Weekly News Roundup

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  • The number-one feature requested by schools adopting Chromebooks -- heck, a feature we've all been waiting for -- is here: offline access to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. There are still some kinks to work out, and you can't edit Google Docs offline yet. But it's a start.
  • Citing the recent phone hacking scandal, New York officials have rejected a contract that the News Corp subsidiary Wireless Generation had initially been granted. The company was initially granted the $27 million no-bid contract to develop testing software.
  • Sprint is suing the learning management system Blackboard over a dispute over the latter's Mobile Learn app. Sprint had agreed to pay Blackboard millions of dollars for an exclusivity agreement that would enable Blackboard's app to work only on the Spring network. But as the iPhone and iPad apps can access the Internet via universities' wireless networks, Sprint is now suing Blackboard and withholding at least $3 million in referral fees, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Teachers in Dayton, Ohio are the latest to find their ability to communicate with students via social media curbed. The Dayton Public School District has banned teachers from friending students on Facebook and from responding to "student-initiated attempts at conversation through nondistrict approved media, whether personal or professional accounts.”
  • The future of reading is, indeed, social, and a new feature launched this week by Amazon brings the author into the conversation. Highlight a passage in your Kindle, @ the author, and you'll be able to direct a question to her. Only a limited number of authors are participating currently.
  • The Big Think blog has launched a new endeavor called the Floating University, which brings together professors and students from Harvard, Yale and Bard for a massive online liberal arts course. The course, "Great Big Ideas," featuring lectures from Steven Pinker, Tamar Gendler, and Joel Cohen and others, will cost you $495.
  • Syrian virtual protesters took aim at Columbia University's Facebook page this week, but missed. Hundreds and hundreds of messages in support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad filled the pages of an unofficial Columbia Facebook page. Oops.
  • The popular provider of wikis, Wikispaces, has added a great new feature this week: Projects. The feature means that project teams can be established -- comprised of certain wiki members and with access to their own unique pages, files, and permissions. This means, for example, that student teams can work on their group projects without other groups having access to what they're working on.