Tag Archives: college

More women in Computer Science – a simple solution from Harvey Mudd

An interesting story from the New York Times shows how current president of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe, turned her school into a computer science powerhouse for women.

She started her work in 2006, amidst a big downturn in female computer science graduates. “As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in the field were women; by 2005 it was down to 22 percent, and sinking.”

Harvey Mudd was even worse with graduates in the single digits. This year that rate is nearly 40% and here’s how it happened:

In 2005, the year before Dr. Klawe arrived, a group of faculty members embarked on a full makeover of the introductory computer science course, a requirement at Mudd.

Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.

To reduce the intimidation factor, the course was divided into two sections — “gold,” for those with no prior experience, and “black” for everyone else. Java, a notoriously opaque programming language, was replaced by a more accessible language called Python. And the focus of the course changed to computational approaches to solving problems across science.

“We realized that we needed to show students computer science is not all about programming,” said Ran Libeskind-Hadas, chairman of the department. “It has intellectual depth and connections to other disciplines.”

Dr. Klawe supported the cause wholeheartedly, and provided money from the college for every female freshman to travel to the annual Grace Hopper conference, named after a pioneering programmer. The conference, where freshmen are surrounded by female role models, has inspired many a first-year “Mudder” to explore computer science more seriously.

via NY Times

Winner of the NCAA Dunk Content – 5’9″ James Justice

From ESPN:

5’9″ James Justice from Martin Methodist College wins the NCAA Dunk contest with this incredible between the legs slam.

Number 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10. The judges, Bobby Hurley, John Salley, Pierre Thomas and Jimmy Graham didn’t even put up scores, it was over!

Isaac Newton Digital Library – 4,000 pages of his notebooks, drawings, and manuscripts

The largest collection of Isaac Newton’s papers has gone digital, committing to open-access posterity the works of one of history’s greatest scientist.

Among the works shared online by the Cambridge Digital Library are Newton’s own annotated copy of Principia Mathematica and the ‘Waste Book,’ the notebook in which a young Newton worked out the principles of calculus.

“Anyone, wherever they are, can see at the click of a mouse how Newton worked and how he went about developing his theories and experiments,” said Grant Young, the library’s digitization manager, in a press release. “Before today, anyone who wanted to see these things had to come to Cambridge. Now we’re bringing Cambridge University Library to the world.”

Approximately 4,000 pages of material are available now, and thousands more will be uploaded in coming months.

via Wired Science

 

From the Digital Library:

Cambridge University Library holds the largest and most important collection of the scientific works of Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Newton was closely associated with Cambridge. He came to the University as a student in 1661, graduating in 1665, and from 1669 to 1701 he held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics. Under the regulations for this Chair, Newton was required to deposit copies of his lectures in the University Library.

A number of videos explaining aspects of Newton’s work and manuscripts are available from the Newton Project’s YouTube site.

 

One of his myriad accomplishments include a theory of light -- pictured above are notes on optics (prism) -- and his construction of the first reflecting telescope.

National Signing Day – February 1st – get your fax machines ready

Today is NLI 2012 and unless you’re a crazy fan of college football you didn’t know that!

NLI stands for National Letter of Intent and the first day a recruit can send this in is on February 1. The letter binds the student to school, they cannot switch without incurring stiff penalties, and the school to offer a 1-year scholarship.

Today several thousand high school athletes will commit to a university and prepare to join their new college teams.

I like to think of it as the college football draft. You could also call it the start of the next college football season.

It’s kinda funny in that a signature is required and so today, all across America, college coaches are sitting in front of fax machines. Grown men staring at fax machines waiting for young adults to make or break their career. Yes it’s silly, but fun!

 

Unemployment rate normal for college grads – so why Occupy Wall Street?

For some reason I thought that not having a chance to get ahead was a big part of Occupy Wall Street. That the top 1% is running away with money from the bottom 99%.

Unfortunately, the unemployment data below confuses that story. It shows a serious education issue and major problems in the African-American community, but not a widespread problem among the 99%.

