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Las emocionantes aventuras de Lovelace y Babbage

Faraón Llorens - 9 Julio, 2018 - 18:33
Las emocionantes aventuras de Lovelace y Babbage Sydney Padua Colección: Tecnología Editorial UOC ( Regalo de Txus Marco por moderar la mesa redonda “Formación universal en informática antes de la universidad” en JENUI 2018. Muchísmas gracias. Es un gran regalo. No conocía el libro y me ha encantado. Enlaces de interés: Noticia de su […]

La Informática en la Enseñanza no Universitaria

Faraón Llorens - 9 Julio, 2018 - 15:24
La Informática en la Enseñanza no Universitaria La Sociedad Científica Informática de España (SCIE) y la Conferencia de Directores y Decanos de Ingeniería Informática (CODDII), conscientes de la importancia creciente para las nuevas generaciones de una formación universal en conocimientos básicos de Informática, manifiestan la necesidad de incluir en el sistema educativo español la materia […]

Protecting Privacy while Leveraging Opportunity

Campus Technology - 9 Julio, 2018 - 15:00
UCLA's chief privacy officer talks about the differences between privacy and information security in higher education along with the need to consider opportunities as well as risks.

Moodlepreneur Monday: A Brick Set, Or Just A Brick?

Moodle News - 9 Julio, 2018 - 13:34
Many EdTech providers seem to fall into the trap of making a “brick” look like a “brick set” or vice versa, in order to cater to a customer segment for short term gain, even when it is clear the...

Online STEM Courses Need More Real-World Interactivity

Campus Technology - 9 Julio, 2018 - 13:00
What do students want in the learning activities for their online STEM courses? They'd prefer more real-life problems to solve and instructional resources such as simulations, case studies, videos and demonstrations, according to a research project from the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida

Upcoming Events, Webinars & Calls for Papers (Week of July 9, 2018)

Campus Technology - 9 Julio, 2018 - 12:30
Upcoming events include the Educause Learning Technology Leadership Institute, T.D.W.I. Anaheim Conference, Distance Teaching and Learning Conference and SANS Network Security 2018.

Canvas Surpasses Blackboard Learn in US Market Share

e-Literate - 8 Julio, 2018 - 21:10

As of July 6th, our data partner LISTedTECH informs us that Canvas is now the primary LMS in more US colleges and universities than Blackboard Learn. By a margin of two; Canvas has 1,218 installations, while Blackboard Learn has 1,216. Statistically speaking, the two companies are tied for US market share:

Still, this is a stunning development for a company that seemed to have established an unbreakable market dominance a decade ago. When Blackboard, the number-one US platform in early 2005, announced that it would be acquiring its closest competitor (WebCT) in early 2006, the combined company owned approximately 70% of the US and Canadian market. Their next largest competitors were far, far behind. A few platforms, most of which no longer exist, were vying with "homegrown" to become the Dr. Pepper of the LMS market at the time that the Coke acquired the Pepsi.

Blackboard's acquisition of WebCT hit the market like a thunderbolt. At the time, I wrote,

Yes, yes, we've all heard the news by now. BlackCT Wednesday has hit. Will it be remembered as The Day the Music Died? I don't think so. Unfortunately, it could be remembered as The Day the Music Was So Badly Wounded That It Became Barely Listenable for a Really Long Time.

You know. Kinda like the '80's. Except with software.

Blackboard was already viscerally disliked, both as a product and as a company, by a large segment of the market in those days. Customers responded to the merger by talking with their feet. Moodle, Sakai, and Desire2Learn—A.K.A. Brightspace—all surged in 2006 and 2007 as customers began fleeing the Blackboard behemoth.

Blackboard responded by suing D2L1 for patent infringement in 2006, acquiring ANGEL Learning in 2009, and acquiring Moodlerooms—the largest US Moodle support company—in 2012. It seemed like the US LMS market was done. Any time a competitor grew large enough to become a threat, Blackboard would acquire them and force migrate their customers to Learn. If they couldn't acquire the company, then they would attempt to sue them into submission.

