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The headlines today are being made by Google through a series of announcements at its IO conference. More interesting items include a new human-sounding Google Duplex AI interface, a new camera-based scavenger hunt (try it here), and a new interface design with Material Theming. Or you could just go for the obligatory cool stuff overview.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
OLDaily isn't simply about educational technology. It takes a philosophical perspective, which means that readers benefit (I hope!) from some deeper analysis that "Look what's cool!" This post identifies four major benefits of philosophy: critical thinking, scientific criticism, ethical reasoning, and wisdom (here defined as "knowing how to live a good life. Knowing what’s valuable in life and what’s not," which speaks to the outcomes and benefits of education). Though each post stands on its own, and refers to a specific resource or point of view, the posts (more than 30,000 of them) are also intended to be taken together as a unified whole, an extended philosophical discussion of learning, technology, and wisdom. P.S. I love the thermometer example.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Sadly, I'm not at AERA today, even though I was supposed to be part of a really excellent panel, "Whither Equity in the '21st-Century School'? Critical Perspectives on Education and Technology," with some of my favorite educators and scholars.
The panel organizer, Ethan Chang, was nice enough to let me record a video of my 10 minute spiel, and I am embedding it below:
Here is (roughly) what I had planned to say today. I am really sorry I am not there.
My apologies for not being there in person today. I’m on a reporting trip for a story I’m currently working on. It’s actually a story associated with the paper I proposed for this panel – so I do have a good excuse for my absence. Also I’ll get paid for that story. Lines on my CV don’t pay the bills.
I’m recording this a few days early but by the time of this panel, I’ll be at the ASU-GSV Summit. It’s an event I’ve never attended before – one that I’ve been quite loathe to go to, in part because of the reports I hear back about some of the shadiest and most destructive elements in education business and politics. Here’s how the event’s sponsor GSV, the venture capital firm Global Silicon Valley, describes it:
The Summit continues to bring together the most impactful people from diverse constituencies – entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators, policymakers, philanthropists, and university and district leaders – to create partnerships, explore solutions, and shape the future of learning.
I can’t help but notice that students and parents and communities are not mentioned among those constituencies. Also absent from that list (and relevant to our purposes here, no doubt): “education researchers.” Indeed, every year (and this is its ninth), the ASU-GSV Summit seems to coincide with AERA. I don’t think this is an insignificant or even an unintentional scheduling gaffe. If nothing else, it taps into a powerful cultural trope, one that’s particularly resonant among Silicon Valley and education reform types: that education experts and expertise aren’t to be trusted, that research is less important than politics, that the “peer review” that matters isn’t the academic version. Rather that “review” in the ASU-GSV framework is a kind of networking or power brokering – it’s who you know, not what you know; it’s not how you wield your research as much as it’s how you wield your relationships. That’s not to say relationships don’t matter in academia. They do. But these networks are significantly less powerful.
But as people in Silicon Valley like to say, venture capitalists don’t invest in ideas, they invest in people.
Now, I believe that that saying overstates its case a lot. Clearly, ideas do matter. Ideology matters. Metaphors matter. The way in which one talks about education matters – the notion that it’s broken, for example, or that it needs to be fixed through market-based mechanisms. Ideas shape the products that entrepreneurs build and the policies that reformers promote. Investors might select certain people as entrepreneurs or back certain officials as reformers, but that’s because they share ideas. More importantly, I’d argue, they share networks.
I am currently wrapping up my year as a Spencer Fellow at the Columbia School of Journalism, and my proposed project involves an exploration how these networks work, how education technology investors work in particular – where and how they come up with their ideas, how their influence spreads. I’m interested in the shape of the network (who’s in it), the money (where’s the funding going), the power (how do investors and investments influence policy), and the associated narratives about the future. “The Ed-Tech Mafia,” I sometimes call this – a nod to “The PayPal Mafia,” those early employees and executives at PayPal who’ve gone on to shape recent Silicon Valley history and business and politics (as investors or entrepreneurs). Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn). Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and SpaceX). Peter Thiel (vampire and enemy of the free press). Chad Hurley (the founder of YouTube). Pierre Omidyar (the founder of eBay) and so on.
