Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

Via ProPublica: “Democratic Senators Condemn Betsy DeVos’ Record on Civil Rights.”

“New Evidence Shows DeVos Is Discarding College Policies That Are Effective,” writes Kevin Carey in The New York Times. These include regulations for for-profit universities.

Via Politico: “The Education Department may soon stop publishing a weekly list of colleges and universities under investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual violence claims – a list that started with 55 schools when it was first published in 2014 and has since ballooned to nearly 240 as of this week. Candice Jackson, the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, called it a ‘list of shame’ this week at the National Association of College and University Attorneys conference in Chicago where she said it’s high on the list of things the Trump administration may soon do away with.”

Trump’s administration wants to hide colleges that have problems with sexual assault,” write Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky in The Washington Post.

“What Would the Repeal of Higher Ed’s Foundational Law Mean for Colleges?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

More on the politics (and business) of student loans in the student loans section below.

The TSA has been testing a new program for examining passengers’ carry-on luggage that included asking them to remove their books from their bags. After protest from libraries and civil liberties groups, the TSA said it would abandon the program.

Mark Zuckerberg is totally not running for President

“What Would a Mark Zuckerberg Presidential Run Mean for Education?” asks Education Week.

More on Zuckerberg (and Facebook) in the upgrades/downgrades section and in the venture philanthropy sections below.

NASA Denies That It’s Running a Child Slave Colony on Mars,” The Daily Beast reports, after InfoWars’ Alex Jones had a guest on his show explaining how kidnapped children are part of a space mission.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via the CBLDF: “Florida Governor Signs School Censorship Bill into Law.” The law will make it easier to challenge classroom materials that fail to offer a “noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues,” whatever that means.

“The Wisconsin State Assembly passed the Campus Free Speech Act in the House, which would suspend or expel University of Wisconsin students who disrupt a campus speaker they disagree with,” NPR reports.

The New York State Assembly has approved a deal to extend mayoral control of NYC schools for two years.

Via The Washington Post: “In a first, Texas Boys State votes to secede from Union.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “California’s ban on using state funds to travel to Texas highlights the dilemma facing national groups with meetings scheduled to take place there.”

Immigration and Education

Via Pacific Standard: “Supreme Court Allows Limited Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect.” It appears to exclude university students and faculty.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state Republican attorneys general sent a letter Thursday threatening to sue if the Trump administration does not ‘phase out’ the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, many of them now college students, have obtained two-year, renewable work permits and protection against deportation.”

Education in the Courts

Via NPR: “Supreme Court Rules Religious School Can Use Taxpayer Funds For Playground.” More via the NEA and via a very excited Betsy DeVos. (Via The Washington Post: “Why Betsy DeVos is cheering the Supreme Court’s church playground decision.”)

More Supreme Court rulings in the immigration section above.

Via Education Week: “K–12 and the U.S. Supreme Court: Highlights of the 2016–17 Term.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Colorado Supreme Court ordered to reconsider Douglas County school voucher case.”

Via The Washington Post: “Federal appeals court upholds ruling against D.C. on special-needs students.”

Via Politico: “The University of California-Berkeley late Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the school in which conservative student groups allege college administrators violated their free speech rights when they canceled a talk by conservative commentator Ann Coulter in April. Berkeley officials have said they canceled the original speech because of security concerns and they invited Coulter to speak at a later date.”

Via Pacific Standard: “A Second Mistrial Declared for University of Cincinnati Officer Who Killed an Unarmed Man at a Traffic Stop.”

Via Buzzfeed: “A Teacher Is Suing Breitbart And James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas For Defamation.”

Via The New York Times: “New York’s Top Court Narrows Suit Seeking More Money for Schools.”

California Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal from alumni trying to block admission of women” at Deep Springs College, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Education Week: “Mistrial declared in case involving 5 ex-El Paso educators.” The case involves educators who’d allegedly conspired to alter test scores.

The American Chemical Society has filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub, countering the article-sharing site violates the society’s copyrights.

More on for-profit higher ed’s legal battles in the for-profit higher ed section below. More on sports-related court cases (that is, sexual assault by athletes) in the sports section below.

Testing, Testing…

More on testing in the courts section above.

“Free College”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Oregon officials are planning to alter the requirements for the state’s tuition-free Promise program. The new requirements would cut off grants to wealthier families.”

The Business of Student Loans

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student advocates say Education Department’s slow processing of borrower-defense claims and blocking of ban on mandatory arbitration put defrauded borrowers in a bind.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

The for-profit vocational school chain Vatterott Education Centers has filed for receivership.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal district court judge issued an order Wednesday partially blocking enforcement of the gainful-employment rule for cosmetology schools that sued in February to halt the regulation.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Via the Community College Daily: “California governor calls for new online college.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trinity College in Connecticut places Johnny Eric Williams on leave over controversial comments about race. Faculty groups say college is undermining academic freedom.” More via Academe Blog.

“Why Can’t ‘Free Speech’ Advocates Ever Defend Adjunct Professors and People of Color?” asks David Perry in the Pacific Standard.

The Atlantic on prison education: “The Lifelong Learning of Lifelong Inmates.”

Via The Daytona Beach News-Journal: “Tax documents show [Bethune-Cookman University] losses mounting to $17.8 million.”

Via The New York Times: “A Battle Over Prayer in Schools Tests Canada’s Multiculturalism.”

Accreditation and Certification

The University of Missouri at Columbia has revoked the honorary degree it awarded Bill Cosby.

Via ProPublica: “Despite Exposés and Embarrassments, Hundreds of Judges Preside in New York Without Law Degrees.”

Via The New York Times: “A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree.”

A report from New America: “Rethinking Credential Requirements in Early Education.”

“Why Ph.D.s belong in the high school classroom” by Liana M. Silva.

The Chronicle of Higher Education on a group that wants to “disrupt” accreditation: “Backers of an Audit Model for Judging Education Quality Invite Feedback.” It would be great if, when writing about Entangled Solutions, journalists would mention its founder’s history of accreditation “problems.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Jury Convicts 3rd Former Vanderbilt U. Athlete in 2013 Gang Rape.”

From the HR Department

Google has released its latest employee diversity statistics. Spoiler alert: Google is not very diverse.

The Atlantic looks at the right of graduate students to unionize and asks whether the NLRB will reverse its decision under Trump.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges With the Highest Average Pay for Full Professors, 2015–16.”

City College of San Francisco has hired Mark Rocha as its new chancellor, a decision opposed by CCSF faculty.

Williams College president Adam Falk is stepping down from that role to become the president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Inside Higher Ed reports that Ted Mitchell, former venture capitalist and Under Secretary of Education under the Obama administration, is one of the finalists to be the next president of the American Council on Education (ACE), a higher ed lobbying organization.

More in the “meanwhile on campus” section above about academic freedom and faculty’s employment status.

The Business of Job Training

Via Edsurge: “​The Cost of Cutting in Line: Students Can Now Buy Their Way to a Job Interview.”

Via Techcrunch: “Headstart wants to better analyze candidates to fit them with the best jobs.”

Via Edsurge: “​Intel Announces $4.5M Grant Program Targeting 6 HBCUs.” The money is for “skills training.”

An article by the founder of alumni networking company Switchboard in Edsurge: “The Rise of the Rest: How Black Colleges Are Redesigning Career Support.”

(Pay attention to these job recruitment and job placement startups as they’re part of a larger narrative about disrupting higher ed, as well as HR. I think it’s probably worth paying attention too to how HBCUs are being wielded in this conversations.)


Lots of updates from the massive vendor display called ISTE:

Google issued a press release.

Edsurge writes about “​Updates, Upgrades and Overheard: What Was Unveiled at ISTE 2017.” (It’s interesting to see what it chose to highlight.)

Also via Edsurge: “Teachers at ISTE Share Their Definitions of Personalized Learning…and They’re All Different.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?” asks Peg Tyre in The New York Times Magazine.

“Could XPrize tablets replace teachers in Tanzania?” asks the BBC.

(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

Upgrades and Downgrades

The History of Teaching Machines.

Via Education Week: “‘Mass Personalization’ Drives Learning Experiment at AltSchool.”

Via The New York Times: “How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms.”

“We Regret to Inform You That Fidget Spinners Are Now Exploding,” says Gizmodo.

Technical publisher O’Reilly says it is closing its e-bookstore at shop.oreilly.com. It will continue to offer its titles through Safari Books Online, as well as through other retailers.

“What Happened to Amazon Inspire, the Tech Giant’s Education Marketplace?” asks Edsurge.

“Misinterpreting the Growth Mindset: Why We’re Doing Students a Disservice” – a guest post in Education Week’s Common Ground blog by John Hattie.

More on marketing mindsets from Edsurge: “Summer PD Feel Overwhelming? An Improviser’s Mindset Can Help You Keep Cool.”

In other teacher PD news: “These Teachers Are Learning Gun Skills To Protect Students, They Say,” says NPR.

And speaking of cognitive silliness, here’s a great headline from Edsurge: “Stop Calling College Teachers ‘Professors.’ Try ‘Cognitive Coaches,’ Says Goucher President.”

Via ProPublica: “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children.”

Via Techcrunch: “Facebook equips admins to protect and analyze their Groups.” Among the ways you can “protect” your Groups: setting filter to block people whose Facebook accounts list certain genders or people from certain locations.

More on Zuckerberg’s involvement in education in the venture philanthropy section and the politics section above below.

Y Combinator Has Gone Supernova” by Wired’s Steven Levy. (This list is probably a little out-of-date, but here are the education companies Y Combinator has invested in.)

OpenStax predicts students at its partner schools will save $8.2 million in the upcoming school year thanks to its freely available textbooks.

Edsurge writes about “When ELA Tools Can’t Adapt to Students’ Native Language.” (Pay attention to how education technology companies see ELL as a “hot new market.”)

