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Teachers Get 1 Week To Test Tech Giants' Hour of Code 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
theodp writes "In a move straight out of Healthcare.gov's playbook, teachers won't get to preview the final lessons they're being asked to roll out to 10 million U.S. students until a week before the Dec. 9th launch of the Hour of Code nation-wide learn-to-code initiative, according to a video explaining the project, which is backed by the nation's tech giants, including Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon. The Hour of Code tutorial page showcased to the press sports Lorem Ipsum pseudo-Latin text instead of real content, promised tutorial software is still being developed by Microsoft and Google, and celebrity tutorials by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are still a work-in-progress. With their vast resources and deep pockets, the companies involved can still probably pull something off, but why risk disaster for such a high-stakes effort with a last-minute rush? One possible explanation is that CS Education Week, a heretofore little-recognized event, is coming up soon. Then again, tech immigration reform is back on the front burner, an initiative that's also near-and-dear to many of same players behind Hour of Code, including Microsoft Chief Counsel Brad Smith who, during the Hour of Code kickoff press conference, boasted that Microsoft's more-high-tech-visas-for-U.S.-kids-computer-science-education deal found its way into the Senate Immigration Bill, but minutes later joined his fellow FWD.us panelists to dismiss a questioner's suggestion that Hour of Code might somehow be part of a larger self-serving tech industry interest."
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Teachers Get 1 Week To Test Tech Giants' Hour of Code

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @01:25AM (#45179195) Homepage

    Even if the kids won't get a lesson in computer science, they'll get a lesson in what happens when software development is rushed.

    • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday October 20, 2013 @02:34AM (#45179357) Journal
      If you thought your kids were getting a proper education in public school you might want to think again. My rule is that I teach my kids math, science and art - and then I send them to public school not to learn stuff, but to learn what is taught there so they can understand where their peers are coming from. My youngest: "people are stupid." Yes dear, but you have to deal with them anyway.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you thought your kids were getting a proper education in public school you might want to think again.

        Maybe I'm just a bit slow, but I never really learned much in the classroom, per se. I found that the material just went by too fast. If I actually stopped to think about something (e.g. why trigonometric functions can't be calculated from finite algebraic expressions) then I would miss big parts of the lectures. So I saw the classroom as a place to be exposed to a whole variety of ideas - some of which I was already familiar with but others that were new that I would have to think/read about later on my ow

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @04:46AM (#45179569) Homepage Journal

          I invite you to get out into the countryside, and to learn about those local schools.

          I'm a transplant to Arkansas. I attended a relatively wealthy school district in Pennsylvania. My wife grew up here. She attended a high school where the graduating class ranged from ten to thirty students over a one hundred year history. That little school excelled. I mean, it seriously excelled. Students routinely placed very high in all college tests, military tests, you name it.

          Soon after our kids started school in that same school, governor Bill Clinton made it his business to start consolidating smaller schools with larger schools. Our kids attended k-6 in the old school building, but the high school kids were being bussed to another school, in another county. Today - the old small school system is completely gone - everyone is bussed somewhere.

          And - all of the schools involved have attained a roughly equal level of mediocrity.

          Excellence in education doesn't depend on large sums of money. Really, it doesn't. The fact is, schools that have a lot of money today, tend to spend that money on sports, rather than education.

          http://espn.go.com/dallas/story/_/id/8323104/allen-texas-high-school-ready-unveils-60m-football-facility [go.com]

          • Welcome to Arkansas!

            I'm a native and back when "Slick Willie" Bill was the gov running for president my line was: "Lets all vote for Bill -- get him out of Arkansas!" But I never thought everyone would take me seriously. :-)

            The high school I went to [lrsd3.org] had ~150 in the graduating class each year, so let's say a population of ~500 yearly. We had students win awards (1st prize, not just for "showing up") in different regional and state competitions. Most students did not though -- and I think a lot of that
      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Same as when you do a CCNA, CCNP and CCIE you have to learn what cisco thinks to pass the exams and bite you lip at some of the oddities - unless your like the Guy from BT Labs who on only getting 98% in his CCIE wrote a personal letter to john chambers pointing out why the CCIE exam was wrong - he was one of the three inventors of Ethernet though:-)
      • Education discussion? Time to talk about how public school sucks. Amirite? Considering the post you're replying to had nothing to do with public school quality?

