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+ - Tech Companies Stoking Fears of Talent Shortage to Get Cheaper Labor?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Things subject to the Tinkerbell effect, explains Wikipedia, exist only so long as we believe in them. Need a real-life example? Well, while President Obama believed it was necessary to take executive action to expand the controversial OPT STEM visa work program (his wealthy dining companions are still hungry for something more), Businessweek is reporting that The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist. “There’s no evidence of any way, shape, or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense,” says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers. So, why then would Tech Companies Stoke Fears of a Talent Shortage? “It seems pretty clear that the industry just wants lower-cost labor,” argues Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “We don’t dispute the fact at all that Facebook and Microsoft would like to have more, cheaper workers,” adds Daniel Kuehn, a research associate at the Urban Institute. “But that doesn’t constitute a shortage.” Asked what evidence existed of a labor shortage, a spokesperson for Facebook e-mailed a one-sentence statement: “We look forward to hearing more specifics about the President’s plan and how it will impact the skills gap that threatens the competitiveness of the tech sector.”"

+ - Back to School: Steve Ballmer's Guest Lecture at Harvard's CS50

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "GeekWire looks at the 'game film' from ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's guest lecture at Harvard's CS50, in which Harvard alum Ballmer touched on a wide variety of topics, including the LA Clippers ("500 times less complicated than Microsoft"), how his career started at Microsoft (BillG convinced him to drop out of Stanford Business School), his views on Net Neutrality, his favorite products ("Surface Pro 3 in modern days and Windows 1.0 in historic days"), and his 15-year-old's biggest concern about Dad leaving Microsoft (no more early access to new Halo releases). Ballmer was fairly subdued in the lecture and Q&A, but couldn't resist cranking it up to 11 for a CS50 intro. Ballmer, who was an applied math and economics major at Harvard, was visiting his alma mater to drop off a $60 million check to beef up Harvard's Computer Science faculty."

Comment: Disney Sued Over Alleged No-Coder-Poaching Accord (Score 1) 125

by theodp (#48446149) Attached to: 2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

Disney, DreamWorks Sued Over Alleged No-Poaching Accord: "Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and other film industry companies were sued in an antitrust case that may reflect a new wave of litigation applying traditional price-fixing claims to labor markets. Today's lawsuit accusing the California-based companies of colluding to not hire each other's software engineers , digital artists and animators comes as Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. are trying to resolve similar claims after failing to win court approval of a proposed $324.5 million settlement with 64,000 of their technical workers."

+ - 2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""The purpose of product placement/product integration/branded entertainment," explains Disney in a job posting, "is to give a brand exposure outside of their traditional media buy." So, one imagines the folks in Disney Marketing must be thrilled that Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa will be featured in the 'signature tutorial' for CSEdWeek's 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids — including a sizable captive audience — in the weeks before Christmas. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," announced Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org’s signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney’s 'Frozen' heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, "students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org’s efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide.""

+ - Would She-Ra Have Been a Better Choice for CSEdWeek Than Disney's Anna and Elsa?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "While the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) emphasizes the importance of gender neutrality, this year's CSEdWeek will feature Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa in Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code event, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids. Code.org maintains that Anna and Elsa are princesses-for-all-genders, even though the Disney Store and Washington Post suggest otherwise. So, if you were picking a Princess to teach girls and boys to code, wouldn't She-Ra: Princess of Power (YouTube) have broader cross-gender appeal?"

Comment: WAPO: 'Frozen' might be everything that's wrong... (Score 1) 1

by theodp (#48438511) Attached to: Walt Disney Presents: 'Frozen' Princesses to Star in 2014 Hour of Code

'Frozen' might be everything that's wrong with the U.S. economy: "The newer part, experts tell me, is the focus on toys for girls vs. toys for boys. Toy companies have concluded that they can appeal more powerfully to young customers if they appeal to them as boys or girls, rather than as kids. This is a really big trend, it's clearly a commercial success story, but there are some obvious concerns too."

+ - Walt Disney Presents: 'Frozen' Princesses to Star in 2014 Hour of Code 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""At the CSTA conference," reads a recent post on the Computer Science Teachers Association blog, "there are regular sessions on attracting women to the field, on ways to structure assignments to be gender neutral and/or racially sensitive." So, isn't that kind of at odds with the choice of Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa to star in Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids? Au contraire, insisted Code.org, when asked by the Seattle Times if boys will be as enthused as girls about Anna and Elsa. "If you see all the sing-alongs and crazy Frozen-ness, it’s not only for girls," reassured a spokeswoman. Gender-targeted product lists at the Disney Store, on the other hand, seem to suggest otherwise."