Venture capitalists are important, increasingly so as Silicon Valley technologies play a more and more powerful role in our personal lives and in our political (and education) system. But when I use the word “investors,” I also mean the influence of philanthropists. And it’s worth pointing out that several of the philanthropies founded by tech executives are not the classic “family foundation,” they’re venture capital firms – some are non-profit and some are for-profit. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, for example – founded by Facebook’s founder – is a venture capital firm. It’s often talked about like it’s a philanthropy. But it’s a company. The Emerson Collective – founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple’s co-founder – is a venture capital firm. As LLCs, they have fewer requirements for transparency than do foundations about where their money goes. You can see, for example, on the Gates Foundation website, who’s received its education grants, dating all the way back to 1994. (I’m guessing that includes many many people in the room right now.) But we don’t really know where CZIs dollars are going. The organization has promised to spend billions in the coming decade on “personalized learning.” Last time I checked, “personalized learning” is an idea, and not a person; but who gets that money is still worth considering. How that idea takes shape and takes hold in people and in policies is important.
So, here’s an example of how these investor networks operate – and this is what I’m trying to investigate in more detail while I’m at the ASU-GSV Summit. One of GSV’s co-founders is Deborah Quazzo. She is one of the most active investors in ed-tech. She was briefly on the Chicago Public Schools board – that is, until a Chicago Tribune story found that since her appointment, the district had tripled its spending on companies in her investment portfolio. GSV’s investments include Dreambox Learning, Coursera, ClassDojo, and Edsurge. (Edsurge is a really important node here as its investors include almost every firm who’s actively investing in ed-tech in Silicon Valley, as well as the major philanthropies and venture philanthropies like Gates and CZI. And as such, it is clear the publication promotes certain narratives about the future of schools. Ideas do matter.) Another co-founder of GSV is, of course, Michael Moe. Moe has a long, long history in education financing. When he worked at Merrill Lynch in the 1990s, for example, he helped the school management company Edison Schools prepare for its initial public offering.
Edison Schools is another one of those interesting nodes in the ed-tech network. And I mention this one because the privatization and financialization of education – an idea – has a lengthy history. These networks are well established, even as Silicon Valley prefers to associate itself with “the new.” Edison was co-founded by Chris Whittle, whose other companies include Channel One, the advertising-filled TV news provider for schools. Edison Schools’ founding partners include Chester Finn and John Chubb. The President of its LearnNow division was Jim Shelton, who from Edison went on to work as a Program Director at the Gates Foundation. He then worked as Assistant Secretary of Education at the Obama Department of Ed. (An aside: Arne Duncan is also a venture capitalist now; he works for the Emerson Collective.) After the Department of Education, Shelton went to work at 2U, an online program management company co-founded by John Katzman who previously founded the Princeton Review – another key node, another investor (surprise, surprise) in Edsurge. Shelton is now the head of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s education program.
CZI has also hired Bror Saxburg, formerly the chief learning officer at Kaplan (owned by Graham Holdings, once the owner of The Washington Post and – yup – an investor in Edsurge) as its Chief Learning Officer. It’s also hired Katrina Stevens, who worked at the Department of Education under Jim Shelton and who worked at Edsurge, as its director of learning sciences. I believe these folks are all at ASU-GSV and not at AERA.
A “director of learning sciences” in the business of ed-tech needn’t be interested in the research as much as she need navigate and perhaps even propitiate the investor network.
And that’s where one future – a dystopian one, I’d argue – of education technology lies: in a place where scholarship and research can be ignored unless it explicitly endorses the ideas and the politics and the “impactful people” and the networks of capital.
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
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress this week about privacy, data, monopoly power, and regulations. I’ll have more to say about this in my newsletter tomorrow. But for now, here are a couple of education-related stories: one from Education Week and from Edsurge.
And there’s more Facebook-related news in several of the sections below.