Nobody would have predicted that a project started by two graduate students Brigham Young University and assisted by their professor, who happened to be a bored former executive from a pioneering cloud storage company, would become the product that could break through Blackboard's dominance. Yet that is exactly what happened. The Canvas LMS was concieved, and Instructure formed, in 2008. The combination of a reliable, cloud-based offering, updated user interface, reputation for outstanding customer service, and brash, in-your-face branding, the company surpassed all of the more established contenders to take the crown (at least in the US).

Not just symbolic

Anybody who has paid attention to this market at all knows that Blackboard's market share has been dropping while Instructure's has been rising. But this symbolic end of an era marks more than just those two market share lines crossing. Bigger changes are afoot.

Humans have a tendency to assume that what is true now and has been true for a while will continue to be true in the future. The LMS market was more vulnerable to change than we thought it was in 2006, and it is more vulnerable to change than many realize today. Blackboard in particular is in a precarious position. Their long-delayed Ultra user experience refresh has been dragging out for so long now that customers who have been hanging on waiting for it are in danger of losing patience. It's not clear whether, as of the upcoming BbWorld conference this month, Ultra will finally be feature-competitive with either the original Blackboard Learn interface or the competition. And even if it is, it's unclear whether that will be enough to prevent another mass exodus of Blackboard customers, nevermind attract new ones.

Meanwhile, their private equity ownership has the company in financial peril. Even with a shrinking customer base, Blackboard has been a relatively well-run and financially healthy company—if you don't count the pile of debt that their private equity owners has saddled them with. But they have big interest payments to make. When Providence Equity bought Blackboard, they paid for it by taking out something analagous to a massive mortgage on Blackboard itself, with the plan that Blackboard would pay off that debt with the profit that it generates. This is a classic private equity investment strategy, but sometimes it backfires. Blackboard would be doing OK financially, despite its shrinking market share, were it not for those massive mortgage payments. The LMS market is seasonal, which means that Blackboard sells more in some months than in others. During the better months, the company can still comfortably make its debt payments. During the slower months, debt ratings company Moody's warns that Blackboard's margin for error on being able to make those debt payments is worryingly thin.

But it's worse than that. Sticking with the mortgage analogy, some of Blackboard's debt has what you can think of as very aggressive foreclosure terms, in the form of "lien covenants." If the company's cushion for making its debt payments drop below a certain level—even if it doesn't actually miss a payment—then the bondholders can demand that Blackboard pay off the principle. If this were to happen, it would likely force the Blackboard into bankruptcy. (Keep in mind that bankruptcy doesn't necessarily mean that the company disappears. But it's not good.)

So because of its financing, Blackboard's continuing loss of market share is at the tipping point of changing from a serious problem to an existential threat.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

What might happen next

Chances are good that we will see some fairly dramatic changes at Blackboard soon. Even if Ultra catches up with the competition this summer, and even if that is enough to prevent a major customer exodus, and even if all of that is enough for the company to avoid triggering the bankruptcy-inducing lien covenants, the company will have to take some steps to improve its financial soundness. The easiest place for them to start would be to sell off of some parts of the business so that they can pay down some of their debt. (Blackboard's Transact commerce and security line of business is the most obvious candidate.) But that may only be the beginning. The next possible move would be for Providence Equity, the company that owns Blackboard, to sell them off—either as a whole or in pieces. Depending on how all of this plays out, it could be good, neutral, or bad for current customers. All we can say with confidence right now is that there will probably be some significant changes fairly soon.

The other companies are not static either. Instructure lost much of its executive management team, and we are now hearing rumors of a second wave of departures in the Asia/Pacific region. Between these changes and Wall Street's pressure on the company to show more growth in the corporate training side of their business, it remains to be seen how much past performance will be predictive of future behavior. Meanwhile, D2L has quietly been improving their core product.

People tend to only focus on the top two competitors in any product category: Coke and Pepsi, Hertz and Avis, Uber and Lyft, and so on. And, as I noted at the top of the post, they also tend to underestimate potential for change. If Blackboard's situation changes dramatically enough to shake up these default assumptions among customers, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities. Maybe Brightspace will rise, or Moodle will be resurgent. Maybe Instructure will continue to gobble up market share until it owns the market the way Blackboard did back in the day. Maybe a couple of kids in some university somewhere will come up with the next big thing. Maybe Blackboard will pull a rabit out of a hat. It's hard to know right now. The market is approaching a tipping point, which means that a some basic assumptions about the LMS market that people could take for granted during the era of Blackboard's dominance are not safe to assume anymore.

