Programming

Google's Diversity Chief: Mamas Don't Let Their Baby Girls Grow Up To Be Coders 354

Posted by samzenpus
from the starts-at-home dept.
theodp writes: Explaining the reasons for its less-than-diverse tech workforce, Google fingered bad parenting for its lack of women techies. From the interview with Google Director of Diversity and Inclusion Nancy Lee: "Q. What explains the drop [since 1984] in women studying computer science? A. We commissioned original research that revealed it's primarily parents' encouragement, and perception and access. Parents don't see their young girls as wanting to pursue computer science and don't steer them in that direction. There's this perception that coding and computer science is ... a 'brogrammer' culture for boys, for games, for competition. There hasn't been enough emphasis on the power computing has in achieving social impact. That's what girls are interested in. They want to do things that matter." While scant on details, the Google study's charts appear to show that, overall, fathers encourage young women to study CS more than mothers. Google feels that reeducation is necessary. "Outreach programs," advises Google, "should include a parent education component, so that parents learn how to actively encourage their daughters."
News

Al-Qaeda's Job Application Form Revealed 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-a-job dept.
HughPickens.com writes: ABC News reports that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released a list of English-language material recovered during the raid the killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 including one document dubbed "Instructions to Applicants," that would not be entirely out of place for an entry-level position at any American company – except for questions like the one about the applicant's willingness to blow themselves up. The questionnaire includes basic personal details, family history, marital status, and education level. It asks that applicants "answer the required information accurately and truthfully" and, "Please write clearly and legibly." Questions include: Is the applicant expert in chemistry, communications or any other field? Do they have a family member in the government who would cooperate with al Qaeda? Have they received any military training? Finally, it asks what the would-be jihadist would like to accomplish and, "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?" For the final question, the application asks would-be killers that if they were to become martyrs, who should al Qaeda contact?

The corporate tone of the application is jarringly amusing, writes Amanda Taub, but it also hints at a larger truth: a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda is a large bureaucratic organization, albeit one in the "business" of mass-murdering innocent people. Jon Sopel, the North American editor from BBC News, joked that the application "looks like it has been written by someone who has spent too long working for Deloitte or Accenture, but bureaucracy exists in every walk of life – so why not on the path to violent jihad?"
Education

Google and Gates-Backed Khan Academy Introduces "Grit"-Based Classroom Funding 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the effort-counts dept.
theodp writes: Their intentions are no doubt good, but some will be troubled by Google and Khan Academy's recently-concluded LearnStorm initiative, which pitted kids-against-kids, schools-against-schools, and cities-against-cities in a 3-month learning challenge for prizes based not only on students' mastery of math skills on Khan Academy, but also their perceived 'hustle' (aka 'grit'). "Points are earned by mastering math skills and also for taking on challenging new concepts and persevering," explained a Khan Academy FAQ. A blog entry further explained, "They've earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing 'hustle,' a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Google.org, DonorsChoose.org, and Comcast's Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy." Apparently funded by a $2 million Google grant, the Google, Khan Academy, and DonorsChoose grit-based classroom funding comes on the heels of the same organizations' gender-based classroom funding initiative. Supported by some of the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, Khan Academy's Board members include a Google Board member (Diane Green), spouse of a Google Board member (Ann Doerr), and the Managing Partner of Bill Gates' bgC3 (Larry Cohen); former Board members include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Programming

Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career? 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-gateway-to-doritos dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Want more people to program? Encourage them to play more video games, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an online Q&A, Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers. "I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do," he told the audience. "I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn't played games as a kid." A handful of games, most notably Minecraft, already have a reputation for encouraging kids to not only think analytically, but also modify the gaming environment — the first steps toward actually wrestling with code. Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?
Education

Student Photographer Threatened With Suspension For Sports Photos 377

Posted by timothy
from the you-belong-to-the-state dept.
sandbagger writes: Anthony Mazur is a senior at Flower Mound High School in Texas who photographed school sports games and other events. Naturally he posted them on line. A few days ago he was summoned to the principal's office and threatened with a suspension and 'reporting to the IRS' if he didn't take those 4000 photos down. Reportedly, the principal's rationale was that the school has copyright on the images and not him.
Perl

Ask Slashdot: Career Advice For an Aging Perl Developer? 267

Posted by timothy
from the by-the-time-you-read-this-you're-even-older dept.
New submitter ukrifleman writes: I've been doing UK based perl, JS, light PHP and JQUERY dev plus Centos/Debian sys admin on a freelance basis for over a decade now. Mostly maintaining older stuff but I also undertook a big, 3 year bespoke project (all written in legacy non OO perl). The trouble is, that contract has now finished and all the legacy work has dried out and I've only got about 2 months of income left! I need to get a full time job.