A GOP nominee for a lifetime judicial appointment refused to say she agrees with the result of Brown v. Board of Education and it barely registered as a story. https://t.co/Aw84l0YsCN— abolish ice. send homan to the hague. (@SeanMcElwee) April 11, 2018
Via People: “Oklahoma Mom ‘Embarrassed’ After Her Daughter Checks Out Textbook Once Used By Blake Shelton.” The singer was once a student in Ada, Oklahoma and checked out the reading textbook in 1982.
Teacher strike stories are in the “labor and management” section below.
Via Chalkbeat’s Colorado news desk: “$35 million for school safety will go toward training, but not hiring, of school resource officers.”
Via The Verge: “Facebook-backed lawmakers are pushing to gut privacy law.” Privacy law in Illinois, that is.
Via The Seattle Times: “Seattle School Board selects first Native American superintendent in city history.” Her name: Denise Juneau.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The governor of Virginia has approved a bill requiring all public higher education institutions in the state to take steps to adopt open educational resources – freely accessible and openly copyrighted educational materials.”
Via NPR: “California’s Higher Ed Diversity Problem.”Immigration and Education
Via ProPublica: “Teen Who Faced Deportation After He Informed on MS–13 Gets Temporary Reprieve.”
Via The Washington Post: “ICE is moving to deport a veteran after Mattis assured that would not happen.” This part about a government-created “fake university” caught my eye:
Xilong Zhu, 27, who came from China in 2009 to attend college in the United States, enlisted in the Army and was caught in an immigration dragnet involving a fake university set up by the Department of Homeland Security to catch brokers of fraudulent student visas.
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday that immigrant students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status are not eligible for lower in-state tuition rates.”Education in the Courts
Via The Washington Post: “Student loan servicer asks court to settle spat between Education Dept. and Connecticut over licensing dispute.” The servicer in question: the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
Via Splinter: “Stoneman Douglas Teacher Who Pushed for Guns in Schools Arrested for Leaving His Gun in a Bathroom.”
Via KMOV, news from Montville High in Montville, Connecticut: “Substitute teacher arrested for starting ‘fight club’ in classroom.”
Via Buzzfeed: “ A Lawsuit Says This Private Religious High School Protected An Accused Rapist.” The school: Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan, whose most famous alumnus is probably Betsy DeVos.
“Publishers Wiley, Cengage, Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education have won a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against a seller of fake textbooks,” Inside Higher Ed reports. The seller: Book Dog Books.
There’s more legal news in the “immigration” section above.The Business of Financial Aid
“Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons this week announced that it would eliminate student loans with scholarships for all students who qualify for financial aid,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
There’s more financial aid news in the “research” section below and in the “courts” section above.The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed
More on the accreditation of for-profits in the accreditation section below.Online Education (and the Once and Future “MOOC”)
The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at Western Governors University and its “mentor-based model.”
Via KPVI: “Idaho Department of Education Offering Online Pre-K.”
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “ Virtual charter high school serving 2000 students closing in June.” That’s Graduation Achievement Charter High School.Meanwhile on Campus…
Still more Howard news, via The Washington Post: “Howard University reveals that fired employees misappropriated $369,000.”
The Guardian looks at the relationship between the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and elite universities, including Harvard and MIT.
Via the Times Higher Education (and reprinted by Inside Higher Ed): “China Tries Private University Model.” That’s at Westlake University in Hangzhou.
Mount Ida will close, and its campus will be part of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Via The Atlantic: “When a College Employee Shoots a Student.”
Via the BBC: “All 500 teachers of Millcreek School District near Erie got a 16in (41cm) bat in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school attack in February.” A baseball bat, to be clear.Accreditations and Certifications and Competencies
“ACICS, a flashpoint for debate over accountability of the for-profit sector, has another chance at federal recognition. But some higher ed observers see tough odds for its long-term survival,” says Inside Higher Ed.Testing
NAEP NAEP NAEP NAEP!
Education Next on “Interpreting the 2017 NAEP Reading and Math Results.”
Just remember: “interpretations” of “the nation’s report card” are often “confirmations” of people’s education politics.
“Did computer testing muddle this year’s NAEP results?” asks Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum. “Testing group says no; others are unconvinced.”