In fact, if you take those groups out of the equation then the problems are nearly wiped away. Our college grads have an employment rate of 4.2%. The white and asian communities over-all have an unemployment rate around 6.5%.

An unemployment rate of 4-6% is considered normal for a healthy economy, taking into account those between jobs, career changes, etc.

Perhaps, the message for Occupy Wall Street should have been to get more kids through college and help out the African-American community?

November 2011,  Unemployment Statistics - Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Education

  • High school dropouts – 12.7%
  • High school, no college – 8.4%
  • Some college or Associates Degree – 7.4%
  • Bachelor’s and higher – 4.2%

 

By Race, Sex

White, unemployment rate, 7.2 %

  • Men – 6.8%
  • Women – 6.5%
  • Teens – 21%

Black, unemployment rate, 14.9%

  • Men – 15.5 %
  • Women – 12.7%
  • Teens – 39%

Asian, unemployment rate, 6.5%

 

By Industry

Highest unemployment rate:

  • Agriculture – 14.9%
  • Construction – 13.1%
  • Leisure and Hospitality – 11.1%

Lowest unemployment rate:

  • Self-employed – 5.2%
  • Education and Health – 5.2%
  • Government workers – 4.5%

Industry most likely for college grads:

  • Professional and business services – 9%
  • Information – 7.4%
  • Financial activities – 6.1%

I want to encourage you to come to your own conclusions about these numbers. What did you come up with?

One I came up with is that it certainly pays to be a college grad (4.2%) and be self-employed (5.2%). Both have the lowest unemployment rates.

The college dropout bubble

Did you know that every year $4 billion is lost due to college dropouts?

The number comes from lost income and compounds every year with new dropouts adding to the roll call. It’s an interesting statistic that highlights a problem in education.

One that I call the college dropout bubble, but unlike most bubbles this works backwards. It’s a negative bubble:

Positive bubble - trade in which products are at inflated values.

Negative bubble – trade in which products are at deflated values.

I propose that a college education in this country has a deflated value. To the vast majority of Americans it just isn’t worth it. We can get 87% of our multi-lingual/racial/cultural people to get a high school education but, when it comes to college degrees we are at 39%.

There are more college dropouts (17%) than high school dropouts (13%)!!

That is a definitely a negative bubble and is probably impossible to explain. One could say it’s due to the skyrocketing costs of college, or just blame the cool kids for shunning school.

I do have a few topics that really annoy me and one happy-positive solution.

There are a ridiculous amount of students picking “catch-all” majors like business, history, and health. The vast majority of which are only doing so to check the box, “got a college degree…now I should go figure out what I want to do.”

Another issue is the “point the finger” problem in education. Where everyone blames everyone else for our losing ways. Even the movie Waiting For Superman spreads it around liberally. Of course, we usually skip over the parents as if they play a role in getting a kid into and through college.

Then there is billionaire investor Peter Thiel offering $100,000 for students under the age of 20 to dropout. His rationale being that the cost of college is in a bubble (a positive one). An interesting argument until you realize that he is talking about exclusive Ivy-League and other private schools that cost $50,000 a year. As if they haven’t ever been over-priced…

For the record the average tuition at public schools is $7,600 and at private schools is $38,700.

This by no means covers all the issues and I bet my readers have many of their own.

For a solution I think we should go old-school. Pick up something that has been lost in our reverence for money and unhappiness, a hobby.

It’s easy to explain, ironically, by looking at America’s two most successful dropouts: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Both have a hidden truth. Before they achieved instant wealth they were nerds in high school. I know very revealing, but it’s true and they spent an absurd amount of time playing with computers.

What’s the difference between us and them. Well, when high school hit we all dropped our hobbies for chasing girls/boys and lots of drinking. Few of us were successful with the opposite sex, though, we like to think we did better than Bill and Mark.

I hope that one day our youth (aka my future children), are able to drink less and tinker more. Pick up some nerdy, DIY hobby and run with it. Like the other day I saw a fellow on the beach testing out a remote control surfer robot, future billionaire…

It comes down to..

spending your weekends at a comic convention

Or..

spending weekends working on the Jager

Photos by

bubble – HKD

comics – Kevin Dooley

jager – GadgetBubba

Do young Americans want to work?

