Education

College Students Are Flocking To Computer Science Majors (ieeeusa.org) 170

Slashdot reader dcblogs writes: Enrollments in Computer Science are on a hockey stick trajectory and show no signs of slowing down. Stanford University declared computer science enrollments, for instance, went from 87 in the 2007-08 academic year to 353 in the recently completed year. It's similar at other schools. Boston University, for instance, had 110 declared undergraduate computer science majors in 2009. This fall it will have more than 550. Professor Mehran Sahami, who is the associate chair for education in the CS department at Stanford, believes the enrollment trend will continue. "As the numbers bear out, the interest in computer science has grown tremendously and shows no signs of crashing." But after the 2000 dot-com bust computer science enrollments fell dramatically and students soured on the degree. Could something like it happen again?
Mark Crovella, the chair of Boston University's CS department, notes that "the overall interest in computer science at B.U. is currently at about twice the level it was at the peak of the dot.com year." But the article points out that salaries for new grads are still rising, "which suggests that demand is real." And Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration, adds "I'm more worried about the job outlook for people without these skills."
Education

Coding School 'The Iron Yard' Announces Closure of All 15 Campuses (ajc.com) 101

McGruber writes: The Iron Yard, a South Carolina-based coding school with 15 locations, announced that it plans to close all of its campuses. The four-old company posted a message on its website delivering the news: "In considering the current environment, the board of The Iron Yard has made the difficult decision to cease operations at all campuses after teaching out remaining summer cohorts." The note said the company will finish out its summer classes, including career support.
The Almighty Buck

$12 Billion In Private Student Loan Debt May Be Wiped Away By Missing Paperwork (nytimes.com) 399

New submitter cdreimer shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): Tens of thousands of people who took out private loans to pay for college but have not been able to keep up payments may get their debts wiped away because critical paperwork is missing. The troubled loans, which total at least $5 billion, are at the center of a protracted legal dispute between the student borrowers and a group of creditors who have aggressively pursued them in court after they fell behind on payments. Judges have already dismissed dozens of lawsuits against former students, essentially wiping out their debt, because documents proving who owns the loans are missing. A review of court records by The New York Times shows that many other collection cases are deeply flawed, with incomplete ownership records and mass-produced documentation. Some of the problems playing out now in the $108 billion private student loan market are reminiscent of those that arose from the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, when billions of dollars in subprime mortgage loans were ruled uncollectable by courts because of missing or fake documentation. And like those troubled mortgages, private student loans -- which come with higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections than federal loans -- are often targeted at the most vulnerable borrowers, like those attending for-profit schools.

At the center of the storm is one of the nation's largest owners of private student loans, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts. It is struggling to prove in court that it has the legal paperwork showing ownership of its loans, which were originally made by banks and then sold to investors. National Collegiate is an umbrella name for 15 trusts that hold 800,000 private student loans, totaling $12 billion. More than $5 billion of that debt is in default, according to court filings.

Education

New Interactive Basic Electronics Textbook Launched Online (circuitlab.com) 37

Long-time Slashdot reader compumike writes: The group that first brought schematics and circuit simulation to the browser has now released the first few chapters of Ultimate Electronics: Practical Circuit Design and Analysis, an interactive online textbook for people learning electronics. The materials released today cover about half of a first semester undergraduate electronics course.
Government

Y Combinator Announces Funding For UBI-Supporting Political Candidates (latimes.com) 194

Most people "feel like they have great potential that is being wasted," argues Y Combinator president Sam Altman -- a Stanford dropout whose company's investments are now worth $65 billion, including Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox. Now an anonymous reader quote the Los Angeles Times: A wealthy young Silicon Valley venture capitalist hopes to recruit statewide and congressional candidates and launch an affordable-housing ballot measure in 2018 because he says California's leaders are failing to address flaws in the state's governance that are killing opportunities for future generations. Sam Altman, 32, will roll out an effort to enlist candidates around a shared set of policy priorities -- including tackling how automation is going to affect the economy and the cost of housing in California -- and is willing to put his own money behind the effort. "I think we have a fundamental breakdown of the American social contract and it's desperately important that we fix it," he said. "Even if we had a very well-functioning government, it would be a challenge, and our current government functions so badly it is an extra challenge..."

Altman lays out 10 principles including lowering the cost of housing, creating single-payer healthcare, increasing clean energy use, improving education, reforming taxes and rebuilding infrastructure. He has few specific policy edicts, and floats proposals that will generate controversy, such as creating a universal basic income for all Americans in an effort to equalize opportunity, public funding for the media and increasing taxes on property that is owned by foreigners, is unoccupied or has been "flipped" by investors seeking a quick return on an investment.

