Ed-Tech Weekly News Roundup: Apple Picks Its Best iOS Apps of the Year

2011 Retrospectives

I'm a little over halfway through my 2011 Ed-Tech Trends series. But if you're looking for other year-in-review posts, check out Apple's 2011 Rewind which lists the best (bestselling and most beloved by Apple) iOS apps. Among those recognized in the education category, the language-learning app MindSnacks and LaunchPad Toys' storytelling app Toontastic. Congrats!

Updates and Upgrades

The LMS Instructure has released an iOS app this week. Canvas for iOS (iTunes link) will allow students to participate in the various discussions and toreceive updates about their assignments -- all within one "news feed" (without having to open up different courses to see the various updates).

Amazon released an Android version of its Amazon Student app (the company released an iOS app earlier this year.) The app just in a lot of ways just a portal for students' online shopping, but it does offer students a way to trade in their old books for Amazon credits. Yay?

Google added a new functionality to its search this week. Type in a function in the search bar, the Google will graph it for you as part of the search results.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center) has unveiled WorldShare, a tech platform designed to emphasize resource-sharing and collaboration across libraries.

Just when you thought software was all going digital, the language-learning startup Livemocha will start selling boxed software in retail locations, an effort to compete with the ubiquitous Rosetta Stone kiosk.

Online music education site ArtistWorks (which I covered here for MindShift is adding new courses: drumming courses with legendary jazz drummer Biilly Cobham and heavy metal drummer Thomas Lang.

Research and Data

There's a dearth of research about the efficacy of educational iOS apps, but Motion Math comes out strong in a recent study from USC. Michelle Riconscente has found that fifth graders' fractions test scores improved by an average of over 15% after playing Motion Math for 20 minutes a day (a significant increase over the control group). Just as cool: the fifth graders said they liked fractions more after playing the game.

Harvard economist and "genius grant" winner Roland Fryer has published a new paper on the habits of successful charter schools (PDF). Among the things that successful schools do: offer frequent feedback to teachers, provide data-driven instruction, offer "high-dosage" tutoring, increase instructional time, and focus "relentlessly" on academic achievement.

Education Week reports on a study in the latest American Sociological Review that finds that middle-class students are better at asking for academic help, whereas working class students are more likely to work on problems on their own and to wait for help -- from teachers and from their peers.

Funding, Acquisitions, and Mergers

The social learning startup Edmodo is on a tear. I mentioned the company in a recent 2011 trends post, noting its phenomenal growth over the past year. This week the company announced that it's raised $15 million in Series B funding from Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital. Another testament to the startup's trajectory? Greylock Managing Partner and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman has joined the Edmodo Board along with Matt Cohler, a partner at Benchmark Capital and a former VP of product at Facebook.

News broke this week that Facebook has acquired the location startup Gowalla. While at first blush, this might not appear like an education story, last year my friend Julie Meloni wrote a great post on ProfHacker about the startup's potential for game-based learning. No surprise perhaps, SCVNGR, a startup that is also making a play for location-based gaming in higher ed, sees the acquisition as pointing to the potential for place-based storytelling for campuses.

The adaptive learning company Dreambox Learning announced it has raised $11 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, investor John Doerr and others. According to Doerr, Dreambox has "cracked the code on improving early educational outcomes."

Techcrunch reports that the New York-based startup Late Night Labs has raised a seed round of $1.1 million. The company provides virtual science lessons to high schools and community colleges.

MasteryConnect, which offers a tool for grading assessments, has raised $1 million in seed funding from New Schools Venture Fund.

Amazon is working hard to beef up the offerings for kids in its catalog. This week, the company acquired some 450 titles from Marshall Cavendish Children's Books. Look for more picture books, chapter books and Young Adult novels, Amazon says. Will they work on the Kindle Fire, inquiring minds want to know.

The Department of Justice has given the go-ahead to the merger of ed-tech companies Datatel and SunGard Higher Education.

Firings

McGraw-Hill will reportedly cut its education unit by 550 jobs, Education Week reports. The company announced its plans earlier this year to split its educational unit away from its financial unit (which owns Standard & Poors).

Contests

The DML Competition has released the winners of the first stage of its Badges for Lifelong Learning competition.

Microsoft has announced the U.S. finalists for its Imagine Cup competition.


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