As in, get a job?

Despite all the haranguing on our economy and jobs market, why aren’t we talking more about the massive labor imbalance in our country?

A recent Rutgers University survey of 571 Americans who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 found that only 53% held full-time jobs. And yet, it’s not hard to understand why. In 2009, of the 1,601,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred, the greatest numbers fell into the fields of business (348,000); social sciences and history (169,000) and health sciences (120,000).

I had to look up health science and found this description:

The health sciences are concerned with the development of knowledge and programs related to health and well being. Health science is also concerned with the study of leisure and cultural phenomena.

And just so we’re all on the same page, social sciences include: anthropology, archaeology, communication, criminology, political science, sociology and psychology.

I’m going to refrain from commenting on the social and health science and history majors and instead take a moment to focus on business majors. You would think having a prevalence of business majors would be a positive for our economy, but we first need people who can actually make something before we need the people to market, sell and manage it.

We are missing the makers (engineers and scientists), the people who have the skills and knowledge to create something.

The fact is, there are jobs in this country. According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over three million job opportunities are unfilled in the United States right now, the highest level in three years. And yet, in that same period we have produced the highest unemployment rate we’ve seen in over two decades.

I was at my alma mater (James Madison University) a few months ago and caught up with a former professor in the college of Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) ; she told me that enrollment numbers in ISAT were the lowest they’ve ever been, even though these students are the most desirable and in demand by employers. Given the current economy and jobs market, I was a little shocked.

I’ll be honest here and say that when I was 17, college and majors didn’t consume my thoughts nearly as much as boys and field hockey. I went to JMU because it had the best field hockey program in the country. And my parents essentially chose my major for me. I was pretty ambivalent about what I wanted to do. There was lots that interested me (minus Accounting). At one point it was Law, another time English, I even considered Business. But my parents reasoned that I was good at math and science and the world needed more women in STEM, so I said sure, why not.

When I graduated, I had 15 job offers. Looking back, I’m certain my collegiate experience would have been a lot easier if I majored in something that didn’t require me to spend so much time in computer and science labs, but in this tech-centric day and age, I’m glad I left knowing how to program and build a website, amongst other things.

How many young Americans today think about employability? If you look at the degrees that are most likely to land a person a job, there seems to be a disconnect with the majors students are pursuing the most. Case in point,  in 2009, degrees in “parks, recreation, and leisure studies” saw a 43 percent increase. Yep, the things with budgets first to get cut in a recession are what students are flocking to.

I’m not saying people should neglect their true callings in life. In fact, I think the world benefits the most from the people who vigorously pursue their passions, including social psychology majors (who have the highest unemployability rate). But for those who aren’t so sure what path to pursue, wouldn’t it make sense to take a look around, at the state of the country, and consider majoring in something employable?

Incidentally, it seems the United States isn’t alone in its labor gap. A recent report from the British Chambers of Commerce reveals small businesses are frustrated at the quality of applicants, who they say can barely concentrate or add up. The report warns: ‘Too many people [are] coming out with fairly useless degrees in non-serious subjects.’

Jerry Rice Jr. at UCLA

Sean Ceglinsky over at CBS Sports wrote an interesting article on UCLA’s receiver of the future, Jerry Rice Jr.

The son of hall of famer, Jerry Rice, who is widely considered the best receiver of all time, faces many of the same obstacles as his dad.

He is small, 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, and underrated which means he will have to overcome by sure willpower.

[testimonial]“Every time I get a chance, I try to make a play, that’s the way I was raised,” Rice Jr. said. “I’m out there competing, all of us receivers here at UCLA are pushing each other and we’re getting better as a group. Anything can happen in this game, so I’m always ready to play. My goal is to keep my head up and keep grinding. My time will come if I keep working hard.”[/testimonial]

That time may be a ways off considering there are 7 receivers ahead of him.

UCLA has always been at the top of the class in recruiting talented wide receivers. This year is no different with 3 returning seniors, 2 juniors, and 2 sophomores, including Shaquelle Evans, a top prospect transferring to UCLA.

