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+ - Jobs v. Steve Jobs: Hollywood Takes Another Stab at Telling the Steve Jobs Story 1 1

theodp writes: Didn't like Jobs, the 2013 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher? Maybe you'll prefer Steve Jobs, the 2015 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender. "Steve Jobs is a tech visionary, total dick," writes Esquire's Matt Patches in his mini-review of the just-released Steve Jobs trailer. So, is inspiring kids to become the "Next Steve Jobs" a good or bad thing?

+ - Could Prison be a Killer App for an Apple Watch?

theodp writes: After seeing all the ways cops reportedly screwed up the manhunt for escaped killers David Sweat and (the late) Richard Matt, one wonders what could be done to prevent a recurrence of the need to have 1,200 police search 22 square miles for 1 man. If you've been to the movies lately, perhaps the tracking device for the Indominus Rex in Jurassic World comes to mind. Or could it be that a next-gen Apple Watch — with some combination of location tracking, cameras, and biometrics — is just what the doctor ordered for tracking incarcerated prisoners? In a world where Google is encouraging the use of technology to keep tabs on babies and pets, shouldn't prisoners be fair game for surveillance technology? Any ideas what that might look like?

+ - AP CS Test Takers and Pass Rates Up, Half of Kids Don't Get Sparse Arrays At All

theodp writes: Each June, the College Board tweets out teasers of the fuller breakouts of its Advanced Placement (AP) test results, which aren't made available until the fall. So, here's a roundup of this year's AP Computer Science tweetstorm: 1. "Wow — massive gains in AP Computer Science participation (25% growth) AND scores this year; big increase in % of students earning 4s & 5s!" 2. "2015 AP Computer Science scores: 5: 24.4%; 4: 24.6%; 3: 15.3%; 2: 7.1%; 1: 28.6%." [3 or above is passing] 3."Count them: a whopping 66 AP Computer Science students out of 50,000 worldwide earned all 80 pts possible on this year’s exam." 4. "Remember that AP exam standards are equated from year to year, so when scores go up, it's a direct indication of increased student mastery." 5. "Many AP Computer Science students did very well on Q1 (2D array processing–diverse array); >20% earned all 9/9 pts" [2015 AP CS A Free-Response Questions] 6. "The major gap in this year’s AP Computer Sci classrooms seems to be array list processing; Q3 (sparse array): 47% of students got 0/9 pts."

+ - FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers as Zuck's FWD.us Celebrates Foreign Talent

theodp writes: "There’s more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%. It's unclear whether H-1B visa dependent Facebook includes its US-based foreign talent — which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC was coincidentally busy celebrating on Twitter and at a Microsoft-hosted event Thursday — in its "US Ethnicity" numbers. "We need to continue to showcase the contributions + jobs created by foreigners," FWD.us urged in one Thursday tweet. "[As an employer] Your first consideration is not where people are coming from," Zuck's PAC advised in another.

+ - New Google and CMU Moonshot: The 'Teacherless Classroom'

theodp writes: At the behest of Google, Carnegie Mellon University will largely replace formal lectures in a popular introductory Data Structures and Algorithms course this fall with videos and a social networking tool to accommodate more students. The idea behind the multi-year research project sponsored by Google — CMU will receive $200,000 in the project's first year — is to find a way to leverage existing faculty to meet a growing demand for computer science courses, while also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented minorities, high school students and community college students, explained Jacobo Carrasquel, associate teaching professor of CS. "As we teach a wider diversity of students, with different backgrounds, we can no longer teach to 'the middle,'" Carrasquel said. "When you do that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20 percent at the bottom." The move to a 'teacherless classroom' for CS students at CMU [tuition $48K] comes on the heels of another Google CS Capacity Award-inspired move at Stanford [tuition $45K], where Pair Programming was adopted in a popular introductory CS class to "reduce the increasingly demanding workload for section leaders due to high enrollment and also help students to develop important collaboration skills."

+ - No Boys Allowed in Apple, HUD-Backed Learn-to-Code Program for Low-Income Kids

theodp writes: In a press release Tuesday, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) announced it was teaming with Lifetime Partner Apple and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to engage 10,000 girls in learning computing concepts. "Currently, just 25 states and the District of Columbia allow computer science to count as a math or science graduation requirement," explained the press release. "Because boys get more informal opportunities for computing experience outside of school, this lack of formal computing education especially affects girls and many youth of color." HUD, the press release added, has joined the Commitment to Action to help extend the program’s reach in partnership with public housing authorities nationwide and provide computing access to the 485,000 girls residing in public housing. "In this Information Age, opportunity is just a click on a keyboard away. HUD is proud to partner with NCWIT to provide talented girls with the skills and experiences they need to reach new heights and to achieve their dreams in the 21st century global economy," said HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who coincidentally is eyed as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea is the Clinton Foundation's point-person on computer science. Last year, Chelsea Clinton gave a keynote speech at the NCWIT Summit and appeared with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith to help launch Google's $50 million girls-only Made With Code initiative.

