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The College Board Pushes To Make Computer Science a High School Graduation Requirement

The College Board Pushes To Make Computer Science a High School Graduation Requirement

theodp writes: Education Week reports that the College Board wants high schools to make it mandatory for students to take computer science before they graduate. The call came as the College Board touted the astonishing growth in its Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses, which was attributed to the success of its new AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) class, a “lite” alternative to the Java-based AP CS A course. “The College Board is willing to invest serious resources in making this viable — much more so than is in our economic interest to do so,” said College Board President David Coleman. “To governors, legislators, to others — if you will help us make this part of the life of schools, we will help fund it.”

Just two days before Coleman’s funds-for-compulsory-CS offer, Education Week cast a skeptical eye at the tech sector’s role in creating a tremendous surge of enthusiasm for K-12 CS education. Last spring, The College Board struck a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with a goal of making AP CSP available in every U.S. school district. Also contributing to the success of the College Board’s high school AP CS programs over the years has been tech-bankrolled Code.org, as well as tech giants Microsoft and Google. The idea of a national computer programming language requirement for high school students was prominently floated in a Google-curated Q&A session with President Obama (video) following the 2013 State of the Union address.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education

Google.org and StoryWeaver feed a hunger for reading

Today is International Mother Language Day which celebrates languages from around the world. More than 40% of the world’s children don’t have access to education materials in a language they understand. So to help close those gaps, we’re continuing our support of nonprofit organizations like Pratham Books.

Since 2013, Google.org has given more than $4 million to Pratham Books to build and grow their StoryWeaver platform which today includes thousands of stories in over 100 languages. We’ve also supported their offline tools—making it easier for students without access in remote communities to read and learn—and hundreds of Googlers have volunteered their time to help add new stories and languages.

We’re proud to support organizations like Pratham Books who use technology to create more opportunities for students to learn in their own languages and contexts. We believe that no matter what language a child speaks, they should be able to learn, grow, and give back to their communities.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, commemorate this International Mother Language Day by translating or creating your own story.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education, Google.org
Barbie Will Be Used To Teach Kids To Code

Barbie Will Be Used To Teach Kids To Code

Mattel and Tynker are teaming up to launch seven new Barbie-themed coding lessons this coming summer. “The curriculum, aimed at teaching girls about computer programming, will also expose them to potential careers like becoming a veterinarian, astronaut, or robotics engineer,” reports Engadget. “The larger goal is to introduce coding to 10 million kids by 2020.” From the report: The Barbie programming curriculum has been designed for beginners grades K and up. It puts learners in career roles alongside Barbie as it introduces concepts gradually. It’s not all just Barbie, of course, with a few different initiatives coming in 2018, including a Mattel code-a-thon and teacher outreach program as well as involvement in the Hour of Code in December. “For close to 75 years, Mattel has taken a visionary approach to advancing play for kids around the world, most recently promoting computer programming and other STEM skills alongside iconic brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels and Monster High,” said Tynker’s Krishna Vedati in a statement. “We are very excited by this expanded partnership and the ambitious — but achievable — goal of teaching 10 million kids to learn to code by 2020 using Mattel brands.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Learning To Program Is Getting Harder

Learning To Program Is Getting Harder

theodp writes: While Google suggests that parents and educators are to blame for why kids can’t code, Allen Downey, Professor at Olin College argues that learning to program is getting harder . Downey writes: The fundamental problem is that the barrier between using a computer and programming a computer is getting higher. When I got a Commodore 64 (in 1982, I think) this barrier was non-existent. When you turned on the computer, it loaded and ran a software development environment (SDE). In order to do anything, you had to type at least one line of code, even if all it did was another program (like Archon). Since then, three changes have made it incrementally harder for users to become programmers: 1. Computer retailers stopped installing development environments by default. As a result, anyone learning to program has to start by installing an SDE — and that’s a bigger barrier than you might expect. Many users have never installed anything, don’t know how to, or might not be allowed to. Installing software is easier now than it used to be, but it is still error prone and can be frustrating. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn’t have to learn system administration first. 2. User interfaces shifted from command-line interfaces (CLIs) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs are generally easier to use, but they hide information from users about what’s really happening. When users really don’t need to know, hiding information can be a good thing. The problem is that GUIs hide a lot of information programmers need to know. So when a user decides to become a programmer, they are suddenly confronted with all the information that’s been hidden from them. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn’t have to learn operating system concepts first. 3. Cloud computing has taken information hiding to a whole new level. People using web applications often have only a vague idea of where their data is stored and what applications they can use to access it. Many users, especially on mobile devices, don’t distinguish between operating systems, applications, web browsers, and web applications. When they upload and download data, they are often confused about where is it coming from and where it is going. When they install something, they are often confused about what is being installed where. For someone who grew up with a Commodore 64, learning to program was hard enough. For someone growing up with a cloud-connected mobile device, it is much harder. theodp continues: So, with the Feds budgeting $200 million a year for K-12 CS at the behest of U.S. tech leaders, can’t the tech giants at least put a BASIC on every phone/tablet/laptop for kids?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education

An experiment built with 3D Google Maps imagery, inspired by kids

At Google, we’re always excited to see how technology can help inspire new ways to learn – especially to learn about the world. For years, Google Maps has been adding 3D imagery from all over the world – New York City, the Grand Canyon, Mont Blanc, and more. A few of us started wondering if this 3D imagery could make learning about the world a bit more fun for kids. We started playing with quick prototypes, and even brainstormed with our own kids to get inspired by their sense of curiosity. 

