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+ - Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook Press WA for $40M for New UW CS Building

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Nice computer industry you got there. Hate to see something bad happen to it." That's the gist of a letter sent by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google,, and other tech giants earlier this week asking the WA State Legislature to approve $40M in capital spending to help fund a new $110M University of Washington computer science building ($70M will be raised privately). "As representatives of companies and businesses that rely on a ready supply of high quality computer science graduates," wrote the letter's 23 signatories, "we believe it is critical for the State to invest in this sector in a way that ensures its vibrancy and growth. Our vision is for Washington to continue to lead the way in technology and computer science, but we must keep pace with the vast demand." The UW Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering profusely thanked tech leaders for pressing for a new building, which UW explained "will accommodate a doubling of our enrollment." Coincidentally, the corporate full-press came not long after the ACM Education Council Diversity Taskforce laid out plans "to get companies to press universities to use more resources to create more seats in CS classes" to address what it called "the desperate gap between the rising demand for CS education and the too-few seats available." Interestingly, had Microsoft, Amazon, and execs not quashed a proposed WA State income tax in 2010, the tax on Steve Ballmer's planned $2B Microsoft stock sale alone might have raised $180 million. Hey, better that Ballmer's tax savings further enrich Donald Sterling, right?"

+ - AmeriCorps VISTA to Fight Poverty with Google's CS First Curriculum

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Conceived by President John F. Kennedy, VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for 50 years. On Monday, Google announced it will be training newly-hired AmeriCorps VISTA Members to help Boys & Girls Clubs in six cities facilitate Google's CS First curriculum. "Working together," explained Google of its Code Corps partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Corporation for National and Community Service, "we can empower more young people with the technical know-how they need to succeed in today’s society and economy." The news comes the week after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Google will roll out after-school CS First coding classes for 100K NYC school kids, part of De Blasio's $10 million Tech Talent Pipeline initiative."

+ - U.S. K-12 Learn-to-Code Initiative Prompted Russia to Launch "Code War"

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Overlooked in all the excitement over President Obama 'learning to code' as he kicked off Computer Science Education Week last December was how enthusiastically Russia embraced the U.S. K-12 learn-to-code initiative that's been promoted and bankrolled by the tech industry and its leaders. Late last week, revealed that "7.1 million Russian students learned an #HourOfCode in December!"" compared to the 10.6 million U.S. participants, adding that the U.S. barely accounted for half of all participation during CS Education Week. So, how did a "partner campaign" of this magnitude involving Microsoft escape notice? "Our Russian partners managed a separate site (," explained in response to a question about inconsistent site stats, "because the ministry of education got involved and didn’t want to rely on a US org. Participation [in the Russia Hour of Code] was tracked here and added to our count after the week." Interestingly, told the House and the Senate in 2014 that "learning computer science is this generation’s Sputnik moment" as it argued for "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools." So, is the K-12 "Code War" the new Cold War?"

Comment: Pearson: No profit left behind (Score 4, Interesting) 139

by theodp (#49102377) Attached to: L.A. School Superintendent Folds on Laptops-For-Kids Program

No profit left behind: Across the country, Pearson sold the Los Angeles Unified School District an online curriculum that it described as revolutionary - but that had not yet been completed, much less tested across a large district, before the LAUSD agreed to spend an estimated $135 million on it. Teachers dislike the Pearson lessons and rarely use them, an independent evaluation found.

+ - Girls Rule, Boys Not So Much in NYC Plan for High School CS Education 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "While Washington State educators bucked the don't-worry-about-boys approach to high school CS education espoused by Microsoft, Google, and others, the New York City Dept. of Education appear to have no such qualms. According to posted program requirements, principals of NYC Schools seeking a share of the $5.4 million NSF grant for Bringing a Rigorous Computer Science Principles Course to the Largest School System in the United States must "implement a recruitment plan with a focus on enrolling female and underrepresented students into the course." According to a White House fact sheet, "the course will draw more students into the discipline by focusing on foundational computing skills and the creative aspects of computing." In an interview last week, President Obama said that he has encouraged his two daughters to learn to code, although they haven’t taken to it the way he’d like. "Part of the problem," the President added, "is that we are not helping schools and teachers teach it in an interesting way.""

+ - Be True to Your Online School: Bill Gates on Educating the World

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "During February, Bill Gates is playing Perry White at The Verge, expounding on the big bets the Gates Foundation is making to improve the world over the next 15 years. One of those bets is that online classrooms can help the world catch up. Gates' vision of universal online education extends to those who struggle with basic literacy and currently lack online access, far beyond the reach of MOOCs like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity, which have enjoyed their greatest success with higher-level courses aimed at the middle class. "Gates’ vision — a wave of smartphones that can act as ubiquitous, cheap computers — is central to solving this problem," explains The Verge's Adi Robertson. "And unfortunately, we’re not there yet." But eventually, Gates is betting that a world-class education will only be a few taps away for anyone in the world. And that's when things get really interesting. "Before a child even starts primary school," Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in their Foundation's 2015 letter, "she will be able to use her mom's smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start. Software will be able to see when she's having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way. If she is learning a language, she'll be able to speak out loud and the software will give her feedback on her pronunciation." By the way, since Bill thinks interactive problem sets are a relatively new development, he might want to chat with ex-Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie about his experiences with PLATO in the '70s, a decade that saw PLATO teaching reading to young children, elementary math to 4th-6th graders, and computer science to college students. Hate to see the world's richest man reinvent the wheel!"

+ - Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "As tech-bankrolled boasts that its K-12 Hour of Code campaign has eclipsed 100 million hours (whatever that means), Gottfried Sehringer asks Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code? Sehringer writes, "While everyone today needs to be an app developer, is learning to code really the answer? Henry Ford said that, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” I view everyone learning to code as app development’s version of a faster horse. What we all really want — and need — is a car. The industry is falling back on code because for most people, it’s the only thing they know. If you want to build an application, you have to code it. And if you want to build more apps, then you have to teach more people how to code, right? Instead, shouldn’t we be asking whether coding is really the best way to build apps in the first place? Sure, code will always have a place in the world, but is it the language for the masses? Is it what we should be teaching everyone, including our kids?" President Obama thinks so, telling Re/code at Friday's Cyber Security Summit that 'everybody's got to learn to code early'. But until domestic girls (including his daughters) and underrepresented groups get with the program(ming), the President explained he's pushing tech immigration reform hard and using executive action to help address tech's "urgent need" for global talent. Probably just a coincidence, but the same global-talent-until-US-kids-are-CS-savvy talking points can be found in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy and Mark Zuckerberg's PAC charter!"

Comment: Lead girls to water bottles to stoke CS interest? (Score 5, Interesting) 288

by theodp (#49039295) Attached to: WA Pushes Back On Microsoft and's Call For Girls-First CS Education

New UW Study: "College undergraduates who were not computer science majors (in order to focus on recruitment) entered a classroom in t(he computer science department at Stanford University, which was decorated in one of two ways (Cheryan et al., 2009). For half the participants, the room had objects that other undergraduates associated highly with computer science majorsâ"Star Trek posters, science fiction books, and stacked soda cans. For the other half of participants, the room contained objects that other undergraduates did not associate with computer science majorsâ"nature posters, neutral books, and water bottles. Women in the room that did not contain the stereotypical objects expressed significantly more interest in majoring in computer science than those in the room that did fit the stereotypes. For men, the environment did not affect their interest in computer science (Cheryan et al., 2009)."

+ - WA Pushes Back on Microsoft and's Call for Girls-First CS Education 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "On Tuesday, the State of Washington heard public testimony on House Bill 1813 (video), which takes aim at boy's historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes. To allow them to catch flights, representatives of Microsoft and Microsoft-bankrolled were permitted to give their testimony before anyone else ("way too many young people, particularly our girls...simply don't have access to the courses at all," lamented Jane Broom, who manages Microsoft's philanthropic portfolio), so it's unclear whether they were headed to the airport when a representative of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced the sole dissent against the Bill. "The Superintendent strongly believes in the need to improve our ability to teach STEM, to advance computer science, to make technology more available to all students," explained Chris Vance. "Our problem, and our concern, is with the use of the competitive grant program...just providing these opportunities to a small number of students...that's the whole basic problem...disparity of opportunity...if this is a real it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). Hey, parents of boys are likely to be happy to see another instance of educators striving to be more inclusive than tech when it comes to encouraging CS participation!"

+ - Celebrates 100M Hours of Code, 5B Lines of Code (Whatever That Means)

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""The impact of $5 million," explained the pitch for the Indiegogo 'crowdfunding' campaign backed by matching funds from the likes of Bill Gates, Microsoft, and Google, means "100 million students do an Hour of Code." And on Tuesday — two months after the biggest Indiegogo campaign in history met its fundraising goal — took to Twitter to exclaim "We just passed 100 MILLION Hours of Code!", posted a YouTube video featuring the President and tech CEOs to commemorate the milestone, and boasted on Tumblr of also having 5 billion lines of code 'written' by students. "Thank you to everyone who's given computer science a shot with your very first Hour of Code," writes, "everyone who told a student or friend about it, and to our partners and donors who helped bring the movement to life." So, not to be a buzzkill, but what exactly does "do an Hour of Code" mean? On its website, notes that "we do not view the Hour of Code tracker to be an exact measure of usage", but asserts that "it is certainly directionally correct." The fuzzy public-facing stats (the City of 'Other' tops the HOC leaderboard) don't seem to bother the National Science Foundation, which has partnered with, taking note of how ", with its amazing marketing prowess, its Hour of Code, and its success in attracting major funding, has completely changed the national conversation" on getting CS education into the K-12 curriculum."

