Weekly Ed-Tech News Roundup: Encyclopedia Britannica Stops the Presses

Britannica

Politics and Policies

It's been two years since the Obama Administration released its National Educational Technology Plan. This week, the government unveiled a website to announce the formation of a commission to develop a blueprint for implementing the plan. I kid you not.

The British government has caused some waves recently by demanding an overhaul to the way in which the country's ICT education works. But according to a recent survey by the BBC, students have a fairly different assessment of whether or not the curriculum is boring or useful. While it was a small survey (just 100 students), just 28% said they thought it was necessary to change the way in which computer science was taught, and many respondents seemed uninterested in learning to program.

Legalities

Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi has been found guilty on all 15 counts against him involving the invasion of his roommate's privacy via a webcam in their dorm-room. That roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after learning that a sexual encounter with another man had been taped by Ravi. Ravi now faces up to 10 years in prison and possible deportation. The New Yorker piece on the case is an absolute must-read.

A mom and the ACLU are suing the Minnewaska Area Schools, reports ZDNet, for demanding the Facebook password of a 12-year-old student who'd posted on the social networking site that she "hated" her school's hall monitor. The twist, of course, is that Facebook ostensibly prohibits those under 13 from joining. Nevertheless, they do, and the ACLU says that it's a violation of free speech for schools to demand students' passwords.

Inside Higher Ed examines a lawsuit by two former professors at Arizona State University who are suing the school, contending that content they developed for an online class is being used without their permission or attribution. The lawsuit raises questions about who controls academic work? Professors or the universities that employ them?

Closures

After 244 years, the Encyclopedia Britannica will cease the printing of its reference books. There will still be a digital copy for purchase. Many folks have pointed to Wikipedia as the Britannica-killer (there's even a Wikipedia entry on the errors that the collaborate encyclopedia has corrected that Britannica continues to get wrong). But Tim Carmody makes the very smart argument that Wikipedia's not the culprit here. Rather it's the personal computer that replaced the row of encyclopedias as a sign of the smart set.

Launches

TED, the elite conference that touts its presentations (and videos) on "ideas worth spreading," has unveiled TED-Ed, its new education initiative that will blend the work "world's greatest teachers" with animators to create 2-8 minute videos. I was cited in Ars Technica with my thoughts on the matter.

Michael Feldstein takes a look at GoodSemester, a startup that he describes as "not an LMS but a learning platform." "Evernote meets Google Docs meets Dropbox," aimed at storing, sharing and remixing open educational content. GoodSemester announced a partnership this week with the 20 Million Minds Foundation and opened its platform to the general public.

Updates and Upgrades

Edmodo is still on a roll, following its big announcement last week about its third-party developer platform. The news this week: Google Docs is now integrated with Edmodo, meaning you can share documents with those in your Edmodo network.

Khan Academy has released an iPad app featuring not only its educational videos but allowing users to tap into its progress-tracking platform. Stupid-headline-of-the-week award goes to those who described this as "opening access to the masses."

About a thousand times cooler and more important than a Khan Academy iPad app is the news from Wikipedia this week that its encyclopedia will now be available for offline reading on the Kiwix reader on Sugar OS. That's the operating system used by many of the One Laptop per Child devices.

Research and Data

According to The Economist, one of the fastest growing job titles on LinkedIn is "adjunct."

A Harris Interactive poll, commissioned by Pearson, has found that tablet ownership among college students has tripled. The majority of respondents (69%) said they see tablets replacing print textbooks within 5 years.

WolframAlpha has added data about private and public schools to its computational search engine. Drawing on NCES data, you can now query WolframAlpha about various aspects of schools, including enrollment figures, graduation rates, and demographics.

A study commissioned by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation asked some 10,000 teachers what they thought of their profession. The report contains a lot of interesting data, including these gems: the teachers reported working 10 hours, 40 minutes a day on average. Almost 3 hours of that time is spent working at home or at school after-hours. Teachers reported less parental involvement and more homelessness and hunger among their students. Fewer than half are "highly" or "very" satisfied with their jobs.

Funding and Acquisition

Another startup aiming to be the Facebook for those under-13, PixyKids announced this week that it has raised $3 million in investment.

In this case, we're talking about funding for students' college careers, not funding for startups: The Department of Education has released a new tool to give students and high schools more insight into FAFSA (the federal student financial aid application) completion rates at schools across the country. Using the tool gives you an .XLS file to download. I mean, yay, it's not a PDF. But still. Sigh.

Posterous has been acquired by Twitter. Let's hope there's a decent plan for getting your data out, because by all indications the Posterous team will be working on other things, and I expect it'll be "lights out" for the microblogging platform. This is a good reminder about owning your own data, blogs, and servers, folks.

Classes and Events

The mentoring organizations for Google's Summer of Code have been announced. The Summer of Code, now in its eighth year, gives college students an opportunity to work in real-world settings in the open source community.

Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, well known for his anti-university stance and his paying kids $100,000 to drop out of college, will be teaching a class at Stanford: CS 183: Startup. He does say that this will be the last college class that students will ever need to take. Pity he's not teaching it on an open forum like Coursera, eh?

Recommended Reading

danah boyd, "The Power of Youth: How Invisible Children Orchestrated Kony 2012"

Paul Graham, "Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas"

Dan Meyer, "Sal Khan on 60 Minutes"

Annie Lowrey, "Where's _why?"

Photo credits: SimCity Research Laboratory



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