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School Privacy Zone Summit, States Revise CCSS

Just a few notes about upcoming events and some recent news.

Common Sense Media is hosting the School Privacy Zone Summit on Feb 24, bringing together key stakeholders and policymakers to develop core principles and best practices to safeguard student privacy.

Monday is also the last day to submit comments on the new $250 million competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs, designed to support of President Obama's call to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Go here and scroll to the end of the document to find the comment box.

The FL State Board of Education adopted relatively minor revisions to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and renamed them the Florida Standards. The biggest changes involved the addition of calculus standards and the requirement to teach cursive writing at the 4th and 5th grades. The Indiana Department of Education released a draft of the new Indiana College and Career Ready Standards posting them for public comment. Read More »

LRMI, DQC Policy Brief

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is seeking input from publishers and educational content developers about if and how they are currently tagging or describing their content with metadata. A companion survey seeks similar input from states and districts, asking if and how they are currently using education metadata. LRMI wants to gauge general LRMI awareness as well as gain a more in-depth understanding of the way both communities are using metadata and how the organization can best advance the LRMI project. Both surveys are short, taking an estimated five minutes to complete. The surveys are available online at and are open now through Friday, February 21, 2014.

The LRMI group fielded a set of surveys like this last year, so it will be interesting to see how much aware ness and usage has grown. Read More »

Progress on Connect-Ed

The first steps to realizing the Connect-Ed goal of getting high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into every American classroom were taken this week. The Federal Communication Commission announced that it will dedicate an additional $2 billion of E-Rate funding over the next two years to support broadband networks in schools and libraries, effectively doubling broadband spending. That doesn't necessarily translate to an increase in overall E-Rate funding. Details are still to come, but the FCC says the additional dollars will come from "reprioritizing existing E-Rate funds to focus on high-capacity Internet connectivity, increasing efficiency, and modernizing management of the E-Rate program." It seems likely that a significant portion of the promised $2 billion will come from redirecting unspent money from previous years to the broadband initiative. As of January 31, 2014, the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) estimated that there was some $600 million from previous years that could be brought forward into Funding Year 2014. Read More »

Tech Tools Abound at FETC

This is one of those weeks when you will find stories posted at the News Alert web site - some higher ed headlines, a few announcements and multiple releases from the same company - that don't appear in your e-mail issue. With the Florida Educational Technology Conference in progress there was an unusually heavy volume of announcements this week. The same is likely to be true next week as well, as the action moves to Austin for the Texas Computer Education Association.

The rapid influx of mobile devices in American classrooms is not without challenges. Teachers find themselves managing a wide variety of devices, while trying to use them effectively to support student collaboration and information sharing. At FETC a number of companies introduced solutions designed to help teachers accomplish these goals. Read on... Read More »

Student Privacy, NEA's Great Public Schools Fund

Common Sense Media has released results of a poll probing attitudes about the collection and use of students' personal information. It should come as no surprise that 89% of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about advertisers using kids' personal data to market to them. After the news about NSA's data collection and the target data breaches over the holidays, we all have concerns about who knows what about us and how they might use that information. Certainly we want to see student information, especially anything collected and reported by the schools, treated with care. But when you learn that 90% of adults are concerned about how non-educational interests are able to access and use students' personal information, red flags begin to go up. How did people interpret this question? Who are these "non-educational interests" and how do they get this access? Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, has been quoted as saying that it's like the wild, wild west when it comes to student privacy. There are lots of informed people who don't agree with that characterization of the student privacy issue. Concerns about privacy and security are legitimate, but I'm not sure that this kind of poll data really advances what is a very complex discussion. Read More »

Budget Passes, Privacy War Continues To Simmer

Quite the week for news.

Congress passed the Consolidated Budget Act this week, the first real budget Congress has passed in years. The House passed the $1.012 trillion omnibus funding bill on Wednesday on a 359-67 vote, with the Senate following suit late Thursday on a 72-26 vote.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) - a 40-year House veteran - will retire after the current term. Miller has been the Democratic point person for education policy in the House of Representatives for decades and has a solid understanding of the role of technology in education. He was instrumental in the passage of NCLB, contributed heavily to the education portion of ARRA in 2009 and has played an important role in trying to move the ESEA reauthorization forward.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) announced plans to introduce legislation to protect student privacy. Markey has grown increasingly concerned about the impact of increased collection and distribution of student data on privacy. Markey says the bill will be based on four principles: (1) student information may never be used to market products to children; (2) parents must have the right to access and amend student information held by private companies; (3) schools and private companies must safeguard student information; and (4) companies must delete student information after it is no longer needed for educational purposes.

Read More »

Competitions and Funding Upswings

A reminder that the deadline for the REVERE Awards (formerly known as the AEP Awards program) is January 15. Many of you are familiar with this program, which has honored excellence across all types of resources for preK-12 and adult learners, educators and administrators for decades. The AAP PreK-12 Learning Group has made a number of changes to the competition this year, so you may want to take a look at the Awards web site. One change I find especially appealing is the addition of the new Beyond the Classroom category this year, designed to honor resources that are typically found outside formal learning environments. These products are not tied to formal pedagogy or curricula; they serve broader goals like stimulating the imagination or promoting creativity. Fun, exploration and learning go hand-in-hand. I look forward to learning about some new resources coming from both the usual and the unusual suspects.

The final week of the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition is also looming, with a January 15 deadline as well. Read More »

IF YOU BUILD IT, Budget Update, Student Privacy

As the year was winding down I got a note from O'Malley Creadon Productions that included a link to the newly released trailer for their new documentary, IF YOU BUILD IT. The documentary follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what's possible. This is one of those large projects that we often hear discussed - integrating design sensibilities, applied academics and vocational skills - but seldom get to see in action. The documentary was directed by Patrick Creadon and produced by Christine O'Malley and Neal Baer. Theatrical premieres of their new documentary are scheduled for January 10th in New York City and January 24th in Los Angeles. Read More »

News Roundup

Happy Holidays, friends! Whatever holidays you are celebrating, we wish you a joyous time with your friends and family.

We’re grateful to have had so many valuable contributions to the News Alert from our friends and industry colleagues throughout 2013! This week’s special edition of the News Alert highlights the most read articles from the second half of the year to give you another chance at catching up on them.

The highlighted collection below presents the four articles published since July 2013 that received the most pageviews. Enjoy!

We’ll see you back here on Friday, January 3, and we wish you and yours a very happy holiday.

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PCs and Tablets

It will surprise no one to learn that IDC is reporting that the tablet market is booming. Sales in 2013 grew by 53.5%, reaching an estimated 221.3 million units. On the other hand, the PC market is experiencing the largest contraction in its history. IDC says that PC shipments for 2013 will record a 10.1% drop. IDC projects that sales will continue to drop through 2014 before stabilizing at just above 300 million units - barely ahead of 2008 volumes. Much of the drop off can be attributed to slowed consumer sales. Shipments to the commercial market declined by 5% year-over-year compared to nearly -15% for the consumer market. PCs are largely used for consumption and productivity tasks. Lacking a compelling replacement driver, PC lifespans continues to increase, limiting market growth. Tablet sales are expected to remain strong, but as the market matures, the rate of growth will slow. IDC projects that worldwide tablet shipment growth will slow to 22.2% in 2014, with a total of 270.5 million units shipping. By 2017, annual market growth will slow to single-digit percentages and shipments will peak at 386.3 million units. Read More »