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Submission + - Microsoft Minecraft Education Edition: No Parents Allowed

theodp writes: Last December, children around the world were given a Microsoft Minecraft-branded Hour of Code. Less than a year later, CNET reports that Minecraft Education Edition is coming November 1st to a school near you. But if you're a parent, you'll just have to take Microsoft's word for it that "there is no limit to what students can learn" with the software, since you won't be allowed to purchase it and see for yourself. From the Microsoft Minecraft: Education Edition FAQ: "[Q] Can I purchase Minecraft: Education Edition if I am a parent or individual consumer? [A] If an individual is not affiliated with an academic institution, they will not be able to purchase Minecraft: Education Edition."

Submission + - White House Reveals New Funding Model for K-12 CS: Begging

theodp writes: "Takia — Ms. Toomer — and I are here to share a way for any public school teacher in America to use crowdfunding to learn computer science and how to teach it. The vehicle is DonorsChoose.org." So begins DonorsChoose CEO Charles Best (YouTube) in a segment entitled New Funding Models at the recent White House Summit on Computer Science for All. "Over these last 16 years, those [DonorsChoose crowdfunding] projects have strictly been for materials and experiences that students consumed. That changed this year when we partnered with Infosys Foundation USA to — for the very first time — start letting teachers create professional development projects on our site [...] We launched this expansion of our model precisely so that teachers could now use our site to get funding to learn computer science and to become computer science teachers." Following a testimonial from 6th grade teacher Takia Toomer, who has used DonorsChoose to fund a number of other projects, Best added: "What's vital I think for you to appreciate is that Ms. Toomer — she may have had actually a very cooperative school district leader — but thanks to this partnership any public school teacher, no matter whether their superintendent has launched a computer science program or whether their principal is asking them to do it, any teacher of their own initiative, out of their own entrepreneurial spirit, can get crowdfunding and learn computer science and how to teach it. Infosys Foundation USA has a match for anyone giving to one of these projects, but we're looking for partners, companies, foundations who will support geographic-specific match offers for teachers who are looking to learn computer science no matter the barriers in their way. Thank you." In the past, Google and Google-backed Code.org have used DonorsChoose as a vehicle to incentivize teachers to advance their K-12 CS agenda; Google has also suggested that school and district administrators are to blame for the lack of K-12 CS.

Submission + - Bill Gates: Voter Opposition to Globalization is 'A Huge Concern' 1

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that the groundswell of populist opposition to open markets and collaboration among countries is "a huge concern" to Bill Gates. "Globalization has had these huge benefits of speeding up innovation and causing product prices to be far lower than they would be otherwise," argued Gates. "But the fact that people, net, see it as a bad thing — and that a vote like the Brexit vote or some other votes are a move to 'Hey, we don’t like change, we want to set back the clock, we want to be more local in our thinking' — that’s a huge concern." Commenters didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with the world's richest man.

Submission + - Code.org Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Disses Wolfram Language

theodp writes: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms (a day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President’s call to action" for CS for All). Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn’t provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it’s a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students." So, if you were a teacher trying to teach computational thinking skills to the 11-and-older set, would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?

Submission + - Laurene Jobs Awards $10M to Pet Charter School Network of Zuckerberg, Gates

theodp writes: The XQ Institute — a nonprofit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve's widow) — announced the winners of its $100 million competition to rethink the American high school this week. Among the 10 lucky schools winning a $10M grant was Summit Elevate ("a new high school planning to open in Fall 2018"), part of the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-supported Summit Charter Schools network (HP CEO Meg Whitman is on Summit's Board). In announcing the grant, XQ praised Basecamp, Summit's personalized learning software platform that was developed by Facebook engineers, which Bill Gates has spent $1+ million on to get schools to adopt it (the NY Times characterized the Facebook-Summit partnership as "more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools"). U.S. education, it seems, is becoming The Game of Billionaires — at last May's NewSchools Venture Summit, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (now working for Jobs) was interviewed by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Gates Foundation Program Director Jim Shelton (now working for Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan).

Submission + - The Intercept: Paying Taxes is a Lot Better than Phony Corporate Courage, Apple

theodp writes: "Every fall," writes The Intercept's Sam Biddle, "internet and its resident tech mumblers congregate for The Apple Event, a quasi-pagan streaming-video rite in which Tim Cook boasts of just how much money his company is making (a lot) and just how much good it’s introducing to the world (this typically involves a new iPhone). This is merely annoying most years; but in 2016, when Apple is loudly, publicly denying its tax obligations around the world, it’s just gross." Biddle finds Apple’s use of the word 'courage' to describe the corporate ethos that pushed the company to remove the headphone plug from the newest iPhone while offering a new pair of $160 jack-free earbuds particularly irksome: "Removing a headphone jack or adding 20 headphone jacks does not require courage; engineers are very smart, but their job does not typically require much bravery. Courage is more often found in, say, running into a burning school to rescue the students and class rodent. Or, maybe, you could call courageous the act of paying the many billions you owe around the world into the system that ensures those students have all of the resources they need in order to learn and grow. Just a hint: Collaborative spreadsheet software doesn’t count [introducing new real-time collaboration features, Cook called iWork a "very important tool in education"]."

