FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | July 7, 2014

UPDATE, 10 July 2014: Matt Tullman from digedu commented to announce that digedu has updated their terms. I have not read through the new terms yet, and will update this post when I do. END UPDATE

I've been reading terms of service for a while, and I've seen some bad ones, but the terms of Digedu are just about the worst I have ever seen. If you don't want to wade through the details, please skip straight to the conclusion.

With Digedu, the issue is compounded because they list two separate terms of service and privacy policies. The text of these policies is not the same, which is a separate problem. For this review, I focused on the terms of service listed at...

Bill Fitzgerald | June 22, 2014

When working in software development and support, troubleshooting is part of your daily workload. The people who are the best troubleshooters often, when encountering a problem, approach it from the perspective of "what did I do to cause this problem?" Because their first step in addressing the issue involves a close look at how they interacted with the technology, they slow things down, look at their interactions, and gain a clearer understanding of how the software works as a result. Like it or not, computers are consistently, maddeningly logical - they are remarkably good at doing exactly what we tell them.

People who skip over the first part - the part where they examine their behavior in an effort to rule out human error - can still be competent troubleshooters, but for obvious reasons they are prone to committing a PEBKAC.

I was reminded of this over the last few days when, on Twitter, a woman showed...

Bill Fitzgerald | June 18, 2014

Over the last few months, we've been working with Lumen Learning to support their mission of increased adoption of open educational resources. As part of this work, we needed a way to import course content stored in a learning management system into more flexible authoring environments. To support this, we built a Common Cartridge importer (Common Cartridge is supported by most systems) that lets us take a Common Cartridge export file and bring it into Candela, the authoring platform used by Lumen.

What you see here is an early version of the functionality; we'll be modifying and revising this as we run more imports. But the import process is pretty simple, so if you like living on the edge and want to free some of your courses from your institution's LMS, there's no time like the present.

Bill Fitzgerald | June 2, 2014

This post is a response to RFI 2014-08649.

Document Citation: 79 FR 21449
Page: 21449 -21453 (5 pages)
Agency/Docket Number: Docket ID ED-2014-OUS-0040
Document Number: 2014-08649

Elements of the college application process are repetitive, and require students to pull and collate data already collected elsewhere. For some students, family circumstances can create barriers to getting this information together. Additionally, some students will be navigating the process on their own. To support students looking to transition into college, we should use existing systems to support them along that path.

FAFSA and the Common Application could be streamlined to make use of data already collected, by the...

Bill Fitzgerald | June 1, 2014

Right now, there is a very good possibility that at least some of the candidates for the 2056 presidential election are in elementary or middle school.

To meet federal accountability requirements, their schools collect detailed information about their behavior and performance. This information - tied to a unique identifier - gets stored in a state database that records detailed information about learners. All states collect this information for K12 education; 41 track information from preK through college.

Many of these state level datastores are managed, supported, and accessed by external vendors like - for example - Pearson, eScholar, and Infinite Campus.

If this candidate goes to a school that uses Powerschool, then their personal...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 31, 2014

If you are collecting data on students, students need to be able to see, interact with, review, comment on, and dispute data points to which they have objections. Parents deserve these rights as well. Anything short of full, complete transparency - where students and parents can see the full range of data collected, and interact with it, and learn from it, and interject when the implications suggested by the data are wrong - won't be sufficient.

Whether you see this as a systems design issue with pedagogical implications, or a pedagogical issue with systems design implications, the starting points look the same.

If you are building or working with a data system, it needs to have these two components:

  • Student dashboard - a student should be able to see everything that is collected about them. More importantly, the application should have a mechanism that allows students to comment on, review - and in some cases, remove - data points, or assumptions based...
Bill Fitzgerald | May 23, 2014

One of my major motivating factors in writing a book on data and education policy through the lens of inBloom is to make the details of education policy more accessible to a broader audience.

It should surprise absolutely no one that many discussions about educational issues take place among people who are deeply immersed in education or edtech, and that the people engaging in these conversations have deeply ingrained beliefs that are unlikely to change. When I talk with people outside this bubble, they express a degree of confusion and horror - confusion about what the actual issues are, and horror at what appears to be the intractability of vaguely defined yet strongly held convictions.

From watching - and participating in - many education policy discussions over the years, I'm no longer surprised when these conversations take place in an ahistorical...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 20, 2014

One of my goals in writing a book looking at how education policy and privacy decisions evolved over the last three years is to examine and clarify the different potential meanings of data within education.

When we talk about data, we often skip the specifics. When it comes to discussing issues and concerns related to data collection and privacy, a lack of specificity at the outset leads to confusion and miscommunication as the conversations progress. Within education, "data" means many things.

This Might Be What We Talk About

When we talk about data, are we talking about the data that is required for school report cards, as required by federal law? Are we talking about data that supports federal...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 8, 2014

In talking about education, it's very easy to get bogged down in the rabbit holes of policy debates, who supports what and how fervently, and other details that circle around education, but aren't directly tied to education.

To break that pattern of thought, I started asking myself these questions relative to some of the work we do, related to how learning and teaching environments are created and sustained:

  • What does an hour of learning look like? How about a day?
  • What does teaching look like, and is "teaching" even the right word to use?
  • What does school look like, and is "school" the right term to use?
  • For someone supporting learners, who do you talk with while planning?
  • For learners, who do you talk with while learning?
  • If someone asks you to explain why you are doing a specific thing, or what questions you are trying to solve, how would you respond?
  • If someone asks you to prove that it works...
Bill Fitzgerald | May 7, 2014

I've spent the last few weeks reading and re-reading This Is Not A Test by José Vilson. In my past life, as an English teacher, I would churn out responses like no one's business. It was a simple pattern - read --> cogitate --> time and caffeine --> pronto! Occasionally, though, the pattern wouldn't work - with books where I got stuck on the corners - books where I kept returning because there were pieces of the conversation (and yes, I see all text as an invitation to a conversation) that I missed. These books - the ones that keep calling you back, the ones that push you - are, over time, the most enjoyable.

This Is Not A Test defies easy categorization - the text is equal parts essay, coming of age story, history lesson, and primer in what it means to teach - and each facet is equally necessary. Reading through the text, I kept returning to the idea that our concept...


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