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Education

Struggling University of Phoenix Lays Off 900 55 55

An anonymous reader writes: The struggles facing for-profit colleges continue. The University of Phoenix announced poor quarterly earnings yesterday, and the institution has laid off 900 workers since September. Enrollment is down 14% since last year, and the CEO of its parent company, Apollo Education Group, says enrollment is likely to drop from 206,000 to about 150,000 next year. Apollo's stock has lost more than half its value since the beginning of the year. "Tighter regulations on for-profits and the Obama administration's push to make community college free top the list of headwinds. And non-profit universities have entered the online education space, where for-profit schools once held center stage."
Education

How Computer Science Education Got Practical (Again) 144 144

jfruh writes: In the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of young people who had grown up tinkering with PCs hit college and dove into curricula designed around the vague notion that they might want to "do something with computers." Today, computer science education is a lot more practical — though in many ways that's just going back to the discipline's roots. As Christopher Mims put it in the Wall Street Journal, "we've entered an age in which demanding that every programmer has a degree is like asking every bricklayer to have a background in architectural engineering."
Education

AP CS Test Takers and Pass Rates Up, Half of Kids Don't Get Sparse Arrays At All 126 126

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."
Education

New Google and CMU Moonshot: the 'Teacherless Classroom' 89 89

theodp writes: At the behest of Google, Carnegie Mellon University will largely replace formal lectures in a popular introductory Data Structures and Algorithms course this fall with videos and a social networking tool to accommodate more students. The idea behind the multi-year research project sponsored by Google — CMU will receive $200,000 in the project's first year — is to find a way to leverage existing faculty to meet a growing demand for computer science courses, while also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented minorities, high school students and community college students, explained Jacobo Carrasquel, associate teaching professor of CS. "As we teach a wider diversity of students, with different backgrounds, we can no longer teach to 'the middle,'" Carrasquel said. "When you do that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20 percent at the bottom." The move to a "teacherless classroom" for CS students at CMU [tuition $48K] comes on the heels of another Google CS Capacity Award-inspired move at Stanford [tuition $45K], where Pair Programming was adopted in a popular introductory CS class to "reduce the increasingly demanding workload for section leaders due to high enrollment and also help students to develop important collaboration skills."
Education

Learn-to-Code Program For 10,000 Low-Income Girls 471 471

theodp writes: In a press release Tuesday, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) announced it was teaming with Lifetime Partner Apple and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to engage 10,000 girls in learning computing concepts. "Currently, just 25 states and the District of Columbia allow computer science to count as a math or science graduation requirement," explained the press release. "Because boys get more informal opportunities for computing experience outside of school, this lack of formal computing education especially affects girls and many youth of color." HUD, the press release added, has joined the Commitment to Action to help extend the program's reach in partnership with public housing authorities nationwide and provide computing access to the 485,000 girls residing in public housing. "In this Information Age, opportunity is just a click on a keyboard away. HUD is proud to partner with NCWIT to provide talented girls with the skills and experiences they need to reach new heights and to achieve their dreams in the 21st century global economy," said HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who coincidentally is eyed as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea is the Clinton Foundation's point-person on computer science. Last year, Chelsea Clinton gave a keynote speech at the NCWIT Summit and appeared with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith to help launch Google's $50 million girls-only Made With Code initiative.
Education

Are Girl-Focused Engineering Toys Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes? 490 490

theodp writes: VentureBeat's Ruth Read casts a skeptical eye at the current rage of toy segregation meant to inspire tomorrow's leaders in STEM: "Toys geared at girls serve to get them interested in coding and building when they're young, hopefully inspiring their educational interests down the road. But these gendered toys may be hurting women by perpetuating a divide between men and women." Read concludes, "Ultimately, girls (who will become women) are going to have to learn and work in a world where genders are not segregated; as will men. That means they need to learn how to interact with one another as much as they need to be introduced to the same educational opportunities. If STEM education is as much for girls as it is for boys, perhaps we should be equally concerned with getting boys and girls to play together with the same toys and tools, as we are with creating learning opportunities for girls."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Setups For Navigating a Programming-Focused MOOC? 39 39

theodp writes: As one works his or her way through EdX's free The Analytics Edge, one finds oneself going back-and-forth between videos and R to complete the programming exercises associated with the lectures. While this can certainly be done on a cheap-o 13" laptop with a 6mbps connection by jumping around from the web-based videos to the client-based programming environment and to the web for help (god bless Stack Overflow), have you found (or do you dream of) a better setup for the MOOC programming courses offered by the likes of EdX, Udacity, and Coursera? Are you using multiple screens, split screens, touch screens, laptops/desktops/tablets, speakers, headphones, higher-speed connections? Anything else? Do you rely solely on the class materials and web-based resources, or do you purchase complementary books? Any thoughts on how to make the experience work best for those learning at home, in a classroom setting, on the road for business/travel, or during lengthy train commutes? Do you playback videos at faster speeds (e.g., 1.5x)? Any other tips?
Education

Microsoft Funds First US-Based Chinese Research University Degree Program 27 27

theodp writes: Microsoft will give $40 million to help fund a graduate-school program with the Univ. of Washington and China's Tsinghua University. The Global Innovation Exchange, which will be located in the Seattle area, marks the first time a Chinese research university has established a physical presence in the U.S. The center will open in 2016 with the goal of attracting 3,000 students within a decade, according to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce and Tsinghua President Qiu Yong made the announcement Thursday afternoon in downtown Bellevue, accompanied by Gov. Jay Inslee and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Both Cauce and Smith waved off concerns about the possibility that a partnership with a Chinese university could lead to corporate espionage or hacking. "The solution to mistrust is more contact, not less," said Cauce, whose UW currently hosts 3,500+ students from China.
Education

School Lunch Program Scans Student Thumbprints For 'Tracking Purposes' 141 141

schwit1 writes with news that a school district in Pennsylvania is providing free lunches to schoolchildren as part of an initiative to improve nutrition. Instead of providing the lunches to all students without question, they made the program opt-in. Since not all students get the lunches, they needed a way to track who was getting them. Officials decided the best way to do so would be to invest in biometric software that scans students's thumbprints every time they pick up lunch. The data collected by these scanners goes not just to the school district, but to the federal government as well.
Software

The Tools Don't Get You the Job 255 255

An anonymous reader writes: It's a trend that seems to permeate education across every discipline, from creative to technical: reliance on a single expensive, proprietary, vendor-driven tool. Whether it's the predominance of Adobe in design programs, of Visual Studio in many computer science programs, or even Microsoft Office components in business schools, too often students come away with education that teaches them how to be rote users of a tool rather than critical thinkers who can apply skills in their discipline across toolsets. Relying on knowledge of a single tool chain can create single point of failure for a student's education when licensing comes back to bite. What can we do to bring more software choice into education to give students more opportunity when they get out into the real world?
Government

FCC Votes To Subsidize Broadband Connections For Low-Income Households 283 283

Mark Wilson writes: Today the FCC voted in favor of updating its Lifeline program to include broadband. This would mean that households surviving on low incomes would be able to receive help paying for a broadband connection. It might not be as important as electricity or water, but having a broadband connection is seen as being all but essential these days. From helping with education and job hunting, to allowing for home working, the ability to get online is seen as so vital by some that there have been calls for it to be classed as a utility. The Lifeline program has been running since the 80s, and originally provided financial help to those struggling to pay for a phone line. It was expanded in 2008 to include wireless providers, and it is hoped that this third expansion will help more people to get online.
Education

