Weekly News Roundup

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  • Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on Wednesday at age 56. The memorials and tributes continue to pour in, and it feels impossible to overstate the impact that he had on shaping our lives -- both in and out of the classroom.
  • Education lost another leader this week too: Derrick Bell. Bell was a legal scholar whose 1973 book Race, Racism and American Law was an important textbook in law schools everywhere. He was a founder of critical race theory and an incredible storyteller.
  • The Department of Education released statistics this week on the state of online education among U.S. undergratuates between 2000 and 2008 (PDF). The data finds, not surprisingly perhaps, an incredible increase in the percentage of students taking online classes -- from 8% to 20% over that time period. According to the Department of Education data, computer science and business students, along with adults with jobs, enroll in online classes at a higher-than-average rate.
  • The Open University announced that it had become the number one site for downloads in iTunesU, Apple's educational content delivery platform. Open University now boasts 40 million downloads from iTunes.
  • Several low-cost tablets hit the market this week. Researchers from the Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), a joint program of Rice University in Houston and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have created a solar-powered I-slate they expect to cost less than $50. And the Indian government announced its plans to subsidize the costs for villagers to access cheap tablet computers. With government aid, these Android tablets will cost roughly $35 per unit.
  • Bots High, a documentary about high school robotics, was released this week. The film chronicles three robotics teams, two of which are all-female. Look for screenings in your area. The DVD is also available for sale online.
  • The State of California signed into law the Reader Privacy Act which updates reader privacy law to include e-books and online bookstores. ReadWriteWeb has a good look at the new legislation, arguing that it is "still not enough."
  • Library e-book provider OverDrive updated its privacy policies this week, a response in part to the new availability of Kindle books via library loans. INFODocket continues to ask smart questions about how privacy really works between a library, a patron, and an online retail bookstore.
  • The Gates Foundation-funded Next Generation Learning Challenges announced its latest round of grant opportunities, with up to $12 million available. This third wave of grants will still focus on college readiness and college completion -- just as the previous wave have. But this round is asking for "whole-program or whole-institution breakthrough delivery models, as opposed to particular technology-enabled 'building blocks.'"
  • One of the great treatises in informal learning, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is finally available as an e-book. What took so long? The New York Times has a fascinating story in the technological constraints in digitizing a cookbook.
  • In an unprecedented move, Wikipedia temporarily pulled its Italian-language version this week. The decision by the Italian Wikipedia volunteers was supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and was done in protest to proposed legislation in Italy that would extend wiretapping laws to websites and demand they pull content deemed "detrimental" to anyone's image.
  • Boasts of user counts and downloads make fairly boring blog fodder. But Google Earth achieved a notable marker this week, now boasting over one billion downloads of Google Earth. That's billion with a B. It's a big number and a big deal for education as its celebratory blog post notes, pointing to the work of the beloved Google Lit Trips and projects like www.OneWorldManyStories.com that take advantage of the Google Earth platform.
  • A win for UCLA this week when U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall decided to dismiss a lawsuit against the university, charging it had violated copyright law by streaming Shakespeare plays to faculty and students. As PaidContent.org suggests, this isn't necessarily a "win" for fair use. The judge dismissed the case because he claimed the university benefited from "sovereign immunity." But PaidContent does suggest this same doctrine may help those universities who've recently been sued by the Authors Guild for their work in making digitized "orphan works" available.
  • What would you consider the "essential reads" of educational blogging? Someone asked Shelly Blake-Plock of TeachPaperless.com that question and he deferred -- to all of us. Submit your choices -- what they are and why they matter -- here.
  • Digital textbook maker Kno announced that it would provide the platform for the second edition of Collaborative Statistics. It's a noteworthy announcement as the textbook is the work of the 20 Million Minds Foundation and is an open source textbook. It's available for free as a PDF or for $20 as an "enhanced version."