Hack Education Weekly News

Education Politics

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee this week to talk about Trump’s budget proposal. “Asked About Discrimination, Betsy DeVos Said This 14 Times,” NPR reports: “Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law.” That is, she completely hedged on whether or not schools could discriminate against LGBTQ students.

Via Chalkbeat: “Betsy DeVos’s comments on discrimination drew headlines, but her stance isn’t unique among private school choice backers.”

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Thursday that he is still part of a higher education initiative for President Donald Trump,” Politico reports. “But he said the initiative is different from the group he had been tapped to lead in late January.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Will Push Apprenticeships, Using Accreditation and Student Aid.”

Via ProPublica: “Here Are the Financial Disclosures of 349 Officials Trump Has Installed Across the Government.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has appointed Adam Kissel, formerly of the Koch Foundation and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Chalkbeat: “Indianapolis businessman Al Hubbard won’t join Betsy DeVos at the U.S. Department of Education.”

“After nearly seven years on the job, New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is stepping down,” The Albuquerque Journal reports.

Via Pacific Standard: “What L.A.’s Mumps Outbreak Tells Us About Our Vaccine Policies.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Canadian province of Ontario will invest about $740,000 (one million Canadian dollars) toward developing free online textbooks, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development said this week.”

Education Aid Eludes Countries That Need It Most,” says NPR.

More on for-profit higher ed policies in the for-profit higher ed section below.

Education in the Courts

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined without comment to hear an appeal of a ruling that bars a technical college from drug testing all students.”

Via The Washington Post: “A Georgia sheriff ordered pat-down searches for every student at a public high school. Now they’re suing.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Graham Spanier, 2 Other Ex-Penn State Officials Get Jail Time in Sandusky Case.”

Testing, Testing…

Via The Wall Street Journal: “ACT Scores Go Missing in Los Angeles, Leaving About 125 Students in Limbo.”

The Business of Student Loans

Via ProPublica: “A Federal Regulator Is Probing Wells Fargo’s Mortgage Practices.” Yes, I know this is a loan for a house not for a college education. But pay attention anyway.

Edsurge plugs Entangled Solutions’ recent report on** income sharing agreements**.

More on student loans (namely, people in powerful political office with connections to the student loans industry) in the politics of education section above.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Update on Moves by ACICS-Accredited Colleges.”

“Education Dept. Gives Firm Hint at Rollback of Gainful-Employment Rule,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

The New York Times profiles the teacherless coding bootcamp Holberton.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

If you can’t create revenue, raise venture capital. That seems to be Coursera’s business model. Details on the investment in the business of ed-tech section below.

Kiron and Red Hat have joined edX.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Notre Dame to launch its first online master’s. University joins growing number of institutions opting to outsource online course development on fee-for-service basis.”

Via Education Week: “Online charter school in Ohio set to graduate 2,000 students.” The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow has been in trouble with Ohio about how it reports attendance.

Via Edsurge: “As LinkedIn’s Video Library Grows, Company Says It Has No Plans to Compete With Colleges.”

Meanwhile on Campus…

“Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It,” says Buzzfeed, winning this week with the headline “The Kids Are Alt-Right.”

Southeastern Bible College will close its doors.

Via The LA Times: “At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard.”

Via The Harvard Crimson: “Harvard Rescinds Acceptances for At Least Ten Students for Obscene Memes.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Penn State Says It Will ‘Take Control of Greek Life’ After Student’s Death.”

Via The New York Times: “Colleges Get Proactive in Addressing Depression on Campus.”

“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that it will receive a $140 million gift from an alumnus who seeks to remain anonymous,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via The New York Times: “Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “180 College and University Leaders Sign Pledge on Climate Change.”

Accreditation and Certification

Digital Badges Are Gaining Traction,” according to MIndwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

Related, via Doug Belshaw: “Some thoughts on the future of the Open Badges backpack.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A panel of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers has released guidance to its members on how to include disciplinary notations on transcripts of students who are seeking to transfer to other institutions.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “White paper explores changing the accreditation system to encourage continuous improvement and open the door to ‘alternative’ education providers.” The white paper comes from Ithaka S+R.