Curriculet is back from the dead, says Edsurge, failing to disclose that it shares investors with the company.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “With the ‘Coming Battles’ Between People and Machines, Educators Are All the More Vital.” (An interview with Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng, who is on to his next gig, Deeplearning.ai.)

Via Techcrunch: “Disney experiments look to make kid-robot interactions more natural.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

Via Education Week: “Chan-Zuckerberg to Push Ambitious New Vision for Personalized Learning.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Abl has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from Rethink Education, Sinovation Ventures, Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, and First Round Capital. The scheduling software has raised $12 million total.

Mystery Science has raised $2 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Reach Capital, 500 Startups, and Learn Capital. The science lesson company has raised $2.8 million total.

Curriculum company Verso Learning has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Ken Lowe.

Outschool has raised $1.4 million from the Collaborative Fund, Sesame Workshop, Caterina Fake, FundersClub, Learn Capital, Spectrum 28, SV Angel, and Y Combinator. The startup, which offers a marketplace for homeschooled children to find online classes, has raised $1.52 million.

Learning analytics company BrightBytes has acquired Authentica Solutions.

Participate Learning has acquired Educlipper.

Certica has acquired Unbound Concepts. Certica has also acquired ItemLogic.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

“How can educators measure and predict grit in their students?” asks Education Dive.

Via Education Week: “Maryland Dad Wants June 30 to Be ‘National Student Data Deletion Day’.”From that dad, Bradley Shear’s blog post:

I am calling for all K–12 public schools and their vendors to automatically delete the following data points each and every June 30th after the school year has ended:

All student Internet browsing history

All student school work saved on platforms such as the Google G Suite

All student created emails (and all other digital communications)

All behavioral data points/saved class interactions (e.g. Class Dojo data points)

All student physical location data points (e.g. obtained via RFID tags)

All biometric data collected and tied to a student account (e.g. meal purchase information)


Via Edsurge: “​Report Finds Nearly 14M College Emails, Passwords For Sale on the Dark Web.”

The Seattle Times asks, “Did you get the letter? WSU sends warning to 1 million people after hard drive with personal info is stolen.”

Via Edsurge: “Carnegie Mellon Study Shows Edtech Startups Fall Flat on Student Privacy.”

“Dear Parents: Your Concerns About Student Privacy Are Being Exploited,” says the Center for Data Innovation, an industry think tank run by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, whose funders include Google and IBM.

Via The Guardian: “Google begins removing private medical records from search results.”

Another week, another big “ransomware” attack.

Data and “Research”

“From Mexico to China: Why the World Is Interested in the US Edtech Market,” says Edsurge.

An infographic from Pitchbook: “A second wind: VC investment in edtech is rising again.”

“The Carefully Sculpted Reality of the Meeker Trends Reportby Tom Webster. Spoiler alert: Meeker’s “trends” showcase Meeker’s VC firm’s investments.

Via Education Week: “The Market in India: Surging Demand for English-Language Schools.”

Via eCampus News: “The size of the online learning market was estimated to be over USD 165 billion in 2015 and is likely to grow by 5 percent by 2023, exceeding USD 240 billion.” Yay. Predictions. Yay. Markets.

Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Academic LMS Market Share: A view across four global regions.”

Via Chalkbeat: “First study of Indiana’s voucher program – the country’s largest – finds it hurts kids’ math skills at first, but not over time.” More from NPR, which also includes information from a voucher study in Louisiana.

The The LA Times: “1 in 5 L.A. community college students is homeless, survey finds.”

Via SchoolHouse Connection: “New Report Highlights FAFSA Challenges for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.”

More on changing US demographics from Bryan Alexander.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Spring Data Show Increase in Foreign Students.”

There’s more HR-related data in the HR section above.

Via Edsurge: “​Study Shows E-rate Improved Internet Speed for 79% of Applicants.”

“The Disrespect of the TEF” by Liz Morrish. TEF is the “Teaching Excellence Framework,” a new ratings system for UK universities.

Via Edsurge: “​Study Finds Institutions Could Generate $1M Annually With Higher Student Retention.”

“What Teens Want From Their Schools” – a survey from the right-wing think tank, the Thomas Fordham Institute.

Via Politico: “Adults see young black girls as needing less nurturing and protection than their white peers, according to a new study that may shed light on some of the reasons that black girls are disciplined at a higher rate than white girls.”

Via the Pew Research Center: “Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries.”

Also from Pew: “US Public Trust in Science and Scientists.” See also: the press release NASA had to release this week in the politics section above.

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Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

Via Pacific Standard: “Government Watchdog Will Investigate Trump Administration on Civil Rights.”

Via Bloomberg: “Campus Rape Loses Special Status in Trump’s Education Department.”

Via The Washington Post: “Education Dept. closes transgender student cases as it pushes to scale back civil rights investigations.”

Via The New York Times: “Trump Move on Job Training Brings ‘Skills Gap’ Debate to the Fore.”

More on the business of job training in its own section below.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Summer Pell Grants will be available to students beginning July 1, the Department of Education announced Monday.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday offered a first glimpse at how it is carrying out the Trump administration’s push to ease federal regulations – and asked for advice on what rules it should eliminate.” Among those regulations: FERPA. So that’ll be fun. More via The Hill and via the Department of Education’s press office.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Landmark Law on Higher Education Should Be Scrapped, DeVos Suggests.” That’s the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s Every Major Statement Trump and DeVos Have Made on Higher Ed.”

There were so many falsehoods in Trump’s rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this week, that The New York Times had a “fact-check” in almost every paragraph of its coverage, countering the claims Trump made on stage. Edsurge runs with Trump’s promise to boost rural broadband like it’s a truth anyone can count on.

Tech CEOs visited the White House to talk about “modernizing” a.k.a. “technologizing” the government. “Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges Trump To Mandate Coding In Schools,” according to Edsurge. Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt praises Trump.

Via The Washington Post: “A teacher’s decision to be ‘visibly queer’ in his photo with President Trump.” Teacher of the Year indeed.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The British government releases the results … of its new three-tiered rating system of teaching quality at universities.”

More on the politics of student loans in the student loan section below. And more on the US Department of Education activities in the campus section and HR section below.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via The LA School Report: “LAUSD approves $7.5 billion budget under cloud of declining enrollment and future cuts.”

Louisiana Becomes First State to Ban the Box,” Inside Higher Ed reports. That is, to ban the box on an application (for a job or to a public college) asking about criminal history.

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Sweeping New Fla. Law Set to Shake Up Charter School Landscape, Testing.”

Immigration and Education

Via AZ Central: “Arizona Appeals Court overturns in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’.”

Via NPR: “For Some Students, Getting An Education Means Crossing The Border.”

Via Axios: “Trump plans to scrap rule allowing foreign founders into U.S.”

Via the BBC: “Accenture and Microsoft plan digital IDs for millions of refugees.” What could possibly go wrong?

Education in the Courts

Via Nature: “One of the world’s largest science publishers, Elsevier, won a default legal judgement on 21 June against websites that provide illicit access to tens of millions of research papers and books. A New York district court awarded Elsevier US$15 million in damages for copyright infringement by Sci-Hub, the Library of Genesis (LibGen) project and related sites.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Three major textbook publishers sue the bookstore provider Follett, alleging failure to stop selling pirated versions of their books.” The publishers in question are Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson.

Via The LA Times: “Lawsuit alleges hostile environment for Jews on San Francisco State campus.”

More on the legal battles of “Dreamers” in the immigration section above.

Testing, Testing…

Via Chalkbeat: “Calculator mix-up could force some students to retake ISTEP, and Pearson is partially to blame.” ISTEP is the Indiana state standardized test.

Via The Dispatch: “Miss. Dept of Education fires testing firm after exams wrongly scored.” The testing firm in question: Pearson.

The Business of Student Loans

Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Picked A Student Loan CEO To Run The Student Loan System.” A. Wayne Johnson is the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services. Nothing to see here… Move along…

Via Buzzfeed: “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Isn’t Working, Watchdog Says.”

Via CBS: “Here come higher student loan interest rates.”

Via the AP: “The nation’s largest servicer of federal student loans has lobbied against states’ efforts to license student loan servicers in Maine and elsewhere this year as it seeks to become the nation’s single servicer of student loans under a plan backed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.” That would be Navient Corp.

Via NPR: “Federal Officials Turn To Private Law Firms To Chase Student Loan Debtors.”

Research from New America says that “allowing borrowers to refinance federal student loans finds that most of the benefits of refinancing would be seen by a small number of households with relatively high debt.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

For-profit Hickey College will close.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The as-yet unnamed online university resulting from the proposed acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue University has set discounted tuition rates for in-state students and free tuition for Purdue employees.”

Regulations regarding for-profit higher ed are too heavy-handed, according to an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed written by a member of the board of Walden University, a for-profit university.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Via The Post and Courier: “South Carolina’s online charter schools: A $350 million investment with disappointing returns.”

“Students’ Rising Expectations Pose Challenge to Online Programs,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via NJ.com: “Charter school won’t pay teachers for final 2 months, union says.” The charter school, which is closing it doors, is the Merit Preparatory Charter School, run by “personalized learning” charter chain Matchbook Learning. (Here’s a sponsored article, paid for by the Gates Foundation and published by Edsurge promoting the school and its technology.)

Via The Lens: “Charter school kept two homeless children out of class for a month because they didn’t have uniforms.” That is the Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans.

Via The 74: “Montessori Was the Original Personalized Learning. Now, 100 Years Later, Wildflower Is Reinventing the Model.” (This reminds me that I need to write something about the history of Montessori and why all sorts of companies have appropriated the brand.)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Education Dept. Closes Title IX Investigation of Liberty U.”

Via The New York Times: “A College Built for Canadian Settlers Envisions an Indigenous Future.” That’s the University of Saskatchewan.

Via The New York Times: “Dallas Schools, Long Segregated, Charge Forward on Diversity.”

