Education

Microsoft Debuts Minecraft-Themed Coding Tutorial 23

theodp writes: In a few weeks, writes Microsoft Corporate VP Mary Snapp, "millions of kids and others will participate in an Hour of Code, a global call to action to spend an hour learning the basics of coding. Today, it's my privilege to announce that Microsoft has released a new Minecraft tutorial for Hour of Code, called Hero's Journey." The release of the new Code.org-touted flagship Hour of Code tutorial -- the third since Microsoft purchased Minecraft Maker Mojang for $2.5B in 2014 -- comes as Microsoft celebrates Minecraft: Education Edition reaching a milestone of 2 million users.

Microsoft boasts that nearly 70 million of its Minecraft Hour of Code sessions have been launched to-date, which is certainly impressive from an infomercial or brand awareness standpoint. But does [adding a Scratch block to] move a Minecraft character forward 7 times on an $800 Microsoft Surface offer all that much more educational value than, say, moving a peg forward 5 times on a $10.99 Pop-O-Matic Trouble board game?
IBM

Tech Companies Try Apprenticeships To Fill The Tech Skills Gap (thehill.com) 122

Slashdot reader jonyen writes: For generations, apprenticeships have been the way of working life; master craftsmen taking apprentices under their wing, teaching them the tools of the trade. This declined during the Industrial Revolution as the advent of the assembly line enabled mass employment for unskilled laborers. The master-apprentice model went further out of focus as higher education and formal training became increasingly more valuable.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where employers are turning back the page to apprenticeships in an effort to fill a growing skills gap in the labor force in the digital age. Code.org estimates there will be a million unfulfilled tech jobs by 2020.

jonyen shared this article by IBM's Vice President of Talent:IBM is committed to addressing this shortage and recently launched an apprenticeship program registered with the US Department of Labor, with a plan to have 100 apprentices in 2018. ... Other firms have taken up the apprenticeship challenge as well. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, for example, has called for creating 5 million American apprentices in the next five years.

An apprenticeship offers the chance for Americans to get the formal education they need, whether through a traditional university, a community college or a trade school, while getting something else: On-the-job experience and an income... Right now, there are more than 6 million jobs in the U.S. that are going unfilled because employers can't find candidates with the right skills, according to the Labor Department.

IBM says their apprentices "are on their way to becoming software developers in our Cloud business and mainframe administrators for technologies like Blockchain, and we will add new apprenticeships in data analytics and cybersecurity as we replicate the program across the U.S."

"Ninety-one percent of apprentices in the U.S. find employment after completing their program, and their average starting wage is above $60,000."
Education

The House's Tax Bill Levies a Tax On Graduate Student Tuition Waivers (nytimes.com) 572

Camel Pilot writes: The new GOP tax plan -- which just passed the House -- will tax tuition waivers as income. Graduate students working as research assistants on meager stipends would have to declare tuition waivers as income on the order of $80,000 income. This will force many graduate students of modest means to quit their career paths and walk away from their research. These are the next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors, educators, medical miracle workers and market makers. As Prof Claus Wilke points out: "This would be a disaster for U.S. STEM Ph.D. education." Slashdot reader Camel Pilot references a report via The New York Times, where Erin Rousseau explains how the House of Representatives' recently passed tax bill affects graduate research in the United States. Rousseau is a graduate student at M.I.T. who studies the neurological basis of mental health disorders. "My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a tuition bill of about $50,000 every year -- a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities," he writes. "No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn't counted as taxable income." Rousseau continues by saying his tuition waivers will be taxed under the House's tax bill. "This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That's an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually."
AI

Stanford Trains AI To Diagnose Pneumonia Better Than a Radiologist In Just Two Months (qz.com) 75