More on accreditation issues in the politics and in the for-profit sections above.

Go, School Sports Team!

Why did UNC cancel a class on athletic scandals, including the one at Chapel Hill?

Inside Higher Ed onVideo Games as a College Sport.”

From the HR Department

Udemy has a new CEO: “Kevin Johnson, former CEO of EBates, a marketplace for coupons and shopping discount deals.”

Boyd Bischoff, formerly an executive at Amazon, will be the new CIO for WGU.

“​Shortly Before Raising More Funding, Civitas Laid Off 10% of Its Staff,” says Edsurge.

The Business of Job Training

Via The New York Times: “With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Can Technology Help Teachers Start Tough Conversations about Race?asks Edsurge.

(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 New York Times’ Natasha Singer onThe Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools.”

Via Fortune: “Inside Odyssey: The Decline of a College Media Empire.”

Oculus Rift boasts that it’s opening an education pilot program in 90 California libraries.

Meanwhile, Oculus Rift founder and Hillary Clinton shit-poster Palmer Luckey has moved on to his next project: making surveillance technology for Donald Trump’s wall. But I’m sure the VR you’re promoting in your school is going to be lovely.

Google has launched a curriculum called “Be Internet Awesome” to encourage digital safety and citizenship. So many reasons why Google is the wrong entity to claim any sort of leadership position here, but hey.

Via Edsurge: “How U of Michigan Built Automated Essay-Scoring Software to Fill ‘Feedback Gap’ for Student Writing.”

Textbook publishers announce new measures to curb counterfeiting of physical books, including certification seals on book covers,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Can we just say that if counterfeiting textbooks is a problem it’s because they’re too damn expensive, not because students are buying “fakes”?

Sunny Lee writes on the WCET Frontiers blog on “Relaunching the EdSurge Product Index.”

Handshake today said its career-services platform is now in use at more than 350 colleges and universities, a jump from the 160 institutions that the start-up touted earlier this year,” Inside Higher Ed reports. That’s despite privacy concerns about the company.

Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “LearnZillion, Lemann Foundation Partner on Curriculum in Brazil.”

GeekDad reviews a “wellness tracker” to strap to your child.

GeekWire on an app called LAUGH that purports to help kids with mindfulness.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via Techcrunch: “Sesame Workshop and IBM team up to test a new A.I.-powered teaching method.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

Gates, Zuckerberg Philanthropies Team Up on Personalized Learning,” Education Week reports. “Two of the biggest names in technology and education philanthropy are jointly funding a $12 million initiative to support new ways of tailoring classroom instruction to individual students.” The money goes to New Profit, which will in turn dispense the funds.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Coursera has raised another $64 million in funding from GSV Asset Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lampert Foundation, Learn Capital, and New Enterprise Associates. The MOOC provider has now raised $210 million total.

The coding bootcamp Trilogy Education has raised $30 million in Series A funding from City Light Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and Rethink Education.

Apptegy has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding from Five Elms Capital. The school messaging system has raised $6.8 million total.

Snapask has raised $5 million in seed funding from Kejora, Cai Wensheng , and Welight Capital. The “personalized learning” company has raised $6.8 million total.

Literacy app BookNook has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Reach Capital, the Urban Innovation Fund, Impact Engine, and Better Ventures.

The Tennessee Book Company, a subsidiary of the Ingram Content Group, has acquired the assets of learning and analytics platform Thrivist.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via The New York Times: “The Teenage Life, Streamed Live and for Profit.”

“The Telltale Data That Can Identify College Students at Risk” – according to The New York Times at least.

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life” by Cracked Labs’ Wolfie Christl.

Data and “Research”

Stanford professor claims to have discovered something called active learning.” News at 11.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Does State Support Have ‘Weak’ Connection to Tuition? Association Begs to Differ.” Beware: think tank “research.”

The Pew Research Center is out with a report that asks “experts” about the future of the Internet of Things.

Times Higher Education writes about a pan-European survey: “Poll indicates stronger popular support across countries for job-related training than for universities.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Declines in bachelor’s degrees awarded are particularly notable for English and history, but trends at community colleges may cheer advocates for the liberal arts.”