“Why So Many Top Hackers Hail from Russia,” according to information security journalist Brian Krebs. Spoiler alert: computer science is required in school.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Conservative Media Outlets Turn Faculty Viewpoints Into National News.”

Via The New York Times: “The Media Brought the Alt-Right to My Campus.”

Via The New York Times: “A Campus Argument Goes Viral. Now the College Is Under Siege.” That’s Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Accreditation, Certification, and “Competencies”

Inside Higher Ed reports on the appearance of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission before a federal panel on accreditation.

Via CNN: “ The Girl Scouts are adding a cybersecurity badge.”

“The Competency-Based Education Network, a grant-funded group of 30 institutions with competency-based programs, has become a free-standing nonprofit association and is opening up its membership,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Oregon Athlete Played a Season While Under Investigation for Sexual Assault.” The athlete was Kavell Bigby-Williams, a UO men’s basketball player. “Mr. Bigby-Williams has been under investigation by the campus police of the Northern Wyoming Community College District since September 19, the newspaper said. He is accused of sexually assaulting a woman near Gillette College, where he was a student before transferring to Oregon, the Daily Emerald reported.” Fire Coach Dana Altman now.

From the HR Department

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has hired Bror Saxberg to handle its “learning engineering” efforts. Saxberg had previously been the Chief Learning Officer at Kaplan (and Edsurge, when covering the news, fails to disclose its financial ties to Kaplan).

Via Education Week: “Teachers’ Union Faces Backlash Over Publication on Personalized Learning.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Staffing Woes at the Education Department.”

More on Department of Education hires in the student loan section above.

Via NPR: “At Yale, Protests Mark A Fight To Recognize Union For Grad Students.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “AAUP Considers Paying Adjuncts in Its Leadership Posts.”

The Business of Job Training

This piece – “We Need to Rethink How We Educate Kids to Tackle the Jobs of the Future” – is a couple weeks old but I’m including it here nonetheless because of this priceless line: “The truth is, there is little taught in school that today can’t be handled with a quick Google search and an Excel spreadsheet.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “German-Style Apprenticeships Simply Can’t Be Replicated.”

Via Andy Smarick, writing for the American Enterprise Institute’s blog: “Pumping the brakes on apprenticeships.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

“Mark Zuckerberg just unveiled Facebook’s new mission statement,” says The Verge. It changes from making the world more open and connected“ to ”give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This wasn’t really what I was talking about, Zuck, when I talk about the ideology of personalization.

Via Buzzfeed: “ Violence On Facebook Live Is Worse Than You Thought.” Because, you know, Facebook’s mission is “community.”

Via Creative Commons: “Toward a Better Internet: Building Prosocial Behavior into the Commons.”

Also via Creative Commons: “Community update: Unsplash branded license and ToS changes.” Unsplash is a photo sharing website.

Via Edsurge: “How Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods Highlights the Hybrid, ‘Omnichannel’ Future of Higher Ed.” #NotTheOnion

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Media Startups Try a Lower-Cost Model: Unpaid Student Writers.”

Via The Verge: “Google Glass gets its first update in nearly three years.” Phew! Just in time for all those ISTE sessions claiming Google Glass is the future of education.

In other Google news, “Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails for Gmail Ads,” Bloomberg reports.

Stanford University’s Larry Cuban continues his analysis of behavioral management tool ClassDojo.

LMS news from Edsurge: “​University of Michigan’s Gamified LMS Opens Up to Other Institutions.”

“Stale Words and Hackneyed Ideas That Make Edtech Investors Cringe,” according to an investor in Edsurge. Among those cringeworthy ideas: the LMS.

Via Bloomberg: “Mattel’s CEO Thinks Internet-Connected Toys Are the Future.”

“New houses will have Alexa and Wi-Fi built into the walls,” according to Mashable.

Via Buzzfeed: “Bill Cosby Is Going To Educate People On How To Avoid Sexual Assault Allegations.”

Via Pando: “Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck accused of unwanted sexual advances towards female founders. Where’s the outrage?” (Among those education companies in Binary Capital’s investment portfolio: Educents.)

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via Edsurge: “Why a Robot-Filled Education Future May Not Be as Scary as You Think.” It’s also going to apparently be full of bullshit, made-up “statistics” about the future.

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

There’s HR news from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in the HR section above.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Behavioral management company Hero K12 has raised $150 million from BV Investment Partners.

Tutoring company Ruangguru has raised $7 million in Series B funding.

Lingokids has raised $4 million in seed funding from HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Big Sur Ventures, JME Venture Capital, and Sabadell Venture Capital. The vocabulary game maker has made $5.15 million total.

MyTutor has raised $3.82 million in Series A funding from Mobeus Equity Partners, Clive Cowdery, and Thomas Hoegh. The tutoring startup has raised $5.36 million total.

Wonderschool has raised $2 million in seed funding from Cross Culture Ventures, First Round, Edelweiss, FundersClub, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and SoftTech VC. According to the company description, “Wonderschool offers a platform where people can start infant and toddler programs and preschools out of their homes.”

Hugsy has raised $226,460 in seed funding from the Leapfunder European angel investor network. Hugsy makes a “smart baby blanket.” (Yes, I’m tracking on this sort of thing as part of my 2017 “Top Ed-Tech Trends.”)

Carson-Dellosa has acquired Rourke Educational Media.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Congrats to the education company Road Scholar for appearing in this Gizmodo story about how companies surreptitiously collect your data. “Before You Hit ‘Submit,’ This Company Has Already Logged Your Personal Data.”

Data and “Research”

Via investment analysis firm CB Insights: “The Ed Tech Market Map: 90+ Startups Building The Future Of Education.” The map isn’t that useful, to be honest. The list of which education technology companies have raised the most money is more so.

The History of Pearson.

Via Education Week: “Online Classes for K–12 Students: 10 Research Reports You Need to Know.”

Via IRRODL: “Khan Academy as Supplemental Instruction: A Controlled Study of a Computer-Based Mathematics Intervention.”

Via IHE blogger Joshua Kim: “The Institutional Impact of Maryville’s 1:1 iPad Program.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Last year Achieving the Dream began a $9.8-million project to use open educational resources (OER) to create degree programs at 38 community colleges. A study on early returns, which was conducted by SRI International and the rpk GROUP, found that faculty members are changing their teaching in the OER courses and that students are at least as engaged in the courses as they are in conventional ones.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “5 Cocktail-Party-Conversation Findings From the Latest Survey of College Presidents.”

Speaking of cocktail party conversations, The Hechinger Report notes that “Unlike the students they oversee, most college presidents are white and male.”

Education Next publishes an excerpt from Daniel Willingham’s new book The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.

Via Edsurge: “Low Income and Looking For a Successful School. Study Shows Choices Are Slim.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Measuring Learning Outcomes From Military Service.”

Via Education Week: “Immersive Tech, Virtual Reality Market to Soar Worldwide, New Analysis Predicts.”

Via NPR: “U.N. Says World’s Population Will Reach 9.8 Billion By 2050.” More on population changes and how this might affect higher education from Bryan Alexander.

“Published in 2008, ‘Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns’ predicted that the growth in computer-based delivery of education will accelerate swiftly until, by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet,” writes EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin, asking “Are We On Track?

(For what it’s worth, I’m tracking all these predictions about the future at predictions.contrafabulists.com.)


Via The Washington Post: “Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention.”

Gary Stager pens an obituary for Bob Tinker who passed away this week. A proponent of constructivist learning (particularly with regards to science and technology), Tinker created “probeware” and founded the Concord Consortium, among many other contributions to the field of ed-tech.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

from Hack Education http://ift.tt/2szHbt7

The History of the Pedometer (and the Problems with Learning Analytics)

These were my remarks as a guest speaker in Donna Murdoch’s class “Online Teaching and Learning – Applying Adult Learning Principles” this evening. I was asked to speak about learning analytics, but like I said in my keynote last week at NMC, ed-tech is boring. So this is a talk about pedometers.

“Know thyself” – this is an ancient maxim, of course. But it’s become not so much a philosophy of introspection or reflection but a compulsion for data collection and data analysis. We now live in a culture of quantification. (We have for a while now, no doubt.) All this is aided today, no doubt, by new computing technologies that create and collect massive amounts of personal data.

Learning analytics, in some ways, is a symptom of this data-driven culture – one that also is not new to education. Learning analytics are technologies that support and reflect the idea that we can collect and measure and analyze data about learners in order to know what they know, in order to optimize what and how they learn.

I want to invoke the guest speaker’s privilege and talk about something slightly different than what I was asked to speak about: that is, learning analytics. Now, I hope you’ll see that almost everything I say is very much related to learning analytics and to education technologies more broadly – to how we’re asked to hand over our personal data to various hardware and software companies, to our employers, to the government, to our schools under the guise of better “outcomes,” more productivity, and so on.

I want to talk a little bit about fitness trackers this evening.

“Wearables,” for what it’s worth, were featured in the 2016 Horizon Report for K–12, an annual report that predicts which education technologies are “on the horizon.” The “Quantified Self” appeared on the 2014 Horizon Report for Higher Education. In both cases, the Horizon Report predicted these technologies were four to five years from widespread adoption.

You hear these sorts of predictions all the time – that everyone is going to own or use X, Y, or Z technology in the next few years – but according to a recent study, only about 10% of Fitbit owners (and that’s of the less than 12% of US consumers own fitness trackers) are still wearing the device after a year.

Beware the marketing hype.

Like all technologies, fitness trackers have a history – one that certainly predates Fitbit or Jawbone or the Nike Fuelband.

