Hack Education Weekly News: MOOC Clickers, MOOC Swag, and the Worst MOOC Startup Name Ever

29:365 - Bovine Pinks

MOOCs, MOOCs, MOOCs, and MOO-Clickers*

Former Zynga COO Vish Makhijami will take over that role at Udacity. Some weeks, the jokes just write themselves. This is one of those weeks...

Speaking of which, congratulations to DecydEd, which wins for the worst name for a MOOC startup… heck any education startup… that I’ve ever seen. According to Bloomberg Business Week, the MOOC platform will bring “market research to the masses.” Let’s hope that branding isn’t part of the coursework, eh?

Coursera has launched a store to sell its swag. Profits go to the Coursera Financial Aid program, which will help pay for low-income students to pursue its Signature Track.

The City of Chicago is teaming up with edX to offer a “MOOC-style course” to high school students as part of the city’s Summer of Learning. “A Taste of Python Programming,” based on the MITx class 6.00x Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, will run from July 25 to August 2.

Unveiled this week: the MOOC Research Initiative. The initiative is funded by the Gates Foundation and administered through Athabasca University. Grants will range from $10,000 – $25,000 each, with presentations of findings later this year at a conference at UT Arlington. (And Stephen Downes responds to the requirements for a CC-BY license on the research.)

iversity and Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft announced the ten winners of its MOOC Production Fellowship contest – university professors who will host MOOCs via the iversity platform. (The submission from George Veletsianos and myself was not chosen, alas).

World Wide Ed announced its plans this week to be an “online, open education platform dedicated to increasing access to learning for Canadians and other global citizens.”

NovoEd, one of the several MOOC startups spun out of Stanford, unveiled what it calls the “first team-based MOOC in Spanish”: “Evaluación de Decisiones Estratégicas” taught by Catholic University of Chile professor Patricio del Sol.

The National Writing Project is running a “Making Learning Connected” MOOC, beginning June 15. More details are here.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says that MOOCs threaten faculty IP, according to a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Edukwest’s Kirsten Winkler reports that two MOOCs offered via the Brazilian MOOC platform Verduca – Basic Physics and Probability & Statistics – will be available for credit through a partnership with the University of São Paulo.

* with apologies to Ian Bogost

Law and Politics

Judge William H. Pauley III ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated US and New York minimum wage laws by not paying interns for work done on the set of the movie Black Swan. “I hope this sends a shockwave through employers who think, ‘If I call someone an intern, I don’t have to pay them,’ Eric Glatt, one of the plaintiffs, told ProPublica.” (And a plug here for the ProPublica Kickstarter investigating internships.)

Maine picked HP as its vendor of choice for the state’s 1:1 computer program. But it doesn’t appear as though the schools agree, as the vast majority are going with Apple instead. According to figures released by the state’s DOE, “39,457 students and teachers will get Apple’s iPad tablet with an annual cost of $266 per unit, including networking, and 24,128 will get Apple’s MacBook Air with a cost of $319. Only 5,474 will use the HP ProBook 4440 laptop, equipped with Windows 7, which was the least-costly option for a laptop at $286.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry signed HB 5 this week, which lowers the number of required end-of-course exams for high school graduation from 15 to 5.

Launches and Upgrades

One of my favorite startups, Desmos, keeps getting better as its free online graphing calculator has added polar axes to its graphing “paper.” All the better for drawing… and, um, other mathematical applications, I’m sure.

Anya Kamenetz’s Edupunks’ Guide has been “mapped” to an Edupunks’ Atlas. (I think it looks more like a Periodic Table of Lifelong Learning resources than an atlas, but maybe that’s just me.)

Boston-based education accelerator program LearnLaunchX, has announced the members of its first class of participants. More details on the program and on the startups via GigaOm.

Apple held its annual developer conference this week, where unicorns and rainbows and magic abounded. A roundup of all the announcements – including OMG WHEEEE! iTextbooks for the Mac – via The Verge.

President Bill Clinton announced a project – 2 Million Better Futures – to expand the adoption of Mozilla’s Open Badges as part of his Clinton Global Initiative America meeting.

Funding and IPOs

Long-time entrepreneur, investor, and tech journalist Jason Calacanis is raising a $10 million VC fund, according to an SEC filing, that will focus "“exclusively on folks who come out of LAUNCH Festival, LAUNCH Hackathon, LAUNCH Education & Kids and LAUNCH Mobile (our four events).” (Calacanis’ second annual LAUNCH Edu event is June 26 and 27.)

Internmatch has raised $4 million Series A funding, according to Techcrunch. The company helps place college students in (duh) internships. (Here is one of the stories I’ve written about the startup).

Idaho-based Silverback Learning has raised $2.5 million, reports Venture Beat, so that “no child gets left behind.” So I guess our work here is done...

PrazAs, which makes the “iPad-based e-learning platform” Tabtor has raised $1 million in seed funding from SoundBoard Angel Fund, as well as Bangalore-based Aarin Capital Partners, Sand Hill Angels, and BITS Spark Angels.