Still, he has skills.

[testimonial]“Come on Jerry, make a play,” Neuheisel shouts toward the underclassman.

He uses a quick stutter step at the line of scrimmage to create some much-needed separation from the cornerback. A head-and-shoulders fake freezes the linebacker at the second level. An uncanny burst of speed follows as he blows by the safety. Seconds later, Rice Jr. is in the end zone, snatching the pass out of mid-air while keeping both feet in bounds for a touchdown.[/testimonial]

If you read the full article, Jerry Rice Jr. is intent on carving his own path at UCLA, you get the sense that Junior is a superstar waiting to happen.

Here’s to hoping for him to have a stellar career at UCLA!

No! Every Child Cannot Get Straight A’s

In a previous post I asked the question: Can Every Child Get Straight A’s?

Oh wow, did I get some interesting responses. Every single person, except one, said no. The only person to say yes was my lady’s father, thanks Ravendad.

The overwhelming outcry was that students should not get straight A’s. Or, that it was an unreasonable or an unimportant expectation. Innumerable explanations were given in the comments and on Facebook. Here are some of them:

  • “There has to be losers in life”
  • “If you lower the bar enough, yes”
  • “Some kids just aren’t great at school”

Those were real comments. Others did give more complex answers with references to various experts (or pundits). But, I think the point stands, we have very low expectations for our children.

It’s no surprise that our education is barely competing worldwide with so few adults expecting us to do well. Many of us would probably like to blame this on schools or teachers. The documentary, Waiting For Superman, provides amunition for just that by pointing out all the problems and inadequacies they have.

Which is exactly where I draw the line. I get so worked up when adults blame our problems on schools, I even walked out on that movie in protest.

We do not have an education problem. Our schools are doing fine, if not exceptional. In every aspect of education our teachers, principals, and schools are improving. They are establishing uniform standards, trying new teaching methods, and in some cases radical reforms.

The results have been pathetic. Tiny gains or no gains all across the board.

Which has befuddled the entire country. You mean that money, radical changes, and firing teachers can’t fix education?

To which any educator will give you the “no duh” response. There is something more important than that, something so overwhelming that it makes anything else impotent. Parents.

There is no single factor more important than parents.

To which I propose we switch our conversation away from education reform and into parent reform. Now, this is not another finger pointing exercise, we have enough of that already. This is an attempt to engage in discourse that is productive. Like two children beating each other up, nobody wins. But if you can get them to talk first, to understand each other, then they grow and everybody wins.

If given the stage here’s an example of what I would say:

During the teenage years the child brain suddenly becomes the adult brain. Experiencing a large growth in ability. Beneath the raging hormones is a mind that will soon be able to perform geometry, calculus, write abstract essays, and more.

Very few understand this and even fewer understand how to respond to it.

Fortunately, our middle schools do and they focus almost entirely on skill building. They teach the rigor necessary to enable those powerful minds.

During grades six to eight, the content suddenly becomes repetitive. Topics that were covered in earlier years are rehashed, only to be covered again in high school. Which leaves teachers free to focus on:

  • Writing outlines
  • Organization
  • Punctuality
  • Forming paragraphs
  • Structured notes (math, science)

If successful the classroom turns into an escape from the chaos of puberty by establishing daily routines and regular practice. You would be surprised how relaxing it is for teenagers to have a well disciplined and quiet place to practice writing outlines. It’s like a hush comes over the class.

The same is true for parents. I had so many successful parent-teacher conferences where the sole discussion was on how to organize a backpack. At first the parents would look at me with shock. Where was the typical laundry list of problems or successes. Instead, I would explain about their child’s growing brain and the need to build basic skills. Then a few weeks later they would come back and thank me profusely.

It is these basic skills that form the foundation for future success in high school and college. If delivered at the right age it is almost magical. Providing students with exactly what they need, simplifying the parents challenging role, and allowing teachers to, well, teach.

Further, I can provide an example of this at every age, every grade, and every stage in life. I can offer to adults and parents critical knowledge that will save them countless hours and headaches, while making straight A’s a reasonable achievement.

