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theodp writes: In a NY Times Op Ed, developmental psychologist Susan Pinker goes against the conventional White House wisdom about the importance of Internet connectivity for schoolchildren and instead argues that students can have too much tech. "More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea," Pinker writes. "But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it." Tech can help the progress of children, Pinker acknowledges, but proper use is the rub. As a cautionary tale, Pinker cites a study by Duke economists that tracked the academic progress of nearly one million disadvantaged middle-school students against the dates they were given networked computers. The news was not good. "Students who gain access to a home computer between the 5th and 8th grades tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math scores," the economists wrote, adding that license to surf the Internet was also linked to lower grades in younger children.
175 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: I volunteer at a inner-city community after school program focused K-8th grade. Right now, due to the volunteer demographic, we spend most of our activity time in arts and crafts and homework. The 5th-8th students are getting restless with those activities. I've been asked to spice it up with some electrical wizardry. What I'd like to do is introduce the students to basic jobs skills through computers. My thoughts are that I could conduct some simple hands-on experiments with circuits, and maybe some bread boards. Ultimately, we're going to take apart a computer and put it back together. How successful this project is will dictate whether or not we will go into programming. However, whatever we do, I want the kids to obtain marketable skills. Anyone know of a curriculum I can follow? What experiences have you had with various educational computing projects?
169 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes Charles Hard Townes, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser and subsequently pioneered the use of lasers in astronomy, died early Tuesday in Oakland. He was 99. "Charlie was a cornerstone of the Space Sciences Laboratory for almost 50 years,” said Stuart Bale, director of the lab and a UC Berkeley professor of physics. “He trained a great number of excellent students in experimental astrophysics and pioneered a program to develop interferometry at short wavelengths. He was a truly inspiring man and a nice guy. We’ll miss him.”
73 comments | 4 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: There has been a furious effort over the past few years to bring the teaching of programming into the core academic curricula. Enthusiasts have been quick to take up the motto: "Coding is the new literacy!" But long-time developer Chris Granger argues that this is not the case: "When we say that coding is the new literacy, we're arguing that wielding a pencil and paper is the old one. Coding, like writing, is a mechanical act. All we've done is upgrade the storage medium. ... Reading and writing gave us external and distributable storage. Coding gives us external and distributable computation. It allows us to offload the thinking we have to do in order to execute some process. To achieve this, it seems like all we need is to show people how to give the computer instructions, but that's teaching people how to put words on the page. We need the equivalent of composition, the skill that allows us to think about how things are computed."
He further suggests that if anything, the "new" literacy should be modeling — the ability to create a representation of a system that can be explored or used. "Defining a system or process requires breaking it down into pieces and defining those, which can then be broken down further. It is a process that helps acknowledge and remove ambiguity and it is the most important aspect of teaching people to model. In breaking parts down we can take something overwhelmingly complex and frame it in terms that we understand and actions we know how to do."
211 comments | 5 days ago
An anonymous reader writes In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, (in)famous computer security researcher Ed Felten responds to the State of the Union cybersecurity proposal. He doesn't mince words: "The odds of clearing Congress: low. The odds of materially improving security: even lower. "What he suggests as an alternative, though, is a surprise. "California," he writes, "could blaze a trail for effective cybersecurity policy." He calls for the state government to protect critical infrastructure and sensitive data, relying on outside auditors and experts. It's an interesting idea. Even if it doesn't go anywhere, at least it's some fresh thinking in this area of backward policy. From Felten's essay: Critical infrastructure increasingly relies on industrial automation systems. And those systems are often vulnerable – they keep a default password, for instance, or are accessible from the public Internet. These are not subtle or sophisticated errors. Fixing them requires basic due diligence, not rocket science. Requiring the state’s critical infrastructure providers to undergo regular security audits would be straightforward and inexpensive – especially relative to the enormous risks. Areas of sensitive data are also low-hanging cyber fruit. In health care, education and finance, California already imposes security and privacy requirements that go beyond federal law. Those legal mandates, though, are mostly enforced through after-the-fact penalties. Much like critical infrastructure, sectors that rely upon sensitive data would benefit from periodic outside auditing. Of any state government's, California's policies also have the chance to help (or harm) the most people: nearly 39 million people, according to a 2014 U.S. Census estimate.
