This article includes news items that didn’t quite make the cut for part 10 of my annual review of the year in ed-tech

Educational Inequalities

Boom in Online Tutoring Means Another Cost for Many Students

Via The Houston Chronicle: “Facing pressure to cut special education, Texas schools shut out English Language Learners.”

Via The Atlantic: “Virtual Classrooms Can Be as Unequal as Real Ones.” Shocking, I know.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students waste about one-fifth of class time on laptops, smartphones and tablets, even though they admit such behavior can harm their grades.”

Via Education Week’s research blog: “‘Deeper Learning’ Boosts Grad Rates, but Benefits Less for Students in Poverty.”

The Atlantic offers a challenge to claims about “the word gap,” something that permeates both education talking points and education tech.

Via The Hechinger Report: “More than five years after adopting Common Core, Kentucky’s black-white achievement gap is widening.”

Via Vox: “Do white people want merit-based admissions policies? Depends on who their competition is.”

“Are At-Risk Students Bunnies to Be Drowned?” asks the Inside Higher Ed, referring to language used by the president of Mount St. Mary’s University, who reportedly said to faculty “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies… put a Glock to their heads.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via the Pew Research Center: “A majority of black Americans say that at some point in their lives they’ve experienced discrimination or were treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity, but blacks who have attended college are more likely than those without any college experience to say so.”

Via Bryan Alexander: “New findings on income inequality, and there’s very little good news.”

“UC won’t assist federal agents in immigration actions against students,” The LA Times reports.

Via The Dallas Morning News: Texas “Gov. Greg Abbott vows to cut funding to state universities that welcome immigrants here illegally.”

Via Bloomberg: “Rich-Poor Achievement Gap Is Narrowing in American Education.”

Via The New Yorker: “Gavin Grimm’s Transgender-Rights Case and the Problem with Informal Executive Action.”

Harvard will not designate itself a “sanctuary campus.” The University of Illinois will not designate itself one either.

“How the Stress of Racism Affects Learning” by Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic.

“The University of Chicago is attacking academic freedom,” says New Republic’s Jeet Heer. The school’s dean of students, has sent a letter to the freshman class saying that,

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Via Mic: “Pretoria Girls High School students are protesting racist hair policy, code of conduct.”

Via ProPublica: “Hate Crimes Are Up – But the Government Isn’t Keeping Good Track of Them.”

Via KPCC: “LAUSD board: If Trump administration asks for student data, district will resist.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Flooded with questions after Trump win, Denver Public Schools produces immigration fact sheet.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cal State Says It Will Not Help Deport Students.” Many schools are looking at how they will become part of the “sanctuary” movement, ostensibly protecting undocumented students.

Via The Los Angeles Times: “Rep. Judy Chu asks President Obama to protect the information of ‘Dreamers’ before Trump takes office.”

Via the AP: “Fearing Trump crackdown, ‘dreamers’ advised to end travel.”

Via The New York Times: “On Campus, Trump Fans Say They Need ‘Safe Spaces’.”

Via New York Magazine: “Alt-Right Troll Milo Yiannopoulos Uses Campus Visit to Openly Mock a Transgender Student.”

Technology is Neither “Progress” Nor “Progressive”

Apocalypse Whatever: The making of a racist, sexist religion of nihilism on 4Chan” by Tara Isabella Burton.

Valley of the dolts” by Emmett Rensin.

Via Babson College: “95 Percent of Entrepreneurs Worldwide Finance Their Own Startups. Only 0.16 percent of U.S. small businesses received venture capital in 2015.”

Famed tech startup accelerator program Y Combinator is launching HARC, the Human Advancement Research Community. The mission is to copy the old Xerox PARC model and to “ensure human wisdom exceeds human power, by inventing and freely sharing ideas and technology that allow all humans to see further and understand more deeply.” Alan Kay is involved, along with Vi Hart, Dan Ingalls, John Maloney, Yoshiki Ohshima, Bret Victor, and Alex Warth.