There’s some debate about who invented the first pedometer, which remains a core functionality of most activity trackers: that is, counting how many steps one takes per day. Wikipedia lists three possible inventors: Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched the design for a gear-driven device with a pendulum arm that would swing back and forth with every walking leg motion and measure distance traveled; Abraham-Louis Perrelet, a Swiss inventor who built a self-winding watch in 1770 that wound when the wearer walked and then built another device, based on that watch, in 1777 that could measure walking distance; and Thomas Jefferson (Americans do like stories in which we feature prominently in the invention of things, don’t we), who purportedly brought the first pedometer to the US, although it’s not known if he ever improved on the design as he never filed any patents for his inventions. A website that reviews fitness devices also suggests that Jean Fernel, a French craftsman, might have invented the first pedometer in 1525 or Robert Hooke, an English scientist, might have in 1674, or Hubert Sarton, another Frenchman, might’ve in 1778. It was John Harwood, a British man, who was awarded the first patent for a pedometer in 1924. So even if we date pedometers from that patent, we’re still looking at about 100 years of history; if we credit da Vinci, we’re looking at about 500 years of pedometers.

500 years, and still less than 12% of Americans own a fitness tracker. Be a little skeptical of those who insist that technologies are changing faster than ever or that we’re adopting new technologies more quickly than ever before.

Now, it’s worth asking why so many inventors have been interested in the pedometer concept. For these men I’ve just named, at least, their interest was not in improving “fitness” per se but in measuring distance. For da Vinci, the device had military applications; he also imagined it would help improve mapping.

The promotion of the pedometer as a fitness device started in the 1960s when Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a professor at the Kyushu University of Health and Welfare, undertook some applied research into exercise and calories. Concerned about the rise in obesity in Japan and wanting to promote and reinforce daily activity as part of “good health,” Hatano began selling a device known as “Manpo-kei” – the 10,000 steps meter. Hatano had calculated that the average Japanese person walked about 3500 to 5000 steps a day. By increasing the number of steps to 10,000 (roughly 5 miles), the amount of calories burned obviously would increase as well – up to about 500 calories a day, which could translate into about 20 kilos of weight loss in a year, he claimed. 10,000 steps was, according to the marketing for the Manpo-kei, ideal.

There are plenty of reasons to question that claim. 10,000 steps is less some medically-advised threshold than it is a marketing gimmick. Hatano could have picked 7500 steps or 13,333. 10,000 steps is a nice round number, one that will take you about 100 minutes of moderate activity to accomplish – but it’s also an arbitrary number. 10,000 steps is a goal that’s based on a lot of assumptions about bodies and activity and physical ability too. Nevertheless the number – and the connection between “steps” and “fitness” – has stuck with us for 50 some-odd years now. 10,000 – that’s the goal that almost all fitness trackers set for us.

And so, we can debate whether or not measuring “steps” is the same as measuring “fitness.” But we should ask too: How well do these devices actually track “steps”? (Rather, how accurate are they in counting “steps” and converting all our physical activity into “steps”?)

Surprise, surprise. They’re far from perfect. It depends on where you wear the device – on your wrist, in your bra, in your pocket, in your purse. It depends on what kind of activity you undertake. A study published in 2013 found that these devices tended to underestimate the energy expended while standing or bicycling or jogging uphill. And it depends on the device, the brand. A recent study from Stanford found that six out of seven wristband activity monitors measured heart rate with an error rate of less than 5%. Not too bad. But none of these monitors measured energy expended – a.k.a. calories – accurately. The most accurate fitness device was off by an average of 27%. Off, in other words, by roughly one McDonald’s Cheeseburger.

These errors are pretty important if you’re making decisions about your diet based on the data you glean from your fitness tracker– like should you have a McDonald’s Cheeseburger or another glass of wine. These errors are really important if someone else is making decisions about you based on this data – like your employer deciding whether your participation in the company wellness program is adequate. Or your health insurance company deciding whether to deny you coverage based on your physical activity or lack thereof. Or your school tracking how much you exercise and what you eat and how much (and where) you sleep and giving you a grade for it.

Oral Roberts University, for example, beginning in the spring of 2016, required its incoming students to wear a Fitbit and encouraged them to log their personal data in the learning management system.

Also in 2016, the University of Michigan signed a $170 million deal with Nike. One provision of the contract allows Nike “to harvest personal data from Michigan athletes through the use of wearable technology like heart-rate monitors, GPS trackers and other devices that log myriad biological activities.”

Are these examples of “learner data”? They’re certainly examples of “student data,” right?

Whose data does the data collected by a fitness tracker belong to? What do the Terms of Service say? (You’ve read the Terms of Service, right?) What else, in addition to how many steps a wearer has taken in a day, do these devices track? What does the fitness tracker maker use this data for? Who does the fitness tracker maker share the data with? Who does the fitness tracker maker sell the data to? How long does the company retain it? Can a user request a copy of their data? Can the user delete it? These aren’t medically-approved devices, of course, but what is being collected is, no doubt, sensitive health data. Is that data safe, secure, private? Are there any legal protections regarding this data – that is, does it count as part of someone’s “medical record”?

What are the implications when we compel people – through health insurance or through employment or through the learning management system – to be monitored in this way?

The marketing tells us that this sort of tracking should be done for our own good, for our health and well-being. We should want to track and be tracked. The science? Well, the science, not so much. Indeed, one study published last year in the journal of the American Medical Association, found that those who wore fitness trackers lost less weight than those who did not.

Yes, that’s just one study. I hear a lot of people say – anecdotal data – that they like their fitness tracker because it motivates them to move. They say they like the “gamification” of exercise – earning points and badges, sharing their efforts via social media, and so on. They insist they need this extrinsic motivation as their intrinsic motivation simply isn’t enough. Not 10,000 steps worth of enough, that is.

And Americans have been tracking calories for quite some time now. Again, there’s a history here – why the calorie is the unit of measurement. Like the invention of the pedometer, there are many origin stories we could tell here – the development of the science of human nutrition in the early twentieth century. I’ll give you one name (because I’ve only mentioned men so far): Lulu Hunt Peters, an American doctor, who published the bestselling diet book Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories in 1918 and who popularized the idea that if you counted calories, you can lose weight.

500 years of pedometers. 100 years of counting calories. 50 years of connecting “steps” and “fitness.” Today’s fitness tracker isn’t new, but rather fits quite neatly into a long social and technological history. We are very accustomed to the stories about measuring these data-points for the sake of our personal health and well-being. There’s a cultural logic to the fitness tracker.

Of course, as the familiar saying (often misattributed to Einstein) goes, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Is this meaningful data? Are “steps” or “calories” meaningful units of measurement, for example? What can we truly know based on this data? Are our measurements accurate? Is our analysis, based on the data that we’ve collected, accurate? What sorts of assumptions are we making when we collect and analyze this data? Assumptions about bodies, for example. Assumptions about what to count. Assumptions and value judgments about “health”? How much is science, and how much is marketing? Whose data is this? Who owns it? Who controls it? Who gets to see it? Is this data shared or sold? Is there informed consent? Are people being compelled to surrender their data? Are people being profiled based on this data? Are decisions being made about them based on this data? Are those decisions transparent? Are they done via algorithms – predictive modeling, for example, that tries to determine some future behavior based on past signals? Who designs the algorithms? What sorts of biases do these algorithms encode? How does the collection and analysis of data shape behavior? Does it incentivize certain activities and discourage others? Who decides what behaviors constitute “good health”?

Those are questions we should consider regarding fitness trackers, sure. But they’re questions for all sorts of technologies – education and otherwise.

Please ask these questions when you hear the marketing for “learning analytics.” I’m going to re-state that previous paragraph:

Is this meaningful data? Are “test scores” or “grades” meaningful units of measurement, for example? What can we truly know based on this data? Are our measurements accurate? Is our analysis, based on the data that we’ve collected, accurate? What sorts of assumptions are we making when we collect and analyze this data? Assumptions about bodies, for example. Assumptions about what to count. Assumptions and value judgments about “learning”? How much is science, and how much is marketing? Whose data is this? Who owns it? Who controls it? Who gets to see it? Is this data shared or sold? Is there informed consent? Are people being compelled to surrender their data? Are people being profiled based on this data? Are decisions being made about them based on this data? Are those decisions transparent? Are they done via algorithms – predictive modeling, for example, that tries to determine some future behavior based on past signals? Who designs the algorithms? What sorts of biases do these algorithms encode? How does the collection and analysis of data shape behavior? Does it incentivize certain activities and discourage others? Who decides what behaviors constitute “a good student” or “a good teacher” or “a good education”?

Is learning analytics (or your fitness tracker) a way you can “know thyself”?

from Hack Education http://ift.tt/2rIePd2

Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

“To Understand Betsy DeVos’s Educational Views, View Her Education,” says The New York Times.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Task Force With Falwell Is Happening, White House Says.”

“More than 150 House and Senate Democrats sent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter Monday that objected to her department’s recently announced shift in how it chooses the contractors that service federal student loans,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Buzzfeed: “How Betsy DeVos Could Break Up The Charter School Coalition.”

Via Buzzfeed: “The Education Department Quietly Invited Anti-LGBT Groups To A Father’s Day Event.” The groups, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, both advocate for “gay conversion therapy.”

More on the reversal of Obama-era rules regulating for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below.

Via ProPublica: “Trump Administration Quietly Rolls Back Civil Rights Efforts Across Federal Government.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education last week outlined changes to civil rights investigations that advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges.”

More on lawsuits against the Department of Education relating to Title IX in the courts section below.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Signs Order to Ease Federal Restrictions on Apprenticeships.” “What’s At Stake in President Trump’s Order to Revamp Apprenticeship Programs,” according to Edsurge. More via Inside Higher Ed.

