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Math

Israeli 10th-Grader Discovers Elegant Geometry Theorem 173

An anonymous reader writes with a report that: Tamar Barbi, a 10th grade student living in Hod Hasharon, Israel, discovered that the theorem she was using to solve one of the problems on her geometry homework didn't actually exist. With the help of her teacher and mathematicians, she wrote up a proof for the theorem, which helps provide new and more elegant proofs for many other mathematical theorems. Posters at Hacker News have some skeptical words about the theorem's novelty, but also about the phrasing of the news report, which seems to omit some crucial words.
The Almighty Buck

$500K NSF Grant Boosted Girls' CS Participation At Obama Daughters' $37K/Yr HS 187

theodp writes: On Friday, a paper entitled Creative Computation in High School will be presented at SIGCSE '16. "In this paper," explain the paper's authors, "we describe the success of bringing Creative Computation via Processing into two very different high schools...providing a catalyst for significant increases in total enrollment as well as female participation in high school computer science." One of the two schools that participated in the National Science Foundation-supported project — see NSF awards 1323305 & 1323463 for Creative Computation in the Context of Art and Visual Media — was Sidwell Friends School, which a 2013 SMU news release on the three-year, $500K NSF grant noted was best known as the school attended by President Obama's daughters. Interestingly, in a late-2014 interview, the President lamented that his daughters hadn't taken to coding the way he'd like, adding that "part of what's happening is that we are not helping schools and teachers teach it in an interesting way." Hey, nothing that a $4B 'Computer Science For All' K-12 Program can't fix, right?

The Case Against Algebra 908

HughPickens.com writes: Dana Goldstein writes at Slate that political scientist Andrew Hacker proposes replacing algebra II and calculus in the high school and college with a practical course in statistics for citizenship. According to Hacker, only mathematicians and some engineers actually use advanced math in their day-to-day work and even the doctors, accountants, and coders of the future shouldn't have to master abstract math that they'll never need. For many math is often an impenetrable barrier to academic success. Algebra II, which includes polynomials and logarithms, and is required by the new Common Core curriculum standards used by 47 states and territories, drives dropouts at both the high school and college levels. Hacker's central argument is that advanced mathematics requirements, like algebra, trigonometry and calculus, are "a harsh and senseless hurdle" keeping far too many Americans from completing their educations and leading productive lives. "We are really destroying a tremendous amount of talent—people who could be talented in sports writing or being an emergency medical technician, but can't even get a community college degree," says Hacker. "I regard this math requirement as highly irrational." According to Hacker many of those who struggled through a traditional math regimen feel that doing so annealed their character while critics says that mathematics is used as a hoop, a badge, a totem to impress outsiders and elevate a profession's status. "It's not hard to understand why Caltech and M.I.T. want everyone to be proficient in mathematics. But it's not easy to see why potential poets and philosophers face a lofty mathematics bar. Demanding algebra across the board actually skews a student body, not necessarily for the better."
Programming

Drag-and-Drop "CS" Tutorials: the Emperor's New Code? 158

theodp writes: Teaching kids computer science is a great movement," writes HS senior David Yue, "however, to overly dilute the magnitude of the difficulty in regards to the subject area of coding and to create the illusion of mastering a 'superpower' (Code.org) is a huge mistake. There are many videos and articles on the Internet these days that have demonstrated positive support towards computer science education. Below these articles, one can find many comments, left mostly by parents and supporters. These people usually express how proud they are that their children have an opportunity to learn computer science or how proud they are that computer science is being integrated at a more substantial level into the education system." But Drag and Drop Doesn't = Coding, argues Yue. "Parents and teachers today who aren't technical need to be aware that the drag and drop code or the candy-coated learning process does not effectively teach children programming but eventually causes a huge amount of shock once they are immersed in real code." Yue's Emperor's-New-Code warning comes days before President Obama — a graduate of Code.org's drag-and-drop Disney Princess coding tutorial — asks Congress for $4-billion-and-change in the upcoming budget to fund his "Computer Science for All" K-12 initiative.
Medicine

