Hack Education Weekly News
16 February 2018 | 12:40 pm

Each week, I gather a wide variety of links to education and education technology articles. All this feeds the review I write each December on the stories we are told about the future of education.

(National) Education Politics


I’m sorta loathe to give a lot of attention to Trump’s budget proposal. What the President proposes and what Congress approves always looks very different. But I’ll dutifully link to some of the headlines from the week. That’s what I do here. Via Chalkbeat: “Trump’s proposed education budget: more for school choice, less for teacher training.” Via The Atlantic: “Does Trump’s Education Budget Even Matter?” Here’s the Department of Education Press Office fanfare.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s What the $400-Billion Federal Spending Deal Means for Higher Ed.”

Hooray. “Learning styles” in the White House:

Via Buzzfeed: “The Education Department Officially Says It Will Reject Transgender Student Bathroom Complaints.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Betsy DeVos made a covert visit to Indianapolis last week. Here’s why.” Spoiler alert: she was making a TV special and probably didn’t want to have jeering crowds in the background.

Via The New York Times: “In Her Words: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Assesses a Year on the Job.”

From CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington): “FOIA Request – U.S. Department of Education – Office of Government EthicsDeVos.” Has she divested and/or disclosed all her financial interests?

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Bill Would Hold College Presidents Accountable for Sexual Abuse by Employees.”

There’s more on Department of Education efforts to help the for-profit higher ed industry in the for-profit higher ed section below. And there are several stories related to immigration and education in the immigration and education section below.

(State and Local) Education Politics


Via The New York Times: “Months of Searching Still Hasn’t Found New Schools Chancellor.” That’d be the replace for Carmen Fariña, who’s leaving her position as the chancellor for the New York City schools.

Via E-Literate: “Hawai’i Senate Bill: Would mandate OER material for all U Hawai’i system courses.” And later in the week, an update: “Hawai’i Senate OER Bill Update: Amended language saves the day.”

Via the Tennessean: “One of Nashville’s Achievement School District schools to close months after opening.”

The Texas Monthly on the future of the Texas Republican Party (with implications for education policy).

Via ELearning Inside: “An Emirati City Is Giving Tablets to Every K–2 Learner As Part of its Lughati Initiative.”

Immigration and Education


Via the AP: “Appeals court declares Trump travel ban unconstitutional.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Second Judge Orders DACA to Continue.”

Via The Intercept: “From School Suspension to Immigration Detention.” The school-to-deportation pipeline.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “FBI director Christopher Wray tells Senate panel that American academe is naïve about the intelligence risks posed by Chinese students and scholars. Some worry his testimony risks tarring a big group of students as a security threat.”

There’s some research related to immigration in the research section below.

Education in the Courts


Via Mother Jones: “A Federal Appeals Court Just Dealt a Blow to School Segregation.” That is, “A majority-white Alabama town can’t split from its majority-black county school district.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “As** U. of Washington** Braces for Right-Wing Rally, Judge Bars It From Charging Security Fee.”

Via Cleveland.com: “ECOT goes to Ohio Supreme Court with $80 million, its survival and state’s control of charter schools on the line.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “$1.5 Million to Get Into an Ivy.” “Lawsuit reveals just how much a college consulting service will charge for its services.”

More legal action in the immigration in the section above.

“Free College”


Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bard College opens its second ‘microcollege’ in Brooklyn Public Library. The free program, which selects ambitious applicants from underprivileged backgrounds, culminates in an associate’s degree.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Portland State University announced a plan to offer free tuition to prospective transfer students from low-income backgrounds starting this fall.”

The Business of Financial Aid


Via Marketwatch: “One company will now handle close to half of all student-loan payments.” That’s Nelnet, which recently merged with Great Lakes Educational Loan Services.

“What if the United States decided to cancel all student debt?” asks Bryan Alexander.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


Via Inside Higher Ed: “After Borrower Defense Negotiation Fails, Department to Craft New Rule.”

From Bloomberg: “Silicon Valley’s Singularity University Has Some Serious Reality Problems.” There’s more on Singularity University, which announced it has raised over $30 million in venture capital, in the venture capital section below.

There’s more research on how students at for-profits fare (spoiler alert: not well) in the research section below.

Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


Via NPR: “Inside The Virtual Schools Lobby: ‘I Trust Parents’.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance.”

Via The New York Times: “Berklee College Expands Online, to Graduate Degrees.”

There’s more news about virtual schools in the courts section above and in the HR section below.

Meanwhile on Campus…


Via Education Week: “17 Dead After Expelled Student Opens Fire at Fla. High School.”

“Another School Shooting – But Who’s Counting?” asks The Atlantic.

“No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong,” says The Washington Post. I’m not so sure we should dismiss Everytown’s calculations quite so quickly. I think we should count suicides as school shootings. I think we should recognize that schools are situated within neighborhoods, and when there is violence in the neighborhood, it affects the school, the students.

Related, via Wired: “Pro-Gun Russian Bots Flood Twitter After Parkland Shooting.”

Via The 74: “Schools in Texas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma & Tennessee Mourn Educators Who Have Died Due to the Flu.”

There are many departments at many universities where the ethics of technology is not just an add-on to an existing program. (There are, of course, many departments at many universities where it is.) But The New York Times wants you to know that Harvard and Stanford “are hustling to bring a more medicine-like morality to computer science.”

Via The Portland Press Herald: “Head of UMaine System has financial stake in firm seeking multimillion-dollar contract for Orono campus.”

Via the Lansing State Journal: “MSU Faculty Senate votes no confidence in Board of Trustees.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Southern New Hampshire U. Apologizes for Professor Who Said Australia Is ‘Not a Country’.”

Inside Higher Ed on “The Complications of Free Speech” at Stanford.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How One Campus Is Dealing With Its Ties to a 20th-Century White Supremacist.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Princeton Professor Cancels Course After His Use of a Racial Slur Angered Students.”

Via the Sacramento Bee: “High school science fair project questioning African American intelligence sparks outrage.”

Via The Outline: “How historically black colleges transformed America.”

“What’s So Different About High Tech High Anyway?” asks KQED’s Mindshift.

Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


The 74 interviewed Sal Khan on personalized learning and his goal to create a “global diploma,” which he says his company can “uniquely” do. Which is… um… a bold claim.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The American Bar Association panel that accredits law schools has proposed loosening its restrictions on online education.”

Testing


ACT/SAT for all: A cheap, effective way to narrow income gaps in college,” writes Susan Dynarski in a Brookings report.

Memos from HR


Harvard has a new president, Lawrence Bacow: “Another ‘White Male Economist Named Larry’,” as The Chronicle of Higher Education put it.

Via The Miami Herald: “This teacher married her girlfriend. Then she was fired by a Miami Catholic school.” (The school, incidentally, is a participant in Florida’s voucher program, where tax dollars are used to send students to private schools – a program that Betsy DeVos and others have touted.)

K12 Inc’s CEO Stuart Udell has resigned.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a blow to the graduate student union movement on private campuses, three would-be unions withdraw their petitions from the National Labor Relations Board, saying they’ll instead return to seeking voluntary recognition.” That is, would-be-unions at Yale, Boston College, and the University of Chicago.

Erin Bartram on leaving higher ed.

The Business of Job Training


Via Techcrunch: “WeWork Labs, startup-focused co-working space, relaunches.”

Via Techcrunch: “Lyft partners with Black Girls Code to help develop a more diverse tech industry.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


Will Augmented and Virtual Reality Replace Textbooks?asks The Center for Digital Education.

(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


Facebook Funded Most of the Experts Who Vetted Messenger Kids,” Wired’s Nitasha Tiku reports.

From the press release: “ISTE Launches New Professional Learning Partnership with Code.org; Announces Plans to Update Standards for Computer Science Educators.”

The Verge profiles Digital Ally, a company that makes police body cameras and soon, a new “conducted electrical weapon.” I’m including this news here not just because TASER holds the monopoly on the market for these weapons. But because the head of Code.org sits on the board of directors of the company that makes TASER, Axon. And perhaps folks should think about who they want to have directing their efforts for “everyone to learn to code” and if we want weapons manufacturers to be leading that charge.

Via Fast Company: “How Software Is Taking On School Shootings.”

I like to track on “baby tech” because I think it underscores how much of Silicon Valley is building a future for the wealthy. Like this example, from Techcrunch: “Cybex starts selling its $330, app-enabled car seat made for safety geeks.”

