Hack Education Weekly News: Election Results and More

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Election Night Results

Well thank goodness it’s over. The U.S. 2012 Elections, that is.

In addition to re-electing President Barack Obama for a second term, voters also tackled the following education-related issues:

Indiana’s incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett (R) was defeated by Glenda Ritz (D), a former “teacher of the year.” Bennett has been a rising star among ed-reformers, and he’d clashed frequently with teachers unions.

California voters passed Proposition 30 (phew) — a temporary tax increase in order to stem major mid-year cuts to education.

Proposition 32 failed in California. This ballot measure would have blocked unions from using funds deducted for payrolls for political purposes.

In Georgia, Resolution 1162 passed, permitting public charter schools to be created in the state. Ballots are still not fully counted for Washington’s 1240 initiative that would similarly permit charters there. This is the fourth time this issue has been on the state’s ballots, with voters rejecting it in the past. This year, billionaires like Bill Gates, Alice Walton and Jeff Bezos donated over $10 million to the pro-charter campaign. Their wealth seems to have swayed the voters this time — woo hoo democracy! — as the “yes” vote is narrowly ahead.

Voters in Idaho rejected 3 measures dubbed the "Luna Laws" for their connection to State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. Voters rejected a proposition that would have required students take 2 online classes to graduate and mandated they all lease laptops. They also rejected a law that would have linked teachers’ pay to standardized test scores and one that would have curbed teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

Maryland passed its version of the federal Dream Act which grants in-state tuition at public universities to undocumented immigrants who have applied for a green card, have no criminal record and whose families have paid state income tax.

Missouri voters rejected a measure that would have increased the sales tax on cigarettes to fund K–12 and higher education in the state. Missouri will continue to have the lowest cigarette taxes in the country, at only 17 cents per pack.

Florida voters defeated a proposal that would have allowed the use of state funds to go to religious schools.

Michigan voters rejected a proposal that would have amended the state’s constitution to enshrine unions’ rights to organize and collectively bargain.

No official word yet on whether or not Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will stick around for a second term, but some are reading the tea-leaves that since he and Obama are tight — the two played basketball together on Tuesday while waiting for election returns — that Duncan is likely to stay on. Politico is floating Michelle Rhee's name as a possible alternative to Duncan, but that seems unlikely (to me at least), particularly considering the role that unions played in President's re-election bid.

Laws and Politics Elsewhere

Bill C–11 took effect in Canada this week, reforming many aspects of the country’s copyright law. Among the provisions, reports Michael Geist, are the addition of education, parody, and satire as covered by “fair dealing” (good news) and the outlawing of stripping DRM from the digital content you’ve purchased (bad news).

Launches and Updates

Kudos to Udacity for making their lecture videos downloadable via YouTube under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND).

Demoed at Maker Faire Africa last week in Lagos, Nigeria was a pee-powered generator, hacked together by four teenage girls, Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola. Their device converts urine into electric power. More details via The Next Web.

Pearson unveiled Project Blue Sky this week, an OER search engine (that also happens to turn up proprietary Pearson content in its search results). Blue skies indeed. More details via Inside Higher Ed.

Blackboard released an update to its flagship LMS product Learn this week, with an emphasis on improving the user interface as well as instructor workflow. The company is also testing a new “cloud-based learning object repository” called xpLor aimed at making content-sharing easier across multiple LMSes.

CourseSmart, which provides digital course materials for college students, launched the beta version of a new analytics tool which will measure “students’ engagement with digital course materials.” The analytics will count students’ usage of the materials (how many pages read, how long spent on each page, and so on), purportedly so that faculty can identify “at risk” students and can assess how and if the materials are tied to students’ performance.

GoCast, a web-based audio-video conferencing tool, launches into beta this week. It’s been described as a “virtual Harkness Table,” which shifts the online space into one that encourages discussion and not just lecturing.

Downgrades and Closures

News broke this week that Flat World Knowledge will end access to free versions of its textbooks beginning January 2013. (My thoughts on this can be found via Inside Higher Ed.)

Macmillan announced this week that it would stop printing dictionaries. Starting next year, the Macmillan Dictionary will be online-only.

Research and Data

The Campus Computing Project released the results of its latest survey of university technology officials at EDUCAUSE this past week. Among the interesting findings: Blackboard has dipped below 50% of the LMS market for the first time (it hold 45% of the market now). And just over 50% of respondents said that they believe MOOCs offer “a viable academic model for the effective delivery of online instruction.” See Inside Higher Ed for more details on the survey results.

According to research by Pew, record numbers of Americans are graduating high school and college. One-third of those between age 25 and 29 have bachelor’s degrees. And 90% of that age group are high school graduates, a figure up from 78% in 1971.

Funding and Acquisitions

Jim Groom reports that the University of Mary Washington project Domain of One’s Own has been fully funded — awesome news as giving students their own digital domain and teaching them the skills to manage their own online identities and data is one of the most important projects in education.

The learn-to-code startup LearnStreet has raised $1 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures, reports GigaOm.

LectureTools, a startup spun out of the University of Michigan, has been acquired by the online learning platform Echo360.

The publisher Macmillan has acquired Sapling Learning, a Texas-based startup that manages (mostly science-related) online homework.

Photo credits: USB



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