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Education is fixed! ...and some other (fake) news

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Apr 1, 2014


Oh, it's our favorite day of the year! Welcome to the second annual EdSurde Report! Sometimes it's hard to tell truth from, well, let's just call it extrapolation.


YOLO-GEN SAT: The College Board, which announced the redesign of SAT in March, has made yet another change to the reading section of SAT. “We replaced obscure vocab words with words students actually use in college,” the spokesperson said. “And the majority of those new words will be drawn from the most popular dictionary among college students--Urban Dictionary.” In the updated exam, students will be asked to identify an antonym of “yolomawmit” or describe what “please advise” means in a given context. By learning these terms, students can prevent themselves from becoming “employmentally challenged,” said the College Board.

EDUSTAR TO MOVIE-STAR: Paramount Theaters announced today that Sal Khan will star in Hollywood’s remake of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. The movie will feature Khan's efforts to spread the Khan Academy Enterprise across the edu-galaxy while rap-battling against competitor, Mathayummy. Special edition DVDs will include outtakes and a "Mystery Science Theatre 3000"-like viewing with commentators Leonard Nimoy (whose changed Spock's signature catchphrase to "live long and multiply") and M. Night Shyamalan. Says Shyamalan, "I wrote on a book on education... so I MUST be qualified to offer my two cents."

BETTER INVESTMENT THAN COLLEGE: Oh, it’s challenging to be a parent. Check out this sweet couple as they implore their son to put more effort into his improv comedy routines and stop wasting time at activities such as a law-firm internship or college applications. It’s all about perspective.

MOMMYDOJO: Biggest booming app of quarter? “MommyDojo” a behavior modification app that students can use to discipline their parents. “I was so tired of getting PB&J every day. Worse, my Mom always made me wait when she picked me up from school,” says Sandra Wyner, a third grader in New York City. “With MommyDojo, I now reward her when she’s on time and when I get better lunches. Now I get cookies every day,” the elementary school student says proudly. DaddyDojo, GrampaDojo and a whole family of products are in the works.

MINING FOR EDCOINS: Schools in search of additional funding are tapping a new source: “Edcoin” mining. Like Bitcoins, Edcoins use peer-to-peer technology controlled by no central authority. Edcoins get burped out the ecosystem when students correctly answer multiple choice questions on their homework. With each correct answer, students manufacture .000031415 of an Edcoin. “Sooo much better than bake sales,” enthused one parent. “It’s so much easier to me to explain to my kids that when they do their homework, they really get a piece of the pi!” Students, meanwhile, are asking if they have control over how to spend the Edcoins they make. “Like, can I use it to pay my English teacher but not the principal?” asked one student. Schools are apparently setting their own rules on who gets to spend Edcoins. According to its founders, "Through many of its unique properties, Edcoin allows exciting uses that could not be covered by any previous payment system.” Most school cafeterias, however, still refuse to accept edCoins for Diet Cokes.

ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE: First came “Miss Eliza,” robots who came to school as specialist teachers with unique expertise. Soon “Miss Eliza” and “Mr. Turing” robots began teaching full semesters and picking up administrative tasks left by principals. Now at Showmee Middle School in Montana, students are sending robots to school instead of attending themselves. “If my son can program a robot and get it there on time, I don’t see why he needs to bother actually attending,” said one mother. The handful of human teachers working at the school are reportedly puzzling over whether the robot or the human student is taking the tests--and which they prefer. Test scores at Showmee have risen more than 30% in the past year. Last Friday, the only human being at Showmee appeared to a be janitor, “John Smith.” He said: “Sometimes these machines hit the curb and can’t get up, like a flipped turtle. Then it’s handy to be around.”

THE FIX IS IN: Education is broken” has become, well, tired. Now a group of marketing consultants representing educators, lawmakers, and parents has pointed out that the slogan winds up making those who should be happy with their schools antagonistic, and those who should be pushing for change depressed. Their new slogan: Education Is Fixed. “In early tests we’ve found it neatly delivers a dual message,” says consultant Telme Astorie. “Casually mention that ‘education is fixed’ calms those not in the know, reassuring them that everything is fine. Meanwhile insiders understand the charge, that education is neutered, like puppies. And puppies always drive attention. Imagine how much more we’d talk about education if the conversations were always accompanied by puppy pictures!” We only hope they’re housebroken.


COLUMBUS: Looks like the HMR Foundation is gellin’ like Magellan--or Columbus, rather. The non-profit awarded 3,000 gold coins to Italy’s famed explorer to support his research into whether or not “the education funding market is flat.” Says John Pennerton, a rep for the HMR Foundation: “We’re confident in his abilities; I mean, the man essentially discovered that we’re living on a giant sphere of a planet.” And how’s Columbus responding to the situation? He was speechless, he expressed to EdSurge in an interview: “Che è la questione? Non capisco!”*

BABYCODERS RAISES $15M SERIES A: Research coming out of Johns Hopkins University fueled excitement over BabyCoders, the multimedia series designed to teach infants and toddlers to code. “Because infants only recognize black and white in the first 6 months, it’s the ideal time to introduce them to binary code,” shares Professor Higgins. The first early (and we mean early) adopters were designing basic apps that allowed them to communicate with their parents before they were able to speak in full sentences.

AIN’T GONNA GO TO NO MOOC NO MORE: A former early employee of Udacity has raised over $40M to develop and scale a revolutionary education model that could turn the MOOC industry on its head. Ellen Musc proposes “flipping” the MOOC: College students would attend classes in a building, use an ingenious flat, cheap, disposable tablet with a stylus outfitted with graphite. Co-investors from top-tier firm Deccel Partners felt the time was right to “change the whole paradigm” of learning for an industry that has been locked in it’s ways since Udacity launched in 2011. “We simply can’t be teaching the same way we have for more than 1,000 days,” says investor I.V Beegbux. Coursera and EdX responded by calling for rigorous research to validate the new model. The Next Next Generation Learning Thing, a program supported by the Stage Foundation, is actively looking to fund 6 to 10 additional “atom-based schooling models” to confront many of the issues plaguing the “bits models.”


RICH KIDS CAN’T CODE: A new study from the Stanlandia University School of Ed reports that, “students from households making more than than $250K per year can’t code.” It’s not that they lack ability, reports lead author, Dr. Ed Sir G. Instead “These kids simply have too many resources. Inventing workarounds, unique solutions and out-of-the-box thinking is simply too hard when you’ve been given so much, so early.” Chief among the study’s recommendations for leveling the playing field: Insist that all students use older generation technology so that they will forced to be creative. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

DEFECTIVE DATA? Uproar over the biannual international PIZZA study of student achievement broke out this week when researchers revealed that the small flaw in an algorithm for calculating the results had resulted in a totally botched international ranking. PIZZA leaders were quick to point blame at a contractor who had supposedly “repaired” the algorithm seven years ago—but instead introduced the devastating miscalculation. Countries such as Uganda and the United States, which have ranked low, may in fact, be leading the charts. "Told ya so," declared Deene Ravishing, a long-time critic of the exam. Reassessing the results is expected to take at least five years.

Enjoyed this? Check out our edition from last year, or shoot us a note and let us know what you thought about this one!

Katrina Stevens, Shu Uesugi, Mary Jo Madda, Leonard Medlock, Nick Punt, Betsy Corcoran and Tyler McNally contributed to this report.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Columbus was indeed Italian. Pardon our confusion when it comes to geographic origins.

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