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On Ed-Tech: Courts, Communication, and Collaboration

Looking for some weekend ed-tech reading? Here's a few things we took note of this week:

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that, among other things, touches upon how exactly Web resources are identified with respect to the law and the First Amendment.

This particular case, which our top-notch law colleague Mark Walsh blogged about on Tuesday, involved the removal of Web links and other information from a curriculum about the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish empire during and after 1915. The materials removed represented the "contra-genocide" stance that the genocide did not actually occur, materials which were first included because of a request from a Turkish cultural group.

Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter sat on a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, last August and said the removal of "contra-genocide" perspectives because of pressure from the Armenian community did not violate the First Ammendment because the websites constituted an element of the state curriculum, and not a "virtual school library." In other words, striking the information from the class was ruled to be the equivalent of taking one book off the course's suggested reading list, rather than removing the book from that school's library all together.

Whether or not you believe the genocide of Armenians occured, the case opens interesting questions about just how online educational content is classified. Would upholding the appeals court decision encourage schools to more tightly restrict what Web resources were permissible for study of a particular subject? Would reversing it drive schools to include exhaustive resources on opposing sides of an issue to the point of confusion?

The National School Boards Association, by way of the Green Bay Press Gazette in Wisconsin, chronicles one of hundreds of discussions going on across the nation right now about how to mold school behavior policies in a manner that allows for the benefits of in-class technology use while also limiting the dangers. The discussion itself is nothing new, but the NSBA does a great job annotating the story with examples of similar discussions in other states over the past four months or so.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based education policy advocate, has announced it is looking for partners in its new digital outreach campaign, through which it hopes to share information focused on improving academic outcomes for high school students. The Alliance hopes to provide information to underrepresented national, regional, state and local organizations through personal Skype video chats, more sophisticated video conferencing, and online webinars.

It's another digital foray for Alliance president Bob Wise, the former West Virginia governor who joined forces with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to form Digital Learning Now, an ed-tech advocacy coalition which released its first report of policy suggestions early last December.

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