Reading, ‘riting and coding

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think,” said Steve Jobs.

Code.org is launching a campaign to persuade schools to offer computer programming: Nine out of 10 high schools do not.

Less than 2.4 percent of college graduates earn a degree in computer science, fewer than 10 years ago, despite rising demand for programming skills, according to the nonprofit group.

Code’s site includes links to online apps and programs that teach programming. Some are geared to young children.

Should kids learn programming, as they might study a foreign language, to develop thinking skills?

Coding isn’t just for boys – but sometimes it seems that way – reports the New York Times.

Roll-your-own higher ed

Young “heretics” with high-tech skills are Saying No to College, according to the New York Times.

Inspired by billionaire role models, and empowered by online college courses, they consider themselves a D.I.Y. vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick.

Tumblr CEO David Karp dropped out of high school and hopes to “grab 16-year-olds that are going to be brilliant and help them get there,” he tells Tech Crunch. “College isn’t making very good engineers.” Karp’s heroes are Steve Jobs and Willy Wonka.

“Here in Silicon Valley, it’s almost a badge of honor,” said Mick Hagen, 28, who dropped out of Princeton in 2006 and moved to San Francisco, where he started Undrip, a mobile app. He is now recruiting from the undergraduate ranks, he said, which is becoming a trend among other tech companies, too. In his view, dropouts are freethinkers, risk-takers. They have not been tainted by groupthink.

Dropouts can educate themselves without going into debt, says entrepreneur James Altucher, author of 40 Alternatives to College. “I think kids with a five-year head start on equally ambitious peers will be ahead in both education and income,” Altucher told the Times. “They could go to a library, read a book a day, take courses online. There are thousands of ways.”

Most young people are not future high-tech zillionaires, whether they earn a college degree or not. We can’t all be Willy Wonka. But it’s healthy for young people to consider alternatives to a high-debt degree. Or somewhat less debt and no degree.

Young four-year graduates are earning less, while college tuition grows and grows, reports the Fiscal Times.

Creativity isn’t learned in class

Japanese visitors asked Fordham’s Mike Petrilli how the U.S. produces innovative leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s not a school thing, he replies. It’s an after-school thing. While Japanese adolescents are going to cram school, American kids are doing “sports, music, theater, student council, cheerleading, volunteering, church activities, and on and on.”

If you are looking for sources of innovative thinking, leadership and teamwork skills, competitiveness, and creativity, aren’t these better candidates than math class?

Or course, some “are just hanging out, smoking pot, getting in trouble, etc.,” Petrilli writes. But “some of these young people end up creating successful start-ups too!”

And then there’s the American parenting style. U.S. parents don’t teach their children self-discipline and delayed gratification, asserts Pamela Druckerman in Bringing up Bebe.

This, she suggests, fosters out-of-control toddlers and may lead to serious problems down the road, particularly for kids growing up in neighborhoods where community bonds have frayed.

On the other hand, by allowing our young to negotiate endlessly with us and stand up for what they want, we are also teaching them a form of self-assuredness. Treating little kids as equals might wreak havoc in the short term, but it’s possible that it creates non-hierarchical, confident, transformational leaders in the long run.

Certainly, Steve Jobs exemplified the brilliant brat, but I’m not sure that self-discipline and creativity are antithetical.

Steve Jobs: Train factory engineers

Manufacturing could move back to the U.S., if community colleges, tech and trade schools trained enough factory engineers, Steve Jobs told President Obama. According to Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson:

Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. ‘You can’t find that many in America to hire,’ he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Community groups are teaching basic skills as a bridge to job training at community colleges.

Dropouts are job creators

The U.S. education system trains students to follow the rules and collect degrees, writes Michael Ellsberg in a New York Times op-ed. Dropouts are the job creators who can save America, he argues.

I typed these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.

American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.

From kindergarten through undergraduate and grad school, students learn few entrepreneurial skills or attitudes, Ellsberg writes. Students don’t learn about sales, unless they take a class on why sales and capitalism are evil. They don’t learn to network with others. Creativity is stifled. Worst of all, they don’t learn how failure can lead to success.

Our education system encourages students to play it safe and retreat at the first sign of failure (assuming that any failure will look bad on their college applications and résumés).

While some jobs require a college degree, many people find jobs in the informal market, where who you know and what you’ve done matter more than paper credentials, he writes.

Parents could refuse to pay for useless degrees, but most are “caught up in outmoded mentalities about education forged in the stable economy of the 1950s (but profoundly misguided in today’s chaotic, entrepreneurial economy).”