A new paper from Stanford University reveals how artificial intelligence algorithms can be quickly trained to diagnose pneumonia better than a radiologist. "Using 100,000 x-ray images released by the National Institutes of Health on Sept. 27, the research published Nov. 14 (without peer review) on the website ArXiv claims its AI can detect pneumonia from x-rays with similar accuracy to four trained radiologists," reports Quartz. From the report: That's not all -- the AI was trained to analyze x-rays for 14 diseases NIH included in the dataset, including fibrosis, hernias, and cell masses. The AI's results for each of the 14 diseases had fewer false positives and false negatives than the benchmark research from the NIH team that was released with the data. The paper includes Google Brain founder Andrew Ng as a co-author, who also served as chief scientist at Baidu and recently founded Deeplearning.ai. He's often been publicly bullish on AI's use in healthcare. These algorithms will undoubtedly get better -- accuracy on the ImageNet challenge rose from 75% to 95% in just five years -- but this research shows the speed at which these systems are built is increasing as well.
United States

Foreign Students Have Begun To Shun the United States (axios.com) 750

In a potential threat to future U.S. innovation, new international enrollment at U.S. colleges is down for the first time in more than a decade, according to a new report. From the report: It is the first hard sign that the Trump administration's rhetoric may be frightening away some of the world's best and brightest who traditionally have been drawn to settle and work in the U.S. Why it matters: "The Chinese whiz kid, if he can find a way to America, he'll come here. If you're good, you can make a lot of money," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, tells Axios. "That whole set of incentives has always been tied to the immigrant stream, and we're severing that connection." By the numbers: The findings are from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report and its smaller joint "snapshot" report on international enrollment. It found that new international student enrollment dropped by 3.3% for the 2016-2017 academic year, and by a far higher 6.9% in the Fall 2017 semester.
Education

Is American English Going To Take Over British English Completely? (scroll.in) 522

Paul Baker, writing for The Conversation: Brits can get rather sniffy about the English language -- after all, they originated it. But a Google search of the word "Americanisms" turns up claims that they are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so the argument goes, the homeland will soon be the 51st State as workers tell customers to "have a nice day" while "colour" will be spelt without a "u" and "pavements" will become "sidewalks." My research examined how both varieties of the language have been changing between the 1930s and the 2000s and the extent to which they are growing closer together or further apart. So do Brits have cause for concern? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, most of the easily noticeable features of British language are holding up. Take spelling, for example -- towards the 1960s it looked like the UK was going in the direction of abandoning the "u" in "colour" and writing "centre" as "center." But since then, the British have become more confident in some of their own spellings. In the 2000s, the UK used an American spelling choice about 11% of the time while Americans use a British one about 10% of the time, so it kind of evens out. Automatic spell-checkers which can be set to different national varieties are likely to play a part in keeping the two varieties fairly distinct. [...] But when we start thinking of language more in terms of style than vocabulary or spelling, a different picture emerges. Some of the bigger trends in American English are moving towards a more compact and informal use of language. American sentences are on average one word shorter in 2006 than they were in 1931. Americans also use a lot more apostrophes in their writing than they used to, which has the effect of turning the two words "do not" into the single "don't." They're getting rid of certain possessive structures, too -- so "the hand of the king" becomes the shorter "the king's hand." Another trend is to avoid passive structures such as "a paper was written," instead using the more active form, "I wrote a paper."
Education

Digital Technology Can Help Reinvent Basic Education In Africa (qz.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: African countries have worked hard to improve children's access to basic education, but there's still significant work to be done. Today, 32,6 million children of primary-school age and 25,7 million adolescents are not going to school in sub-Saharan Africa. The quality of education also remains a significant issue, but there's a possibility the technology could be part of the solution. The digital revolution currently under way in the region has led to a boom in trials using information and communication technology (ICT) in education -- both in and out of the classroom. A study carried out by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Orange and Unesco shows that ICT in education in general, and mobile learning in particular, offers a number of possible benefits. These include access to low-cost teaching resources, added value compared to traditional teaching and a complementary solution for teacher training. This means that there's a huge potential to reach those excluded from education systems. The quality of knowledge and skills that are taught can also be improved.
Earth

