Weekly News Roundup

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  • FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Connect to Compete, a new non-profit initiative that brings private industry and the non-profit sector together to help expand broadband adoption and promote digital literacy. The initiative aims to help boost education, health and employment in disadvantaged communities in the U.S. and aims to address some of the obstacles to broadband adoption -- in terms of cost, access, relevance, and digital literacy.
  • In order to help address some of the frustrations teachers and students face with school filters blocking YouTube, Google has launched a pilot program that will allow schools to redirect all educational content to YouTube.com/education. The program will also block all YouTube comments and make sure that any videos that show up as "related" are also educational.
  • Google also launched YouTube Space Lab this week, a special channel that, in cooperation with Lenovo, Space Adventures, NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will provide space-related video content as well as provide an opportunity for students to design experiments to be conducted in space.
  • California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB547, a piece of legislation that would have changed the way in which the state handled school accountability. Although the bill would have shifted emphasis away from standardized testing, Brown blasted the reform: “SB547 nowhere mentions good character or love of learning. It does allude to student excitement and creativity, but does not take these qualities seriously because they can’t be placed in a data stream. Lost in the bill’s turgid mandates is any recognition that quality is fundamentally different from quantity.”
  • Governor Brown did sign into legislation the California "Dream Act," allowing illegal immigrants who graduated from high school in the state to apply to its public universities as residents and to receive state financial aid for college.
  • Rey Junco continues to publish interesting research on how Facebook is impacting students' academic performance. Among his latest findings: "Time spent on Facebook was negatively related to overall college GPA. The average time students spent on Facebook was 106 minutes per day. Each increase of 93 minutes beyond the mean decreased GPA by .12 points in the model. Therefore, I conclude that although this was a significant finding, the real-world impact of the relationship between time spent on Facebook and grades is negligible at best."
  • Last year, the National Federation of the Blind filed a complaint against Penn State, charging that the school's adoption of Google Apps for Education was discriminatory. Google has worked to address many of the accessibility issues, and The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the issue was resolved "without any admission of wrongdoing."
  • According to Inside Higher Ed, the University of California lecturers' union has stated that it will use its collective bargaining power to block the university system's expansion of online course offerings unless the "move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members."
  • E-book provider Overdrive reports that e-book checkouts from libraries are up over 200% from last year.
  • Adam Duran, a participant in a two-month long summer program at the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center in Stanford, has developed a touchscreen Braille writer for tablets. Not a reader. A wirter. As the Stanford News describes it, the tool works like such: "They did not create virtual keys that the fingertips must find; they made keys that find the fingertips. The user simply touches eight fingertips to the glass, and the keys orient themselves to the fingers. If the user becomes disoriented, a reset is as easy as lifting all eight fingers off the glass and putting them down again.
  • The Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons have launched a new website, LMRI.net to provide information about the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative. It's an effort to create a common language for metadata for educational content, which in turn should ease both its publishing and the discovery.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Renaissance Learning has rebuffed a takeover offer by Plato Learning, even though that offer is some $41 million higher than the offer it has accepted from the European private-equity firm Permira.
  • The investment firm NewSchools Venture Fund has released an Ed Tech Map, a "visual representation of ventures currently operating in the education technology market."
  • Pearson announced this week that it plans to release a free learning management system aimed at the higher education market. Although the education giant currently only holds about 1% of the LMS market at the higher ed level, it clearly hopes that offering a free service will help woo schools away from some of the incumbent players in the space.
  • According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, James Madison University will begin offering credit to online students who complete a 16-week introductory conversational Spanish course. What makes this newsworthy? That class is produced by language learning software maker Rosetta Stone.
  • Adaptive learning company Knewton announced a massive round of fundraising: $33 million. While initially focusing on test prep, Knewton has recently expanded into universities, where its adaptive learning platform is used in some remedial classes, helping tailor coursework for students in math. The company says it plans to expand to the K-12 grades as well and hopes to open up its platform so that educational publishers can take advantage of the platform. Among its investors in this round: Pearson.