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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rich Miner: Google's New Education Leader

Google is starting a new project arm that specifically focuses on education, supposedly expected to produce more quality apps built for a school setting.

While there are already plenty of educational apps for kids from the Alphabet-owned company, like Cast for Education, Google Classroom and the recently updated Google Cardboard, which now offers affordable virtual reality (VR) programs for teachers, Android co-founder Rich Miner still finds this department lacking.

"[There is a] difficulty in finding quality educational apps and other kid-focused Internet services that weren't primarily either: (a) Babysitters; and/or (b) Ad delivery devices," reveals Fortune writer Dan Primack when he previously found himself in a seemingly random elevator exchange with Miner, with topics mostly centered around their kids.

That said, the publication revealed that Miner was stepping down from his role as one of Google Ventures' (GV) general partner and moving forward, would become Google's education venture partner instead, though, retaining seats across his existing GV posts. This should give him more time to fully realize his plans for the project, something he's been reportedly working on for the past two years, while still working closely with the Alphabet group.

"[W]hat was to my benefit years ago is now to my detriment," comments Bill Maris, CEO of Google Ventures, who was not surprised that his former staff member was leaving the venture branch in pursuit of "build something new." The CEO added that Rich Miner is "an adventurous person who jumped into this thing with [him]" and he is "really excited" to see what Miner has in store for the new project.

Although Miner had the opportunity to start up a new company under the Alphabet brand, it only made sense for the former general partner to execute his plans as a Google project due to the company's existing line of educational resources mentioned above. It is unknown at this point, however, if the new "education-focused" project spearheaded by Miner will consider (and absorb) the current Google for Education programs in its future plans.

"I don't actually know exactly what we're building yet," Miner described, explaining that his vision "is another big idea," in reference to Android and WildFire's long development over the years, and as such, his education project under Google "will take time."

The new initiative will house its own dedicated team in the main Google HQ back at Mountain View, though, Miner plans to work from his place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where most of current GV investors are based.

© 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

- See more at: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/168998/20160708/android-co-founder-rich-miner-starting-google-education-project.htm#sthash.Ty1CM4cS.dpuf

Google slammed over its 'free' school service

Google slammed over its 'free' school service

Sweden sour – source

Two Swedish researchers have torn into Google's free school service, accusing the online giant of purposefully misleading users in order to continue profiting from the sale of children's data.
Maria Lindh and Jan Nolin from the University of BorĂ¥s have published a research paper [note: paid access] that digs into the policies around the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) service, and concluded that it has gone to some lengths to "conceal" the business model from school administrators.
By using a range of rhetorical devices and misleading definitions, the company is able to advertise that GAFE will not include any ads and "your data is yours," while at the same time selling the information it accumulates to advertisers for significant profit, they conclude.
"Educators and pupils become reconfigured as targets for data mining, tracking and measurement," the paper argues.
One of the key distinctions comes in Google's own fluid definitions of "data" and "information," which it uses to make bold claims while actually doing what many perceive is the opposite of what they have understood. The other key term is "processing."
"Google processes your data to fulfill our contractual obligation to deliver our services," it states, adding: "Google's customers own their data, not Google."
It goes on: "The data that companies, schools and students put into our systems is theirs. Google does not sell your data to third parties."

And then

Which all sounds very convincing until you start reading Google's "Data Processing Amendment" and other official documents relating to the GAFE service. Lindh and Nolin state they were struck by how the company carefully phrased them to hide true intent.
They note that the company is under a legal obligation to say that it commercially exploits its "constantly expanding archive" – ie, all the information it accumulates from people using the service – but that it goes to some lengths to hide the reality of the situation.
"Several segments of the policy texts state clearly, or so it seems, that the archive is not exploited, ie, we do not sell your data," says the paper. But thanks to how Google chooses to define "data," that is not true. "Central terms, such as processing user data or content, are not explained," they note. And important information is hidden or left out.
The sale of data is frequently framed as something that is done to improve services or user experience, and its commercial value is not touched upon.
By contrast, the real business model is "belittled or framed as a minor aspect of what Google does." And when the company provides "examples" of what its policies mean in reality, it provides ones that don't cover the less savory aspects of what actually happens. "Google's systematic approach of giving one example connected to each claim is therefore misleading in more than one way," the paper notes.
They conclude: "It is obvious that Google talks in different voices, deliberately wanting to make their business model less obvious for users, who mostly do not look deeply into Google's policies in any case."


The authors paint a distinction between Google's back-end and front-end models: where the front end is free – services for schools – and the back-end is where it makes its money: "information packaged for profit."
GAFE itself is a cloud-based service that bundles several Google services, including Google Classroom, Gmail, Google Drive/Calendar/Docs/Presentation/Sites and others, and provides them for free to schools.
Google says it has 50 million students, teachers and administrators using GAFE, and price is a major reason why.
"We came up with a suggestion that instantaneously would lower costs by one million," one former CEO of a Swedish education establishment told the researchers, despite having reservations about its legality, security, sales of data and tracking by Google. "Yes, but then what? The next item on the agenda! These are decisions that make themselves."
But, the authors argue, Google is able to say it does not sell its users' "data" – but it is not the day-to-day data it profits from, but rather the longer-term "monitoring of behavior" where it creates "algorithmic identities of individual users" by combining collected and personal information.
Those "algorithmic identities" then become of enormous value and are used commercially but not "sold" to third parties – allowing for the seemingly clear language about what happens to students' data.
With the soothing language about Google not selling the information, the teachers and administrators that the authors talked to were more than happy to take on the benefits that comes from Google's services.
Not only is the service free, but it is well-managed and run (no more constantly dealing with a small and impossible IT department), and brings novel advantages.
Several teachers noted, for example, that they were able to watch the progress of their students' work. This not only helped clamp down on bad practices – such as the pasting of an entire paragraph (plagiarism?) or poor planning (three weeks to do the assignment and the document is created the night before) – but it also helps teachers see their students' thought processes and so both better understand and assist them in their learning, and save the teachers from the dreaded arrival of a stack of finished essays on the final day.


