Weekly News Roundup

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  • The big education news of the week is likely the cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. It's not a technology story, per se, but news of teachers and administrators erasing and correcting students' answers on standardized tests -- along with what appears to be a widespread cover-up of this sort of activity -- does raise questions about the tools that we use for taking and grading tests. What role does technology play here -- in the pressures for standardizing testing, in the power to change students' answers, in the ability to catch administrators and teachers who do so?
  • News broke this week that Microsoft had paid the University of Nebraks $250,000 in incentives in order to move to the company's Office 365 platform.
  • HarperCollins has released the iBooks and Nook versions of its popular "I Can Read" series. The series includes characters like the Berenstein Bears and Frog and Toad. The digital versions of the books help early readers with narration and word highlighting.
  • Open Study, the startup aiming to become the world's largest online study group, has added composition classes to its list of academic subjects around which it offers study groups. In conjunction with Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, Open Study has launched a new service to let users get help with their writing questions.
  • Zynga launched a new game this week, PrivacyVille, to help teach about the company's privacy policy. OK, it's not really a game as much as it is an interactive tutorial of Zynga's policies. Nonetheless, it does raise interesting questions about how best to educate people about best practices online -- lengthy, written policies and Terms of Service? Or a social game?
  • FatMinds launched this week with the aim of serving the adult education market by providing the largest catalog of continuing education classes. Describing the service as "Yelp meets Kayak," Co-founder Tejash Unadkat says he wants to provide a place where people can find continuing ed classes based on their specific interests, as well as time, budget, and travel constraints. FatMinds launches with a catalog of over 10,000 courses -- including public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit, online and offline classes -- available from institutions in Massachusetts and California.
  • Google seems to have killed the Google Wonder Wheel, a tool that offered a visual representation of search relationships. While designed as a tool to help advertisers and others best identify ways to optimize for search, it was also a great tool for helping teach students about research. Bill Ferriter suggests the Wiki Summarizer as an alternative.
  • In Mexico City, Jason Kottke has found that teens there (and elsewhere) are using text messaging and YouTube to help preserve what are otherwise dying languages. This according to research by Samuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research.
  • The public interest journalism organization ProPublica has created a new tool using data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. The tool draws from a database of all public schools in districts with more than 3000 students and lets users examine how well schools -- both poor and wealthier ones -- provide access to educational opportunities, including to advanced classes. You can read more about the methodology behind building the tool here.
  • Want to learn about Egyptian archeology? Well, here's your chance to sit in on a class at Michigan State University, taught by Ethan Watrall. Professor Watrall has made his online class open access, meaning anyone can view the course materials.