We just released our Spring 2018 report for our LMS market analysis subscription service, which provides more context for these potential changes (including a more international view of the markets than I've provided in this post). As we enter LMS conference season, we will be providing increased coverage of the market, both here on the blog and in the monthly newsletter in the subscription service.

Buckle up, folks.

  1. D2L was called Desire2Learn at the time and shortened its name later.

The post Canvas Surpasses Blackboard Learn in US Market Share appeared first on e-Literate.

Pigeons, Operant Conditioning, and Social Control

Audrey Watters - 15 Junio, 2018 - 16:00

This is the transcript of the talk I gave at the Tech4Good event I'm at this weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The complete slide deck is here.

I want to talk a little bit about a problem I see – or rather, a problem I see in the “solutions” that some scientists and technologists and engineers seem to gravitate towards. So I want to talk to you about pigeons, operant conditioning, and social control, which I recognize is a bit of a strange and academic title. I toyed with some others:

I spent last week at the Harvard University archives, going through the papers of Professor B. F. Skinner, arguably one of the most important psychologists of the twentieth century. (The other, of course, being Sigmund Freud.)

I don’t know how familiar this group is with Skinner – he’s certainly a name that those working in educational psychology have heard of. I’d make a joke here about software engineers having no background in the humanities or social sciences but I hear Mark Zuckerberg was actually a psych major at Harvard. (So that’s the joke.)

I actually want to make the case this morning that Skinner’s work – behavioral psychology in particular – has had profound influence on the development of computer science, particularly when it comes to the ways in which “programming” has become a kind of social engineering. I’m not sure this lineage is always explicitly considered – like I said, there’s that limited background in or appreciation for history thing your field seems to have got going on.

B. F. Skinner was a behaviorist. Indeed, almost all the American psychologists in the early twentieth century were. Unlike Freud, who was concerned with the subconscious mind, behaviorists like Skinner were interested in – well, as the name suggests – behaviors. Observable behaviors. Behaviors that could be conditioned or controlled.

Skinner’s early work was with animals. As a graduate student at Harvard, he devised the operant conditioning chamber – better known as the Skinner box – that was used to study animal behavior. The chamber provided some sort of response mechanism that the animal would be trained to use, typically by rewarding the animal with food.

During World War II, Skinner worked on a program called Project Pigeon – also known as Project Orcon, short for Organic Control – an experimental project to create pigeon-guided missiles.

The pigeons were trained by Skinner to peck at a target, and they rewarded with food when they completed the task correctly. Skinner designed a missile that carried pigeons which could see the target through the windows. The pigeons would peck at the target; the pecking in turn would control the missile’s tail fins, keeping it on course, via a metal conductor connected to the birds’ beak, transmitting the force of the pecking to the missile’s guidance system. The pigeons’ accuracy, according to Skinner’s preliminary tests: nearly perfect.

As part of their training, Skinner also tested the tenacity of the pigeons – testing their psychological fitness, if you will, for battle. He fired a pistol next to their heads to see if loud noise would disrupt their pecking. He put the pigeons in a pressure chamber, setting the altitude at 10,000 feet. The pigeons were whirled around in a centrifuge meant to simulate massive G forces; they were exposed to bright flashes meant to simulate shell bursts. The pigeons kept pecking. They had been trained, conditioned to do so.

The military canceled and revived Project Pigeon a couple of times, but Skinner’s ideas were never used in combat. “Our problem,” Skinner admitted, “was no one would take us seriously.” And by 1953, the military had devised an electronic system for missile guidance, so animal-guided systems were no longer necessary (if they ever were).

This research was all classified, and when the American public were introduced to Skinner’s well-trained pigeons in the 1950s, there was no reference to their proposed war-time duties. Rather, the media talked about his pigeons that could play ping-pong and piano.

