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+ - Should Billionaire-Backed Code.org Pay Its Interns?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "As of Labor Day, Code.org still has a part-time job posting for a Marketing / Communications Intern for this Fall. Code.org is backed by millions from some of the country's wealthiest individuals, foundations, and tech companies — including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer — so it's kind of surprising to see the job listing languish for months. Unless, of course, the problem is that the position is unpaid, as were earlier full-time Code.org Operations Intern and State Policy Intern jobs. So, should a billionaire-backed nonprofit pay its interns, especially when part of the job is promoting high-paying jobs in its donors' industry?"

+ - Code.org Quacks Like a $4.5 Million Microsoft Duck

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Its "efforts to reshape the U.S. education system," explained the ACM, included working with CSTA, NCWIT, NSF, Microsoft and Google "in a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org" to enable and popularize computer science education at the K-12 level. It's hard to quibble with the alliance's success — less than 10 months after its ya-got-trouble-right-here-in-River-City film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went viral, Chicago and New York City tapped Code.org to educate their school kids, and now 100+ members of Congress are poised to pass a federal law making CS a "core subject". So, if you're curious about how much cash it takes to reshape the U.S. education system, Code.org's Donors page now lists those who gave $25,000+ to $3,000,000+ to the K-12 CS cause (the nonprofit plans to raise $20-30 million for 2015-16 operations). Microsoft, whose General Counsel Brad Smith sits on Code.org's Board, is at the top of the list as a Platinum Supporter ($3,000,000+), while Bill Gates is Gold ($1,000,000+), and Steve Ballmer is Silver ($500,000+). Probably not too surprising, since Code.org's mission does jibe nicely with Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, "a two-pronged approach [to solving tech's 'pipeline' problem] that will couple long-term improvements in STEM education in the United States with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms." Coincidentally, six of Code.org's ten biggest donors are also Founders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC (Ballmer, Partovi, and Smith are 'Major Supporters'), which tackles the tech immigration prong of Microsoft's plan. By the way, tech's recent decision to disclose select diversity measures en masse after years of stonewalling may work in Code.org's and FWD.us's favor, since the woeful numbers are now being spun as a tech 'pipeline' problem that needs fixing. Hey, deal tech companies labor lemons, and they'll make labor lemonade!"

+ - Google's Megan Smith Would be First U.S. CTO Worthy of Title

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Bloomberg is reporting that Google X's Megan Smith is the top candidate for U.S. Chief Technology Officer. With a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and experience ranging from General Magic to Google, Smith would arguably be the first U.S. CTO worthy of the title (the outgoing U.S. CTO has a bachelor's in Econ; his predecessor has a master's in Public Policy). Now, if Smith can just reassure parents of boys that the girls-take-all approach to CS education funding she championed for Google won't become national policy, her confirmation should be smooth sailing!"

+ - Hidden Obstacles for Google's Self-Driving Cars->

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Lee Gomes at Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can "drive anywhere a car can legally drive." However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Maps have so far been prepared for only a few thousand miles of roadway, but achieving Google's vision will require maintaining a constantly updating map of the nation's millions of miles of roads and driveways. Urmson says Google's researchers "don't see any particular roadblocks" to accomplishing that. When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn't expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop. ..."

A deeper issue I wrote about in 2001 is whether such software and data will be FOSS or proprietary? As I wrote there: "We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?""

Link to Original Source

+ - Statistics Losing Ground to CS, Losing Image Among Students

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Unless some things change, UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff worries that the Statistician could be added to the endangered species list. "The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia," writes Matloff, "have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that: [1] The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS). [2] Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful." Matloff, who has a foot in both the Statistics and CS camps, but says, "The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly. Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research 'business model'." So, can Statistics be made more attractive to students? "Here is something that actually can be fixed reasonably simply," suggests no-fan-of-TI-83-pocket-calculators-as-a-computational-vehicle Matloff. "If I had my druthers, I would simply ban AP Stat, and actually, I am one of those people who would do away with the entire AP program. Obviously, there are too many deeply entrenched interests for this to happen, but one thing that can be done for AP Stat is to switch its computational vehicle to R.""

