This article includes news items that didn’t quite make the cut for part 1 of my annual review of the year in ed-tech

Robots Coming For Your Jobs

There’s been lots of hullaballoo about artificial intelligence over the last few weeks because of the defeat of Lee Sedol, champion Go player, by Google’s AI system AlphaGo. It’s probably worth noting that elements of AI – machine learning, natural language processing, expert systems – are already all around us. So when NPR says “What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For Education,” we shouldn’t just look at Pearson’s future-casting. We can look at what we already are doing with algorithms and machines.

In the Future There Will Only Be 10 Universities

“The coming era of consolidation among colleges and universities,” Jeff Selingo predicts in a Washington Post op-ed.

Science, Debunked

This isn’t ed-tech but like many I’ve been keeping a close eye on Theranos, a much-hyped health startup that’s come under scrutiny for its questionable scientific claims. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Theranos Voids Two Years of Edison Blood-Test Results.” Good thing there’s no one in ed-tech making questionable scientific claims, right?

What Neuroscience Can Tell Us About Making Fractions Stick

How Startups Are Solving A Decades-Old Problem In Education

The Claims of EdTech (supposedly backed by research)

Solving For X: A Math Coach For Every Student

Theranos Voids Two Years of Edison Blood-Test Results

The University of New Mexico has come under fire for spending some $7000 on an (unsuccessful) expedition in search of Bigfoot.

Via NPR: “American Academy Of Pediatrics Lifts ‘No Screens Under 2’ Rule.” That’s the story that’s getting the headlines, it seems. Not this one by the same organization: “Researchers Caution About Potential Harms of Parents’ Online Posts about Children.”

Brain Training

Bad news for brain training” by Daniel Willingham.


Chatbots for First-Year Student Success

Via Technode: “This Startup Is Using WeChat Chatbots To Scale English Learning.” (“This startup” is Rikai Labs.)

The Death of Print

Print is still much more popular than digital. This and other findings are in the latest Pew Research on “Book Reading 2016.”

The Never-Ending Promises of MOOCs

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first fully online course

“The Great Courses” are available on a medium other than VCR or cassette and The New York Times is on it.

The Online Learning Consortium finds students prefer online learning (contrary to other surveys that find they do not. Weird).

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Same Time, Many Locations: Online Education Goes Back to Its Origins.” “Like it’s a TV show.”

The History of Ed-Tech

Well this is exciting. Ed-tech entrepreneurs seem to have discovered some research from the 1980s! (Or at least, they’re citing Bloom’s “2 Sigma Problem.”)

The Promise of Flashcards Will Never Die

“Duolingo wants to reinvent flashcards with Tinycards,” says Techcrunch.

Pokemon Go

Via Education Week: “Educators Weigh Learning Value of Pokémon Go.”

“Should teachers care about Pokémon Go?” asks Dean Groom.

The Promises of Pinterest

Oh look. Another “Pinterest for education.”

You know what ed-tech really needs? Another “Pinterest for Education.” Never fear, Stephen Fry has a new startup that does just that.

The Magic of Language Learning

“Could the Language Barrier Actually Fall Within the Next 10 Years?” asks The New Republic. Well, I suppose technological imperialism could bring about the end to most languages other than English, but I don’t think that’s what “technology expert” Alec Ross is talking about when he makes his sweeping promises about technology and language learning.

Wearables are Magic

With wearable device sales projected to reach 110M, colleges must adapt.

Virtual Reality

Welcome to Virtual Reality: Valid Identification Required

Why I’m Intrigued by Pearson’s HoloLens Initiative

Via the Google blog: “Google Earth VR – Bringing the whole wide world to virtual reality.”

Via Ars Technica: “Oculus reveals first ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, in bundles starting at $1,499.” A wonderful price-point for the VR-in-education revolution.

Because ed-tech suffers from amnesia, folks are once again predicting that virtual reality is poised (again) to be “the next big thing.”

“Google Announces Virtual Reality App and Updates to ‘Expeditions Program,’” according to Edsurge.