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Why Startups Fail: Lessons for Education Companies.”

Via Education Week: “Virtual Reality for Learning Raises High Hopes and Serious Concerns.”

Uber wants to be public transportation, and I have some serious concerns,” writes Andrew Hawkins in The Verge. Okay. It’s not ed-tech. Except for the part in which ed-tech might be redefining public education too.

Via Gizmodo: “Tech History Group Dedicated to Preserving Information Busted Deleting Apology Tweets [Updated].” Related: Safiya Umoja Noble’s new book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism is out soon, and it seems like a “must read” for teachers, particularly those who tout their special “Google Certified Educator” badges.

There are always a bunch of stories each week on how one school or one district is implementing “personalized learning” in some one-off way. It’s never clear to me why these are “a story” – except for the part in which publications funded by the Gates Foundation and CZI are being subsidized to write these articles, I guess.

“Higher Education Joins the Blockchain Party,” says Edsurge. No mention of how any of this connects to alt-right politics, but hey. It’s Silicon Valley. What do you expect.

Via Techcrunch: “Need a post on Harvard.edu about your ICO? $500, please.”

It’s boom times for the “regret industry.” This week, Rick Hess posted on his Ed Week blog “A Confession and a Question on Personalized Learning” from Amplify CEO Larry Berger.

Two articles by Maya Ganesh in Cyborgology on the newly announced Center for Humane Technology: “The Center for Humane Technology Doesn't Want Your Attention” and “The Center Does Not Want Your Attention II. On Time Well Spent and Ethics.”

“Thoughts about Technology Then and Now” from Larry Cuban, who has a new book on education technology coming out soon.

Via Kotaku: “Sex, Pong, And Pioneers: What Atari Was Really Like, According To Women Who Were There.”

Robots and Other Education Science Fiction


Teaching assistant robots will reinvent academia,” Times Higher Education claims. Fortunately, I hit the paywall so I couldn’t hate-read this

AI Will Give Rise to ’Superhuman Workers,’ Says Google X Co-Founder,” writes Futurism.com. (That’s Sebastian Thrun with yet another prediction about the future.)

“How Russian Bots Spread Fear at University in the U.S.” – Inside Higher Ed covers a new journal article that explores how Russian bots were used to spread misinformation about BLM protests at the University of Missouri. (There is another bot story in the campus section above about Russian bots and the school shooting this week in Florida.)

Via Techcrunch: “Sony now has a Koov robotics learning kit for US classrooms.” It’s $520. Because the future of robots and ed-tech is a future for affluent classrooms.

Via Fast Company: “How Misty Plans To Build The Most Personable, Programmable Robot Ever.”

“The Ghost(writer) Busters: Can machine learning help in the fight against contract cheating?” asks Claire Hardaker, in an article on Turnitin’s claims that it can identify when students have submitted work that isn’t their own.

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Education Reform


It’s “Annual Letter” time for the Gates Foundation, which means lots of press about the organization’s philanthropic efforts. Via The New York Times: “Bill and Melinda Gates Tackle ‘Tough Questions’ and Trump.” Via Chalkbeat: “To fight poverty in U.S., Bill and Melinda Gates say they may move beyond education.” Via The Washington Post: “Bill, Melinda Gates turn attention toward poverty in America.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Education


Varsity Tutors has raised $50 million in Series C funding from Learn Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and TCV. The tutoring company has raised $107 million total.

Bullshit peddlers Singularity University has raised $32 million in funding from Silicon Valley Bank, PeopleFund, TAL Education Group, WestRiver Capital, and Boeing Ventures. It’s not the first round of venture funding, but the company has never previously disclosed how much it’s raised.

Kuali has raised $10 million from Owl Ventures. Once upon a time, the LMS maker was a non-profit.

CollegeDekho has raised $2 million from Man Capital. The college marketing company has raised $5 million total.

Kaleidoscope Group has raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Gopher Angels, Yonoventures, and gener8tor. The “scholarship platform” company has raised $1.7 million total.

Emmersion Learning has raised $600,000 from Zylun Global and Access to Education.

TurnItIn has acquired Vericite.