+ - Obama's Immigration Order to Give Tech Industry Some, Leave 'Em Wanting More

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""The high-tech industry," reports the Washington Post's Nancy Scola, "will have at least two things to be happy about in President Obama's speech outlining executive actions he'll take on immigration. The president plans to grant the tech industry some, but not nearly all, of what it has been after in the immigration debate. The first is aimed at increasing the opportunity for foreign students and recent graduates from U.S. schools to work in high-tech jobs in the United States. And the second is aimed at making it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States. According to the White House, Obama will direct the Department of Homeland Security to help students in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by proposing, per a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, to 'expand and extend' the controversial Optional Practical Training program that now allows foreign-born STEM students and recent graduates remain in the United States for up to 29 months. The exact details of that expansion will be worked out by the Department of Homeland Security as it goes through a rulemaking process.""

+ - Are Disney Princesses the Answer to America's Tech-Talent Shortage?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "If you were waiting to see what some of the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations would come up with to solve America's tech-talent shortage, wait no longer. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," writes CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org’s signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney’s "Frozen" heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' The new tutorial is part of an effort by Code.org and their tech company partners to introduce coding to 100 million students by the end of CS Education Week in December. The Seattle Times addressed the elephant in the room: Will boys be as enthused about Anna and Elsa? "If you see all the sing-alongs and crazy Frozen-ness, it’s not only for girls," reassured a Code.org spokeswoman, adding that "there's crossover appeal ... it’s cool that you can write your own program, see the art you make and the share it.""

+ - NYT: Privacy Concerns for ClassDojo, Other Tracking Apps for Schoolchildren

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "The NY Times' Natasha Singer files a report on popular and controversial behavior tracking app ClassDojo, which teachers use to keep a running tally of each student’s score, award virtual badges for obedience, and to communicate with parents about their child’s progress. “I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat," was one third grader's testimonial. Some parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo (investors) — along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students — is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness. "ClassDojo," writes Singer, "does not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child’s conduct. Although the app’s terms of service state that teachers who sign up guarantee that their schools have authorized them to do so, many teachers can download ClassDojo, and other free apps, without vetting by school supervisors. Neither the New York City nor Los Angeles school districts, for example, keep track of teachers independently using apps." A high school teacher interviewed for the article confessed to having not read ClassDojo’s policies on handling student data, saying: "I’m one of those people who, when the terms of service are 18 pages, I just click agree." And, if all this doesn't make you parents just a tad nervous, check out this response to the "Has anyone ran a data analysis on their CD data?" question posed to the Class Dojo Community: "I needed to analyze data in regards to a student being placed on ADHD medicine to see whether or not he made any improvements. I have also used it to determine any behavioral changes depending on if a student was with mom/dad for a custody review. I use dojo consistently, so I LOVE getting to use the data to evaluate and share with parents, or even administrators.""

+ - Three's a Crowd in Billionaires' Record-Breaking Code.org Crowdfunding Project

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Whether it's winning yacht races, assembling the best computer science faculty, or even dominating high school basketball, billionaires like to win. Which may help explain why three tech billionaires — Code.org backers (and FWD.us founders) Mark Zuckerberg, VC John Doerr, and Sean Parker — stepped up to the plate and helped out Code.org's once-anemic Hour of Code Indiegogo crowdfunding project with $500k donations. When matched by Code.org's largest donors (Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman and others), the three donations alone raised $3,000,000, enough to reach the organization's goal of becoming the most funded crowdfunding campaign ever on Indiegogo. On its campaign page, Code.org remarked that "to sustain our organization for the long haul, we need to engage parents and community members," which raises questions about how reliant the K-12 learn-to-code movement might be on the kindness of its wealthy corporate and individual donors. Code.org started shedding some light on its top donors a few months back, but contributor names are blank in the 2013 IRS 990 filing posted by the organization on its website, although GuideStar suggests the biggest contributors in 2013 were Microsoft ($3,149,411) and Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi ($1,873,909 in Facebook stock). Coincidentally, in a Reddit AMA at Code.org's launch, CEO and Founder Hadi Partovi noted that his next-door-neighbor is Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, whose FWD.us bio notes is responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work. Just months before Code.org and FWD.us emerged on the lobbying scene, Smith announced Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, which called for "an increase in developing the American STEM pipeline in exchange for these new [H-1B] visas and green cards," a wish that President Obama is expected to grant shortly via executive action."

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