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Programming

College Students: Want To Earn More? Take a COBOL Class 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the lords-of-COBOL-hear-our-prayers dept.
jfruh writes: With a lot of debate over the value of a college education, here's a data point students can use: at one Texas college, students who took an elective COBOL class earned on average $10,000 more a year upon graduation than classmates who hadn't. COBOL, dropped from many curricula years ago as an outdated language, is tenaciously holding on in the industry, as many universities are belatedly starting to realize.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech? 365

Posted by timothy
from the be-the-legacy-hire dept.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes A new article in Fast Company suggests tech CEOs want employees with liberal arts degrees, because those graduates have critical thinking skills. Meanwhile, a new article on Dice (yes, yes, we know) posits that STEM degrees such as data science, IT admin, and electrical engineering are what science-and-tech companies are going to want for the foreseeable future. What do you think? What place do those with liberal arts degrees have in companies such as, say, Tesla or a biomedical engineering firm?
Displays

Oculus Rift CEO Says Classrooms of the Future Will Be In VR Goggles 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-and-learn dept.
jyosim writes "Oculus Rift isn't just for gaming. Brendan Iribe, CEO of the VR company, says the immersive tech will be "one of the most transformative platforms for education of all time." In an interview with Chronicle of Higher Education, he imagined laser-scanning every object in the Smithsonian for students to explore, and collaborating in shared virtual spaces rather than campuses. "The next step past that is when you have shared space, and not only do you believe that this object is right there in front of me, but I look around and I see other people just like we see each other now, and I really, truly believe that you’re right in front of me. We can look at each others’ eyes. If you look down at something, I can look down at the same time. And it’s every bit as good as this. And if we can make virtual reality every bit as good as real reality in terms of communications and the sense of shared presence with others, you can now educate people in virtual classrooms, you can now educate people with virtual objects, and we can all be in a classroom together [virtually], we can all be present, we can have relationships and communication that are just as good as the real classroom," he says.
Transportation

Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction 324

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-behavioral-incentive-strong-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes: While legislators and police try to tackle the epidemic of distracted driving through education, regulation, and enforcement, Scott Tibbitts is trying to solve it through engineering. He developed a small device which, when plugged into a vehicle, would determine which phone belonged to the driver and shut off its texting and voice call capabilities. "The telematics box sends a wireless message that the car is moving. The phone sends its own message about its location. Both sets of information — from the car and phone — are sent to Katasi's servers. Then, an algorithm weighs the incoming data with other information, like the location of the phones belonging to all the people who drive the car and the starting point of the trip; if the trip starts at Junior's high school, and mom and dad's phones are at work, the driver has been identified — Junior is driving."

The problem is that Tibbitts can't get anyone interested in setting up a system to make these devices ubiquitous. Consumers can't be sold on such a product: all evidence suggests people are increasingly unwilling to be cut off from constant communication. So, he tried working with carriers. Sprint partnered with Tibbitts long enough to test the device, but they were afraid of the legal risks involved. Now, Tibbitts is nursing the technology along, looking for a way to get it into cars and make people safer.
Education

The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the back-to-the-drawing-board dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Dan Friedman at TechCrunch is ready to call Massive Open Online Courses a failure. Originally hailed as a revolution in learning, MOOCs have seen disappointing course completion numbers. Coursera and Udacity, two of the most prominent online learning hubs, have seen about 8 million enrollments in the past few years. Unfortunately, half of those students didn't even watch a single lecture, and only a few hundred thousand completed the course they signed up for.

Friedman says, "[N]ew technologies enable methods of "learn by doing" that just weren't possible before we could deliver immersive experiences to people's laptops and phones. In the 1960's, Jerome Bruner expanded an educational theory known as constructivism with the idea that students should learn through inquiry under the guidance of a teacher to grasp complex ideas intuitively. That process of trial, failure, and then being shown the correct path has been proven to drive student motivation and retention of learning. What we don't yet know is if that process of trial and failure can become 10x more engaging when delivered through a new medium such as Minecraft or Oculus. ... These new immersive worlds promise to hold the attention of students in ways textbooks never could."
Education

Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-you-liked-programming-before-it-was-cool dept.
alphadogg writes: Harvard College's CS50, the school's Introduction to Computer Science course for undergrads, has attracted about 1 in 8 students this fall — a new record for the school and yet another sign of just how hot this field is becoming for the job-hungry. Overall, 818 undergrads (or 12% of the student body) signed up for the challenging course this semester (PDF), and nearly 900 students are registered when factoring in graduate and cross-registered students. Topics on the syllabus include Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. David Malan, a Harvard CompSci grad, teaches the course.
Government

Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist 499

Posted by samzenpus
from the skeletons-in-the-closet dept.
sciencehabit writes Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her 'dishonest conduct' compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr's fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr's case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Robotics or Electronic Kits For Wounded Veterans? 115

