When identity thieves targeted beloved open course teachers, Facebook sided with the crooks

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Teachers don't go into education to get rich. It's a great job, the rewards are awesome and although they're not financial, they are of value. They are socially valuable. It's why teachers are one of the "professional" people allowed to verify your passport photograph, to qualify that it really is a picture of you. Society recognises that they're more likely to value the long rigorous process of acquiring that trust above jeopardising it to earn a quick kick-back. We even trust them with our children.

And then you get open teachers, who make their classes available online for free, for any learner regardless of their ability to pay or personal circumstance. Open teachers naturally earn this trust, this social capital, very publicly and because they're often teaching at scale they potentially earn this social capital at scale too. It means they and people like them are great people to impersonate in order to steal, from the people who trust them (all of us).

It isn't just teachers who are "Catfished" (the process of having your online identity hijacked). It can happen to anyone of us but what's worrying is when someone as trusted, high profile and digitally literate as an open teacher is Catfished, and try as they might, can just do nothing about it, then what are the rest of us meant to do when it happens to us (assuming we ever find out)?

Alan Levine made my open classes possible and anyone in open education knows Alan as the open teacher's teacher, the go-to-guy for teachers as well as students. Read the rest

The best book on learning electronics just got better


When Make: Electronics was published about five years ago, it was widely hailed as the greatest book about learning electronics ever written. With beautiful photos, easy-to-read schematics, clear, jargon-free text, and dozens and dozens of fun and educational projects, author/illustrator Charles Platt made a book that has ended up in every makerspace and library I've visited.

A few weeks ago the Second Edition of Make: Electronics came out, and it's even better than the first edition. Charles rewrote the text, replaced the photos of breadboarded circuits with diagrams showing component placement, included new projects, added new photographs with a ruled background to indicate the scale of tools and components, and included a chapter on Arduino.

This is the book to get if you want to learn electronics.

(Disclosure, I was Charles' editor when I was editor-in-chief of MAKE) Read the rest

Unevenly distributed future: America's online education system


In a characteristically insightful essay, Clay Shirky discusses the largely invisible rise of online education and dissects the causes of that invisibility: namely that the American higher education system is an iron-clad requirement for economic success, and it is remarkably bad at serving people who are already poor. Read the rest

Upvote this: Teach kids in underserved communities how to code with Minecraft

Camp Minecraft. The goal: Bring it to more kids whose families can't pay.

LA Makerspace co-founder Tara Tiger Brown shares a project that her kid-friendly maker workshop is trying to make a reality.

Read the rest

South Carolina sheriff fires the school-cop who beat up a black girl at her desk


Ben Fields, the South Carolina sheriff’s deputy who was video-recorded beating up a black schoolgirl who was sitting peacefully at her desk, has been fired. Read the rest

Bad math teacher


This teacher thinks his/her correct solutions are better than his/her student's equally correct solutions. Read the rest

How a mathematician teaches "Little Brother" to a first-year seminar


Derek Bruff teaches a first-year college writing seminar in mathematics, an unusual kind of course that covers a lot of ground, and uses a novel as some of its instructional material -- specifically, my novel Little Brother. Read the rest

WHAT IF: Hermione made Harry and Ron do their own goddamned homework?

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Anyone who's paid close attention knows that the series should really be called "Hermoine Granger and the Repeated Rescue of the Lazy, Glory-Hogging Boys," but as usual, Mallory Ortberg (previously) brings it all home with some scathing and witty fanfic: Read the rest

How to teach gerrymandering and its many subtle, hard problems


Ben Kraft teaches a unit on gerrymandering -- rigging electoral districts to ensure that one party always wins -- to high school kids in his open MIT Educational Studies Program course. As he describes the problem and his teaching methodology, I learned that district-boundaries have a lot more subtlety and complexity than I'd imagined at first, and that there are some really chewy math and computer science problems lurking in there. Read the rest

Court tells millionaire yoga troll Bikram Choudhury that poses can't be copyrighted


Bikram Choudhury, the millionaire accused serial rapist who popularized hot yoga in America, sued other hot yoga studios in 2003, including "open source yoga" practicioners, asserting that he held a copyright over the sequence of poses conducted in his class. Read the rest