+ - Are Girl-Focused Engineering Toys Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes?

theodp writes: VentureBeat's Ruth Read casts a skeptical eye at current rage of toy segregation meant to inspire tomorrow’s leaders in STEM: "Toys geared at girls serve to get them interested in coding and building when they’re young, hopefully inspiring their educational interests down the road. But these gendered toys may be hurting women by perpetuating a divide between men and women." Read concludes, "Ultimately, girls (who will become women) are going to have to learn and work in a world where genders are not segregated; as will men. That means they need to learn how to interact with one another as much as they need to be introduced to the same educational opportunities. If STEM education is as much for girls as it is for boys, perhaps we should be equally concerned with getting boys and girls to play together with the same toys and tools, as we are with creating learning opportunities for girls."

+ - Best Setups for Programming-Focused Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC)?

theodp writes: As one works his or her way through EdX's free The Analytics Edge, one finds oneself going back-and-forth between videos and R to complete the programming exercises associated with the lectures. While this can certainly be done on a cheap-o 13" laptop with a 6mbps connection by jumping around from the web-based videos to the client-based programming environment and to the web for help (god bless Stack Overflow), have you found (or do you dream of) a better setup for the MOOC programming courses offered by the likes of EdX, Udacity, and Coursera? Are you using multiple screens, split screens, touch screens, laptops/desktops/tablets, speakers, headphones, higher-speed connections? Anything else? Do you rely solely on the class materials and web-based resources, or do you purchase complementary books? Any thoughts on how to make the experience work best for those learning at home, in a classroom setting, on the road for business/travel, or during lengthy train commutes? Do you playback videos at faster speeds (e.g., 1.5x)? Any other tips?

+ - Microsoft Funds First US-Based Chinese Research University Degree Program

theodp writes: Microsoft will give $40 million to help fund a graduate-school program with the Univ. of Washington and China's Tsinghua University (where Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Virginia Rometty are Board members). The Global Innovation Exchange, which will be located in the Seattle area, marks the first time a Chinese research university has established a physical presence in the U.S. The center will open in 2016 with the goal of attracting 3,000 students within a decade, according to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce and Tsinghua President Qiu Yong made the announcement Thursday afternoon in downtown Bellevue, accompanied by Gov. Jay Inslee and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Both Cauce and Smith waved off concerns about the possibility that a partnership with a Chinese university could lead to corporate espionage or hacking. "The solution to mistrust is more contact, not less," said Cauce, whose UW currently hosts 3,500+ students from China.

+ - Jeb Bush Skeptical Of Reports That The H-1B Program Affects US Workers 1 1

theodp writes: ComputerWorld's Patrick Thibodeau reports that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush does not exactly come across as supportive or sympathetic to displaced U.S. IT workers. Asked to respond to recent stories about companies using H-1B visas to displace American workers with foreign tech labor, Bush said, "I’ve actually seen it on Fox, three or four times, this subject. I’ve been curious to know what the full story is. ... Sometimes you see things in the news reports, you don’t get the full picture. Maybe that’s the case here." Perhaps Jeb has gotten too close to the reality distortion field of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, whose backers include Zuck Pal Joe Green (who nixed the idea of giving jobs to "just sort of okay" U.S. workers), Lars Dalgaard (whose message to laid-off IT workers was "you don't deserve the job"), and Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi (who informed journalists that "H-1Bs in CS rarely displace [American tech workers]").

+ - The Danger of Picking a Major Based on Where the Jobs Are

theodp writes: In his new book Will College Pay Off?, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli argues that banking on a specialized degree’s usefulness is risky, especially since one reason some jobs are in high demand is that no one predicted that they would be. "A few generations ago," notes Cappelli, "the employers used to look for smart or adaptable kids on college campuses with general skills. They would convert them to what they wanted inside the company and they would retrain them and they’d get different skills. They’re not doing that now. They're just expecting that the kids will show up with the skills that the employer needs when the employer needs them. That’s a pretty difficult thing to expect, because of these kinds of problems. So the employers now are always complaining that they can’t get the people they need, but it’s pretty obvious why that’s not happening." On CS-as-a-major, Cappelli says, "If you look at most of the people who are in computer programming, for example, they have no IT degree-they just learned how to program. Maybe they had a couple of courses in it, maybe they were self-taught. In Silicon Valley, the industry was built with only 10 percent of the workforce having IT degrees. You can do most of these jobs with a variety of different skills. I think what's happening now is that people have come to think that you need these degrees in order to do the jobs, which is not really true. Maybe what these degrees do for you is they shorten the job training by a bit, but that's about it. And you lose a bunch of other things along the way." One wonders what Cappelli might think of San Francisco's recent decision to pick a preschool curriculum based on where today's tech jobs are, echoing President Obama's tech industry-nurtured belief that "what you want to do is introduce this [coding] with the ABCs and the colors."