        You will have good schools and bad schools, good teachers and bad teachers. The question here is, whether a good teacher can do anything with this. Teachers can make something of the worst lesson plans, but this doesn't seem to qualify.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          I am a huge fan our our public school teachers. I don't envy their challenges. If more parents shared the load I think it would help. By taking responsibility for ensuring my own students get a chance to meet a reasonable standard without relying on their teacher to hold their hand, hopefully some other student gets an enhanced opportunity as well.
    • Just in time production is the latest rage in manufacturing. You make stuff and ship it just before it's needed. The government better hope there are no cost overruns, it's hard to negotiate the price when finals are due next week.
    • The main problem with this isn't that it's so rushed. It's that most of the students that will be taught this are computer illiterate. It's always surprising to me how even young tech savvy people don't even know the basics of file systems, or the difference between a hard drive and RAM.
    • They won't even get that. Teachers who participate (it is optional, so no one is being forced to teach something with a week or less to prepare) can win prizes, and students who attend a follow-up course can win stuff for themselves. Sounds like bribery to me.

      Besides, I don't think it is important that things are incomplete, since the week designated is December 9-15. Plenty of time, and I don't think this qualifies as rushed.

      And, they probably won't do much in the way of actual code. "Designed as a gam

  • The Hour of Code, dedicated to minimizing the tech giants' cost per Hour of Code.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've been suspicious of the recent tech industry push for more programming. Writing code is great and all that, but there seemed to be something odd going on.
      Currently the US is heavily promoting programming via campaigns like the one listed here. The UK is doing the same. A few weeks ago David Cameron even mentioned the subject in his speech, which pretty much proved how the whole thing is a PR wheeze by the giant corps. Here's what Dave had to say:
      http://www.newstatesman.com/staggers/2013/10/david-cameron

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        For the first time - children in our schools will learn the new language of computer coding.'

        That's a lie.

        I was taught BASIC in a UK school back in the 1980s (on a Commodore PET...)

        What's next? iPads for every child to learn 'coding' on? (it's government+payola so that wouldn't surprise me...)

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          CECIL and BASIC for me in the 70's
      • Well, DUH.

        Look around you. Everyone and their dog learned that with MINT degree the average business leader will look at you as some sort of menial labor idiot while he himself considers his business degree the be-all, end-all pinnacle of education. Take a wild guess what everyone and their dog wants to study.

        This in turn is of course not what business leaders want, since that kinda tells people that their precious BA degrees are a dime a dozen while MINT students get rare. And they don't really enjoy the i

      • David Cameron and 99% of all UK politicians come from the Liberal arts tradition and in the UK there is a very high wall between us oily and greasy engineers and scientists and in Davids milieu there is a prejudice against "girly swots" which is why Boris Johnson plays the fool so much.

        The last time the Torys had a scientist was Mrs T and the rest of the party dont really want to go back to being hand bagged - its also why dodgy schemes like free schools get so much traction there are no politicians who w
  • This can't be good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Hip, up-to-the-moment name? Check
    Tutorials by industry legends? Check
    Backed by the top companies in the IT business? Check
    D-Day style simultaneous rollout to multiple millions of customers? Check
    Nothing less than our nation's future may be at stake? Check

    Uh oh.

    • I completely agree. Spending one hour of class time teaching students how to code and giving them a glimpse into the CS world could seriously endanger the nation's future as a country with a population less educated than the global average!
      • by Saei (3133199)
        Global average? Oh, I doubt that very much. Perhaps lower than other countries with comparable wealth, or countries in the first world in general -- but the world average? Don't exaggerate / be so alarmist.
    • by lxs (131946)

      Hip, up-to-the-moment name? Check

      Can we uncheck that one please? [wikipedia.org] Thanks.

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @02:02AM (#45179291)

    Tutorial software by Microsoft in a tight timeline. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Better advice... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by real-modo (1460457) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @02:10AM (#45179309)

    * Learn to habitually apply critical thinking. Why would Microsoft want "every American student to have the opportunity to learn computer science"--a somewhat advanced branch of mathematics? That's right: it doesn't. It wants an oversupply of employees in "computing occupations". (Quotes from the linked technet blog post).

    BUT, don't apply critical thinking out loud at work. That's non-career-advancing. Use it in your meta-employment strategy.

    * Learn persuasion and negotiation skills: applied (cod-) psychology topics such as body language, emotional intelligence, rhetoric. Join Toastmasters. Develop a wide circle of acquaintances in lots of different industries and occupations--it's the "weak connections" that get you jobs.

    * Learn the elements of employment law.

    * Learn how to cooperate effectively with your fellow employees. Which means doing the shit work, at least some of the time, especially at the start.

    If you want to become one of the -l-i-z-a-r-d--p-e-o-p-l-e- 1%:-

    * learn what it takes. Here's a very introductory primer: The Gervais Principle [ribbonfarm.com].