UVA’s Daniel Willingham onAdaptive practice, personalized learning, and what will ‘obviously’ work in education.”

The wearables market is growing, according to Campus Technology.

Dubious Study by xkcd

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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The Histories of Personalized Learning

I delivered this talk today at the OEB MidSummit conference in Reykjavik, Iceland

I recognize that the theme of this conference is “shaping the future of learning” but I want to talk a little bit about the past. I want us to think about the ways in which the history of learning – how we tell that story – shapes the future of learning, and how the history of technology (education technology and otherwise) – and how we tell that story – shapes the future of technology. I want us to recognize there is a history even in the face of a fervent insistence that new, digital technologies are poised to sweep away traditional institutions and traditional practices. You know the stories: revolutions and disruptive innovations and other millennialist mythologies: the end of history, the end of work, the end of college, and so on.

You hear a lot of these sorts of proclamations when it comes to “personalized learning,” which is (increasingly) frequently invoked in direct opposition to some imagined or invented version of learning in the present or in the past. Education technologists and futurists (and pundits and politicians) like to provide these thumbnail sketches about what schooling has been like – unchanged for hundreds or thousands of years, some people (who are clearly not education historians) will try to convince you. They do so in order to make a particular point about their vision for what learning should be like. “The factory model of education” – this is the most common one – serves as a rhetorical and political foil against which reforms and technological interventions can be positioned. These sorts of sketches and catchphrases never capture the complex history of educational practices or institutions. (They’re not meant to. They’re slogans, not scholarship.) Nevertheless these imagined histories are often quite central to the premise that education technology is different and disruptive and new and, above all, necessary.

There is no readily agreed upon meaning of the phrase “personalized learning,” which probably helps its proponents wield these popularized tales about the history of education and then in turn laud it – “personalized learning,” whatever that is – as an exciting, new corrective to the ways they claim education has “traditionally” functioned (and in their estimation, of course, has failed).

“Personalized learning” can mean that students “move at their own pace” through lessons and assignments, for example, unlike those classrooms where everyone is expected to move through material together. (In an invented history of education, this has been the instructional arrangement for all of history.) Or “personalized learning” can mean that students have a say in what they learn – students determine topics they study and activities they undertake. “Personalized learning,” according to some definitions, is driven by students’ own interests and inquiry rather than by the demands or standards imposed by the instructor, the school, the state. “Personalized learning,” according to other definitions, is driven by students’ varied abilities or needs; it’s a way of navigating the requirements of school bureaucracies and requesting appropriate accommodations – “individualized education plans” and the like. Or “personalized learning” is the latest and greatest – some new endeavor that will be achieved, not through human attention or agency or through paperwork or policy but through computing technologies. That is, through monitoring and feedback, through automated assessment, and through the programmatic presentation of new or next materials to study.

“Personalized learning,” depending on how you define it, dates back to Rousseau. Or it dates back further still – to Alexander the Great’s tutor, some guy named Aristotle. It dates to the nineteenth century. Or to the twentieth century. It dates to the rise of progressive education theorists and practitioners. To John Dewey. Or to Maria Montessori. Or it dates to the rise of educational psychology. To B. F. Skinner. To Benjamin Bloom. It dates to special education-related legislation passed in the 1970s or to the laws passed the 1990s. Or it dates to computer scientist Alan Kay’s 1972 essay “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” Or it dates to the Gates Foundation’s funding grants and political advocacy in the early 2000s. Take your pick. (Take your pick. Reveal your politics.)

I want to talk to you today about the history of personalized learning – in no small part because it’s taken on such political and financial and rhetorical significance. Andrew Keen alluded to this yesterday in his remarks about the efforts of Silicon Valley’s philanthro-venture-capitalism in shaping the future of education. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, are plowing billions of dollars into “personalized learning” products and school reforms. That seems significant – particularly if we don’t understand or agree on what the phrase actually means. (That means, it seems likely, that these billionaires get to decide, not progressive educators.)