Our idea became a new, experimental app called Verne: The Himalayas. It invites you to explore the Himalayas as a 500 foot Yeti named Verne. You can run up Mt. Everest, chase yaks, discover bits of information, ride a jetpack, play Himalayan instruments, and more.

We’re excited to share it today as a fun way for anyone to take a summer trip to the tallest mountain range in the world. Get the app for your Android device from the Play Store, or learn more here.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Computational Thinking for All Students

Computational Thinking for All Students

Editor’s note: Cross-posted on The Huffington Post and the Google Research blog.

Last year, I wrote about the importance of teaching computational thinking to all K-12 students. Given the growing use of computing, algorithms and data in all fields from the humanities to medicine to business, it’s becoming increasingly important for students to understand the basics of computer science (CS). One lesson we have learned through Google’s CS education outreach efforts is that these skills can be accessible to all students, if we introduce them early in K-5. These are truly 21st century skills which can, over time, produce a workforce ready for a technology-enabled and driven economy.

How can teachers start introducing computational thinking in early school curriculum? It is already present in many topic areas – algorithms for solving math problems, for example. However, what is often missing in current examples of computational thinking is the explicit connection between what students are learning and its application in computing. For example, once a student has mastered adding multi-digit numbers, the following algorithm could be presented:

  1. Add together the digits in the ones place. If the result is < 10, it becomes the ones digit of the answer. If it’s >= 10 or greater, the ones digit of the result becomes the ones digit of the answer, and you add 1 to the next column.
  2. Add together the digits in the tens place, plus the 1 carried over from the ones place, if necessary. If the answer < than 10, it becomes the tens digit of the answer; if it’s >= 10, the ones digit becomes the tens digit of the answer and 1 is added to the next column.
  3. Repeat this process for any additional columns until they are all added.
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This allows a teacher to present the concept of an algorithm and its use in computing, as well as the most important elements of any computer program: conditional branching (“if the result is less than 10…”) and iteration (“repeat this process…”). Going a step farther, a teacher translating the algorithm into a running program can have a compelling effect. When something that students have used to solve an instance of a problem can automatically solve all instances of the that problem, it’s quite a powerful moment for them even if they don’t do the coding themselves.

Google has created an online course for K-12 teachers to learn about computational thinking and how to make these explicit connections for their students. We also have a large repository of lessons, explorations and programs to support teachers and students. Our videos illustrate real-world examples of the application of computational thinking in Google’s products and services, and we have compiled a set of great resources showing how to integrate computational thinking into existing curriculum. We also recently announced Project Bloks to engage younger children in computational thinking. Finally, code.org, for whom Google is a primary sponsor, has curriculum and materials for K-5 teachers and students.

We feel that computational thinking is a core skill for all students. If we can make these explicit connections for students, they will see how the devices and apps that they use everyday are powered by algorithms and programs. They will learn the importance of data in making decisions. They will learn skills that will prepare them for a workforce that will be doing vastly different tasks than the workforce of today. We owe it to all students to give them every possible opportunity to be productive and successful members of society.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Unknown Language Discovered in Malaysia

Unknown Language Discovered in Malaysia

Researchers have cataloged close to 7,000 distinct human languages on Earth, per Linguistic Society of America’s latest count. That may seem like a pretty exhaustive list, but it hasn’t stopped anthropologists and linguists from continuing to encounter new languages, like one recently discovered in a village in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. From a report: According to a press release, researchers from Lund University in Sweden discovered the language during a project called Tongues of the Semang. The documentation effort in villages of the ethnic Semang people was intended to collect data on their languages, which belong to an Austoasiatic language family called Aslian. While researchers were studying a language called Jahai in one village, they came to understand that not everyone there was speaking it. “We realized that a large part of the village spoke a different language. They used words, phonemes and grammatical structures that are not used in Jahai,” says Joanne Yager, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Linguist Typology. “Some of these words suggested a link with other Aslian languages spoken far away in other parts of the Malay Peninsula.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Cryptocurrency Classes Are Coming To Campus