Microsoft has acquired Chalkup. Or acqui-hired some of the team at least.

More news on Educause’s acquisition of NMC assets. From Bryan Alexander: “Updates on the New Media Consortium bankruptcy: a purchase, an intervention, and possibilities.” More from Edsurge.

I didn’t catch this news last year, but I’ll make note of it here so I can update my list of education spinoffs: Misty spun out of the robotics company Sphero. (And there’s a story on Misty in the robots section above.)

An education IPO! ReadCloud has gone public on the Australian stock exchange.

Data, Surveillance, and Information Security


“This smartwatch for kids is adorable but probably not a great idea,” says The Verge.

More “kid tech,” this time from MIT Technology Review: “A phone that says ‘no’ to little kid fingers.”

Via The New York Times: “Facial Recognition Is Accurate, if You’re a White Guy.”

Research, “Research,” and Reports


A new report from Brookings: “Gainfully employed? New evidence on the earnings, employment, and debt of for-profit certificate students.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Study finds DACA encourages undocumented kids to stay in school, as Congress ponders their future.”

Via NPR: “The Gap Between The Science On Kids And Reading, And How It Is Taught.”

Via Motherboard: “‘Minecraft’ Data Mining Reveals Players’ Darkest Secrets.”

“Californians Gain Confidence in (Misinformed) Understanding of Charter Schools,” according to the results from the latest PACE/USC Rossier poll.

Via Edsurge: “​Report: Advising Attendance Is Up, but More ‘In-Depth’ Student Support Is Still Needed.”

Educational Attainment Is Up, but Gaps Remain,” says Inside Higher Ed. That’s based on data from the Lumina Foundation.

“Giving CC Students Home Computers Won’t Set Them up for Greater Success,” according to research written up by Campus Technology.

“Shifting to a personalized-learning model requires that schools make a six-figure upfront investment, more than 40 percent of which is likely to go to technology, according to a new analysis of six ‘breakthrough’ Chicago district and charter schools,” EdWeek’s Ben Herold writes.

“Did Flint’s Water Crisis Damage Kids’ Brains?” asks The New Republic. (I’m not putting this in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section because I think the answer is “yes.”)

Via National Geographic: “Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks? New ‘Brain Games’ May Help Them Stay Young.”

Via Nesta: “What is the evidence for edtech?” Shrug. Enough evidence, I guess, that folks will try to sell you brain training for your dog…

Icon credits: The Noun Project


Hack Education Weekly News
9 February 2018 | 11:55 am

Each week, I gather a wide variety of links to education and education technology articles. All this feeds the review I write each December on the stories we are told about the future of education.

(National) Education Politics


“The New Tax Law’s Subtle Subversion of Public Schools,” by Clint Smith in The Atlantic.

Via the US Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Announces New Student-Centered Funding Pilot Program.” “Student-Centered,” eh?

The Chronicle of Higher Education on the Higher Education Act: “Why an Update of Higher Ed’s Sweeping Framework Could Be Years Away.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Department to Propose Compromise in Borrower-Defense Negotiations.”

There’s more Department of Education news in the for-profit higher ed and in the info sec sections below.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “NSF starts requiring that institutions report findings of harassment and suspensions in its funded labs and field sites, and reminds institutions that it can pull funding where necessary.”

Via The New York Post: “Charter-school advocacy group to close up shop.” That’s the Families for Excellent Schools, whose CEO was fired last week amid sexual harassment allegations. Via Chalkbeat: “Before Families for Excellent Schools’ sudden implosion, waning influence and a series of stumbles.”

(State and Local) Education Politics


Via Education Week: “Puerto Rico’s Governor Seeks Charter Schools, Raises for Teachers.”

Via The Indiana Gazette: “Parents and other school district residents reminded the Indiana Area school board on Monday that their dissent of the Summit Learning program hasn’t waned, even though the administration scaled back the program and put it on ‘opt-in’ status for the 2018–19 school year.” The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has thoughts on the pushback, making the comparison between Zuckerberg’s corporate and philanthropic efforts and inBloom.

The Salt Lake City school board has voted to rename Jackson Elementary. It will no longer be named after Andrew Jackson, but instead honor NASA engineer Mary Jackson.