More Than 15,000 Scientists From 184 Countries Issue 'Warning To Humanity' (www.cbc.ca) 405

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: More than 15,000 scientists around the world have issued a global warning: there needs to be change in order to save Earth. It comes 25 years after the first notice in 1992 when a mere 1,500 scientists issued a similar warning. This new cautioning -- which gained popularity on Twitter with #ScientistsWarningToHumanity -- garnered more than 15,000 signatures. William Ripple of Oregon State University's College of Forestry, who started the campaign, said that he came across the 1992 warning last February, and noticed that this year happened to mark the 25th anniversary. Together with his graduate student, Christopher Wolf, he decided to revisit the concerns raised then, and collect global data for different variables to show trends over the past 25 years. Ripple found: A decline in freshwater availability; Unsustainable marine fisheries; Ocean dead zones; Forest losses; Dwindling biodiversity; Climate change; Population growth. There was one positive outcome, however: a rapid decline in ozone depletion. One of the potential solutions is to stabilize the population. If we reduce family size, consumption patterns don't rise as much. And that can be done by empowering girls and women, providing sexual education and education on family planning.
Education

Magazine For Museums Publishes Its 2040 Issue -- 23 Years Early (aam-us.org) 40

A nonprofit founded in 1906 is now offering a glimpse at 2040, according to an anonymous reader: The Alliance of American Museums has just published an ambitious Nov/Dec 2040 issue of Museum, the Alliance's magazine. The columns, reviews, articles, awards, and even the ads describe activities from a 2040 perspective, based on a multi-faceted consensus scenario.
Besides virtual reality centers (and carbon-neutral cities), it envisions de-extinction biologists who resurrect lost species. It also predicts a 2040 with orbiting storehouses to preserve historic artifacts (as well as genetic materials) as part of a collaboration with both NASA and a new American military branch called the US Space Corps. And of course, by 2040 musuems have transformed into hybrid institutions like "museum schools" and "well-being and cognitive health centers" that are both run by museums.

It also predicts for-profit museums that have partnered with corporations.
Google

Google Wants Google Doodles Taught In Public School, Warns Kids They Best Behave 146

theodp writes: Well, this year's Hour of Code is almost upon us, and if Google has its way, K-12 schoolchildren across the nation will be learning computer science by creating Google Doodles with Scratch (lesson plan). Curiously, the introductory video for the Create Your Own Google Logo Hour of Code activity from the Google Computer Science Education Department sternly warns kids, "While it is okay to use the Google logo for your personal Doodle, it is not okay [emphasis Google's] to use it anyplace else or outside this activity." In addition to respecting its intellectual property, Google instructs kids that they are to follow the Scratch Community Guidelines when they create Google logos: "Please stay positive, friendly, and supportive towards others in the Scratch Community. Help us keep Scratch a place where people of different backgrounds and interests feel welcome to hang out and create together."
Transportation

Uber Commits $5 Million To Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Prevention (gizmodo.com) 78

Uber announced on Sunday that it's taking new steps toward preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, starting with a $5 million donation to its partners -- Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, No More, Women of Color Network, Casa de Esperanza, A Call to Men, and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs -- along with an employee training program and in-app messaging to educate riders and drivers. Gizmodo reports: "As a result of this ongoing collaboration we have begun to make important changes internally and will commit to use Uber's scope and visibility to help drive awareness, education, and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence to millions globally," said Uber's announcement. Uber wrote on its blog that its technology "enhances safety for riders and drivers in ways that weren't possible before such as GPS tracking, the ability to share a trip with family and friends, and 24/7 support through the app." But the company has failed to adopt measures like more rigorous driver background checks, despite urging by lawmakers. The ride-sharing service left Austin altogether last year (along with Lyft) because it refused to fingerprint its drivers. Uber has argued that mandated fingerprinting is too burdensome. Advocates for fingerprinting argue that it helps ensure rider safety.
Youtube