Altman argues that he wants to "ensure that everyone benefits from the coming changes," and specifically highlights the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Altman writes that "If it turns out to be a good policy, I could imagine passing a law that puts it into effect when the GDP per capita doubles. This could help cushion the transition to a post-automation world."
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 986

An anonymous reader quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education: A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States... In the Pew Research Center's study, distrust of colleges was strongest in the highest income bracket and the oldest age group, with approval levels of just 31 percent among respondents whose family income exceeds $75,000 a year and 27 percent among those older than 65.
Education

Early 'Coding School' Dev Bootcamp Is Shutting Down (axios.com) 106

Dev Bootcamp, the original "coding bootcamp," is shutting down, the company announced on Wednesday. The company's last cohort of students, who begin the program next week, will graduate in December and receive job search help before the school permanently shuts down. From a report: Why it matters: Early coding bootcamps like Dev Bootcamp launched a boom in alternative education for programing skills, with some of the school's own alumni going on to found their own successful programs, like App Academy. Ultimately, the coding bootcamp craze highlighted not only the need to rethink computer science and programming education in traditional colleges, but also the increasing demand for workers with these technical skills.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Read Code? 337

New submitter Gornkleschnitzer writes: The majority of humans read silently by rendering a simulation of the printed words as if they were being spoken. By reading that sentence, chances are you're now stuck being conscious of this, too. You're welcome.

As a programmer (and a reader of fanfiction), plenty of things I read are not valid English syntax. When I find myself reviewing class definitions, for loops, and #define macros, I rely on some interesting if inconsistent mental pronunciation rules. For instance, int i = 0; comes out as "int i equals zero," but if(i == 0) sometimes comes out as either "if i is zero" or "if i equals equals zero." The loop for(size_t i = 0; i < itemList.size(); ++i) generally translates to "for size T i equals zero, i less than item list dot size, plus-plus i." I seem to drop C++ insertion/extraction operators entirely in favor of a brief comma-like pause, with cout << str << endl; sounding like "kowt, stur, endel."

What are your code-reading quirks?
Education

Students Are Better Off Without a Laptop In the Classroom (scientificamerican.com) 247

Cindi May writes via Scientific American about new research that "suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class." From the report: Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer. To understand how students are using computers during class and the impact it has on learning, Susan Ravizza and colleagues took the unique approach of asking students to voluntarily login to a proxy server at the start of each class, with the understanding that their internet use (including the sites they visited) would be tracked. Participants were required to login for at least half of the 15 class periods, though they were not required to use the internet in any way once they logged in to the server. Researchers were able to track the internet use and academic performance of 84 students across the semester.

participants spent almost 40 minutes out of every 100-minute class period using the internet for nonacademic purposes, including social media, checking email, shopping, reading the news, chatting, watching videos, and playing games. This nonacademic use was negatively associated with final exam scores, such that students with higher use tended to score lower on the exam. Social media sites were the most-frequently visited sites during class, and importantly these sites, along with online video sites, proved to be the most disruptive with respect to academic outcomes. In contrast with their heavy nonacademic internet use, students spent less than 5 minutes on average using the internet for class-related purposes (e.g., accessing the syllabus, reviewing course-related slides or supplemental materials, searching for content related to the lecture). Given the relatively small amount of time students spent on academic internet use, it is not surprising that academic internet use was unrelated to course performance. Thus students who brought their laptops to class to view online course-related materials did not actually spend much time doing so, and furthermore showed no benefit of having access to those materials in class.

Medicine

Coffee Cuts Risk of Dying From Stroke and Heart Disease, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 165

Research suggests that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of dying from a host of causes, including heart disease, stroke and liver disease. "The connection, revealed in two large studies, was found to hold regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or not, with the higher among those who drank more cups of coffee a day," reports The Guardian. From the report: The first study looked at coffee consumption among more than 185,000 white and non-white participants, recruited in the early 1990s and followed up for an average of over 16 years. The results revealed that drinking one cup of coffee a day was linked to a 12% lower risk of death at any age, from any cause while those drinking two or three cups a day had an 18% lower risk, with the association not linked to ethnicity.

The second study -- the largest of its kind -- involved more than 450,000 participants, recruited between 1992 and 2000 across ten European countries, who were again followed for just over 16 years on average. After a range of factors including age, smoking status, physical activity and education were taken into account, those who drank three or more cups a day were found to have a 18% lower risk of death for men, and a 8% lower risk of death for women at any age, compared with those who didn't drink the brew. The benefits were found to hold regardless of the country, although coffee drinking was not linked to a lower risk of death for all types of cancer. The study also looked at a subset of 14,800 participants, finding that coffee-drinkers had better results on many biological markers including liver enzymes and glucose control. But experts warn that the two studies, both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, do not show that drinking coffee was behind the overall lower risk, pointing out that it could be that coffee drinkers are healthier in various ways or that those who are unwell drink less coffee.