So, where did this concept of “personalized learning” originate? Who has propagated it? When? Why? How has the meaning of the phrase changed over time? That’s a lot to do in a 20 minute talk, so I’m going to offer you several histories, origins, and trajectories of “personalization” more broadly – as a cultural not just technological or pedagogical practice.

The OED dates the word “personalization” in print to the 1860s, but the definition that’s commonly used today – “The action of making something personal, or focused on or concerned with a certain individual or individuals; emphasis on or attention to individual persons or personal details” – dates to the turn of the twentieth century, to 1903 to be precise. “Individualization,” according to the OED, is much older; its first appearance in print was in 1746.

The Google Ngram Viewer, which is also based on material in print, suggests the frequency of these two terms’ usage – “individualization” and “personalization” – looks something like this:

In the late twentieth century, talk of “individualization” gave way to “personalization.” Why did our language shift? What happened circa 1995? (I wonder.)

Now, no doubt, individualism has been a core tenet of the modern era. It’s deeply enmeshed in Western history (and in American culture and identity in particular). I always find myself apologizing at some point that my talks are so deeply US-centric. But I contend you cannot analyze digital technologies and the business and politics of networks and computers without discussing how deeply embedded they are in what I’ve called the “Silicon Valley narrative” and in what others have labeled the “California ideology” – and that’s an ideology that draws heavily on radical individualism and on libertarianism.

It’s also an ideology – this “Silicon Valley narrative” – that is deeply intertwined with capitalism – contemporary capitalism, late-stage capitalism, global capitalism, venture capitalism, surveillance capitalism, whatever you prefer to call it.

Indeed, we can see “personalization” as both a product (and I mean quite literally a product) of and a response to the rise of post-war consumer capitalism. Monograms on mass-produced objects. Millions of towels and t-shirts and trucks and tchotchkes that are all identical except you can buy one with your name or your initials printed on it. “Personalization” acts as some sort of psychological balm, perhaps, to standardization.

A salve. Not a solution.

But “personalization” is not simply how we cope with our desire for individuality in an age of mass production, of course. It’s increasingly how we’re sold things. It’s how we are profiled, how we are segmented, how we are advertised to.

Here’s Wikipedia’s introduction to its entry on “personalization,” which I offer not because it’s definitive in any way but because it’s such a perfect encapsulation of how Internet culture sees itself, sees its history, tells its story, rationalizes its existence, frames its future:

Personalization, sometimes known as customization, consists of tailoring a service or product to accommodate specific individuals, sometimes tied to groups or segments of individuals. A wide variety of organizations use personalization to improve customer satisfaction, digital sales conversion, marketing results, branding, and improved website metrics, as well as for advertising.

How much of “personalized learning” as imagined and built and sold by tech companies is precisely this: metrics, marketing, conversion rates, customer satisfaction? (They just use different words, of course: “outcomes-based learning,” “learning analytics.”)

Online, “personalization” is how we – we the user and we the consumer as, let’s be clear, those are the frames – are convinced to take certain actions, buy certain products, click on certain buttons, see certain information (that is to say, learn certain things). “Personalization” is facilitated by the pervasive collection of data, which is used to profile and segment us. We enable this both by creating so much data (often unwittingly) and surrendering so much data (often voluntarily) when we use new, digital technologies. “The personal computer” and such.

(You know it’s “personal.” You get to change the background image. It’s “personalized,” just like that Coke bottle.)

The personal computer first emerged as a consumer product in the 1970s – decades after educational technologists and educational psychologists had argued that machines could “personalize” (or at the time, “individualize”) education.

Among these first teaching machines was the one built by Ohio State University psychology professor Sidney Pressey. His device, “the Automatic Teacher,” was constructed out of typewriter parts. He debuted it at the 1924 American Psychological Association meeting. A little window displayed a multiple choice question, and the student could press one of four keys to select the correct answer. The machine could be used to test a student – that is, to calculate how many right answers were chosen overall; or it could be used to “teach” – the next question would not be revealed until the student got the first one right, and a counter would keep track of how many tries it took.