To most dev firms I'm going to look like a bit of a dinosaur, 40 odd years old, knows little of OO coding OR modern languages and aproaches to projects. I can write other languages and, with a bit of practice I'll pick them up pretty quickly. I really don't know where to start. What's hot, what's worth learning, I'm self-taught so have no CS degree, just 15 years of dev and sys admin experience. I've got a bit of team and project management experience too it's quite a worry going up against young whipper snappers that know all the buzz words and modern tech!

Am I better off trying to get a junior job to start so I can catch up with some tech? Would I be better off trawling the thousands of job sites or finding a bonafide IT specialist recruitment firm? Should I take the brutally honest approach to my CV/interviews or just wing it and hope I don't bite off more than I can chew? What kind of learning curve could I expect if I took on a new language I have no experience with? Are there any qualififcations that I NEED to have before firms would be willing to take me on? I've been sitting here at this desk for 10 years typing away and only now do I realise that I've stagnated to the point where I may well be obsolete!
Education

Learn About The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools Program (Video #2) 11

Posted by Roblimo
from the how-can-you-be-in-four-places-at-once-when-you're-not-anywhere-at-all? dept.
Quoting our intro from yesterday's 'Part One' video: 'The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools program (TEALS to its friends), started with one volunteer, a Berkeley CS grad named Kevin Wang who taught high school for a while, then went to Microsoft for a much higher salary than he got from teaching. But before long, he was getting up early and teaching a first period computer science class at a Seattle-area high school that was (sort of) on his way to work.'

TEALS is now in 130 high schools and has 475 volunteers in multiple states but still has a long way to go (and needs to recruit many more volunteers) because, Kevin says, fewer than 1% of American high school students are exposed to computer science, even though "Computer science is now fundamental in these kids' lives." He doesn't expect everyone who takes a TEALS class to become a computer person any more than chemistry teachers expect all their students to become chemists. You might say that learning a little about how computers and networks work is like knowing how to change a car tire and cook a simple meal: skills that make life easier even for people who don't want to become mechanics or cooks.
Education

AP Computer Science Education Scalability: Advantage, Rupert Murdoch? 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the teaching-the-next-generation-of-voicemail-hackers dept.
theodp writes: Code.org's AP Computer Science offering won't be going mainstream until the 2016-2017 school year. In the meantime, NewsWorks' Avi Wolfman-Arent reports that Rupert Murdoch's Amplify MOOC just wrapped up its second year of offering AP Computer Science A. And unlike Microsoft TEALS, Google CS First, and Code.org — programs constrained by the number of volunteers, teacher and classroom availability, professional development requirements, and money — Murdoch's AP CS MOOC holds the promise of open-access, unlimited-enrollment, learn-anywhere-and-anytime classes, a la Coursera, Udacity and EdX. So, did Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and their leaders place a $30 million bet on the wrong horse when it comes to AP Computer Science scalability? And, even if they've got a more scalable model, will Murdoch's Amplify and schools be willing to deal with higher MOOC failure rates, and allow large numbers of students to try — and possibly drop or fail — AP CS without economic or academic consequences?
Encryption

Australian Law Could Criminalize the Teaching of Encryption 205

Posted by Soulskill
from the technophobes-writing-laws dept.
New submitter petherfile writes: According to Daniel Mathews, new laws passed in Australia (but not yet in effect) could criminalize the teaching of encryption. He explains how a ridiculously broad law could effectively make any encryption stronger than 512 bits criminal if your client is not Australian. He says, "In short, the DSGL casts an extremely wide net, potentially catching open source privacy software, information security research and education, and the entire computer security industry in its snare. Most ridiculous, though, are some badly flawed technicalities. As I have argued before, the specifications are so imprecise that they potentially include a little algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, then division has become a potential weapon, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it."
Education

