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Weekly News Update

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  • Microsoft announced a $15 million investment over the next three years that will go towards the research and development of immersive learning technologies, including game-based instruction and a lifelong learning digital archive.
  • Amazon is launching a textbook lending program for the Kindle. The Kindle Textbook Rental program will enable students to rent electronic versions of their textbooks (when available, of course) for a period of 30 to 360 days. Although more publishers are making textbooks available in a digital format, it isn't clear that by renting books that students will save any money, particularly when there's still the option to buy books used.
  • Education-oriented blog host Edublogs has made all of its blogs ad-free, including its free blogs.
  • The adaptive learning platform PrepMe has been acquired by Ascend Learning, which in turn is owned by Providence Equity Partners, the firm that recently acquired the learning management system Blackboard.
  • Via Microsoft education blogger Alfred Thompson, Small Basic 1.0 has been released. Small Basic has been in beta for several years. It's another good resource for teaching kids to program.
  • Wolfram, the makers of the math software Mathematica and the computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, has released a new document format. The Computable Document Format (CDF) is designed to include real-time interactivity and computation into documents, so that readers can actually manipulate inputs in graphics, rather than just look at static images. The new format, if adopted widely, could have a lot of potential for math and science textbooks, among other things.
  • The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a compilation of its research, highlighting the technology use of college students. Young people across the board -- whether in school or not -- tend to use the Internet more than the general population. But Internet usage is even higher for undergraduates and graduates. 93% of grad students have broadband at home, compared to just 66% of the general adult population. Undergraduates were less likely than non-students to own desktop computers, and 88% of them (and 93% of graduate students) own laptops.
  • According to a study by the Teachers College at Columbia University, community college students perform more poorly in online courses than they do in face-to-face ones. Researchers found an 8-point gap in completion rates between the two.
  • Google introduced a new feature for Google Scholar, its academic search engine. Google Scholar Citations will allow scholars to track the metrics on their citations and will also give them a way to create public profiles where their publishing history can be viewed.
  • A new study from University of Rhode Island researchers has found that sexting is very common among college students. Nearly 80% of college students surveyed said they'd received sexually suggested texts. The vast majority of these were sent to someone they were in a relationship with, but 10% were sent without consent.
  • Digital textbook platform Coursesmart unveiled a new HTML5 reader this week, providing on- and offline access to its Web-based textbooks.
  • PC World reports that the latest version of the One Laptop Per Child devices are under development. They will include solar charging and satellite Internet functionality. One interesting note: according to the report, the OLPC machines will ditch the Windows operating system and are investigating alternatives, including Google's new Chrome OS.


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