+ - Arkansas Declares a High School CS Education State of Emergency

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Aiming to deliver on Governor Asa Hutchinson's Plan For Job Creation Through Technology Education, the Arkansas House voted 99-0 last week to require high schools to offer [but not require] a course in computer science, either in a traditional or online setting, starting this fall. Hutchinson learned last December that the state has only 6 qualified instructors to teach CS to high school students, so it's envisioned that the courses will be offered online through Virtual Arkansas ("where AR kids are Our kids"). Interestingly, House Bill 1183 includes a pretty dire-sounding Emergency Clause: "It is found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas that computer science and technology skills are of vital importance to meet the growing needs of the workforce; that public school students need opportunities to develop computer science and technology skills in order to be competitive in the future; and that this act is immediately necessary to ensure that the Department of Education has the time necessary to develop and modify academic standards for computer science courses before beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Therefore, an emergency is declared to exist, and this act being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety shall become effective on: (1) The date of its approval by the Governor.""

+ - Will Elementary School Teachers Take the Rap for Tech's Diversity Problem?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Citing a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (free to Federal employees), the NY Times reports on how elementary school teachers' pro-boy biases can discourage girls from math and science. "The pipeline for women to enter math and science occupations narrows at many points between kindergarten and a career choice," writes Claire Cain Miller, "but elementary school seems to be a critical juncture. Reversing bias among teachers could increase the number of women who enter fields like computer science and engineering, which are some of the fastest growing and highest paying. 'It goes a long way to showing it's not the students or the home, but the classroom teacher's behavior that explains part of the differences over time between boys and girls,' said Victor Lavy, an economist at University of Warwick in England and a co-author of the paper." Although the study took place in Israel, Lavy said that similar research had been conducted in several European countries and that he expected the results were applicable in the United States."

+ - Recursion - Love it or Hate It?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Yet another example of how AP exams are loaded with poor coding practices," quipped Alfred Thompson, referring to a recursive code example that prints the numbers 0 to 6, which was posted to the (closed) AP Computer Science Facebook group. "We are often forced to use code examples that are not ideal coding practice," Thompson notes. "We do that to make things clear and to demonstrate specific concepts in a sort of isolation that we might not normally use. We seem to do that a lot with recursion because the examples that require recursion tend to be fairly complex." So, while asking students to use recursion instead of a loop to print '0123456' serves the purpose of teaching recursion, Thompson opines that it's also a poor example of code practice. "Someone raised on functional programming where recursion is a pretty standard way of doing looping might disagree of course," he adds. "There is a saying that when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails. This seems, in a way, to be the case with recursion and loops. If your first tool of choice (or what you have learned first) for iteration is loops you tend not to think of recursion as a solution. Similarly if you start with recursion (as is common with functional programming) you are a lot more likely to look at recursion as a tool for iteration." So, do you tend to embrace or eschew recursion in your programming?"

+ - Google-Advised Disney Cartoon Aims to Convince Preschool Girls Coding's Cool

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Cereal and fast food companies found cartoons an effective way to market to children. Google is apparently hoping to find the same as it teams with Disney Junior on a cartoon to help solve its computer science "pipeline" problem. The LA Times reports the tech giant worked with the children's channel on the new animated preschool series Miles From Tomorrowland, in an effort to get kids — particularly girls — interested in computer science. The program, which premieres Friday, introduces the preschool crowd to Miles Callisto, a young space adventurer, and his family — big sister (and coder extraordinaire) Loretta and their scientist parents Phoebe and Leo. Google engineers served as consultants (YouTube) on the show. "When we did our computer science research, we found the No. 2 reason why girls in particular are not pursuing it as a career is because their perception was fairly negative and they associated it as a field for boys," said Julie Ann Crommett, Google's program manager for computer science in media. Can't wait for the episode where Google and Disney conspire to suppress Loretta's wages!"

+ - Funeral for an Internet Friend?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Somebody I didn’t know died last week," begins Nicky Woolf in How do you grieve when you lose an internet friend? "I’d never met her in real life – or, I think I never met her, but I suppose I could have. We shared some of the same friends and acquaintances, some of whom I knew in person and some of whom I didn’t. The two worlds we both inhabited – virtual and real – blended so seamlessly that I didn’t really notice until she’d departed the latter that I was only really acquainted with her in the former. How do you mourn someone you only knew as an idea?" Woolf reflexively direct-messaged the deceased's boyfriend on Twitter, but wasn’t sure if he’d made a mistake. "There was no way to deal with it," Woolf concludes, "no set of mores or traditions, no roadmap to closure, or even a sense of what closure it is even valid to need. Those traditions, too, will develop organically, over time. But for now, all we are doing is feeling our way through." So, aside from signing a guest book, any thoughts on ways to mark the passing of an Internet friend?"

Brain off-line, please wait.