Edsurge interviews the CEO of Nearpod, which has recently pivoted to offering “virtual reality lessons” (which appear to me to be powerpoint slides that you can look at through one of those cardboard viewers.) “This is such an exciting new product,” Edsurge gushes, calling it the first publicly available VR tool for schools and demonstrating perfectly how some folks continue to ignore and/or rewrite the history of ed-tech.

“McDonald’s Is Now Making Happy Meal Boxes That Turn Into Virtual Reality Headsets,” says AdWeek, and I cannot wait for the McDonalds-Certified Educators to offer workshops on this at ISTE.

Elsewhere in VR: “Fun (and Some Nausea) with the First Games for the Oculus Rift Headset.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Remember Second Life? Its Fans Hope to Bring VR Back to the Classroom.” Michael Horn also trumpets the “Virtual Reality Disruption” this week in an article in EducationNext.

From the press release: “The U.S. Department of Education today launched the EdSim Challenge, a $680,000 competition to design the next-generation of educational simulations that strengthen career and technical skills. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.”

“VR's Higher-Ed Adoption Starts With Student Creation,” insists Edsurge.

Pearson Collaborates With Google to Develop Virtual Reality Learning Experiences for Students.”

Via Ars Technica: “Queen’s Brian May unveils Owl VR: His Victorian take on Google Cardboard.” Admitting that a lot of this VR hype is actually just a repackaging of the stereoscope makes a ton of sense, to be honest.

“Lifeliqe debuts VR-enabled educational content to keep kids interested in learning,” says Techcrunch. “Debut” is really not the right verb as it’s not actually a product yet. Oh VR promises. Never change.

The Top 10 Companies Working on Education in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.” This one’s definitely my favorite: “Lecture VR is a VR app … which simulates a lecture hall in virtual reality.”

Via The Daily Beast: “Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near-Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine.” Remind me again, all you fans of VR in education, how this technology is going to promote empathy? Well, one thing’s for certain: between this and Peter Thiel on its board, Facebook is well-positioned for a Trump presidency.

Via Venture Beat: “Facebook and Oculus promise millions in funding for diverse apps, education, and more for VR.” From the article:

Zuckerberg revealed that he wants to ensure that education has a chance to flourish in VR. That led to him announcing a $10 million fund specifically for learning applications.

“Education is going to be a powerful example of the potential of VR,” he said. “Already today, 10 percent of the experiences in the Oculus Store are education.”

On top of the funding, Oculus will get a specific spot in its store just for education. This could transform how teaching works going forward, and Facebook will stand at the center of that change.

Google had a big press event this week too, unveiling shiny stuff to a cheering crowd of stenographers. A phone. A Wi-Fi system. VR headsets (well, it’s really just a mask that holds your Google phone up to your face).

“This Accessory Makes VR So Real a Surgeon Could Train with It,” says MIT Technology Review. Something something “potential applications beyond gaming” something something education something something non-stop VR hype.

Michael Horn writing for Edsurge: “Return of the Virtual Reality Hype Cycle (What's Different This Time?)”

Facebook gives its Oculus employees a dystopian sci-fi book to get them excited about building the future

Predictive Analysis

What Happened When Venture Capitalists Took Over the Golden State Warriors

Trumped Up Data

School on Mars

What We'll Teach at the First School on Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson says Elon Musk’s Mars plan is a “1920s science-fiction cliché”

All This Is Just a Simulation

Elon Musk: The chance we are not living in a computer simulation is ‘one in billions’

Tech billionaires are asking scientists for help breaking humans out of the computer simulation they think they might be trapped in

Life Extending Technologies

Life extension technology gives us a bleak future: more white men

Future Shock

Ray Kurzweil Is Talking Bullshit Again

Algorithmic Propaganda

Clinton’s data-driven campaign relied heavily on an algorithm named Ada. What didn't she see?

And speaking of “post-truth,” Facebook. I’ll say more about Facebook’s role in spreading propaganda during the election in my newsletter tomorrow.

Audrey Watters


Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016

A Hack Education Project

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