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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 + - 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!

Submission + - Google Testing Software to Judge Hollywood and TV's Portrayal of Women 1

theodp writes: Aside from it being hosted in a town without a movie theater, the 2016 Bentonville Film Festival was also unusual in that it required all entrants to submit "film scripts and downloadable versions of the film" for judgment by "the team at Google and USC", apparently part of a larger Google-funded research project with USC Engineering "to develop a computer science tool that could quickly and efficiently assess how women are represented in films" (an award for "Highest Diversity Score" was awarded at the film fest, fittingly to the film 'Tested'). Fest reports noted that representatives of Google and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy appeared in a "Reel vs. Real Diversity" panel presentation at the fest, where the importance of diversity and science to President Obama was discussed, and the lack of qualified people to fill 500,000 U.S. tech jobs was blamed in part on how STEM careers have been presented in film and television. White House Visitor Records show that in the weeks leading up to the festival, representatives of the Bentonville Film Fest and Google met at the White House with scores of female educators, advocates, and activists from universities and nonprofits, as well as execs from the toy, game, film, television, print, and retail industry. In a 2015 report on a Google-sponsored USC Viterbi School of Engineering MacGuyver-themed event to promote women in engineering, USC reported that President Obama was kept briefed on efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women. As for its own track record, Google recently updated its Diversity page, boasting that "21% of new hires in 2015 were women in tech, compared to 19% of our current population," although its most recently posted EEO-1 report showing actual headcount is still from a pay period in 2014.

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"!

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We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra