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November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The dearth of women in technology professions or girls taking STEM classes has been well-documented. But I found reason for hope recently during an afternoon with young girls studying STEAM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics education, during full-day workshops on six consecutive Saturdays.
The girls were recruited from Seattle-area middle and high schools and community organizations by the Greater
Seattle Chapter of The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization for women. At the TAF Academy, the Federal Way public school run by the Technology Access Foundation, the girls engaged in hands-on learning about robotics and gaming technology using NASA STEM education guidelines developed for the U.S. Department of Education. I met the girls on their final day when they had gathered at Rainier Beach Community Center to model their robots – including some talking ones – and debut video games they designed.
The games had stunning graphics and creative twists. I was especially wowed by those inspired by Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Who says girls are not gamers!
Also, who says STEM should not include arts. The aesthetic of the games, their design and usability, was all about artistic values. The afternoon was a celebration of the girls’ accomplishments but for me it was also a glimpse at the promise of STEAM, rather than STEM, education.
President Obama has emphasized STEM education as necessary preparation for a global and tech-driven economy. I’ve written here and here about the sizeable gap between the number of tech jobs available and the number of job seekers with the training and education to fill those jobs. The inbalance is greater for young people of color. National efforts draw attention to the dilemma, but it is dogged work at the local level, by advocacy and commnity groups like The Links, that moves the needle. (more…)
October 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Technology is as omnipresent in public education as pencils and paper. We’ve seen the growth in tools like interactive white boards, document cameras and those egg-shaped devices that help students respond in classrooms. But another side of the technology debate revolves around storage of the copious amounts of data collected by schools, school districts and state education departments. So much data is floating around that districts around the country have turned to private companies to store information in the cloud. The companies protect files with high-level encryption, but still privacy rights advocates are mounting challenges to districts that rely on third parties for data storage outside of schools, reports The New York Times. Privacy advocates’ paranoia is not totally unwarranted. (more…)
August 13, 2013 at 7:50 AM
This week’s biggest surprise: Actor Ashton Kutcher gives a surprisingly inspiring and smart speech at the Teen Choice Awards. In a brief acceptance speech, Kutcher channels Apple founder Steve Jobs and champions nerds with three pieces of advice.
Juju Chang of Good Morning America posted it on Facebook, calling it “remarkable.” I could not resist watching and now you can be the judge.
Kutcher will play Steve Jobs in an upcoming movie, “Jobs.” Here is a Los Angeles Times story about his role. And it looks like he’s already echoing Jobs’ talent for inspiring people with his speeches.
June 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM
Cheeky headline because the answer is of course yes. Humans, largely female, will make up the teaching workforce in the year 2030 and beyond. But the future of teaching, and how much of it will be driven by technology is the topic of my column this week. How will teachers be trained and exactly what they’ll be doing in the classroom is changing, in part at the behest of teachers who see their roles expanding in the realm of learning.
I mention the popularity of Khan Academy as one driver of online education, but I want to be clear that it is the offsprings of Khan Academy that we ought to look toward. There are also online tools for all kinds of learners, here’s one a parent just recommended, Sophia learning. Please send in more examples. Online tutorials do not replace teachers. I’m convinced their vital role is to supplement them in ways that free up teachers to truly be professional masters of content and learning. I’ve been thinking about what public education, including teaching, will look like 20,30,40 years out for some time. Someone recommended Barnett Berry’s “Teaching 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students and Our Public Schools — Now and in the Future.” The first chapter is illuminating, Berry says:
“We must convince parents, businesspeople, and community leaders to think beyond tradition - beyond their own childhood experiences in school – and consider what it will mean for our students and for the nation when we fully embrace teaching as professional work…” ”In the flattening world of the 21st century, American students will need to master knowledge and skills as never before.”
May 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM
President Obama’s efforts to regain America’s economic edge by ramping up science, engineering, technology and math businesses has a fan in Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Fresh from attending the White House’s third annual Science Fair, Nye spoke this week with the Huffington Post about the smart intersections of science and technology. Nye emphasized a point I’ve often made: America’s success depends on getting more at-risk students to take STEM courses.
The White House last month announced the US2020 campaign encouraging companies to commit 20 percent of their tech employees to 20 hours a year of mentoring or teaching by the year 2020.
Local examples lead the way on the president’s efforts, particularly the robotics club at Tacoma’s Lincoln Center High School. The club is receving widespread recognition, including an expected visit Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee, for computer application designs and a partnership with Bellevue-based Concur Technologies. Employees from Concur have been teaching Lincoln Center students basic coding and software development.
On the national level, Nye – a popular scientist who hosts television shows on PBS, The Science Channel, and Planet Green – is optimistic about the president’s efforts to harness private companies and government efforts. He also underscores something I believe will be the best thing to come out of all the attention on STEM: every student getting a solid ground in science and technology regardless of their career aspirations.
“We want our whole society to know and appreciate the value of science … whether or not you become scientist or an engineer,” Nye told the Huffington Post.
President Obama has committed $3.2 billion to bolstering STEM education in K-12 education and creating a teaching corps with expertise in STEM fields. Other critical initiatives include encouraging more girls to study STEM as this Seattle Times op-ed noted last fall. Nye, film actor LeVar Burton and others talk about STEM on the White House lawn in the video below.
May 9, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Good on Microsoft for promoting Amy Hood to the position of chief financial officer. Hood is the second woman to enter the leadership team that reports to Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Here is Microsoft’s press release and The Seattle Times’ news story on her promotion. Lisa Brummel, head of human resources, is the other woman in the elite group of executives.