Via The Houston Chronicle: “Houston charter network bought Dallas condo for office, storage.” As one does…

“What’s the matter with Oklahoma?” asks The Economist.

Via The New York Times: “In Fight Over Science Education in Idaho, Lawmakers Move to Minimize Climate.”

Via NPR: “With Thousands Of Homeless Students, This District Put Help Right In Its Schools.” The district in question: Dallas Public Schools.

Immigration and Education


Vox says this is an exclusive: “Trump’s draft plan to punish legal immigrants for sending US-born kids to Head Start.”

This is a little old, but it just crossed my desk this week and it’s important enough to still include. Via the Law Librarian Blog: “LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics.”

Education in the Courts


Via the AFP: “Court affirms $25 million Trump University settlement.”

Via the Argus Leader: “A former official with National American University has accused the South Dakota based for-profit system of defrauding the United States government out of millions of dollars in a student aid program, a lawsuit unsealed Thursday in federal court alleges.”

Via Eater: “Students Will Receive Big Payout in Lawsuit Against Le Cordon Bleu.”

Via The Washington Post: “Think tank sues Education Dept. over public records requests on college accrediting bodies.” The think tank in question: The Century Foundation.

Via The New York Times: “Tariq Ramadan Charged With Rape After Accusations by Two Women.” Ramadan is on leave from his position at Oxford University.

Via Education Week: “Student Retweets Snoop Dogg, Then Sues School District for ‘Retaliation’.”

Rachel Cohen on the upcoming Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31: “The Eminent Libertarians Who Might Save Public Sector Unions.”

There are more stories relating to court cases in the “business of ed-tech” section below.

“Free College”


UW Madison Unveils Free Tuition Program,” says Inside Higher Ed.

Free College, With a Catchby IHE’s John Warner.

The Business of Financial Aid


Via Buzzfeed: “The Government Is Forgiving More Student Loans, And It’s Costing Taxpayers.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

There’s more news about financial aid in the politics section above.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed


Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “DeVos’s Education Dept. Relaxed Rules for For-Profits Under Accreditor That Closed.”

There are more details about a couple of for-profit court cases in the courts section above. And one for-profit story is in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section because of course.

Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)


Via Class Central: “TU Delft Students Can Earn Credit For MOOCs From Other Universities.”

Meanwhile on Campus…


“I’m a Stanford professor accused of being a terrorist. McCarthyism is back,” writes David Palumbo-Liu.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “As Protests Mount, U. of Chicago Plans for a Visit From Steve Bannon.”

Via The New York Times: “An Addict Dies in a School Restroom. He Was a Teacher.”

Via USA Today: “20 years in, shootings have changed schools in unexpected ways.”

Via The New York Times: “Plans at Stanford Fall Apart for a Plaque at Site of Sexual Assault.”

Via The Wichita Eagle: “Koch family to open new kind of private school at Wichita State University.”

Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies


There’s accreditation news in the courts section above.

Go, School Sports Team!


Via AZ Central: “Maricopa Community Colleges to eliminate football.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The contract of University of Montana women’s soccer coach Mark Plakorus won’t be renewed after he used a university cellphone to text escort services during at least five recruiting trips to Las Vegas.”

Memos from HR


Daniel Greenstein, who has overseen the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work on postsecondary education since 2012, announced Monday that he would leave the foundation next month,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Elizabeth Alexander has been named the new president of the Mellon Foundation.

Via Buzzfeed: “Astrophysicist Christian Ott Was Just Fired From His New Job In Finland After Harassment Scandal.”

Note the ratio:

The Business of Job Training


Via Edsurge: “New Cybersecurity Course Teaches Teens the ABCs of (Ethical) Hacking.” The course is from CodeHS, which shares a number of investors with Edsurge. No disclosure, no surprise.

Contests and Awards


There’s talk of changing the name of the ALA’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to an author who isn’t so racist.

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


“Have We Decided What ‘Gainful Employment’ Means Yet?” 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


Via The New York Times: “Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built.” This is the Center for Humane Technology, which had a big PR push this week, with articles in Edsurge and Education Week. Doesn’t seem like any journalists caught this, tho:

Via The Guardian: “‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth.”

Via Techcrunch: “YouTube’s CEO promises stronger enforcement in the wake of controversies.”