Education

'In the Knowledge Economy, We Need a Netflix of Education' (techcrunch.com) 144

An anonymous reader shares a report: When we want to acquire useful knowledge, we have to search the web broadly, find experts by word-of-mouth and troll through various poorly designed internal document sharing systems. This method is inefficient. There should be a better solution that helps users find what they need. Such a solution would adapt to the user's needs and learn how to make ongoing customized recommendations and suggestions through a truly interactive and impactful learning experience. Before Netflix, Spotify, Reddit and similar curated content apps, you had to go to numerous sources to find the shows, music, news and other media you wished to view. Now, the entertainment and media you actually want to consume is easily discoverable and personalized to your interests. In many ways the entertainment model is a good framework for knowledge management and learning development applications. The solution for the learning and development industry would be a platform that can make education more accessible and relevant -- something that allows us to absorb and spread knowledge seamlessly. Just as Netflix delivers entertainment we want at our fingertips, the knowledge and learning we need should be delivered where and when we need it.
Education

Chicago To Make Future Plans a Graduation Requirement (thehill.com) 399

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual's recently approved plan will require high school students show their plans for the future before obtaining their diploma. "Students will soon have to show that they've secured a job or received a letter of acceptance to college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program or the military in order to graduate," reports The Hill. From the report: "We are going to help kids have a plan, because they're going to need it to succeed," Emanuel told the Post. "You cannot have kids think that 12th grade is done." But critics say the district may not be able to provide mentoring to help needy students when the rule takes effect in 2020. "It sounds good on paper, but the problem is that when you've cut the number of counselors in schools, when you've cut the kind of services that kids need, who is going to do this work?" Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, told the Post. "If you've done the work to earn a diploma, then you should get a diploma. Because if you don't, you are forcing kids into more poverty."
Education

Sci-Hub 'Pirate Bay For Scientists' Sued by American Chemical Society Over Cloned Site (ibtimes.co.uk) 132

The American Chemistry Society (ACS) is now suing Sci-Hub, the so-called "Pirate Bay for Scientists," over copyright infringement and counterfeiting, and is asking the courts to grant an injunction against the website in the US. From a report: Following the news that academic publisher Elsevier won a legal judgement of $15m in damages against Sci-Hub for allowing people to illegally download peer-reviewed academic papers for free, the world's largest scientific society ACS has filed its own lawsuit in the state of Virginia against the website. ACS is complaining that in addition to making hundreds of thousands of research papers owned by the society freely available, Sci-Hub has also cloned its website and is infringing its trademarks by operating two almost-identical replicas of the ACS website at pubs.acs.org.sci-hub.cc and acs.org.secure.sci-hub.cc.
Education

Now Any Florida Resident Can Challenge What Is Taught In Public Florida Schools (orlandosentinel.com) 484

New submitter zantafio shares a report from Orlando Sentinel: Any resident in Florida can now challenge what kids learn in public schools, thanks to a new law that science education advocates worry will make it harder to teach evolution and climate change. The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) last week and went into effect Saturday, requires school boards to hire an "unbiased hearing officer" who will handle complaints about instructional materials, such as movies, textbooks and novels, that are used in local schools. Any parent or county resident can file a complaint, regardless of whether they have a student in the school system. If the hearing officer deems the challenge justified, he or she can require schools to remove the material in question. The statute includes general guidelines about what counts as grounds for removal: belief that the material is "pornographic" or "is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group."
Education

PBS Bets $3 Million That Monkeys Are Better CS Preschool Teachers Than Rabbits (edsurge.com) 82

theodp writes: EdSurge reports that a new PBS show will teach preschoolers how to think like computers. Marisa Wolsky, an executive producer at WGBH Boston, believes television can be a way to teach Computational Thinking. She is in the first stages of creating an animated television show called Monkeying Around [$3,000,000 NSF award] that uses four monkeys to teach the subject. Why monkeys? EdSurge explains, "Initially, Wolsky said her team wanted to use rabbits to teach the kids, but after realizing the animal would need to use its hands, they decided to go with monkeys [Rabbits historically enjoyed success teaching the 3 R's]." In a press release announcing the new pre-K show, WGBH cited "a great deal of national interest in computer science and coding," adding that "it is never too early to start." WGBH is not the only PBS station that's bullish on CS. According to an NSF Award Abstract, "Twin Cities PBS (TPT), the National Girls Collaborative (NGC) and [tech-bankrolled] Code.org will lead Code: SciGirls! Media to Engage Girls in Computing Pathways, a three-year [$2.63 million] project designed to engage 8-13 year-old girls in coding through transmedia programming which inspires and prepares them for future computer science studies and career paths [...] Drawing on narrative transportation theory and character identification theory, TPT will commission two exploratory knowledge-building studies to investigate: To what extent and how do the narrative formats of the Code: SciGirls! online media affect girls' interest, beliefs, and behavioral intent towards coding and code-related careers?" And Code Trip, a PBS series touted by Microsoft that aired in 2016 [$200,000 NSF award], explored computer science opportunities for young people by, as Microsoft explained, following "three students traveling around the country to speak with leaders including Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, and Hadi Partovi, entrepreneur and cofounder of Code.org."
Government

The White House Now Has Zero Science Advisors (cbsnews.com) 405

DogDude shares an article from CBS News: The science division of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy was unstaffed as of Friday as the three remaining employees departed this week, sources tell CBS News... On Friday afternoon, Eleanor Celeste, the assistant director for biomedical and forensic sciences at the OSTP, tweeted, "Science division out. Mic drop" before leaving the office for the last time...

