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Renting, Reviews, and NYC News

If you were on vacation last week (or possibly in Chicago Friday for somebody special's leadership forum panel on Digital Innovations in Education?) you may have missed some interesting developments in the ever-widening ed-tech world.

• After an announcement Wednesday at the annual Google IO conference that Google will offer an education-focused laptop rental program, Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb takes a look at whether participating in the Chromebooks for Education is a sensible way for schools to reach 1-to-1 computing.

The program would make laptops available at a rate of $20 per student per month, and because the devices would be entirely web-based and work off Google's Chrome operating system, it's possible, Watters writes, that other expenses for apps, server capacity, etc. would be reduced. Users would also have access to a 3G wireless internet network, meaning at-home connectivity to students who otherwise wouldn't be able to log on after school.

A 3-year contract would cost about $540 per student. That's slightly more than some tablets and most netbooks cost, but considerably less than the price of many laptops.

• Today, family media watchdog group Common Sense Media announced an education ratings and review program that will help parents and educators assess the learning value of digital products.

The ratings will give guidelines for age appropriateness, entertainment value, and learning potential, as well as give advice for the best way to utilize a game, website, or mobile app. They'll be available on the group's website later this year.

• And earlier this month, Gotham City Schools reported that the New York City Department of Education could be vulnerable to claims of cronyism—fairly or not—with the renewal of a 3-year, $4.5 million contract with education software company Wireless Generation.

You'll recall that Wireless Generation, the company behind the algorithm that runs the city's School of One middle school math initiative, was purchased last fall by Rupert Murdoch's multimedia conglomerate NewsCorp, while NewsCorp also hired former NYC DOE chancellor Joel Klein to lead its education endeavors. The city has been using the software for seven years, according to the GCS story.

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