In case you missed it, code.org and companies’ [sic] “Hour of Code” blitz descends on non-resistant K-12 classrooms this week. I’d have ignored the whole thing but a former colleague pointed out my old school’s involvement and soon thereafter, I received this sad notice of another organization’s bandwagon riding:
NWP exhorts, “Teachers of all disciplines: please set aside one hour to expose your students to these critical skills.” And in case focusing on silo-ed disciplines like English or history or art or Mandarin or whatever has kept teachers dumb about what they and their schools are failing to teach, here’s a handy YouTube exposition: Learn what most schools don’t teach.
Since it’s so obviously easy to replace any discipline’s regular curriculum plans for important Computer Science content, I’d suggest finding more unneeded hours of class time to improve other “critical skills.” How about students learning to de-code carefully programmed code.org materials by looking for rhetorical fallacies?
- Red herring: Are STEM employment opportunities “tremendous”? – SKrashen: “For example, Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening and according to the Atlantic (Feb, 2013), the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb. Also, about 1/3 of college-bound high-school students take calculus, and only abour 5% of jobs require this much math.”
- False need: DOZENS OF LA UNIFIED SCHOOLS LACK STAFF NEEDED TO RUN LIBRARIES – 4LAKids: “The district has 457 elementary schools, but only 380 schools have at least a part time library aide, according to statistics provided by L.A. Unified. That translates into about one in five schools that can’t open their libraries… According to the California Department of Education, only about half of elementary and middle schools students in L.A. Unified can read at grade level.”
- Moral equivalence: Invisible Child – NYTimes: “One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.” Nearly Half of All U.S. Schoolchildren Live in Low-Income Households – Pacific Standard: “…And things are only getting worse.”
- Code.org Wants Children’s Data, Control Over Teachers – Slashdot: “‘Details of a $1 million plan to give 33% more money to CS instructors who teach more girls their K-8 Intro to CS course disappeared from the Code.org website after a Slashdot discussion called attention to it, so teachers and parents might want to check out Code.org’s Example District Contract while it remains on the site. The sample contract, which covers partnership agreements between Code.org and school districts, not only calls for collecting children’s data for Code.org (‘Code.org’s ongoing studies review longitudinal student achievement data for the current year, the preceding four (4) to six (6) academic years, until the end of the student’s academic history in the district’), but also locks teachers into a 2+ year commitment on behalf of Code.org (‘Each teacher selected to participate in the Code.org Program shall commit to teaching in the Code.org Program for a minimum of two school years through a letter of intent administered by the district’).”
- …Tech immigration reform… an initiative that’s also near-and-dear to many of same players behind Hour of Code… – Slashdot: “Then again, tech immigration reform is back on the front burner, an initiative that’s also near-and-dear to many of same players behind Hour of Code, including Microsoft Chief Counsel Brad Smith who, during the Hour of Code kickoff press conference, boasted that Microsoft’s more-high-tech-visas-for-U.S.-kids-computer-science-education deal found its way into the Senate Immigration Bill, but minutes later joined his fellow FWD.us panelists to dismiss a questioner’s suggestion that Hour of Code might somehow be part of a larger self-serving tech industry interest.'”
- Google gave money to conservative firebrand Heritage Action: “A spokeswoman for the tech giant declined to comment on the size of the grant or whether it will continue to support Heritage Action.”
- How Apple, Google, Cisco are competing for the $5 billion K-12 ed-tech market – Silicon Valley Business Journal: “Next year, K-12 schools across the United States will begin implementing Common Core State Standards, an education initiative that will drive schools to adopt technology in the classroom as never before. That’s prompting a scramble among Silicon Valley’s hardware, software and networking providers to grab as much of the $5.4 billion K-12 learning market as possible. Apple, Google, Cisco and a swarm of startups are elbowing in to secure market share. The sector is expected to more than double in size to $13.4 billion by 2017, according to GSV Advisors, a publicly traded venture capital firm.”