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Solar eclipse science along the path of totality: Eclipse on August 21 offers unique research opportunities

News From NSF - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:00

In a briefing today on solar eclipse science, leading U.S. scientists highlighted research projects that will take place across the country during the upcoming August 21 solar eclipse. The research will advance our knowledge of the sun's complex and mysterious magnetic field and its effects on Earth's ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242561&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

This is an NSF News item.

Why are underrepresented minorities and poor over-represented in Code.org courses?

ComputingEd - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:00

Code.org has a blog post describing their latest demographics results showing that they have remarkably high percentages of women (45%) and under-represented minorities (48%). In fact, their students are 49% on free and reduced meals.

Only 38% of students in the US are on free and reduced lunch.  44% of students in the US are Black or Hispanic (using US Department of Education data).

What does it mean that Code.org classes are over-sampling under-represented groups and poorer students?

I don’t know. Certainly, it’s because Code.org targeted large, urban school districts.  That’s who’s there.  But it’s not like the classes are unavailable to anyone else.  If the perception was these are valuable, shouldn’t more suburban schools be wanting them, too?

One explanation I can imagine is that schools that are majority poor and/or minority might be under-funded, so Code.org classes with their well-defined curriculum and clear teacher preparation models are very attractive. Those schools may not have the option of hiring (say) an AP CS teacher who might pick from one of the non-Code.org curriculum options, or even develop his or her own.

The key question for me is: Why aren’t the more majority and wealthier schools using Code.org classes?  CS is a new-to-schools, mostly-elective subject.  Usually those new opportunities get to the wealthy kids first.  Unless they don’t want it. Maybe the wealthy schools are dismissing these opportunities?

It’s possible that Code.org classes (and maybe CS in high school more generally) might get end up stigmatized as being for the poor and minority kids?  Perhaps the majority kids or the middle/upper-class kids and schools avoid those classes? We have had computing classes in Georgia that were considered “so easy” that administrators would fill the classes with problem students — college-bound students would avoid those classes.  We want CS for all.

Code.org has achieved something wonderful in getting so many diverse students into computing classes. The questions I’m raising are not meant as any criticism of Code.org.  Rather, I’m asking how the public at large is thinking about CS, and I’m using Code.org classes as an exemplar since we have data on them.  Perceptions matter, and I’m raising questions about the perceptions of CS classes in K-12.

I do have a complaint with the claim in the post quoted below.  The citation is to the College Board’s 2007 study which found that AP CS students are more likely to major in CS than most other AP’s, with a differentially strong impact for female and under-represented minority students.  “Taking AP CS” is not the same as “learn computer science in K-12 classrooms.”  That’s too broad a claim — not all K-12 CS is likely to have the same result.

Today, we’re happy to announce that our annual survey results are in. And, for the second year in a row, underrepresented minorities make up 48% of students in our courses and females once again make up 45% of our students…When females learn computer science in K-12 classrooms, they’re ten times more likely to major in it in college. Underrepresented minorities are seven to eight times more likely.

Source: Girls and underrepresented minorities are represented in Code.org courses

Tagged: BPC, Code.org, computing for all, computing for everyone, NCWIT

New NSF, USDA awards focus on relationships that benefit, harm plants

News From NSF - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:03

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have issued 27 research project awards, totaling more than $18 million, to support research into the relationships between plants, microbes and other organisms in their environment. These awards were made through the Plant Biotic Interactions (PBI) program jointly administered by the NSF Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) and NIFA.

"The ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242569&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

This is an NSF News item.

The General Purpose Blocks Programming Language, GP, is now in beta

ComputingEd - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 08:00

GP, the powerful new blocks-based programming language (that I wrote about here, helped show at SIGCSE 2017, and used for MediaComp in a new kind of ebook here), is available for beta-testing as the Scratch 2017 conference starts in Bordeaux, France.  You can access GP at http://www.gpblocks.org.  You can run projects in your browser on the website, or download the application.

GP is a free, general-purpose blocks language that is powerful yet easy to learn.

GP can:

  • generate high-quality graphics computationally

  • manipulate images and sounds

  • analyze text files or CSV data sets

  • simulate physical, biological, or economic systems

  • access the web and use cloud data

  • connect to hardware via the serial port

  • deploy projects on the web or as stand-alone apps

Source: About · GP Blocks

Tagged: blocks-based languages, GP, Scratch

New report concludes social, behavioral and economic sciences help advance national health, prosperity and defense

News From NSF - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 16:25

At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has produced a report, "The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities." The report concludes that social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBE) further NSF's mission to advance U.S. ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242565&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

This is an NSF News item.

Scientists embark on expedition to submerged continent Zealandia

News From NSF - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 10:00

Note: Video from IODP Expedition 371 will be available post-expedition.

Surrounding New Zealand is a mass of Earth's crust about half the size of Australia, the continent Zealandia. What makes Zealandia different from other continents is that more than 90 percent of it is submerged.

Increasingly detailed seafloor maps have attracted attention to ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242506&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

This is an NSF News item.


News From NSF - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 12:37

Available Formats:
HTML: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17577/nsf17577.htm?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click
PDF: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17577/nsf17577.pdf?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click

Document Number: nsf17577

This is an NSF Program Announcements and Information item.


News From NSF - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 12:37

“Algorithms aren’t racist. Your skin is just too dark.”: Teaching Ethics to future Software Developers

ComputingEd - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 07:00

In my Ethics class this summer, I had my students watch Joy Buolamwini’s TED talk when we talked about professional ethics and responsibility.  My students had not before considered the possibility that bias is being built into software, but they recognized the importance of her message. Our students who will be software engineers have to be thinking about her message, about the racism that we build into our machines.

She’s been getting a lot of press since her TED talk, including this recent piece in The Guardian.  In her blog post quoted below, she responds to her critics in a careful and respectful tone, which took an enormous amount of maturity and patience.  “Suggesting people with dark skin keep extra lights around to better illuminate themselves misses the point.”  She is more patient and well-spoken than me. I think my response to the critics would have included the phrase, “Are you kidding me?!?” (with perhaps a couple more words in there).

One of the goals of the Algorithmic Justice League is to highlight problems with artificial intelligence so we can start working on solutions. We provide actionable critique while working on research to make more inclusive artificial intelligence. In speaking up about my experiences, others have been encouraged to share their stories. The silence is broken. More people are aware that we can embed bias in machines. This is only the beginning as we start to collect more reports.

Source: Algorithms aren’t racist. Your skin is just too dark.

Tagged: BPC, computing for all, computing for everyone


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