Twins Study Finds No Evidence That Marijuana Lowers IQ In Teens (sciencemag.org) 307

sciencehabit writes: Roughly half of Americans use marijuana at some point in their lives, and many start as teenagers. Although some studies suggest the drug could harm the maturing adolescent brain, the true risk is controversial. Now, in the first study of its kind (abstract), scientists have analyzed long-term marijuana use in teens, comparing IQ changes in twin siblings who either used or abstained from marijuana for 10 years. After taking environmental factors into account, the scientists found no measurable link between marijuana use and lower IQ.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Google Calls Out EFF Over Claims That It Snoops On Students With Chromebooks (hothardware.com) 100

MojoKid writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) caused quite a stir this week when it alleged that Google is using its Chromebook platform, which has made a significant impact in education markets, to snoop on students. The charges were damning, with the EFF claiming that Google was violating its own corporate policies and using students' personally identifiable browsing data/habits to refine its services, in addition to sharing that data with partners. Obviously, Google would take such allegations seriously, and has thus responded to every claim brought forth by the EFF. "While we appreciate the EFF's focus on student data privacy, we are confident that our tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge..." said Jonathan Rochelle, the Director of Google Apps for Education. With respect to Google Apps for Education Core Services (GAFE), Rochelle asserts that all student data stored is "only used to provide the services themselves" and that student data isn't used for advertising purposes, nor are ads served to students. Rochelle also explains that personally identifiable data of students is removed, and only aggregated data of its millions of users is utilized to help improve its services.
Transportation

Rookie Dongle Warns Parents When Their Kids Are Driving Too Fast (thestack.com) 153

An anonymous reader writes: Dongle Apps, a Belgian tech company, has introduced a new system which alerts a car owner if the vehicle's driver is breaking the speed limit. Initially designed for parents and guardians to keep an eye on their young ones behind the wheel, the 'Rookie Dongle', connects to the vehicle's on-board diagnostics (OBD II) port, internal GPS and mobile technologies to push real-time data to the cloud and send notifications to car owners via email or text when the driver is speeding, suddenly accelerates, brakes hard or has high RPM levels.
Education

4 Calif. Students Arrested For Alleged Mass-Killing Plot 452

The New York Times reports that four high school students in the small California town of Tuolumne, about 120 miles east of San Francisco, have been arrested, but not yet charged, for planning an attack on their school, Summerville High School. According to the Times, three of the four were overheard discussing this plot, and a fourth conspirator was later identified. Their goal, according to Toulumne sheriff James Mele, was "to shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus"; they had not however been able yet to obtain the weapons they wanted to carry out the attack. From NBC News' version of the story: "Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School," Mele said. "The suspects' plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out."
Crime

Harshest Penalty for Alleged Rapist Was For Using a Computer To Arrange Contact With Teen 265

An anonymous reader writes: Today in a nationally publicized case, an alleged rapist from a fairly elite boarding school was convicted of a number of related misdemeanors, but the jury did not find him guilty of rape. According to the New York Times, his lone felony conviction was "using a computer to lure a minor." In effect, a criminal was convicted of multiple misdemeanors, including sexual penetration of a child, but the biggest penalty he faces is a felony record and years in jail because he used a computer to contact the child, rather than picking her up at a coffee shop, meeting her at a party, or hiring a fifteen-year-old prostitute. Prosecutors have these "using a computer" charges as an additional quiver in their bow, but should we really be making it a felony to use a computer for non-computer-related crime when there is no underlying felony conviction?
Space

A Real-Time Map of All the Objects In Earth's Orbit 41

rastos1 writes: It started as a passion project in April for 18-year-old James Yoder, an alum of FIRST Robotics, the high school robotics competition. He wanted to learn more about 3D graphics programming and WebGL, a JavaScript API. It's stuffin.space, a real-time, 3D-visualized map of all objects looping around Earth, from satellites to orbital trash. In total, stuffin.space tracks 150,000 objects. Type in a satellite name to scope out its altitude, figure out its age, group satellites by type, and so on.
Education