The question, though, is whether these advantages outweigh the fact that one company is able to build up commercially valuable information on students, which Google can most likely continue over when they stop using the school system because of their multiple tie-ins with other Google services.
Where are the regulators in this case? Trying their best. The Swedish Data Inspection Board brought an injunction against the first municipality to implement GAFE, Salem, in 2011 arguing that its pupils' privacy was under threat by the users of Google software.
Four years later, and the "shortcomings in the agreement with Google" had finally been resolved. In March last year it said: "We can confirm that the flaws in the agreement that we have pointed out before have now been remedied."
But, it also noted that it was now reviewing the agreement to see if there were any more issues. Critically, it noted that it "has not yet examined the processing of sensitive personal data in a cloud service."
In other words, the topic of this entire paper in which it concluded Google was purposefully misleading people over what it was actually doing with their personal data. ®

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Unlocking stackable global credentials

Unlocking stackable global credentials

by Andrew Sears 

It took 912 years from the founding of the first university in Bologna in 1088 for the global higher education system to grow to serve 100 million students annually by the year 2000. Current projections are that by 2025 there will be 263 million students providing 163 percent growth in 25 years: a rate that dwarfs the growth over the previous nine centuries. The vast majority of new students will hail from developing countries. Meeting this increase in demand presents a critical opportunity for disruptive innovation in higher education.
As the demand for higher education dramatically accelerates, so also the supply of modular educational resources is increasing through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and EdX, open educational resources (OER) like Khan Academy, and massive adaptive apps like Duolingo. The traditional monopoly that universities once held on delivering learning is coming apart. This new supply has the potential to usher in a new system that makes learning more flexible, affordable, and accessible.
But this new supply cannot meet the demand if our global education system lacks standards for interoperability—that is, modular standards that specify the fit and function of all elements so completely that it does not matter who makes the components or subsystems as long as they meet the defined specifications. For example, engineers have lots of freedom to improve the design inside a light bulb, as long as they build the stem so that it can fit the established light bulb socket specifications. The same company does not need to design and make the light bulb, the lamp, the wall sockets, and the electricity generation and distribution systems.
As Michael Horn has argued, such standards are essential to enable unbundling and rebundling of education, Without this, the growing supply of modular learning opportunities will go unused by students who could benefit from them most. In particular, there is a need for interoperability between these alternative educational providers like MOOCs and the traditional educational system. Right now, there are millions of students in developing countries taking MOOCs and OER courses, but because of a lack of standards they cannot apply credit for what they are learning toward widely accepted credentials like degrees.
What does interoperability—or the lack thereof—look like in practice? As the leader of City Vision University, an accredited online school, I have had the fortune of working with many of the pioneers working to establish interoperability. City Vision partnered with Straighterline to apply for the U.S. Department of Education’s Experimental Sites Initiative last year to enable financial aid access to competency-based education. We worked with Straighterline to get its curriculum approved through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission’s (DEAC) Approved Quality Curriculum (AQC) process. AQC has an effective design, but its primary challenge is that it is not well recognized outside of DEAC schools. By contrast, the American Council on Education’s (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service is more widely accepted. In 2015, ACE received a $1.89 million grant from the Gates foundation to launch its alternative credit project with more than 100 courses from alternative educational providers like EdX, Straighterline, Saylor Academy, and others. Although this represents an essential step toward establishing the interoperability needed for unbundling, ACE credit is largely only recognized by U.S. schools, so it does not solve the global interoperability problem.
Globally, we lack an international counterpart to ACE credit that could provide interoperability between international alternative educational providers and accredited degree programs. Right now, the best candidate for this global interoperability is the vocational qualifications frameworks like European Qualification Framework (EQF). The Lumina Foundation made a similar argument when it announced its Connecting Credentials Framework based on the EQF standard.
This year, City Vision launched a four-year degree path targeting developing countries that cost only $5,000. As shown in the diagram below, this degree took unbundled OER courses (Saylor Academy) and used modular interoperability qualification frameworks to rebundle it into a City Vision degree with U.S. accreditation (DEAC). The modularity is such that qualifications taken by any provider are stackable to be applied as credits toward more advanced qualifications and degrees at other institutions. This provides modular courses and levels as “Legos” that can be used to build degrees by unbundling courses and qualifications in the same way that Netflix unbundles videos from the cable bundle. Although the coverage of the partnership in Forbes presented this as a workaround to a system that does not want interoperability, the support of DEAC for this degree path showed that accreditors do want interoperability as long as standards are met.
This small-scale experiment lends a hint at what a truly interoperable system might look like down the line. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss some of the most promising strategies U.S. and global providers might consider in order to radically expand access to postsecondary experiences for students around the world.