+ - Teachers Get 72 Hours to Beg Bill Gates for School Supplies

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Teachers across the country are struggling to give their classes great tools for learning," writes Bill Gates. "Some classrooms need computers, but others need more basic things: textbooks, building blocks, art supplies, even just a rug big enough for the whole class to sit on. And with school starting up, this is an especially important time. Teachers have enough things to worry about right now. Getting the right supplies shouldn’t be one of them." Well, Microsoft may have kiboshed the idea of a state income tax, but Bill's doing the next best thing — following Google's begfunding lead and throwing a 72-Hour Back-to-School Begathon that ends Sunday night. "To make it easy for everyone to support teachers via DonorsChoose.org, our foundation will meet donors halfway," Bill explains. "From August 22 through August 24, nearly every project on the site will be half off. For example, if a $500 project gets $250 in donations in that time, we will match that with another $250 and fully fund the project. Melinda and I are big fans of DonorsChoose.org, a program that makes it easy for teachers to connect with potential donors." And, while DonorsChoose encourages "Citizen Philanthropists" to help the Gates Foundation "make this the best back-to-school teachers and students have ever had," it will be tough to top the back-to-schools the Gates Foundation provided for Bill's Lakeside School and Melinda's Ursuline Academy!"

+ - ACM Blames the Personal Computer for Driving Women Away from Computer Science

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Communications of the ACM, a new article — Computing's Narrow Focus May Hinder Women's Participation — suggests that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should shoulder some of the blame for the dearth of women at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies. From the article: "Valerie Barr, chair of ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), believes the retreat [of women from CS programs] was caused partly by the growth of personal computers. 'The students who graduated in 1984 were the last group to start college before there was personal computing. So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world. After personal computers, that wasn't true any more.'" So, does TIME's 1982 Machine of the Year deserve the bad rap? By the way, the ACM's Annual Report discusses its participation in an alliance which has helped convince Congress that there ought to be a federal law making CS a "core subject" for girls and boys: "Under the guidance of the Education Policy Committee, ACM continued its efforts to reshape the U.S. education system to see real computer science exist and count as a core graduation credit in U.S. high schools. Working with the CSTA, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, NSF, Microsoft, and Google, ACM helped launch a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org to strengthen high school level computing courses, improve teacher training, engage states in bringing computer science into their core curriculum guidelines, and encourage more explicit federal recognition of computer science as a key discipline in STEM discussions.""

+ - It's Dumb to Tell Kids They're Smart 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Over at Khan Academy, Salman Khan explains Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart. "Recently," writes Khan, "I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach." According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who Khan cites, the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are. A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life"

+ - Tech Looks to Obama to Save Them From "Just Sort of OK" U.S. Workers

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM Hewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best.""

+ - Had Google Driverless Cars Existed, Would Steve Jobs Have Gotten a Liver? 2

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "In his biography of the late Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson explained that drunk drivers have been very good to those awaiting organ transplants (Jobs received a liver from a young man killed in a car crash). So, with the day of an autonomous Google car in every garage perhaps not as far off as one might think, Fortune's Erin Griffith asks a dark-but-necessary question: If driverless cars save lives, where will we get organs? Citing a 2013 study by the Eno Center for Transportation, Griffith estimates that if 90% of vehicles were autonomous, an estimated 4.2 million accidents would be prevented and 21,700 lives would be saved. And then, notes Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis, "we actually have a whole other problem on our hands of, 'Where do we get organs?' I don't think we'll actually be printing organs until we solve the self-driving car issue. The next problem will be organ replacement.""

+ - Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic, and Blockly

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "As teachers excitedly tweet about completing their summer CS Professional Development at Google and Microsoft, and kids get ready to go back to school, Code.org is inviting educators to check out their K-5 Computer Science Curriculum (beta), which is slated to launch in September (more course details). The content, Code.org notes, is a blend of online activities ("engineers from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter helped create this tutorial," footnotes explain) and 'unplugged' activities, lessons in which students can learn computing concepts with or without a computer. It's unclear if he's reviewed the material himself, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is grateful for the CS effort ("Thank you for teaching our students these critical skills"). By the way, if you missed Lollapalooza, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will partner with Google next week to offer the two-day CPS Googlepalooza Conference."

