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Submission + - LinkedIn Testing 1970's-Style No-CS-Degree-Required Software Apprenticeships

theodp writes: The Mercury News reports on REACH, a new software apprenticeship program that LinkedIn’s engineering team started piloting this month, which offers people without Computer Science degrees an opportunity to get a foot in the door, as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn searches for ways to help diversify its workforce. For now, the 29 REACH participants are paid, but are only short-term LinkedIn employees (for the duration of the 6-month program). LinkedIn indicated it hopes to learn if tech internships could eventually be made part of the regular hiring process, perhaps unaware that no-CS-degree-required hiring for entry-level permanent positions in software development was standard practice in the 70's and 80's, back when women made up almost 40% of those working as programmers and in software-related fields, nearly double the percentage of women in LinkedIn's global 2016 tech workforce. Hey, even in tech hiring, everything old is new again!

Submission + - NYT: Uber Engineers Geofenced Apple HQ to Cover Up iPhone Fingerprinting

theodp writes: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's drive to win in life, writes the New York Times' Mike Isaac, has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion, including a previously unreported encounter with Apple CEO Tim Cook in early 2015 that threatened the ride-sharing company with an iPhone ban death sentence: "For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple’s engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple’s privacy guidelines. But Apple was on to the deception, and when Mr. Kalanick arrived at the midafternoon meeting sporting his favorite pair of bright red sneakers and hot-pink socks, Mr. Cook was prepared. 'So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,' Mr. Cook said in his calm, Southern tone. Stop the trickery, Mr. Cook then demanded, or Uber’s app would be kicked out of Apple’s App Store. For Mr. Kalanick, the moment was fraught with tension. If Uber’s app was yanked from the App Store, it would lose access to millions of iPhone customers — essentially destroying the ride-hailing company’s business. So Mr. Kalanick acceded."

Submission + - Trump to Nation: You Can't Handle the White House Visitor Logs Truth (nytimes.com)

theodp writes: In the name of national security, the White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, which the NY Times explains effectively bars the public from knowing which activists, lobbyists, political donors and others are gaining access to the president and his aides on a daily basis. Hey, it's none of our goldarned business if Google and Microsoft are meeting behind closed White House doors to lobby for a rewrite of the nation's school funding laws that unleashes billions of dollars if it helps advance tech's National Talent Strategy, right?

Submission + - RI Schools a Proving Ground for Gates, Zuckerberg, Microsoft Vision of Education

theodp writes: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Microsoft have made no bones about their desire to see schools teach K-12 computer science. And Zuck and Gates seem every bit as determined to see their vision of personalized learning adopted by school systems. So, with Rhode Island advertising the Ocean State's schools as an ideal laboratory to quickly test out new ideas, it's probably not too surprising to see the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Microsoft Philanthropies take Governor Gina Raimondo up on the offer to make RI schools their education proving ground. "Rhode Island’s CS4RI is the first opportunity we’ve had since launching the program in 2009 to scale [Microsoft] TEALS to so many new high schools at one time," exclaimed Microsoft about the opportunity, which apparently even allows Microsoft to ban boys from public school tech events. In recent days, Raimondo has come under fire from watchdogs and the press for the unorthodox set up of the Rhode Island Office of Innovation that has facilitated these pet education projects. The Office's six-person team, which includes a Microsoft TEALS Regional Manager, was led until recently by Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta, a former director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Dept. of Education, whose salary was controversially paid from fundraiser dollars (nearly $1.5 million in private donations funded the office; $913,000 from Silicon Valley Community Foundation). Responding to critics, Raimondo said she will reevaluate the setup of the Office: "We’ve been totally transparent about everything. But you know, we’re always looking to improve, so we want to keep the good progress and, as we look for his [Culatta's] replacement, we’ll see if there’s any changes we should make to the structure." Raimondo is also a member of tech-backed Code.org's Governors for K-12 Computer Science initiative, and participated in Facebook's recent Female Governors’ Summit, which set a goal of identifying new state-led policies aimed at expanding female participation in CS education and tech jobs.