Admittedly, part of my interest in Skinner’s papers at Harvard involved finding more about his research on pigeons. I use the pigeons as a visual metaphor throughout my work. And I could talk to you for an hour, easily, about the birds – indeed, I have given a keynote like that before. But I’m writing a book on the history of education technology, and B. F. Skinner is probably the name best known with “teaching machines” – that is, programmed instruction (pre-computer).

Skinner’s work on educational technology – on teaching and learning with machines – is connected directly, explicitly to his work with animals. Hence my usage of the pigeon imagery. Skinner believed that there was not enough (if any) of the right kind of behavior modification undertaken in schools. He pointed that that students are punished when they do something wrong – that’s the behavioral reinforcement that they receive: aversion. But students are rarely rewarded when they do something right. And again, this isn’t simply about “classroom behavior” – the kind of thing you get a grade for “good citizenship” on (not talking in class or cutting in the lunch line). Learning, to Skinner, was a behavior – and a behavior that needed what he called “contingencies of reinforcement.” These should be positive. They should minimize the chances of doing something wrong – getting the wrong answer, for example. (That’s why Skinner didn’t like multiple choice tests.) The reinforcement should be immediate.

Skinner designed a teaching machine that he said would do all these things – allow the student to move at her own pace through the material. The student would know instantaneously if she had the answer right. (The reward was getting to move on to the next exciting question or concept.) And you can hear all this echoed in today’s education technology designers and developers and school reformers – from Sal Khan and Khan Academy to US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. It’s called “personalized learning.” But it’s essentially pigeon training with a snazzier interface.

“Once we have arranged the particular type of consequence called a reinforcement,” Skinner wrote in 1954 in “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching,” "our techniques permit us to shape the behavior of an organism almost at will. It has become a routine exercise to demonstrate this in classes in elementary psychology by conditioning such an organism as a pigeon.”

…Such an organism as a pigeon.” We often speak of “lab rats” as shorthand for the animals used in scientific experiments. We use the phrase too to describe people who work in labs, who are completely absorbed in performing their tasks again and again and again. In education and in education technology, students are also the subjects of experimentation and conditioning. In Skinner’s framework, they are not “lab rats”; they are pigeons. As he wrote,

…Comparable results have been obtained with pigeons, rats, dogs, monkeys, human children… and psychotic subjects. In spite of great phylogenetic differences, all these organisms show amazingly similar properties of the learning process. It should be emphasized that this has been achieved by analyzing the effects of reinforcement and by designing techniques that manipulate reinforcement with considerable precision. Only in this way can the behavior of the individual be brought under such precise control.

If we do not bring students’ behavior under control, Skinner cautioned, we will find ourselves “losing our pigeon.” The animal will be beyond our control.

Like I said, I’m writing a book. So I can talk at great length about Skinner and teaching machines. But I want folks to consider how behaviorism hasn’t just found its way into education reform or education technology. Indeed, Skinner and many others envisioned that application of operant conditioning outside of the laboratory, outside of the classroom – the usage (past and present) of behavior modification for social engineering is at the heart of a lot of “fixes” that people think they’re doing “for the sake of the children,” or “for the good of the country,” or “to make the world a better place.”

Among the discoveries I made – new to me, not new to the world, to be clear: in the mid–1960s, B. F. Skinner was contacted by the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, a non-profit that funded various institutions and research projects that dealt with mental disabilities. Eunice Kennedy Shriver was apparently interested in his work on operant behavior and child-rearing, and her husband Sargent Shriver who’d been appointed by President Johnson to head the newly formed Office of Economic Opportunity was also keen to find ways to use operant conditioning as part of the War on Poverty.

There was a meeting. Skinner filed a report. But as he wrote in his autobiography, nothing came of it. “A year later,” he added, “one of Shriver’s aides came to see me about motivating the peasants in Venezuela.”

Motivating pigeons or poor people or peasants (or motivating peasants and poor people as pigeons) – it’s all offered, quite earnestly no doubt – as the ways in which science and scientific management will make the world better.