Via CNN: “YouTube to start labeling videos posted by state-funded media.” State-funded media includes PBS, apparently.

Via The New York Times: “School Shooting Simulation Trains Teachers for the Worst.”

School Shooting Simulation Software (and the Problem with How People Define ‘Ed-Tech’)” by me.

“A lecture-capture platform with a ‘confusion alert’ button is changing the way some instructors teach,” says Inside Higher Ed with an article that seems like an ad for Echo360.

The Telegraph on TurnItIn: “New university plagiarism software to be launched in crackdown on ‘contract’ cheating.”

Via Boing Boing: “Cloudflare terminate Sci-Hub domains, declining to challenge court order.”

Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein on his company’s new event series, The Empirical Educator Project.

Via Techcrunch: “The creator of Snoo, the $1200 high tech bassinet just came out with a baby swaddle.”

Facebook’s app for kids should freak parents out,” says MIT Technology Review.

Speaking of Facebook… According to The Verge, “Facebook hired a full-time pollster to monitor Zuckerberg’s approval ratings.”

Speaking of Facebook again… Via CB Insights: “Facebook Patents Tech To Bucket Users Into Different Social Classes.” Well, this will be useful to “personalize learning,” won’t it.

Via Techcrunch: “PS4 update lets parents control how long their kid can play.”

From the Lenovo website: “Lenovo™ Introduces Lenovo Virtual Reality Classroom.” $3000 for three headsets. “Lenovo Virtual Reality Classroom headsets come pre-loaded with more than 700 available Google Expeditions VR field trips and exclusive Wild Immersion content, created with the support of Jane Goodall. Teachers can bring STEM lessons to life through this immersive learning and take students on biodiversity journeys through Africa, Asia, the Amazon, and more.” Pretty sure all this is on YouTube for free, but hey. When it’s strapped to your face, it’s Wild Immersion.

“What We Should Worry About When We Worry About Virtual Reality” – a guest post by Eugene Stern on the Mathbabe blog.

Robots and Other Education Science Fiction


Via eSchool News: “Why chatbots are not the future of student engagement.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Education Reform


Via Buzzfeed: “The Koch Foundation Is Flooding Colleges With Money.”

There’s more about what the Kochs are up to in the “meanwhile on campus” section above.

Via Chalkbeat: “With new focus on curriculum, Gates Foundation wades into tricky territory.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced some new grants. Or rather, its education head Jim Shelton made a Facebook status update to that effect. There’s very little detail as to where CZI money is going. But according to what it revealed this week: $3 million for Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning; 1.5 million for California’s Ravenwood Elementary School District; $1 million to Stephanie Jones of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and $75,000 to Matthew Biel of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Stories on the Facebook status update from Education Week and Edsurge.

Good grief, Inside Philanthropy, could you pose at least one hard question here: “Teaching K–12 is Brutally Hard. Here’s How CZI Is Offering Support.”

Details about several HR changes at foundations in the HR section above.

Venture Capital and the Business of Education


Quizlet has raised $20 million in Series B funding from Union Square Ventures, Icon Ventures, Altos Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, and Owl Ventures. The digital flash card company has raised $32 million total.

Smart Sparrow has raised $7.5 million from the testing company ACT. The “adaptive learning” company has raised $23.5 million total.

Niche, which provides rankings for neighborhoods and schools, has raised $6.6 million from Grit Capital Partners and Allen & Company.

AstrumU has raised $3 million from Ignition Partners and Correlation Ventures “to bring efficiency to higher education with machine learning.”

AdmitHub has raised $100,000 from the Michelson 20MM Foundation. The chatbot-advisor company has raised $3.8 million total.

Seesaw has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Jeff Weiner, Wayee Chu, and Bubba Murarka. It also claims that half of all U.S. schools have teachers using Seesaw. There’s no way to verify these sorts of claims – the data comes from the startups themselves. But that doesn’t stop the tech press from running with it anyway.

New Mountain Learning’s subsidiary EMC School has acquired Zulama.

PeopleAdmin has acquired Performance Matters.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Educause has submitted a $55,000 offer to acquire the assets of the now defunct New Media Consortium, court documents reveal.” More via Bryan Alexander.

