Computer Science Now a Core Subject in Chicago Schools

Chicago has a history of making large moves with the latest technology. From installing cables to help avoid power cuts to trains with no drivers, Chicago doesn’t want to stop there and has now become the first state that recognises Computer Science as a core subject.

Computer science is a debated subject, with pressure from governments and companies to help boost people’s knowledge of the technology they use every single day. Chicago public schools will now consider the classes as a core requirement, meaning that the 107 schools in the state which currently teach the course will be only the start.

In order to make sure the Computer Science course is there to help, the school district is working with not just companies but also Code.org, the group behind the hour of code initiative. With President Obama putting aside around $4 billion to help fund computer science courses across the U.S., and personally learning to write some code, Computer Science is quickly becoming more than an idea for schools.

With governments and companies like Apple running classes, it is quickly becoming clear that the need for people to understand not just how to use computers, but how they work and what they do is growing as we use more technology on an everyday basis. Combine that with schools opening up eSports courses to help promote teamwork and logical thinking, sometimes you almost wish you were back in school.

BBC Micro Bit Delayed To 2016

The BBC Micro Bit is an intriguing low-cost device to help youngsters develop a keen interest in programming. Unfortunately, the original October roll-out has been cancelled after power supply problems “affected a small number of devices”. According to a BBC spokesperson:

“We’re expecting to start sending them out to teachers before Christmas and to children early in the new year,” 

“As a result of our rigorous testing process, we’ve decided to make some minor revisions to the device – getting it right for children and teachers before we manufacture one million units is our priority.”

BBC director general Tony Hall expects the Micro Bit to “equip a new generation with the digital skills they need to find jobs and help grow the UK economy”. Currently, the device is set to inspire one million schoolchildren and could help forge a new raft of UK inventors. It’s a shame to see the project being delayed until after the Christmas period, but it’s better to make sure the final version is reliable.

In a technologically advanced world, it’s imperative to teach the future generation coding skills to create games, software and unique solutions. Sadly, when I was at school, the ICT curriculum only revolved around spreadsheet macros and I would have loved coding lessons.

Do you know any programming languages?

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Florida Public Schools to Spy on Students’ Social Media

The Orange County Public Schools District have chosen to monitor people’s social activity in their area, the district announced on Thursday that it has signed up with a service called Snaptrends, which bills itself as “Pioneering Location-Based Social Media Discovery.” It promises to “quickly identify actionable insights.”

The public schools insisted that the purpose of the software was “to proactively prevent, intervene and (watch) situations that may impact students and staff.” 

Cnet contacted the Orange County Public Schools District to ask how far this monitoring will stretch — current information suggests that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube will be monitored for specific keywords.

They also asked what the district would say to a parent who believes this is unnecessary stalking of their kids. However, there was no response.Schools from Huntsville, Ala,. to Glendale, Calif., have decided that they must, in one form or another, monitor what their students do on social media.

It does make me wonder what level of detail they can see, on a personal and irrelevant level, surely that is an invasion of students privacy?

We’ve all become used to Google, Facebook and other commercial cohorts scanning our messages and generally following us around 24 hours a day. Somewhere buried deep within us might be the idea that they’re only doing it for commercial reasons and don’t care one whit about our personal lives and pre dilections — unless they can make money out of them. It’s business, not personal.

With schools, it’s a little different. They’re specifically monitoring what kids do in private — even if that might be publicly available information — with a view to preventing bad behavior.

Thank you to Cnet for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of SnapTrends

HummingBoard – An Alternative to the Raspberry Pi Now Available

There is no arguing the fact that the Raspberry Pi has revolutionised the technology world giving a simple platform on which users have been able to create their own bespoke systems, mini server farms and dev kits, along with the tools for students to learn basic programming techniques with real world results in the classroom. The unique world that the Pi has lived in is coming to a close however, as a rival product known as the HummingBoard has come to market, offering up a faster and more flexible platform on which users can develop and build small Linux-based systems.

Available in three different specifications, the HummingBoard-i1, -i2 and -i2ex systems offer up a selection of processors ranging from a single core ARM A9 running at 1GHz with 512MB RAM, through to a dual-core A9 running at up to 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM. Additionally the top end model features Gigabit LAN, GC2000 graphics (with the lower two models featuring 1/100 LAN and GC880 GPU’s), two powered USB2.0 ports, HDMI output, mSATA and mPCIe (on the top end model only) and most importantly, its dimensions allow it to fit into the same chassis that are intended for the Raspberry Pi.

