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New Networks, Old EETT Gripes, and Next-Gen Finalists

It's a busy start to the week in the ed-tech world.

• A new, pre-teen focused social network that launched Tuesday could reach students in 56,000 schools, according to a story from the website Mashable.

The network, called Everloop, is open to users age 8-13 and will include photo albums, games, and other Facebook-like features. But all members will need verified parental permission to join, bringing Everloop into compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the story says, and all parents will have the chance to choose which of their child's actions they can directly monitor.

Everloop will be available to schools who are subscribers of i-SAFE, a nonprofit publisher of media literacy and digital citizenship information, and will also monitor user use for inappropriate behavior. Unlike other "kid-safe" social networks, it will be available to users outside of schools.

• The International Society for Technology in Education is not surprisingly opposed to portions of fiscal 2012 budget proposals from both President Barack Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives.

While ISTE in a press release commended Obama's proposal for its intention to increase general education spending, it reiterated old concerns about consolidating the Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, grant program into other federal funding. It claims newer programs that could have implications for education technology, such as the proposed ARPA-ED agency, will struggle to be effective without "proven" programs like EETT dedicated to drive professional development.

As for the House proposal, ISTE CEO Don Knezek says in a separate release that eliminating funding for the program, which is currently funded at a $100 million-level, would be "penny-wise," but "pound-foolish" with regards to ensuring a competitive education for the nation's students. Both proposals go against the group's call last month for a dramatic increase to the program's current funding level.

• The Next Generation Learning Challenges competitive grant program, an ed-tech initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced its 47 finalists for the first wave of up to $20 million in grant money to be distributed to winning proposals geared toward postsecondary ed-tech programs.

About half of the finalists are traditional four-year postsecondary schools, a quarter are community colleges. The rest are scattered among partnerships between universities and community colleges, private organizations, or education oversight agencies, and between solo projects from private agencies, online consortia, and oversight agencies.

The second wave of the program will offer up to $10 million in grants to programs that use technology tools to help students master math and literacy skills at grade levels 7-9 in the new Common Core State Standards. Further waves of funding could drive the total funding for the program into the $60-80 million range, according to foundation co-founder Bill Gates.

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