Posted by timothy
from the least-we-could-do dept.
An anonymous reader writes I am currently a combat veteran in the care of the VA Hospital. A lot of veterans here suffer from PTSD and other injuries related to combat and trauma. As part of the healing process, the VA finds it good that we take up hobbies such as art or music, and they supply us kits and stuff to put together and paint. This is great, but many of us younger veterans have an interest in robotics and electronics. Do you know of some good and basic robotic and electronic kits that can be ordered or donated to Veterans out there? Any information would be appreciated.
Microsoft

Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks 246

Posted by timothy
from the orchestrated-outrage-on-display dept.
reifman (786887) writes "A thousand unionized healthcare workers protested outside Microsoft's Seattle offices over its Nevada tax dodge on Friday. Microsoft shareholders have pocketed more than $5.34 billion in tax savings as Washington State social services and schools have taken huge cuts. In a hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested it may hold the Legislature in contempt and order it to repeal all tax breaks to restore proper funding to K-12 schools and universities." I suspect Microsoft's lawyers are careful to engage in legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion. Geekwire notes "The South Lake Union satellite facility is not a major office for Microsoft, compared to its presence in Redmond. It’s not clear why the workers didn’t protest at Microsoft headquarters."
Government

FAA Scans the Internet For Drone Users; Sends Cease and Desist Letters 222

Posted by timothy
from the and-now-you're-safe dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Government Attic: "The FAA has released a set of cease and desist letters sent in 2012 and 2013 to people operating drone vehicles for a variety of purposes including: tornado research, inspecting gas well stacks, aerial photography, journalism education, and other purposes. Drone cease and desist letters sent during 2014 are available from the FAA upon request." The text of the letters (bureaucratically polite, but bureaucratically firm) often starts with notes indicating to the UAV operators to whom they were sent that the FAA became interested in them because it "became aware of" their web sites, or even because someone tipped them off about an article in a community newsletter. The letters go on to outline the conditions under which the FAA allows the operation of unmanned aircraft, and specifically notes: Those who use UAS only for recreational enjoyment, operate in accordance with Advisory circular 91-57. This generally applies to operations in remotely populated areas away from airports, persons and buildings, below 400 feet Above Ground Level, and within visual line of sight. On February 6, 2007 the FAA published UAS guidance in the Federal Register, 14 CPR Part 91 / Docket No. FAA-2006-25714 I Unmanned Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System. Toward the end of the docket it says, ''The FAA recognizes that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are legally operating under the authority of AC 91-57. AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes Its use by persons or companies for business purposes." Update: 09/07 02:16 GMT by T : Pray forgive the OCR that turned "persons" into "pecions" and "circular" into "arcular"; updated to fix those. Update: 09/08 11:07 GMT by T : Correction: Carl Malamud is not affiliated with Government Attic as this story originally described: sorry for the error.
Education

Getting Into College the Old Fashioned Way: With Money 161

Posted by timothy
from the all-I've-got-are-these-damn-nepalese-coins dept.
Businessweek (in a story spotted via Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution) profiles ThinkTank Learning, a college-admission consultancy founded by Steven Ma, and largely catering to ambitious Asian immigrants like Ma, and their offspring — kids who'd like to go to elite schools, and can afford to have Ma's firm help them navigate the path to getting in. It's a statistics driven system, and backed by a money-back guarantee, so long as the applicant meets certain requirements: ThinkTank will refund their tens of thousands of dollars in fees if they don't make it into the sort of school that the ThinkTank algorithms say they will. Basically, they've reverse engineered the admissions policies at schools, particularly elite schools like MIT, Stanford, and the Ivies, and done so well enough to know which factors in a student's portfolio can be tweaked to increase their odds of getting into the big-name schools. A slice: [Ma's] proprietary algorithm assigns varying weights to different parameters, derived from his analysis of the successes and failures of thousands of students he's coached over the years. Ma's algorithm, for example, predicts that a U.S.-born high school senior with a 3.8 GPA, an SAT score of 2,000 (out of 2,400), moderate leadership credentials, and 800 hours of extracurricular activities, has a 20.4 percent chance of admission to New York University and a 28.1 percent shot at the University of Southern California. Those odds determine the fee ThinkTank charges that student for its guaranteed consulting package: $25,931 to apply to NYU and $18,826 for USC.
Education

Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him? 362

Posted by timothy
from the compared-to-the-current-perfection dept.
theodp (442580) writes With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."
Music

Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students 58

Posted by timothy
from the every-gambler-brews-delicious-framboise dept.
AthanasiusKircher writes In recent years, emphasis on standardized testing and basic skills has forced many schools to cut back on things like arts and extracurricular activities. A study out this week from Northwestern University hints that schools may be hurting "at-risk" kids even more by cutting such programs. Just two years of music lessons were shown to have significant effects on brain activity and language processing which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students. Aside from better brain response to language observed in the lab, practical effects of the interventions were readily apparent: 'Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.' Note that this is only one of several ongoing studies showing significant cognitive benefits for music training among at-risk students; an article last year from The Atlantic gives a more detailed summary of related research.
Security