The “Automatic Teacher” wasn’t Pressey’s first commercial move. In 1922 he and his wife published Introduction to the Use of Standard Tests, a “practical” and “non-technical” guide meant “as an introductory handbook in the use of tests” aimed to meet the needs of “the busy teacher, principal or superintendent.” By the mid–1920s, the two had over a dozen different proprietary standardized tests on the market, selling a couple of hundred thousand copies a year, along with some two million test blanks.

Yes, standardized testing had already become commonplace (in the American classroom at least) by the 1920s, and this practice placed a significant burden upon those teachers and clerks tasked with scoring them. Pressey argued that the automation of testing could “free the teacher from much of the present-day drudgery of paper-grading drill, and information-fixing – it should free her for real teaching of the inspirational.” No doubt, these arguments echo those made today about how ed-tech will free the teacher for more individualized attention, instruction, and remediation.

But I think Pressey’s work also serves to underscore this other tension that we find throughout the twentieth century. This isn’t simply about “labor-saving devices” or instructional or administrative efficiency. The “Automatic Teacher” was also a technology of individualization, one that Pressey and others since have insisted was necessitated by the practices and systems of standardization in schools, by the practices and systems of mass education itself.

It’s significant, I think, that early teaching machines were developed by psychologists and justified by psychology – very much a science of the twentieth century. After all, psychology – as a practice, as a system – helped to define and theorize the individual, “the self.” Self-management. Self-reflection. Self-help. Self-control.

Individualization through teaching machines is therefore a therapeutic and an ideological intervention, one that’s supposed to act as a salve in a system of mass education. And this has been the project of education technology throughout the twentieth century.

I recognize that I put “pigeons” in the title of this talk and I haven’t yet made the connection between the history of personalization and the history of pigeon training. It’s there in the history of educational psychology, in the history of behavioral modification, in the history of teaching machines. But I opted to scrap the ending I’d originally written for this talk – one that, I promise, tied it all together. Instead of the pigeons of ed-tech, I feel compelled to end with some thoughts on the politics of ed-tech.

Institutions face an enormous crisis today – one of credibility and trust, one that Chris Hayes identified in 2012 in his book Twilight of the Elites. He argued that

We now operate in a world in which we can assume neither competence nor good faith from the authorities, and the consequences of this simple, devastating realization is the defining feature of American life at the end of this low, dishonest decade. Elite failure and the distrust it has spawned is the most powerful and least understood aspect of current politics and society. It structures and constrains the very process by which we gather facts, form opinions, and execute self-governance. It connects the Iraq War and the financial crisis, the Tea Party and MoveOn, the despair of laid-off autoworkers in Detroit to the foreclosed homeowners in Las Vegas and the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans: nothing seems to work. All the smart people fucked up, and no one seems willing to take responsibility.

We can add to Haye’s list, of course, more recent events: Brexit and Donald Trump and the latter’s withdrawal last week from the Paris Climate Accord. They can’t even get the weather report right, the President of the United States of America reportedly quipped to friends over golf; why should we trust climate scientists? This “death of expertise” has profound implications, no doubt, for the future of education, scholarship, teaching and learning, democracy. And, as Andrew Keen observed yesterday, we must consider the ways in which “populism” and “personalization” as cultural and political and economic forces might actually be intertwined – how the algorithmically-driven Facebook’s News Feed, most obviously, has only served to make things worse.

A journalist recently asked the US Secretary of Education about different rates of discipline for students of color and students with disabilities, and if this was a problem her office intended to address. Addressing the racial disparities in school discipline – and addressing this as a civil rights issue – had been a major focus of the Obama Administration’s final few months. Betsy DeVos responded, “I think that every student, every individual is unique and special and we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs of each individual student.”

For DeVos – and for many, many others – “personalized learning” means just this: “we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs to each individual student.” The needs of the individual to the benefit of the individual. But to DeVos – and to many, many others – exalting the freedom of the individual here also means freedom from government control (from government control over the education system). It’s not freedom from corporations, oh no; it’s freedom from the state and more explicitly freedom from the regulations that have been put in place in the last sixty years to try to force educational institutions to be more equitable. We heard Donald Clark argue yesterday that schools need to become unsafe spaces again, but let’s recognize that schools have never been “safe spaces” for most of the people on this planet.