Via Chalkbeat: “A decade of stagnation: What you should know about today’s NAEP results.”
The Secretary of Education issued a press statement on the NAEP results.
Via Chalkbeat: “Two years after massive testing snafus, Tennessee will test more students online than ever.”
Via MIT Technology Review: “DNA tests for IQ are coming, but it might not be smart to take one.”Go, School Sports Team!
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The faculty union at Eastern Michigan University is blasting administrators there for cutting four sports while football – a money- and game-losing program – remains intact.”Labor and Management
Via Politico: “Teachers Are Going on Strike in Trump’s America.”
This story – “Oklahoma Teachers Continue Strike” – is from last weekend, and as I type up these notes while listening to the radio, it sounds like the strike might be over.
Via NPR: “Walkouts And Teacher Pay: How Did We Get Here?”
Via NPR: “Arizona Teachers ‘Walk-In’ To Protest Low Pay And Low Funding.”
The Guardian headline says, “Secret rightwing strategy to discredit teacher strikes,” but it’s not that secret. The State Policy Network has a plan to counter union activism with anti-union PR.
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Union Organizer at Penn State’s Grad School Cites University’s ‘Veiled Threat’ to Foreign Students.”The Business of Job Training
Via Chalkbeat: “Newark looks to build school-to-work ‘pipeline’ by boosting vocational education.”
Via Campus Technology: “NYC Data Science Academy Launches Online Bootcamp.”This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines
“Can AI Help Students – and Colleges – Determine the Best Fit?” asks Edsurge.
“Apple and Microsoft Now Offer $100 Styluses. But Do Schools Need – or Want – Them?” asks Edsurge.
“Can a For-Profit, Venture-Backed Company Keep OER Free – and Be Financially Sustainable?” asks Edsurge.
“Can a ‘Family of Bots’ Reshape College Teaching?” asks Edsurge.
“Do Online Courses Really Save Money?” asks Edsurge.
“Can Artificial Intelligence Make Teaching More Personal?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.
(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” And a big thank you for the editors who consistently run with this sort of ridiculous headline and make writing this section such a joy.)Upgrades and Downgrades
Chris Gilliard on “How Ed Tech Is Exploiting Students.” (Note: there’s a response to this article by Georgia Tech professor Ashok Goel, who builds teaching chat-bots, in the “robots” section below. Edsurge also interviewed Goel this week. That story’s in the “Betteridge’s Law” section.)
Edsurge’s coverage of Top Hat’s OER news is also in the Betteridge’s Law section above.
Via Techcrunch: “Tencent and education startup Age of Learning bring popular English-learning app ABCmouse to China.”
Via The Verge: “YouTube will reportedly release a kids’ app curated by humans.”
Via Reveal: “When virtual reality feels real, so does the sexual harassment.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education lists “Pros and Cons of Virtual Reality in the Classroom.”
Via US PIRG: “‘You might want to tell your instructors about this:’ students as sales reps?” “This” in this headline is a product from Cengage, which markets directly to students asking them to push the product to their teachers.
Stanford’s Larry Cuban on “Whatever Happened to Ebonics?”
Via The Verge: “Duolingo overhauled its fluency system to make it harder for advanced users.”
From the Scratch Team’s Medium blog: “3 Things To Know About Scratch 3.0.”
Via Edsurge: “Transcription and Accessibility – New Partnerships from Microsoft and Amazon.”Robots and Other Education Science Fiction
A letter to the editor in The Chronicle of Higher Editor asserts that “AI Project at Georgia Tech Does Not Exploit Students.”
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How A.I. Is Infiltrating Every Corner of the Campus.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education also wants you to know that you can major in “drones.”
Techcrunch says that “Robo Wunderkind wants to build the Lego Mindstorms for everyone.” (Why is Lego Mindstorms not the Lego Minstorms for everyone?)(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Education Reform
Via The Washington Post: “Billionaire offered $25 million to high school alma mater. What he wanted in return was too much for the district.” The billionaire in question: Stephen A. Schwarzman. The school: Abington High School in Abington, Pennsylvania. Imagine that: strings attached when someone gives you money.
