Hour of Code Kicks Off In Chile With Dog Poop-Themed CS Tutorial 45

theodp writes: In an interesting contrast to the Disney princess-themed Hour of Code tutorial that 'taught President Obama to code' last December, Chile is kicking off its 2015 Hora del Codigo this week with a top-featured Blockly tutorial that teaches computer science by having kids drag-and-drop blocks of code to pick up dog poop. "Collect all the shit you have left your dog," reads the Google translated instructions for the final coding exercise. In its new video for the Hour of Code 2015 campaign, tech billionaire-backed notes that it's striving to reach 200 million schoolchildren worldwide by this December. Presumably towards that end, warns that it will penalize Computer Science tutorials that "work only in English."

Soon-to-Be US Ed Chief Was Almost FB CEO's Ed Chief 30

theodp writes: Before President Obama announced John B. King as his pick to replace outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is returning to Chicago, where his kids now attend a $30K-a-year private school), King was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pick to lead Zuck's failed $100 million "reform" effort of Newark's Schools. From The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?: "[Newark Mayor Cory] Booker asked [NJ Governor Chris] Christie to grant him control of the schools by fiat, but the governor demurred, offering him instead a role as unofficial partner in all decisions and policies, beginning with their joint selection of a 'superstar' superintendent to lead the charge. Booker's first choice was John King, then deputy New York State education commissioner, who had led some of the top-performing charter schools in New York City and Boston and who credited public school teachers with inspiring him to persevere after he was orphaned as a young boy in Brooklyn. [Mark] Zuckerberg and [his wife Priscilla] Chan flew King to Palo Alto for a weekend with them and [Facebook executive Sheryl] Sandberg; Christie hosted him at the governor's beach retreat on the Jersey Shore; and Booker led King and his wife, Melissa, on a tour of Newark, with stops at parks and businesses that hadn't existed before his mayoralty. But after much thought, King turned them down. Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker expected to arrive at their national model within five years. King believed it could take almost that long to change the system's fundamental procedures and to raise expectations across the city for children and schools. "John's view was that no one has achieved what they're trying to achieve: build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes," said an acquaintance who talked with King about the offer. "You'd have to invest not only a long period of time but tremendous political capital to get it done." King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office."

San Francisco Still Among Most Dangerous For Pedestrians 277

dkatana writes: The city of San Francisco averages 200 injuries per year and 30 deaths. This is almost double the number of Barcelona, Catalonia, which has about the same population. The city started a Vision Zero program, aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminate pedestrian deaths by 2024. But after a year-long Vision Zero education push called Safe Streets SF, whose key message is that pedestrians always have the right of way, the results have been modest. Now a series of banners on light poles in the South of Market neighborhood with the message: 'Slow down! We live here!' are trying to convince drivers to respect people on foot.

10 Confirmed Dead In Shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College 1139

CNN and other sources report that an attacker, now in custody, shot and killed a reported ten people, and wounded another 20, at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, about three hours south of Portland, and described by CNN as "technically a gun-free zone." Students are being evacuated to a nearby fairgrounds, and local authorities advise anyone to avoid the area of the college. Wikipedia editors are also quickly compiling information about the attack. More news on the attack is still breaking; expect updates here.

Houston's Gifted Education Program Biased Against Blacks and Latinos 444

tiberus sends an NPR report investigating the fairness of gifted and talented programs in Houston schools. Analysts believe black and hispanic students are at put at a disadvantage because of the way in which the program is run. Quoting: Donna Ford, at Vanderbilt University, thinks that put Isaac at a disadvantage. She's been researching gifted education for decades, and when it comes to Houston's program she says, "I think it's a clear case of segregation, gifted education being segregated by race and income." Houston school leaders asked Ford to take a close look at their enrollment in the program, and she gave it a failing grade. "Racial bias has to be operating, inequities are rampant. Discrimination does exist whether intentional or unintentional," she told the school board in May of this year. Ford found that both Hispanic and black students are underrepresented in gifted programs and that black students are missing out the most. She also found that about half the seats in those programs go to higher-income students, even though the majority of the district is poor.