    • It wants an oversupply of employees in "computing occupations"

      Oh come on. Extend this thinking to its logical conclusion and you'll realise we should have schools actively work against education in all fields to keep up salaries in all fields.

  • The sociopaths running many of the nation's tech corporations, whether they be software or hardware engineering, have no desire whatsoever to encourage a larger American workforce for those industries. The reason for that lack of motivation is simple: such a workforce educated here would expect higher salaries to pay off their enormous student loans (for institutions with massive tuitions used to subsidize profit-seeking research and not education) and would thus diminish their profit more than a similarly

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Good point, but the salary issue may be different in the UK. The government wants to ban the under-25s from claiming welfare even though we currently have high youth unemployment. Instead of dole they'll be told to do an apprenticeship (not many about), training (similarly spotty availability) or work.

      If there aren't the jobs they'll be forced to work not for minimum wage, but for workfare levels equal to benefits. There are going to be tens of thousands of under 25s with skills & degrees who can't find

    • I have mod points but will not be modding you down, though I hope I can show that your case is misguided and unsound.

      You're not wrong in saying that there are sociopaths--or at least very empathy deficient people--in Silicon Valley. Friends of mine work with business magnates in that area, I know for a fact that they're are. I'm not convinced, however, that there are a higher proportion of sociopaths in information technology or software engineering than in, say, law or petroleum engineering. The way you've

      • by macraig (621737)

        ... information technology push into some broad, overarching conspiracy to convert America's young people into thoughtless worker drones makes no sense.

        I didn't say or mean to say that this/these programs had that agenda. Rather I think that is specifically not their agenda, though I don't know what it is otherwise... simple marketing?

        ... fuel a cycle of economic growth.

        == Ponzi scheme (that benefits you-know-who)

        ... what are you doing...?

        I don't have kids and not much influence on education otherwise, but I've mentored (twice-)gifted kids. People I call friends tend to be critical thinkers to the last man and I really find it frustrating talking with people who aren't, so I'd have to jump way outside my comfort

  • "Learn Ruby & Java While Being Shot Out of a Cannon for Complete Over-Caffeinated Morons."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2013 @03:38AM (#45179471)

    Assuming the material is actually available, one week is more than enough for preparation. Most teachers do not have time for the kind of preparation you probably think they ought to do. I worked as a teacher for 5 years. Generally speaking, If I had a 1 hour class, I spent 1-3 hours on preparation. This was a fair bit more than most other teachers at the school who had more responsibilities than I did. Usually I tried to have my lessons prepared a week in advance, but more often than not, they were prepared 1-2 days in advance. No matter how much lead time you give the teachers, I guarantee that virtually nobody will look at it until a few days before. There just isn't enough time to do so.

    BTW, if you think this is ridiculous, you could probably vote to raise your taxes, have more money sent to the schools and insist that it is spent on hiring more teachers rather than on toys like iPads for every student. There is barely a subject in school that wouldn't benefit from ripping out all the technology in a classroom and replacing it with a blackboard and another teacher.

    • Just came to post this.

      Planning to teach a 1 hour lesson shouldn't take more than a few hours. A week is cutting it close, but there is still ample time to prep for the lesson.
      • by dkf (304284)

        Planning to teach a 1 hour lesson shouldn't take more than a few hours. A week is cutting it close, but there is still ample time to prep for the lesson.

        Assuming that all the teaching material (books, tests, electronic materials, etc.) is already there. It's the preparation of that which takes a long time, and which is why teaching at universities takes so much more time outside of actually giving the class; there's just much less opportunity to share materials, especially for anything vaguely close to cutting edge. That's why nearly everything in a normal school is not cutting edge; realistic time pressures simply don't allow it.

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        teachers do teach more than one lesson a week though.
  • We need to let the educators of Texas and South Carolina vet these lessons to make sure there's no pro-gay, pro-Darwin or pro-Marxist agenda.

    I mean, what are we worried about here, that these lessons are going to make tech education in the US for K-12 worse?

  • I think people tend to forget that the heart of compromise is to find something that BOTH sides benefit from in a transaction. It's not just the 800lb gorilla compelling someone.

    The schools/government want to promote computer education.
    Yes, the industry wants some nebulous increase in worker-drones some vague time in the future, but are being asked to invest resources from some very short-term balance sheets so yeah, I can see them wanting a tit-for-tat benefit in legislation today.*

    *and if the government

  • by koan (80826)

    If all the kids can code you can get away with paying them minimum wage.

  • I've never seen a more sinister move by those that would renounce their U.S. Citizenship for pieces of silver.

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