80 comments | about a week ago
theodp writes Maybe Bill Gates' Summer Reading this year will include The Art of R Programming. Pushing further into Big Data, Microsoft on Friday announced it's buying Revolution Analytics, the top commercial provider of software and services for the open-source R programming language for statistical computing and predictive analytics. "By leveraging Revolution Analytics technology and services," blogged Microsoft's Joseph Sirosh, "we will empower enterprises, R developers and data scientists to more easily and cost effectively build applications and analytics solutions at scale." Revolution Analytics' David Smith added, "Now, Microsoft might seem like a strange bedfellow for an open-source company [RedHat:Linux as Revolution Analytics:R], but the company continues to make great strides in the open-source arena recently." Now that it has Microsoft's blessing, is it finally time for AP Statistics to switch its computational vehicle to R?
105 comments | about a week ago
dcblogs (1096431) writes The Senate's two top Republican critics of temporary worker immigration, specifically the H-1B and L-1 visas, now hold the two most important immigration posts in the Senate. They are Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and his committee underling, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was appointed by Grassley on Thursday to head the immigration subcommittee. Sessions was appointed one week after accusing the tech industry of perpetuating a "hoax" by claiming there is a shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers. "The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas — such as the H-1B — and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," wrote Sessions, in a memo he sent last week to fellow lawmakers. Sessions, late Thursday, issued a statement about his new role as immigration subcommittee chairman, and said the committee "will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out," and that includes "the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers."
512 comments | about two weeks ago
derekmead writes: School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules. The law (PDF), which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state's school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours. A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords.
323 comments | about two weeks ago
theodp writes ICT/Computing teacher Ben Gristwood justifies his choice of Visual Basic as a programming language (as a gateway to other languages), sharing an email he sent to a parent who suggested VB was not as 'useful' as Python. "I understand the popularity at the moment of the Python," Gristwood wrote, "however this language is also based on the C language. When it comes to more complex constructs Python cannot do them and I would be forced to rely on C (which is incredibly complex for a junior developer) VB acts as the transition between the two and introduces the concepts without the difficult conventions required. Students in Python are not required to do things such as declare variables, which is something that is required for GCSE and A-Level exams." Since AP Computer Science debuted in 1984, it has transitioned from Pascal to C++ to Java. For the new AP Computer Science Principles course, which will debut in 2016, the College Board is leaving the choice of programming language(s) up to the teachers. So, if it was your call, what would be your choice for the Best Programming Language for High School?
648 comments | about two weeks ago
theodp writes Some of the world's leading Data Scientists are on the payrolls of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple. So, it'd be interesting to get their take on the infographics the tech giants have passed off as diversity data disclosures. Microsoft, for example, reported its workforce is 29% female, which isn't great, but if one takes the trouble to run the numbers on a linked EEO-1 filing snippet (PDF), some things look even worse. For example, only 23.35% of its reported white U.S. employee workforce is female (Microsoft, like Google, footnotes that "Gender data are global, ethnicity data are US only"). And while Google and Facebook blame their companies' lack of diversity on the demographics of U.S. computer science grads, CS grad and nationality breakouts were not provided as part of their diversity disclosures. Also, the EEOC notes that EEO-1 numbers reflect "any individual on the payroll of an employer who is an employee for purposes of the employers withholding of Social Security taxes," further muddying the disclosures of companies relying on imported talent, like H-1B visa dependent Facebook. So, were the diversity disclosure mea culpas less about providing meaningful data for analysis, and more about deflecting criticism and convincing lawmakers there's a need for education and immigration legislation (aka Microsoft's National Talent Strategy) that's in tech's interest?