'Something Is Wrong On the Internet' (medium.com) 365

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," writes James Bridle. From the article: To begin: Kid's YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I've been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That's it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them. [...] What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The New York Times, last week: Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app's more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes.
United States

The Disappearing American Grad Student (nytimes.com) 268

There are two very different pictures of the students roaming the hallways and labs at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. At the undergraduate level, 80 percent of the students are United States residents. But that number, The New York Times reports, falls below the 20 percent mark when you move to the graduate level (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). From the report: The Tandon School -- a consolidation of N.Y.U.'s science, technology, engineering and math programs on its Brooklyn campus -- is an extreme example of how scarce Americans are in graduate programs in STEM. Overall, these programs have the highest percentage of international students of any broad academic field. In the fall of 2015, about 55 percent of all graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering were from abroad, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board. In arts and humanities, the figure was about 16 percent; in business, a little more than 18 percent. The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master's programs last year were international students, according to an annual survey of American and Canadian universities by the Computing Research Association. In comparison, only about 9 percent of undergraduates in computer science were international students (perhaps, deans posit, because families are nervous about sending offspring who are barely adults across the ocean to study).
AI

'We Can't Compete': Universities Are Losing Their Best AI Scientists (theguardian.com) 268

The Guardian shares the story of a PhD student at Imperial College London who abruptly stopped coming to the facility, even as he had one-year of studies left. From the story: Eventually, the professor called him. He had left for a six-figure salary at Apple. "He was offered such a huge amount of money that he simply stopped everything and left," said Maja Pantic, professor of affective and behavioural computing at Imperial. "It's five times the salary I can offer. It's unbelievable. We cannot compete." It is not an isolated case, the report says. Adding: Across the country, talented computer scientists are being lured from academia by private sector offers that are hard to turn down. According to a Guardian survey of Britain's top ranking research universities, tech firms are hiring AI experts at a prodigious rate, fuelling a brain drain that has already hit research and teaching. One university executive warned of a "missing generation" of academics who would normally teach students and be the creative force behind research projects. The impact of the brain drain may reach far beyond academia. Pantic said the majority of top AI researchers moved to a handful of companies, meaning their skills and experience were not shared through society. "That's a problem because only a diffusion of innovation, rather than its concentration into just a few companies, can mitigate the dramatic disruptions and negative effects that AI may bring about."
Education

'Daylight Savings' Is Grammatically Incorrect (qz.com) 312

A reader shares a report: We talk about time like it's money, and that may explain why we say "Daylight Savings Time," capitalizing the concept to emphasize its awesomeness. After all, who wouldn't want to be able to save hours like cash? The phrase "Daylight Savings Time," though commonly used in Australia, Canada, and the US, is technically incorrect. Time and Date, a website devoted to all things chronological, posits that the plural "savings" became popular because it's used in everyday contexts, like "savings account." The grammatically correct usage is "daylight saving time." The expression is singular and not capitalized, according to the US Government Publishing Office style guide. The GPO provides the guidance, "d.s.t., daylight saving (no 's') time."
Education

Many Junior Scientists Need To Take a Hard Look at Their Job Prospects (nature.com) 152

In its careers section this week, science journal Nature surveyed more than 5,700 early-career scientists worldwide who are working on PhDs. Three-quarters of them, they told the journal, think it's likely that they will pursue an academic career when they graduate. How many of them will succeed? The editorial board of the journal wrote in a column published on Wednesday. Most PhD students will have to look beyond academia for a career, the editorial board added. From the article: Statistics say these young researchers will have a better chance of pursuing their chosen job than the young footballers. But not by much. Global figures are hard to come by, but only three or four in every hundred PhD students in the United Kingdom will land a permanent staff position at a university. It's only a little better in the United States. Simply put, most PhD students need to make plans for a life outside academic science. And more universities and PhD supervisors must make this clear. That might sound like an alarmist and negative attitude for the International Weekly Journal of Science. But it has been evident for years that international science is training many more PhD students than the academic system can support. Most of the keen and talented young scientists who responded to our survey will probably never get a foot in the door. Of those who do, a sizeable number are likely to drift from short-term contract to short-term contract until they become disillusioned and look elsewhere.
Businesses