The far greater specifications will certainly open up a whole new world of opportunities for the HummingBoard, with the number of deployment options only limited by the minds of their users and with prices starting at around $45 for the single core entry-level board, ranging up to around $100 for the top end option with a power adaptor costing $10, it is certainly going to be a well fought battle for the ageing Pi,

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/e_q6f2g5J0g[/youtube]

Source: Fudzilla

Bing Rewards App for Windows Phone Launched, 5 Months after iOS and Android

Latest news from Microsoft point to having its Bing Rewards app being released (finally) for Windows Phone, having it come out for its own handset operating system almost 5 months after the release on Android and iOS.

The company’s reward program has been around since 2010, having it be launched as an incentive to increase Microsoft’s share in the search engine market. For who is unaware, the tool is designed to reward users working with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Credits are earned over time with usage which users can then trade in for some goods Microsoft is offering.

The Windows Phone version of the application features basically the same functions as the iOS and Android counterparts, having the only advantage be in the operating system at hand. While the iOS and Android versions need to be accessed by tapping on the application icon, Windows Phone lets you pin it as a tile on the home screen and allows you to quickly monitor your credit.

In terms of goods offered, Microsoft appears to have gift cards, items on Amazon.com, Starbucks discounts, Xbox goodies, Fandango and others. Users who feel more humanitarian can also opt in to donate their credits to a local school or charity.

Thank you TheNextWeb for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TheNextWeb

Apple And Other Companies To Donate Free Hardware And Services To Schools

With the US Government launching its ConnectED initiative, which will help get US classrooms into the internet era, several major companies have joined The White House to give them a helping hand. Apple alone plans to donate a whopping $100 million in iPads, MacBooks and software to underprivileged schools.

Autodesk and O’Reilly Media will also be giving away free content and software, while Microsoft will heavily discount Windows to lower the prices of educational computers. Mobile networks will be lending a hand too, AT&T and Sprint will be offering free wireless and broadband for several years, and while Verizon aren’t giving away free services, they’ll still be donating $100 million in cash to other needs for these schools.

There are many issues that need fixing in schools all around the world, not just America, and these free or discount services, as well as donations, aren’t going to solve problems, but they’ll certainly ease the burden on the system and a lot of good can come out of it in time. Either way, it’s great that these companies are willing to help a new generation, but only time will tell us how effective the scheme has been.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Kerbal Space Program Mod “KerbalEdu” Takes The Game Into The World Of Education

Teachers and students can now work together to learn rocket science and the joys of space travel with the official launch of KerbalEdu, an educational modification of the popular, award-winning space agency game Kerbal Space Program game which hit steam in 2013.

Squad, the developers of KSP, have partnered with TeacherGaming to launch this project. Still in early development, interested educators and students can go to www.kerbaledu.com for more information on the game, which is available on compatible Windows, Mac OS and Linux computers. Squad will continue to develop KSP, which is currently available through early access on its website as well as Steam and other popular online gaming retailers. TeacherGaming, like its prior popular release MinecraftEdu, will modify KSP to enhance its value to professors and teachers in a classroom setting.

“KSP is about making rocket science fun, which is why we didn’t need any complex algorithms to realize an educational version is a great extension,” said Squad co-owner Adrian Goya. “TeacherGaming’s experience makes them an ideal partner and we believe KerbalEdu is going to be a great tool for science teachers throughout the world to teach our next generation of rocket scientists and astronauts.”

TeacherGaming hasn’t released the first KerbalEdu mod but is planning several features specifically for teachers, including:

  • Metric system and other systems for easier data comparison and integration with other school topics
  • UI alterations to include analyzer and data collector tools for easier data gathering, data summarization and problem solving with ship designs
  • Premade lessons that introduce or need a specific scientific method or formula to be solved, such as a rocket with too small of an engine needing more thrust
  • Valuable materials outside of the actual game, but with heavy connections to it, that help educators drive home important lessons

While Squad will remain focused on making sure every new feature in Kerbal Space Program is fun, TeacherGaming has the same goal – with an educational emphasis.

“KerbalEdu is going to help players do more than just dream of the stars in their classroom. It’s going to give them the tools to learn how to reach them,” TeacherGaming CEO Santeri Koivisto said. “Squad is a great partner and a believer in our mission to use games to help educate the next generation of students.”

Schools and other educational institutions interested in KerbalEdu can purchase the educational version of Kerbal Space Program for a discounted price and schools who do decide to use the software will also have the opportunity to offer their students a discounted price on Kerbal Space Program. Of course everyone else can still get it on Steam Early Access and see if they can make something that doesn’t rip its self apart and explode, although getting it wrong can be just as fun.

Thank you Kerbal Space Program for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Kerbal Space Program.