Via Reuters: “Coding boot camp General Assembly explores potential sale: CEO.” More via Edsurge.

Data, Surveillance, and Information Security


The FBI’s Cyber Division and the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General have issued a warning to schools about cyber criminals.

Edsurge on “Why Charter Networks Are Investing Heavily in Data Teams.”

Not directly ed-tech related – except for the part where ed-tech evangelists keep trying to push for “smart classrooms” and “smart schools.” Gizmodo on “smart homes”: “The House That Spied on Me.”

Again, not ed-tech related per se, but again, I saw y’all wearing your Google Glasses at ISTE and talking about how these would be the future of school. Via The WSJ: “Chinese Police Add Facial-Recognition Glasses to Surveillance Arsenal.”

Via Bitdefender’s blog: “Security hole meant Grammarly would fix your typos, but let snoopers read your private writings.”

There’s more surveillance news in the immigration section above.

Research, “Research,” and Reports


Via The Washington Post: “A flat-earther finally tried to fly away. His rocket didn’t even ignite.” (I think I’ll save most of my other commentary about rockets and marketing for tomorrow’s HEWN.)

NPR’s Anya Kamenetz on “screen addiction” and teens. (She’s also written a new book on parenting and “screens.”)

“The Implications of Gartner’s Top 10 Tech Trends of 2018 for Education – Part 2,” according to the Getting Smart blog.

Via Chalkbeat: “How new evidence bolsters the case for California’s education policy rebellion.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “First-generation college students are less likely to persist and graduate than are children of college-educated parents, a national study finds.”

How many made-up statistics can you put in a blog post introducing your company?

Via The Atlantic: “The Origins of Diversity Data in Tech.”

Via Mic: “Want to grow the US economy? Cancel student debt, new report shows.”

Via George Veletsianos: “Educational Technology Magazine archive (1966–2017).”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study counters widely held views about how students’ political views change when they arrive in college.” But why let research get in the way of a good “liberal indoctrination” narrative…

Via Times Higher Education: “University of Leeds study finds many undergraduates have never heard of term, or ‘trigger warnings’.” But why let research get in the way of a good “snowflake” narrative…

According to Pacific Standard, “Meditation May Not Make You a Better Person After All.” Shocking. (But the hoopla over “social emotional learning” persists nonetheless.)

Icon credits: The Noun Project


School Shooting Simulation Software (and the Problem with How People Define 'Ed-Tech')
8 February 2018 | 6:45 pm

Last week, The New York Times wrote about a new simulation program, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, that aims to teach teachers how to respond to an active shooter on school grounds – a simulation “that includes realistic details like gunfire, shattered glass and the screams of children,” one in which teachers can play the role of school staff, law enforcement, or the shooter her- or himself.

It was not the first article on the program known as EDGE, the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment. There were a flurry of stories on the shooting simulation software at the beginning of the year – Gizmodo, Engadget, Rolling Stone, The Verge – several of which seemed to build on an AP story filed in the closing days of 2016.

At least five school shootings occurred (sixteen by some counts) between the publication of that AP story and the one that appeared in The New York Times.

From what I can tell, the story of the shooting simulation was not covered by any education publications – only by a handful of technology ones. This raises a number of interesting questions about coverage and about definitions. What counts as an education story? School shootings certainly do. But what counts as “ed-tech”?

I tweeted something rather flippant about the story back in January when Gizmodo posted a video about the simulation, and I received an admonishment from one ed-tech evangelist that the software “has nothing to do with ed-tech.” I replied that metal detectors are ed-tech, that windows are ed-tech, and that one should consider how these technologies are distributed among various school buildings and communities. The individual sneered that my definition was uselessly broad, that this would mean that locks on school doors are ed-tech.

Well, locks on school doors are ed-tech.

When most ed-tech evangelists, like my interlocutor on Twitter, talk about ed-tech, they don’t mean “technologies used in education.” They don’t even always mean “computers in education” – or not all computers, at least. While they readily refer to the use of computers used for instructional purposes, computers used for administrative purposes are less likely to be touted, particularly with the recent focus on “personalization” or “learning outcomes,” particularly when education-related computations occur outside a school or district (as in the case of private student loan companies, for example).

