MIT Master's Program To Use MOOCs As 'Admissions Test' ( 94

jyosim writes: In what could usher a new way of doing college admissions at elite colleges, MIT is experimenting with weighing MOOC performance as proof that students should be accepted to on-campus programs. The idea is to fix the "inexact science" of sorting through candidates from all over the world. And it gives students a better sense of what they're getting into: "When you buy a car, you take a test drive. Wouldn't it be a great value for prospective students to take a test course before they apply?" said one academic blogger.

Prison Debate Team Beats Harvard's National Title Winners 185 writes: Lauren Gambino reports at The Guardian that months after winning this year's national debate championship, Harvard's debate team has fallen to a debate team of three inmates with violent criminal records. The showdown took place at the Eastern correctional facility in New York, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. The Bard prison initiative has expanded since 2001 to six New York correctional facilities, and aims to provide inmates with a liberal arts education so that when the students leave prison they are able to find meaningful work. A three-judge panel concluded that the Bard team had raised strong arguments that the Harvard team had failed to consider and declared the team of inmates victorious. "Debate helps students master arguments that they don't necessarily agree with," says Max Kenner. "It also pushes people to learn to be not just better litigators but to become more empathetic people, and that's what really speaks to us as an institution about the debate union."

The prison team has proven formidable in the past, beating teams from the US military academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. They lost a rematch against West Point in April, setting up a friendly rivalry between the teams. The competition against West Point has become an annual event, and the prison team is preparing for the next debate in spring. In the morning before the debate, team members talked of nerves and their hope that competing against Harvard—even if they lost—would inspire other inmates to pursue educations. "If we win, it's going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here," says Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard."

Europe Code Week 2015: Cocktails At Microsoft, 'Ode To Code' Robot Dancing 15

theodp writes: In case your invite to next week's Europe Code Week 2015 kickoff celebration at the Microsoft Centre in Brussels was lost in the e-mail, you can apparently still invite yourself. "Let's meet to celebrate coding as an empowering competence, key for maintaining our society vibrant and securing the prosperity of our European digital economy," reads the invite at the Microsoft and Facebook-powered All you Need is Code website. And to "keep raising awareness of the importance of computational thinking beyond Code Week," EU Code Week is also running an Ode to Code Video Contest, asking people to make short YouTube videos showing how the event's Ode to Code soundtrack causes uncontrollable robot dancing (video) and flash mobs (video). Things sure have changed since thirty years ago, when schoolchildren were provided with materials like The BASIC Book to foster computational thinking!

4 Calif. Students Arrested For Alleged Mass-Killing Plot 446

The New York Times reports that four high school students in the small California town of Tuolumne, about 120 miles east of San Francisco, have been arrested, but not yet charged, for planning an attack on their school, Summerville High School. According to the Times, three of the four were overheard discussing this plot, and a fourth conspirator was later identified. Their goal, according to Toulumne sheriff James Mele, was "to shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus"; they had not however been able yet to obtain the weapons they wanted to carry out the attack. From NBC News' version of the story: "Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School," Mele said. "The suspects' plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out."

Hour of Code Kicks Off In Chile With Dog Poop-Themed CS Tutorial 49

theodp writes: In an interesting contrast to the Disney princess-themed Hour of Code tutorial that 'taught President Obama to code' last December, Chile is kicking off its 2015 Hora del Codigo this week with a top-featured Blockly tutorial that teaches computer science by having kids drag-and-drop blocks of code to pick up dog poop. "Collect all the shit you have left your dog," reads the Google translated instructions for the final coding exercise. In its new video for the Hour of Code 2015 campaign, tech billionaire-backed notes that it's striving to reach 200 million schoolchildren worldwide by this December. Presumably towards that end, warns that it will penalize Computer Science tutorials that "work only in English."