Now, not everything I would say is perfect and backed by all educators. But, it does set the foundation for productive discussions. I would love national debates that introduce these largely unknown facts to parents. Instead of the pointless and unhelpful debates we have now.

I can only imagine how much improvement we would see if our education reform suddenly was about education and not money or blame.

What do you say, did I make a convincing argument for parent reform?

No! Every Child Cannot Get Straight A's

In a previous post I asked the question: Can Every Child Get Straight A’s?

Oh wow, did I get some interesting responses. Every single person, except one, said no. The only person to say yes was my lady’s father, thanks Ravendad.

The overwhelming outcry was that students should not get straight A’s. Or, that it was an unreasonable or an unimportant expectation. Innumerable explanations were given in the comments and on Facebook. Here are some of them:

  • “There has to be losers in life”
  • “If you lower the bar enough, yes”
  • “Some kids just aren’t great at school”

Those were real comments. Others did give more complex answers with references to various experts (or pundits). But, I think the point stands, we have very low expectations for our children.

It’s no surprise that our education is barely competing worldwide with so few adults expecting us to do well. Many of us would probably like to blame this on schools or teachers. The documentary, Waiting For Superman, provides amunition for just that by pointing out all the problems and inadequacies they have.

Which is exactly where I draw the line. I get so worked up when adults blame our problems on schools, I even walked out on that movie in protest.

We do not have an education problem. Our schools are doing fine, if not exceptional. In every aspect of education our teachers, principals, and schools are improving. They are establishing uniform standards, trying new teaching methods, and in some cases radical reforms.

The results have been pathetic. Tiny gains or no gains all across the board.

Which has befuddled the entire country. You mean that money, radical changes, and firing teachers can’t fix education?

To which any educator will give you the “no duh” response. There is something more important than that, something so overwhelming that it makes anything else impotent. Parents.

There is no single factor more important than parents.

To which I propose we switch our conversation away from education reform and into parent reform. Now, this is not another finger pointing exercise, we have enough of that already. This is an attempt to engage in discourse that is productive. Like two children beating each other up, nobody wins. But if you can get them to talk first, to understand each other, then they grow and everybody wins.

If given the stage here’s an example of what I would say:

During the teenage years the child brain suddenly becomes the adult brain. Experiencing a large growth in ability. Beneath the raging hormones is a mind that will soon be able to perform geometry, calculus, write abstract essays, and more.

Very few understand this and even fewer understand how to respond to it.

Fortunately, our middle schools do and they focus almost entirely on skill building. They teach the rigor necessary to enable those powerful minds.

During grades six to eight, the content suddenly becomes repetitive. Topics that were covered in earlier years are rehashed, only to be covered again in high school. Which leaves teachers free to focus on:

  • Writing outlines
  • Organization
  • Punctuality
  • Forming paragraphs
  • Structured notes (math, science)

If successful the classroom turns into an escape from the chaos of puberty by establishing daily routines and regular practice. You would be surprised how relaxing it is for teenagers to have a well disciplined and quiet place to practice writing outlines. It’s like a hush comes over the class.

The same is true for parents. I had so many successful parent-teacher conferences where the sole discussion was on how to organize a backpack. At first the parents would look at me with shock. Where was the typical laundry list of problems or successes. Instead, I would explain about their child’s growing brain and the need to build basic skills. Then a few weeks later they would come back and thank me profusely.

It is these basic skills that form the foundation for future success in high school and college. If delivered at the right age it is almost magical. Providing students with exactly what they need, simplifying the parents challenging role, and allowing teachers to, well, teach.

Further, I can provide an example of this at every age, every grade, and every stage in life. I can offer to adults and parents critical knowledge that will save them countless hours and headaches, while making straight A’s a reasonable achievement.

Now, not everything I would say is perfect and backed by all educators. But, it does set the foundation for productive discussions. I would love national debates that introduce these largely unknown facts to parents. Instead of the pointless and unhelpful debates we have now.

I can only imagine how much improvement we would see if our education reform suddenly was about education and not money or blame.

What do you say, did I make a convincing argument for parent reform?