Education

Led By Zuckerberg, Billionaires Give $100M To Fund Private Elementary Schools 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the price-of-an-education dept.
theodp writes: AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled private elementary school initiative started by an ex-Googler, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by established VC firms and high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, John Doerr, and Pierre Omidyar. AltSchool uses proprietary software that provides students with a personalized playlist lesson that teachers can keep close tabs on. Currently, a few hundred students in four Bay Area classrooms use AltSchool tech. Three more California classrooms, plus one in Brooklyn, are expected to come online this fall, plus one in Brooklyn. "We believe that every child should have access to an exceptional, personalized education that enables them to be happy and successful in an ever-changing world," reads AltSchool's mission statement. For $28,750-a-year, your kid can be one of them right now. Eventually, the plan is for the billionaire-bankrolled education magic to trickle down. AltSchool's pitch to investors, according to NPR, is that one day, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to its software platform.
Education

Unable To Hack Into Grading System, Georgia Student Torches Computer Lab 241

Posted by timothy
from the our-son dept.
McGruber writes: A 15 year-old Douglas County, Georgia high school student has been charged with five felonies, including burglary and arson, after sheriff's deputies caught him while responding to a 1 AM fire at Alexander High School. The boy admitted to investigators that he set fire to a computer after trying, unsuccessfully, to hack into the school computer system to change his grade on a failed test. "It's very sad and tragic. He could have very easily come to one of his counselors and asked for help," said Lt. Glenn Daniel with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. "From what we can tell, (the student) was mad and frustrated because he could not hack into the system." Lt. Daniel said the charges could land the young man in prison for several years. The computer lab was cleaned up and re-opened in time for the start of that day's classes.
Graphics

My High School CS Homework Is the Centerfold 605

Posted by timothy
from the awfully-thin-skin dept.
theodp writes: To paraphrase the J. Geils Band, Maddie Zug's high school computer science homework is the centerfold. In a Washington Post op-ed, Zug, a student at the top-ranked Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, argues that a centerfold does not belong in the classroom. "I first saw a picture of Playboy magazine's Miss November 1972 a year ago as a junior at TJ," Zug explains. "My artificial intelligence teacher told our class to search Google for Lena Soderberg (not the full image, though!) and use her picture to test our latest coding assignment...Soderberg has a history with computer science. In the 1970s, male programmers at the University of Southern California needed to test their image-processing algorithm. They scanned what they had handy: the centerfold of a Playboy magazine. Before long, the image became a convention in industry and academia." (Wikipedia has a nice background, too.)
Books

Obama Announces e-Book Scheme For Low-Income Communities 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-a-book-and-you-get-a-book-and-you-get-a-book dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The White House has today launched an initiative encouraging top book publishers to supply $250 million worth of free e-books to low-income students. Partnering with local governments and schools nationwide, President Obama hopes that the e-book scheme will support low-income households who significantly trail the national average for computer ownership and digital connectivity. At Anacostia Library in Southeast Washington, D.C., Obama announced that libraries and schools in poorer communities would be supported by the scheme and efforts would be made to increase internet access at these establishments. Publishers involved in the program include Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. NGOs, such as book donation charity Firstbook, and public libraries will also be working together to develop apps to support the digital reading program.
Education

White House Outsources K-12 CS Education To Infosys Charity 88

Posted by timothy
from the perhaps-someone-besides-mama-cass-is-getting-fat dept.
theodp writes: In December, the White House praised the leadership of Code.org for their efforts to get more computer science into K-12 schools, which were bankrolled by $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg. On Monday, it was announced that Infosys Foundation USA will be partnering with Code.org to bring CS education to millions of U.S. students. Infosys Foundation USA Chair Vandana Sikka, who joins execs from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon execs on Code.org's Board, is the spouse of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka. The announcement from the tax-deductible charity comes as India-based Infosys finds itself scrutinized by U.S. Senators over allegations of H-1B visa program abuses.
Australia

