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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?

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."

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!

Comment Well Played, Microsoft! (Score 4, Informative) 246

Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law: In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda after earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created.

Microsoft supports White House initiative to expand access to computer science: " Microsoft is one of many companies in the tech sector that is committed to this effort [said Microsoft President Brad Smith]. In addition to our business initiatives, those of us who are involved in philanthropy, including such groups as Code.org, will do more. The private sector and philanthropy cannot fill this gap without public funding. And if we're going to accelerate progress as a nation, we need federal funding. That's why today's proposal is so important. It can provide the accelerant to help more states and school districts progress more quickly."

Submission + - President Obama Unveils $4+ Billion K-12 Computer Science Initiative

theodp writes: In his Weekly Address, President Obama discussed his $4+ billion Computer Science for All Initiative plan to give K-12 students across the country the chance to learn CS in school. From the address: "In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three “Rs.” Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children’s schools. Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma. So I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities. It’s called Computer Science For All. And it means just what it says – giving every student in America an early start at learning the skills they’ll need to get ahead in the new economy. First, I’m asking Congress to provide funding over the next three years so that our elementary, middle, and high schools can provide opportunities to learn computer science for all students. Second, starting this year, we’re leveraging existing resources at the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train more great teachers for these courses. And third, I’ll be pulling together governors, mayors, business leaders, and tech entrepreneurs to join the growing bipartisan movement around this cause." Microsoft gives the plan a big thumbs-up. "The private sector and philanthropy cannot fill this gap without public funding," said Microsoft President Brad Smith. "And if we're going to accelerate progress as a nation, we need federal funding. That's why today's proposal is so important. It can provide the accelerant to help more states and school districts progress more quickly." Well played, Microsoft!

Submission + - Google's Latest Moonshot: Barbie's Booty

theodp writes: "Barbie's got a booty," reports The Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky. "After decades of selling a doll for girls that has become vilified for promoting superskinny bodies, blonde hair and white skin as a vision of female perfection, Mattel this week unveiled three new versions of Barbie: 'tall,' 'petite' and 'curvy'. (By 'curvy', Mattel means she has a rear end and stomach that stick out very slightly.)" More than a year ago, Krashinsky adds, Mattel formed a 'global advisory council' to advise the Barbie brand after the dollmaker came under fire over its portrayal of Computer Engineer Barbie. The council members included Julie Ann Crommett, program manager for CS Education in Media at Google, and Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Google-backed Black Girls Code. As reported earlier, Barbie's brainy makeover came after Mattel and Google execs were summoned to the White House to meet with the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Submission + - Google Enlists Michigan Film and Digital Media Office to Get CS First in Schools

theodp writes: More than 400 students and teachers from across the state of Michigan played with Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard VR reality glasses, iPads, video games, and Segways at Michigan State University Thursday, all part of the launch of a new partnership between Google and the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office. The Detroit Free Press reports that Google has partnered with the state agency to get school districts, students and parents interested in its CS First program that targets the 9-14 year-old set. Fifty schools representing more than 2,500 students have signed up to use the CS First curriculum so far, said Jenell Leonard of the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office. Partnering with Google to get more free options for Michigan students will put students on the track to high paying jobs closer to home, she added. An information packet for the statewide launch (pdf) suggests using Google CS First during the school day, and also includes an odd Google-is-the-Boss-of-MI Memo of Understanding for schools to sign. "I, the undersigned," reads Appendix B, "are aware of the partnership between the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office and Google to launch the CS First program throughout Michigan and therefore agree not to distribute communication or marketing material without the direct consent of both parties as provided by the commissioner of the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office." The Google-copyrighted information packet concludes by citing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to suggest there's a looming shortage of 1 million programmers, an oft-cited projection (pdf) that has reportedly drawn the ire of the BLS, since it implies the agency is behind what it calls "an incorrect comparison of the total employment and total labor force projections, which are two separate and fundamentally different measures."

Submission + - Tim Cook: What's Good for the US Dollar is Bad for Apple

theodp writes: "For years," Charles Erwin Wilson famously said back in the day, "I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa." That was then. This is now. The Washington Post reports that a strong U.S. dollar is the biggest threat to Apple's business around the world. "The dollar has shot up about 22 percent against a trade-weighted basket of other currencies since the middle of 2014," explains Matt O'Brien. "And in Apple's case, that's meant what would have been $100 of foreign sales in September 2014 was just $85 by the end of 2015. That's not good when you get two-thirds of your revenue overseas." Apple blamed the strength of the dollar compared to other currencies for costing it $5 billion in revenue, “For perspective, that difference is the size of an average Fortune 500 company,” quipped CEO Tim Cook.

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