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Google discloses its acquisition of mobile learning app Socratic as it relaunches on iOS

Google discloses its acquisition of mobile learning app Socratic as it relaunches on iOS

August 16, 2019

Google publicly disclosed its acquisition of homework helper app Socratic in an announcement this week, detailing the added support for the company’s AI technology and its relaunch on iOS. The acquisition apparently flew under the radar — Google says it bought the app last year.

According to one founder’s LinkedIn update, that was in March 2018. Google declined to comment when asked for specifics about the acquisition.

Socratic was founded in 2013 by Chris Pedregal and Shreyans Bhansali with the goal of creating a community that made learning accessible to all students.

Initially, the app offered a Quora-like Q&A platform where students could ask questions that were answered by experts. By the time Socratic raised $6 million in Series A funding back in 2015, its community had grown to around 500,000 students. The company later evolved to focus less on connecting users and more on utility.

It included a feature to take a photo of a homework question in order to get instant explanations through the mobile app launched in 2015. This is similar to many other apps in the space, like Photomath, Mathway, DoYourMath and others.

However, Socratic isn’t just a math helper — it can also tackle subjects like science, literature, social studies and more.

In February 2018, Socratic announced it would remove the app’s social features. That June, the company said it was closing its Q&A website to user contributions. This decision was met with some backlash from disappointed users.

Socratic explained the app and website were different products, and it was strategically choosing to focus on the former.

“We, as anyone, are bound by the constraints of reality—you just can’t do everything—which means making decisions and tradeoffs where necessary. This one is particularly painful,” wrote Community Lead Becca McArthur at the time.

That …

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Google’s new ‘Assignments’ software for teachers helps catch plagiarism

Google’s new ‘Assignments’ software for teachers helps catch plagiarism

August 14, 2019

Just in time for the new school year, Google’s educational arm, Google for Education, today announced the launch of new tools aimed at helping teachers fight plagiarism. The company this morning is unveiling Assignments, an updated version of the software previously known as CourseKit, which will ship with new features that help instructors check students’ work to ensure it’s properly cited — not stolen from another source.

Students also can take advantage of the new tools, notes Google, as the feature will allow them to run these “originality reports” up to three times before submitting their final work to their teacher.

This gives students the chance to catch and fix any errors, while also saving the teacher time in grading, the company says.

The updated Google Assignments program does more than help catch cheaters, however.

The software combines aspects of Google Docs, Google Drive and Google Search into a new tool that’s focused on the creation and management of schoolwork, including the collection, grading and feedback process — and now, the ability to check for plagiarism, as well.

Other features include a comment bank to save teachers from typing the same feedback over and over; the ability to assign files to students without having to use the copier; the ability to grade assignments for a class with a student switcher and rubric included, and more.

With the plagiarism checker — the feature called “Originality Reports” — teachers can check for missed citations and other issues. When the work is turned in and locked, the feature will check the student’s text against “hundreds of billions of web pages” and “tens of millions of books,” says Google.

Assignments2Gif

Once the feature is enabled on a given assignment, students can only run the check three times. This allows them the chance to fix …

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Apple brings contactless student IDs to a dozen more universities

Apple brings contactless student IDs to a dozen more universities

August 13, 2019

Ahead of the upcoming school year, Apple this morning announced it’s bringing contactless student IDs in Apple Wallet to several more U.S. universities. The expansion will allow more than 100,000 additional college students to carry their student ID on their iPhone or Apple Watch, where it can be used for a variety of tasks, including paying for their meals and snacks and entry into buildings, like the student’s dorm and other campus facilities.

The expanded list of universities includes: Clemson University, Georgetown University, University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of San Francisco, University of Vermont, Arkansas State University, South Dakota State University, Norfolk State University, Louisburg College, University of North Alabama and Chowan University.

These join the previously supported schools: Duke University, University of Oklahoma, University of Alabama, Temple University, Johns Hopkins University, Marshall University and Mercer University.

Apple first announced its plans for contactless student IDs at WWDC 2018, then rolled out to its debut schools last October.

The contactless IDs not only serve as a means of student identification, but also work as a payment mechanism for on-campus transactions — like meals at the cafeteria or textbooks and supplies at the college’s bookstore, for example. Contactless entry into buildings is also now common on college campuses, and these digital IDs can work to open doors, too, as an alternative to swiping an entry card.

Apple brings student IDs to iPhone and Apple Watch university of san francisco student ID screen 081319

Support for college student IDs is only one way that Apple is trying to replace the physical wallet. The company also supports the ability to add your debit and credit cards, transit and loyalty cards, tickets and even paper money through Apple Pay Cash. And now it’s launching its own credit card, too, which rewards you with cashback for shopping Apple and using Apple Pay.

“We’re happy to add to the growing …

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How safe are school records? Not very, says student security researcher

How safe are school records? Not very, says student security researcher

August 10, 2019

If you can’t trust your bank, government or your medical provider to protect your data, what makes you think students are any safer?

Turns out, according to one student security researcher, they’re not.

Eighteen-year-old Bill Demirkapi, a recent high school graduate in Boston, Massachusetts, spent much of his latter school years with an eye on his own student data. Through self-taught pen testing and bug hunting, Demirkapi found several vulnerabilities in a his school’s learning management system, Blackboard, and his school district’s student information system, known as Aspen and built by Follett, which centralizes student data, including performance, grades, and health records.

The former student reported the flaws and revealed his findings at the Def Con security conference on Friday.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of hacking,” Demirkapi told TechCrunch prior to his talk. “I started researching but I learned by doing,” he said.

Among one of the more damaging issues Demirkapi found in Follett’s student information system was an improper access control vulnerability, which if exploited could have allowed an attacker to read and write to the central Aspen database and obtain any student’s data.

Blackboard’s Community Engagement platform had several vulnerabilities, including an information disclosure bug. A debugging misconfiguration allowed him to discover two subdomains, which spat back the credentials for Apple app provisioning accounts for dozens of school districts, as well as the database credentials for most if not every Blackboard’s Community Engagement platform, said Demirkapi.

“School data or student data should be taken as seriously as health data. The next generation should be one of our number one priorities, who looks out for those who can’t defend themselves.”
Bill Demirkapi, security researcher

Another set of vulnerabilities could have allowed an authorized user — like a student — to carry out SQL injection attacks. …

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How to scale a start-up in school

How to scale a start-up in school

June 25, 2019

If you’re serious about starting and scaling your business in school, treat your time in school like an extended incubator. While you may experience high levels of academic stress, your “real world” financial stress and transition to adulthood are buffered.

Understand why you’re in school

The key advantage of starting your business in school is that you have the time to test different ideas and evaluate which idea generates traction without high stakes. You will also gain key subject matter and operational knowledge that you can carry throughout your career.

The challenge of starting a business in school is that it is not easy to devote adequate focused energy to the growth of that business. Student founders cannot attend to the needs of their business whenever they feel like it. It’s a 24/7, 365 job that needs to be managed on top of rigorous schoolwork.

When I started Terravive, I spent at least 4-5 hours throughout each day speaking with our partners and customers and solving problems. Sometimes you must leave class and drop everything to put out fires.

The key to surmounting this challenge is to understand why you want to start this business. If you just want the recognition of starting a business, then I would recommend a different line of work to get the recognition you’re seeking.

Image via Getty Images / creatarka

If you want to solve a problem that you see in the world and are willing to do anything and everything to realize your vision, then starting a business may be the right path. When you run into problems in the future or question why you’re making all these sacrifices, remember why you started.

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