The Week in Ed-Tech News: The Launch of TED-Ed, DIY, and Google Drive

Thrown Away Television.

Launches and Upgrades

The mythical G-Drive is here. Or at least, Google Docs has been rebranded as Google Drive. You can read my story on how affects Google Apps for Education users here.

Vimeo co-founder Zach Klein has launched his latest startup: DIY. It’s an online community and app for kids, and as part of the larger Maker Movement, encourages them to share what they’ve made with others – a digital portfolio, of sorts, for what they’ve built with their hands. “We’ve all seen how kids can be like little MacGyvers,” says DIY. The website and app allow kids to post their creations online, and there’s a dashboard for parents to monitor what their kids are sharing.

The “ideas worth sharing” folks at TED have launched their official education-related video site, TED-Ed – “lessons worth sharing.” The idea of the site is for teachers to submit lecture-lessons that the TED team will animate. These in turn are packaged as part of a larger lesson-plan with quizzes and “dig deeper” questions that teachers can use to “flip their classroom.” There are currently 60+ videos available, and while the animation is pretty snazzy, the content cannot be remixed or mashed-up as nothing isn’t openly licensed. Just what education needs – more proprietary content, another defensive brand. Shelly Blake-Plock argues there are other problems with the site: the emphasis on consuming rather than making.

In more edu-video news, MIT and Khan Academy have teamed up for a student-produced video initiative. MIT students will create short videos that teach a particular science concept. The videos are aimed at the K–12 level and some of them will be available on the Khan Academy site.

Mozilla is preparing to launch its summer campaign to help more folks learn Web-building. Among its offerings: hackable video games and a Summer Code Party. I talked with Mozilla this week as part of a “fireside chat,” and you can read the Etherpad from our conversation.

Rosetta Stone seems to be returning to its roots as a classroom-focused ed-tech company with the launch this week of a new product for the K–12 market: TOTALe(R) PRO. If consumers don’t want to pay for outrageously expensive boxed software any more, maybe schools will? Ugh.

Blackboard launched a new analytics tool this week, Blackboard Analytics for Learn. While it has offered other analytics products, those have been focused on adminstration and institutional data. This new product takes data from the LMS and SIS to give instructors and students insights into academic performance. Pretty sure I already called this one.

Blackboard also added an “open enrollment” option to its CourseSites product (its free cloud-based course management tool). It’s kicking off the new feature with a class by Indiana University education professor Curtis Bonk.

Coursekit, one of the many new non-LMS LMS startups, has rebranded to Lore. It’s also raised an undisclosed amount of money (on top of the $5 million it raised earlier this year) from that special friend to higher ed, Peter Thiel, who’s using Coursekit/Lore in the class he’s teaching at Stanford. Irony abounds here.

Research and Data

Worldreader, a non-profit that distributes e-books and e-readers in the developing world, has released the results of its pilot in Ghana. The program involved the distribution of over 32,000 local and international e-books via Kindles to some 350 students and teachers at six schools. Worldreader reports increased access to and enthusiasm about books among recipients, as well as (sigh) increased performance on standardized tests.

Harvard University announced this week that it would make more than 12 million catalog records from its 73 libraries publicly available. These records contain bibliographic information about books, manuscripts, maps, videos, and audio recordings. The Harvard Library is making these records available under a Creative Commons 0 license, in accordance with its Open Metadata Policy.

More news from the Harvard Library: according to a memorandum from the Faculty Advisory Council, the cost of academic journals is “untenable.” The university spends almost $3.75 million on subscriptions a year. The Faculty Advisory Council suggest that faculty start making their work available to the public and publishing in open access journals in an effort to save money.

Four out of every five students in New Orleans attends a charter school, in part because of the city’s recovery plans following Hurricane Katrina. As it has the nation’s highest concentration of charters, it’s often pointed to as an example of the successes of these types of schools. But Matthew Di Carlo at the Shanker Blog takes a more detailed look at what we can and cannot say about these schools’ performance compared with the remaining public schools there.