When Schools Overlook Introverts 307

Esther Schindler writes: A few years ago, Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking seemed to give the world a bit of enlightenment about getting the most out of people who don't think they should have to be social in order to succeed. For a while, at least some folks worked to respect the needs and advantages of introversion, such as careful, reflective thinking based on the solitude that idea-generation requires.

But in When Schools Overlook Introverts, Michael Godsey writes, "The way in which certain instructional trends — education buzzwords like "collaborative learning" and "project-based learning" and "flipped classrooms" — are applied often neglect the needs of introverts. In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior — through dynamic and social learning activities — are being promoted now more than ever." It's a thoughtful article, worth reading. As I think many people on slashdot will agree, Godsley observes, "This growing emphasis in classrooms on group projects and other interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they're working independently and in more subdued environments."

Jeff Atwood NY Daily News Op-Ed: Learning To Code Is Overrated 300

theodp writes: Responding to New York City's much-ballyhooed $81 million initiative to require all of the city's public schools to offer CS to all students, Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood has penned a guest column for the NY Daily News which cautions that learning to code isn't all it's cracked up to be. Atwood begins, "Mayor de Blasio is winning widespread praise for his recent promise that, within 10 years, all of New York City's public schoolchildren will take computer science classes. But as a career programmer who founded two successful software startups, I am deeply skeptical about teaching all kids to code." Why? "If someone tells you 'coding is the new literacy' because 'computers are everywhere today,' ask them how fuel injection works. By teaching low-level coding, I worry that we are effectively teaching our children the art of automobile repair. A valuable skill — but if automobile manufacturers and engineers are doing their jobs correctly, one that shouldn't be much concern for average people, who happily use their cars as tools to get things done without ever needing to worry about rebuilding the transmission or even change the oil." Atwood adds, "There's nothing wrong with basic exposure to computer science. But it should not come at the expense of fundamental skills such as reading, writing and mathematics...I've known so many programmers who would have been much more successful in their careers if they had only been better writers, better critical thinkers, better back-of-the-envelope estimators, better communicators. And aside from success in careers, we have to ask the broader question: What kinds of people do we want children to grow up to be?"

Stop Taking All the Fun Out of Science 246 writes: Heidi Stevens writes in the Chicago Tribune that according to NASA astronaut Mae Jemison schools treat science like the class where fun goes to die. "Kids come out of the chute liking science. They ask, 'How come? Why? What's this?' They pick up stuff to examine it. We might not call that science, but it's discovering the world around us," says Jemison. "Once we get them in school, we turn science from discovery and hands-on to something you're supposed to do through rote memorization." But science doesn't have to be that way says Jemison. Especially in the elementary school years. "When you have teachers saying, 'I don't have enough time for hands-on activities,' we need to rethink the way we do education," says Jemison. "The drills we do, where you're telling kids to memorize things, don't actually work. What works is engaging them and letting them do things and discover things." Jemison has teamed up with Bayer to advance science literacy across the United States by emphasizing the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities in public schools. Bayer announced recently that it will provide 1 million hands-on science experiences for kids by 2020. "Science is around us everywhere," says Jemison. Farming is science. Cooking is science. Even styling hair involves science. "When we go to the hairdresser, we want her to know something about pH balance," says Jemison with a laugh. "Boy, do we ever want her to know something about pH balance!"