Soon-to-Be US Ed Chief Was Almost FB CEO's Ed Chief 30

theodp writes: Before President Obama announced John B. King as his pick to replace outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is returning to Chicago, where his kids now attend a $30K-a-year private school), King was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pick to lead Zuck's failed $100 million "reform" effort of Newark's Schools. From The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?: "[Newark Mayor Cory] Booker asked [NJ Governor Chris] Christie to grant him control of the schools by fiat, but the governor demurred, offering him instead a role as unofficial partner in all decisions and policies, beginning with their joint selection of a 'superstar' superintendent to lead the charge. Booker's first choice was John King, then deputy New York State education commissioner, who had led some of the top-performing charter schools in New York City and Boston and who credited public school teachers with inspiring him to persevere after he was orphaned as a young boy in Brooklyn. [Mark] Zuckerberg and [his wife Priscilla] Chan flew King to Palo Alto for a weekend with them and [Facebook executive Sheryl] Sandberg; Christie hosted him at the governor's beach retreat on the Jersey Shore; and Booker led King and his wife, Melissa, on a tour of Newark, with stops at parks and businesses that hadn't existed before his mayoralty. But after much thought, King turned them down. Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker expected to arrive at their national model within five years. King believed it could take almost that long to change the system's fundamental procedures and to raise expectations across the city for children and schools. "John's view was that no one has achieved what they're trying to achieve: build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes," said an acquaintance who talked with King about the offer. "You'd have to invest not only a long period of time but tremendous political capital to get it done." King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office."

San Francisco Still Among Most Dangerous For Pedestrians 278

dkatana writes: The city of San Francisco averages 200 injuries per year and 30 deaths. This is almost double the number of Barcelona, Catalonia, which has about the same population. The city started a Vision Zero program, aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminate pedestrian deaths by 2024. But after a year-long Vision Zero education push called Safe Streets SF, whose key message is that pedestrians always have the right of way, the results have been modest. Now a series of banners on light poles in the South of Market neighborhood with the message: 'Slow down! We live here!' are trying to convince drivers to respect people on foot.

10 Confirmed Dead In Shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College 1162

CNN and other sources report that an attacker, now in custody, shot and killed a reported ten people, and wounded another 20, at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, about three hours south of Portland, and described by CNN as "technically a gun-free zone." Students are being evacuated to a nearby fairgrounds, and local authorities advise anyone to avoid the area of the college. Wikipedia editors are also quickly compiling information about the attack. More news on the attack is still breaking; expect updates here.

Houston's Gifted Education Program Biased Against Blacks and Latinos 445

tiberus sends an NPR report investigating the fairness of gifted and talented programs in Houston schools. Analysts believe black and hispanic students are at put at a disadvantage because of the way in which the program is run. Quoting: Donna Ford, at Vanderbilt University, thinks that put Isaac at a disadvantage. She's been researching gifted education for decades, and when it comes to Houston's program she says, "I think it's a clear case of segregation, gifted education being segregated by race and income." Houston school leaders asked Ford to take a close look at their enrollment in the program, and she gave it a failing grade. "Racial bias has to be operating, inequities are rampant. Discrimination does exist whether intentional or unintentional," she told the school board in May of this year. Ford found that both Hispanic and black students are underrepresented in gifted programs and that black students are missing out the most. She also found that about half the seats in those programs go to higher-income students, even though the majority of the district is poor.

When Schools Overlook Introverts 307

Esther Schindler writes: A few years ago, Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking seemed to give the world a bit of enlightenment about getting the most out of people who don't think they should have to be social in order to succeed. For a while, at least some folks worked to respect the needs and advantages of introversion, such as careful, reflective thinking based on the solitude that idea-generation requires.

But in When Schools Overlook Introverts, Michael Godsey writes, "The way in which certain instructional trends — education buzzwords like "collaborative learning" and "project-based learning" and "flipped classrooms" — are applied often neglect the needs of introverts. In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior — through dynamic and social learning activities — are being promoted now more than ever." It's a thoughtful article, worth reading. As I think many people on slashdot will agree, Godsley observes, "This growing emphasis in classrooms on group projects and other interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they're working independently and in more subdued environments."