Prisoners' debate team trounces national champs from Harvard


The New York prisoners team is composed of people convicted of violent felonies who have gone on to take continuing education classes in prison through Bard College. They debated the proposition that public schools should be allowed to refuse education to undocumented students, arguing for the proposition. Read the rest

Cards Against Humanity & Zach Weinersmith offer full-ride scholarships to women in science


Applicants need to be US permanent residents or citizens who's attending college in 2016/7. To apply, you'll need to record a short video explaining "a scientific topic you're passionate about." Read the rest

What it's like to do a lockdown drill with kindergarten kids


At Launa Hall's public school, they do regular "lockdown" drills with all the kids, including her 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten students, who have to be crowded into a locked closet and convinced to stay silent without terrifying them so much that they start crying. Read the rest

An online Java course for kids, taught via Minecraft


At the beginning of the summer my son Ronan, age 12, and I built him his first high-powered gaming PC. Me being a dad and all, I did so happily, but with one proviso -- he’d have to dedicate time every day to learning a programming language. He was slightly sceptical of this, having taken a few less-than-interesting intro to programming classes in the past. Prepared for this, I recommended that we enroll him in Youth Digital’s comprehensive Java course called Minecraft Server Desgin 1. This got his full attention, as he had dreams of creating his own custom servers and gameplay modes to host Minecraft sessions with his friends.

We signed him up and dove in. Our immediate impression was that site and course are smartly designed and easy to navigate. All material is introduced through clear, well-produced, often funny videos that didn’t talk down him, but instead did a great job of walking him through new concepts, then pausing while he took pop quizzes and did hands-on coding exercises.  

The course includes a year of server hosting, 24-hour tech support (that was fast and helpful the few times he’s needed it), and perhaps best of all, a browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) for editing the game, player, and team Java files. Within this Codenvy IDE (Windows and OSX only), you can launch the updated server with one button, which makes it fast to test code and correlate newly learned concepts with the “real world” Minecraft results.

He chose one of the four pre-built maps, learned to modify the default server file description text, whitelisted a few friend, and launched his Minecraft server within the first hour of instruction. Read the rest

Why students are forced to buy this expensive and obsolete Texas Instruments calculator


Twenty years ago, Texas Instruments released the TI-83 graphing calculator, a stupidly expensive piece of old technology that most high schools still require their juniors and seniors buy for around $100. Why? Because. That's why. From Mic.com:

Pearson textbooks feature illustrations of TI-series calculators alongside chapters so students can use their TI calculator in conjunction with the lesson plan. The calculators also have a significant learning curve, and moving students over to new technology is a risky proposition when success in the classroom is so tied to the technology being used.

TI calculators have been a constant, essential staple in the slow-moving public education sector. Students and teachers are so used to generations of students learning the familiar button combos and menu options that TI provides a computer program that perfectly resembles the button layout of the TI-83.

However, even if teachers wanted to be bold and bring in better technology, they would end up right back at square one because of that infamous force in American education: standardized testing.

College Board and other companies that administer the country's standardized tests have approved lists of calculators. TI-series devices are ubiquitous — mobile apps are nowhere to be found.

"I'm actually at the point now where when I do parent conferences, I tell the parents it's in their students' best interest to buy one, because the device will become necessary," Bob Lochel, a math teacher in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, told Mic. "But you feel dirty, because you're telling parents they need to buy a device, and I know I can teach without it."

"Remember Your Old Graphing Calculator? Read the rest

The future of photography, education, sharing, news, privacy and learning (seriously)


Jonathan Worth is a celebrated, successful, internationally recognized award-winning photographer who saw the writing on the wall for his business -- selling pictures to magazines -- when he found himself threatening a young girl for pirating his pictures, and decided there had to be a better way. Read the rest

Don't discuss the environment if you're brown and British (Ahmed Mohamed with UK characteristics)


A 14 year old London student was questioned by school officials about his possible involvement with Islamic State after he raised the subject of environmental activism in a classroom discussion. Read the rest

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