United States

Senator Who Calls STEM Shortage a Hoax Appointed To Head Immigration 501

Posted by timothy
from the nobody-hates-new-immigrants-like-old-immigrants dept.
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."
Education

Illinois Students Suspected of Cyberbullying Must Provide Social Media Passwords 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
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.
Programming

Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming 629

Posted by timothy
from the I-know-let's-centralize-such-decisions dept.
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?
Stats

Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics 331

Posted by timothy
from the facts-are-stubborn-things dept.
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?
Crime

Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone 778

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-walking-children? dept.
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."
Businesses

Study: Belief That Some Fields Require "Brilliance" May Keep Women Out 218

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-can-go-it dept.
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.
Communications

Your High School Wants You To Install Snapchat 156

Posted by timothy
from the just-ask-ram-sweeney dept.
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.
United States

Washington DC's Public Library Will Teach People How To Avoid the NSA 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-head-down dept.
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.
Businesses

IEEE: New H-1B Bill Will "Help Destroy" US Tech Workforce 481

Posted by samzenpus
from the maybe-something-good-maybe-something-bad dept.
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."
Stats

UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them 388

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-they're-right dept.
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.
Education

South Africa Begins Ambitious Tablets In Schools Pilot Project 66

Posted by timothy
from the goverment-schools dept.
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.
Education

Education Debate: Which Is More Important - Grit, Or Intelligence? 249

Posted by timothy
from the grits-are-delicious-but-brains-are-divine dept.
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."
Education

Chicago E-Learning Scheme Embraces Virtual Badges For Public Schoolers 46

Posted by timothy
from the credit-for-hooky dept.
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.
United States

Obama Proposes 2 Years of Free Community College 703

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-the-grade dept.
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."
Education

The Luxury of a Bottomless Bucket of Bandwidth For Georgia Schools 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the 4k-cat-videos-for-all-students dept.
Lemeowski writes: The IT departments at all the University System of Georgia institutions have a luxury that most CIOs could only dream of — access to about 2,800 miles of free fiber and a private cloud that they an always count on. The private cloud configuration allows the perk of not focusing on bandwith. "Our local CIOs even take some pleasure in telling telecom company representatives, 'If you can beat free, then I'm willing to listen.' That tends to shut down most conversations,"writes USG CIO Curt Carver, who explains how the technology is now becoming an educational equalizer across the state. In 2015, Georgia school districts are expected to have a 33-fold increase in bandwdith available to them through the program. "This will help to flatten the state. No more haves or have-nots in terms of bandwidth going into the school districts."
Education

Intel Pledges $300 Million To Improve Diversity In Tech 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-add-your-biological-and-technological-distinctiveness-to-his-own dept.
AmiMoJo writes: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced plans to improve diversity not just at Intel, but in the wider tech industry. Krzanich wants "to reach full representation at all levels" of the company by 2020. For instance, Intel's workforce is currently four percent black; if the company were to adjust its numbers to reflect the number of qualified workers in the tech industry, that number would increase to about six percent.

To help address one of tech's underlying diversity problems — that there are fewer qualified women and minorities available to hire than there are white or Asian men — Krzanich pledged to spend $300 million over the next three years. According to the New York Times, much of that money will be allocated "to fund engineering scholarships and to support historically black colleges and universities."

"I have two daughters of my own coming up on college age," he said to the NYT. "I want them to have a world that's got equal opportunity for them."
Education

DuinoKit Helps Teach Students About Electronics (Video) 61

Posted by Roblimo
from the you-don't-even-have-to-know-how-to-solder dept.
This is something Timothy Lord ran across a few months ago at a Maker Faire near Atlanta: The DuinoKit. Think of it as a fancier (and pricier) version of the venerable Radio Shack Electronic Learning Labs and you won't be far off. Plus, as the name DuinoKit implies, it's based on an Arduino, which means that right off the bat it packs a lot more learning punch than the Radio Shack kit. DuinoKit was financed by a KickStarter campaign that asked for $19,500 and raised $57,478 from 250 backers. And for those of you who worry about being called nerds because you're carrying a DuinoKit around, you can relax. It comes in a 'Secret Agent Carrying Case.' Really. Read their What is the DuinoKit? Web page carefully and you'll see. (Alternate Video Link)
Education

Better Learning Through Expensive Software? One Principal Thinks Not 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-better-way dept.
theodp writes "Instead of improving the instructional practices of teachers," laments Chicago public school Principal Michael Beyer, "we are throwing vast sums of money and time at software and digital solutions that are largely untested, unproven and highly questionable." Ed-Tech vendors' so-called "weapons of mass instruction," argues Beyer, may show "gains" on the high-stakes tests because they mimic the targeted test format, but the learning gains don't necessarily transfer to the real world, or last much longer than the end of the school year. But technology in the classroom is not going away, as one commenter notes. So, what to do? Well, since U.S. CTO Megan Smith is looking for bigger technological fish to fry than weaning the White House off floppy disks, why not give her a crack at Ed-Tech, including a healthy budget and some Lab Schools where she could have educators and technologists brainstorm-and-prototype to separate the Ed-Tech wheat from the chaff without undue vendor influence and short-term test score pressure?
Beer

Museum's Adults-Only Nights Show That Alcohol and Science Are a Good Mix 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the hall-of-drinking-man dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Museums and science centers are finding that science nights with bar service are quite popular with the public. "Organizer Merissa Scarlett said almost every science center across Canada opts for adults-only nights, where visitors can explore exhibits with an alcoholic drink in hand. It's also a trend taking off in many museums, including the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, where nights dubbed Nature Nocturne transform the building into a multi-stage bar and club."
China

What Language Will the World Speak In 2115? 578

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-one-that-doesn't-include-the-word-twerk dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Throughout human history, different languages have emerged and died, waxed and waned in relative importance, evolved, and spread to new locales. An article in the Wall Street Journal considers what languages the world will speak a hundred years from now. Quoting: "Science fiction often presents us with whole planets that speak a single language, but that fantasy seems more menacing here in real life on this planet we call home—that is, in a world where some worry that English might eradicate every other language. That humans can express themselves in several thousand languages is a delight in countless ways; few would welcome the loss of this variety.

Some may protest that it is not English but Mandarin Chinese that will eventually become the world's language, because of the size of the Chinese population and the increasing economic might of their nation. But that's unlikely. For one, English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort. We retain the QWERTY keyboard and AC current for similar reasons. ... Yet more to the point, by 2115, it's possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today's 6,000. Japanese will be fine, but languages spoken by smaller groups will have a hard time of it."