“The Department of Education appears ready to update the College Scorecard later this year,” says Inside Higher Ed.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week would create a demonstration project for competency-based education programs. The project would grant statutory and regulatory flexibility to participants, such as in the application of federal financial aid rules, while also creating new requirements aimed at accountability and transparency.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “President Trump is expected today to direct changes to American policy toward Cuba, including by stepping up enforcement of the statutory ban on travel to Cuba for tourism-related purposes and by eliminating an option for Americans to travel to the island for individual people-to-people exchanges outside the auspices of an organized group, according to senior White House officials. However, 12 other forms of travel – which would include various forms of academic travel – will continue to be permitted.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Foreign faculty and researchers traveling to Canada to work on projects at public universities and affiliated research institutions will be allowed to stay for up to 120 days without a work permit as part of a new Global Skills Strategy announced Monday by Canada’s government.”

Via The Washington Post: “ University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, said to be in a coma, released from North Korea.”

Trump Orders Government to Stop Work on Y2K Bug, 17 Years Later,” Bloomberg reports.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A pending Connecticut law will now mandate that the University of Connecticut and the state’s four other public universities publicly release data on which transfer student credits they accept and which they reject.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a higher education bill that would have capped bachelor’s degree enrollments at [**Florida’s two year] colleges**, removed the two-year institutions from the purview of the State Board of Education and renamed the state institutions ‘community colleges,’ as they were called eight years ago.”

Immigration and Education

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A second federal appeals court ruled Monday against President Trump’s travel ban, upholding an injunction imposed by a lower court.”

Trump Ditches His Promise to ‘Terminate’ DACA,” The Atlantic reports. “Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Long-Term Fate Is Unclear,” says The New York Times.

Via Reuters: “U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum on Thursday rescinding an Obama-era plan to spare some illegal immigrant parents of children who are lawful permanent residents from being deported, the department said in a statement.”

Via The Washington Post: “ICE nabs teenager hours before his senior prom, days before his graduation ceremony.”

Education in the Courts

Via The Washington Post: “The National Women’s Law Center filed suit Monday against the Education Department in an effort to force the release of information about federal enforcement of Title IX, a law that governs how schools handle campus sexual harassment and assault.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A federal district court judge last week ordered the Department of Education to rule within 90 days on an application for loan relief by a former Corinthian Colleges student. The application has been pending for more than two years.”

Via Politico: “Carl Paladino, the Buffalo school board member who was quoted making derogatory and racist comments about President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama last December, filed a civil rights complaint against the school board, which is seeking to boot him.”

Via The New York Times: “Success Academy and other charter schools won a victory in a long-running dispute with New York City when a state appeals court ruled on Thursday that the city cannot regulate a charter school’s prekindergarten programs.”

Via The New York Times: “Rolling Stone to Pay $1.65 Million to Fraternity Over Discredited Rape Story.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A state-court jury in Connecticut on Thursday sided with a fraternity whose house was closed by Wesleyan University in the fall of 2015 after the fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, resisted complying with a university mandate to admit women.”

Via The New York Times: “Penn State Student’s Dying Hours Play Out in Courtroom Video.”

“America Keeps Criminalizing Autistic Children,” David Perry writes in the Pacific Standard.

Via Ars Technica: “A federal appeals court today struck down price caps on intrastate phone calls made by prisoners. Inmates will thus have to continue paying high prices to make phone calls to family members, friends, and lawyers.”

More on legal cases regarding for-profit higher ed in the for-profit higher ed section below. More on legal cases regarding immigration in the immigration section above.

“Free College”

NPR on free college in Tennessee.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The free public college movement crept into another state Thursday when the University of Michigan rolled out a new program offering four years of free tuition in Ann Arbor for full-time in-state undergraduates with family incomes up to $65,000 per year.” (Probably worth checking out Sara Goldrick-Rab’s comments on Twitter about this one.)

Via The Times Higher Education: “British Election Restores Tuition Debate” – that is, school should be free, and young voters went for Labour in the recent elections in part over this issue.

The Business of Student Loans

There’s more on the politics of student loans in the politics section above and on various legal battles in the courts section above.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via The New York Times: “U.S. Halts New Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges.” These rules are the “gainful employment” rule and the “borrower defense to repayment.”

Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Is Halting Protections For For-Profit College Students.”

Here’s the Department of Education’s statement on the news, giving some bullshit excuse that this is “protecting students”.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two former students of an Education Management Corporation-owned for-profit college have filed suit to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit challenging borrower-defense regulations.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has given its okay to the sale of Education Management Corp to the Dream Center.

An op-ed in Inside Higher Ed from EAB’s Melanie Hoe: “What the Purdue-Kaplan Deal Means for You.”

Via Education Dive: “The Purdue-Kaplan Earthquake.”

Via Edsurge: “What Is ‘Quality’? Task Force Seeks Comment on Higher-Ed Outcomes Reporting Standards.” The task force, put together by Entangled Solutions, includes “25 members from think tanks (including education policy wonk Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute), colleges (University of Texas), coding bootcamps (Galvanize), investment banking (Tyton Partners), and accounting firms (Ernst & Young).” Fox. Henhouse. Etc. Entangled Solutions’ consultants Deborah Seymour and Michael B. Horn write about this for Inside Higher Ed: “For-Profit University 2.0.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Big HR news about Coursera in the HR section below.

Here’s the headline from Inside Higher Ed: “For-Credit MOOC: Best of Both Worlds at MIT?” But if you look closer, it’s not a MOOC; it’s just an online class at MIT.

Via Education Week: “Ohio Orders State’s Largest Cyber Charter to Repay $60M in Attendance Dispute.”

Tony Bates on a new report on the future of Athabasca University.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via The Guardian: “Open University jobs at risk in £100m ‘root and branch’ overhaul.”

Via Wired: “Schools Tap Secret Spectrum to Beam Free Internet to Students.” This is at Monticello High School in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Still in its early stages, this ambitious project relies on a little-known public resource – a slice of electromagnetic spectrum the federal government long ago set aside for schools – called the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). Some internet-access advocates say EBS is underutilized at best, and wasted at worst, because loose regulatory oversight by the FCC has allowed most of the spectrum to fall into the hands of commercial internet companies.

Via The New York Daily News: “Mom banned from Brooklyn Success Academy charter school until she says sorry to principal for saying ‘damn’ near kids.”

“Records Show Nearly a Dozen of the Biggest School Districts Lack Air Conditioning,” The 74 reports.

Via The Washington Post: “Can they unplug? A principal will pay students to forgo screen time this summer.”

Accreditation and Certification

“The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges restored Compton Community College’s accreditation last week,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The accrediting agency for the Southern United States has granted initial accreditation to Bob Jones University, another step in a years-long process by the Christian institution – which has a long history of discrimination – to try to join the higher education mainstream. Bob Jones long shunned all federal accreditation.”

More on accrediting for-profits in the accreditation section above.

“Providing some clarity on Open Badges 2.0by Doug Belshaw.

Via The Hechinger Report: “How diplomas based on skill acquisition, not credits earned, could change education.”

Also via The Hechinger Report: “The future of proficiency-based education.”

Digital Promise and Education Elements have released a “toolkit” on competency-based education.

Via Raw Story: “BUSTED: Trump Treasury pick took 4-week course on Dartmouth campus and called it a degree.”

Testing, Testing…

Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan sign on to Atlanta school cheating movie.” Ryan Coogler will direct the film, based on the Atlanta School District’s cheating scandal, and Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the screenplay.

Via The New York Times: “New York to Shorten Standardized Tests in Elementary and Middle Schools.”

Via NPR: “Advanced Placement Exam Scores In Alabama On The Rise.”

“Faulty AP exam data spells problems for California Department of Education,” says Education Dive.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cal State to End Placement Exams.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Louisville’s head basketball coach has been suspended for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season, a piece of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s punishment stemming from a prostitution scandal that has roiled the institution for two years.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Colorado chancellor suspended 10 days for not telling authorities of allegations of domestic violence by assistant coach. Athletics director, head coach ordered to each pay $100,000.”

From the HR Department

Coursera has a new CEO: Jeff Maggioncalda. As Edsurge observes, “New CEO at Coursera Comes From Financial Tech, Not Higher Ed” – he was the co-founder of Financial Engines, a retirement planning company. He places former Yale president Richard Levin.

Tracy K. Smith has been named the next US poet laureate.

Drew Faust Will Step Down as Pioneering President of Harvard,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Cory Reid, who previously ran two edtech companies – Instructure and MasteryConnect – as their chief executive, has landed a new gig at Tyton Partners,” says Edsurge, failing to disclose that it shares investors with MasteryConnect.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Six years after adjuncts at Manhattan College voted to form a union, a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board this week certified the election.”

Student workers at the University of Chicago’s library have voted to unionize.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The College of New Rochelle on Monday announced 32 layoffs, including 10 tenured faculty members.”

More on HR changes in the sports section above.

The Business of Job Training

Edsurge interviews the CEO of Guild Education as part of “thought leader” series out of ASU-GSV, but fails to disclose that these companies share investors.

Via the press release: “Amazon Announces More Than 10,000 Employee Participants in Career Choice and Expects to Reach 20,000 Participants by 2020.”

Contests and Awards

Via Chalkbeat: “New York City’s largest school charter network, Success Academy, has won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Are Virtual Schools the Future?” asks The Atlantic.

(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

Upgrades and Downgrades

“What’s Wrong With Letting Tech Run Our Schoolsby “Math Babe” Cathy O’Neil.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Facebook, an Online Learning Platform?”

Via Edsurge: “Now Any Organization Can Create Content for LinkedIn Learning.”

Stanford University’s Larry Cuban on Class Dojo.

Via Edsurge: “Kahoot Toots 50 Million Monthly Active Users – and a Timeline to Revenue.” The company has raised $16.5 million in venture capital.

A helpful guide of places to avoid from Business Insider: “Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse – here’s where they’re going.”

“The Case for Learning Platform Grade Bookby Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

Google Drive will soon back up your entire computer,” says The Verge. But only if you let it. Don’t.

“ The top 5 trends in K–12 ed tech – and where they’re headed,” according to Education Dive. Bonus points for having the gall to include on this list devices you can strap to students’ heads to monitor their “cognitive activity.”

