This week was marked by new books, new brands, and new deals. Our top story features a new design challenge!

Calling All Designers!

1. Better #SchoolInfo. We love a good challenge at Getting Smart and have one for graphic designers, policy wonks, data hounds, and active parents. State report cards for schools have become increasingly complicated, filled with complicated and hard to understand information. Parents often have to dig to find on the web. We know parents and community members want more and better #SchoolInfo. The Foundation for Excellence in Education (@ExcelinEd) is sponsoring a design challenge with up to $35,000 in prizes to help create more accessible and useful state report cards. Help us spread the word about re-imagining #SchoolInfo!

Blended Schools & Tools

2. It’s all about blended. Michael Horn (@MichaelBHorn) and Heather Staker (@HStaker) have a new book out (release date is November 3) titled Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. You can read Tom’s review here. Also Horn, along with Anna Gu and Meg Evans, just released a policy brief that summarizes barriers associated with the implementation of blended learning. They also outline ideas for overcoming implementation challenges for superintendents and district leaders.

3. Online college counseling. Chegg (@Chegg) announced a new online college counseling program that will run on the InstaEdu (@InstaEdu) platform. This will provide a much needed service to high school students (and their families). Chegg is offering “pay by the hour” college counseling and some of this will be deeply discounted, or free, for 1st gen college students. For more on personalizing college and career guidance, see our Digital Learning Now (@DigLearningNow) Smart Series paper, Core & More.

Digital Developments

4. Deeper Learning for students, teachers AND…leaders. The Council of Chief State School Officers (@CCSSO) and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration have updated leadership standards and are looking for comments. We think they could better reflect new models and the associate change leadership required (see the Blended Learning Implementation Guide). We’re writing the leadership sequel to Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning, a blended and competency-based strategy for preparing next gen leaders.

5. More to Learn. Boston-based LearnLaunch is now LearnLaunch Institute (@LearnLaunch). There are three components now part of the LearnLaunch brand: LearnLaunch Institute, LearnLaunch Accelerator, and LearnLaunch Campus. LearnLaunch Accelerator (@LearnLaunchX) is the new name for the program that helps to groom new EdTech companies. The third cohort will begin in February 2015 and, if interested, applications are here. Check out the four-part LearnLaunch series on EdTech sales and marketing.

6. Blended Masters. Today, BetterLesson (@BetterLesson) named 11 Blended Master Teachers. The first 130 Master Teachers focused on content specific lessons. The newly named teachers will focus on new modalities of practice with the goal of making effective blended practice accessible to every educator in the world. Check out Tom’s blog for more.

Dollars & Deals

7. Real-life and Real-time. Newsela (@Newsela), an edtech company who uses non-fiction to teach K-12 literacy, announced receiving $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Owl Ventures and the Knight Foundation. Newsela adapts news articles to engage students in real-life, real-time content.

8. Microsoft buys Minecraft. The purchase of Mojang (@Mojang), maker of Minecraft (@minecraft), for $2.5 billion by Microsoft signals more deep investments and extends the reach of the company in the gaming community. The team at Mojang will join Microsoft Studios (@PlayXBLA), where they make popular games such as Halo (@Halo) and Fable. Mojang founders are going on to other creative pursuits, which avid gamers are anxiously anticipating.

Higher, Deeper, Further, Faster Learning

9. University of California plans fund for new campus start-ups. The $250 million fund for University of California (@UC_Newsroom) startups comes from the UC endowment and will help to finance companies that emerge from research conducted by UC students and faculty. Many universities are launching incubators and offering startup support. “If they aren’t doing it, they should be thinking about doing it,” says Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC’s chief investment officer. “There is a great opportunity for everyone not only to foster research, but to find ideas to make commercially successful.” Cities are getting into the act as well; check out Tom’s recap of incubator frenzy.

10. More news of competency-based learning in higher ed. Purdue University (@LifeAtPurdue) announced a new competency-based Bachelor’s Degree. Organized around themes based on student interest, the degree is open to students with a variety of majors. The plan is to admit approximately 100 students for the program in the fall of 2015. Check out this video for more information. President Mitch Daniels said, “They can save money if they move faster, and really what matters in the end is did they master the subject matter or didn’t they?” Check out WGU’s competency-based teacher prep program; WGU is recognized as a state school in Indiana.

 

The Foundation for Excellence in Education and Digital Learning Now are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. 

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