Under Mr. Obama, the science division was staffed with nine employees who led the charge on policy issues such as STEM education, biotechnology and crisis response. It's possible that the White House will handle these issues through staff in other divisions within the OSTP.

The Internet

You're Thinking About the Dictionary All Wrong, Lexicographers Say (theoutline.com) 130

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Outline: It seems like ever since "bootylicious" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2004, dictionaries have been trying to play catch up to ever-evolving languages of slang, especially when it comes to words originating with African Americans and other communities of color. User-generated definitions found on websites like Urban Dictionary and Genius are also giving them some competition. But in fact, lexicographers have always intended the dictionary to be more of an archive than an authority. The purpose of the dictionary has always been to record how language is being used, but the internet has allowed publishers and lexicographers to communicate that purpose differently, explained Kory Stamper, lexicographer and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, to The Outline. "I think people assume that because dictionaries are dusty books that the language is this dusty book or that language is only what you find in the dictionary," Stamper said. "And to be able to say, 'No, language is always on the move and here's how it's moving,' really mirrors the way that we can interact with people online." Thanks to the internet, it's now easier for lexicographers to access more written materials and take note of the ways people are using and producing language. And as a result, dictionaries are updated more frequently and more robustly than they were in the days of print-only source material. "Woke" was just one of 1200 new additions to the OED this quarter alone. But even with all the technology afforded to them, lexicographers still walk a fine line between including words that are well-known enough without being too obscure. "We joke around that when we add new words we want 50 percent of the people who see that new word to say, 'Oh my gosh that's not in the dictionary yet?'" said Stamper, who writes for Merriam-Webster. "And then we want the other half of people to go, 'I don't even know what this word is. Why are you adding it to the dictionary?'"
Education

How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms 132

theodp writes: Noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook's advice for President Trump at last week's White House gathering of the Tech Titans was that "coding should be a requirement in every public school," the New York Times examines How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms (Warning: source may be paywalled). "The Apple chief's education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools," writes Natasha Singer. "But even without Mr. Trump's support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda -- thanks largely to the marketing prowess of Code.org, an industry-backed nonprofit group." Singer continues: "In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org, said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried. Along the way, Code.org has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers -- touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain. The rise of Code.org coincides with a larger tech-industry push to remake American primary and secondary schools with computers and learning apps, a market estimated to reach $21 billion by 2020." Singer also mentions Apple's work to spread computer science in schools. The company launched a free app last year called Swift Playgrounds to teach basic coding in Swift, as well as a yearlong curriculum for high schools and community colleges to teach app design in Swift.
Businesses

A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree (nytimes.com) 218

Steve Lohr, writing for the New York Times: A few years ago, Sean Bridges lived with his mother, Linda, in Wiley Ford, W.Va. Their only income was her monthly Social Security disability check. He applied for work at Walmart and Burger King, but they were not hiring. Yet while Mr. Bridges had no work history, he had certain skills. He had built and sold some stripped-down personal computers, and he had studied information technology at a community college. When Mr. Bridges heard IBM was hiring at a nearby operations center in 2013, he applied and demonstrated those skills. Now Mr. Bridges, 25, is a computer security analyst, making $45,000 a year. In a struggling Appalachian economy, that is enough to provide him with his own apartment, a car, spending money -- and career ambitions. "I got one big break," he said. "That's what I needed." Mr. Bridges represents a new but promising category in the American labor market: people working in so-called new-collar or middle-skill jobs. As the United States struggles with how to match good jobs to the two-thirds of adults who do not have a four-year college degree, his experience shows how a worker's skills can be emphasized over traditional hiring filters like college degrees, work history and personal references. [...] On Wednesday, the approach received a strong corporate endorsement from Microsoft, which announced a grant of more than $25 million to help Skillful, a program to foster skills-oriented hiring, training and education. The initiative, led by the Markle Foundation, began last year in Colorado, and Microsoft's grant will be used to expand it there and move it into other states. "We need new approaches, or we're going to leave more and more people behind in our economy," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.
Education

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows (utexas.edu) 144

An anonymous reader shares a study: Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

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