AP CS Test Takers and Pass Rates Up, Half of Kids Don't Get Sparse Arrays At All 128

theodp writes: Each June, the College Board tweets out teasers of the fuller breakouts of its Advanced Placement (AP) test results, which aren't made available until the fall. So, here's a roundup of this year's AP Computer Science tweetstorm: 1. "Wow — massive gains in AP Computer Science participation (25% growth) AND scores this year; big increase in % of students earning 4s & 5s!" 2. "2015 AP Computer Science scores: 5: 24.4%; 4: 24.6%; 3: 15.3%; 2: 7.1%; 1: 28.6%." [3 or above is passing] 3."Count them: a whopping 66 AP Computer Science students out of 50,000 worldwide earned all 80 pts possible on this year's exam." 4. "Remember that AP exam standards are equated from year to year, so when scores go up, it's a direct indication of increased student mastery." 5. "Many AP Computer Science students did very well on Q1 (2D array processing–diverse array); >20% earned all 9/9 pts" [2015 AP CS A Free-Response Questions] 6. "The major gap in this year's AP Computer Sci classrooms seems to be array list processing; Q3 (sparse array): 47% of students got 0/9 pts."
Medicine

Students Win Prize For Color-Changing Condoms That Detect STDs 171

New submitter PJ6 writes: Three students attending the Isaac Newton Academy in the UK won the Healthcare Category of the Teen Tech Awards, for their idea to use antibodies to create color-changing condoms to recognize STDs. They say the material, which is still in the concept stage, will turn green for chlamydia, yellow for herpes, purple for HPV, and blue for syphilis. The BBC reports: "The boys said they still have to test the science and feasibility of their idea. They want to work with a university on the science and say they've already been contacted by a condom company which is interested in working with them on developing the concept further."
Education

Video Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 1) 37

Starcoder, says the project's Kickstarter page, "is a multiplayer online space action game that teaches kids coding as they play." Their page also points out that it's easier to learn as a group than it is to learn alone. The Starcoder Kickstarter project has collected $3221 at this writing, out of a $4000 goal, and they have until June 17 to come up with the rest. So please take a look at Starcoder, see how it works and why it is unquestionably a more interesting way to learn programming basics than the traditional "highly theoretical and (frankly) boring manner."

Starcoder starts with Blockly. Then, as students advance to higher game levels, moves to JavaScript. Yes, there are levels. Also competitive play, since Starcoder is a massively multiplayer online game. In fact, a big reason for the Kickstarter project is to expand server capability so that kids can play from home, not just in school or during after-school computer classes. One more thing to note: The Win2Learn team behind Starcoders is composed of professional educators and designers. They've been working on STEM education for a while. Want to see some of the thinking behind Starcoder? They have some video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a good look at how it's played. Does it sound good? Do you want more kids to have access to an ever-improving Starcoder? Then you know what to do. (Note: This is video 1 of 2. The second one will run tomorrow. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)
Communications

Orange County Public Schools To Monitor Students On Social Media 166

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Orange County, Florida, is undertaking a sweeping effort to snoop on the social media communications of the county's public school students and staff, for the nebulous task of "[ensuring] safe school operations," and say they will use the software (at a license cost of about $13,000 per year) "to conduct routine monitoring for purposes of prevention or early intervention of potential issues where students or staff could be at risk to themselves or to others." The software they're using is from Snaptrends, which offers "location-based social media discovery." According to one of the comments attached to the linked story, there are monthly fees, in addition to the annual licensing cost.
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now? 302

heybiff writes: During summer months I deliver brief tech workshops to high school students as part of an enrichment program. Almost all of the students are average students pulled from non-magnet comprehensive high schools throughout our city. Make no mistake — these are not the students who have a love of technology and coding; many were coerced by excited parents or guidance counselors. After doing this for almost 10 years, I have found students have become considerably more comfortable with technology, and confident in their use, especially with smartphones and tablets being ubiquitous. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of basic knowledge and tech skills all but nonexistent. Moreover, students seem unaware that the tech they use daily even has any usefulness for academic activities. So what I put to you fellow Slashdotters is: What do students today realistically have to know to be successful in school? Which tech skills are still important and necessary, and which are gone the way of the typewriter? What misconceptions or outright lies have become so ingrained in young people's use of technology that they need to be addressed? Finally, the program puts laptops in students' hands, to give them a kickstart in being successful; what skills do they need to get the most out of the new hardware they were just given?

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