But if nothing else, the application of behavior modification to poverty implies that this is a psychological problem and not a structural one. Focus on the individual and their “mindset” – to use the language that education technology and educational psychology folks invoke these days – not on the larger, societal problems.

I recognize, of course, that you can say “it’s for their own good” – but it involves a great deal of hubris (and often historical and cultural ignorance, quite frankly) to assume that you know what “their own good” actually entails.

You’ll sometimes hear that B. F. Skinner’s theories are no longer in fashion – the behaviorist elements of psychology have given way to the cognitive turn. And with or without developments in cognitive and neuroscience, Skinner’s star had certainly lost some of its luster towards the end of his career, particularly, as many like to tell the story, after Noam Chomsky penned a brutal review of his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity in the December 1971 issue of The New York Review of Books. In the book, Skinner argues that our ideas of freedom and free will and human dignity stand in the way of a behavioral science that can better organize and optimize society.

“Skinner’s science of human behavior, being quite vacuous, is as congenial to the libertarian as to the fascist,” writes Chomsky, adding that “there is nothing in Skinner’s approach that is incompatible with a police state in which rigid laws are enforced by people who are themselves subject to them and the threat of dire punishment hangs over all.”

Skinner argues in Beyond Freedom and Dignity that the goal of behavioral technologies should be to “design a world in which behavior likely to be punished seldom or never occurs” – a world of “automatic goodness.“ We should not be concerned with freedom, Skinner argues – that’s simply mysticism. We should pursue ”effectiveness of techniques of control“ which will ”make the world safer." Or make the world totalitarian, as Chomsky points out.

Building behavioral technologies is, of course, what many computer scientists now do (perhaps what some of you do cough FitBit) – most, I’d say, firmly believing that they’re also building a world of “automatic goodness.” “Persuasive technologies,” as Stanford professor B. J. Fogg calls it. And in true Silicon Valley fashion, Fogg erases the long history of behavioral psychology in doing so: “the earliest signs of persuasive technology appeared in the 1970s and 1980s when a few computing systems were designed to promote health and increase workplace productivity,” he writes in his textbook. His students at his Behavioral Design Lab at Stanford have included Mike Krieger, the co-founder of Instagram, and Tristan Harris, a former Googler, founder of the Center for Humane Technology, and best known figure in what I call the “tech regrets industry” – he’s into “ethical” persuasive technologies now, you see.

Behavior modification. Behavioral conditioning. Behavioral design. Gamification. Operant conditioning. All practices and products and machines that are perhaps so ubiquitous in technology that we don’t see them – we just feel the hook and the urge for the features that reward us for behaving like those Project Pigeon birds pecking away at their target – not really aware of why there’s a war or what’s at stake or that we’re going to suffer and die if this missile runs its course. But nobody asked the pigeons. And even with the best of intentions for pigeons – promising pigeons an end to poverty and illiteracy, nobody asked the pigeons. Folks just assumed that because the smart men at Harvard (or Stanford or Silicon Valley or the US government) were on it, that it was surely right “fix.”

Hack Education Weekly News

Audrey Watters - 8 Junio, 2018 - 20:10

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

Via The Atlantic: “DeVos Says There’s One Thing Her School-Safety Commission Won’t Be Studying: Guns.” Also via The Atlantic: “The Trump Administration’s Approach to School Violence Is More Style Than Substance.”

The Department of Education plans to shutter its cafeteria, once known by the lovely name of EDibles. (Probably afraid EPA head Scott Pruitt was going to start dining there now that he’s been banned from the White House mess hall.)

Via E&E News: “Cabinet heads told to praise Paris exit. ‘No exceptions’.” Good job, Betsy. A+ for compliant behavior.

The US Senate has confirmed Kenneth L. Marcus to serve as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. Remarks from the Secretary of Education on the confirmation.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Chalkbeat with the scoop: “De Blasio’s plan to overhaul admissions at elite – and segregated – high schools.” That’s high schools in NYC in case you don’t recognize the mayor’s surname. Via The New York Times: “De Blasio Proposes Changes to New York’s Elite High Schools.” More on the plan from Chalkbeat.

Via KPCC: “LAUSD may try again to give an iPad or computer to every student.”