Video Games Can Improve Terror Attack Preparedness, Even If You Don't Play Them 76 76

vrml writes: A study just published by the Computers in Human Behavior journal explores the potential of video games as terror attack preparedness materials for the general public. In the video game that participants tried (screenshots can be seen in the paper), players started a normal day going to a train station and performing actions such as purchasing a ticket and finding a train. Then, they suddenly found themselves in a bombing scenario that they had to survive. In addition to showing that playing the game greatly increased players' knowledge about preparedness, the study also considered a second group of participants who did not play the game but watched instead a video of the game play. Results indicate that passively watching someone else play the game is as effective as actively playing the game in terms of learning preparedness knowledge. However, they also point out a significant difference concerning psychological effects on threat appraisal: general perception of personal vulnerability to terror attacks and their severity increased more in those who actively played the game rather than those who passively watched game play.
Education

The Danger of Picking a Major Based On Where the Jobs Are 306 306

theodp writes: In his new book Will College Pay Off?, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli argues that banking on a specialized degree's usefulness is risky, especially since one reason some jobs are in high demand is that no one predicted that they would be. "A few generations ago," notes Cappelli, "the employers used to look for smart or adaptable kids on college campuses with general skills. They would convert them to what they wanted inside the company and they would retrain them and they'd get different skills. They're not doing that now. They're just expecting that the kids will show up with the skills that the employer needs when the employer needs them. That's a pretty difficult thing to expect, because of these kinds of problems. So the employers now are always complaining that they can't get the people they need, but it's pretty obvious why that's not happening." On CS-as-a-major, Cappelli says, "If you look at most of the people who are in computer programming, for example, they have no IT degree-they just learned how to program. Maybe they had a couple of courses in it, maybe they were self-taught. In Silicon Valley, the industry was built with only 10 percent of the workforce having IT degrees. You can do most of these jobs with a variety of different skills. I think what's happening now is that people have come to think that you need these degrees in order to do the jobs, which is not really true. Maybe what these degrees do for you is they shorten the job training by a bit, but that's about it. And you lose a bunch of other things along the way." One wonders what Cappelli might think of San Francisco's recent decision to pick a preschool curriculum based on where today's tech jobs are, echoing President Obama's tech industry-nurtured belief that "what you want to do is introduce this [coding] with the ABCs and the colors."
Education

Ask Slashdot: How to Avoid The Worst of a Tech Bubble? 135 135

An anonymous reader writes: I just reached a senior level in a tech career and I've been doing pretty much a bit of everything, e.g. software architecture, full stack dev, eng. related specific dev, consultancy, etc. So I'm at a point where I want to start focusing on something that has a good development path, i.e. I won't struggle finding a job, it'll be fairly paid and it'll allow me to move up in responsibility (bigger teams, more difficult projects) if I want to. It seems like we might be heading into a new tech bubble. Based on your experience of the .com collapse and your predictions for the current market, is there any path you wouldn't recommend (or strongly recommend) if this bubble goes pop? What were the roles most affected when the .com bubble burst back in 2000 and would it be any different this time? Is there anything you can do to be better prepared, such as focusing on broader techs rather than niche techs, etc.
Programming

Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 2) 11 11

We ran video # 1 about Starcoder yesterday and linked to the project's Kickstarter page. At that time, the project had raised $3221 out of a $4000 goal. Today they're up to $5836, which means they've reached their goal and then some, and they still have four days of Kickstarting to go. Nice! It looks like Starcoder will soon be available to a lot more students than are using it now, and that (hopefully) there will be enough server capacity to accommodate students who want to sign up and play on their own, not necessarily with help from their schools.

