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Submission + - SPAM: Melinda Gates: Society Has Decided Computers Are For 'Guys in Hoodies'

theodp writes: Over at The Gates Notes, Duke CS grad and former Microsoft employee Melinda Gates laments the lack of women in CS in Computers Are For Girls, Too. "Somewhere along the way, society decided that computers are for boys," Gates writes. "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."

Submission + - Should Government Use Google Poll of 1,685 Clueless Parents to Justify K-12 CS?

theodp writes: Workforce Needs, Parent Advocacy Spark Computer Science Initiative, reads the headline of a story on Mississippi's decision to pilot a new K-12 CS curriculum — Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) — this fall. Read on though, and it turns out 'Parent Advocacy' refers to "a 2015 Gallup poll [that] showed 90% of parents want CS courses taught in school." No citation is given, but this factoid would appear to be sourced from a Google report of Google-Gallup poll data from 1,685 parents of 7th to 12th-graders from across the U.S., most of whom Google lamented don't even understand the difference between general computer use and computer science. Still, the Google-Gallup poll results appears to be good enough for government work. Justifying the need for $4.2B to fund his Computer Science For All initiative, President Obama said in January, "Nine out of ten parents want it [computer science] taught at their children's schools." In other K-12 CS education news, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) announced it has been awarded a grant from Google that will be used to implement a "Grassroots Advocacy System" for K-12 CS (no $ amount was disclosed). “Google continues to be one of the leading supporters of CSTA and K-12 Computer Science education," said CSTA Executive Director Mark Nelson.

Submission + - Federal Financial Aid to be Made Available for Coding Bootcamps

theodp writes: In this week's Hack Education Weekly News, Audrey Watters writes, "The US Department of Education has selected eight higher ed institutions and eight 'non-traditional providers' that will work as partners to pilot the DoE’s new EQUIP experiment, meaning that students will be able to receive federal financial aid for coding bootcamps, MOOCs, and the like. [...] Good thing there haven’t been any problems with for-profit higher ed and exploitation of financial aid, otherwise this would all seem like a terrible idea." Four of the eight selected sites are coding schools. Perhaps the most high-profile of the lot is The Flatiron School, not only because of its participation in President Obama's TechHire initiative, but also by virtue of its association with supermodel Karlie Kloss, who President Obama dubbed a Super Coder earlier this year (Kloss learned to code at Flatiron). Visitor records show Flatiron CEO Adam Enbar attended a December 2015 meeting of national CS education policy shapers and influencers at the White House that included Microsoft Director of Education Policy Allyson Knox and Google Director of Public Policy Johanna Shelton (Flatiron partnered with Google last year on Google’s CS Summer Institute for high school students, and lists Google as a 'Hiring Partner' on its homepage).

Submission + - #ARKidsCanCode: Play the Governor's Promotional K-12 CS Video, Win a Prize!

theodp writes: Never underestimate the power of marketing in creating a national K-12 CS crisis, suggested the National Science Foundation as it gave props to tech-backed Code.org for "its amazing marketing prowess, its Hour of Code, and its success in attracting major funding, [which] has completely changed the national conversation [on K-12 CS]." Which may explain the motivation behind the Arkansas Dept. of Education's #ARKidsCanCode Computer Science Enrollment Contest. "Arkansas will honor schools for their outstanding effort to promote computer science education this coming school year," begins the announcement for the contest, which calls for schools to compete for a to-be-determined "technology prize package" by earning points for, among other things, playing the Governor’s #ARKidsCanCode video (a video called Join the Movement. Learn to Code. is featured on Gov. Asa Hutchinson's YouTube channel) during a school wide opening assembly or over a school wide video system or hosting a Code.org Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week. "An [sic] subsequent commissioner’s memo will be posted in late November with information on the specific drawing date/location, technology prize package, and how properly to submit documentation to the Arkansas Department of Education," adds the memo. The White House praised the leadership of Arkansas as it announced President Obama's proposed $4.2B CS for All initiative in January. Arkansas, which declared a high school CS education state of emergency in early 2015, was awarded a $1 million NSF grant last August to train Arkansas HS computing teachers. Hutchinson teamed up with other governors earlier this year to launch GovsForCS, a partnership that works with Code.org to increase access to K-12 CS classes.

