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I've published the final article in my "Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015" series. You can find it here.

I also wanted to make note some of the news items that didn't make the story. So I've decided to include those below.

From The New York Times, "Inside a Chinese Test Prep Factory."

UMass is outsourcing textbook sales to Amazon.

Amazon opens its “First-Ever Staffed Campus Pickup and Drop-Off Location, Free One-Day Pickup at Purdue University.”

Uber and Carnegie Mellon University announced a strategic partnership that “includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber's mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.”

A district judge in Idaho has voided the state’s broadband contract (which supports its school broadband program), arguing that the state violated procurement laws when it gave CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) the deal to provide schools broadband.

From Fast Company: “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Education.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Venture Capitalists Enlist Student-Run Funds to Find the Next Facebook.”

“The Education Department is beefing up its oversight over the hundreds of different companies that colleges hire for a wide range of services that it says are somehow related to federal student aid dollars and therefore subject to regulation,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

Via Education Week: “Amazon Digital Services Inc. would create a comprehensive online shopping source for e-books and digital content available for New York City schools, under a $30 million contract that is expected to be approved next month, the city’s department of education confirmed Thursday.” Teachers (well, and Amazon of course) will be able to see what their students are reading and how quickly they’re doing so. Gee, no privacy concerns here.

Financing startup Neighborly announced that it’s selling the first ever “microbonds” for a public project, namely San Leandro Schools.

According to Education Week, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has created a database “with details about how each state, Guam, and the Mariana Islands approaches the procurement of digital education resources.”

What Roadblocks Stand in the Way of a Digital K–12 Market?

The Wired headline reads “An Online Game That'll Help Pay Off Your Student Debt.” Actually you get $.50 if you win a round on the app’s trivia game. $.30 of that goes to pay a service fee. So at that rate, I’d need to play about 100,000 rounds before I had my debt paid off. That does nothing to address larger structural questions about student loan debt, but hey, this is clearly technosolutionism at its best/worst.

Private equity investor Stephen Schwarzmann thinks that public schools should not get more money but can instead be “fixed” with unpaid labor:

“I’ve always wondered, what you do in a society with people who just retire,” he told conference attendees. “If you could get those people, like a board, [to be an] unpaid workforce, pay them next to nothing or nothing, and have them go into the school system to be mentors to kids, and be an example of a certain type of success that you would get dramatically different outcomes. If you can get unemployed people that cost nothing, that can have this dramatic difference, that costs nothing. I love things that cost nothing that have great results. Imagine if you laid on technology and other types of things, you could really set the world on fire with this type of stuff.”

Remember the news a couple months ago about Uber’s partnership with Carnegie Mellon to create a lab to build robot-driven cars? Looks like it was really just an effort by Uber to poach AI folks from the university. “These guys, they took everybody.”

Carnegie Mellon Reels After Uber Lures Away Researchers.”

Edsurge summarizes a new report from Pearson on “What Doesn't Work in Education.” Shockingly, “giant multinational textbook and testing corporations driving education policy” was not listed.

University of Iowa will have a new president this fall, former IBM senior vice president Bruce Harreld. Faculty and grad students are not pleased, pointing out his utter lack of experience in higher ed administration.

Uber is giving Carnegie Mellon $5.5 million to sponsor a new faculty chair in robotics (this after poaching many of the professors in its robotics department).

A record-setting round of funding for Social Finance: $1 billion. The company specializes in refinancing student loans and was already the largest investment in ed-tech of the year, having raised $200 million in January. This round was led by Soft Bank and brings the total raised by SoFi to $1.77 billion.

According to Ambient Insight, “2015 Edtech Investment Spikes to $3.76 Billion in First Three Quarters.”

According to a report by MDR, schools’ instructional spending went up 9% in the 2013–2014 school year. “Remarkable,” says Edsurge.

Inside Higher Ed reports on “a record-setting year for investments in ed tech.” Education Week writes about the “ed-tech venture capital boom.”

Consulting firm predicts the global market for ed-tech hardware will grow. News at 11.

According to Edsurge, "Asia is emerging as the world's ed-tech laboratory."

From Ambient Insight: “Q1 2015 International Learning Technology Investment Patterns” (PDF): “The investments made to learning technology companies in the first quarter of 2015 were the highest for a single quarter in the history of the learning technology industry.” (This is in no small part because of the $186 million invested in Lynda.com.)

Via The Atlantic: data on “The Ever-Growing Ed-Tech Market.”

CB Insights does list one ed-tech company, 17zuoye, on its list of potential unicorns.

5 Questions With Mark Cuban on Higher Education and His Newest Edtech Investment.”

Elsewhere in tech investing: “Nearly every week, all around the world, wealthy people, self-made business owners and senior executives in a range of industries gather at private clubs, cultural centers or five-star hotels for free, invitation-only angel investing ‘boot camps’ intended to help them size up fledgling business ideas and the people behind them. The events are organized by Angel Labs, a global angel investor academy based in San Francisco whose mission is to widen the influence of angel investing, a field in which the relatively affluent put money into start-ups, usually in the tech industry.” More via The New York Times.

