EXTRA! The EdSurde Annual April Special

Fun Stuff

EXTRA! The EdSurde Annual April Special

All the news that's (not) fit to print

By Tony Wan     Apr 1, 2013

EXTRA! The EdSurde Annual April Special

Hi-de-ly ho neighborinos! In honor of Jazz Appreciation month, put on your finest dancing shoes and start swingin' to all the latest (and some golden classics) straight from our jukebox.

A' one...a' two...a' one-two-three-GO!


EdSurde EXCLUSIVE! PRUSSIANS MARCH TO COURT: Tired of being cast as the punching bag for all of America's educational woes, Prussian noblemen gathered on the steps of the U.S. Federal Administrative Court to demand redress for a decade-long smear campaign against its education system. "Ve vill not tolerate such insults to our tradition anymore," declared Frederick William XVI, a descendant of former ruler, Frederick William I, the Soldier King, in a statement. Joel Klein and Sal Khan top the list of the hundred or more defendants. The case is likely to be mired by the difficult process in re-establishing the boundaries of the former empire.

FORECAST: STORM CLOUDS THREATEN TO 'MAKE IT RAIN' STUDENT DATA: Officials are scrambling to prepare for flooding and erosion of data dashboards and student information systems as the monsoon season for data clouds approaches. Data flooding only became a problem as schools moved all their reports to the cloud. Global warming apparently worsened the leakage, turning the occasional randomly incorrect report cards into a deluge of misinformation. "The schools keep stuffing the cloud with all these reports and updates--of course they're going to split a seam and spew the stuff back," carped one school IT dude, who asked not to be named. He said he plans to take the next month off.

HOLE BIGGER THAN THE PARTS? When Sal Khan complained about a "Swiss-cheese education" in which students' math knowledge is full of gaps, he didn't realize how seriously the US Food and Drug Administration would take his remarks. New FDA regulations, effective Sept. 30, will ban Swiss cheese for all students who have flunked Algebra 1. School cafeterias are rushing to replace familiar--but dangerous--standbys such as ham-and-Swiss sandwiches with the safer ham-and-hummus alternative. "Swiss cheese is the enemy of mastery-based learning," declared FDA acting director Brie Stilton. "Kids should be allowed to eat it only after they pass Algebra 1, or even better, after they turn 21--just like alcohol."

UNIVERSITIES 'FESS UP: All those scandals about fake educational credentials are now being rivaled by spurious claims of dropout status. Copies of the college transcripts of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg reveal that all three entrepreneurs pulled solid "B" averages throughout school and graduated with their class. A note in Zuckerberg's file describes how he was a regular at Econ 101 office hours.

When confronted with the evidence, first circulated via WikiLeaks, a spokesman for Harvard University was defensive. "Well, who makes movies about kids who have B averages in school?" A spokesman for Reed College, where Jobs studied, was more nonchalent. "Really? He graduated? Jeez, we seem to let everyone get a degree here," he mused.

Separately, all but two of the Peter Thiel fellows--the kids who received $100K to drop out of college--have quietly re-enrolled. "This was a whole lot smarter way to pay for college than working at In-N-Out Burger for four years," said one Thiel Fellow. "And hey, wasn't the money about doing something smart?"

'INCU-TODDLE' TAKES FIRST STEP: Clearly you can never have enough edtech incubators. Just this week, some of Sand Hill Road's toniest venture capitalists agreed to pitch in to fund "Incu-Toddle," an edtech accelerator run by toddlers that will develop products and services exclusively for the Pre-K set. "Three-year olds have great instincts for what will appeal to other three-year-olds," declares Victor Winsome with Inadvertent Capital. "Even better: they don't waste timing arguing about equity rights. They're cool as long as you keep their sippy cups full."

ALL BUT THE 'D': EdSurde has learned that the organizations developing the future assessments for the Common Core are planning to eliminate the option "D" from the future standardized tests. A consultant to the one of the groups told EdSurde: "Why are there so many options anyway? 'D' is almost never the right answer because it's so Discouraging." He estimates that dropping "D" answers will also save money by cutting the time needed to grade exams. Trending on Twitter were messages tagged "#DropDaD" including one supporter who wrote: "Dis is da bomb" (At least, we think that was a supportive comment.) Secretary of Education Arne Buncan (formerly known as Duncan) was unavailable for comment as he was suiting up for a round of hoops with the POTUS.