Australia To Grade Written Essays In National Exam With Cognitive Computing 108

Posted by timothy
from the oh-this-will-work-well dept.
New submitter purnima writes: Australia keeps on giving and giving. Each year school kids in Australia sit The National Assessment Program (NAPLAN) which in part tests literacy. The exam includes a written page-long essay aimed at examining both language aptitude and literacy of students. Of course, human-marking of such essays is costly (twenty teacher-minutes per exam). So some bright spark has proposed that the essays be marked by computer. The government is convinced and the program is slated for the 2017 school year. Aside from the moral issues, is AI ready for this major task?
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Should I Build a Maker Space For a Liberal Arts College? 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the build-it-out-of-LEGO dept.
XxtraLarGe writes: I work for a small liberal arts college, and have been asked to research makerspaces. I have done a bunch of initial research which tells me a lot about equipment being used, as well as location, etc., but what I'm not finding are what to know before you start, or what it takes to make the effort worthwhile.

I'd be interested in hearing from other educators, staff, students and other maker community members on Slashdot that had makerspaces at their schools or community — can be any level — and what was the experience like? 3D printer, 3D scanner & Laser cutting machines seem to be a given, so I'd like to hear what kinds of think-outside-the-box equipment/materials did you have? We are considering putting it in our library, which seems to be a popular choice with most schools. There's also the possibility of having it somewhere in town that it could be more accessible to members of the community, maybe even as a co-op.
Education

University Overrules Professor Who Failed Entire Management Class 353

Posted by timothy
from the aggies-being-aggies dept.
McGruber writes: After a semester of disrespect, backstabbing, lying, and cheating, Texas A&M Galveston Professor Irwin Horwitz had all he could take. He "sent a lengthy email to his Strategic Management class explaining that they would all be failing the course. He said the students proved to be incompetent and lack the maturity level to enter the workforce." Professor Horwitz's email cited examples of students cheating, telling him to "chill out," and inappropriate conduct. He said students spread untrue rumors about him online, and he said at one point he even felt the need to have police protection in class. "I was dealing with cheating, dealing with individuals swearing at me both in and out of class, it got to the point that the school had to put security guards at that class and another class," said Horowitz.

However, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Patrick Louchouarn made it very clear that the failing grades won't stick. The department head will take over the class until the end of the semester, according to school officials.
Education

How To Increase the Number of Female Engineers 634

Posted by Soulskill
from the other-than-million-dollar-signing-bonuses dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Lina Nilsson writes in an op-ed piece in the NY Times that she looks with despair at estimates that only about 14 percent of engineers in the work force are women. But there may be a solution to the disparity that is much simpler than targeted recruitment efforts. "An experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves," writes Nilsson. "That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering." Nilsson says that Blum Center for Developing Economies recently began a new program that, without any targeted outreach, achieved 50 percent female enrollment in just one academic year. In the fall of 2014, UC Berkeley began offering a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering for students doing thesis work on solutions for low-income communities. They are designing affordable solutions for clean drinking water, inventing medical diagnostic equipment for neglected tropical diseases and enabling local manufacturing in poor and remote regions.

According to Nilsson, women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good. She notes that MIT, the University of Minnesota, Penn State, Santa Clara University, Arizona State, and the University of Michigan have programs aimed at reducing global poverty and inequality that have achieved similar results. For example, at Princeton, the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders has an executive board that is nearly 70 percent female, reflecting the overall club composition. "It shows that the key to increasing the number of female engineers may not just be mentorship programs or child care centers, although those are important," concludes Nilsson. "It may be about reframing the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs. It is not just about gender equity — it is about doing better engineering for us all."
Education

Imagination To Release Open MIPS Design To Academia 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the some-strings-attached dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Imagination Technologies has developed a Linux-ready academic version of its 32-bit MIPS architecture MicroAptiv processor design, and is giving it away free to universities for use in computer research and education. As the MIPSfpga name suggests, the production-quality RTL (register transfer level) design abstraction is intended to run on industry standard FPGAs. Although MIPSfpga is available as a fully visible RTL design, MIPSfpga is not fully open source, according to the announcement from Robert Owen, Manager of Imagination's University Programme. Academic users can use and modify MIPSfpga as they wish, but cannot build it into silicon. "If you modify it, you must talk to us first if you wish to patent the changes," writes Owen.
Privacy

