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+ - AP Computer Science Education Scalability: Advantage, Rupert Murdoch?

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Despite all the Presidential fanfare since its early-2013 debut, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook-backed Code.org won't be going mainstream with an AP Computer Science offering until the 2016-2017 school year. In the meantime, NewsWorks' Avi Wolfman-Arent reports that Rupert Murdoch's Amplify MOOC just wrapped up its second year of offering AP Computer Science A. And unlike Microsoft TEALS, Google CS First, and Code.org — programs constrained by the number of volunteers, teacher and classroom availability, professional development requirements, and money — Murdoch's AP CS MOOC holds the promise of open-access, unlimited-enrollment, learn-anywhere-and-anytime classes, a la Coursera, Udacity and EdX. So, did Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and their leaders place a $30 million bet on the wrong horse when it comes to AP Computer Science scalability? And, even if they've got a more scalable model, will Murdoch's Amplify and schools be willing to deal with higher MOOC failure rates, and allow large numbers of students to try — and possibly drop or fail — AP CS without economic or academic consequences?

+ - Advice for a College Dropout? 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "I dropped out of college today," begins the touching inaugural post on Life of a Dropout, which will strike a chord with anyone who's done or contemplated doing the same. "Life had gotten messed up to such extent that suicide seemed to be a much much better option. So when I woke up today I got a third person view of my life, and felt like I had to get out of this situation and prevent myself from doing any harm to myself. I have been in this college for 3 years now, and the only good it did to me was that it allowed me to meet awesome people and as a result I developed as a software developer." So, any words of advice or encouraging anecdotes for a dropout/developer who's trying to start things afresh?

+ - Gates, Zuckerberg Promising Same Jobs to US Kids and Foreign H-1B Workers? 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Over at the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-bankrolled Code.org, they're using the number of open computing jobs in each state to convince parents of the need to expand K-12 CS offerings so their kids can fill those jobs. Sounds good, right? But at the same time, the Gates and Zuckerberg-bankrolled FWD.org PAC has taken to Twitter, using the number of open "STEM" jobs in each state to convince politicians of the need to expand the number of H-1B visas so foreign workers can fill those jobs. While the goal of Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy is to kill two birds [K-12 CS education and H-1B visas] with one crisis, is it cool for organizations backed by many of the same wealthy individuals to essentially promise the same jobs to U.S. kids and foreign H-1B workers?

+ - In-Database R Coming to SQL Server 2016

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Wondering what kind of things Microsoft might do with its purchase of Revolution Analytics? Over at the Revolutions blog, David Smith announces that in-database R coming to SQL Server 2016. "With this update," Smith writes, "data scientists will no longer need to extract data from SQL server via ODBC to analyze it with R. Instead, you will be able to take your R code to the data, where it will be run inside a sandbox process within SQL Server itself. This eliminates the time and storage required to move the data, and gives you all the power of R and CRAN packages to apply to your database." It'll no doubt intrigue Data Scientist types, but the devil's in the final details, which Microsoft was still cagey about when it talked-the-not-exactly-glitch-free-talk (starts @57:00) earlier this month at Ignite. So, brush up your R, kids, and you can see how Microsoft walks-the-in-database-walk when SQL Server 2016 public preview rolls out this summer.

+ - College Board Puts Billionaire-Backed Code.org in Charge of AP CS Program

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "The College Board," reports GeekWire, "is endorsing Code.org as a coursework and teacher training provider for its upcoming AP Computer Science Principles course and will help Code.org fund the teacher training work required to establish new computer science classes." So what's the catch? "Schools that commit to using the [new] PSAT [8/9 assessment] to identify middle school students who have potential for success in computer science will be eligible to receive curriculum, training, and funding for programming classes." Hey, with Bill "Common Core" Gates involved, would you have expected anything less? Bankrolled by some of tech's wealthiest leaders and their corporations, Code.org's seven-person Board includes Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, Google Director of Education Maggie Johnson, Amazon Sr. VP Jeff Wilke, and Vandana Sikka, the spouse of Vishal Sikka, CEO of offshore outsourcing giant Infosys. Smith, the next-door neighbor of Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, proposed the idea of 'producing a crisis' to advance Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Just months thereafter, nonprofit organizations Code.org and Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us, which is lobbying for H-1B reform, were born. Code.org and FWD.us share many supporters.

+ - Bill Gates Still Trying to Buy Some Common Core Testing Love

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "Bill Gates famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, implement and promote the now controversial Common Core State Standards," reports the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "He hasn't stopped giving." In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core. Strauss adds: "Gates is the leader of education philanthropy in the United States, spending a few billion dollars over more than a decade to promote school reforms that he championed, including the Common Core, a small-schools initiative in New York City that he abandoned after deciding it wasn’t working, and efforts to create new teacher evaluation systems that in part use a controversial method of assessment that uses student standardized test scores to determine the 'effectiveness' of educators. Such philanthropy has sparked a debate about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour part of their fortunes into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are grounded in research — to such a degree that public policy and funding follow." By the way, the use of a BillG look-alike kid in the pro-Common Core ad made by recent $3.7M Gates Foundation awardee the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation was a nice touch! And if you're still on the fence about Common Core after viewing it, the Onion just came out with a nice list of the pros and cons of standardized testing that may help you decide.