To learn more about Starcoder, you may want to check out these video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a look at how it's played. Note: this is video 2 of 2. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)
Math

Turning a Nail Polish Disaster Into a Teachable Math Moment 126 126

theodp writes: In The Spiral of Splatter, SAS's Rick Wicklin writes that his daughter's nail polish spill may have created quite a mess, but at least it presented a teachable math moment: "'Daddy, help! Help me! Come quick!' I heard my daughter's screams from the upstairs bathroom and bounded up the stairs two at a time. Was she hurt? Bleeding? Was the toilet overflowing? When I arrived in the doorway, she pointed at the wall and at the floor. The wall was splattered with black nail polish. On the floor laid a broken bottle in an expanding pool of black ooze. 'It slipped,' she sobbed. As a parent, I know that there are times when I should not raise my voice. I knew intellectually that this was one of those times. But staring at that wall, seeing what I was seeing, I could not prevent myself from yelling. 'Oh my goodness!' I exclaimed. 'Is that a logarithmic spiral?'" So, got any memorable teachable math moments you've experienced either as a kid or adult? Yes, Cheerios Math counts!
Education

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

WA Gov. Sides With Microsoft: Philanthropy-Funded K-12 CS Education Now the Law 166 166

theodp writes: During public hearings on WA State's House Bill 1813, which took aim at boys' historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes, the Office of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced concerns that by relying on the generosity of corporations, wealthy individuals, and nonprofits to fund STEM, computer science, and technology programs, learning opportunities would be limited to a small group of students, creating disparity of opportunity. "If this is a real priority," pleaded Chris Vance, "fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). But legislators in the WA House and Senate — apparently more swayed by the pro-HB 1813 testimony of representatives from Microsoft and Microsoft-backed TEALS and Code.org — overwhelmingly passed the bill, sending it to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature. Not to worry. On Wednesday, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Inslee, who was perhaps influenced by the we-need-to-pass-HB-1813 blogging of Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, who coincidentally is not only responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work, but was also co-chair of Gov.-elect Inslee's transition team. The WA state legislative victory comes less than 24 hours after the San Francisco School Board voted to require CS instruction beginning with preschool.
Education

San Francisco Public Schools To Require Computer Science For Preschoolers 179 179

theodp writes: Never underestimate the ability of tech and its leaders to create a crisis. The S.F. Chronicle's Jill Tucker reports that the San Francisco School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to ensure every student in the district gets a computer science education, with coursework offered in every grade from preschool through high school, a first for a public school district. Tech companies, including Salesforce.com, as well as foundations and community groups, are expected to pitch in funding and other technical support to create the new coursework, equip schools and train staff to teach it. From Resolution No. 155-26A2 (PDF), In Support of Expanding Computer Science and Digital Learning to All Students at All Schools from Pre-K to 12th Grade: 1. "All students are capable of making sense of computer science in ways that are creative, interactive, and relevant." 2. "All students, from pre-K to 12, deserve access to rigorous and culturally meaningful computer science education and should be held to high expectations for interacting with the curriculum." 3. "Students' access to and achievement in computer science must not be predictable on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language, religion, sexual orientation, cultural affiliation, or special needs." MissionLocal has a two-page SFUSD flyer on the project, which aims to illustrate the "importance of computer science" with the same Code.org jobs infographic that Microsoft used to help achieve its stated goal of creating a national K-12 CS crisis, and demonstrate "disparities in accessing CS education" for SFUSD's 57,000 students with a small-sample-size-be-damned bar chart of the racial demographics of the school district's 209 AP Computer Science participants (181 Asian, 0 African American, 6 Latino, 1 Native American, 14 White, 7 Other).
Education

Freedom of Information Requests Turn Up Creationist Materials In Schools 479 479

An anonymous reader writes: In 2008, Louisiana passed a law that was designed to let teachers introduce creationism into public classrooms alongside evolution. Zack Kopplin, a student at the time, decided to fight the law by sending Freedom Of Information Act requests to the schools, asking for anything mentioning creationism or the law itself. While most ignore him, he has received documents showing a clear anti-science stance from school officials. "In one, which appears to contain a set of PowerPoint slides, there's a page titled "Creationism (Intelligent Design)" that refers students to the Answers in Genesis website, along with two other sites that are critical of that group's position. In another, a parent's complaint about a teacher who presents evolution as a fact is met by a principal stating that 'I can assure you this will not happen again.'"