theodp (442580) writes ""On a recent trip to my childhood home in New Jersey," writes GOOD's Joshua Neuman in This Comic Book Made Me Say No to Drugs, "I discovered a stack of comic books in an old shoebox, one of which was DC Comics' The New Teen Titans (Drug Abuse Awareness) Issue #1, a promotional giveaway that was part of President Reagan’s Drug Awareness Campaign." While the cool kids in his class wearing rock t-shirts snickered at the corporate and government-sponsored comics (circa-1984 DC Marketing promo video), Neuman confesses the propaganda did the job on his naive, overprotected, 10-year-old in suburbia self. "Entering the fictitious, urban world of this comic book was like diving into a drugged-out version of Sesame Street where cute kids from a veritable rainbow of backgrounds played together, studied together, and took PCP together," Neuman recalls. "I can’t say that the comic book traumatized me, but looking back, something about not being in on the joke stayed with me. The experience taught me that drugs lay in the domain of the other, a kid who was much cooler than I was. However inadvertently, the collaborative effort of the Teen Titans, Nancy Reagan, and Keebler had achieved its intended effect."" top
Is Google's Non-Tax Based Public School Funding Cause for Celebration?
theodp (442580) writes "Looks like Mark Zuckerberg's Rat Pack may have to make due with just-sort-of-OK US workers until after the midterm elections in November. In an interview which will air on Sunday's Meet the Press, President Obama defended his decision to delay executive action on immigration, saying the summer's surge of unaccompanied children at the Mexican border changed the politics of the issue. "The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," Obama said. "I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy." To get an idea of what tech might expect from Obama after the election dust clears, an op-ed by Intel Director of Immigration Policy Peter Muller appeared in Friday's Mercury News calling for the President to use executive actions to "deliver on one of the top priorities of technology companies — reform to an outdated visa program that restricts their ability to hire key talent." Because we all know how much Intel, Google, and Apple hate restricted hiring policies, right?" top
Bill Gates Want to Remake the Way History is Taught. Should We Let Him?
theodp (442580) writes "With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."" top
How The Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly on Classrooms
theodp (442580) writes "Electronics almost universally become cheaper over time, but with essentially a monopoly on graphing calculator usage in classrooms, Texas Instruments still manages to command a premium for its TI-84 Plus. Texas Instruments released the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator in 2004. Ten years later, the base model still has 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM, its black-and-white screen remains 96×64 pixels, and the MSRP is still $150. "Free graphing calculator apps are available," notes Matt McFarland. "But smartphones can’t be used on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Schools are understandably reluctant to let them be used in classrooms, where students may opt to tune out in class and instead text friends or play games. So for now, overpriced hardware and all, the TI-84 family of calculators remains on top and unlikely to go anywhere." So, to paraphrase Prof. Norm Matloff, is it stupid to buy expensive TI-8x milk when the R cow is free?" top
theodp (442580) writes "Unless some things change, UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff worries that the Statistician could be added to the endangered species list. "The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia," writes Matloff, "have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that:  The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS).  Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful." Matloff, who has a foot in both the Statistics and CS camps, but says, "The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly. Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research 'business model'." So, can Statistics be made more attractive to students? "Here is something that actually can be fixed reasonably simply," suggests no-fan-of-TI-83-pocket-calculators-as-a-computational-vehicle Matloff. "If I had my druthers, I would simply ban AP Stat, and actually, I am one of those people who would do away with the entire AP program. Obviously, there are too many deeply entrenched interests for this to happen, but one thing that can be done for AP Stat is to switch its computational vehicle to R."" top
Teachers Get 72 Hours to Beg Bill Gates for School Supplies
theodp (442580) writes ""Teachers across the country are struggling to give their classes great tools for learning," writes Bill Gates. "Some classrooms need computers, but others need more basic things: textbooks, building blocks, art supplies, even just a rug big enough for the whole class to sit on. And with school starting up, this is an especially important time. Teachers have enough things to worry about right now. Getting the right supplies shouldn’t be one of them." Well, Microsoft may have kiboshed the idea of a state income tax, but Bill's doing the next best thing — following Google's begfunding lead and throwing a 72-Hour Back-to-School Begathon that ends Sunday night. "To make it easy for everyone to support teachers via DonorsChoose.org, our foundation will meet donors halfway," Bill explains. "From August 22 through August 24, nearly every project on the site will be half off. For example, if a $500 project gets $250 in donations in that time, we will match that with another $250 and fully fund the project. Melinda and I are big fans of DonorsChoose.org, a program that makes it easy for teachers to connect with potential donors." And, while DonorsChoose encourages "Citizen Philanthropists" to help the Gates Foundation "make this the best back-to-school teachers and students have ever had," it will be tough to top the back-to-schools the Gates Foundation provided for Bill's Lakeside School and Melinda's Ursuline Academy!" top
ACM Blames the Personal Computer for Driving Women Away from Computer Science
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Communications of the ACM, a new article — Computing's Narrow Focus May Hinder Women's Participation — suggests that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should shoulder some of the blame for the dearth of women at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies. From the article: "Valerie Barr, chair of ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), believes the retreat [of women from CS programs] was caused partly by the growth of personal computers. 'The students who graduated in 1984 were the last group to start college before there was personal computing. So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world. After personal computers, that wasn't true any more.'" So, does TIME's 1982 Machine of the Year deserve the bad rap? By the way, the ACM's Annual Report discusses its participation in an alliance which has helped convince Congress that there ought to be a federal law making CS a "core subject" for girls and boys: "Under the guidance of the Education Policy Committee, ACM continued its efforts to reshape the U.S. education system to see real computer science exist and count as a core graduation credit in U.S. high schools. Working with the CSTA, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, NSF, Microsoft, and Google, ACM helped launch a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org to strengthen high school level computing courses, improve teacher training, engage states in bringing computer science into their core curriculum guidelines, and encourage more explicit federal recognition of computer science as a key discipline in STEM discussions."" top
theodp (442580) writes "Over at Khan Academy, Salman Khan explains Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart. "Recently," writes Khan, "I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach." According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who Khan cites, the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are. A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life" top
Tech Looks to Obama to Save Them From "Just Sort of OK" U.S. Workers
theodp (442580) writes "Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBMHewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."" top
Had Google Driverless Cars Existed, Would Steve Jobs Have Gotten a Liver?
theodp (442580) writes "In his biography of the late Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson explained that drunk drivers have been very good to those awaiting organ transplants (Jobs received a liver from a young man killed in a car crash). So, with the day of an autonomous Google car in every garage perhaps not as far off as one might think, Fortune's Erin Griffith asks a dark-but-necessary question: If driverless cars save lives, where will we get organs? Citing a 2013 study by the Eno Center for Transportation, Griffith estimates that if 90% of vehicles were autonomous, an estimated 4.2 million accidents would be prevented and 21,700 lives would be saved. And then, notes Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis, "we actually have a whole other problem on our hands of, 'Where do we get organs?' I don't think we'll actually be printing organs until we solve the self-driving car issue. The next problem will be organ replacement."" top