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Submission + - Does a Google Study of 1,685 Clueless Parents Justify $4.1B in K-12 CS Spending?

theodp writes: "More than 9 of 10 parents want computer science taught at their child’s school," explains the just-released Budget of the U.S. Government for FY2017 (pdf, 182 pgs) as it makes the case for "$4 billion in mandatory funding over three years for States to increase access to K-12 computer science and other rigorous STEM coursework by training more than 250,000 teachers," and an additional "$100 million in discretionary funding for Computer Science for All Development Grants to help school districts, alone or in consortia, execute ambitious computer science expansion efforts, particularly for traditionally under-represented students." If you got a sense of deja vu reading that, it could be because you saw a Google-commissioned Gallup study released last August, which explained that parent interviews conducted "with a sample of 1,685 parents with at least one child in grades seven to 12" showed that "nine in 10 parents surveyed say that offering opportunities to learn computer science is a good use of resources at their child’s school." (Gallup later noted that 64% of parents incorrectly identified "creating documents or presentations" as part of computer science). The report's About Google section added that "there is a need for more students to pursue an education in computer science, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field." From Google's lips to Obama's budget, as they say!

Submission + - Time for the Return of Children's Learn-to-Program Books?

theodp writes: Boing Boing fondly reports on Usborne's release of free PDFs of its classic 1980s computer programming books, some of which were interestingly published around the heyday of girls' programming. The release coincides with Usborne's publication of what it calls "coding books for a new generation." The back-to-books move comes as tech-backed Code.org boasts that it's "taught computer science" to over 200 million kids in its widely-successful Hours of Code, all without any students — or Presidents — having to crack open a book. K-12 students participating in the so-called Largest Learning Events in History over the last three years have instead used online drag-and-drop coding tutorials featuring characters from Angry Birds, Frozen, Star Wars, and Minecraft, with 'instructors' drawn from the ranks of tech, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. So, at a time when the White House is counting on Cartoon Networks' $30 million campaign to "engage young people in creative coding" using the Powerpuff Girls, are children's learn-to-program books a throwback idea whose time has passed? Or should the $4B Computer Science for All K-12 initiative perhaps encourage the development of something like a line of O'Reilly Animal Books for Kids?

Comment This is why you save. (Score 0) 220

Listen up, kiddos. This is why you save your money from day 1 after you graduate. Forget the new beemer, swank apartment, and $50 bottles of vodka. From the day you graduate you should be stuffing as much as your income as you can into a tax-advantaged plan, and an equal amount to liquid investments (including a Roth).

You lived like a poor college student until you graduated, and so there's nothing wrong with living like a slightly less poor college student. That way, when something like this happens, you can be the hero who says "fuck you, you can keep your severance," and then head right over to the local TV station to spill all of the beans.

Freedom isn't free. When you take your $70K/year out of college and blow it on a nice car, a party lifestyle, and expensive booze, you should not be surprised to find yourselves in shackles eventually.

Comment It is still a net energy loser (Score 1) 156

Because, you know, thermodynamics.

Methanol has more chemical potential energy than CO2, and that energy must come from somewhere. This is the same unicorn fantasy that the "water as fuel" people constantly buy into.

Sure, you can sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into combustible fuel, but you're going to spend a lot of energy to do it when there is a perfectly natural process for doing so, called "planting trees."


Carbon Dioxide From the Air Converted Into Methanol (gizmag.com) 156

Zothecula writes: The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.

Submission + - Sen. Blumenthal demands lifting of IT 'gag' order (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the layoff and replacement of IT workers by foreign workers at a state energy utility. But he is also demanding that the utility, Eversource Energy, drop a particularly restrictive non-disparagement clause that laid off employees had to sign to receive their severance. This clause bars discussion "that would tend to disparage or discredit" the utility. [emphasis added] He wants the employees, who had to train foreign replacements, to be able to state "honestly what happened to them."

Comment Regulating Games was Never About Violence (Score 1) 239

The massive push to regulate games was never about preventing violence. In fact, the big push to regulate anything is never about what they say it's about.

It is always about one thing and one thing only: money. The gaming industry is enormous, and largely unregulated. Politicians see a cash cow here but need a way to convince voters to give them the authority to regulate and tax it to death. Currently the federal government has very little authority, even under the Commerce Clause, to regulate or tax video games.

Politicians on both sides of the two-party aisle would love to get their grubby little paws into the gaming cookie jar. The leftists would love to say how they're protecting children while the whackjobs on the right want to protect our morals. Of course, that'll cost money - a lot of money - which they will spend on making policy friendly to their sponsors.

I imagine game companies everywhere would be busting down the doors on Capitol Hill the morning after game regulation authority was passed to make sure they set up large campaign contributions to the right politicians.

Submission + - Drag-and-Drop "CS" Tutorials: The Emperor's New Code?

theodp writes: "Teaching kids computer science is a great movement," writes HS senior David Yue, "however, to overly dilute the magnitude of the difficulty in regards to the subject area of coding and to create the illusion of mastering a 'superpower' (Code.org) is a huge mistake. There are many videos and articles on the Internet these days that have demonstrated positive support towards computer science education. Below these articles, one can find many comments, left mostly by parents and supporters. These people usually express how proud they are that their children have an opportunity to learn computer science or how proud they are that computer science is being integrated at a more substantial level into the education system." But Drag and Drop Doesn't = Coding, argues Yue. "Parents and teachers today who aren’t technical need to be aware that the drag and drop code or the candy-coated learning process does not effectively teach children programming but eventually causes a huge amount of shock once they are immersed in real code." Yue's Emperor's-New-Code warning comes days before President Obama — a graduate of Code.org's drag-and-drop Disney Princess coding tutorial — asks Congress for $4-billion-and-change in the upcoming budget to fund his "Computer Science for All" K-12 initiative.