Jeff Atwood NY Daily News Op-Ed: Learning To Code Is Overrated 300

theodp writes: Responding to New York City's much-ballyhooed $81 million initiative to require all of the city's public schools to offer CS to all students, Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood has penned a guest column for the NY Daily News which cautions that learning to code isn't all it's cracked up to be. Atwood begins, "Mayor de Blasio is winning widespread praise for his recent promise that, within 10 years, all of New York City's public schoolchildren will take computer science classes. But as a career programmer who founded two successful software startups, I am deeply skeptical about teaching all kids to code." Why? "If someone tells you 'coding is the new literacy' because 'computers are everywhere today,' ask them how fuel injection works. By teaching low-level coding, I worry that we are effectively teaching our children the art of automobile repair. A valuable skill — but if automobile manufacturers and engineers are doing their jobs correctly, one that shouldn't be much concern for average people, who happily use their cars as tools to get things done without ever needing to worry about rebuilding the transmission or even change the oil." Atwood adds, "There's nothing wrong with basic exposure to computer science. But it should not come at the expense of fundamental skills such as reading, writing and mathematics...I've known so many programmers who would have been much more successful in their careers if they had only been better writers, better critical thinkers, better back-of-the-envelope estimators, better communicators. And aside from success in careers, we have to ask the broader question: What kinds of people do we want children to grow up to be?"

Stop Taking All the Fun Out of Science 246 writes: Heidi Stevens writes in the Chicago Tribune that according to NASA astronaut Mae Jemison schools treat science like the class where fun goes to die. "Kids come out of the chute liking science. They ask, 'How come? Why? What's this?' They pick up stuff to examine it. We might not call that science, but it's discovering the world around us," says Jemison. "Once we get them in school, we turn science from discovery and hands-on to something you're supposed to do through rote memorization." But science doesn't have to be that way says Jemison. Especially in the elementary school years. "When you have teachers saying, 'I don't have enough time for hands-on activities,' we need to rethink the way we do education," says Jemison. "The drills we do, where you're telling kids to memorize things, don't actually work. What works is engaging them and letting them do things and discover things." Jemison has teamed up with Bayer to advance science literacy across the United States by emphasizing the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities in public schools. Bayer announced recently that it will provide 1 million hands-on science experiences for kids by 2020. "Science is around us everywhere," says Jemison. Farming is science. Cooking is science. Even styling hair involves science. "When we go to the hairdresser, we want her to know something about pH balance," says Jemison with a laugh. "Boy, do we ever want her to know something about pH balance!"

Girls-Only Computer Camps Formed At Behest of Top Google, Facebook Execs 449

theodp writes: Reporting on Google exec Susan Wojcicki's appearance at DreamForce, Inc.'s Tess Townsend writes: "The YouTube CEO said her daughter had stated point-blank that she did not like computers, so Wojcicki enrolled her in a computer camp. The camp made her daughter dislike tech even more. Wojcicki reported her daughter came back saying, 'Everyone in the class was a boy and nobody was like me and now I hate computers even more.' So, mom called the camp and spoke to the CEO, asking that the camp be made more welcoming to girls" (video). Fortune reported last July that it was the urging of Wojcicki and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that prompted iD Tech Camps — which Wojcicki's and Sandberg's kids had attended — to spin off a girls-only chain of tech camps called Alexa Cafe, which was trialed in the Bay Area in 2014 and expanded to nine locations in 2015. Earlier this month, Fortune noted that Wojcicki's daughter attended the $949-a-week Alexa Cafe summer camp at Palo Alto High, which was coincidentally hosted in the multi-million dollar Media Center (video) that was built thanks to the efforts of Wojcicki's mother Esther (a long-time Paly journalism teacher) and partially furnished and equipped by sister Anne (23andMe CEO) and ex-brother-in-law Sergey Brin's charitable foundation.

Ask Slashdot: Herding Cats, Aging Systems? 158

An anonymous reader writes: I've recently started a job at a medium-sized enterprise in the UK. They claimed to be an advocate of open-source. The job was advertised as a Linux sys-admin. I've been in the role a short while and the systems right across the business are end-of-life: lots of XP and 2003 servers, a handful of LAMP web servers, and a large IT department with almost no skills in the technologies on site. Most boxes have the default password still. As a senior techie, I've been tasked with helping bring the skillset of the rest of the staff up. Where would you start, given that most of the kit is EoL?