Virtual Reality Can Teach Altruism, Empathy – and Why You Should Use Less Toilet Paper,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Yelp for Colleges? An Economist Rates Its Usefulness.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Rural America Is Stranded in the Dial-Up Age.”

“A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitinby Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.

Hey, I wonder what the blockchain is up to these days? Oh.

“After Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship from the New York Public Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, scholars were quick to lampoon the decision,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Microsoft is really scared of Chromebooks in businesses and schools,” according to The Verge.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Journals’ Retreat From Data-Sharing Mandate Puts Onus on Universities and Government.”

Teach for America but for Afghanistan.

Via Scientific American: “Revenge of the Super Lice.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

Via Edsurge: “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced it will contribute $5 million into a fund operated by Landed, a startup that helps teachers pay down payments on homes in the Redwood City, Ravenswood City, and Sequoia Union High School districts in the peninsula region.”

Landed, founded in 2015, will pay half of a teacher’s down payment for a home. A typical down payment is 20 percent, so Landed will typically cover 10 percent. Teachers do not have to pay back this loan. Rather, the company takes 25 percent of the gain or loss when the house gets sold again. (If the teacher never sells, he or she will have to repay Landed before the end of the investment term.)

Via The New York Times: “Jeff Bezos Wants Ideas for Philanthropy, So He Asked Twitter.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Top Hat has raised $7.5 million from Learners Fund. The digital clicker company has raised $49.4 million total.

Mrs. Wordsmith has raised $2.5 million from Kindred Capital, SaatchiNvest, Ropart Asset Management, and Reach Capital. It’s a digital worksheet company.

Zzish has raised $180,000 in funding from LEAF Investments. The company, which helps developers monetize education apps, has raised $4.62 million total.

Resume Clip has raised $50,000 in seed funding from Swami Shrikanthanand. The company helps students make videos to market themselves to recruiters.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

“Want Your Students to Remember You in 20 Years? Start Holding Weekly Data Conferences,” says Edsurge. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

Also via Edsurge: “From High School to Harvard, Students Urge for Clarity on Privacy Rights.”

The Calgary Board of Education has sent a notice to parents, warning them of the data breach at Edmodo. I wonder how many schools and districts that use the software have done this?

Data and “Research”

One in four Muslim bullying incidents involves a teacher, Mic reports.

Via Chalkbeat: “Pre-K boosts future incomes and reduces risk of jail, especially when schools spend more.”

“More Than Half of School Expenditures Spent on Classroom Instruction,” says the Census Bureau.

From the press release: “Only thirteen percent of educators give their school/university an ‘A’ when asked to rank their available technology’s ability to improve the learning experience for students, according to a new study from public relations and digital marketing agency, Walker Sands Communications.”

Via Edsurge: “Education Technology Tools for Adult Learners Get Mixed Results From SRI Study.”

Via Columbia University Teacher College’s press release: “Ed Tech Purchasers Prefer Independently Researched Products.”

Research published in the journal Science, as reported by Inside Higher Ed: “Adolescents who see widespread layoffs around them as they grow up are less likely to enroll in college – even if no one in their family loses a job.”

Via NPR: “How To Apply The Brain Science Of Resilience To The Classroom.”

Via Ed Week’s Market Brief: “Wave of New Ed Tech In K–12 to Usher In Classroom Redesigns, Survey Finds.”

Via Campus Technology: “IoT to Represent More Than Half of Connected Device Landscape by 2021.”

According to Education Week’s “Inside Research” blog: “For Education Interventions, a Little ‘Nudge’ Can Go a Long Way.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, students who are the least well prepared for traditional college also fare the worst in online courses. For top students, taking an online course didn’t definitively have a negative effect on a student’s grade point average. But for others – especially lower-performing students – taking online courses was associated with higher dropout rates and lower grades, both at the time the course was taken and in future semesters, when compared to students who took classes in person.”

“Study of the Week” from FdB: “Of Course Virtual K–12 Schools Don’t Work.” And I guess I missed his “Study of the Week” last week: “Study of the Week: Trade Schools Are No Panacea.”

“​OER Researchers Don’t Disaggregate Data on Diverse Students. Here’s Why They Should,” New America’s Manuela Ekowo argues.

Via NPR: “DeVos Says More Money Won’t Help Schools; Research Says Otherwise.”

“Whither Moodle?” – data about LMS adoption from Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

from Hack Education http://ift.tt/2sa1LQF

‘The Brave Little Surveillance Bear’ and Other Stories We Tell About Robots Raising Children

I delivered this talk today at the NMC Summer 2017 conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thank you very much for inviting me to your conference. I know there have been lots of murmurs about what it means that someone who’s been quite critical of the Horizon Report project would be invited to speak, let alone to get to offer the closing remarks.

So I’ll say at the outset that I’m not here to offer solutions or resolutions or absolutions. The latter’s the job of your priest, and none of these the job of your keynote speaker. I will not be assigning penance today – although as a scholar of history and culture, I do want you (all of us, really) to think about what we’ve done; to think about what we’ve said; to think about the stories we tell about the future of technology and education.

That is the purpose of the Horizon Report, of course: it’s a story about the future. It’s a story designed to share, one you can tell others; and like certain genres of storytelling, it’s one particularly well-suited for urging people to behave in certain ways. It’s one that aspires to shape the future in a certain direction. Or in the seasonally inappropriate words of John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie: You better watch out, you better not cry / you better not pout / I’m telling you why / artificial intelligence is four to five years on the horizon.

I spend a lot of time talking about what I call “the history of the future” of education technology. I’m interested in the stories we tell and the stories we have long told about the shape of things to come. (That is to say, the shape of things we believe, we hope, we imagine, we worry, and we predict will come.)

I am interested in how technology functions in those stories as a motif, a symbol, a theme, and sometimes even a protagonist in its own right. I’m interested in how technology functions in those stories as a set of imagined practices, as a reflection of a certain mindset – a mindset that, no matter the sweeping sagas, is bound to and bound by its teller’s contemporaneity. I’m interested in what we believe technology will do. I’m interested in why we believe technology will work, and in why technology is featured so prominently in stories about the future. Why and where.

I realize this is an education conference, but I’m going to shift the “where” of my focus today to stories about the future of technology that take place outside of the school and the classroom. I want to talk about the history of the future of technologies of the home. My rationale is severalfold:

First, education technology is boring; or at least its stories, repetitive. You’ve sat here through a couple of days’ worth of presentations on ed-tech, and perhaps you’re a little tired of it too. (Or perhaps I’m projecting.) To borrow from “Norman’s Law of eLearning Tool Convergence,” no matter the stories we tell about innovation, no matter the predictions we make about disruption, in time everything in ed-tech becomes indistinguishable from the learning management system. I do not want to talk about the LMS – not today, not ever to be perfectly frank; not as a portal, not as a “personalized learning environment,” not as a “next generation learning environment,” not as infrastructure, not as ideology, not as a conduit for our failed imagination.

Second, I want to talk about the future of the home because I want us to think about the history of consumer products. Although in many ways, education technology has been more closely associated with what some people call “enterprise technology” – that is, the kinds of mostly administrative software and services sold to large organizations (corporations, governments, K–12 school districts, universities) – education technology is deeply intertwined with consumer tech and trends. I’m not sure those in education technology always want to talk about this consumer framework – we like to pretend we use technology because it will “improve teaching and learning,” not because we’ve been heavily marketed certain products and certain stories about the necessity of our technology consumption. We prefer to think of ourselves as professors or pedagogues or scholars or students, not as consumers or users.

No doubt, today’s technology companies view students and schools as a largely untapped market. But that’s not new. Technology companies – particularly those hawking aspirational, education-related products – have long viewed parents in a similar way. But now “software is eating the world,” as venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wants to us all to believe. That is to say in my mind at least, Silicon Valley ideology – libertarian, individualist, consumerist, capitalist – seeks to mediate all relationships: social, professional, civic, familial.

So I want to consider the history of technologies of the home – the social and the economic history. What do we expect this technology to do? How does this technology actually function? Who does it benefit? What does it signal? Whose values, whose imagination does it reflect? Who builds it? Who buys it? Whose home is this technological imaginary that we are apt to tout?

Sidenote: Someone from the Clayton Christensen Institute recently invoked the history of household appliances in an op-ed for Edsurge, asking “Is Your Edtech Product a Refrigerator or Washing Machine?” These two appliances are meant to serve in the article as an analogy for ed-tech adoption – something about how quickly we embrace products that fit into the home as-is as compared to ones that require we restructure entire rooms and lay new pipes – “incrementalism” versus “transformation,” I suppose. “Reform” versus “revolution.” The historical timeline in the op-ed’s a bit off, historian Jonathan Rees has pointed out, noting that many of us still get by just fine without having a washing machine at home. New technology replacing and displacing and disrupting older technology is not inevitable, no matter how often those from the Clayton Christensen Institute like to tell that story.

Sidenote to the sidenote: A press release from early May pronounced that “Global Innovation Guru Clay Christensen Predicts Disruption in the Domain of Parenting.”

Pay attention to these stories. Pay attention to these storytellers. But pay critical attention. Pay attention critically. Ask better questions about why they’re inventing these histories and predicting these futures.

The third reason why I want to talk about technology and the home: I want us to think specifically about technology and labor, about sites of production and reproduction – yes in a Marxist sense – particularly the production and reproduction of knowledge and culture; and I want us to think about love and care. Affective labor. Emotional labor. Who do we imagine is doing this work? Do we value it?

My aim here is to “defamiliarize” a discussion of education technology, shifting the focus so that we can perceive it differently. As I explore with you some technologies of child-rearing (new and old), I want you to think, at every turn, about how these technologies and these practices are prescribed for the home and for the schoolhouse – or at least for some homes and some classrooms.