Comment Microsoft: 'Original Ideas' is Our Business (Score 1) 132

From Microsoft's latest 10-Q SEC filing: "Even as we transition to a mobile-first and cloud-first strategy, the license-based proprietary software model generates most of our software revenue. We bear the costs of converting original ideas into software products through investments in research and development, offsetting these costs with the revenue received from licensing our products."

Submission + - K-12 CS Framework Draft: Kids Taught to 'Protect Original Ideas' in Early Grades

theodp writes: Remember that Code.org and ACM-bankrolled K-12 Computer Science Education Framework that Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others were working on? Well, a draft of the framework was made available for review on Feb. 3rd, coincidentally just 3 business days after U.S. President Barack Obama and Microsoft President Brad Smith teamed up to announce the $4+ billion Computer Science for All initiative for the nation's K-12 students. "Computationally literate citizens have the responsibility to learn about, recognize, and address the personal, ethical, social, economic, and cultural contexts in which they operate," explains the section on Fostering an Inclusive Computing Culture, one of seven listed 'Core K-12 CS Practices'. "Participating in an inclusive computing culture encompasses the following: building and collaborating with diverse computational teams, involving diverse users in the design process, considering the implication of design choices on the widest set of end users, accounting for the safety and security of diverse end users, and fostering inclusive identities of computer scientists." Hey, do as they say, not as they do! Also included in the 10-page draft (pdf) is a section on Law and Ethics, which begins: "In early grades, students differentiate between responsible and irresponsible computing behaviors. Students learn that responsible behaviors can help individuals while irresponsible behaviors can hurt individuals. They examine legal and ethical considerations for obtaining and sharing information and apply those behaviors to protect original ideas." Gotta get to 'em while they're young to prevent a recurrence of The Boy Who Could Change the World, right?

Submission + - John Cleese Warns Campus Political Correctness Leading Towards 1984 (washingtonexaminer.com) 2

An anonymous reader writes: Ashe Schow writes at the Washington Examiner that, "The Monty Python co-founder, in a video for Internet forum Big Think, railed against the current wave of hypersensitivity on college campuses, saying he has been warned against performing on campuses. "[Psychiatrist Robin Skynner] said: 'If people can't control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people's behavior,'" Cleese said. "And when you're around super-sensitive people, you cannot relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what's going to upset them next." Cleese said that it's one thing to be "mean" to "people who are not able to look after themselves very well," but it was another to take it to "the point where any kind of criticism of any individual or group could be labeled cruel." Cleese added that "comedy is critical," and if society starts telling people "we mustn't criticize or offend them," then humor goes out the window. "With humor goes a sense of proportion," Cleese said. "And then, as far as I'm concerned, you're living in 1984." Cleese is just the latest comedian to lecture college students about being so sensitive.

Submission + - Google to use ads in attempt to combat jihadi terrorists (betanews.com)

Mark Wilson writes: Large swathes of the internet have taken it upon themselves to try to stem the flow of ISIS propaganda and other terrorist content. People working under the Anonymous banner are perhaps the most obvious, but now Google is getting involved as well.

In an overtly political move a senior Google executive, Dr Anthony House, has revealed measures that are being trialled to try to combat extremism. As well as making it easier to discover who is looking for extremist content online, the company is also piloting a scheme that uses its AdWords system to display anti-ISIS messages.

This is an interesting use of Google's technology, and stands in stark contrast to the blunt DDoS attacks employed by some anti-ISIS groups.

Submission + - Microsoft, Facebook, Google, ACM, Code.org Got Up Early to Celebrate V-K12CS Day

theodp writes: Audio and video of President Obama's announcement of his $4 billion Computer Science for All K-12 initiative was embargoed until 6 a.m. ET Saturday morning, forcing the nation's tech giants and CS educators to get up early on their day off to post about their excitement over the decision, as well as how they helped shape it. Microsoft President Brad Smith appears to have been first out of the gate with a blog post carrying a 3:10 a.m. publication time that praised the federal funding decision ("the private sector and philanthropy cannot fill this gap without public funding") and noted its influence as "a founding member of [tech-bankrolled] Code.org." At 8:25 a.m., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg checked in on his involvement, reporting that Facebook "created TechPrep to help more people from underrepresented backgrounds learn how to code" and added that "Priscilla and I are also supporting organizations like Code.org through our education foundation and plan." At 8:48 a.m., Google for Education called visitors' attention to their CS4ALL blog post, which touted their support of Code.org and showed it was Google who provided the President with his 9-in-10-parents-want-their-child-to-learn-CS-or-think-CS-is-a-good-use-of-school-resources factoid. At 10:30 a.m., the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) alerted Twitter followers to its CS4ALL statement, which boasted the "ACM has played a major, seminal role in raising the visibility of computer science education" and noted the organization "partnered closely with Code.org from its inception and provided key staff support to it during its crucial initial stages." And Code.org's post, which carried an 11:06 a.m. timestamp, noted that less than three years after Code.org's release of its video starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg — which it credits for "inspiring young people [and President Obama] to learn to code" — the White House "announced its support behind this 'grassroots movement'". By the way, some details on private-sector action to expand CS for All can be found in this White House Fact Sheet, including Microsoft's plans for a 50-state, full-court press to tap funds made available for CS education under the newly signed Every Student Succeeds Act. Hey, looks like they've thought through everything except what's going to be taught and who's available to teach it!

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