335 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes The WaPo reports that Danielle and Alexander Meitiv in Montgomery County Maryland say they are being investigated for neglect after letting their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter make a one-mile walk home from a Silver Spring park on Georgia Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. "We wouldn't have let them do it if we didn't think they were ready for it," says Danielle. The Meitivs say they believe in "free-range" parenting, a movement that has been a counterpoint to the hyper-vigilance of "helicopter" parenting, with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices and venture out in the world. "The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood," says Danielle. "I think it's absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency."
On December 20, Alexander agreed to let the children walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well. Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them. Alexander said he had a tense time with police when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world. The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services which showed up a couple of hours later. Although Child Protective Services could not address this specific case they did point to Maryland law, which defines child neglect as failure to provide proper care and supervision of a child. "I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing," says Alexander. "We feel we're being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with."
784 comments | about two weeks ago
sciencehabit writes Certain scientific fields require a special type of brilliance, according to conventional wisdom. And a new study suggests that this belief, as misguided as it may be, helps explain the underrepresentation of women in those fields. The authors found that fields in which inborn ability is prized over hard work produced relatively fewer female Ph.D.s. This trend, based on 2011 data from the National Science Foundation's Survey of Earned Doctorates, also helps explain why gender ratios don't follow the simplified STEM/non-STEM divide in some fields, including philosophy and biology, they conclude.
218 comments | about two weeks ago
Bennett Haselton writes: They would never admit it, but your high school admins would probably breathe a sigh of relief if all of their sexting-mad students would go ahead and install Snapchat so that evidence of (sometimes) illegal sexting would disappear into the ether. They can't recommend that you do this, because it would sound like an implicit endorsement, just like they can't recommend designated drivers for teen drinking parties -- but it's a good bet they would be grateful. Read on for the rest.
157 comments | about two weeks ago
Jason Koebler writes Later this month, the Washington DC Public Library will teach residents how to use Tor as part of a 10 day series designed to shed light on government surveillance, transparency, and personal privacy. The series is called "Orwellian America," and it's quite subversive, considering that it's being held by a publicly funded entity mere minutes from a Congress and administration that allowed the NSA's surveillance programs to spin wildly out of control.
81 comments | about two weeks ago
dcblogs writes New legislation being pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to hike the H-1B visa cap is drawing criticism and warnings that it will lead to an increase in offshoring of tech jobs. IEEE-USA said the legislation, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday, will "help destroy" the U.S. tech workforce with guest workers. Other critics, including Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and a leading researcher on the issue, said the bill gives the tech industry "a huge increase in the supply of lower-cost foreign guest workers so they can undercut and replace American workers." Hira said this bill "will result in an exponential rise of American jobs being shipped overseas." Technically, the bill is a reintroduction of the earlier "I-Square" bill, but it includes enough revisions to be considered new. It increases the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 (instead of an earlier 300,000 cap), and eliminates the cap on people who earn an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, education and math) field. Hatch, who is the No. 2 ranking senator in the GOP-controlled chamber, was joined by co-sponsors Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in backing the legislation."
484 comments | about two weeks ago
mikejuk (1801200) writes A survey of UK schools carried out by Microsoft and Computing at School reveals some worrying statistics that are probably more widely applicable. The survey revealed that (68%) of primary and secondary teachers are concerned that their pupils have a better understanding of computing than they do. Moreover, the pupils reinforced this finding with 47% claiming that their teachers need more training. Again to push the point home, 41% of pupils admitted to regularly helping their teachers with technology. This isn't all due to the teachers being new at the task — 76% had taught computing before the new curriculum was introduced. It seems that switching from an approach that emphasised computer literacy to one that actually wants students to do more difficult things is the reason for the problem.
388 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes "Guateng province — which is home to Johannesburg and Pretoria and is the richest state in sub-Saharan Africa — has just kicked off a pilot project to replace textbooks with tablets in seven government schools. If successful, the project will be extended to all 44 000 schools in the area. It's all been put together in a hurry — the local minister for education announced it in a media interview less than a year ago and details have never been made fully public, but he's hoping it will be an end to 'Irish Coffee' education in which rich white students float to the top." From the article: The classroom of the future being piloted is modelled on the system that’s been in use at Sunward Park High School in Boksburg for the two years. That former “model C” was the first state school in South Africa to go textbook free, and has pioneered the use of tablets in public education here. ... As with Sunward Park, the schools in this new pilot will be using a centralised portal developed by Bramley’s MIB Software for managing tablets and aggregating educational content into a single portal. MIB’s backend pulls in CAPS aligned digital textbooks from the likes of Via Afrika as well as extra resources from around the web. Content from Wikipedia, the BBC, the complete works of Shakespeare and Khan Academy is all cached locally for teachers to reference during lessons and pupils to use for self-directed study and research.