Supreme Court To Consider Data Aggregation Suit Against Spokeo 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-numbers-right dept.
BUL2294 writes: Consumerist and Associated Press are reporting that the Supreme Court has taken up the case of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins — a case where Spokeo, as a data aggregator, faces legal liability and Fair Credit Reporting Act violations for providing information on Thomas Robins, an individual who has not suffered "a specific harm" directly attributable to the inaccurate data Spokeo collected on him.

From SCOTUSblog: "Robins, who filed a class-action lawsuit, claimed that Spokeo had provided flawed information about him, including that he had more education than he actually did, that he is married although he remains single, and that he was financially better off than he actually was. He said he was unemployed and looking for work, and contended that the inaccurate information would make it more difficult for him to get a job and to get credit and insurance." So, while not suffering a specific harm, the potential for harm based on inaccurate data exists. Companies such as Facebook and Google are closely watching this case, given the potential of billions of dollars of liability for selling inaccurate information on their customers and other people.
Transportation

Audi Creates "Fuel of the Future" Using Just Carbon Dioxide and Water 481

Posted by samzenpus
from the fiture-fill-up dept.
EwanPalmer writes: German car manufacturer Audi says it has created the "fuel of the future" made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable sources. The synthetic "e-diesel" was made following a commissioning phase of just four months at a plant in Dresden, Germany. Germany's federal minister of education and research, Dr Johanna Wanka, said she has already used the fuel in her Audi A8, and the company hopes to produce at least 160 liters of the crystal clear fuel every day in the coming months. "This synthetic diesel, made using CO2, is a huge success for our sustainability research," Wanka said. "If we can make widespread use of CO2 as a raw material, we will make a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources, and put the fundamentals of the 'green economy' in place."
Education

The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher 352

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-need-no-education dept.
An anonymous reader writes: English teacher Michael Godsey writes in The Atlantic what he envisions the role of teachers to be in the future. In a nutshell, he sees virtual classrooms, less pay, and a drastic decrease in the number of educators, but thinks they will all be "super-teachers". From the article: "Whenever a college student asks me, a veteran high-school English educator, about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, I never think it's enough to say that the role is shifting from 'content expert' to 'curriculum facilitator.' Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation's most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The 'virtual class' will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country's best teachers (a.k.a. a "super-teacher"), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

I tell this college student that in each classroom, there will be a local teacher-facilitator (called a 'tech') to make sure that the equipment works and the students behave. Since the 'tech' won't require the extensive education and training of today's teachers, the teacher's union will fall apart, and that "tech" will earn about $15 an hour to facilitate a class of what could include over 50 students. This new progressive system will be justified and supported by the American public for several reasons: Each lesson will be among the most interesting and efficient lessons in the world; millions of dollars will be saved in reduced teacher salaries; the 'techs' can specialize in classroom management; performance data will be standardized and immediately produced (and therefore 'individualized'); and the country will finally achieve equity in its public school system."
AI

In New AI Benchmark, Computer Takes On Four Top Professional Poker Players 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-i-can't-let-you-take-that-pot dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Stephen Jordan reports at the National Monitor that four of the world's greatest poker players are going into battle against a computer program that researchers are calling Claudico in the "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Claudico, the first machine program to play heads-up no-limit Texas Hold'em against top human players, will play nearly 20,000 hands with each human poker player over the next two weeks. "Poker is now a benchmark for artificial intelligence research, just as chess once was. It's a game of exceeding complexity that requires a machine to make decisions based on incomplete and often misleading information, thanks to bluffing, slow play and other decoys," says Tuomas Sandholm, developer of the program. "And to win, the machine has to out-smart its human opponents." In total, that will be 1,500 hands played per day until May 8, with just one day off to allow the real-life players to rest.