Girls-Only Computer Camps Formed At Behest of Top Google, Facebook Execs 449

theodp writes: Reporting on Google exec Susan Wojcicki's appearance at DreamForce, Inc.'s Tess Townsend writes: "The YouTube CEO said her daughter had stated point-blank that she did not like computers, so Wojcicki enrolled her in a computer camp. The camp made her daughter dislike tech even more. Wojcicki reported her daughter came back saying, 'Everyone in the class was a boy and nobody was like me and now I hate computers even more.' So, mom called the camp and spoke to the CEO, asking that the camp be made more welcoming to girls" (video). Fortune reported last July that it was the urging of Wojcicki and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that prompted iD Tech Camps — which Wojcicki's and Sandberg's kids had attended — to spin off a girls-only chain of tech camps called Alexa Cafe, which was trialed in the Bay Area in 2014 and expanded to nine locations in 2015. Earlier this month, Fortune noted that Wojcicki's daughter attended the $949-a-week Alexa Cafe summer camp at Palo Alto High, which was coincidentally hosted in the multi-million dollar Media Center (video) that was built thanks to the efforts of Wojcicki's mother Esther (a long-time Paly journalism teacher) and partially furnished and equipped by sister Anne (23andMe CEO) and ex-brother-in-law Sergey Brin's charitable foundation.

Ask Slashdot: Herding Cats, Aging Systems? 158

An anonymous reader writes: I've recently started a job at a medium-sized enterprise in the UK. They claimed to be an advocate of open-source. The job was advertised as a Linux sys-admin. I've been in the role a short while and the systems right across the business are end-of-life: lots of XP and 2003 servers, a handful of LAMP web servers, and a large IT department with almost no skills in the technologies on site. Most boxes have the default password still. As a senior techie, I've been tasked with helping bring the skillset of the rest of the staff up. Where would you start, given that most of the kit is EoL?

RIP: Tech Advocate and Obama Advisor Jake Brewer 142

SpaceGhost writes: The BBC reports that Jake Brewer, a 34-year-old senior policy advisor in the White House Chief Technology Office, has died while participating in a charity bike race on Saturday. Some of his work included global policy and external affairs at, the White Houses TechHire initiative, and the administration's efforts to expand broadband connectivity. Brewer's death has triggered emotional tributes from many in the worlds of politics and technology. Brewer was well known for his work on, and in his role at the White House as an advocate for education, access to technology, and intelligent use of data to make government more effective.

Microsoft Spending $75M To Boost K-12 CS Education, Put TEALS In 4,000 Schools 48

theodp writes: An NSF-funded evaluation of the Microsoft TEALS program — which sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience into high schools to teach kids and their teachers computer science — isn't scheduled to be completed until 2018. But having declared a K-12 CS education emergency (which it's linked to an H-1B visa emergency), Microsoft is going full speed ahead and spending $75 million to boost computer science in schools. The software giant told USA today that it aims to put TEALS in 700 high schools in the next three years and in 4,000 over the next decade, focusing on urban and rural districts to reach more young women and minorities. "In the U.S. alone, the economy will create 1.4 million new computing jobs by the year 2022," wrote Microsoft President and Board member Brad Smith. "Yet, less than a quarter of U.S. high schools currently teach computer science. That's not enough and we're working with schools and policy-makers to change that."

Ahmed Mohamed, His Clock, and the Curious Turn of Events 662

New submitter poity writes: After the news first broke of the 9th grader getting cuffed for scaring school officials with what turned out to be a digital clock, Ahmed Mohamed has experienced a surge of popular support — hailed as a genius and a hero, with college scholarships, internship offers, and even an invitation to the White House by President Obama himself. Now, amid rumors of possible racial discrimination lawsuits against the school and local police, some people have begun to more deeply scrutinize the details of the case, especially on the tech side with regard to the homemade clock in question. Recently, a writer at the creative site Artvoice posted a remarkable analysis of Ahmed's clock project, which raises new questions about the case and the manner in which people and the media alike have reacted. The linked analysis posits that Ahmed's clock started out as another clock, rather than a box of parts, and Ahmed can be said to have repackaged rather than "invented" a wholly new clock, but acknowledges that "none of us were there and knows what happened."

Trademark Trolls Stops University Nicknames 102

chipperdog writes: Trademark and patent trolls have even found their way in complicating a university nickname selection, with people admitting to registering nicknames with the trademark office just to stop them or get rich off of them. The Grand Forks Herald reports: "The search for a new University of North Dakota nickname hit a potential new stumbling block on Monday, when former Bismarck mayor Marlan 'Hawk' Haakenson registered trade names for several of the Fighting Sioux replacement options under consideration. Haakenson said he registered the trade names in an attempt to interfere with the nickname selection process, though a UND official said such an attempt was unlikely to succeed."