Submission + - WSJ: Facebook's Point System Fails to Close Diversity Gap

theodp writes: Gizmodo and others are picking up on a paywalled WSJ story which reported that Facebook's failure to move the needle on the diversity is all the more surprising because The Social Network awarded Facebook recruiters double points for a 'diversity hire' — a female, Black, or Hispanic engineer — compared to the hire of a White or Asian male. Facebook declined to comment on whether this points-based system is still in effect. The WSJ also notes that Intel has paid its employees double referral bonuses for women, minorities, and veterans. The reward schemes evoke memories of gender-based (and later race-based) incentives offered for K-12 coding and STEM programs run by tech-backed Code.org (to which Facebook just pledged $15M) and Google, which offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. Facebook's efforts also seem consistent with the tech-backed Every Student Succeeds Act, which calls for increasing CS and STEM access to address a tech-declared national crisis, but only "for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields, such as female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students." Hey, sometimes "every" doesn't mean "every"!

Submission + - Microsoft Introduces DigiSeniors for the Bill Gates Generation

theodp writes: "Let's talk tech and senior citizens!" begins the Sway presentation for Microsoft's new DigiSeniors program. "390,000+ Chicago residents (14.8%) are at least 60 or older," Microsoft notes, explaining that "older adults face many unique hurdles in adopting new technologies: Physical challenges, learning difficulties, high vulnerability to scams, deceit, and manipulation." And while the age group that Microsoft aims to make Windows 10-savvy includes the likes of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, and Charles Simonyi, Microsoft chose a photo of two centenarians in a hospital room (the relatives of a Microsoft exec) to illustrate what 60+ looks like. No word if the initiative was inspired by Steve Ballmer's loss of $2B of his Microsoft retirement money to a racist businessman.

Submission + - SXSW Panel Proposal: Tech's K-12 CS Push Is About Creating Tech-Fluent Customers

theodp writes: As tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook ready teachers to participate in the $4.2B push to make computer science a part of every young person's K-12 education, the motivation ascribed to their efforts by an abstract for a proposed SXSW Panel on Why Big Tech is Investing in Teaching Tech Early (reg. required, screenshot) might raise eyebrows, especially since the panel speakers listed include Microsoft Research VP Jeannette Wing and Apple Sr. Director of Education Content Jason Ediger. "Big tech companies such as Apple and Facebook are behind efforts to teach young kids computer and coding skills — but not for the reasons you may think," reads the SXSW PanelPicker abstract. "Their push has less to do with winning brand loyalty or raising the next tech workforce and more to do with making sure their current and future customers are tech-fluent so they can understand, use and evolve with the increasing pace of technology. To grow, tech companies need a tech-fluent society and a tech-fluent society has broad applications for learning, science and culture."

Submission + - Bill Gates Has Spent $1+ Million to Get Mark Zuckerberg's Software in Schools

theodp writes: "Today is a milestone for personalized learning," boasted Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post Tuesday. "For the first time, more than 100 new schools will adopt personalized learning tools this school year...A couple of years ago, our engineering team partnered with Summit [a Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Gates Foundation supported charter school network] to build out their personalized learning software platform so more schools could use it...Congratulations to the Summit team, the new Basecamp schools and the entire personalized learning community on an exciting milestone!" Perhaps Zuck should have also given a shout-out to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded a $1.1 million grant last year "to support the Summit BaseCamp Program that will bring Next Generation learning at no cost to all partner schools that are accepted into the program." 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". Before you scoff at that idea, consider that an earlier Gates-Zuckerberg collaboration helped give rise to a national K-12 Computer Science crisis!

Comment The Walk-Through Computer (1990 (Score 1) 133

YouTube: "How Computers Work: A Journey Into the Walk-Through Computer is an educational video produced by The Computer Museum and hosted by David Neil of PBS's Newton's Apple. Join David Neil and his four young companions on an entertaining and illuminating trek through The Computer Museum's one-of-a-kind, two-story working model of a desktop computer." Exhibit flyer (pdf). Press kit (pdf).

Submission + - What Should a Children's Computer Museum Look Like?

theodp writes: If you're a wealthy techie looking for a way to establish your legacy, the City of Sarasota has a 117,000-square-foot children’s science museum that's vacant and could use a little TLC. Housed on prime Bayfront property, the building that once housed the Gulf Coast Wonder and Imagination Zone (GWIZ) might make a fine children's computer museum. So, in case any of those CEOs who stress the importance of getting children interested in CS are reading and want to put their money where their mouth is, any suggestions about what a kids' version of the Computer History Museum should look like? Something like an Apple Store? Microsoft Store? Something else?