Submission + - RI Governor Under Fire for Setup That Facilitated Microsoft K-12 CS Partnership

theodp writes: A year ago, in partnership with Microsoft, tech-backed nonprofit Code.org, and others, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo launched the Computer Science for RI (CS4RI) effort. "Rhode Island’s CS4RI is the first opportunity we’ve had since launching the program in 2009 to scale [Microsoft] TEALS to so many new high schools at one time," exclaimed Microsoft Corporate VP and Head of Microsoft Philanthropies Mary Snapp. Microsoft CEO and early TEALS backer Satya Nadella added, "We aim to empower every educator and student in the State of Rhode Island to prepare for this future by fostering new levels of collaboration and creativity in the classroom through computer science education." The CS4RI initiative is a project of the Rhode Island Office of Innovation, whose six-person team included Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta, whose salary was controversially paid from fundraiser dollars — nearly $1.5 million in private donations funded the office, which curiously included $913,000 from Silicon Valley Community Foundation — and Microsoft TEALS Regional Manager Andrea Russo, whose salary is presumably paid by Microsoft (which keeps a watchful eye on the project). Now, under fire for the unorthodox setup which a watchdog group called "a weird entity that’s not part of state government, but has a lot of the power of state government," Raimondo said she will reevaluate the setup of her chief innovation officer’s office in the wake of Culatta's just-announced departure. "We’ve been totally transparent about everything," she said. "But you know, we’re always looking to improve, so we want to keep the good progress and, as we look for his replacement, we’ll see if there’s any changes we should make to the structure." Raimondo also is a member of Code.org's Governors for K-12 Computer Science initiative, and participated in Facebook's recent first-ever Female Governors’ Summit to identify new state-led policies aimed at expanding female participation in CS education and tech jobs.

Submission + - Google's 'Project Moses' to Address Tech's Gender Imbalance

theodp writes: Dissatisfied with earlier efforts to correct tech's gender imbalance, it appears Google may be getting ready to play hardball. On Saturday, news leaked of the search giant's soon-to-launch 'Project Moses,' which a Google spokesperson would only say will draw inspiration from the project's namesake and utilize Google Maps' new 'Share Location' feature.

Submission + - Ivanka Trump to Take Coding Class With 5-Year-Old Daughter

theodp writes: Speaking about women in STEM at a Women’s History Month event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, new [unpaid] Federal employee Ivanka Trump revealed she’ll be taking a computer coding class with her 5-year-old daughter. "On a very personal level, as a mom I’m trying to do my part as well," Ivanka told the crowd. "My daughter Arabella and I are enrolling in a coding class this summer." Parroting supermodel Karlie Kloss (the girlfriend of Ivanka's brother-in-law), the First Daughter added, “We’re excited to learn this incredibly important new language together. Coding truly is the language of the future."

Submission + - Microsoft Posts 'No Boys Allowed' Signs at State of RI High School CS Event 4

theodp writes: "Girls and women are half of the world's population," Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo told hundreds of high school girls gathered behind doors with signs that read "[Microsoft] DigiGirlz: No Boys Allowed". "They are half of the world’s brains, problem-solvers, leaders. This world cannot solve problems unless they are at the table. That’s why I started programs like CS4RI, partnering with Microsoft and other leaders [including Microsoft-backed Code.org] to offer computer science in every Rhode Island school." Raimondo also noted she was dismayed to learn that only 12 of Rhode Island's 42 students who took the AP Computer Science test were girls (RI has 43,000+ enrolled HS students). The best way to make girls feel welcome in K-12 CS education, some influence-wielding tech giants, politicians, and educators seem to agree, is by making boys even more unwelcome via things like gender-based federal K-12 CS education funding; girls-only learn-to-code initiatives, STEM schools and summer computer camps; and gender-weighted teacher incentive programs from Google and tech-backed Code.org (Google and the U.S. Government even sought to exclude boys from programming White House Christmas tree lights in 2014).

