Ed-Tech News Weekly Roundup: Georgia Tech, FERPA, the Kindle Fire, and Other Disappointments

Legalities

The lawyers at Georgia Tech ruined pedagogy (to paraphrase a tweet by my friend Jason B. Jones). With no debate or forewarning, the university crippled the university's wikis, claiming that they violated FERPA.

Aaron Swartz, an early Reddit-er and the founder of Demand Progress was indicted this week on charges of Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit a Felony, Larceny over $250, and Unauthorized Access to a Computer Network by a Middlesex Superior Grand Jury. The charges stem from Swartz's "break in" into the MIT library last year where he proceeded to download some 4 million articles from the JSTOR database.

Manifestoes

Toymaker Andy Russell and author-researcher Daniel Donahoo have penned The Children's App Manifesto, a call-to-arms for educators, parents, app developers, investors, and marketers to think critically about how we can best take advantage of the educational possibilities of new digital tools, while keeping content aimed at kids priced affordably, ad- and exploitation-free, and keeping those makers of quality educational apps in business, something that's challenging at that $.99 per app price point.

Politics and Policies

11 states -- Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee -- have filed formal requests to the Department of Education, asking for waivers to parts of No Child Left Behind.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took to Twitter for his second official Town Hall this week. Duncan was interviewed by journalist John Merrow and fielded some questions about student loan debt, teacher-bashing, and standardized testing.

When the NYPD raided Zucotti Park this week, among the items that were taken and destroyed were books and materials from the Occupy Wall Street People's Library. The ALA issued a statement condemning the move: "The dissolution of a library is unacceptable. Libraries serve as the cornerstone of our democracy and must be safeguarded. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy, and libraries ensure that everyone has free access to information." The OWS Library is rebuilding, and you find more information on how to donate money or materials here.

Launches

The Amazon Kindle Fire launched this week, to a flurry of lukewarm tech reviews. Despite some of the initial hoopla when the device was announced that it was going to be the big Android tablet breakthrough that schools have been waiting for, there's really very little that would lead me to think that's the case. You can read my hands-on review over at Inside Higher Ed.

The open-ended world-building game Minecraft is finally available on iOS. (iTunes) Unfortunately, this is a really pared down version of the game -- there's no mining or crafting, which, ya know, is sorta a key feature considering the game's name and everything.

Updates and Upgrades

Microsoft announced this week that it now has 22 million users of its Live@Edu platform, making it the "most widely used cloud productivity service for education." Microsoft says that adoption of Live@Edu -- its cloud-based email and productivity suite -- is up 100% over last year.

Google Scholar Citations -- a way for academics to track their citation metrics -- is now available to all scholars (or at least all scholars with .edu email addresses).

Classes, Conferences, and Competitions

The first round of this year's DML Competition came to a close earlier this week, with over 300 submissions for badges for lifelong learning. HASTAC, one of the sponsors of the competition, also announced this week another competition, this time for badges aimed specifically to support teacher mastery. As Cathy Davidson asks, "What if teachers decided for themselves what counts" as professionalism?

The Saylor Foundation launched the second wave of funding for its multi-million dollar Open Textbook Challenge this week. The challenge invites textbook authors to openly license texts under a CC-BY license, rewarding them with a $20,000 award if their text is accepted.

The nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards are now open.

Stanford University plans to offer more online classes next term, following the wildly popular CS courses offered this fall. In the works: a class on Natural Language Processing and Computer Science 101.

Google's coding competition for teens, Google Code-in, officially starts on Monday. The contest runs for 57 days, during which time teens age 13 to 17 can help work on various tasks for open source organizations.

Research and Data

Mexico's largest university, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) announced this week its plans to make almost all of its publications, databases, and course materials freely available online over the next few years, a move that some hope will spur other universities in the region to open access to their materials as well.

According to research cited by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the website RateMyProfessors that allows college students to submit their own reviews of their professors isn't as wildly idiosyncratic as many professors contend. The researchers found that the types of comments left on RateMyProfessors were quite close to those left on official pen-and-paper evaluations, leading them to say that the ratings found on the website actually represent fairly accurately student consensus on a particular teacher.

Which college majors study the most? According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, it's engineering students, who clock about 19 hours a week of studying. And those who study the least? Business students.

Some (slightly) conflicting data this week about the "worth" of a college degree: According to a study by local services marketplace Thumbtack, it found that service professionals with a bachelor's degree earn no more than those with a technical college degree. But data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that a bachelor's degree is still the best path to middle-class wages and employment.

Acquisitions

The textbook rental company Chegg continues its buying streak with the acquisition of the mobile app development company Flux Software and the Web development company 3D3R.

Not an acquisition per se, but with the availability now of the new .xxx domains, supposed set aside for pornography, it appears as though many schools are now buying the domains to prevent their brands becoming porn sites on the new top-level domain. As Techdirt's Mike Masnick points out, this really just reaffirms that the new .xxx domains are a "pure money grab" and a "protection racket."

Photo credits: Flickr user Orin Zebest


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