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Cheaters Exposed Analyzing Statistical Anomalies 437

Hugh Pickens writes "Proctors and teachers can't watch everyone while they take tests — not when some students can text with their phones in their pockets, so with tests increasingly important in education — used to determine graduation, graduate school admission, and — the latest — merit pay and tenure for teachers, Trip Gabriel writes that schools are turning to 'data forensics' to catch cheaters, searching for data anomalies where the chances of random agreement are astronomical. In addition to looking for copying, statisticians hunt for illogical patterns, like test-takers who did better on harder questions than easy ones, a sign of advance knowledge of part of a test or look for unusually large score gains from a previous test by a student or class. Since Caveon Test Security, whose clients have included the College Board, the Law School Admission Council, and more than a dozen states and big city school districts, began working for the state of Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70 percent, says James Mason, director of the State Department of Education's Office of Student Assessment. 'People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you're going to get caught,' says Mason."

Why Teach Programming With BASIC? 709

chromatic writes "To answer the perennial question 'How can we teach kids how to program?', we created a web-based programming environment. As we began to write lessons and examples, we surprised ourselves. Modern languages may be powerful and useful for writing real programs, but BASIC and Logo are great languages for demonstrating the joy of programming."

Graduate Students Being Warned Away From Leaked Cables 685

IamTheRealMike writes "The US State Department has started to warn potential recruits from universities not to read leaked cables, lest it jeopardize their chances of getting a job. They're also showing warnings to troops who access news websites and the Library of Congress and Department of Education have blocked WikiLeaks on their own networks. Quite what happens when these employees go home is an open question." Update: 12/04 17:48 GMT by T : The friendly warning to students specifically cautioned them not to comment online or otherwise indicate that they'd read any of the leaked information; reading them quietly wasn't specifically named as a deal-breaker.

How the 'Tech Worker Visa' Is Remaking IT In America 436

theodp writes "Back in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security enacted a controversial 'emergency' rule to allow foreign students earning tech-related degrees in the US to work for American employers for 29 months after graduation without a work visa. The program would allow US companies to recruit and retain the 'best' science and tech students educated at the top US universities, explained Microsoft. But two-and-a-half years later, it turns out the top US universities are getting schooled by less-renowned institutions. Computerworld reports the DHS program is dominated by little-known, for-profit Stratford University, whose 727 approved requests for post-graduate Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM extensions tops all schools and is more than twice the combined total of the entire Ivy League — Brown (26), Columbia (105), Cornell (90), Dartmouth (18), Harvard (27), Princeton (16), Penn (50), and Yale (9). In second place, with 533 approved requests, is the University of Bridgeport. In another twist, the program's employers include IT outsourcing and offshoring 'body shops' like Kelly Services, whose entities snagged about 50 approvals, more than twice the combined total of tech stalwarts Google (15), Amazon.com (2), Yahoo (2), and Facebook (3)."

Aussie Kids Foil Finger Scanner With Gummi Bears 303

mask.of.sanity writes "An Australian high school has installed 'secure' fingerprint scanners for roll call for senior students, which savvy kids may be able to circumvent with sweets from their lunch box. The system replaces the school's traditional sign-in system with biometric readers that require senior students to have their fingerprints read to verify attendance. The school principal says the system is better than swipe cards because it stops truant kids getting their mates to sign-in for them. But using the Gummi Bear attack, students can make replicas of their own fingerprints from gelatin, the ingredient in Gummi Bears, to forge a replica finger. The attack worked against a bunch of scanners that detect electrical charges within the human body, since gelatin has virtually the same capacitance as a finger's skin."

Astonishing Speedup In Solving Linear SDD Systems 157

eldavojohn writes "A new paper (PDF) out of Carnegie Mellon University shows how to solve symmetric diagonally dominant linear systems much faster than before. The technique employs graph theory, randomized algorithms, and linear algebra to achieve an astonishing advantage over current methods to solve such systems. From the article: 'The result is a significant decrease in computer run times. The Gaussian elimination algorithm runs in time proportional to s^3, where s is the size of the SDD system as measured by the number of terms in the system, even when s is not much bigger the number of variables. The new algorithm, by comparison, has a run time of s*[log(s)]^2. That means, if s = 1 million, that the new algorithm run time would be about a billion times faster than Gaussian elimination.' Developers out there who maintain matrix packages and linear algebra tools might want to take a peak at the paper. Anyone who has modeled real-world systems will be able to tell you that speedups in linear algebra algorithms have a weighty effect on efficiency in simulations — especially as one approaches the theoretical limits of optimality. This research is currently being presented at the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science."

How Cornell Plans To Purge Campus Computers of Personal Data 164

and so forth writes "Cornell lost a laptop last year with SSNs. Now, they've mandated scanning every computer at the University for the following items: social security numbers; credit card numbers; driver's license numbers; bank account numbers; and protected health information, as defined by HIPAA. The main tools are Identityfinder (commercial software for Windows and Mac), spider (Cornell software for Windows from 2008) and Find_SSN (python script from Virginia Tech). The effort raises both technical questions (false positives, anyone?) and practical issues (should I trust closed source software to do this?). Have other Universities succeeded at removing confidential data? Success, here, should probably be gauged in terms of diminished legal liability after the attempted clean up has been completed." Note: this program affects the computers of university employees and offices, rather than students' personal machines.

