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Education

Should Computer Education Cover More Than Just Coding?

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Ammar Al-Kahfah plays with a stuffed “Baymax” toy at the Georgetown Hackathon in Washington, D.C. His team has wired it to move and to collect basic medical information.

LA Johnson/NPR

President Obama wants kids to learn to code. So much so, he’s pledged billions of dollars to teach them.

“Now we have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future – which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy,” he said in his radio address on Jan. 30.

And adults are looking to learn, too. Coding academies, or “boot camps,” are cropping up across the country, promising to teach students to code in a few months or even a few weeks.

But computers are not just about coding. There’s also a lot of theory — and science — behind technology. And those theoretical concepts form the basis of much of computer science education in colleges and universities.

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Education

What research says about classroom technology

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SmartBlog on Education this month is exploring the science of learning. Join us for original content in which experts explore trends in learning research and highlight teaching strategies that can help improve student performance.

“But why do you want students to blog?” This question, posed by one of the professors for an action research course in our school district, gave everyone pause. We had been discussing questions to investigate in our classrooms. The teacher who proposed the blogging idea thought for a moment, then replied, “I don’t know.”

Technology is tempting to embed in the classroom en masse. It piques kids’ interests and it is fun to explore. But does it lead to achievement and help students grow as learners? We need to ask ourselves these types of questions if we want to realize the impact that connected education can have on students. I offer three declarations supported by research to help assess the necessity of technology in classrooms.

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Education

Google Hit With A Student Privacy Complaint

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Google Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education in use in Arlington, Texas.

Google products are growing as ubiquitous in classrooms as dry-erase markers. The most recent numbers show that more than half of classroom computers purchased for U.S. schools are low-cost Chromebooks. And 50 million students, teachers and administrators use Google Apps For Education, a group of tools that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the purpose-built Google Classroom.

This software is free to use, for the most part. But a nonprofit advocacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation says there is a hidden cost: data mining that potentially compromises students’ privacy.

EFF has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, charging that Google is in violation of a legally binding agreement signed by 200 companies called the Student Privacy Pledge.

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Education

At School And At Home, How Much Does The Internet Know About Kids?

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Charlize, 8, plays with the Kidizoom Multimedia Digital Camera made by VTech in 2009. A recent data breach hacking sensitive information, including kid’s photos, is prompting parents to look twice at their children’s technology usage.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Children’s personal information isn’t supposed to be an online commodity. But whether kids are using Google apps at school or Internet-connected toys at home, they’re generating a stream of data about themselves. And some advocates say that information can be collected too easily and sometimes, protected too poorly.

Last month, a hacker stole personal information and photos of more than six million children after breaking into the computer records of a educational toy company, VTech.

VTech says that they’ve since hired a security company to deal with the breach. That might not be enough to convince Congress — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent a letter to VTech, wanting to know if the company is complying with a law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The issue, of course, spans beyond VTech. In the toy world, there’s the new Internet-connected Barbie doll, which has also been found to have security flaws, for example. And privacy advocates have long waged a battle against cookies and other data collection based on kids’ Internet activity.

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Education

3 reasons why teaching, learning computer science is critical

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It’s Computer Science Education Week. In this blog post, Melissa Moritz, the deputy director of STEM at the US Department of Education, helps us mark the annual program.

From December 7-13, educators and students across the US are celebrating Computer Science Education Week. It’s a great time to consider how, as a nation, we can build a strong community of computer scientists in which every student has the opportunity be a part.

Computer scientists use technology to solve some of society’s biggest challenges, designing solutions to make our lives and work easier. Across our country, computer scientists are building the next big innovations that will alter the ways in which we create, communicate, do business and spend our leisure time.

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Education

A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring

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Joven Palma, 13, listens to instructions for taking part in the international Hour of Code project last year.

Ted S. Warren/AP

For Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13), the nonprofit Code.org has helped organize nearly 200,000 “Hour of Code” events around the world. It’s advocating for computer coding as a basic literacy and an essential ingredient for jobs of the future, and there’s a lot of momentum behind the idea.

The biggest school systems in the country, New York City and Los Angeles Unified, each announced this fall that computer science will be a required course for all grades within 10 years. Coding is also part of national curricula in the U.K. and soon will be in Australia.

Mitchel Resnick has been at the forefront of computer science and early education for decades. He heads up something called the Lifelong Kindergarten Group, which develops new technologies for creativity at MIT’s Media Lab.

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