66 comments | about three weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Anna North writes in the NYT that self-control, curiosity, and "grit" may seem more personal than academic, but at some schools, they're now part of the regular curriculum. Some researchers say personality could be even more important than intelligence when it comes to students' success in school. "We probably need to start rethinking our emphasis on intelligence," says Arthur E. Poropat citing research that shows that both conscientiousness and openness are more highly correlated with student performance than intelligence. "This isn't to say that we should throw intelligence out, but we need to pull back on thinking that this is the only game in town." The KIPP network of charter schools emphasizes grit along with six other "character strengths," including self-control and curiosity. "We talk a lot about them as being skills or strengths, not necessarily traits, because it's not innate," says Leyla Bravo-Willey. "If a child happens to be very gritty but has trouble participating in class, we still want them to develop that part of themselves."
But the focus on character has encountered criticism. "To begin with, not everything is worth doing, let alone doing for extended periods, and not everyone who works hard is pursuing something worthwhile" says Alfie Kohn. "On closer inspection, the concept of grit turns out to be dubious, as does the evidence cited to support it. Persistence can actually backfire and distract from more important goals." There's other evidence that grit isn't always desirable. Gritty people sometimes exhibit what psychologists call "nonproductive persistence": They try, try again, says Dean MacFarlin though the result may be either unremitting failure or "a costly or inefficient success that could have been easily surpassed by alternative courses of action."
249 comments | about three weeks ago
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Chicago City of Learning, children are asked to join the CPS Connects initiative and instructed to provide their Chicago Public School (CPS) student ID to "connect your learning experiences in your school and around the city". Doing so, explains the website, will allow kids to "earn digital badges that unlock new, related opportunities and can give access to live learning experiences throughout Chicago from program partners," which will serve as "an indicator of achievement to colleges and employers." The initiative aims to "get 80% of all 3rd-12th grade students to claim their accounts by January 30th." Before you scoff at the idea that a child's future could depend on his or her Digital Badge collection, consider that the supporters helping government make it happen include the MacArthur Foundation, Gates Foundation, and Mozilla, and a number of business and education partners have made public pledges committing to help accelerate the spread and scale of digital badges for learning. Digital badge-based employment has also earned a thumbs-up from the White House. It's unclear, but might make sense that Chicago kids' digital badges will be collected and shared in the citywide data warehouse being built by the 'cradle-to-career' Thrive Chicago initiative, which is working with the Mayor's Office and CPS to develop a "data system that integrates data from multiple partner agencies, links program participation data to other youth data, and provides a web interface where partner agencies can access youth data targeted on improving youth outcomes at the individual and aggregate levels." After all, the data collected will include "student demographics, school attendance, grades, student behavior, out of school time program participation, and progress to graduation." Not only that, Thrive Chicago's Leadership Council includes the interim President of the MacArthur Foundation (as well as Microsoft and IBM employees)." Update: 01/12 15:52 GMT by T : An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the MacArthur Foundation, which has now been corrected.
46 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes with news about a White House proposal that would provide 2 years of free community college for good students."President Barack Obama announced a proposal Thursday to provide two years of free community college tuition to American students who maintain good grades. 'Put simply, what I'd like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everyone who's willing to work for it,' Obama said in a video filmed Wednesday aboard Air Force One and posted to Facebook. He made the announcement as part of his pre-State of the Union tour and will formally lay out the proposal Friday in a speech in Tennessee. The White House estimated it would save the average community college student $3,800 annually and said it could benefit nine million if fully realized."
703 comments | about three weeks ago