Learn About The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools Program (Video) 17

Posted by Roblimo
from the computer-science-for-the-high-school-masses dept.
The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools program (TEALS to its friends) started with one volunteer, a Berkeley CS grad named Kevin Wang who taught high school for a while, then went to Microsoft for a much higher salary than he got from teaching. But before long, he was getting up early and teaching a first period computer science class at a Seattle-area high school that was (sort of) on his way to work. Then some other local high schools came to him and wanted similar programs. Kevin's a smart guy, but not smart enough to be in four places at once, so he recruited coworkers to join him as volunteer computer science educators. Today (as this is being written) TEALS is in 130 high schools and has 475 volunteers in multiple states. Kevin works full time on the program, sponsored by Microsoft, but 78% of the volunteers now come from other companies.

TEALS has stuck with Kevin's original 1st period (usually somewhere between 7:30 and 9:30) schedule not just because it's convenient for many of the volunteers, but because (contrary to teen-nerd stereotypes) 60% of their students are in after-school sports and 20% are in band. The program is growing steadily and they're looking for more volunteers. We'll have another video with Kevin tomorrow, and that's when the transcript of both videos will appear. Meanwhile, you can read the TEALS FAQ and see how you might fit in with this group or one of many other similar ones either as a volunteer, as a student or as a teacher or school administrator interested in giving your students at least a basic grounding in Computer Science. (Coincidentally, today's 'Ask Slashdot' is about tech skills for HS students -- an unintentional but excellent tie-in.)
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now? 300

Posted by timothy
from the or-at-least-very-soon dept.
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?
Education

Microsoft To Teachers: Using Pens and Paper Not Fair To Students 387

Posted by samzenpus
from the are-books-still-allowed? dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes: Pens and paper have no place in the modern classroom, according to Lia De Cicco Remu, director of Partners in Learning at Microsoft Canada. "When was the last time you used a piece of chalk to express yourself?" De Cicco Remu, a former teacher, asked the Georgia Straight by phone from Toronto. "Kids don't express themselves with chalk or in cursive. Kids text." Given the Microsoft Study Finds Technology Hurting Attention Spans story posted to Slashdot in the last few days it would seem that Redmond's Marketing and R&D people are at cross-purposes.
Education

Schools That Ban Mobile Phones See Better Academic Results 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-thing-down dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced (PDF). It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."
Businesses

Gates, Zuckerberg Promising Same Jobs To US Kids and Foreign H-1B Workers? 249

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-a-job-and-you-get-a-job-and-you-get-a-job dept.
theodp writes: Over at the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-bankrolled Code.org, they're using the number of open computing jobs in each state to convince parents of the need to expand K-12 CS offerings so their kids can fill those jobs. Sounds good, right? But at the same time, the Gates and Zuckerberg-bankrolled FWD.org PAC has taken to Twitter, using the number of open "STEM" jobs in each state to convince politicians of the need to expand the number of H-1B visas so foreign workers can fill those jobs. While the goal of Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy is to kill two birds [K-12 CS education and H-1B visas] with one crisis, is it fair for organizations backed by many of the same wealthy individuals to essentially promise the same jobs to U.S. kids and foreign H-1B workers?
Education

Harvard Hit With Racial Bias Complaint 529

Posted by Soulskill
from the standardizing-the-admissions-voodoo dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A coalition of 64 organizations filed a complaint against Harvard on Friday alleging the university discriminates against Asian-American applicants hoping to attend classes there. "Many studies have indicated that Harvard University has been engaged in systemic and continuous discrimination against Asian-Americans during its very subjective 'Holistic' college admissions process." One such study shows Asian-Americans had to score an average of 140 points higher than white students on their SAT test to have an equal chance of getting in. The complaint seeks a federal investigation and demands Harvard "immediately cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluating Asian-American applicants."
Education