The Pew Research Center has compiled some interesting data about teens and technology. 95% of teens age 12–17 are online and 77% own a cellphone (23% have smart phones, and 54% regular cellphones).

The conservative think-tank the Fordham Institute has released its latest publication “Digital Reform for the Digital Era.” Here’s a choice sentence to give you a flavor of what this version of “reform” looks like: “[L]eaving local districts and their boards in charge of digital instruction will retard innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and smart competition, simultaneously stifling students’ ability to find—and be taught by—the very best educators in the state, region, nation, or even world. It will raise costs, undermine efficiency, block rich instructional options, restrict school choice and parental influence, and strengthen the hand of other interest groups—including but not limited to already-too-powerful teacher unions.”

Funding and Acquisitions

Apple reported its quarterly earnings this week – another blockbuster quarter for the company. In terms of its education sales, Apple says it sold more than 2 iPads for every Mac to US K–12 customers. Notable purchases: the San Diego School District bought 10,000 iPads this quarter and plans to buy 15,000 for middle school and high school programs next quarter.

Mathalicious, a website that creates real-world math lessons for teachers to use in their classrooms, has launched a Kickstarter campaign. The startup is looking to raise $164,000 to create a Web video series called Math52 – a year’s worth of videos that look at how math is applied in everyday life.

The Hechinger Report points to one non-profit that is “cashing in” on the push for more college degrees: The College Board. Best known for administering the SAT, many states now pay the College Board to test students and hopefully boost college enrollment. The Collge Board earned more than $65 million profits in 2010 (the last year for which figures are available) and pays more than a quarter of its employees over $230,000 a year. Clearly even for non-profits, standardized testing is an incredibly lucrative business.

Google announced that it has sold its 3D modeling product Sketchup to the global positioning system company Trimble. No word how this will affect those who had the educational version.

Politics and Policies

The University of Florida caused quite a stir with news that it was gutting its computer science department. But it appears now that the vocal opposition to the move has prompted it to reconsider and plans to eliminate its research component have been shelved.

The State of New York is looking for an alternative way to offer high school equivalency diplomas. This after Pearson took over the GED exam and raised the price.

The Association of Universities and Colleges Canada has signed what’s been called the “most expensive copyright insurance policy in Canadian history.” The AUCC has agreed to a new Access Copyright license that would charge $26 per full time student per year for the right to copy works from the Access Copyright repertoire, public domain and open access journals (and student pocketbooks) be damned.

Morro Bay High School senior Johnny Hammerlund is a “budding entrepreneur who used a talent for technology to create his first paid app for smart phones,” reports eSchoolNews. Hammerlund created a mobile app based on the information on his school’s website: the bell schedule, the cafeteria menu. But when he started making plans to make money on his app, the school shut down the website and withdrew Hammerlund’s access to it (he had been the school’s webmaster). The school said it had to protect its resources.

Classes and Competitions

The Washington Post examines the Math Emporium at Virginia Tech. “The Emporium is the Wal-Mart of higher education, a triumph in economy of scale and a glimpse at a possible future of computer-led learning. Eight thousand students a year take introductory math in a space that once housed a discount department store. Four math instructors, none of them professors, lead seven courses with enrollments of 200 to 2,000.” Despite the glowing write-up touting efficiency and cost-savings, Virginia Tech students and alumni posted their response to the article on the school’s Facebook page, and their memories aren’t so sweet.

The winners of the U.S. Imagine Cup have been selected. This is a Microsoft-sponsored technology competition for college students, and the next stop for these winners is the global finals that’ll take place this summer in Australia.

Recommended Reading

Stephen Downes, The Rise of MOOCs

Ken Auletta, Get Rich U

Sherry Turkle, The Flight from Conversation

Nicholas Carr, The Library of Utopia

Photo credits: Flickr user Jason



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