Perhaps due to education publications’ funding by education reform organizations and by venture capitalists, the coverage of “education technology” in much education media tends to coincide with these investors’ policies and portfolios. The definition of “ed-tech” is therefore incredibly narrow, often focused on products rather than practices. And that skews the ways in which we talk about “ed-tech” – how we might consider its politics and its purposes, how we might think about its origins and its implications.

In her 1989 CBC Massey Lectures, the physicist Ursula Franklin offered a different definition of technology, one that I use in my own thinking and writing:

Technology is not the sum of the artifacts, of the wheels and gears, of the rails and electronic transmitters. Technology is a system. It entails far more than its individual material components. Technology involves organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.

If we recognize technology as practices, we can more readily see the connections to social relations, Franklin argued. We can then think about technology not just in terms of the introduction of a particular tool, but in terms of how technology might support or shift pre-existing values. Cultural values. Political values. Institutional values.

To claim that a school shooting simulation isn’t “ed-tech” is remarkably unhelpful. It serves to bolster the ideological claims that technology is always bound up in “progress.” And importantly, this refusal to include certain technologies in “ed-tech” circumscribes much of the analysis one might undertake about systems, structures, histories.

What is the history of military teaching machines, for example? What role has the military played in developing education technology (particularly training simulations) that have made their way into classrooms? How might the military’s values – overtly and subtly – permeate ed-tech? How do those coincide and how do they conflict with the values of the public school system?

And what is the history of weapons used at school and of the machines used to detect and deter school violence? “Since the attack on Columbine High School in 1999, mitigating the damage of on-campus shootings has been an increasingly urgent priority,” The New York Times writes in that article about school shooting simulation software. “More than two-thirds of public schools nationwide practiced their response to a shooting in the 2013–14 academic year, according to the Department of Education; 10 years earlier, fewer than half of schools did so.”

But of course, Columbine was hardly the first school shooting. And the practices (and products) adopted to “mitigate the damage” have a very different history in affluent, suburban schools than they have in high poverty, urban schools where metal detectors, for example, were introduced almost twenty years earlier.

New York City. Boston. New Orleans. Washington DC. Detroit. These cities all experimented with metal detectors and mandatory searches of (some) students (in some schools) in the early 1980s. The adoption of these practices was a response, according to school officials, to fears of youth violence and weapons incidents in and around schools (but overwhelmingly the latter). Along with the introduction of drug-sniffing dogs, students increasingly found themselves exposed to surveillance and searches at school, the legality of the latter upheld in a number of Supreme Court decisions that decade.

There were concerns at the outset about the effectiveness of metal detectors – not simply whether or not they reliably caught students bringing weapons to campus but whether their introduction changed school culture. “We’d be concerned about the impact psychologically on the climate of the schools,” Robert Rubel, the director of the National Alliance for Safe Schools told The Detroit Free Press in 1985 when the Detroit Public Schools introduced unannounced weapons sweeps using handheld metal detectors.

Indeed, many other school districts that experimented with metal detectors admitted that they found them to be counterproductive. If nothing else, the screening process posed a logistical challenge, with students complaining they had to wait in line so long that they were often late to class. But some districts stuck with metal detectors nonetheless, often as part of a broader police presence in schools. As Carla Shedd writes in Unequal City, the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Public Safety boasted in 2013 that it supported a range of these types of technologies: “8,000+ cameras, 500+ alarm systems, 150+ X-ray machines, 300+ metal detectors, 400+ door entry systems, and 35 bus trackers.”

Shedd argues that

Contemporary urban youth are exposed to police contact more frequently and at earlier ages than their predecessors. Schools – and for those who live in public housing, even some homes – have begun to resemble correctional facilities. Metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and other mechanisms designed to monitor and control inhabitants are now standard equipment in American urban schools. Youth who must navigate these spaces are inevitably at high risk of police contact, which may lead to frustration, disengagement, and delinquency.

“Standard equipment in American urban schools.” Education technologies, even.

What happens if we refuse to talk about these as “ed-tech”, if we refuse to address the practices of surveillance and control as well as products of surveillance and control? If nothing else, this refusal stops us from having the necessary conversations about why some schools might get simulations that train teachers how to respond to a potential shooting, and some schools get metal detectors that interpolate all students as potential shooters.



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