+ - Tech Leaders Accept ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Everybody's taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and money to fight ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease), reports The Verge, and tech celebs are no exception, including the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page & Sergey Brin, Satya Nadella, and Dick Costolo. What's perhaps telling in some way is how the tech leaders accepted the challenge — e.g., in private (Zuck, Gates, Costolo) or before crowds (Cook, Bezos, Page, Brin, Nadella), self-dousing (Zuck, Costolo, Bezos) or doused by employees (Page, Brin, Nadella) or machines (Gates) or famous musicians (Cook), mostly ice cubes (Page & Brin) or ice & water (everyone else got soaked). Vice calls the craze he latest case of millennial 'hashtag activism". "There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but the most annoying is that it's basically narcissism masked as altruism," argues Arielle Pardes. "By the time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.""

+ - Microsoft: Coding Bootcamp Grads May Not Be Considered for Jobs They Can Do

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Despite investments from the tech industry in efforts to teach children how to code," laments Microsoft in a post on The NYC Tech Talent Summit and Making Coders, "the present-day 'pipeline problem' remains." So what's the answer? "Bootcamps offer an innovative approach to growing the supply of coders while opening opportunity to groups historically underrepresented in software development jobs," Microsoft concedes. "Still, bootcamps are somewhat unknown and face real challenges," warns Microsoft, and "human resources departments at potential employers might be unaccustomed to assessing skills in less-traditional ways, meaning that skilled graduates of coding bootcamps might not have access to all of the jobs they could successfully do." For its part, Microsoft has proposed solving the 'pipeline problem' via its National Talent Strategy, "a two-pronged approach that couples long-term improvements in U.S. STEM education with short-term, high-skilled immigration reform.""

+ - Chicago Mayor Praises Google for Buying Kids Microsoft Surfaces

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Google earned kudos from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week for teaming up with Staples to fund the projects of 367 of the city's 22,519 public school teachers on "begfunding" site DonorsChoose.org. "Everything that you asked for...every project that the teachers put on to help their students learn, exceed and excel here in the city of Chicago, you now have fully funded," Mayor Emanuel said. "Chicago's hardworking public school teachers are doing all that they can-and more-to support their students, but they need more help," said Rob Biederman, head of Chicago Public Affairs at Google. "We jumped at the chance to join with DonorsChoose.org and Staples to make Chicago's local classroom wishes come true." So what kind of dreams did Google make possible? Ironically, a look at Google Chicago's Giving Page shows that the biggest project funded by Google was to outfit a classroom with 32 Microsoft Surface RT tablets for $12,531, or about 6.5% of the $190,091 Google award. Other big ticket projects funded by Google included $5,931 for a personal home biodiesel kit and $5,552 for a marimba (in the middle of the spectrum was $748 for "Mindfulness Education"). In addition to similar "flash-funding" projects in Atlanta (paper towels!) and the Bay Area, Google and DonorsChoose have also teamed up this year to reward teachers with $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code (part of Google's $50 million Made With Code initiative) and an unknown amount for AP STEM teachers who passed Google muster (part of Google's $5 million AP STEM Access grant)."

+ - Teachers: There's Gold in Them Thar Girl Coders! 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "DonorsChoose CEO Charles Best has provided an update on the partnership his organization formed with Codecademy and Khan Academy to reward teachers who recruit high school girls to learn to code as part of Google's $50 million Made with Code initiative. "To date," reports Best, "more than 2,500 girls have completed a coding course, and nearly $400,000 in classroom funding credits have been unlocked as a result." Best shared the success story of a Chicago public high school teacher who used the program to start an after-school coding club, which the teacher notes is "mostly girls (2 boys have joined)." Thanks to $5,500 in DonorsChoose contributions for her Teach Girls To Code I-II-III projects, the teacher was able to purchase 21 Google Chromebooks."

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