Submission + - Tech Takes its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis to the DNC

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's needs for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 CS and immigration crisis to the DNC on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies, recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy refrain. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that The DNC Is One Big Corporate Bribe.

Submission + - When is 'Unnecessary' Code Necessary? 1

theodp writes: Catching himself terminating statements with semicolons out of habit when none were needed, Rick Wicklin asks: Do you write unnecessary code? And while Wicklin tries to skip certain unnecessary statements, there are others that he finds, well, necessary. "Sometimes I include optional statements in my programs for clarity, readability, or to practice defensive programming," he explains. Wicklin's post is geared towards SAS programming, but the question of when to include technically-unnecessary code — e.g., variable declarations, superfluous punctuation, block constructs for single statements, values for optional parameters that are the defaults, debugging/validation statements, non-critical error handling, explicitly destroying objects that would otherwise be deleted on exit, labeled NEXT statements, full qualification of objects/methods, unneeded code from templates — is a language-agnostic one. So when-and-why do you find it necessary to include 'unnecessary' code in your programs? And are you tolerant of co-workers' unnecessary code choices, or do you sometimes go all Tabs-vs-Spaces (YouTube) on them?

Submission + - Globalization Considered Harmful

theodp writes: In the wake of Brexit, the NY Times reported earlier this month that President Obama will need his oratory powers to sell globalization. Asked to explain his strategy to reverse growing sentiment over globalization, President Obama responded, "The question is not whether or not there's going to be an international global economy. There is one." Still, the President acknowledged, "Ordinary people who have concerns about trade have a legitimate gripe about globalization, because the fact is that as the global economy is integrated, what we've seen are trend lines across the advanced economies of growing inequality and stagnant wages, and a smaller and smaller share of overall productivity and growth going to workers, and a larger portion going to the top 1 percent. And that's a real problem. Because if that continues, the social cohesion and political consensus needed for liberal market economies starts breaking down." The disconnect between theory and reality is at the heart of Ross Hartshorn's Globalization Considered Harmful. "There is a word for people who are opposed to the globalized economy, and it isn't 'xenophobe' or 'racist'," he writes. "It's 'protectionist'. For some time now, it's been thrown around as an insult, as if there were something wrong with protecting people. There was a similar trick played in the U.S. with the word 'liberal', where conservatives used it as an insult long enough that candidates on the left started to avoid describing themselves as liberal. But there is nothing wrong with protecting people, and there is everything wrong with globalization. Globalization isn't about respecting other people's culture, or treating everyone fairly regardless of their race. Globalization is about each country specializing in just one part of a normal, healthy, diverse economy, and then treating anyone whose talents aren't suited to that part of the economy, as if they were defective and in need a handout rather than a job. I think it is time for people who don't like what globalization has done, to start using the word 'protectionist' to describe themselves. I am a protectionist; I think there is nothing wrong with protecting people. The backlash against globalization isn't the problem. Globalization is the problem."

Submission + - Facebook Offers Innumerate Explanation For Its 1% Black Tech Workforce 1

theodp writes: Back in 2014, Gas Station Without Pumps patiently explained that while the case can clearly be made for female and black students being under-represented in Advanced Placement Computer Science exams, pointing to states with zero female or Black AP CS test takers is not the way to do it. Of the eleven states that had no Black test takers in 2013, GSWP explained: "The zero black AP CS test takers for the nine states can be fairly confidently attributed to the lack of AP CS test takers, and in Maine to the shortage of black students. For Alaska, the lack of black AP CS test takers is probably due to the shortage of AP CS test takers in the state." But that didn't stop Facebook from using the dramatic-but-statistically-fallacious arguments on Thursday to explain away its still-1% Black tech workforce. "It has become clear that at the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system," said Facebook Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who was tasked with explaining why Facebook's diversity efforts don't seem to be working (Facebook's tech workforce is 48% White, 46% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 1% Black, 2% Other). "Currently, only 1 in 4 US high schools teach computer science," Williams continued. "In 2015, seven states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam and no girls took the exam in three states. No Black people took the exam in nine states including Mississippi where about 50% of high school graduates are Black, and 18 states had fewer than 10 Hispanics take the exam with another five states having no Hispanic AP Computer Science (CS) test takers. This has to change." To give Facebook's innumerate explanation some context, according to 2015 AP Data, Mississippi had a grand total of five AP CS test takers. And in the three states where no girls took the exam — Montana, Mississippi, and Wyoming — boys respectively took zero, five, and three AP CS exams.

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