In January of this year, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mattel (or rather, its subsidiary Nabi) unveiled Aristotle, a “smart baby monitor” – what it claimed was the world’s first. Companies always hope they’ll be able to make headlines at CES, and Aristotle received a fair amount of attention this year. There were stories in the usual tech publications – Engadget, PC World, CNET – as well as in the mainstream and tabloid press – USA Today, ABC News, Fox News, The Daily Mail. Bloomberg heralded the device as “Baby’s First Virtual Assistant.” And here’s how Fast Company described the voice-activated speaker/monitor, which is set to launch some time next month (the release day keeps getting postponed):

Aristotle is built to live in a child’s room – and answer a child’s questions. In this most intimate of spaces, Aristotle is designed to be far more specific than the generic voice assistants of today: a nanny, friend, and tutor, equally able to soothe a newborn and aid a tween with foreign-language homework. It’s an AI to help raise your child.

Now that’s obviously a series of sentences that situates the device among its competitors today (those “generic voice assistants”), but that also serves as a very imaginative marketing of a technological future (one where a machine can “aid a tween with foreign-language homework”). It is not a list of actual technical specifications. Indeed, since CES the specifications for Aristotle have changed substantially. Mattel has cancelled its integration with Amazon Alexa, for example, which was supposed to power the speaker and facilitate the parts of “parent mode” that involved shopping for baby supplies.

Here’s how the Mattel website, where you can pre-order the device, now describes Aristotle’s features:

Aristotleâ„¢ combines multiple nursery devices into one convenient, hands-free system. It’s a smart baby monitor, multi-color LED nightlight, WiFi HD camera, Bluetooth® speaker and sound machine, all in one!

The convenient Aristotleâ„¢ App lets you keep a close eye and ear on your baby from your smart device via WiFi internet connection. Easily track and store your baby’s feeding, changing and sleeping patterns, and receive notifications to alert you of important reminders in real time. You can even find out if your little one is fussy with the cry detector!

With the App’s “Do this When” tool, you can create customized actions that respond automatically to your baby. For example, you can program Aristotleâ„¢ to respond to your baby’s cries with a personalized soothing light and sound combination.

There is a lot packed into that marketing material, not just about the specifics of the device for sale but about the cultural and commercial expectations of parenting. It’s also full of buzzwords that will be familiar to those who work in education technology: personalization, analytics, real-time notifications, convenience.

But gone from the Mattel website are the boasts made at CES about what one of its executives said was “the fundamental problem of most baby products, which is they don’t grow with you.” Aristotle was couched in much of the CES coverage as a virtual assistant that would offer, if not “lifelong learning” explicitly, then at least an AI that would learn about the child and teach her as she grew into a teen. All those promises that this $350 device would be something parents would keep in their child’s room long after the supposed need has passed for a “smart baby monitor” – they’re now nowhere to be found. What remains is some fairly boilerplate language about an Internet-connected device.

What happened? Was this a matter of promising too much about a technology? Or did the marketing actually create fear and uncertainty rather than excitement?

(Let’s be clear: these gulfs between marketing’s promises and technologies’ capabilities and consumers’ interests and desires appear regularly. Think the repeated failures of VR or AI to live up to the hype.)

To give you a flavor of what company executives, and in turn technology reporters, gushed about at CES, here’s more from Fast Company, which I apologize for quoting at length, but it’s amazing how swept up in the story about the future of high-tech parenting that the publication seemed to be:

…It’s the child-to-Aristotle connection that makes the device such an interesting entrant in the rapidly commoditized voice-assistant market. …

Key to that is Aristotle’s ability to understand young voices. “It was one of the core things we tried to resolve from the get-go,” says [one executive]. “Our audience often says words completely differently [even from one another].” To deal with that complication, Mattel partnered with PullString, a San Francisco–based company that focuses on AI conversation and speech recognition. Embedded with PullString’s platform, Aristotle will mature alongside its young listeners, constantly improving its recognition capabilities as children get older. For toddlers, Aristotle will turn its LED various colors and ask the listener to identify them; older kids can ask Aristotle factoids like, “Who was the 16th president of the United States?” or request to play a game.

All of this points at Aristotle’s greater intent: It’s built for play. Mattel is, after all, a toy company with lots of intellectual property. “Imagine what happens with Hot Wheels and Thomas the Tank Engine when you have this connected hub,” says [a Mattel executive] of Aristotle’s future ecosystem. “Do you hear sound effects? Can you have greater interactions?” Mattel imagines that even cheap, simplistic die-cast cars can be loaded with low-cost chips to connect to Aristotle. Meanwhile, the device’s camera will use object recognition to identify flash cards, or even a toy without any special electronics, essentially adding interactions to make it feel more dynamic. The company is aiming to roll out these features early next year.

I mean, I guess we’ll see about that – if any of this particular techno-fantasy ever materializes from Mattel, let alone “early next year.” We, the reader and consumer, are asked to believe a lot of bullshit in that passage: that the device works, that the AI “learns,” that quizzing children on factoids is a technological and pedagogical breakthrough, that this is the future of play.

Mattel is already selling an Internet-connected Barbie – Hello Barbie – and an Internet-connected Barbie Dreamhouse, much to the consternation of privacy and information security advocates who caution that these devices are incredibly insecure, that the microphone and the stored audio files are readily accessible to hackers. Incidentally, these two Barbie toys use the same voice-recognition technology as the Aristotle: ToyTalk, now rebranded as PullString.

Perhaps we might recognize, as we wait to see if Mattel’s or Clayton Christensen’s predictions about the future come true, that this fantasy of the robot companion or caretaker has its own, long history – stories that elicit fear as often as comfort. There’s Olympia in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s 1816 short story “The Sandman,” for example, which Sigmund Freud used as the basis for his analysis of “the uncanny” – that unsettling feeling of something strangely, frighteningly familiar. “Das unheimlich,” Freud observed, is a German word that contains in it an ambivalence: “heimlich” – meaning the home, something familiar, and also something hidden – and its reverse and its pair, “unheimlich” – the unspoken, the repressed. The robot, or rather a seemingly living automaton in “The Sandman,” veers towards “das unheimlich.” Making the familiar unfamiliar. The basis for many horror stories.

And yet at CES and elsewhere, technologists insist this is what we will want in the home. (The liberal arts matter, technologists, I promise you.)

Now, the difference between the PR at CES in January and the marketing on the Mattel website in June might be striking, but it’s not really surprising. The point of CES, after all, is not so much to showcase what technology can do but to suggest what it might be able to do. Each and every year, the event is full of promises and vaporware – prototypes that never make it into production, products that never make it onto store shelves. CES truly encapsulates what I’ve argued elsewhere: that “the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release.” One tells powerful stories about what’s “on the horizon” in order to help shape imaginations and markets. Imaginations and markets.

What stories, what forces helped shape the market for baby monitors? Baby monitors have a history, of course – a social history and a history of the technology itself. We did not “need” baby monitors until quite recently, in no small part because our current system of sleeping – adults in one room, children each in their own – did not exist before the late nineteenth century. The idea that babies should sleep alone is even newer, reinforced by the rise of the disciplines of psychology and pediatrics in the early 20th century and by the market for parenting books and child-rearing products that developed alongside the “science.”

The first baby monitor – the “Radio Nurse” – was built by Zenith Radio Corporation in 1937. Zenith’s president, Eugene F. McDonald Jr., had cobbled together his own experimental system for his yacht using what was already a popular and accessible medium of the time: radio broadcasting. Zenith engineers polished McDonald’s prototype into a two-piece set: the “Guardian Ear,” which was plugged in next to the baby’s crib, transmitted sounds; and the “Radio Nurse,” which was plugged in next to the listening caregiver, received them. Isamu Noguchi, a well-known Japanese-American sculptor, was commissioned to design the latter, something he made out of Bakelite, which according to the curator of the Henry Ford Museum, was “an impressive abstract form that managed to capture the essence of a benign, yet no-nonsense nurse.”

“The essence” of a nurse. A curved plastic box. “Das unheimlich.”

The Radio Nurse was never a commercial success; the monitor picked up all sorts of other radio broadcasts, not just those from the baby’s room. Nevertheless, the baby monitor has since become a consumer product that parents are expected to own, often justified as a medical precaution, even though there’s no evidence that these devices prevent or even reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Interestingly, infant mortality was not the inspiration for the Radio Nurse – or so the story goes. Zenith’s president felt compelled to build a monitor for his own child following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932.

The “crime of the century” and its trial were covered extensively by newsreels, and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby shaped Americans’ imagination. It prompted the passage of several laws relating to abduction. Now, I don’t want to overstate the importance of this particular crime in fostering the notion that babies need more monitoring, particularly in light of the various reform efforts made in the early twentieth century to protect children’s safety and well-being in general. But we can see in the Radio Nurse, I think, a technological intervention to that end – the embrace of a popular story that children are in danger, that they need to be surveilled when they are out of sight for their own protection; and it’s an early embrace too of a story that parenting can and should be mechanized. For the sake of “progress,” the twentieth century demanded it.

I would be remiss if I neglected to talk at an education technology conference about one of the most controversial “parenting machines” of the twentieth century: the “air crib” designed by behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, the infamous trainer of pigeons and inventor of teaching machines. First called the “baby tender” and then – and I kid you not – the “heir conditioner,” the device was meant to replace the crib, the bassinet, and the playpen. (There are echoes of this “efficiency” in Mattel’s Aristotle – “multiple nursery devices” in “one convenient, hands-free system.”)

Skinner fabricated the climate-controlled environment for his second child in 1944. Writing in Ladies Home Journal the following year, Skinner said,

When we decided to have another child, my wife and I felt that it was time to apply a little labor-saving invention and design to the problems of the nursery. We began by going over the disheartening schedule of the young mother, step by step. We asked only one question: Is this practice important for the physical and psychological health of the baby? When it was not, we marked it for elimination. Then the “gadgeteering” began.