An earlier version of the software called Tartanian 7 (PDF) was successful in winning the heads-up, no-limit Texas Hold'em category against other computers in July, but Sandholm says that does not necessarily mean it will be able to defeat a human in the complex game. "I think it's a 50-50 proposition," says Sandholm. "My strategy will change more so than when playing against human players," says competitor Doug Polk, widely considered the world's best player, with total live tournament earnings of more than $3.6 million. "I think there will be less hand reading so to speak, and less mind games. In some ways I think it will be nice as I can focus on playing a more pure game, and not have to worry about if he thinks that I think, etc."
Government

Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the daily-dose-of-cynicism dept.
theodp writes: The NY Times' Eric Lipton was just awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks. So, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy (PDF) to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas — which is on the verge of being codified into laws — was hatched at an influential Microsoft and Gates Foundation-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda after earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created.
Government

Bill To Require Vaccination of Children Advances In California 615

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-children? dept.
mpicpp sends the latest news on California legislation that would eliminate exemptions for vaccinating school children. A bill that would require nearly all children in California to be vaccinated by eliminating "personal belief" exemptions advanced through the State Legislature on Wednesday, though it still has several hurdles to clear. If approved, California would become one of only three states that require all parents to vaccinate their children as a condition of going to school, unless there is a medical reason not to do so. Under the bill, introduced after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland, parents who refuse vaccines for philosophical or religious reasons would have to educate their children at home. The legislation prompted a roiling debate in Sacramento, and last week hundreds of people protested at the Capitol, arguing that it infringed on their rights and that it would unfairly shut their children out of schools. Last Wednesday, the legislation stalled in the Senate Education Committee as lawmakers said they were concerned that too many students would be forced into home schooling. This Wednesday, however, the bill passed that committee after its authors tweaked it, adding amendments that would expand the definition of home schooling to allow multiple families to join together to teach their children or participate in independent study programs run by public school systems.
Education

Virtual Reality Games Can Improve Memory Retention of Safety Instructions 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-forget dept.
vrml writes: Using a virtual reality (VR) headset to experience risky situations as immersive 3D games improves memory retention of passenger safety instructions, according to research published in the IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, and illustrated by a YouTube video. Researchers recruited occasional flyers: half of them played a VR gaming experience of an airliner water landing and evacuation, while the other half studied a real airline safety card. After one week, passengers who had studied the safety card suffered a significant loss of knowledge, while passengers who had played the VR game fully retained the safety knowledge gained. The research group has now made available its emergency water landing experience also for the Oculus Rift.
Robotics

Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-can-do-your-job-and-won't-complain-about-the-coffee dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NY Times that machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who's in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren't used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a "good enough" job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."

According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers' dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we've been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills. Tufekci points out that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
Businesses

How Publishing Upstart Mendeley Weathered Revolt and Became Part of the Paywall 81

Posted by timothy
from the best-laid-plans dept.
Lashdots writes At Fast Company, Tina Amritha writes about the controversial rise of reference manager startup Mendeley, which inspired revolt among its users when it announced in 2013 it was being acquired by scholarly publishing conglomerate Elsevier. "Seeing that some of our most vocal advocates thought we had sold them out felt awful," CEO Victor Henning said recently over a tea in Amsterdam, where Elsevier, Mendeley's parent company, is headquartered. "I had steeled myself for some pretty violent reactions beforehand. After all, I was aware of Elsevier's reputation and the mistakes they had made."...

Elsevier, like other large publishers, loathed Mendeley's open model; In 2013, it had forced Mendeley to remove its titles from its database. The thinking behind its acquisition of Mendeley—for a sum rumored to between $69 million and $100 million—was simple: to squash the threat Mendeley posed to its traditional subscription model, and to own the ecosystem that Mendeley had constructed, with its valuable data on the behavior of millions of researchers. But Henning contends, "We've kept the promises we made when we began."
Privacy

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 254

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"