Privacy Vulnerabilities In Coursera, Including Exposed Student Email Addresses 31

Posted by timothy
from the don't-I-know-you-from-the-semiotics-class? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Coursera, the online education platform with over 9 million students, appears to have some serious privacy shortcomings. According to one of Stanford's instructors, 'any teacher can dump the entire user database, including over nine million names and email addresses.' Also, 'if you are logged into your Coursera account, any website that you visit can list your course enrollments.' The attack even has a working proof of concept [note: requires Coursera account]. A week after the problems were reported, Coursera still hasn't fixed them.
Education

How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms 359

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-outdated-is-a-strong-word dept.
theodp (442580) writes Electronics almost universally become cheaper over time, but with essentially a monopoly on graphing calculator usage in classrooms, Texas Instruments still manages to command a premium for its TI-84 Plus. Texas Instruments released the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator in 2004. Ten years later, the base model still has 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM, its black-and-white screen remains 96×64 pixels, and the MSRP is still $150. "Free graphing calculator apps are available," notes Matt McFarland. "But smartphones can't be used on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Schools are understandably reluctant to let them be used in classrooms, where students may opt to tune out in class and instead text friends or play games. So for now, overpriced hardware and all, the TI-84 family of calculators remains on top and unlikely to go anywhere." So, to paraphrase Prof. Norm Matloff, is it stupid to buy expensive TI-8x milk when the R cow is free?
Programming

Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science? 546

Posted by samzenpus
from the most-bang-for-your-buck dept.
jjp9999 writes A college degree may not the best route when it comes to jobs in coding. Jobs for computer science majors flow aplenty, yet employers (and job-seekers) often learn quickly that the college grads don't have the skills. "This is because the courses taught in virtually all computer science curriculums focus on theory, and they only dabble in teaching practical programming skills," says Cody Scholberg on Epoch Times. This ties into a unique factoid in the world of programmers. Nearly half of the software developers in the United States do not have a college degree. Many never even graduated from high school. Instead, many aspiring programmers are turning to open source learning materials, or to the new programming bootcamps popping up around the United States. While theory does have its place, the situation raises the question of whether colleges are teaching the right skills people need to join the workforce, and what its place is amid the rise of open source learning.
Education

Code.org Discloses Top Donors 59

Posted by timothy
from the friends-but-also-buddies dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Under the leadership of Code.org, explained the ACM, it joined CSTA, NCWIT, NSF, Microsoft and Google in an effort "to reshape the U.S. education system," including passing a federal law making Computer Science a "core subject" in schools. If you're curious about whose money helped fuel the effort, Code.org's Donors page now lists those who gave $25,000+ to $3,000,000+ to the K-12 CS cause (the nonprofit plans to raise $20-30 million for 2015-16 operations). Microsoft is at the top of the list as a Platinum Supporter ($3,000,000+), while Bill Gates is Gold ($1,000,000+), and Steve Ballmer is Silver ($500,000+). Interestingly, six of Code.org's ten biggest donors are also Founders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us tech immigration reform PAC."
Censorship

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment For a Novelist 441

Posted by timothy
from the thought-crime-in-maryland dept.
An anonymous reader writes A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report — "taken in for an emergency medical evaluation" for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace's Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, according to news reports from Maryland's Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future."
The Media

Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the much-respect dept.
An anonymous reader writes: If you've built a PC in the past 17.5 years, chances are you read some hardware reviews on AnandTech at some point. The site's creator, Anand Lal Shimpi, has announced that he is retiring from the tech writing business. He said, "AnandTech started as a site that primarily reviewed motherboards, then we added CPUs, video cards, cases, notebooks, Macs, smartphones, tablets and anything else that mattered. The site today is just as strong in coverage of new mobile devices as it is in our traditional PC component coverage ... To the millions of readers who have visited and supported me and the site over the past 17+ years, I owe you my deepest gratitude. You all enabled me to spend over half of my life learning more than I ever could have in any other position. The education I've received doing this job and the ability to serve you all with it is the most amazing gift anyone could ever ask for. You enabled me to get the education of a lifetime and I will never be able to repay you for that. Thank you."
NASA

NASA's Competition For Dollars 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system. But why is funding such a problem? Jason Callahan, who has worked on several of NASA's annual budgets, says it's not just NASA's small percentage of the federal budget that keeps those projects on the back burner, but also competition for funding between different parts of NASA as well. "[NASA's activities include] space science, including aeronautics research (the first A in NASA), technology development, education, center and agency management, construction, maintenance, and the entire human spaceflight program. The total space science budget has rarely exceeded $5 billion, and has averaged just over half that amount. Remember that space science is more than just planetary: astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science are all funded in this number. Despite this, space science accounts for an average of 17 percent of NASA's total budget, though it has significant fluctuations. In the 1980s, space science was a mere 11½ percent of NASA's budget, but in the 2000s, it made up 27 percent."

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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