When Betsy Devos and others say that “we need to be really intent on focusing on the needs to each individual student,” what she doesn’t add is that all risk, in this worldview, would fall on the individual as well, of course. In a world with no institutions – unbundled and disintermediated as Silicon Valley is clearly keen to do – there are no institutional protections. With no government oversight, there is no appeal to civil rights.

So this is our challenge in the face of those calling for “personalized learning” – the Betsy DeVoses and the Mark Zuckerbergs. And it’s our challenge, not only in education technology, but in democracies more generally: can we maintain a shared responsibility for one another when institutions are dismantled and disrupted? Will we have any semblance of collective justice in a “personalized,” algorithmically-driven world?

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Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Releases Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.” For a Secretary of Education to speak on this is odd, at best. For Banana Republicans, perhaps less so. More on DeVos and climate change via The Washington Post.

“Some Hires by Betsy DeVos Are a Stark Departure From Her Reputation,” says The New York Times. Key word: “some.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is launching DeVos Watch, an initiative to hold the Department of Education “accountable.”

Via Chalkbeat: “For Betsy DeVos and her former advocacy group, the future of education means ‘personalization,’ including virtual schools.” Her “former advocacy group” – although considering she spoke there last week, I’m not sure how “former” it really is – is the American Federation for Children.

The Atlantic writes about the absence of Betsy DeVos at this year’s Education Writers Association conference.

Via The Washington Post: “Eighth-graders from N.J. refuse to be photographed with Ryan.” That’s Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not one of the more beloved American Ryans: Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Seacrest.

“U.S. Department of Education Launches New IDEA Website,” the Department of Education’s press release pronounces. The website went offline shortly after DeVos’ confirmation, causing many to panic since she seems to have little interest in her confirmation hearings in promoting educational equity and little knowledge about special education and federal law.

More on federal financial aid in the business of student loans section below.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via The Washington Post: “With state budget in crisis, many Oklahoma schools hold classes four days a week.”

Via ProPublica: “Voucher Program Helps Well-Off Vermonters Pay for Prep School at Public Expense.”

New Mexico’s Public Colleges Breathe Easier, as Governor Signs Budget Bill,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Immigration and Education

Via Politico: “Trump administration asks Supreme Court to reinstate travel ban.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of State has received emergency approval from the Office of Management and Budget to collect additional information regarding certain visa applicants’ travel and employment histories, familial connections, and social media usage in accordance with a notice it posted in the Federal Register May 4. The approval from OMB is for six months rather than the usual three years.”

Education in the Courts

“A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a transgender student’s challenge to a Wisconsin school district’s policy limiting his restroom usage – a big win for those seeking to advance transgender rights in the courts,” Buzzfeed reports.

Via the WFF: “Supreme Court Victory for the Right to Tinker in Printer Cartridge Case.” The case involved Lexmark, a major supplier to schools, which had tried to keep customers from refilling their printer cartridges.

Via Edsurge: “BrightBytes Tried to Buy Hapara. Then a Better Offer – and a Legal Complaint – Emerged.” No disclosure in the article that Edsurge shares investors with both these companies.

More on Trump’s legal efforts to reinstate his “Muslim ban” in the immigration section above.

Testing, Testing…

“At last weekend’s annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in Boston, Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg sounded an alarm about the influence of standardized tests on American society,” says Scientific American, publishing a Q&A with Sternberg about his concerns.

“Free College”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday a new tuition-free college program for low-income students in Boston. Boston Bridge would be available for 2017 high school graduates who live in the city.”

The Business of Student Loans

From the Department of Education’s press release: “The U.S. Department of Education today announced the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is now available for borrowers applying for an income-driven repayment plan. New encryption protections have been added to the Data Retrieval Tool to further protect taxpayer information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will return Oct. 1, 2017, on the online 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.”

Via Edsurge: “A Basic Glossary to Income Share Agreements, a New Approach to Student Finance.” The op-ed is penned by someone from Vemo Education, who sells this “solution” to students. No disclosure, no surprise, that Edsurge shares investors with this company.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

For-profit tactics might be coming to public universities, and no one is talking about it,” says Salon, which is funny because I’ve been tracking on the “new” for-profit higher ed for years now, and my friend Tressie McMillan Cottom literally wrote the book on this. But hey.