RIP: Tech Advocate and Obama Advisor Jake Brewer 142

SpaceGhost writes: The BBC reports that Jake Brewer, a 34-year-old senior policy advisor in the White House Chief Technology Office, has died while participating in a charity bike race on Saturday. Some of his work included global policy and external affairs at, the White Houses TechHire initiative, and the administration's efforts to expand broadband connectivity. Brewer's death has triggered emotional tributes from many in the worlds of politics and technology. Brewer was well known for his work on, and in his role at the White House as an advocate for education, access to technology, and intelligent use of data to make government more effective.

Microsoft Spending $75M To Boost K-12 CS Education, Put TEALS In 4,000 Schools 48

theodp writes: An NSF-funded evaluation of the Microsoft TEALS program — which sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience into high schools to teach kids and their teachers computer science — isn't scheduled to be completed until 2018. But having declared a K-12 CS education emergency (which it's linked to an H-1B visa emergency), Microsoft is going full speed ahead and spending $75 million to boost computer science in schools. The software giant told USA today that it aims to put TEALS in 700 high schools in the next three years and in 4,000 over the next decade, focusing on urban and rural districts to reach more young women and minorities. "In the U.S. alone, the economy will create 1.4 million new computing jobs by the year 2022," wrote Microsoft President and Board member Brad Smith. "Yet, less than a quarter of U.S. high schools currently teach computer science. That's not enough and we're working with schools and policy-makers to change that."

Ahmed Mohamed, His Clock, and the Curious Turn of Events 662

New submitter poity writes: After the news first broke of the 9th grader getting cuffed for scaring school officials with what turned out to be a digital clock, Ahmed Mohamed has experienced a surge of popular support — hailed as a genius and a hero, with college scholarships, internship offers, and even an invitation to the White House by President Obama himself. Now, amid rumors of possible racial discrimination lawsuits against the school and local police, some people have begun to more deeply scrutinize the details of the case, especially on the tech side with regard to the homemade clock in question. Recently, a writer at the creative site Artvoice posted a remarkable analysis of Ahmed's clock project, which raises new questions about the case and the manner in which people and the media alike have reacted. The linked analysis posits that Ahmed's clock started out as another clock, rather than a box of parts, and Ahmed can be said to have repackaged rather than "invented" a wholly new clock, but acknowledges that "none of us were there and knows what happened."

Trademark Trolls Stops University Nicknames 102

chipperdog writes: Trademark and patent trolls have even found their way in complicating a university nickname selection, with people admitting to registering nicknames with the trademark office just to stop them or get rich off of them. The Grand Forks Herald reports: "The search for a new University of North Dakota nickname hit a potential new stumbling block on Monday, when former Bismarck mayor Marlan 'Hawk' Haakenson registered trade names for several of the Fighting Sioux replacement options under consideration. Haakenson said he registered the trade names in an attempt to interfere with the nickname selection process, though a UND official said such an attempt was unlikely to succeed."

The Answer To the High Cost of College: 42% Cut In Tuition 143

McGruber writes: Utica College, a small, private university in upstate NY, announced it is cutting its annual tuition by 42 percent. According to College President Todd Hutton, the change will reduce the sticker shock that many parents and students have when seeing the tuition price. Hutton says there are fewer than a dozen students who pay the full price. Currently, 61 percent of the tuition revenue coming from freshman is grants and subsidies directly from the college's pockets. Under the new tuition rate this number, called the "discount rate," would go down to 29 percent. Essentially, Utica College would spend less of its own money to pay the tuition of students who can't afford the full price. It expects to make up the lost revenue through increased enrollment, which would come as a result of the college appearing to be more affordable. Even though some of it sounds like a shell game, students will all make out better in the end, Hutton said. The least a student will save is $1,000. The most is more than $5,000, Hutton said.

Are Non-Technical Certifications Worth Earning? 118

Nerval's Lobster writes: Everybody knows that certain technical certifications can boost your career. For developers and others, though, is it worth earning non-technical certifications such as the PMP (Project Management Professional), CRISC (which certifies that you're good at managing risk)? The short answer, of course, might be, 'Yes, if you plan on moving into management, or something highly specialized.' But for everybody else, it's hard to tell whether certain certifications are worth the time and money, on the nebulous hope that they'll pay off at some point in the future, or if you're better off just focusing on the technical certifications for certain hard skills.