Proving 0.999... Is Equal To 1 1260

eldavojohn writes "Some of the juiciest parts of mathematics are the really simple statements that cause one to immediately pause and exclaim 'that can't be right!' But a recent 28 page paper in The Montana Mathematics Enthusiast (PDF) spends a great deal of time fielding questions by researchers who have explored this in depth and this seemingly impossibility is further explored in a brief history by Dev Gualtieri who presents the digit manipulation proof: Let a = 0.999... then we can multiply both sides by ten yielding 10a = 9.999... then subtracting a (which is 0.999...) from both sides we get 10a — a = 9.999... — 0.999... which reduces to 9a = 9 and thus a = 1. Mathematicians as far back as Euler have used various means to prove 0.999... = 1."

Hawking Radiation Claimed Created In a Lab 129

eldavojohn writes "In 1974, a young newcomer to the Royal Society named Stephen Hawking predicted that black holes emit Hawking Radiation. Researchers have been looking for it in space ever since. A new paper up for publication claims to have beaten searchers by observing it in a lab. Doing it wasn't easy. They say they brought light to a standstill by drastically increasing the refractive index of the material it was being fired at, creating a 'white hole.' This horizon, beyond which light cannot penetrate (event horizon), is the same between white and black holes, which caused the team to suspect they observed Hawking Radiation when light of a different uniform wavelength than the input laser was emitted. But, before you rejoice, the Tech Review article notes, 'Of course, the big question is whether the emitted light is generated by some other mechanism such as Cerenkov radiation, scattering or, in particular, fluorescence which is the hardest to rule out.'"

iPads On American Campuses? Maybe Next Year 177

Velcroman1 writes "Slashdotters have read extensively about the iPad pilot programs at colleges and universities: Australian schools are iPad crazy, we read yesterday, and thanks to the iPad's success, 2011 will be the year of the tablet. But on US college campuses almost half a year after the iPad's launch, it's a whole different story — at least so far this year. FoxNews.com reports that high-profile schools like Duke and Stanford are far more cautious about the device than has previously been reported. 'It definitely facilitates studying and recall because you don't get bogged down by all the paper,' noted first-year Stanford med student Ryan Flynn. But it's still a work in progress. 'The iPad isn't the best input device. Some people have gone back to paper and pencil.'"

'Wi-Fi Illness' Spreads To Ontario Public Schools 663

An anonymous reader writes "Readers of Slashdot might be familiar with Lakehead University's ban on WiFi routers a few years ago in Thunder Bay, Ontario because of 'health concerns,' a policy apparently still in effect. Now it seems a group of concerned parents in a number of communities in Ontario have petitioned the local school boards over similar concerns at public schools, where their kids are apparently experiencing 'headaches to dizziness and nausea and even racing heart rates' — symptoms that appear only when they are in school on weekdays, not on weekends at home. 'The symptoms, which also include memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia, have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless ...' Besides Wi-Fi signals, could there possibly be any other logical explanation for kids having more symptoms of illness on school days than at home on weekends or in the summer?"

Forget University — Use the Web For Education, Says Gates 393

An anonymous reader writes "Bill Gates attended the Techonomy conference earlier this week, and had quite a bold statement to make about the future of education. He believes the Web is where people will be learning within a few years, not colleges and university. During his chat, he said, 'Five years from now on the web for free you'll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.'" Of course, the efficacy of online learning is still in question; some studies have shown a measurable benefit to being physically present in a classroom. Still, online education can clearly reach a much wider range of students. Reader nbauman sent in a related story about MIT's OpenCourseWare, which is finding success in unexpected ways: "50% of visitors self-identified as independent learners unaffiliated with a university." The article also mentions a situation in which a pair of Haitian natives used OCW to get the electrical engineering knowledge they needed to build solar-powered lights that have been deployed in many remote towns and villages.

Microsoft Losing Big To Apple On Campus 764

destinyland writes "Apple is closing in on Microsoft's share of operating systems among the computers of incoming freshmen at the University of Virginia, confirming earlier reports of an ongoing trend. A yearly survey shows that among 3,156 freshman who own computers, Microsoft's share is just 56% (down 6%), with Apple's share rising to 43% (up 6%), continuing a six-year pattern. In 2004, it was Microsoft 89% vs. 8% for Apple. 'It seems likely that the Mac-using students will outnumber their Windows cousins this school year,' notes one technology blog, citing a new study showing that 70 percent of college freshman are choosing the Mac. Other interesting data from the Virginia study: In 1997, 26% of incoming freshmen said they didn't own a computer, a number which has now dropped to 0. Laptops now comprise 99% of the computer population. And Linux use has dropped from a high of 2.5% in 2004 to a rounding error this year."

UK Switches Off £235M Child Database 198

wdef writes "The UK's controversial ContactPoint database has actually been switched off! It's rare that we hear anything this sensible from government about an expensive, privacy-destroying, 'think of the children' solution: 'The government argued the system was disproportionate to the problem, so is looking at developing other solutions.' Perhaps the UK coalition government really is winding back Big Brother, as they had promised to do? Does seem unlikely."

Steve Furber On Why Kids Are Turned Off To Computing Classes 383

nk497 writes "UK computing legend Steve Furber — co-founder of Acorn and ARM designer — believes students are avoiding computing classes because they teach nothing but the boring basics. Currently studying why the number of students signing up for computing has halved in the past eight years, Furber said schools focus too much on teaching kids how to use spreadsheets, word processors and PowerPoint, rather than teaching more challenging areas such as programming. 'What schools are presenting as ICT as an academic subject is very mundane compared with what students know they can do,' he said. 'It's as if maths was just arithmetic or English was taught as just spelling. It's not unimportant that you can do arithmetic or you can spell, but it certainly doesn't open up the whole world of interest and challenge, if that's all you do.'"

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