+ - In San Francisco, Billionaires Tax School Districts! 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has turned to crowdfunding to raise funds for classroom technology to enable its students to "contribute to and thrive in the digital world." And billionaire-backed crowdfunding site Tilt, explains the grateful SFUSD in a press release, "is taking only one percent [of donations] to offset the site maintenance expenses." SFUSD is following the example of tech leaders and their corporations, who have turned to "begfunding" sites to not only direct tax-free millions to their pet K-12 public education projects, but also to control who gets educated. Hey, Microsoft did say "there are better ways [than taxes] for us to address the state's [education] needs." Unfortunately, Tilt so far seems to do a better job of funding party experiences "normally reserved for Saudi Princes" than passionate critical thinkers. Still, SF Mayor Ed Lee is jazzed!

Comment: Paid Eolas Patent Expert Witness (Score 1) 27

Seems to be well-respected - hopefully this was an anomaly. EFF Honors Paid Eolas Patent Expert Witness: Doesn't seem like Felten's ongoing efforts as a paid expert for Eolas that helped return a $521M judgment against Microsoft for infringing on a web
plug-in patent jibe too well with the EFF's raison d'etre, which includes Patent Busting. In a letter to the USPTO, previous Pioneer Award recipient Tim Berners-Lee termed the Eolas patent 'a substantial setback for global interoperability and the success of the open Web.'

+ - Could an Apple Watch Have Saved Dave Goldberg's Life?

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: One of the use cases pitched by Apple for the new Apple Watch was vacation training on hotel gym treadmills, so one wonders if Tim Cook and Apple might not be a little worried by the remote possibility that SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg may have been distracted by an Apple Watch when he died while vacationing in Mexico with his wife, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. A day before her husband's fatal hotel gym treadmill accident, Bloomberg reported that Sandberg was an early adopter of the Apple Watch, and Goldberg himself had presented the results of a SurveyMonkey Apple Watch poll on CNBC a week before his death, which showed that messaging and tracking one's exercise and movement would be big draws for consumers. One also wonders if Apple Watch training apps — e.g., a heart monitor or I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up messaging app — could possibly have saved Goldberg, or prevent others from suffering a similar fate.

+ - FWD.us to Laid-Off Southern California Edison Workers: Boo-Hoo 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Speaking at a National Journal LIVE event that was sponsored by Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us and Laurene Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective, FWD.us "Major Contributor" Lars Dalgaard was asked about the fate of 500 laid-off Southern California Edison IT workers, whose forced training of their H-1B worker replacements from offshore outsourcing companies sparked a bipartisan Senate investigation. "If you want the job, make yourself able to get the job," quipped an unsympathetic Dalgaard (YouTube). "Nobody's going to hold you up and carry you around...If you're not going to work hard enough to be qualified to get the job...well then, you don't deserve the job." "That might be harsh," remarked interviewer Niharika Acharya. Turning to co-interviewee Pierre-Jean Cobut, FWD.us's poster child for increasing the H-1B visa cap, Acharya asked, "Do you agree with him?" "Actually, I do," replied PJ, drawing laughs from the crowd. In August, Zuck's close friend and college roommate Joe Green, then President of FWD.us, drew fire after arguing that Executive Action by President Obama on tech immigration was needed lest his billionaire bosses have to hire 'just sort of OK' U.S. workers.

+ - Microsoft-Backed Think Tank: K-12 CS Education Cure for Sagging US Productivity

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: On May 6, notes think tank Brookings, the Department of Labor released labor productivity data showing that output per worker fell by 1.9 percent during the first quarter of 2015. But fear not — the Metropolitan Policy Program of [Microsoft-backed] Brookings says K-12 computer science education is the cure for what ails U.S. productivity: "So how can the United States reverse this trend? First, states, metropolitan areas, and school districts must recognize that basic digital literacy is no longer sufficient preparation for the 21st century workforce. Familiarity with higher-level skills such as coding will be critical as the role of technology continues to grow. The 60-plus school districts that have partnered with [Microsoft-backed] Code.org have already begun to move in this direction. By introducing students to computer science fundamentals early on, Code.org and its partner districts will help get more people on pathways to well-paying jobs in computer programming and other fields." Creating a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was proposed as Microsoft introduced its 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas at a Brookings event in 2012. While creating a K-12 CS crisis fell to Code.org, fanning the flames of a tech immigration crisis is the purvey of [Microsoft exec-backed] FWD.us, the PAC formed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which recently sent an email blast warning U.S. citizens they're in 'A Gigantic Global Talent War', adding that China and India citizens are "just laughing [at the US], saying it’s so easy to pick from you guys... we just take all the talent."

+ - Led by Zuck, Billionaires Pony Up $100M to Fund Private Elementary Schools 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled private elementary school initiative started by an ex-Googler, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by established VC firms and high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, John Doerr, and Pierre Omidyar. AltSchool uses proprietary software that provides students with a personalized playlist lesson that teachers can keep close tabs on. Currently, a few hundred students in four Bay Area classrooms use AltSchool tech. Three more California classrooms, plus one in Brooklyn, are expected to come online this fall, plus one in Brooklyn. "We believe that every child should have access to an exceptional, personalized education that enables them to be happy and successful in an ever-changing world," reads AltSchool's mission statement. For $28,750-a-year, your kid can be one of them right now. Eventually, the plan is for the billionaire-bankrolled education magic to trickle down. AltSchool's pitch to investors, according to NPR, is that one day, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to its software platform.

+ - Bill Gates Owes His Career to Steven Spielberg's Dad. You May, Too.

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

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