Submission + - Zuckerberg, Google Double-Down on Pet K-12 Personalized Learning Projects

theodp writes: Tech billionaires love the idea of K-12 personalized learning. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook-Summit Public Schools personal learning partnership would henceforth be the Zuckerberg/Chan-Summit Public Schools partnership, as Zuck and wife Priscilla let it be known that their nonprofit is "building a world-class engineering team" to build out the Summit Learning Platform and make it "available for free to any educator who wants to use it." Not to be outdone, Google this week added another $5 million to its Khan Academy investment. Both Summit and Khan Academy are supported and advised by a Who's Who of tech's richest individuals and their companies (and both organizations eat their benefactors' dog food). Later this year, Brian Dear's The Friendly Orange Glow will explain that Google's and Zuckerberg's New New Personalized Learning Thing actually has roots in the '60s and '70s.

Submission + - Does Google Research Raise Red Flag on Microsoft's HS Student Screening Advice?

theodp writes: Sharing its latest research on unconscious bias in the classroom, Google warns that educators may unintentionally discriminate against some of their students, discouraging them from pursuing certain fields of study, like computer science and STEM. "By focusing on educators," writes Google's head of R&D for CS education, "we can help them become aware of their unconscious biases [e.g., perceiving Black students as disruptive, inattentive, and less likely to complete homework; perceiving misbehavior as worse when observing students of a race different than their own] and learn how they can adjust their actions to support diverse students in computer science and STEM." So, one wonders what those who conducted the Google research might make of Microsoft TEALS, a pet program of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella that sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. into high schools across the nation to teach kids and their teachers computer science. "Our mission," states a TEALS booklet, is "to provide every student with the opportunity to study rigorous computer science in high school." Sounds good, but in a section entitled "Identifying Students Prepared to Succeed" in the TEALS Implementation Guides from 2014-2017, schools are advised, "Especially while the courses are new to your school, it is important to select only students who are interested in CS and able to handle the course work (including study skills, and behavioral issues). This is not a place to put students simply because they have an open period and expect that CS class is equivalent to playing games." A flyer for the 2017-18 school year boasts that "TEALS students scored 10% higher than the national average on their AP CS exams last year." Whether any of that lift may be attributable to screening out certain students will presumably be addressed by a still-underway 4-year, $1.5 million NSF study of the efficacy of TEALS "in an authentic high school learning context."

Submission + - Tech-Backed Code.org 'Disappointed' Trump Didn't Budget $400M for K-12 CS 1

theodp writes: After 'learning to code' from tech-backed Code.org, President Obama asked Congress to set aside $4+ billion for computer science education, but the windfall of federal funding never materialized. On Thursday, though, it was the Trump Administration the non-profit voiced disappointment in for not answering its call for 'an investment as small as $400M' in K-12 CS. Plan B, apparently, is targeting state budgets for K-12 CS funding, which a Microsoft-supported group not-so-long-ago argued should come from "a national STEM education fund, paid for only by businesses using green cards and visas." On the Saturday that President Obama unveiled his CS For All initiative, however, Microsoft President and Code.org Board Member Brad Smith changed that tune, blogging that the goal of K-12 CS could not be realized without public funding.

Submission + - Microsoft Goes All Jimmy Kimmel on Girls, Says Boys Will Solve World's Problems

theodp writes: In conjunction with International Women's Day 2017, Microsoft released a new ad challenging girls to stay in STEM so they can solve the problems they care about most. In the ad, four young actresses sporting Microsoft Hololenses vow to stop climate change, provide fresh water for everyone, ensure there's a self-sustaining environment, and discover a cure for cancer, only to have their STEM spirit crushed when they're informed that "odds are you won't solve these problems [because] only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees," which produces a moment not unlike those Jimmy Kimmel I-Told-My-Kids-I-Ate-All-Their-Halloween-Candy videos (YouTube Doubler). But don't worry, the girls bounced back quickly. Unlike Adweek, perhaps they realized they'd been had by Microsoft's 'creative' use of statistics, and that things weren't nearly as bleak gender-wise in the biological and environmental life sciences fields they planned to work in as they might be at Microsoft.