The Canadian ed-tech startup Crowdmark, which is building an assessment tool, has raised $600,000 in seed funding through the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program, MaRS Innovation and U of T’s Connaught Fund.

Reuters reports that the textbook rental company Chegg has selected banks that could help it move towards an IPO. The company, which launched in 2007, has raised over $200 million in funding. Because there's just one thing more exciting to Wall Street than MOOCs and that's textbooks. I guess.

From the Human Resources Department

Canadian (rockstar, educator) astronaut Chris Hadfield announced his retirement this week.

Bryan Alexander, one of the most thoughtful folks in higher education I know, is launching his own education-technology consulting company: Bryan Alexander Consulting.

The School District of Philadelphia has laid off 3783 employees, about 20% of its staff. Their faces.

From the Accounts Receivable Department

“Concerned parents, who wonder why it should be assumed that their children would serve as uncompensated research subjects in a commercial R & D product development process, have drawn up a bill, payable to the people of New York State, for the creator of the stand-alone field tests, Pearson LLC.” The outstanding invoice: $37,991,452.

From the “Let’s Form a Committee” Department

The Aspen Institute announced the “Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet,” which includes a very interesting cast of characters – a cast that makes Jeb Bush’s 2016 Presidential run, based on a platform of education reform and support for the Latino community pretty clear. Bush, along with actress Rosario Dawson, are the honorary co-chairs.

Research and Data

Carnegie Mellon’s Drew Davidson, ASU’s Jim Gee, the Macarthur Foundation, and the Gates Foundation have launched Working Examples, a place where those working in ed-tech “collaborate to solve problems, share their progress (and missteps) and make exciting things happen.” The organization is hosting a WEx Kickoff Challenge to support projects in the field.

Roland Fryer’s latest experiment in extrinsic motivation seems to have had little results in attendance or academic performance, according to a story in The Guardian. “A groundbreaking experiment that bombarded US high school students with inspiring text messages was found to be a success on all counts except one: it made no difference to how the students performed in school.”

According to research from the University of Canterbury’s Christoph Bartneck and Mohamad Obaid and from Karolina Zawiesk, who works at the Industrial Research Institute for Automation in Poland, Lego figurines are looking angrier, probably because so many more figures are taken from Hollywood movies.

Timed to coincide with the major video game industry event this week E3, the Entertainment Software Association has released data about the demographics of video game players. Among the findings, “women comprise 31 percent of the video game-playing population, while boys 17 and under represent only 19 percent of game players. Women are 45 percent of the entire game playing population and 46 percent of the time are the most frequent game purchasers.”

There’s been a surge in the number of Americans graduating from college, says The New York Times. “Last year, 33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 24.7 percent in 1995, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1975, the share was 21.9 percent. The number of two-year college degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates has also risen recently.”

The Center for American Progress asks “Are Schools Getting a Big Enough Bang for Their Education Technology Buck?” The results of their research are surprising to absolutely nobody who’s read any of Larry Cuban’s work. For example, “34% of eighth graders who took the math exams in 2011 used computers to “drill on math facts.” Sadly, we’re stuck in some sort of ed-tech Groundhog Day where we keep on replicating a terrible ed-tech story. As Justin Reich notes, we’re seeing ”strikingly similar findings“ between this study and one conducted in the 1998, particularly when it comes to the digital divide. ”Fifteen years apart. Different computers. Maybe different software (though the number of students still dying from dysentery on the Oregon Trail every year continues to surprise me). Same patterns of usage. Persistent inequality. Those trying to argue that technology investments will assuredly lead to dramatic change in classroom practice and student learning in the years ahead have some explaining to do."

One of the projects that came out of the recent National Day of Civic Hacking and thanks to the work of Justin Grimes, who works with the Institute of Museum and Library Services: a map of every library and museum in the US.

For a mere $4650, you can purchase the Markets and Markets report on the market for education technology hardware and software, which it says will be worth $59.90 Billion in 2018 which totally justifies shelling out 5 grand for the report, right?

Conferences and Contests

Microsoft, which is a “Tier 1” sponsor of ISTE, is giving 10,000 educators at the upcoming conference a free Surface RT. It’s a great marketing ploy, with lots of ed-tech churnalism that parrots the PR. Less great, according to reviews at least, the Surface RT itself.

Having received submissions from more than 120 countries, Google announced its 90 Google Science Fair regional finalists. The final finalists will be announced on June 27.

The Autodidactic President, Revised

According to Wikipedia, “While young Lincoln’s formal education consisted approximately of a year’s worth of classes from several itinerant teachers, he was mostly self-educated and was an avid reader and often sought access to any new books in the village.” But it looks like the 16th president might have had a bit more schooling than the legend suggests. Illinois State University math professors Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements have found a cyphering notebook, authenticated as Abraham Lincoln’s and almost error-free, that suggest he went to school for up to two years – and that he was pretty damn good at math.

Image credits: Nomadic Lass and The Noun Project



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