Microsoft engineers teach high school

Microsoft engineers are teaching high school computer classes (with the help of regular teachers) to encourage young people to pursue technical careers, reports the New York Times. The company, founded by education philanthropist Bill Gates, has issued a report on educating young people for science, math and technology jobs,  A National Talent Strategy.

There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.

“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

Microsoft pays engineers a small stipend to teach at least two high school classes a week for a full school year.

Google funds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders as well as computer science workshops for high school teachers, the Times reports.

Fewer high school students are taking computer science, according to the U.S. Education Department.  However, the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees has been rising for four years, after years of decline.

In 2012, a new graduate with a computer science degree started at $58,300, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Mindfulness or abdication of mind?

Leon Wieseltier’s critique of Google’s “emotional intelligence” curriculum (“The Tao Jones Index,” The New Republic, May 24) is worth reading and rereading. In a few words he nails what’s wrong with the concept of workplace “mindfulness” (as put forth by the Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan) and points to larger problems as well:

“Pay[ing] attention moment-to-moment” is a renunciation of the critical temper. The pure present is for infants and mystics. The serenity that Meng teaches is a go-along, get-along quietism, an organizational submissiveness—a technique designed to strip the individual of any internal obstacle to the ungrumbling execution of his tasks. … Meng and his authorities—“happiness strategists,” “leadership scholars”–insist upon the “non-judgmental” character of the mindful ideal. This is one of the great American mistakes. Instead of teaching people how to judge, we teach them not to judge—but there is no circumstance or context in which the absence of judgment is not a judgment, specifically one of accommodation and acquiescence.”

In other words, mindfulness of this sort amounts to abdication of mind. Read the whole piece.

I see this play out in school curricula and policy: ”Instead of teaching people how to judge, we teach them not to judge.” We give judging a bad name, equating it with knee-jerk reaction. At its best, judgment is anything but knee-jerk. In fact, if we do not know how to exercise judgment well, we are all the more susceptible to impulsive reactions, both our own and other people’s.

I have attended PDs where everyone was supposed to create quick “art,” put it up on the wall, and then take a “gallery walk” around the room, writing ”nonjudgmental, observational” comments on Post-its and placing them upon the rushed piece in question. Nonjudgment of this sort should have its own circle or pouch in the Inferno. My guess is that Dante would have included it in Malebolge, the Eighth Circle, which has ten pouches for ordinary fraud.

Update: A number of commenters below seem to have taken Wieseltier’s article (and  my post) as an attack on mindfulness itself. As I see it, Wieseltier is criticizing a particular sort of workplace spiritual doctrine and its attendant jargon.

This is your brain on Google

People are outsourcing memory to the Internet, concludes a new study, Google Effects on Memory, published in Science.

Harvard students were asked to type 40 pieces of trivia, such as “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain,” into computers. Those told the information would be erased remembered more than those told it would be saved.

“No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can ‘Google’ the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue,” the authors write.

Columbia undergrads remembered where they stored their information better than they were able to recall the information itself.

The Internet has become our primary external storage system, researcher Betsy Sparrow says. “Human memory is adapting to new communications technology.”

Education theorists disagree on whether memory matters, writes Forbes’ columnist Olga Khazan.

Author Don Tapscott advocated the no-memorization agenda back in 2008, saying that rote learning should be phased out of schools because, “teachers are no longer the fountains of knowledge; the Internet is.” Instead, he and others argue that children should be taught to better parse the constant feed of information they’re bombarded with. (He’s somewhat late to the game, however, since the popularity of memorization has been declining in schools since the early 1980s – nearly a decade before most kids would be getting on the Internet at home.)

. . . Of course, for every education reformer there is an equal and opposite education reformer. Recently, there have been some fairly convincing arguments coming from the other side – that kids need more memorization training so that society can become more innately knowledgeable, not less.

William Klemm, a neuroscience professor at Texas A&M University, has written several screeds decrying teaching methods that leave out a critical component of intelligence: memory. “Creativity comes from a mind that knows, and remembers, a lot,” he says, arguing that memorization both improves thinking and arms us with the facts to defend our arguments.

The more you know, the easier it is to seek out new information, evaluate it and do something with it.  And remember it.

Microsoft v. Google battle for students

Microsoft and Google are giving technology to schools and colleges in hopes of winning students’ minds, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

With the recession taking a bite out of university endowments and public school budgets alike, the competition between Google and Microsoft to convert the nation’s colleges, universities and schools to the companies’ free e-mail and other IT services that run on the Internet “cloud” — outsourcing that can save a large university hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — has only grown more fierce.

. . . Just a year ago, (Jay) Martino’s sixth-graders would have generated reams of paper as they researched mummies, Cleopatra and King Tut. This fall, the students’ work exists on the “cloud” — bits of data flowing across Google’s network, accessible from any computer with a Web browser and a password.

Microsoft also provides cloud-based educational software, Live@edu, to schools for free.

“The benefit to Microsoft is that students are able to get familiar with Microsoft technology and be more ready for the work force,” said Anna Kinney, director of Live@edu. “Students graduate from college and go into the work force, ready on Day One to work on Microsoft products.”

In light of this post, note that Microsoft has joined the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, while Google has held back.

Update: The Daily Riff is concerned about conflicts between Bill Gates’ education philanthropy, which has made him very influential in policy debates, and his role as chairman of Microsoft.

Followers

I now have 100 followers on Twitter, where I’m known as JoanneLeeJacobs.  (The Australian/London Joanne Jacobs got the name first.)

So far, my experiments with social networking haven’t taught me why I’m doing social networking but, hey, I’ve got 100 followers.

I’m trying StumbleUpon too to promote blog posts.  (Click on Share This under each post.)

The big change in my life is that Google, which banned the blog for some white-on-white type that a spammer snuck on to a comment, has de-banned me.  I didn’t realize I was banned until a few months ago, but it explains why traffic dropped last summer and never recovered in September.  The number of visitors has gone up by 20 percent since I got back on Google.

And I’m back in the top 10 for both “Joanne” and “Jacobs.” Four or five years ago, I was the number one “Joanne” and the number two “Jacobs.” Those were the days.

Update: I’m up to 103 followers on Twitter.

Plus I saw that PostRank lists this blog fifth for engagement in education blogs. I think “engagement” is measured by number of comments, but I’m not sure.