The crib Skinner “gadgeteered” for his daughter was made of metal, larger than a typical crib, and higher off the ground – labor-saving, in part, through less bending over, Skinner argued. It had three solid walls, a roof, and a safety-glass pane at the front which could be lowered to move the baby in and out. Canvas was stretched across the bottom to create a floor, and the bedding was stored on a spool outside the crib, to be rolled in to replace soiled linen. It was soundproof and “dirt proof,” Skinner said, but its key feature was that the crib was temperature-controlled, so save the diaper, the baby was kept unclothed and unbundled. Skinner argued that clothing created unnecessary laundry and inhibited the baby’s movement and thus the baby’s exploration of her world.

As a labor-saving machine, Skinner boasted that the air crib meant it only would take “about one and one-half hours each day to feed, change, and otherwise care for the baby.” Skinner insisted that his daughter, who stayed in the crib for the first two years of her life, was not “socially starved and robbed of affection and mother love.” He wrote in Ladies Home Journal that

The compartment does not ostracize the baby. The large window is no more of a social barrier than the bars of a crib. The baby follows what is going on in the room, smiles at passers-by, plays “peek-a-boo” games, and obviously delights in company. And she is handled, talked to, and played with whenever she is changed or fed, and each afternoon during a play period, which is becoming longer as she grows older.

Much like the Radio Nurse, the air crib did not catch on, quite possibly because of that very Ladies Home Journal article. Its title – “Baby in a Box” – connected the crib to the “Skinner’s Box,” the operant conditioning chamber that Skinner had designed for his experiments on rats and pigeons, thus associating the crib with the rewards and pellets that Skinner used to modify these animals’ behavior in his laboratory. Indeed, the article described the crib’s design and the practices he and his wife developed for their infant daughter as an “experiment” – a word that Skinner probably didn’t really mean in a scientific sense but that possibly suggested to readers that this was a piece of lab equipment, not a piece of furniture suited for a baby or for the home. The article also opened with the phrase “in that brave new world which science is preparing for the housewife of the future,” and many readers would have likely been familiar with Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, thus making the connection between the air crib and Huxley’s dystopia in which reproduction and child-rearing were engineered and controlled by a techno-scientific authoritarian government. But most damning, perhaps, was the photo that accompanied the article: the Skinner baby enclosed in the crib, with her face and hands pressed up against the glass.

The article helped foster an urban legend of sorts about Deborah Skinner – that being raised in the crib had caused grave psychological trauma, that she’d gone mad, that she’d committed suicide. None of these are true. “I was not a lab rat,” she wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian in 2004. But that’s the story that gets told nonetheless. That’s the popular perception of what this particular piece of parenting technology might do: deprive the child of love and socialization.

The air crib, psychologists Ludy Benjamin and Elizabeth Nielsen-Gamman argue, was viewed at the time as a “technology of displacement” – “a device that interferes with the usual modes of contact for human beings, in this case, parent and child; that is it displaces the parent.” It’s a similar problem, those two scholars contend, to that faced by one of Skinner’s other inventions, the teaching machine – a concept he came up with in 1953 after visiting Deborah’s fourth-grade classroom. These technologies both failed to achieve widespread adoption, according to Benjamin and Nielsen-Gamman, because they were seen as subverting valuable human relationships – relationships necessary to child development.

Now arguably, the most significant (and in some circles, alarming) parenting technology of the twentieth century was neither the baby monitor nor the air crib; it was the television. Children in post-war America were increasingly left alone while their parents were at work, some feared, without adequate adult supervision. (Children being left alone, of course, wasn’t new. But white, middle-class fears about “unaccompanied minors” were heightened for a number of reasons – and no doubt connected to changing cultural expectations and socio-economic pressures regarding working mothers as well as the social construction of a category of young people – “the youth.”) Subsequently (or ostensibly) children were being “raised,” educated, entertained by television – again, a technology that people worried might serve to undermine healthy childhood development by displacing parental authority, by exposing them to “inappropriate content” and to commercials.

Some of that moral panic has extended these days to other “screens,” even though American children do still watch a phenomenol amount of television – 19 hours a week for those age 2 to 11, according to the latest figures from Nielsen – much of it “unsupervised.” But one of the promises of new screens and new parenting technologies: unlike the television, these can watch children back. Again, I give you the marketing materials from Mattel: “The convenient Aristotle App lets you keep a close eye and ear on your baby from your smart device.” You can monitor the sounds the child makes through the microphone; you can monitor the movements the child makes through the camera; you can monitor all activity – physical and digital – through the computer’s activity logs. You can monitor them wherever they go without you: in their bedroom, in their classroom.

These new parenting devices try very hard to convince us that they are not a “technology of displacement,” but rather one of enhancement. They insist they do not interfere with parental relationships but enable them and extend their reach, even in a parent’s physical absence. This is not a matter of replacing parents with machines, but rather augmenting parenting with machines. As Stirling University’s Ben Williamson describes Mattel’s Aristotle, the “smart baby monitor” purports to be “the algorithmic solution to many parents’ problems – the automated in-loco-parentis figure that possesses endless energy, requires no sleep, does the shopping, and keeps the baby entertained and educated in ways that exceed human capacity.”

This argument should be quite familiar to those of us in ed-tech. This is the story we hear and we tell about computers, about algorithmic systems like adaptive learning, predictive analytics, personalization. Enhance, not replace. It’s the story B. F. Skinner told some sixty years ago about teaching machines too. “Will machines replace teachers?” he asked. “On the contrary,” he said,

they are capital equipment to be used by teachers to save time and labor. In assigning certain mechanizable functions to machines, the teacher emerges in his proper role as an indispensable human being. He may teach more students than heretofore – this is probably inevitable if the world-wide demand for education is to be satisfied – but he will do so in fewer hours and with fewer burdensome chores.

“Chores” – an interesting word choice, one that posits the work of the classroom alongside the work of the home. It’s not really clear in this passage by Skinner what these tasks might be. What are “mechanizable functions” and what, by extension, are not? In the case of Mattel’s Aristotle, these functions seem to include not only monitoring a sleeping child, alerting a parent to her cries, but playing with the child, comforting the child, talking and singing and reading to the child.

Raising a child, this story suggests, can be mechanized. Interacting with a child can be mechanized. Caring for a child can be mechanized. That’s quite an unsettling story, I think. “Das unheimlich.” But Fast Company likes it. And perhaps if people tell us the story often enough, they’ll change the way in which we all think. Maybe they’ll change how we think about robots. Maybe they’ll change how we think about parenting.

Indeed, last week I was on stage with someone from Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank co-founded by Ray Kurzweil, who insisted that this would be our future: we will love and be loved by robots. We will be raised by robots. (She cited Mattel’s Aristotle as an example.) We will be taught by robots. We will age and we will die with robot caretakers.

But robots don’t love. Robots don’t care. They don’t now; they never will – no matter the stories futurists tell us. “I think eventually [robots will] be able to act just like they are falling in love,” Google AI expert Peter Norvig told The Daily Beast in 2013 in response to the Spike Jonze movie Her. But is being programmed to act like love the same as love?

This is a philosophical question, to be sure. But it’s a political one as well, I’d contend, and maybe a pedagogical one too. And it’s a question we must ask, particularly as companies try to extend their reach with their products and their promises of thinking machines. How might programmatic, algorithmic child-raising technologies change our notions of love, of care, of humanity? How might they already be doing precisely that?

Through their design and their implementation, through the way in which they incentivize certain activities, technologies shape and reshape our practices and our relationships. They shape our imaginations, and technologies in turn are shaped by the imaginative stories we tell and we hear, by our beliefs and our practices.

Will a robot raise your child? Sixty years ago, when B. F. Skinner was trying to convince families and schools to buy air cribs and teaching machines, the answer from parents and teachers was overwhelmingly “No.” But now?

I’m not sure we are as resistant to the language of engineering and optimization, even in our most intimate spaces and relationships. It’s not that the technology is better either. Mostly, it’s not. New technologies, and the ideologies that underpin them, have brought the language of efficiency and productivity out of the workplace and into the classroom and into the home – into the realm of reproductive labor. Everything becomes a data-point to be tracked and quantified and analyzed and adjusted as (someone deems) necessary. Everything must be made perfectly observable, even when no human is there to watch.

And so: the quantified parent. The quantified baby. The quantified child. The quantified family. The quantified bedroom. The quantified bathroom. The quantified laundry room. The quantified kitchen. Quantified feedings. Quantified diaper changes. Quantified nap times. Quantified gurgles. Quantified smiles. Quantified word use. Quantified play.

All of this will be facilitated by “smart devices” in our “smart homes” under the guise of engineering (and that is the operative word) “smart children.” New, networked systems will optimize parenting and child development algorithmically. Or so we’re told.

It seems quite likely that the ways in which a white child from an affluent two-parent family would experience these parenting and education technologies would be quite different from the way in which a brown child with a poor single mom would. (There are no people of color in any of the images I used today. This science fiction imaginary. Did you notice?) A brave new world indeed.

We’re supposed to be thrilled about this “enhancement.” Or so I gather from the marketing for parenting and education technologies. So we’re told by CES. So we’re told by the Horizon Report.

Somewhere along the way, I think, we have confused surveillance for care. This is not necessarily a recent or emergent phenomenon – we can trace it back, at the very least, to the Radio Nurse and this compulsion to monitor our babies. This confusion – surveillance for care – has profound implications for how we raise children, no doubt. It has profound implications for how we teach and learn. It has profound implications for how we trust and respect one another.

Love and care and respect for one another – I’m an idealist, yes –that must be the work of all humans. That is the work of parenting (even for non-parents). That is the work of teaching too. I truly, truly hope we never convince ourselves that this can, that this should be the work of a machine.

from Hack Education http://ift.tt/2sggoAe