“Elon Musk and the chief executive of Uber are now advising Donald Trump,” The Washington Post reports.

“As Trumplethinskin lets down his hair for tech, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the Tower in silence,” Recode Kara Swisher writes.

News broke over the weekend that billionaire investor Peter Thiel is making a million-plus dollar donation to the Trump campaign. Thiel spoke at the Republican Convention, but this is his first financial commitment to the campaign, one that comes on the heels of news that Trump has been accused by ten (or more?) women of groping and sexual assault. I wrote “an explainer” of sorts on Thiel and his politics, and I listed the education companies that he’s invested in. Mostly surveillance posing as “personalization” startups. To be honest, think Thiel and his ed-tech politics have more in common with the rest of Silicon Valley than those that feign outrage at his support of Trump. Y Combinator (I list its education investments here) has refused to sever ties with Thiel. He’s a partner there. So has Facebook. He’s on the board of directors. Some organizations have cut ties with Y Combinator over this – Project Include, for starters, which works to address Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity. “Horrified by Trump, Silicon Valley Leaders Debate Cutting Ties to Peter Thiel” by Sarah Jeong. The operative word is “debate.” More on how the rest of the tech sector is treating Thiel now according to The New York Times. “Mark Zuckerberg breaks his silence on Peter Thiel” says CNN. The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong summarizes the comments: “Zuckerberg: white male Facebook board member’s Trump support provides ‘diversity’.” Also via Wong: “Peter Thiel once wrote a book calling date rape ‘belated regret’.”

Via Wired: “Apple and Microsoft May Use Cobalt Dug by Kids, Report Says.” Funny how this connection between children and computers never really gets discussed by ed-tech evangelists, eh?

Equity in Testing

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “These days, everyone’s talking about ‘equity,’ and now a testing company has affixed the word to a new effort. The company behind the ACT on Wednesday announced plans for a Center for Equity in Learning, which will focus on helping underserved students succeed in college and the work force.”

Copy-pasted from Campus Technology without comment: “Educational Testing Service (ETS) has launched ProEthica, an online ethics training program for educators and teachers in training.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The College Board on Thursday announced a new process for people with disabilities to request test accommodations. Under the new system, most students who have been approved for test accommodations in high school will receive accommodations as long as their high school can answer two questions in the affirmative: ‘Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan?’ and ‘Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?’”

Via The New York Times: “Tutors See Stereotypes and Gender Bias in SAT. Testers See None of the Above.”

According to a study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments do a better job gauging the depth and complexity of important academic skills and knowledge than do the ACT Aspire, or Massachusetts’ MCAS exam.”

Via the press release: “U.S. Education Department Awards 41 States and the District of Columbia $28.4 Million in Grants to Help Students From Low-Income Families Take Advanced Placement Tests.” Congrats, College Board for the taxpayer-funded boost.

“Will controversial new tests for teachers make the profession even more overwhelmingly white?” asks The Hechinger Report.

Schools turn to universal screening to increase equity in gifted programs

Via LA School Report: “LAUSD credit recovery vendor finds strong demand for online makeup courses nationwide.” Online credit recovery programs are notoriously terrible (although, hey! they do boost graduation rates.)

Via the Hechinger Report: “On a classroom-based test for new teachers, black teachers score lower.”

Via Politico: “Stanford University researchers find that New York teachers who artificially upgraded student test scores primarily had ‘altruistic’ motives.”

Equity and Online Education

Should we hit the pause button for online and blended learning?” asks The Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo on the heals of an NEPC report released last week that finds students in blended learning and virtual learning schools perform poorly. Julia Freeland Fisher of the Clayton Christensen Institute disagrees with the NEPC research, of course, insisting that the research that agrees with its politics and policies, is better and in fact shows that blended learning “yields promising results for students.”