School administration software-maker Connexeo has raised $110 million from Great Hill Partners.
Edovo has raised $9 million from Kapor Capital, Ekistic Ventures, Lumina Foundation, SustainVC, Impact Engine, Evolve Foundation, IDP Foundation, and Series Change Investment. The company sells a tablet for use in prison. Here’s how Techcrunch describes it:
Edovo works with facilities to bring in secure wireless networks and tablets that access Edovo’s educational platform. The incentive-based learning program covers a variety of areas, including literacy, college course work, cognitive behavioral therapy and vocational training. Upon completion of certain lessons, incarcerated individuals can receive certificates and entertainment options. They can also use Edovo to stay in touch with their loved ones.
Ed-tech as surveillance and punishment and behavioral management. It’s not just for schools. Anyway. Edovo, which describes itself as “the most innovative carceral technology solution on the market,” has raised $12.3 million total.
BookNook has raised $2 million from Better Ventures, the Urban Innovation Fund, Reach Capital, Impact Engine, Kapor Capital, Redhouse Education, and Edovate Capital. The reading software-maker has raised $3.2 million total.
The big “business of ed-tech” news of the week: Edmodo has been acquired by Chinese game-maker NetDragon. NetDragon will pay $137.5 million for the company – but of that just $15 million is cash; the rest is equity in NetDragon. Edmodo had raised some $77.5 million in venture capital according to Crunchbase ($100 million according to Edsurge). Either way, it’s not a good look, and not a good ending. As The Financial Times puts it, “EdTech fails to pay, again.”
Coding bootcamp Thinkful has acquired coding bootcamp Bloc.
Credly has acquired Pearson’s badge platform, Acclaim.
Campus Labs has acquired Chalk & Wire.
Reuters looks at Springer Nature’s upcoming IPO.
It’s not venture capital, but it’s funding news. I guess. Techcrunch reports that “Sesame Street turns to Kickstarter to fund autism book.”
More business news from Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Moody’s Downgrades Blackboard Debt, Focuses On Learn Ultra Delivery.”Data, Surveillance, and Information Security
Via The Washington Post: “The new lesson plan for elementary school: Surviving the Internet.”
Via Edscoop: “Personal information of 1 million potential college applicants ‘exposed inadvertently’.” The data in question was from Target Direct Marketing.
Via the Windsor Star: “‘Personal and private’ info of Essex school students stolen from teacher’s home.”
The Verge asks, “How much VR user data is Oculus giving to Facebook?”
Via Education Week: “Schools Choose Not to Delete Facebook Despite Data-Privacy Worries.”
“Schools prove soft targets for hackers,” says The Hechinger Report.Research, “Research,” and Reports
Via The New York Times: “Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds”: “Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “New Study on Income-Driven Repayment Plans.”
“The U.S. could see a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, according to a report published Wednesday by the Association of American Medical Colleges,” Inside Higher Ed reports.
From Science Alert: “ Evidence Shows Students Still Learn More Effectively From Print Textbooks Than Screens.”
Edsurge looks at a report called “Making Digital Learning Work,” but as it’s gone – once again – with a headline in the form of a question, that story is in the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section above. More on the report via Bryan Alexander.
Pew Research on “Bots in the Twittersphere.”
Education Next on “Studying a Large-Scale Voucher Program in Colombia.”
Via Gizmodo: “Teen Monitoring Apps Don’t Work and Just Make Teens Hate Their Parents, Study Finds.” I wonder what “studies” say about these apps at school and how they make teens feel about teachers and principals?
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why Researchers Shouldn’t Share All Their Data.”
From the press release: “Facebook Launches New Initiative to Help Scholars Assess Social Media’s Impact on Elections.” Financial backers: the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Education Week on a new Gallup poll: “Teachers on Tech: Good for Student Learning, Bad for Student Health.”
Via PBS News Hour: “Millions of U.S. adults live in education deserts, far from colleges and fast internet.”
Survey finds more teachers are clicking on marketing emails. Congrats, everyone. Good work.
Icon credits: The Noun Project