The Orlando Sentinel on what students are learning in some of Florida’s voucher schools: “Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together.”

The Atlantic on psychiatric hospitals in Illinois: “The Kids Who Are Cleared to Leave Psychiatric Hospitals – But Can’t.”

Via The Charlotte Observer: “NC legislators advance bills putting God and cursive in schools, expanding charter takeovers.”

Elsewhere in North Carolina, Dana Goldstein reports for The NYT on “What Budget Cuts Mean for Third Graders in a Rural School.”

Via Democracy Now: “Puerto Rico Is a ‘Playground for the Privileged’: Investors Move In as Homes Foreclose & Schools Close.”

Via Chalkbeat: “In contentious interview, Betsy DeVos’ husband Dick DeVos says ‘everybody wins’ with charter schools.” (The interview was part of a VICE documentary on the effect charter schools have had in Michigan.)

An update from LA School Report on Tuesday’s primary elections in California: “California primary results: Newsom and Cox advance to November’s gubernatorial race; Tuck leads Thurmond in battle for state superintendent.”

Immigration and Education

Via The New York Times: “‘It’s Horrendous’: The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken From His Father.”

Education in the Courts

Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “Judge Aaron Persky, who ruled in sex assault case, recalled in Santa Clara County.” The case in question: Brock Turner, the Stanford athlete that many felt was given a too-lenient sentence for attempting to rape an unconscious woman.

The Business of Financial Aid

Via The Atlantic: “The Confusing Information Colleges Provide Students About Financial Aid.”

Via The New York Times: “The Cost of Going Back to School as an Adult.”

Via NPR: “We Now Know A Lot More About Students Who Receive Federal College Grants.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The number of career colleges and the number of credentials they award have dropped by roughly 20 percent in the last four years, new data from the U.S. Education Department show.”

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

Via Edsurge: “Andrew Ng Is Probably Teaching More Students Than Anyone Else on the Planet. (Without a University Involved.)” (I think it’s probably Big Bird and friends, but hey. Hype men gonna hype.)

Meanwhile on Campus…

Here’s How Higher Education Dies – A futurist says the industry may have nowhere to go but down. What does the slide look like?” – that’s Bryan Alexander interviewed by The Atlantic.

Here’s how higher education dies – you let Niall Ferguson drive the narrative about “free speech” and intellectual honesty on campus. Via The Stanford Daily: “Leaked emails show Hoover academic conspiring with College Republicans to conduct ‘opposition research’ on student.” Via Inside Higher Ed: “Niall Ferguson Resigns From Stanford Speaker Series Post Over Leaked Emails.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Questions on Michigan’s Investment Tactics.” That’s the University of Michigan to be clear.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “UVa Library’s Plan to Cut Stacks by Half Sparks Faculty Concerns.” (Contrary to the headline, from what I hear from my friends at UVa, most faculty, students, and librarians seem to support this move.)

Via The New York Times: “Columbia University Is Cited for a Cracked Building Facade, Inviting Memories of a 1979 Death.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Mizzou’s Freshman Class Shrank by a Third Over 2 Years. Here’s How It’s Trying to Turn That Around.”

Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies

Via Inside Higher Ed: “After becoming the first public college in California to lose accreditation, Compton College is preparing to stand on its own once again.”


Via The Hechinger Report (and related to a lot of the goings-on in the local education news section above): “How one test kept New York City high schools segregated.”

“So Long, SAT Essay. Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out” by John Warner.

Khan Academy launches free Official LSAT Prep,” says the Khan Academy blog.

Labor and Management

Gotta love corporate blog entries with headlines like “Continuing on our journey.” That is, the latest from Blackboard announcing a string of changes to executive roles.

Adjunct faculty at Nazareth College have voted to unionize.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Southern Illinois U. May Be About to Fire Its President.”

“collapse porn: MLA edition” by Alex Reid.

The Business of Job Training

Via Techcrunch: “Udacity and Google launch free career courses for interview prep, resume writing and more.”

The head of the OECD’s education division, Andreas Schleicher, writes in The Hill about “Educating students for the fourth industrial revolution.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “How Silicon Valley schools are trying to boost lower-income students into high-tech jobs.”