Equity and Vouchers and Charters

A group of parents has filed a complaint with the Department of Education, claiming that the New York City charter school chain Success Academy has violated the civil rights of students with disabilities. (Meanwhile, WNYC reports that the SUNY Charter Institute will investigate the chain’s discipline practices.)

NPR’s Anya Kamenetz has an in-depth look at the technology and behavior management practices at the Rocketship chain of charter schools: “High Test Scores At A Nationally Lauded Charter Network, But At What Cost?” Hours in front of the computer, classes of 50 to 70 students, urinary tract infections, and “Zone Zero.” The students are largely low income, Latinos, and these practices wouldn’t be acceptable at schools populated by upper middle class white kids Also unacceptable, apparently: reporting critically about Rocketship, as several publications – funded by the same folks who fund Rocketship. Funny how that works – lambasted Kamenetz for her story. The 74 just went ahead and published a response from the CEO of Rocketship. Because that’s ethical and responsible journalism.

Via Education Week: “The test scores of students who used vouchers to enter a Louisiana private school dropped significantly compared to their peers who remained in public schools.”

Racism in Textbooks

“Activists and educators on Monday called a Mexican-American studies textbook proposed for use across Texas biased and poorly researched and argued that its contents are especially offensive in a state where a majority of public school students are Hispanic,” the AP reports. “‘Industrialists were very driven, competitive men,’ the textbook says, according to excerpts. ’In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ”manana,“ or ‘tomorrow.’”

Ed-Tech and Imperialism

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jeffrey Young interviews the head of FutureLearn, Simon Nelson: “Online Education Is Now a Global Market.”

“Ugandan parliament orders Bridge Academy schools closed,” according to Education International. “In a sweeping move, the for-profit school chain has been told to lock its doors after parliament demanded it halt operations in response to its failure to meet educational and infrastructure standards.” The company – funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Pearson, Learn Capital, and others – says it will remain open.

Via Education International: “Bridge International Academies appears to be losing its foothold in Uganda following a government decision to close 87 for-profit primary schools, including those belonging to Bridge, after failing to comply with minimum standards and regulations.”

Via the Mail and Guardian Africa: “An Africa first! Liberia outsources entire education system to a private American firm. Why all should pay attention.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, has said that “Such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education, and have no justification under Liberia’s constitution.” The company in question is Bridge International Academies, which has received funding from the Gates Foundation and Mark Zuckerberg’s investment company the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (among others). Families must pay that tuition – this isn’t free public education – and the cost is wildly prohibitive for most. Moreover, outsourcing to scripted lesson delivery does not build the capacity – in terms of infrastructure or human resources – that a struggling African nation might need. Simply saying “Critics emerge” in response is sure one helluva passive voice way to dismiss these issues.

Wikipedia Doesn’t Realize It’s the Developing World’s Internet Gatekeeper

Angola’s Wikipedia Pirates Are Exposing the Problems with Digital Colonialism

A data-driven argument on why Marc Andreessen is wrong about Free Basics

Mark Zuckerberg chides board member over ‘deeply upsetting’ India comments

EdX has partnered with Kiron and its university partners to offer college credit online for Syrian refugees. More on MOOCs in the developing world.

Silicon Valley likes Modi.

And via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of State and massive open online course provider Coursera are partnering to launch Coursera for Refugees, a program to offer career training to displaced people around the world. The program will focus on nonprofits that help refugees, which will be able to apply for fee waivers to access the Coursera course catalog.”

Education Dive makes claims about “MOOCs as tools for equity in under-resourced high schools.”

Via CNN: “Uganda orders schools funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, to shut down.”

A report from Education International: “Schooling the Poor Profitably: The Innovations and Deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda.”

“Facebook’s ‘Free’ Internet Will Harm Low-Income Consumers,” says Wired.

The BBC reports that “Cuba signs deal for faster internet access to Google content.” Think again if you believe Google supports “net neutrality.”