Submission + - NCWIT Adviser Calls on Tech CEOs to Meet With Ivanka Trump, Make K-12 CS Happen

theodp writes: In an op-ed for The Hill, Paula Stern calls for President Trump and Tech CEOs to convene a second meeting, this time to "commit to bold solutions that funnel domestic talent into the tech pipeline" that would reduce their companies' reliance on H-1B visas. Stern writes, "The group should include a few more women — starting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — and rally state and local school boards to champion computer science in the K-12 curriculum. Ivanka Trump should also attend, adding this issue to her work/life agenda for both women and men in digital America. This meeting should also invite groups like the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) — for whom I am a senior adviser — to highlight the practices that prepare, attract and retain American talent." Last April, many of the tech leaders present in the first sit-down with the Trumps put their names to a Change.org petition calling for the Federal government to fund K-12 CS education that still hasn't been able to meet its 150,000-signature target despite widespread publicity and claims of a "groundswell" of support.

Submission + - SPAM: Microsoft's International Women's Day STEM Video: Thumbs-Up or Thumbs-Down?

theodp writes: "Timed with International Women’s Day 2017," explains Microsoft Philanthropies in a blog post, "we released a new video to challenge girls to stay in STEM so they are empowered to solve the problems they care about most, ranging from finding solutions to climate change to curing cancer." Oddly reminiscent of Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween Candy Prank videos, the big payoff in the video comes when the four young girls — who have reaffirmed their vows to stop climate change, provide fresh water for everyone, ensure there's a self-sustaining environment, and discover a cure for cancer after being dazzled by Microsoft products — have their STEM spirit crushed briefly when they are informed that "odds are you won't solve these problems [because] only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees." But as How to Lie With Statistics notes, "percentages offer a fertile field for confusion," and the video's failure to put that 6.7% figure into context may give some the incorrect impression that 93.3% of STEM degrees go to men. "Go into the breakdown of STEM fields by gender and you find out that while 18% of computer science majors are women," adds J. KB, "so are 60% of biology majors. So in the video, that girl that wants to cure cancer has a good chance of being one of the women who make up the 57% of STEM degrees earned in biological or life sciences." But the harsh truth, J. KB adds, is that the Microsoft video is spot on when it says the odds are the four girls won't solve these problems: "You can dedicate your life to a project and sometimes only make a tiny dent in solving the problem. The vast majority of engineers and scientists won’t ever become a Nobel Laureate or a famous inventor, regardless of gender. Welcome to the world of engineering." And, not to pile on, but Microsoft might want to check out an interesting ACM blog post — How We Teach Should Be Independent Of Who We Are Teaching — by CS prof and former NSF program director Valerie Barr, who warns against assuming that "women are motivated by social relevance, so when we teach them we have to discuss ways in which computing can contribute to the social good," saying it could actually drive away the very students we are hoping to recruit and retain. Painting women with a single brush in this way, she adds, implies they won’t ever be excited about the technology in its own right (interestingly, the girls in the Microsoft video seem to be most excited about the VR tech).

Submission + - Blame Uber for Taking Hellbanning to a New Level. But Not for Inventing It. 2

theodp writes: With its widely-denounced "Greyball" tool, Uber was able to effectively give The Sixth Sense treatment to its pests, including law enforcement. Quincy Larson observes that "Greyball" is Uber's evil-software-genius take on Hellbanning (Wikipedia definition), a deceptive practice that has been called "the cruelest punishment of them all" to mete out on unsuspecting users, although variations on the practice have reportedly been embraced by some of tech's most admired. Like Hacker News, a go-to place for future Travis Kalanick's, whose use of Hellbanning was noted by but drew no real criticism from Pando or TechCrunch. Or Reddit. Or Twitter — in 2013 and 2017. Or Craigslist. So, blame Uber for taking Hellbanning to a whole new level, but not for inventing it or being the only one who used it.

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