Venerated VC Michael Moritz Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot on Question About Hiring Women

Doing It Right – some suggestions for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Here’s the SEC filing for Zuckerberg’s new LLC.

The Surprising Math In Mark Zuckerberg’s $45 Billion Facebook Donation.”

How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself.”

On Facebook’s move into education software, see: Buzzfeed and The New York Times for coverage. It was a conveniently timed news release to distract us from The Prize, a new book by Dale Russakoff that details what happened to Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark Schools. (Remember how Zuckerberg made a $100 million donation to the Newark Schools to distract us from the unflattering portrayal of him in The Social Network? The beat goes on…) Related: Edsurge covered how some of that money is being funneled to teachers via a startup called ClassWallet (its list of funders here): “Teachers will each receive $100 in ClassWallet credit that can be spent on supplies sold by 40 partnering vendors, including Amazon, Scholastic and Best Buy. Principals will get $7,500 that can be spent on professional development, community initiatives and parenting programs.”

Edsurge’s “guide to a nation of edtech accelerators.”

“Following the Money in Ed-Tech Investment: Number of Mergers Grows,” via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Why Pearson Wants to Sell PowerSchool.

According to Edsurge, “Blackboard Flirts with Buying Pearson's PowerSchool.”

Pearson has sold the Financial Times to Japanese media company Nikkei for $1.3 billion. Pearson will now be “be 100 percent focused on our global education strategy,” CEO John Fallon says. (More via Bloomberg Business.) Wheeee.

Pearson sells its stake in The Economist to the company’s other shareholders for about $730 million. Why? Edsurge notes that “After Selling Stake in The Economist Group, Pearson Now Has Extra $2 Billion for Education Efforts.” Wheee.

No Profit Left Behind

Instructure has raised $40 million and says it’s on course for an IPO. The funding came from Insight Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, and EPIC Ventures. The LMS startup has now raised over $79 million. According to the press release, this latest round of funding will help Instructure move into corporate training. Phil Hill writes “What TechCrunch Got Wrong (and Right) About Instructure Entering Corporate Learning Market.”

Quarterly financials were reported from 2U (whose revenue is up), Bridgepoint Education (which posted a net loss), and ITT (admitted to precipitously declining enrollments, prompting its stock to fall 40%).

Via Education Week: “K12 Inc., a publicly traded online education company that had experienced significant drops in its stock value in recent years, was the second highest ‘gainer’ on the New York Stock Exchange at the close of business on Thursday, following the release of its second quarter earnings report for fiscal year 2015.” In other words, the stock market loves cheap, shoddy, shady for-profit online education. Nice.

Still struggling with its technology implementation – you guessed it – LAUSD, which announced it would delay distribution of some 19,000 laptops.

Via KPCC: “LAUSD board to vote on $6.4 million settlement proposal with Apple over iPad software.” Meanwhile, “LAUSD hunting down the last 500 missing computer devices.”

“New report finds ongoing iPad and technology problems at L.A. Unified,” reports The LA Times’ Howard Blume. (And according to the LA School Report, there are hints there may be more problems arising from the FBI’s investigation into the Pearson/Apple/LAUSD deal.)

Looks like LAUSD cannot afford one iPad (or computer) for every student and staff after all. Instead, the Superintendent Ramon Cortines said “the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when needed for instruction and testing.”

Shocking, I know, but LAUSD is “‘extremely dissatisfied’ with the work of Pearson on its technology initiative.” Local NPR affiliate SCPR reports that the district is asking for a refund from Apple for the Pearson software that came bundled with its massive iPad purchase.

More on Amplify’s sale via The Wall Street Journal and Buzzfeed.

Education Week’s Benjamin Herold describes the “Big Hype, Hard Fall for News Corp.’s $1 Billion Ed-Tech Venture.” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy frames it this way: “How Rupert Murdoch Suffered A Rare Defeat In American Classrooms.”

Is Rupert Murdoch’s Bid to Fix Education With a Tablet Failing?

Amplify fired about 40% of its staff.

“Key Amplify Execs Leave as News Corp. Cuts Staff,” says Edsurge, observing that former New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s name is no longer on the staff page.

A couple of reports from CB Insights this summer: “Who’s Who In Ed Tech? Top Investors And Their Board Seats” and “Where Are The Top Smart Money VCs Placing Their Bets In Ed Tech?

The Department of Education announced its plans this year to evaluate ed-tech’s “effectiveness.” Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill called it “almost a good idea,” then wrote a follow-up post: “Ed Tech Evaluation Plan: More problems than I initially thought.”

Lots of folks were disgusted by the sexism on display at Silicon Valley’s annual award show, the “Crunchies.” But hey. Posted without commentary on Edsurge: a congrats to Yik Yak and Class Dojo who were lauded by their Silicon Valley peers for their exciting work in education technology startup-ness.

“Did Amazon Just Replace the Public Library?” asks The Atlantic, giving librarians everywhere a good chuckle at the headline. Um, no. it did not. Amazon did however open a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Quad Partners, an investor in many for-profit colleges, bought a controlling share of Inside Higher Education.

Data, Technology, and the Great Unbundling of Higher Education

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Audrey Watters


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Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

A Hack Education Project

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