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."
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."
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.
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).