Submission + - Google Program Seeks to Deradicalize Jihadis and American Right Wing Extremists

HughPickens.com writes: Nami LaChance writes at The Intercept that a google-incubated program that targets potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America. Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent Jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda. In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” says Richard Stengel, U.S. Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. In the ISIS pilot program, the YouTube channel pulls preexisting videos that, according to Yasmin Green, the head of research and development for Jigsaw, “refute ISIS’s messaging.” One video is from a woman who secretly filmed her life in ISIS-controlled Raqqa. Another shows young people in Mosul, their faces obscured by keffiyehs for their protection, talking about life under the Islamic State. “The branding philosophy for the entire pilot project was not to appear judgmental or be moralistic, but really to pique interest of individuals who have questions, questions that are being raised and answered by the Islamic State,” Green said.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, says his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups to target other violent extremists, including the hard right in America. “Our efforts during phase two, when we’re going to focus on the violent far right in America, will be very much focused on the small element of those that are violent. The interesting thing about how they behave is they’re a little bit more brazen online these days than ISIS fan boys,” says Frenett.

Submission + - Microsoft-Funded Reality Show 'Code Trip' Premieres on PBS

theodp writes: Last summer, PBS announced that it would air a Microsoft-funded 'reality' show — Code Trip (YouTube trailer) — in which Roadtrip Nation and Microsoft YouthSpark send students across the U.S. for a 'transformative journey into computer science.' Well, PBS has made good on its promise, and the Microsoft On The Issues blog is calling it must-see-TV. You can judge for yourself over at Roadtrip Nation, where you can screen Episode 1: Pumped and Ready and Behind the Scenes with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, videos which are "Fueled by Microsoft Philanthropies." A $199,866.00 National Science Foundation grant for a pilot project led by Roadtrip Nation "to design and develop pilot materials for a Computer Science Roadtrip" suggests some of the material may also be headed into classrooms. A White House Fact Sheet issued last January for President Obama's $4.2 billion CS for All Initiative called out Roadtrip Nation as one of the partners that would be helping "to directly prepare and support no fewer than 10,000 teachers to teach CS by 2021."

Submission + - Gates Foundation-Supported Nonprofit Puts $100K "Bounty" on John Oliver

theodp writes: "In case you missed it," writes the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss, "John Oliver recently did a segment on his HBO 'Last Week Tonight' show blasting troubled charter schools (YouTube) in several states around the country. It was very very funny — but charter supporters were not in the slightest bit amused. How annoyed were they? Well, the Washington-based Center for Education Reform [CER], a nonprofit pro-charter organization, is offering $100,000 to the school that creates the best rebuttal video to Oliver’s rant. Really. It’s called the 'Hey John Oliver! Back Off My Charter School!' Video Contest, and all applicants have to do is come up with a retort explaining why charters are fabulous — in no longer than three minutes — and properly submit their video." CER Supporters include the foundations of some of the nation's wealthiest families, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Coincidentally, Oliver blasted charters that suddenly and unexpectedly close their doors citing money woes, which happened at Gates Foundation-backed Bay Area High Tech High, where students recruited by a Bill Gates video were told that their school of the future had no future before it graduated its first class. In a nice circle-of-charter-life kind of thing, however, the building occupied by SV High Tech High was given to Summit Public Schools, the current fave charter of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Submission + - Melinda Gates: Computers Are For Girls, Too

theodp writes: In a post on The Gates Notes entitled Computers Are For Girls, Too, Melinda Gates writes, "Somewhere along the way, society decided that computers are for boys. Or, as Aishwarya says, 'guys in hoodies'. And this toxic stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, virtually guaranteeing that computer science is indeed a male-dominated field." Some may recall that back in 2009, Melinda told Vogue she and BillG decided that Apple devices should be forbidden fruit for her daughters and son. "The gross underrepresentation of women in computer science is not just a problem for the girls who are left out," the former Microsoft project manager and Duke CS major added. "There’s a mountain of research showing that diversity makes for better companies and better products." So that's why the Gates clan is only worth $90 billion!

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