The company appears to be doing a good job of getting women in the management pipeline, with Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller leading the Windows group, which I wrote about in blog post. Unfortunately, Reller seems to have been given the job of delivering the bad news on Windows 8, at least in this Wall Street Journal story on Windows 8 getting a reboot.
The progress on gender equality is a major shift from the company’s early days, which was male-dominated and highly confrontational, as U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., said in an interview for another blog post.
I am still waiting for a woman to be named CEO at a major public company in Seattle. Silicon Valley has Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. With the exception of the banking industry, gender equality in our region’s CEO seats have stagnated at publicly traded companies, which was the topic of my column “Sheryl Sandberg, ‘Lean In,’ the gender gap in Seattle leadership.”
Having reported on Microsoft for many years, I would not predict that a financial officer swill succeed Ballmer as CEO, but Hood’s elevation is still worth a woo hoo.
May 7, 2013 at 7:16 AM
A nonprofit group called Defense Distributed is providing instructions on how to make a gun with a 3-D printer. The plastic gun can evade metal detectors by leaving out a metal weight. According to this report by MSNBC and NBC anchor/correspondent Richard Lui, the gun can be made in four hours. Defense Distributed is providing the designs at its website, but as of Tuesday morning, the feature was not working.
Defense Distributed calls itself a “wiki weapon project” to defend the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. The MSNBC report says it requires four hours to print on an $8,000 printer.
On its website, Defense Distributed said its goal is to develop designs for cheaper printers. Here is its stated purpose:
To defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest.
This is frightening news, and not just because it echoes the plot line of the 1993 movie “In the Line of Fire.” (Here is the IMDB recap” of the movie, in which a killer gets a plastic gun through a metal detector and attempts to kill the U.S. president.) We are already worried about terrorists who want to blow up planes with explosives molded into underwear. Now we have to worry about plastic guns? Will our next TSA screening require the removal of all plastic items from our carry-ons?
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a ban on the plastic guns, according to the MSNBC report. I don’t see how a ban is going to survive a Second Amendment defense.
I am an advocate for controlling these weapons in some way, but Defense Distributed makes me throw up my hands in WTH disgust. (WTH = What the hell.) Because the problem with laws is that many are outdated by the time they survive the rigors of lawmaker debate and lawsuits. Trying to stop an army of 3-D printer owners with legislation? If the government shuts down Defense Distributed, another online outfit will pop up. The horse has left the barn.
May 2, 2013 at 6:20 AM
Early in Alex Gibney’s gripping new documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” Julian Assange declares that he “likes crushing bastards.”
By the end of the 130-minute film, Assange is one of the bastards. Seized by paranoia and the fame monster, he made WikiLeaks volunteers sign non-disclosure agreements, and charges $1 million per interview.
Along the way, Gibney’s careful journalism exposes the moral fault lines of the U.S. government’s obsession with secrecy, especially after 9/11. It is required viewing, and will be grist for op/eds when it is released next month, after it appears in the Seattle International Film Fest.
April 9, 2013 at 7:28 AM
Ron Johnson, the wonder boy who led Apple’s retail business and became chief executive of J.C. Penney, has been ousted by the retailer’s board after he failed to turn a pasty Red Delicious into a shiny Honeycrisp.
Here is the an Associated Press story. Penny’s has rehired it’s previous chief executive, Mike Uhllman, to resume his old position.
The past 16 months of Johnson’s leadership was the most fascinating business story. Johnson tried to turn a discount department store into a Genius Bar. It ditched coupons and markdowns and began a store-by-store makeover. Here is what happened to sales: (more…)
March 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM
Update 4:55 p.m.: Here’s the video of Newsom’s Town Hall talk, courtesy of The Seattle Channel.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t buy into the notion that politicians can solve all our problems. We must save ourselves, he says, and the only way to do so is to self-organize through active citizenship and to use technology to our advantage.
That’s a message I can get on board with.
In Seattle Monday night at Town Hall to promote his new book, “Citizenville,” the brash, progressive former mayor of San Francisco was blunt about his own role in establishment politics — “I’m part of the problem.” — and just as straightforward about his frustration with government’s tendency to act as an entrenched bureaucracy that operates in silos instead of according to citizens’ interests.
Since there’s no audio or video available from the talk, I suggest watching Newsom’s spiel in this C-Span interview. Or see his Feb. 28 interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” below, in which he discusses politics, the book, and his support for legalizing marijuana.
Drawing on his own experiences as mayor and statewide elected official, Newsom’s message is that government should be open and data should be widely available to the public, whether the information is on public works projects, crime statistics, or transit lines. When cities and states provide information, Newsom asserts, ”People can use technology as a slingshot and tear down large institutions.”
Just as Apple did with iTunes, Newsom argues government should be the conduit or the cultivator of innovation, while the private sector should come up with the mobile applications to make that information understandable to the masses. The concept applies to government and business initiatives. (Yes, he specifically mentioned newspapers, too.)
Newsom’s brand of independent thinking is refreshing.Though he is a staunch Democrat and a supporter of labor movements, for example, he says he “fears more than anything else” the unions’ rigidity and strict adherence to standard operating procedures that often protect employee seniority over ability level.
“You’ve gotta be built to adapt,” he said. “I don’t want to see labor holding onto their piece of the pie. Fear takes over. People hold on to their patch.”
— On the government’s information system: “We’re on the cutting edge of 1973″
— On changing government: “A lot of this is good rhetoric. It’s just hard to do.”
— On privacy: “Privacy is a new currency. You give it up to get something more.”