Employers could overturn the system “if they explicitly offered routes to employment for those who didn’t get a degree because they were out building businesses.”

OK, for the exceptionally talented and self-educated few.  But most college dropouts aren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.  And some people do learn useful things in college.

 

Steve Jobs: Computers won’t fix schools

Technology can’t fix education, Steve Jobs said. He also strongly supported school choice, notes Jay Greene on Ed Next.

“I used to think when I was in my twenties that technology was the solution to most of the world’s problems, but unfortunately it just ain’t so,” Jobs said in a 1995 Smithsonian interview.

We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people, the competition that will attract the best people. Unfortunately, there are side effects, like pushing out a lot of 46 year old teachers who lost their spirit fifteen years ago and shouldn’t be teaching anymore. I feel very strongly about this. I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer….

As you’ve pointed out I’ve helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites your curiosity and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can. The elements of discovery are all around you. You don’t need a computer.

As an entrepreneur, Jobs fired people who didn’t come up to his very high standards. He thought schools should not tolerate mediocre teachers.

Jobs attended public schools in Cupertino, California — now a very high-performing district — but dropped out of Reed College in his first year.

Insanely great

Steve Jobs has died.  We all knew he was dying, yet it’s a shock to know he’s gone. Mike Malone, who knew Jobs as a neighbor and classmate and reported on his rise, writes about the visionary, risk-taking entrepreneur.

He made a huge impact on education technology, notes Ed Week.

In the less than two years since Jobs stood on stage in his characteristic black mock turtleneck and blue jeans and introduced the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer has exploded on the educational scene. In the third quarter of fiscal year 2011, the iPad surpassed all of Apple’s educational Mac desktop and laptop computer sales combined. Its popularity with classroom teachers, educators have said, is due a combination of its portability, long battery life, and intuitiveness of use, especially for young students and students with disabilities such as autism.

The iPhone, meanwhile, has helped give rise to an education app culture that has convinced a growing number of educators to advocate allowing students to bring their own mobile computing devices to class as educational tools.

Ubiquitous, cheap access to information is here. This week, India announced rural students and teachers will be able to buy a $35 tablet computer.

The Aakash has a color screen and provides word processing, Web browsing and video conferencing. The Android 2.2-based device has two USB ports and 256 megabytes of RAM.

Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli called for competition to improve the product and drive prices down further.

“The intent is to start a price war. Let it start,” Tuli said, inviting others to do the job better and break technological ground – while still making a commercially viable product.

India’s goal is a $10 computer.

 

 

Gates v. Jobs on liberal arts

While Bill Gates urges governors to invest in college disciplines”that actually produce jobs,” Apple founder Steve Jobs says “it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

New York Times’ Room for Debate asks which college drop-out is right?

After the first 10 years, liberal arts majors catch up to graduates in career-oriented majors, writes Edwin Koc of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

In 2010, the average offer to a computer science major was $60,473; the average offer for a history major was $38,731.

. . . Once in a career path, the more general skills of communication, organization and judgment become highly valued. As a result, liberal arts graduates frequently catch or surpass graduates with career-oriented majors in both job quality and compensation.

Only 39 percent of U.S.-born technology CEOs hold engineering, computer or math degrees, responds Vivek Wadhwa,  director of research at Duke’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization.

Humanities students learn to write, a critical skill for the business world, argues Mark Bauerlein, an Emory English professor.

To be honest, some humanities majors learn to write.

Employers pay a premium for business majors, but humanities majors will be worth more, argues Richard Vedder of the Center on College Affordability and Productivity.

. . .  in the core business areas of management and marketing, I have long felt that the instruction is largely of limited intellectual content and little practical utility – people can learn how to sell wickets or manage a small group of employees just as well by studying engineering, communications, history, or, for that matter, mortuary science. . . . Salary data suggest that earnings rise dramatically with age, suggesting much “learning” is done on the job, and students studying intellectually weak and information-deprived courses in business are not going to have the critical thinking skills that might assist in the post-graduate learning-by-doing process.

Business is the most popular college major, followed by psychology, nursing, biology, education, English, economics, communications, political science and computer science, according to the Princeton Review.

The most profitable majors are: engineering, economics, physics, computer science, statistics, biochemistry, math, construction management, information systems and geology, says WalletPop.

On Payscale’s list of degrees with the best mid-career pay, a government degree is the top earner that isn’t math-centric. Business majors aren’t high on the list.