Tag: Education

Synopsys in push to power up Armenia education

intel_ireland_semiconductor_chip_fab_300mm_waferI was in Armenia last week, courtesy, you could barely Adam and Eve it, of the British Embassy,  and was given the chance to speak to many a vendor, to students, and to regular people too, and taste the atmosphere of this ancient country.

In particular, I was privileged to interview Dr. Vazgen Melikyan, the director of Synopsys Armenia’s education department  and believe you me, that was quite an eye opener. The company is running effectively a powerhouse university.

Like its competitor, Mentor Graphics, Synopsys is investing money in bringing Armenia squarely into the 22nd century. The country is noted for its development skills – for example, an Armenian invented optical laser surgery, while another, American Armenian, Charlie Demerjian, invented an influential magazine called semiaccurate.com.

The professor said that the Synopsys aim is to cooperate with the main American universities. He said: “We select the best students after the second year.”

He said the internal university also offers a PhD programme, an IC design programme and an electronic design course.

Synopsys licenses its tools to external students with each licence worth around $1.5 million. But its students get the tools free of charge.

“We’re changing our curriculum in response to changing conditions,” said Professor Melikyan. Ninety percent of its students get jobs in the semiconductor industry and 77 percent get jobs in Armenia. The rest work for competitors such as Mentor Graphics.

Synopsys Armenia has its own library, which we saw when we were there last week, and it’s pretty impressive.

The Armenian story appears to be largely untold, although here at TechEye we’ve known about the influence its scientists and engineers have for some years. What we particularly like, resulting from our visit, is the clear enthusiasm and dynamism of the ICT industry in the country.

It’s pretty clear to us that the story needs to be told outside the confines of the IT industry – this little country is clearly going places.

Addicted to smartphones don’t ya know that they’re toxic?

Britney_Spears_Toxic-e1428916575934A Japanese University president has told his students that smartphones are toxic and they should quit their smartphones or quit school.

Channelling Britney Spears Shinshu University President Kiyohito Yamasawa told his students that their addiction to smartphones was “toxic.”

“Smartphone addiction slows down brain functions and wastes precious time,” he added.

Yamasawa’s comments are being seen as a split from students and other college heads, with some saying that smartphones were useful for finding information.

A government survey released in March shows that over 80 per cent of high school students who own a mobile phone use a smartphone. Smartphone users aged between 10 and 17 spend an average of 133 minutes on the Web per weekday using their device, the study also showed.

Another head, Hiroshi Hosoi, the president of Nara Medical University in western Japan,referred to Yamasawa’s comments while speaking to his freshmen at another ceremony.

He said that it was true that spending time reading books is probably better for developing one’s character, but the important thing was to learn how to use smartphones properly, because they are tools.

The phones not the students, we guess.

Top prof claims new tech eroding need for spelling or gramma

A Newcastle professor claims that English spelling and grammar rules have gone the way of the dodo thanks to new technology.

Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in northeast England, announced that traditional language rules are out of fashion.

According to Yahoo, the kids of today don’t need to waste time on those things because computers and mobile phones can make the necessary corrections.

Spelling and grammar were essential maybe 100 years ago but they are not right now, Mitra said.

Mitra said his phone corrects his spelling and he often skips grammar and writes in a cryptic way. We know what he means.

His statement is going down like a bucket of cold sick with the British government, which is rolling out a host of educational standards including one that will require students to take a spelling test involving 200 complex words near the end of grade school.

Conservatives love exams like the 11+ because it reminds them of their salad days at prep-school where they fagged the bigger boys without the front page tabloid coverage. The Conservatives want another exam for 11-year-olds that tests spelling, grammar and punctuation, launched this year.

But Mitra is one of the new breed of high tech educationalists. He has won a $1 million TED prize to found “cloud schools.” The goal is to allow children to learn from each other and from retired specialists.

In 1999 he conducted a series of Hole in the Wall experiments. He set up computer kiosks in poor areas of India where kids could play with computers. The goal was to show that kids could learn to use computers and the internet with no formal training and even without knowing English.

That particular experiment partially inspired the film “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Scientists prove learning hurts your brain

A team of scientists based at UCSF has established a link between learning and brain damage. Researchers found that brain activity could lead to DNA damage within brain cells, and although the damage is repaired quickly, it might explain the mechanism behind some neurological diseases. So thanks a lot, mum, I told you nothing good would come of law school.

The DNA damage is negligible and it is quickly repaired, but in theory at least it is possible that too much brain activity could result in some physical damage to the nerve cells in your brain. Alcohol and drugs tend to kill brain cells faster than watching a political debate, so the learned among us are safe. Probably.

The researchers used genetically modified mice that were tailored made to mimic some mutations associated with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. They found indications of brain damage went up when the brains of the mice were active, when they were given a new environment to explore. The control group of mice also showed signs of DNA damage, but at somewhat lower levels.

The scientists then tried to figure out whether the damage was caused solely be neural activity, by shining a bright light into the mice while they were anesthetised. That also worked and it seems the DNA damage is inflicted by neural activity. Then they tried using a range of inhibitors and found that the damage is caused by a single neural signalling molecule – glutamate.

Fortunately the researchers found that the damage usually repairs within a single day. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, we recommend watching a few extra hours of reality TV or joining the Tea Party. 

Bill Gates' favourite band is U2

In a verified “ask me anything” thread on Reddit, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has admitted that his favourite band is U2.

