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+ - 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, "’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 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 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 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 — backers (and founders) Mark Zuckerberg, VC John Doerr, and Sean Parker — stepped up to the plate and helped out's once-anemic Hour of Code Indiegogo crowdfunding project with $500k donations. When matched by'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, 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. 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 founders Hadi and Ali Partovi ($1,873,909 in Facebook stock). Coincidentally, in a Reddit AMA at's launch, CEO and Founder Hadi Partovi noted that his next-door-neighbor is Microsoft General Counsel and Board member Brad Smith, whose bio notes is responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work. Just months before and 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."

+ - U.S. Education Chief Don't Know Much About Online CS Education History 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL."

+ - U.S. Education Chief's Khan Academy Aha Moment was Roger Ebert's Deja Vu

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reports that Khan Academy is "changing the way my kids learn" with its online lessons, including coding, which Duncan points out his pre-teen kids' school doesn't offer. Interestingly, while seeing Khan Academy seems to have been an aha moment for the nation's education chief, it was a deja vu moment for the late film critic Roger Ebert, who reported on computer-assisted instruction 50 years earlier. In his 2011 TED Talk, Ebert remarked, "When I heard the amazing talk by Salman Khan on Wednesday, about the Khan Academy website that teaches hundreds of subjects to students all over the world, I had a flashback. It was about 1960. As a local newspaper reporter still in high school, I was sent over to the computer lab of the University of Illinois to interview the creators of something called PLATO. The initials stood for Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations. This was a computer-assisted instruction system, which in those days ran on a computer named ILLIAC. The programmers said it could assist students in their learning." PLATO, Duncan may be surprised to learn, was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later. "There’s a fascinating and important history of education technology that is largely forgotten," explains Audrey Watters in The Hidden History of Ed-Tech. "We can't move forward," she adds, "til we reconcile where we've been before.""

+ - Duke: No Mercy for CS 201 Cheaters Who Don't Turn Selves In by Wednesday

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "The Duke Chronicle published an e-mail reportedly sent to hundreds of Duke students who took Computer Science 201 (Data Structures & Algorithms) last spring, giving those who copied solutions to class problems until Nov. 12th to turn themselves in for cheating. "Students who have violated course policies but do not step forward by November 12, 2014," warns the e-mail, "will not be offered faculty-student resolution and will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for disciplinary processes without any recommendation for leniency." Dis Gon B Gud, quips an animated GIF comment. The Chronicle adds that CS Prof Owen Astrachan, co-director of undergraduate studies, admitted that there is a fine line between collaboration and cheating in computer science — online and in person, although Astrachan made it clear in comments that "Students who copied code from the Internet are in violation of the community standard and course policies." Hey, let ye who is without copy-and-paste sin cast the first stone in the comments!"

+ - Google Takes Over Operations Of NASA Airfield

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""After years of using Moffett Field as the home and launch pad for the private jets of Google’s founders," writes TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler, "the company has agreed to a deal in which it will lease the airfield from NASA for the next 60 years. As part of the lease, Google will take over operations of the airfield while the U.S. government retains ownership of the land." In its press release, NASA explained, "We are making strides to reduce our footprint here on Earth" with the $1.16B lease, which is expected to reduce the government agency’s maintenance and operation costs by $6.3 million annually."

+ - Google "Evicted" the Berlin Wall from Property it Bought

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Sunday marks the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which Google commemorates in today's Doodle. "Seeking inspiration for this doodle," notes the Google Doodle Team, "we took a short bike ride from our Mountain View, California headquarters to our local public library to study an actual piece of the Berlin Wall" (the Berlin Wall segments are featured in the Doodle). Interestingly, the post doesn't mention Google's connection to how the two sections of the Berlin Wall wound up at the library. After Google bought the Bayside Business Plaza in 2012, where the 12-foot-tall remnants had been kept for decades by German-born businessman Frank Golzen before his death, it reportedly gave the Golzen family until summer 2013 to get the Berlin Wall off its lawn. "Although the donating family has until next summer to remove the installation from the current location," reads a 2012 City of Mountain View Staff Report, "their preference (and the preference of the new owner of the property) is to remove it sooner." A recommendation to relocate the seven ton concrete slabs to remote Charleston Park, adjacent to the Googleplex, was nixed by the City Council, who voted instead to move the Berlin Wall sections to its current home in front of a downtown public library."

+ - Codecademy's ReSkillUSA: Gestation Period for New Developers is 3 Months

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "TechCrunch reports that Codecademy has teamed up with online and offline coding schools to create ReskillUSA. "3 months," explains ReskillUSA's website, is "how long it takes a dedicated beginner to learn the skills to qualify for computing and web development jobs" (hey, it worked for Sears in the '70s!). Techcrunch's Anthony Ha explains,"By teaming up with other organizations, Codecademy is also hoping to convince employers that completing one of those programs is a meaningful qualification for a job, and that you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in computer science." In his Medium post, Codecademy CEO Zach Sims calls on "students learning for the jobs of the future or employers interested in hiring a diverse and skilled workforce – to join us. The future of our economy depends on it." So, will companies like Codecademy booster and diversity-challenged Google bite?"

+ - Worldwide Aaron Swartz Day Memorial Hackathons This Weekend->

Submitted by sterlingcrispin
sterlingcrispin (1805040) writes "There are hacakathons taking places all over the world in memory of Aaron Swartz taking place this weekend, November 8th and 9th to "bring together the varied communities that Aaron touched to figure out how the important problems of the world connect, and to share the load of working on those problems."

I think this is an important reoccurring event and should be listed on slashdot. If you are interested in open access, privacy, free speech, transparency, citizen activism, human rights, and information ethics please attend, promote this event, and contribute to its growth.

I'm organizing the Los Angeles meet up and would love to see you there —"

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