Discrimination by Design

The Library of Congress has canceled the subject heading “Illegal Aliens.”

Via PBS Newshour: “GOP reinstates usage of ‘illegal alien’ in Library of Congress’ records.” The total jerk move will force the LOC to use the phrase in lieu of less prejudicial terms like “noncitizen.”

The Oculus Rift begins shipping. Cue pronouncements about education revolution. And read Ian Bogost: “Dystopian Virtual Reality Is Finally Here.”

Welcome to Virtual Reality: Valid Identification Required

Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near-Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine

The Coming Horror of Virtual Reality

We’re Already Violating Virtual Reality’s First Code of Ethics

Education Technology and Disability

Via the Hechinger Report: “Eligible but got nothing: Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities blocked from college aid.”

Via Education Week: “New York City public schools … announced plans to move forward on a proposed Amazon contract for an online e-book marketplace for educators, after the deal stalled for seven months while concerns about accessibility for blind and visually impaired users were addressed.”

Amazon and the National Federation of the Blind have reached an agreement, EdWeek reports in its Market Brief, so that the latter will support in the former in efforts “to improve reading experiences for blind, low-vision, and deaf-blind students.”

Predictive Analytics and Algorithmic Discrimination

Via Education Dive: “Is predictive analytics a step too far in student assistance?

Are effective retention strategies dependent upon ed tech?

“What Could Go Wrong With Asking Teachers To Monitor Kids for ‘Extremist’ Beliefs?” asks the ACLU.

Via Education Week: “A coalition of groups, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the FBI on Tuesday to dismantle its ‘Don’t Be a Puppet’ website, which the agency created to educate youth about violent extremism but has been criticized as targeting American Muslims and encouraging the policing of thoughts in schools.”

Inside Higher Ed profiles Meta (formerly Sciencescape) about its “Predictive Analytics for Publishing” and its plans to tackle researchers’ supposed “information overload.”

Via The Washington Post: “Terrorist or pedophile? This start-up says it can out secrets by analyzing faces.”

“Examining ethical and privacy issues surrounding learning analytics” by Tony Bates.

The University College London is hiring a “Professor of Future Crimes.” “The successful candidate will be passionate about the problem of future crime.” Paging Philip K. Dick.

Via Slate: “Wrongful Arrest by Software.” No, it isn’t about education directly, but predictive analytics are supposedly “the next big thing,” and let’s be honest about how discriminatory and flawed this software is.

Via Mic: “Crime-prediction tool PredPol amplifies racially biased policing, study shows.”

Surveillance and Equity

From the NASBE: “School Surveillance: The Consequences for Equity and Privacy.”


Via the Stanford press office: “Stanford explores case for code of ethics to tackle big data’s deluge in higher ed.” Definitely no one I trust more on this topic, no siree.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Facebook Reveals How It Decides if a Research Project Is Ethical.”

What Do We Know about What Algorithms Know about Us?

Daniel Greene reviews Simone Browne’s Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness.

“We May Know Less Than We Thought About What Helps or Hurts Students,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oh well.

Via The New York Times: “Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom.”

“Prison ed tech takes off,” Cisco says with a dollar-signs-in-eyeballs sort of excitement.

Here’s another trend to watch: how jail tech and ed-tech will merge. Via NPR: “Video Calls Replace In-Person Visits In Some Jails.”

I’m a little skeptical about professors clamoring to be on “the watchlist.” A better tactic, I’d argue, is to make sure your department and institution have concrete steps they’ll take in order to protect academic freedom and – quite literally – protect academics’ lives when these sorts of threats occur.

Via The Intercept: “Transition Adviser Peter Thiel Could Directly Profit From Mass Deportations.”

Via ProPublica: “Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race.” So great that these folks are now involved in education technology, don’t you think?

Software for Stopping Freedom.”

Audrey Watters


Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016

A Hack Education Project

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