54, a law that would have effectively banned any private teacher-student interaction on social media sites like Facebook. The new law doesn't contain these restrictions, but rather turns the decisions over social media policies to individual school districts.

Accolades

Congratulations to the 2012 TED Fellows. A shout-out to the makers, artists, engineers, educators: DIY neuroscientist Greg Gage, Skillshare co-founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn, founder of 3D printing company Makerbot Bre Pettis, and Ayah Bdeir, artist, engineer and founder of littleBits (who I covered in a story on MindShift)

Launches, Openings, and Events

The Royal Society has opened its archives -- over 60,000 peer-reviewed research articles, including a very famous experiment about an electrical kite.

Symtext launched its "liquid textbook" platform this week. It's a browser-based app that offers social reading, highlighting and sharing (and sharing just within classes as opposed to generally "public"). The notes sync across platforms. Currently the startup supports content from over a dozen academic publishers, including Wiley and McGraw-Hill.

New York's Betaworks unveiled findings, another new social reading, sharing, and discovery platform. The tool lets you share and comment on clips from the Kindle and from the Web and follow along with what others are reading.

I ended my Startup Weekend EDU travel streak with a trip to DC. I've got write-up here on Hack Education as well as on Mindshift. Even cooler? CodeNow, one of the startups that participated in the weekend, has a write-up on the White House blog.

Updates and Pivots

Google announced that 15 million people now use Google Apps for Education. The company also made Google Plus available to its Apps for Education users, but only to its higher education customers as the 18-and-older age limit on G+ remains.

LearnBoost continues to roll out new languages thanks to its users crowdsourcing the translation efforts of the online gradebook. It's now available in Urdu, Romanian, and Vietnamese (in addition to Spanish, Dutch, and French).

The animation-making tool Xtranormal (known for some hilarious and often NSFW videos about Android versus iPhone), has launched a new Xtranormal for Educators platform. It features the easy-to-use tools for video production, combines it with a secure environment for classroom usage, for just $10 a month.

The human-powered search engine Mahalo announced a round of layoffs this week. The company has changed its focus several times over the past few years, most recently to focus on creating educational videos. Mahalo is shifting again, this time to concentrate on educational iOS apps, Techcrunch reports.

Disney-owned kids' virtual world Club Penguin has rolled out some new chat boxes that take advantage of a predictive engine, reports AllThingsD. It's the first change to the Club Penguin chat in about six years. The virtual world only lets kids use certain stock phrases, but by incorporating predictive text, the chat will work a bit like Google Instant, with autocompleting the phrases it thinks kids want to use.

Research and Data

EDUCAUSE 2011 was cause for a number of research-related announcements, including the release of the 2011 Campus Computing Project. Among its findings, more colleges are going mobile -- more than half of public universities and half of private ones have mobile apps. Universities' adoption of cloud computing has been slower. Just 4.4% of campuses say they've moved from on-premise to cloud solutions.

The Educause Center for Applied Research also released survey data about how college students use Facebook. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Nine out of 10 college students say they use Facebook for social purposes, like writing status updates and posting pictures. And the majority, 58 percent, say they feel comfortable using it to connect with other students to discuss homework assignments and exams. One out of four students even went so far as to say they think Facebook is valuable or extremely valuable to their academic success."

The cost of college is increasing. Again. The College Board has released the latest figures, finding that in-state tuition at four-year colleges is up 8.3%. It's up 4.5% at private colleges and up 3.2% at for-profit universities.

With all the talk about "data-driven education," it's still remarkably difficult to get schools to share data -- due to issues of privacy and perception. That in turn makes it difficult to have large datasets about student issues. But 6 institutions have federated their databases, creating a dataset that includes over 640,000 anonymized student records and over 3 million course level records, focusing on 33 common variables. The institutions represent public,private, two-year,four-year, and publicly-funded and for-profit schools.

Common Sense Media released a report this week on the amount of "screen time" that children are experiencing. No big surprise, the amount of time is up, with new devices like iPads joining what remains the dominant screen, the television. The report introduced a new term -- "the app gap" -- a growing divide between lower-income and higher-income children's access to and usage of apps. I looked more closely at this issue in a story for Edutopia.

Kathy Schrock has created a list of Android apps that target Bloom's revised taxonomy. Bloomin' Android is a companion site to an earlier project where she listed how fit into the taxonomy.

Funding

Codecademy, a Web-based site with JavaScript lessons, raised $2.5 million in investment this week. I respond harshly.

Photo credits: Marion Siegel (maybe)


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