Via the Google blog: “Teaching coding, changing lives: supports MolenGeek.”

Via The 74: “Ripple, Blockchain-Based Payment Network, to Grant $50M to 17 Universities for Blockchain, Cryptocurrency Research, Workforce Development.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Here’s how you do clickbait. You put a celebrity in the headline when he’s really not connected to the idea. You make broad and unprovable claims. Via Forbes, the king of clickbait: “Elon Musk-funded XPRIZE Is One Step Closer To Ending Global Illiteracy.”

This is also how you do clickbait, I suppose. Via Philadelphia Magazine: “This Quaker Sex Ed Teacher Says Your Kids Need to Be Porn-Literate.”

Via Motherboard: “Twitter Is Banning Anyone Whose Date of Birth Says They Joined Before They Were 13.”

Via Techcrunch: “GitLab’s high-end plans are now free for open source projects and schools.” (Yes, GitLab is a competitor of GitHub – and there’s some big GitHub news in the funding section below. A well-timed press release, hoping for some tech churnalism. Seems like it worked out.)

Apple had a big press event this week. Among the education-related news: “Apple unveils new screen time controls for children,” says Techcrunch. “Apple’s New Focus: Student ID Cards,” says Inside Higher Ed. (More in the privacy/security section below on the implications of this.)

Inside Higher Ed on Facebook’s plans to partner with community colleges to teach digital literacy. Here’s how the Des Moines Register wrote about Des Moines Area Community College’s involvement: “Facebook chooses Iowa college for rare digital marketing education partnership.” Hi schools. If your marketing department thinks this is a good idea, if your media studies department thinks this is a good idea, tell them to read more.

Via The New York Times: “Steam, After Pulling School Shooter Game, Says It Will Sell Nearly Everything.”

Via Edsurge: “Thunkable Launches Cross-Platform App Maker That Lets Kids Drag, Drop and Build.”

Via The New York Times: “Edcamps: The ‘Unconferences,’ Where Teachers Teach Themselves.” No mention of how corporations flood these events with their products and pitches.

“Some Thoughts on OERby Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein.

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “LearnZillion Going After District Curriculum Business, Aims to Compete With Big Publishers.”

Via Edsurge: “Amplify’s Been Quiet. Here’s Where CEO Larry Berger Says It’s Going in 2018.” That’s Amplify, formerly Wireless Generation, formerly NewsCorp’s education division.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “How Textbook Rentals Undercut Students.”

Via Mashable: “Amazon wants to send your kiddos science and tech toys for $20 a month.”

Copy Machines in Libraries Are ‘Going the Way of the Dodo’ – Slowly,” says Edsurge.

Via the Getting Smart blog: “Incubating EdTech: AT&T Announces 4th Aspire Accelerator Class.” No matter how bad things get in ed-tech, someone still wants to fund more startups. See also,from the press release: “ETS and LearnLaunch to Fund Edtech Startups.”

Robots and Other Education Science Fiction

Latest @HaveYouHeardPod explores a very old dream: automating the teaching profession. We talk *teaching machines* with @audreywatters

— Jennifer Berkshire (@BisforBerkshire) June 5, 2018

Via The Verge: “MIT fed an AI data from Reddit, and now it only thinks about murder.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Education Reform

Via CNBC: “Billionaire conservative donor David Koch to retire from Koch Industries, influential political network.”

Via Counterpunch: “Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better.”

Sponsored content on Edsurge this week, paid for by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, includes this on “student voice and choice.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “$100M Gift to National U for ‘Social Emotional Learning’.” The money comes from South Dakota businessman T. Denny Sanford, whose company – checks notes – sells social emotional learning curriculum to schools.

Via The 74: “Michael Bloomberg Pledges $375 Million to Help Prepare Students for College and Careers.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Education

PlayVS has raised $15 million to bring “esports infrastructure to high schools.” Investors in the round include New Enterprise Associates, Science, CrossCut Ventures, Coatue Management, Cross Culture Ventures, the San Francisco 49ers, Nas, Michael Dubin (Dollar Shave Club founder ), and Kevin Lin (co-founder of Twitch). The company has raised $15.7 million total.

