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Weekly News Roundup

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  • Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced earlier this week that he is willing to override part of the No Child Left Behind law. States can apply for waivers, but "only states the administration believed were carrying out ambitious school improvement initiatives would get them," reports The New York Times.
  • E-textbook app maker Kno introduced 4 new products this week: the app is now available via the Web and via Facebook. (Yes, Facebook.) It's also added to its iPad app "Quiz Me," the ability to turn any diagram into a study guide, and "Journal," a notebook into which all a student's notes, highlights, and bookmarks from a textbook are transferred, again for easier studying.
  • It was "tit for tat" with e-reader apps this week. Over the weekend, it appears that Amazon tweaked some of the social features surrounding Kindle's Public Notes feature and suddenly lots of folks realized that there was a nascent social (reading) network there. Google made its own efforts to support social reading by making it possible to share to Google Plus from within Google Books. Based on early assessments, neither of these options are fully fleshed out, and sites like Goodreads still provide better utility and better experience.
  • Google announced last month that it would be shuttering Google Labs but wouldn't reveal at the time which of the experimental projects incubated there would become full-fledged Google products and which would get the ax. Unfortunately, it looks like Android App Inventor won't be one of the projects to leave Google Labs. The educational programming tool is slated to be closed at the end of the year, although Google does say it will open source the code.
  • Comcast is launching a new program to provide Internet access to low-income families. The program, a requirement as part of the company's acquisition earlier this year of NBC, will offer families Internet for $9.95 a month, as well as a voucher to buy a discounted computer. The program is available to families that have a child in the National School Lunch Program.
  • Common Craft, the makers of some of the very best explanatory videos on the Internet, announced this week that it was changing its business model. Rather than a pay-per-download option, Common Craft will now offer subscriptions, meaning that members will have access to the whole Common Craft catalog versus just a single video.
  • The government of China announced its plans this week to "facilitate a healthy Internet environment for children" by providing free or low-priced public Internet access exclusive to children, and applying special software to "filtrate away harmful information."
  • The annual DefCon hackers convention was held in Las Vegas this past week. For the first time, the event included DefCon Kids, a sub-conference aimed at the younger set. According to some reports, 10year-old Cyfi stole the show with her talk. Cyfi had uncovered an exploit in Android and iOS games that would help her bypass the "wait 10 hours" sorts of requirements in certain games.
  • A victim of the success of online learning perhaps, the Army announced this week that it was shutting down eArmyU. The online degree program has been in effect for 10 years now, and when it started, online learning was a pretty small endeavor. But now the Army simply cannot keep up with the options that soldiers have to pursue their degrees online. The program has served some 64,000 soldiers; currently 1429 are taking advantage of its offerings.
  • Apple will sell a new edition of the iMac, targeted at educational audiences, reports 9to5mac. I use the term "new" loosely here as "new" doesn't mean "awesome." These discounted iMacs have less power and less storage space than other iMacs. To paraphrase Free Technology for Teachers' Richard Byrne, "Don't believe the hype."
  • Launching this week: CampusSplash, a self-described Quora for college-related questions. The Q&A site has insights on financial aid, sports, study life, and other important questions that influence students' application decisions.
  • It appears that IBM is backing out of plans to build the world's fastest academic supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, say school officials. The company abruptly canceled its contract with the university over the weekend, citing the expense and complexity of the project.
  • Remember Etherpad, that great collaborate website that was acquired by Google and eventually became part of Google Wave? (RIP Google Wave.) A new startup Stypi has built a very similar product, where multiple people can work on a document simultaneously. Stypi allows you to work on different types of text, including various programming languages and offers syntax highlighting as you do so.


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