Ed-Tech News Weekly Roundup: RIP Google Reader, Long Live the (Kindle Owners' Lending) Library

Legalities

A fascinating research paper from danah boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey examines COPPA and parents' seeming willingness to help their under-13-year olds bypass the age restrictions. Let me cite the conclusion at length:
"Our findings call the efficacy of COPPA into serious question. The data also point to unintended consequences of the COPPA model of regulation of Web-based services. The online industry's response to COPPA's under-13 rule and verifiable parental consent model is largely proving incompatible, and at times, antithetical to many parents' ideas of how to help their children navigate the online world. Instead of providing more tools to help parents and their children make informed choices, industry responses to COPPA have neglected parental preferences and have altogether restricted what is available for children to access. As a result, many parents now knowingly allow or assist their children in circumventing age restrictions on general-purpose sites through lying. By creating this environment, COPPA inadvertently hampers the very population it seeks to assist and forces parents and children to forgo COPPA's protection and take greater risks in order to get access to the educational and communication sites they want to be part of their online experiences."
The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a former high school student in Connecticut who was disciplined for out-of-school, online postings she made. The Court refused to hear a review of the ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals that the school officials did not violate the student's First Amendment rights by disciplining her for conduct -- vulgar comments made online about school faculty.

Launches

Late Thursday night, Amazon unveiled its Kindle Owners' Lending Library. There's long been rumor of Amazon launching a "Netflix for books," but this week's launch doesn't quite the bill. Although there are some 5000 titles available for Kindle owners (and I do mean Kindle owners, not Kindle app users), none of the Big Six publishers have titles in the lending catalog. Amazon Prime members are the only ones with access to this program at the time, which lets them borrow (but keep as long as they want) one title a month. Paul Biba has a breakdown of the genres, and paidContent's Laura Hazard Owen uses "Holy Sh*t" in her headline to describe Amazon's deal with the publishers that are participating.

The Open Course Library had its official launch this week, a Washington state initiative to help bring the cost of college textbooks down by utilizing openly licensed course material for some of the state's most popular university and college classes.

UNESCO announced the launch of its open educational resources platform. And along with the Commonwealth of Learning, UNESCO also released its Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education.

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has launched a new startup, reports The Next Web. Reading Bear is an online phonics website.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the winners of its challenge contest to build apps to help prevent sexual assault on college campuses. The winners of the Apps Against Abuse challenge were OnWatch and Circle of 6, both of which offered ways for college-age students to stay in touch with their friends for safety.

Launches… Literally

The One Laptop Per Child project outlined its plans this week to drop the latest version of its XO-3 tablet computer into villages in developing countries. "Drop" is the key word here as the latest deployment will actually involve helicopter drops of the devices. It follows on the work of Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall, reports Ars Technica, which is highly skeptical of the "stealth drop" of technology.

Accolades

The White House will recognize Dale Dougherty, co-founder of O'Reilly media, founder of MAKE Magazine and the Maker Faire, and outspoken advocate of makers everywhere as one of its Champions of Change.

Dispatches from Higher Ed

Yeah, that's me with a new blog over on Inside Higher Ed.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Western Governors University will now issue webcams along with its regular student welcome packets, a way to help monitor the behavior of students in online classes.

In the latest "higher education just isn't worth it" news, IBM's Watson supercomputer is taking its victory tour through America. And now not only has it defeated Ken Jennings, but it's also bested teams of Harvard and MIT business students.

Updates and Upgrades

Evernote released an update to its Evernote Peek study app this week, making it work for those who don't have an iPad Smart Cover as well as for those who don't have an iPad 2. Originally, the app converted Evernotes into flash cards, that could be used in conjunction with the Smart Cover to "peek" at hints and/or answers. Now the app has a virtual Smart Cover, so you needn't have all the extra hardware to use your Evernote notes this way.

Language learning app TripLingo is bringing its mobile apps to Android. Available languages include Italian, Portuguese, Mexican Spanish, Hebrew, and Castilian Spanish. TripLingo lets you customize the words and phrases you're most likely to use as you travel (based, for example, on your marital status, the number of kids you're traveling with, and your dietary habits).

Apple's popular music creation app GarageBand finally gets an iPhone / iPod Touch version. Like the iPad version, you can use the touchscreen to play the instruments, and you can also plug in your own guitar or mic to record music.

For those keeping score at home, the addition of Italian and Turkish mean that the online grade book LearnBoost has now had its users crowdsource the translation of the app into 10 languages.

Downgrades and Disasters

Lots of folks are angry about the latest changes to Google Reader. The RSS reader got a facelift this week that included the removal of its "share" feature. In its place, "G+". Here are a few choice words from a former Google Reader PM.

Research and Data

In a great example of the famous saying "There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," this story: iPads will outnumber desktop computers in schools within 5 years. Upon closer examination, it seems as though analyst firm Piper Jaffray talked to 25 ed-tech directors, all of whom already had iPad deployments at their schools. And wow. All of them said that, yes indeed, the future is the tablet.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its math and reading scores for 2011. Although the scores for reading and math were up for what's often referred to as the "nation's report card," Department of Education Arne Duncan dismissed the improvement, saying that "achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation's children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st Century."

How accurate is Wikipedia? The collaborative online encyclopedia has commissioned a study to help determine just that. But based on some internal discussions, ReadWriteWeb reports, there are concerns about the lack of references and citations in as many as one in 20 articles.

A record month for MIT OpenCourseWare visitors, according to Stephen Carson. The site had 1,733,198 visits for the month of October, up 12.4% from this time last year.

But if interest in OCW is up, interest in digital textbooks might be flatlining. That's the finding, at least, from eBrary's 2011 Student Survey. The survey of over 6500 students found that e-book usage has not increased much in the last 3 years, and students' preferences for printed books over e-books hasn't changed. Students do say they'd opt for e-books if they were available with fewer restrictions.

Big Data, Big Deals

Following the news that Pearson was leading the latest round of investment into the adaptive learning company Knewton, it's not that surprising to learn this week that the two companies are partnering. Knewton will provide the adaptive platform for Pearson's MyLabs and Mastering college curriculum. There are some 750 titles in that catalog, and Knewton's just starting with the math, reading, and writing courses. But connecting an adaptive learning algorithm to the largest education publisher in the world means big data, big content and a very very interesting development for college instruction (and remediation).

The Money

Several reports this week on how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to the Newark Schools is being spent. The Washington Post has the breakdown of some of the expenditures. The biggest payout so far -- $1.9 million -- went to Global Education Advisors, a consulting company founded by Chris Cerf, who's since been appointed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as acting education commissioner.

Khan Academy announced that it's received a $5 million grant from the O'Sullivan Foundation. The money will help Khan Academy expand its faculty and its platform and to explore opening a physical school.

Photo credits: Flickr user Elvin Wong


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