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Submission + - WikiLeaks: Clinton Campaign Advised Computer Science Education Wins Elections

theodp writes: "Computer Science is about jobs and equity in every state in America, and it wins elections," begins co-founder Ali Partovi in a leaked May 2015 email to Hillary for America CTO Stephanie Hannon and others (including LinkedIn Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman), according to WikiLeaks. "Whichever candidate embraces it first will be seen as a visionary leader when it comes to about jobs, economic growth, and America's future [...] Computer Science is real and resonates with voters (far more than 'STEM'). Computer Science helped win the recent election in Arkansas for Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)." Brother Hadi Partovi, CEO of tech-backed, adds: "One thing to consider, *Any* time Hillary says 'STEM', if she instead said 'Computer science' she'd have more voters understand and support her [...] for winning an election, 'STEM' is not what voters react to. " The Clinton camp seemed keen on the idea. "The founders of are eager to see Hillary make statements in support of computer science education and to have us participate in the hour of code," wrote Hannon in an email to Clinton Chief Digital Strategist Teddy Goff. "I would definitely be for participating in the hour of code as POTUS did last year," replied Goff. Three months later, Hour of Code computer science tutorials were offered at a Clinton Presidential Center event celebrating back-to-school and the ex-President's birthday, which was sponsored by the Clinton Foundation in partnership with the Office of Governor Asa Hutchinson. During last December's national Hour of Code, which is run by, @HillaryClinton tweeted her support. Last July, Hadi Partovi noted that U.S. politicians are bringing K-12 computer science to the campaign trail, citing Clinton's recently released tech agenda, which vowed to "provide every student in America an opportunity to learn computer science" and "engage the private sector and nonprofits to train up to 50,000 computer science teachers in the next decade."

Submission + - Smartphones Are 'Contaminating' Family Life, Study Suggests (

An anonymous reader writes: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can be distracting from child-rearing, upending family routines and fueling stress in the home, a small, new study finds. Incoming communication from work, friends and the world at large is “contaminating” family mealtime, bedtime and playtime, said study lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky. She’s an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her comments stem from her team’s study involving interviews with 35 parents and caregivers of young children in the Boston area. “This tension, this stress, of trying to balance newly emerging technologies with the established patterns and rituals of our lives is extremely common, and was expressed by almost all of our participants,” Radesky said. “We have to toggle between what might be stress-inducing or highly cognitively demanding mobile content and responding to our kids’ behavior,” she said. The result, said Radesky, is often a rise in parent-child tension and overall stress. Modern parents and caregivers interact with tablets, smartphones and other communication devices for about three hours a day, the study authors said in background notes. Radesky’s team previously found that when parents used mobile devices during meals they interacted less with their children, and became stressed when children tried to grab their attention away from the device. The new study included 22 mothers, nine fathers and four grandmothers. Participants were between 23 and 55 years old (average age 36) and cared for toddlers or young children up to age 8. Roughly one-third were single parents, and nearly six in 10 were white. On the plus side, many parents said that mobile devices facilitated their ability to work from home. But that could fuel anxiety, too. Some said smartphones provided access to the outside world, and alleviated some of the boredom and stress of child-rearing. On the down side, caregivers described being caught in a tug-of-war between their devices and their children.

Submission + - Facebook Guesses What's In Pictures To Help Visually Impaired ( 1

itwbennett writes: Taking the issue of bad image metadata into its own hands, starting today, Facebook will tell users of screen readers what appears in the photos on their timeline. Jeremy Kirk explains: 'To describe the images, Facebook built a computer vision system with a neural network trained to recognize a number of concepts, including places and the presence of people and objects. It analyzes each image for the presence of different elements, and then composes a short sentence describing it that is included in the web page as the 'alt' text of the image.'

Comment Re:what for? (Score 1) 57

I get that.

What I don't get is why that requires Minecraft. It seems counter-productive due to complexity. A good fraction of people don't have very good 3d imagination and would finding a top-down 2d world much easier to comprehend.

Normally I would agree with that statement. In the past I tried 2D systems such as GameMaker and other block-like languages. I tried Alice the past two years which ventured into 3D. The difference with Minecraft is the kids already know it. I took a poll of the kids on the first day of class and only 2 out of 60 had never played Minecraft. That helps quite a bit with the learning curve so we can just focus on the logic. Their final grades were also much better this year and attribute a lot of that to the engagement Minecraft provided.

Comment Re:what for? (Score 2) 57

I used it in my Computer Science courses to teach kids the basics of loops, variables, if statements, etc. before introducing them to a "real" programming language. The kids loved it and they had a much better understand of those basic programming constructs than they did in years past when I used Alice to introduce concepts. MinecraftEdu comes with "turtles" that the kids can program using a block-like language. Basically simulating the old Logo program.

Comment Re:We need a different term for this (Score 3, Interesting) 145

Pair programming is how you engage in affirmative action without having to spell it out in school policy. You pair up the students who can't/won't succeed with the students who can and will succeed. The successful student will do all the work to keep up their GPA and the shit student can coast his/her way to a passing grade. All while avoiding the political minefield that would come with forcing more girls, more people of color, or more of whatever group is the cause de jour into programming through social promotion and affirmative action.

That's pretty cynical. I use pair programming in my classes, but the kids can choose their pairs. It's not meant to give kids better grades. In fact, I usually only use it for tasks I won't be grading. It's meant so the kids can work with someone else and bounce ideas off each other to see a different perspective and hopefully gain a better understanding of CS. The kids have to take turns on the keyboard so even if one kid is a much better programmer, they are forced to talk about what to do instead of just typing all the code themselves in silence.

Comment Re:No (Score 1) 56

I've used Minecraft's redstone logic to teach my computer science students logical reasoning, which they then apply to actual computer programs. I know there have been many failed edutainment options in the past, but they only fail when they are not used in a thoughtful manner. I won't argue that there are probably teachers out there who just throw Minecraft at the kids and think something magic will happen, but it is an incredible tool if used thoughtfully.

Comment Re:Classroom vs self-guided (Score 4, Informative) 47

Colleges definetly use advanced courses such as AP as a basis for admission (Advice From a Dean of Admissions on Selecting High School Courses). Whether it's right or not, colleges consider academic "rigor" in high school to admit students, and the AP courses have a standardized curriculum which makes it easier for colleges to judge their difficulty.

Comment Re:The correct decision (Score 1) 355

Not sure how long their semester is, but most schools would be ending in the next few weeks so he should have stuck it out. If he failed the students he knew were misbehaving he would have been on much higher ground. Most universities have an appeal policy for grades, but the student has a high bar to pass to appeal a grade given by a professor. The university will almost always defer to the professor in a he-said, she-said scenario.

Comment Re:Hard to take sides (Score 1) 355

Definitely agree that both sides are at fault here. Classroom management is one of the toughest jobs for a teacher, and I think professors sometimes feel they don't need to worry about it since college students are paying their way and there won't be the discipline issues you have at lower grade levels. The students clearly demonstrated that isn't true, but the need for security guards showed this was building over a long period of time. I wish I had more details, but this should have been addressed much earlier.

Comment Re:Fabricating a Crisis? (Score 1) 165

MR. SMITH: "One of the things I've learned from all of the various anti-trust and intellectual property negotiations I've handled over the years is this, sometimes when a small problem proves intractable you have to make it bigger. You have to make the problem big enough so that the solution is exciting enough to galvanize people's attention..."

That actually makes my point. The summary states that they fabricated a crisis, but what you just posted shows that they thought it was a smaller problem that just needed to be made bigger to find a solution.

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