Bethune-Cookman Had a Reason to Invite Betsy DeVos to Give That Calamitous Commencement Speech,” The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani reports, suggesting that the HBCU wants to stay in the administration’s good graces because of its affiliation with for-profit law schools that are on probation.

Via The Washington Post: “A coding school where college grads train and work without spending a dime.” No dime spent perhaps, but Revature takes a percentage of graduates’ pay.

The coding bootcamp Andela is expanding into Uganda, Techcrunch reports.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Here’s a link to all the stories in Slate’s series on online credit recovery programs.

“After the Hype, Do MOOC Ventures Like edX Still Matter?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education, with a question that’s probably better suited for the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section below.

Via The Next Web: “Facebook is letting Groups create online learning courses – what could possibly go wrong?”

Meanwhile on Campus…

Hillary Clinton gave the commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley, and everyone’s got a goddamn opinion on this, don’t they.

“A Princeton professor who recently criticized Trump in a commencement speech cancels planned public speaking events, saying she’s received death threats for her comments,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Funny how all those “free speech advocates” who wring their hands and claim that liberal students on college campuses are a danger to the First Amendment have little to say in support of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Why, it’s almost like “free speech” isn’t what many of these folks are interested in at all.

Via Buzzfeed: “Puerto Rico’s Universities Are Facing An Unprecedented Crisis.”

UC reverses policy, won’t pick up tab for regents’ parties,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports. However will they cope.

Via The Seattle Times: “Evergreen State College closes after caller claims to be armed, en route to campus.”

“When UConn broke up with Adobe: A parable of artists and copyright” by Tom Scheinfeldt.

Via the BBC: “Edinburgh University blames a system error for ‘failed degree’ emails.”

Politico profiles charter school chain founder Eva Moskowitz.

Accreditation and Certification

Inside Higher Ed writes about accreditation and the “Fine Print and Tough Questions for the Purdue-Kaplan Deal.”

From the HR Department

Carmen Twillie Ambar has been named the new president of Oberlin College.

Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Troubled cops land jobs in Georgia schools.”

Southern New Hampshire University “lays off dozens of remote, part-time staffers (with plans to hire full-timers) as part of a reorganization process ahead of projected enrollment growth for its competency-based division,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Adjuncts at Northwestern University have voted to unionize.

The Business of Job Training

Via Techcrunch: “Walmart is bringing VR instruction to all of its U.S. training centers.”

Contests and Awards

NPR on the Scripps National Spelling Bee: “For First Time In 4 Years, Solo Speller Claims National Bee Crown.” Congratulations, Ananya Vinay.

(Related, via WaPo: “The National Spelling Bee’s new normal: $200-an-hour teen spelling coaches.”)

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Via eSchoolNews: “Is VR education an answer to the U.S. inmate problem?” (This reminds me of this wretched “thought experiment” posted in 2015: “How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix The Prison System.” The answer in this case is not simply “no” à la Betteridge. It’s “no” and “fuck no” and “fuck you.”)

(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

Via CNBC: “This start-up is offering $8,000 blood transfusions from teens to people who want to fight aging.” The startup is called Ambrosia, and it sounds a lot like a Peter Thiel fantasy.

Via The New York Times: “The Rise and Fall of Yik Yak, the Anonymous Messaging App.”

“As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating,” according to The New York Times.

“The Turing Tumble lets you and your kids build real mechanical computers,” says Techcrunch.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Months after deleting controversial lists of “predatory” journals and publishers, the librarian behind them still faces anonymous harassment online.” The librarian in question is Jeffrey Beall. (Incidentally, I saw lots of harassment online this week from these predatory journal folks, but as Bill Fitzgerald notes, Twitter still does little to address abuse on its platform.)

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via Venture Beat: “The AI Buddy Project is building an assistant to support kids of military families.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Yuanfandao has raised $120 million from Warburg Pincus and Tencent. The tutoring company has raised $244.2 million total.

