FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | December 1, 2013

In an earlier post, I noted that there is a licensing discrepancy between the Common Core aligned curriculum on the EngageNY site and the same curriculum sold by the contractor hired by NY State to create the curriculum. The curriculum available on the EngageNY site is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license, where the curriculum sold by the contractor has all rights reserved. Before we go any further, we need to emphasize that the sale of work covered under a Creative Commons license - even work released under the Non-Commercial license - is not the issue. Openly licensed work can be sold without issue, and selling work under a Non-Commercial license just requires the permission of the license holder.

The point that originally attracted my notice was that the licensing had...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 1, 2013

Los Angeles Unified School District recently drew some attention when they announced a 1 billion dollar iPad purchase and rollout that appeared to be marred by poor planning. The iPads come with Pearson content and assessments pre-loaded.

A look through the contracts shows some incredibly restrictive language (pdf link) about who owns services bought with public money. The quotation below comes from page 27:

Pearson Education, Inc. ("Pearson," a subcontractor of Contractor) will also deliver professional development to the District, and will retain ownership of any offered curriculum products or materials, including any derivatives or enhancements thereto. Pearson will not grant rights to the District under a Creative Commons license; however, subject to any and all...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 24, 2013

Update: I asked if anyone from Creative Commons could weigh in here. If I learn anything new, I'll update this post, and/or follow up with a new post containing the additional information. End update

New York State spent 28 million on the Common Core aligned curriculum currently available at the EngageNY site. This curriculum was funded via federal money that New York won as part of Race To The Top.

Leaving aside the question of how that money could have been used to support local professional development, one of the...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 24, 2013

One of my favorite places here in Portland is Tabor Bread. It's a bakery and cafe; they source all their materials locally, and bake their bread in a large wood fired oven that they designed themselves.

When the bakers make bread, they follow the entire process: they mill their own flour, mix the ingredients, knead the dough, shape the bread, set it up to proof overnight, set and light their own fire, and then, the next morning, they bake their bread. But they stay with their bread throughout their entire process. They make notes on how the structure of their fire affects cooking temperatures and the evenness of heat distribution; they observe how minor changes in ingredients, or in relative quantities, affects the bread.

Not surprisingly, the bread is amazing.

Because I spend a good portion of my days thinking about learning, I immediately begin to wonder what would happen if we applied similar care and attention to...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 23, 2013

I learned about this from Leslie Hawthorne - there is a new project underway to help mitigate the decline of the bee population.

From the Open Source Beehives Project:

The Open Source Beehives project is a collaborative response to the threat faced by bee populations in industrialised nations around the world. The project proposes to design hives that can support bee colonies in a sustainable way, to monitor and track the health and behaviour of a colony as it develops. Each hive contains an open source sensory kit, The Smart Citizen Kit (SCK), which can transmit to an open data platform:
These sensor enhanced hive designs are open and freely available online, the data collected from each hive is...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 19, 2013

Over the last few months, inBloom has been getting increasing negative attention. These troubles started almost immediately after their "official" launch in early 2013. Despite some initial adoring PR masquerading as news coverage, inBloom has consistently stumbled. Between early adopters changing their minds and losing their jobs, and a lawsuit filed against the organization in New York State, inBloom appears to have lost momentum.

Here are some facts and observations I've seen along the way:

1. inBloom implemented a pre-existing data...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 14, 2013

Update: Since I put this post out this morning, I read about a lawsuit filed that would effectively halt data sharing with the NY State portal. End update.

Earlier this week, Leonie Haimson posted a list of districts in New York State that are opting out of the data sharing program set up by the state Department of Education, and returning Race to the Top money that had been earmarked for the data sharing program. When I saw the list, I was curious about any potential patterns among districts opting out of the state-run data program.

To be clear, there are real and valid privacy concerns in the state-run data program, and John King - New York's Education Commissioner - has done little to adress these concerns.


Bill Fitzgerald | November 12, 2013

The Common Core Standards rollout increases the amount of standardized testing within schools; this has fueled a growing Opt Out movement. Some of the impetus behind opting out of tests come from within the corespiracy, while other efforts are grounded in a strong and valid concern of the effects of overtesting on children.

However, what is largely missing from the planning and advocacy in the Opt Out movement is a way to opt out that doesn't create a potentially adversarial relationship between students, parents, schools, and teachers.

No Child Left Behind created the requirement of annual report cards based on standardized tests. In many (all?)...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 11, 2013

From NY Daily News:

Not only were books delivered more than a month into the school year in some cases, but the lessons from testing and publishing giant Pearson are poorly planned, too long and full of mistakes.

The texts were needed to support the Common Core rollout in New York, and the texts - ReadyGEN from Pearson - were explicitly recommended by New York City Department of Education.

The mistakes include a third-grade workbook page on the text “The Case of the Gasping Garbage” that asks students questions about another reading entirely, a page in a kindergarten workbook printed upside down, and teachers’ manuals that simply don’t match the student texts.

On the bright side, having an error ridden workbook that includes a page titled "The Case of the Gasping Garbage...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 10, 2013

In what will likely be a long string of district-level data compromises, testing in Montclair, New Jersey was cancelled after copies of the tests were leaked online.

The breach of test security in the Montclair, N.J., school district was discovered by a parent on Friday, leading to a “full legal investigation,” said Penny MacCormack, the superintendent. She said that only “teachers and senior staff here would have password access” to the secure web portal that contains the exams.

This comes in close proximity to the reported security breach in Sachem, NY, where nearly 17,000 current and past students had their data taken from a district-controlled web portal.

District-level data...


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