The Answer To the High Cost of College: 42% Cut In Tuition 143

McGruber writes: Utica College, a small, private university in upstate NY, announced it is cutting its annual tuition by 42 percent. According to College President Todd Hutton, the change will reduce the sticker shock that many parents and students have when seeing the tuition price. Hutton says there are fewer than a dozen students who pay the full price. Currently, 61 percent of the tuition revenue coming from freshman is grants and subsidies directly from the college's pockets. Under the new tuition rate this number, called the "discount rate," would go down to 29 percent. Essentially, Utica College would spend less of its own money to pay the tuition of students who can't afford the full price. It expects to make up the lost revenue through increased enrollment, which would come as a result of the college appearing to be more affordable. Even though some of it sounds like a shell game, students will all make out better in the end, Hutton said. The least a student will save is $1,000. The most is more than $5,000, Hutton said.

Are Non-Technical Certifications Worth Earning? 118

Nerval's Lobster writes: Everybody knows that certain technical certifications can boost your career. For developers and others, though, is it worth earning non-technical certifications such as the PMP (Project Management Professional), CRISC (which certifies that you're good at managing risk)? The short answer, of course, might be, 'Yes, if you plan on moving into management, or something highly specialized.' But for everybody else, it's hard to tell whether certain certifications are worth the time and money, on the nebulous hope that they'll pay off at some point in the future, or if you're better off just focusing on the technical certifications for certain hard skills.

NYC Counting On Donations To Fund Required K-12 Computer Science Programs 21

theodp writes: "To ensure that every child can learn the skills required to work in New York City's fast-growing technology sector," reports the NY Times, "Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce on Wednesday that within 10 years all of the city's public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students. New York City, the Times adds, plans to spend $81 million over 10 years, half of which it hopes to raise from private sources. Earlier this year, it was announced that Microsoft would make Office 365 ProPlus available to all NYC students, and that Google would make its CS First program available to 100K NYC students who participate in after-school programs.

APIs, Not Apps: What the Future Will Be Like When Everyone Can Code 255

An anonymous reader writes: There's been a huge push over the last few years to make programming part of the core academic curriculum. Hype or not, software developer Al Sweigart takes a shot at predicting what this will be in a future where some degree of coding skill is commonplace and he has an interesting take on it: "More programmers doesn't just mean more apps in app stores or clones of existing websites. Universal coding literacy doesn't increase the supply of web services so much as increase the sophistication in how web services are used. Programming—by which I mean being able to direct a computer to access data, organize it, and then make decisions based on it— will open up not only a popular ability to make more of online services, but also to demand more.

Almost every major website has an Application Program Interface (API), a formal specification for software to retrieve data and make requests similar to human-directed browsers. ... The vast majority of users don't use these APIs—or even know what an API is—because programming is something that they've left to the professionals. But when coding becomes universal, so will the expectation that websites become accessible to more than just browsers."

Report: Computers 'Do Not Improve' Pupil Results 283

An anonymous reader writes: A report issued by the UK's Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has evaluated how technology in classrooms affects test results, and found that the availability of computers provides "no noticeable improvement" to students' test scores. According to the report, "Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results." Also, "high achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school." The organization warns that classroom technology can be a distraction if implemented unwisely, and it also opens the door to easy ways of cheating.

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Introduce Kids In Rural India To Computers? 218

asto21 writes: A friend of mine wants to introduce school kids in rural India to computers and could use some advice. Key questions: What learning material to use and how to source? What programming language to start with? What software to introduce them to? What games to introduce them to? Key constraints: The kids don't know much English and speak a local language called Odiya. There aren't any technical publications/resources in Odiya. Poor internet connectivity. No computer experts on the school staff. Any other advice/help would also be appreciated.