Cryptocurrency Classes Are Coming To Campus

While the price of Bitcoin has dropped since Christmas, the virtual currency boom has shown no signs of cooling off in the more august precincts of America’s elite universities. The New York Times: Several top schools have added or are rushing to add classes about Bitcoin and the record-keeping technology that it introduced, known as the blockchain. Graduate-level classes this semester at Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland, among other places, illustrate the fascination with the technology across several academic fields, and the assumption that it will outlast the current speculative price bubble. “There was some gentle ribbing from my colleagues when I began giving talks on Bitcoin,” said David Yermack, a business and law professor at New York University who offered one of the first for-credit courses on the topic back in 2014. “But within a few months, I was being invited to Basel to talk with central bankers, and the joking from my colleagues stopped after that.” For a class this semester, Mr. Yermack originally booked a lecture hall that could fit 180 students, but he had to move the course to the largest lecture hall at N.Y.U. when enrollment kept going up. He now has 225 people signed up for the class.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education
Get inspired: three weeks left to submit artwork for Doodle 4 Google

Get inspired: three weeks left to submit artwork for Doodle 4 Google

It’s been over ten years since I began doodling for Google and I’ve never been more excited about what’s coming up for our ever-changing logo.

We know that young artists inspire us, so for the 10th annualDoodle 4 Google contest, we’re asking them to answer the question “What inspires you?” (in the form of a Google logo, of course). In a super exciting first, this year’s winner will work directly with the Doodle team to transform their art into an interactive doodle for millions to see and play.

Past winners have exhibited incredible creativity and charm—the hyper-imaginative, environmentally conscious world of 2014’s U.S. winner Audrey Zhang is a personal favorite, as is Robot Tom, the star of 2017’s winning Irish entry by Erica Redmon—and I have no doubt this year’s entries will continue to inspire.

Picking a winner is always the hardest part. Luckily, we have some stellar guest judges to help, including actor Neil Patrick Harris, gold-medalist Laurie Hernandez, actor Ty Burrell of “Modern Family,” Ibtihaj Muhammad from the U.S. Fencing Team, former Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Beltrán, 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, and award winning journalist Elaine Welteroth.

d4g

As for prizes, five finalists will be invited to Google’s Mountain View headquarters and one winner will receive:

• A $30,000 scholarship

• A $50,000 technology package for their school/non-profit organization

• And, as mentioned, a behind-the-scenes collaboration with the Doodle team to transform their doodle
  into an interactive experience that will launch this year on our homepage and app home screen

Submissions close on March 2—only three weeks away. Every K-12 student is encouraged to enter their doodle at doodle4google.com.

Please encourage every young artist you know to participate. ❤🎨

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Doodles, education

Google Cloud supports $3M in grant credits for the NSF BIGDATA program

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) serves more than one billion end-users, and we continue to seek ways to give researchers access to these powerful tools. Through the National Science Foundation’s BIGDATA grants program, we’re offering researchers $3M in Google Cloud Platform credits to use the same infrastructure, analytics and machine learning that we use to drive innovation at Google.

About the BIGDATA grants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced its flagship research program on big data, Critical Techniques, Technologies and Methodologies for Advancing Foundations and Applications of Big Data Sciences and Engineering (BIGDATA). The BIGDATA program encourages experimentation with datasets at scale. Google will provide cloud credits to qualifying NSF-funded projects, giving researchers access to the breadth of services on GCP, from scalable data management (Google Cloud Storage, Google Cloud Bigtable, Google Cloud Datastore), to analysis (Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Dataflow, Google Cloud Dataproc, Google Cloud Datalab, Google Genomics) to machine learning (Google Cloud Machine Learning, TensorFlow).

This collaboration combines NSF’s experience in managing diverse research portfolios with Google’s proven track record in secure and intelligent cloud computing and data science. NSF is accepting proposals from March 15, 2017 through March 22, 2017.  All proposals that meet NSF requirements will be reviewed through NSF’s merit review process.

GCP in action at Stanford University

To get an idea of the potential impact of GCP, consider Stanford University’s Center of Genomics and Personalized Medicine, where scientists work with data at a massive scale. Director Mike Snyder and his lab have been involved in a number of large efforts, from ENCODE to the Million Veteran Program. Snyder and his colleagues turned to Google Genomics, which gives scientists access to GCP to help secure, store, process, explore and share biological datasets. With the costs of cloud computing dropping significantly and demand for ever-larger genomics studies growing, Snyder thinks fewer labs will continue relying on local infrastructure.

“We’re entering an era where people are working with thousands or tens of thousands or even million genome projects, and you’re never going to do that on a local cluster very easily,” he says. “Cloud computing is where the field is going.”

“What you can do with Google Genomics — and you can’t do in-house — is run 1,000 genomes in parallel,” says Somalee Datta, bioinformatics director of Stanford University’s Center of Genomics. “From our point of view, it’s almost infinite resources.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, education, Google Cloud