+ - Tech Jobs and Apple: Every Bit as "Fun" as Pleasure Island?

theodp writes: On the eve of Apple's big Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the lack of diversity in tech is 'our fault' — 'our' meaning the whole tech community. "I think in general we haven't done enough to reach out and show young women that it's cool to do it [tech] and how much fun it can be," Cook explained. Indeed, the WWDC scholarship winners shooting selfies with Cook at the San Francisco Four Seasons to celebrate their iPhone apps and other WWDC attendees looked to be having as much fun as, well, Pinocchio at Pleasure Island. But, as the NY Times recently pointed out, Cook can be guilty of overlooking inconvenient truths. Which here is that most young women (and men) wouldn't find it 'cool' or 'fun' to live with 8,000 co-workers in factory dormitories where they can be roused out of bed in the middle of the night by Apple for an emergency 12-hour shift to fit glass screens into beveled iPhone frames, although that too conjures up a scene from Pleasure Island.

+ - Turning a Nail Polish Disaster into a Teachable Math Moment

theodp writes: In The Spiral of Splatter, SAS's Rick Wicklin writes that his daughter's nail polish spill may have created quite a mess, but at least it presented a teachable math moment: "Daddy, help! Help me! Come quick!" I heard my daughter's screams from the upstairs bathroom and bounded up the stairs two at a time. Was she hurt? Bleeding? Was the toilet overflowing? When I arrived in the doorway, she pointed at the wall and at the floor. The wall was splattered with black nail polish. On the floor laid a broken bottle in an expanding pool of black ooze. "It slipped," she sobbed. As a parent, I know that there are times when I should not raise my voice. I knew intellectually that this was one of those times. But staring at that wall, seeing what I was seeing, I could not prevent myself from yelling. "Oh my goodness!" I exclaimed. "Is that a logarithmic spiral?" So, got any memorable teachable math moments you've experienced either as a kid or adult? Yes, Cheerios Math counts!

+ - WA Gov. Sides with Microsoft: Philanthropy-Funded K-12 CS Education Now the Law

theodp writes: During public hearings on WA State's House Bill 1813, which took aim at boy's historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes, the Office of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced concerns that by relying on the generosity of corporations, wealthy individuals, and nonprofits to fund STEM, computer science, and technology programs, learning opportunities would be limited to a small group of students, creating disparity of opportunity. "If this is a real priority," pleaded Chris Vance, "fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). But legislators in the WA House and Senate — apparently more swayed by the pro-HB 1813 testimony of representatives from Microsoft and Microsoft-backed TEALS and Code.org — overwhelmingly passed the bill, sending it to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature. Not to worry. On Wednesday, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Inslee, who was perhaps influenced by the we-need-to-pass-HB-1813 blogging of Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, who coincidentally is not only responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work, but was also co-chair of Gov.-elect Inslee's transition team. The WA state legislative victory comes less than 24 hours after the San Francisco School Board voted to require CS instruction beginning with preschool. Not unlike the play The Music Man, in which "Professor" Harold Hill convinces naive parents their musically-disinclined children must learn to play instruments, Microsoft has teamed with other tech giants and their leaders to create a national K-12 CS crisis that has convinced politicians and parents — including the President of the United States — that America's computer science-disinclined children must learn to code ASAP. "Ya got trouble," one can almost hear "Professor" Bill Gates sing, "with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for Programming!"

+ - San Francisco Public Schools to Require Computer Science for Preschoolers

theodp writes: Never underestimate the ability of tech and its leaders to create a crisis. The S.F. Chronicle's Jill Tucker reports that the San Francisco School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to ensure every student in the district gets a computer science education, with coursework offered in every grade from preschool through high school, a first for a public school district. Tech companies, including Salesforce.com, as well as foundations and community groups are expected to pitch in funding and other technical support to create the new coursework, equip schools and train staff to teach it. From Resolution No. 155-26A2, In Support of Expanding Computer Science and Digital Learning to All Students at All Schools from Pre-K to 12th Grade: 1. "All students are capable of making sense of computer science in ways that are creative, interactive, and relevant." 2. All students, from pre-K to 12, deserve access to rigorous and culturally meaningful computer science education and should be held to high expectations for interacting with the curriculum." 3. "Students' access to and achievement in computer science must not be predictable on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language, religion, sexual orientation, cultural affiliation, or special needs." MissionLocal has a two-page SFUSD flyer on the project, which aims to illustrate the "importance of computer science" with the same Code.org jobs infographic that Microsoft used to help achieve its stated goal of creating a national K-12 CS crisis, and demonstrate "disparities in accessing CS education" for SFUSD's 57,000 students with a small-sample-size-be-damned bar chart of the racial demographics of the school district's 209 AP Computer Science participants (181 Asian, 0 African American, 6 Latino, 1 Native American, 14 White, 7 Other).

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