1450: JEAN MIELOT: 50 livres to French scribe and translator Jean Mielot, for his work in developing illuminated manuscripts. This Series B round was led by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The size of the funding startled some observers, who fear it is a sign of a valuation bubble. That's a legitimate concern, given that other big-time investors such as John the Fearless paid just 10 livres for similar ed-tech ventures a few decades ago. But we at EdSurde think the expanding market could justify today's big new valuations--thanks to increasing literacy in Burgundy and the advent of modern ox-carts to facilitate transportation.

1768: WILLIAM SMELLIE: Seven crowns, six pence to Smellie for development of a beta edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, a pre-wiki collection of human knowledge inspired by the Scottish Enlightenment. Funding is being provided by Edinburgh angel investors Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell. This "lean startup" will rely heavily on plagiarized, oops, call them loosely attributed contributions from earlier writers such as Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Johnson. The business plan calls for constant iteration over the next three centuries, with each new version being bigger and more authoritative. Angel investors expect customers will be fine with rising prices and hard-copy delivery. We'll see!

1831: JOSEPH GILLOTT: 10 guineas to Birmingham, England-based Gillott for commercialization of his elongated nibs, to be used in making fountain pens. A copy of Gillott's PowerPointe funding presentation obtained by EdSurde suggests that fountain pens will be at the center of a new learning-management system that will involve more rapid and graceful writing exercises by students across the globe. Demand for such products is sketchy (ha-ha!) at best, but that hasn't stopped dozens of other aspiring fountain-pen makers from moving to Birmingham and seeking venture funding. See earlier EdSurde pieces on Josiah Mason, William Mitchell and James Stephen Perry.

1928: MY WEEKLY READER: 25 cents from millions of school children for My Weekly Reader, which allows teachers to create interactive lessons and presentations using chalkboards and wooden desks in the classroom. Developers expect rapid growth, based on the premise that 1:1 newspaper readership and "bring your own pencil" implementations will become the norm in schools.

1978: SPEAK & SPELL: $25,000 from Texas Instruments for this hand-held electronic device targeted at "young children." (We assume this is the K-5 market.) Engineer Paul Breedlove says the device will ship soon with one standard cartridge--catchingly named "Basic Unit"--to help children learn to spell and pronounce more than 200 words. We see great potential for "flipping" the classroom, so students can cover traditional spelling drills outside of school, while using in-school time for more interactive work. But, um, about that name: "Basic Unit." Yikes! It looks as if Paul could use some help with his marketing. What do you say, EdSurde community!? Send us a telegram or postcard with your ideas for better branding.


STUDY FINDS 'TEACHERPRENEURS' ARE WIZARDS: New study by the Institute for True Research suggests that teachers who make the leap to entrepreneurism are actually wizards. "Based on a sample of at least 35 edtech companies that purport to be founded by 'teachers,' we've compiled evidence that suggests those people have unnatural powers," contended James McKinnis, the Institute's executive director. Whether it would be better--or worse--for students to have those wizard-teachers in or out of the classroom is an open question. Your vote?

FULL CIRCLE: Scientists from the Asin 9 Academy have declared that the education has literally come full circle. Latest measurements reveal that the education revolution recently completed a full 360 degrees turn, leaving the ecosystem back where it started. Back to the chalkboard, fellas.

REVIEW: EA's SIMSCHOOL: TOO HARD FOR US! Electronic Art's latest offering in its celebrated Sim City series may present the most daunting challenge to gamers yet: SimSchool, an effort to construct a virtual school environment.

"School already has all the elements of a great game: competition, drama, and even a scoring system. It was a natural choice," says franchise director Melvin Buford.

EdSurde editors who played the demo of the student version of the game discovered it was H-A-R-D. One of us failed a paltry 30 minutes into Period 1 when the computer's webcam discovered he was off task and zoning out. Another of us crashed the system by repeatedly flunking a spelling quiz. SimSchool launches this August.


NEW! DEADLINE NOW! Just when you felt like you were almost caught up, here's an amazing chance to pitch whatever you're working on to well-heeled folks. They're going to be throwing money at the stage, so you should have registered for this one about nine months ago. Missed it? Oooh. Sorry about that.


High Tech Haven is seeking an IT Director with extensive experience fixing the Internet. This person will oversee, among a staff of competent support personnel, the almighty Internet switch, which someone keeps on flicking to the OFF position.


TODAY! NOW! GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. Once upon a time, the organizers of this event made tigers jump through hoops. Now they demand the same from edtech entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers. Get a peek at the the bearded venture capitalist! Watch entrepreneurs swallow fire! See government officials tiptoe across tightropes with no net underneath! And be charmed by educators, who will keep you mesmerized and on the edge of your seat. A must-go event.

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