San Francisco Just Took a Huge Step Toward Internet Utopia (wired.com) 226

Susan Crawford, writing for Backchannel: Last week, San Francisco became the first major city in America to pledge to connect all of its homes and businesses to a fiber optic network. I urge you to read that sentence again. It's a ray of light. In an era of short-term, deeply partisan do-nothing-ism, the city's straightforward, deeply practical determination shines. Americans, it turns out, are capable of great things -- even if only at the city level these days. [...] San Francisco's dilemma is a compact form of the crisis in communications facing the rest of the country: Although fiber is the necessary infrastructure for every policy goal we have -- advanced healthcare, the emergence of new forms of industries, a chance for every child to get an education, managed use of energy, and on and on -- the private sector, left to its own devices, has no particular incentive to ensure a widespread upgrade to fiber optic connections. Comcast dominates access in the city, but has no plans to replace its cable lines -- great at downloads, not so great at uploads, no opportunity to scale to the capacity of fiber thanks to the laws of physics, and expensive to subscribe to -- with fiber. And its planned enhancements to its cable lines have, in other cities, resulted in a product costing $150 per month. AT&T will say it's upgrading to fiber in San Francisco, but so far its work in many other US cities has been incremental, confined to areas where it has existing business customers to serve or where it already has fiber in place. Other, smaller providers similarly have no plans to do a city-wide upgrade, leaving San Francisco with a deeply uneven patchwork of connectivity. Just as in the rest of the country, poorer and less-well-educated San Franciscans tend not to subscribe to a wire at home, but instead rely wholly on smartphone data plans -- no substitutes, given their expense and throttled capacity, for what's possible using a wired connection.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go? 481

New submitter oort99 writes: Barreling towards my late 40s, I've enjoyed 25+ years of coding for a living, working in telecoms, government, and education. In recent years, it's been typical enterprise Java stuff. Looking around, I'm pretty much always the oldest in the room. So where are the other old guys? I can't imagine they've all moved up the chain into management. There just aren't enough of those positions to absorb the masses of aging coders. Clearly there *are* older workers in software, but they are a minority. What sectors have the others gone into? Retired early? Low-wage service sector? Genuinely interested to hear your story about having left the field, willfully or otherwise.
Education

42% of Americans Under 8 Have Their Own Tablet (axios.com) 221

A reader shares an Axios report: A whopping 42% of children ages 0-8 have their own tablet device, up from less than 1% in 2011, according to Common Sense Media's newest national "Media Use by Kids" census. Families with young children are now more likely to have a subscription video service such as Netflix or Hulu (72%) than they are to have cable TV (65%). 10% of kids age 8 or under own a "smart" toy that connects to the internet and 9% have a voice-activated virtual assistant device available to them in the home, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
AI

Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries For Scarce AI Talent (santafenewmexican.com) 156

jmcbain writes: Machine learning and artificial intelligence skills are in hot demand right now, and it's driving up the already-high salaries in Silicon Valley. "Tech's biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source)," reports the New York Times, and "typical AI specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock." The New York Times notes there are several catalysts for rocketing salaries that all come down to supply and demand. There is competition among the giant companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, and Uber) as well as the automative companies wanting help with self-driving cars. However, the biggest issue is the supply: "Most of all, there is a shortage of talent, and the big companies are trying to land as much of it as they can. Solving tough A.I. problems is not like building the flavor-of-the-month smartphone app. In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal."

Slashdot Top Deals