Epic! has raised $8 million in Series C funding from Reach Capital, Innovation Endeavors, Menlo Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Social Starts, Translink Capital, and WI Harper Group. The e-book subscription service has raised $21.45 million total. (There’s actually a disclosure on Edsurge’s reporting of the investment that it shares an investor with Epic!)

Yogome has raised $6.6 million in Series A funding from Seaya Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, and VARIV Capital. The educational game maker has raised $9.63 million total.

KidPass has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding from Javelin Venture Partners, Bionic Fund, Cocoon Ignite Ventures, CoVenture, FJ Labs, TIA Ventures, and Y Combinator. The subscription services for kids’ activities has raised $6.3 million total.

Genext Students has raised $580,000 in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. The tutoring company has raised $780,000 total.

Civitas Learning has received an undisclosed amount of investment from the Lumina Foundation and Valhalla Charitable Foundation. The predictive analytics company has previously raised $63.95 million.

Viridis Learning has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Salesforce Ventures. The job placement company has previously disclosed investments totalling $3.2 million.

Pinboard acquires Delicious. Do read the announcement.

Not really ed-tech, but keep an eye on how Silicon Valley wraps itself in the language of “democracy” while taking steps to undermine its very systems. Via Techcrunch: “Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in Change.org.”

I’ve updated my calculations on the amount of venture capital funding in the ed-tech industry for the month of May. (Note: I published this before the news about the $120 million invested in Yuanfandao, and I haven’t had a chance to update that report yet.)

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via the AP: “The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has released a study showing more than a dozen school districts can monitor how students use borrowed laptops and other electronic devices.”

Mashable reports completely uncritically on “How a university campus is using facial recognition to keep its dorms safe.” The university in question: Beijing Normal University.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is encouraging its 237 member institutions to equip its campus police departments with body-worn cameras – or at least test the technology.”

Data and “Research”

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker released her “Internet Trends” report, giving tech publications an opportunity to decide if they’ll embed all the slides on one post or force folks to click through multiple pages – yay! pageviews! advertising! – to see what she has to say. As Inc notes, the report has ballooned to 355 slides, up from 66 in 2011. “Software is eating the world” or “venture capitalists have no fucking clue” – you decide.

“From digital commons to the data-fied urge: Theorising evolving trends in the intersections of digital culture and open educationby Giota Alevizou.

Via The New York Times: “Free Play or Flashcards? New Study Nods to More Rigorous Preschools.”

Via Education Week: “Federal Data Give the Clearest Look Yet at America’s Homeless Students.”

The New York Times (op-ed page) on the “2017 College Access Index.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Lots of people are excited about career and technical education. But new international research points to a potential downside.”

Via The Bookseller: “Children’s love of reading at all-time high, research shows.” The research comes from the National Literacy Trust’s (NLT) Young Readers Programme, which found that 77.6% of primary school students it surveyed say they enjoy reading.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Most former college students say they would change either their major, college attended or credential pursued if they could do it all over again, survey finds.” The survey comes from Gallup and Strada Education Network (formerly USA Funds).

Via Edsurge: “Where Do US Teacher Salaries Really Go the Furthest?”

UVA’s Daniel Willingham responds to recent claims that valedictorians aren’t “disruptors.”

Cincinnati.com on a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting: “As rates of suicidal youth increase, doctors look at influence of school, internet.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “Government data single out schools where low-income students fare worst.”

The Wall Street Journal offers analysis of the socioeconomic well-being of Americans in rural areas, and it’s not a rosy picture: “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’.”

Edsurge describes “How Edtech Companies Blur the Lines Between Commercial and Research Data.” Me, I’m really looking forward to Edsurge’s new "research project testing the idea of an online diagnostic tool"!

If you thought “digital natives” was one of the worst phrases ever to strike ed-tech, I give you the word “phigital.”


Sister Joel Read, the former president of Alverno College, passed away at the age of 91. “While president, she pioneered a program in which the curriculum was organized around abilities students needed for various degrees, and assessment programs were created for those abilities and the broader impact of the Alverno education,” Inside Higher Ed notes. “The assessment efforts at Alverno were adopted many years before such practices became common – and influenced many other colleges.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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