Weekly News Roundup

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  • The National Science Foundation announced this week that it was kicking off a new program called Innovation Corps to help transform promising academic research projects into viable startups. Starting this fall, the NSF will provide 100 science and engineering projects with $50,000 in funding and will enroll them in a crash course on entrepreneurship, taught by Stanford's Steve Blank.
  • Digital textbook (and former academic tablet) maker Kno released the results of a study this week in which it found -- no surprise -- that college students are unhappy with high cost and cumbersome weight of textbooks. The attention-grabbing stat may be that 25% of college students surveyed said that they'd be willing to give up sex or dating to never have to carry textbooks again. More troubling, 45% said they've had to cut back on buying food in order to afford their textbooks. According to the survey, 71% of students said they're interested in digital alternatives to print.
  • Akademos announced that it will launch a new educational textbook app, and its first partner will be the OER textbook provider Flat World Knowledge.
  • The research collaboration platform Mendeley left beta this week with the official release of Mendeley v1.0. Mendeley allows you to gather and organize your research notes and build bibliographies, as well as interact with other researchers and academics.
  • Evernote Peek, a nifty app that turns your iPad cover into a flashcard study system, had its first update this week. It now supports audio clues (and to help showcase the new functionality, Evernote has created a couple of new notebook with French and Spanish phrases and bird calls). The app now also lets you share your notebooks, great for group study sessions.
  • Khan Academy has launched a new exercise system, offering more exercises for students to practice the concepts they're learning via the site. Khan Academy's John Resig outlines some of the development on the back-end that went into re-engineering the exercise framework.
  • DonorsChoose.org has announced the grand prize winner of its recent Hacking Education contest: Michael Nutt, who developed a dynamic email signature that updated with DonorsChoose classroom projects, was handed his trophy by Stephen Colbert.
  • Group-buying site Groupon offered a special deal this week to the residents of its hometown Chicago where a $12 deal went towards buying low-income students in the city back-to-school supplies, including glue, erasers, markers, pencils, notebooks and the like. According to the Chicago Tribune, about 85% of the district's 409,000 students come from low-income families.
  • The online flashcard service Quizlet has added a few new features and now offers its text-to-speech capabilities in eighteen languages. It's also created a new study mode named "Speller" that plays an audio clip of a word that you then have to type correctly.
  • 29 universities across the country have joined forces with a project to help extend their own high-speed networks to their surrounding communities. Universities, particularly major research universities, often have Internet connections that are several hundred times faster than the typical residential connections, and Gig.U hopes to help spread high-speed networks beyond campuses.