College Board Puts Code.org In Charge of AP CS Program 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the must-pass-recruitment-test dept.
theodp writes: "The College Board," reports GeekWire, "is endorsing Code.org as a coursework and teacher training provider for its upcoming AP Computer Science Principles course and will help Code.org fund the teacher training work required to establish new computer science classes." So what's the catch? "Schools that commit to using the [new] PSAT [8/9 assessment] to identify middle school students who have potential for success in computer science will be eligible to receive curriculum, training, and funding for programming classes." The organization is bankrolled by some of tech's wealthiest leaders and their corporations. Code.org board member Brad Smith, Microsoft's General Counsel, proposed the idea of "producing a crisis" to advance Microsoft's "two-pronged" National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Just months thereafter, nonprofit organizations Code.org and Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us, which is lobbying for H-1B reform, were born.
Google

Academics Call For Greater Transparency About Google's Right To Be Forgotten 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the show-us-the-list dept.
Mark Wilson writes: Just yesterday Google revealed that it rejects most Right To Be Forgotten requests it receives. In publishing yet another transparency report, the search giant will have hoped to have put to bed any questions that users and critics may have had. While the report may have satisfied some, it did not go anywhere near far enough for one group of academics. A total of 80 university professors, law experts and technology professionals have written an open letter to Google demanding greater transparency. The letter calls upon the company to reveal more about how Right To Be Forgotten requests are handled so that the public is aware of the control that is being exerted over "readily accessible information."
Education

Bill Gates Still Trying To Buy Some Common Core Testing Love 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the wasn't-there-a-beatles-song-about-that dept.
theodp writes: "Bill Gates famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, implement and promote the now controversial Common Core State Standards," reports the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "He hasn't stopped giving." In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core. Strauss adds: "Gates is the leader of education philanthropy in the United States, spending a few billion dollars over more than a decade to promote school reforms that he championed, including the Common Core, a small-schools initiative in New York City that he abandoned after deciding it wasn't working, and efforts to create new teacher evaluation systems that in part use a controversial method of assessment that uses student standardized test scores to determine the 'effectiveness' of educators. Such philanthropy has sparked a debate about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour part of their fortunes into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are grounded in research — to such a degree that public policy and funding follow." If you're still on the fence about Common Core after viewing it, the Onion just came out with a nice list of the pros and cons of standardized testing that may help you decide.
Crime

SEC Charges ITT Educational Services With Fraud 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the reaping-what-you-sow dept.
mpicpp writes with news that ITT Educational Services, the company that operates for-profit college ITT Tech, has been charged with fraud over its student loan programs. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accuses the company of concealing poor financial performance from its investors. ITT formed both of these student loan programs, known as the "PEAKS" and "CUSO" programs, to provide off-balance sheet loans for ITT’s students following the collapse of the private student loan market. To induce others to finance these risky loans, ITT provided a guarantee that limited any risk of loss from the student loan pools.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the underlying loan pools had performed so abysmally by 2012 that ITT’s guarantee obligations were triggered and began to balloon. Rather than disclosing to its investors that it projected paying hundreds of millions of dollars on its guarantees, ITT and its management took a variety of actions to create the appearance that ITT’s exposure to these programs was much more limited.
Games

Psychologist: Porn and Video Game Addiction Are Leading To 'Masculinity Crisis' 950

Posted by Soulskill
from the suggests-going-outside-and-chopping-some-wood dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Philip Zimbardo is a prominent psychologist from Stanford, most notable for leading the notorious Stanford prison experiment. He has published new research findings based on the lives of 20,000 young men, and his conclusion is stark: there is a developing "masculinity crisis" caused by addiction to video games and pornography. "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation — they are alone in their room," says Zimbardo. "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward center of the brain, and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. What I'm saying is — boys' brains are becoming digitally rewired."

As an example, Zimbardo uses this quote from one young man: "When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft. When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected." Zimbardo doesn't think there's a specific time threshold at which playing video games goes from being acceptable to excessive. He says it varies by individual, and is more based on a "psychological change in mindset." To fight the problem, he suggest families need to track how much time is being spent on video games compared to other activities. "He also called for better sex education in schools — which should focus not only on biology and safety, but also on emotions, physical contact and romantic relationships."