Microsoft has acquired GitHub. Here’s the NYT headline: “Microsoft Buys GitHub for $7.5 Billion, Moving to Grow in Coding’s New Era.”

Curriculum maker Lincoln Learning Solutions has acquired curriculum maker Evan-Moor Corporation.

Data, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via The New York Times: “Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends.” I’m sure this is covered in that Facebook-created digital literacy curriculum folks are cooing about.

Via Education Week: “‘Impenetrable’ World of Student Data Brokers a Major Concern, Study Says.” More on the report from Bill Fitzgerald.

Via Connecticut Public Radio: “School Districts Struggle To Comply With New Student Data Privacy Law.”

Via The Intercept: “Face Recognition Is Now Being Used in Schools, but It Won’t Stop Mass Shootings.”

Via The Washington Post: “ Unproven facial-recognition companies target schools, promising an end to shootings.”

Via Edsurge: “Apple’s New Digital Student IDs Raise Questions About Security.”

An op-ed in The New York Times by Alvaro M. Bedoya, the former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, on data as “A License to Discriminate.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Lobbying group for independent colleges says it’s open to expanding federal data collection on student outcomes but remains opposed to student-level database favored by public colleges and many policy makers.” That’s the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Research, “Research,” and Reports

How Do We Know If Ed Tech Even Works?asks Education Week.

This isn’t really new news, but I’ll put it here nonetheless as it’s something to pay attention to. “The Research Network On The Determinants Of Life Course Capabilities And Outcomes” from the Center for the Economics of Human Development. Genetics, psychology, and statistics working together to measure people. The genetics of “grit,” if you will.

Via The Atlantic: “Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test.” More on the marshmallow test from Daniel Willingham.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What would Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, a very friendly robot, plus a bevy of scientists, mystics, and wannabe scholars do at a fancy resort in Arizona? Perhaps real harm to the field of consciousness studies, for one thing.”

“Global Demand for Mobile Computing Devices in K–12 Grows, Powered by U.S. Market” – or so predicts Futuresource Consulting, according to EdWeek’s Market Brief.

More on the latest Pew study on teens and social media – I noted it in last week’s round-up – in Education Week and by Bryan Alexander.

“What the Mary Meeker slides mean for the future of education,” according to Bryan Alexander. For those keeping track at home, here are the investments that her venture capital firm, KPCB, has made in the future of education.

Via Pacific Standard: “Suicide Rates Have Increased Across the U.S. Since 1999.”


I feel as though I’d be remiss to not include here a person who taught us so much about the world. I doubt he considered himself an educator. He was a storyteller and a provocateur. Dammit, I adored him. RIP Anthony Bourdain.

Icon credits: The Noun Project


Audrey Watters - 5 Junio, 2018 - 20:40

Hack Education turns 8 years old today. I’d registered the domain a few days earlier back in 2010, but on this day, I wrote my first article here. I think my boyfriend rolled his eyes. "Good luck," he said. (Funny, 8 years later, he is still my boyfriend.)

For the past 8 years, I have supported myself through this site, thanks in no small part to the encouragement and financial support of my readers. I have never wanted to scale via venture capital. I have never accepted sponsorship dollars to pay for me to promote certain products or policies. I don’t advertise. I don’t consult. I don’t have a full-time gig that enables me to write about education technology as part of my job description. Hack Education is here because I’ve decided to devote myself to it… and somewhere along the way, folks have decided it was worth keeping (me) around. They’ve invited me to speak and allowed me to publish the transcript of my talks here. They’ve contributed to this work via PayPal or Patreon.

Thank you.

I can’t really boast about how many readers this site has had over the years – I don’t believe in tracking that number because I think analytics are suspect at best, surveillance capitalism at worst. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve published because frankly I’m too lazy to count.

But I am pretty glad that I get to do what I do: that is, write about education technology and the history of the future of education. I still firmly believe all this is key to understanding the past, present, and future of education (and even of computing technologies more broadly). As it is so goddamn crucial, I suppose that means there are a couple more years left in this website before all this "blogging thing" has run its course....