As well as pledging to continue the fight against Polio, in a revealing comment, he said: “U2 is a favorite [sic].. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour”.

Gates also expressed his fears of a terrorist-instigated nuclear or biological weapon holocaust, claimed he is an avid bridge player, and also loves playing tennis. He enjoys touring interesting things with his kids, such as power plants and garbage dumps.

The biggest impact of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation so far, he said, is “getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives”.

Gates also said he is dedicated to improving education in the United States, though he did not answer a well-rated question from user ‘jedberg’, which read: “How would you respond to teachers who say there is no way to objectively measure teacher performance, because it is too dependent on the specific kids in the class and their socioeconomic circumstances?”

The full thread can be found here

Kids told to sign away school work to content industry

School kids in Maryland could soon be taken to court if they choose to copy their homework or art projects for posterity. The Board of Education of Prince George’s County has come up with an ingenious proposal to copyright all work created by staff and students under its jurisdiction.

This basically means that the school system would own everything teachers and their students come up with, from a first-grader’s drawing to mobile apps created by university students. Although the US government has transformed into a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Content, the proposal is not going down well with parents and just about anyone else who came across it.

David Cahn, an educational activist who attends school board meetings believes there is something inherently wrong with the proposal. “There are better ways to do this than to take away a person’s rights,” he told the Washington Post

Law professor David Rein said he had never heard of a similar policy enacted by a school board. He pointed out that most universities have sharing agreements for work created by professors and college students. Under the agreements, the university, professor and student all benefit from their projects.

“The way this policy is written, it essentially says if a student writes a paper, goes home and polishes it up and expands it, the school district can knock on the door and say, ‘We want a piece of that,’ ” Rein said. “I can’t imagine that.”

So, how did the school board come up with the idea in the first place? Enter Apple and its iPads for school program.

Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to ensure schools own teacher-developed curricula created on school property iPads.

However, board members apparently got a bit carried away, so they expanded the policy to cover all work submitted by staff and students. Jacobs then pulled an Instagram, insisting that it was never the board’s intention to declare ownership of students’ work and calling on legal counsels to “restructure the language” to reflect the district’s real goals instead.

Even when if they do, the school district would still retain copyright on everything developed by the faculty and what better way to mould young minds than to tell their teachers that they need not bother coming up with anything innovative, useful and potentially profitable. 

Gates gushes about Windows 8

Microsoft has pulled its founder Sir William Gates III from the jungle where he is at war with the evil Dr Mosquito to talk up the miracle of Windows 8.

For those who came in late, Windows 8 will be in the shops in a few days. It is the first version of Windows which we will not be running on the day it comes out since Windows 95.

Clearly having got this message, the team at Vole central has pulled out the big guns to talk it up. In a YouTube interview with Microsoft executive Steve Clayton, Gates calls Windows 8 an “absolutely critical product” that would help extend the Windows franchise’s reach to lower-powered and touch devices. We would expect that he praise Windows 8, given that he had a nice word or two to say about ME at the time,

He did mention some interesting things about Vole’s operating system direction over the coming years. Gates said that Windows was evolving to be a single platform with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 sharing a kernel, file system, graphics support, and other elements.

This means that developers can port apps from the desktop/tablet OS to the smartphone OS with relatively little work. The two operating systems will share the same design aesthetic, with Start screens composed of tiles linked to applications so users will not notice much difference

Gates said that people want to consume their mail, reading, video anywhere, and they want it to be awfully simple. But touch needs to be incorporated without giving up the kind of mouse and keyboard capabilities that are natural in most settings.

He said that the major selling point of Surface, the Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets is the flexible keyboard that clicks into place along the bottom of the device.

Thus spake William Gates the words, and it was thus: 

Bill Gates gets close to killing off polio

While his former rival Steve Jobs is still able to inspire his followers to queue up to buy a broken phone, Microsoft boss Bill Gates is on his way to ridding the world of polio.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gates said that the world was close to a historic moment, just as it was before the victory over smallpox in 1977.

Gates said that the evidence is clear and if everyone acts quickly polio could be put in the garbage bin of history by 2018.

In 1988, when an international vaccination program began, polio was rampant in 125 countries, leaving 350,000 children paralysed each year.

Now polio is endemic in only three countries, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so far this year 145 new cases have been reported. India has been polio-free for the past 18 months.

But Gates is concerned that global commitment is wavering as the number of cases decreases.

He said that Gates said billions more were needed to vaccinate those children leaving in or near polio “sanctuaries” to ensure the disease is destroyed by 2018.

Gates has thrown behind the cause funds from his $35 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as his own considerable lobbying weight. He said he had targeted polio not only because the goal was achievable, but because it would reinforce how effective mass vaccination can be.

One of his problems has been that parts of Pakistan has spread a rumour that the vaccination program is part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

Mr Gates said he has found as much satisfaction in spending his vast fortune through the Foundation as he had building it through the creation of Microsoft.  Certainly it will get him remembered while Jobs is forgotten

Estonia plans programming lessons for primary school kids

Estonia is hoping to push kids into programming from an early age.

According to Venture Beat, the Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation has launched a program called “ProgeTiiger”, where students in grades one to 12 will be introduced to computer programming and creating web and mobile applications.

The country which gave the world Skype and Playtech is planning to set its kids onto programming more or less from their first day at school, while British kids are mumbling their way through the alphabet.

Tiger Leap Foundation training sphere manager Ave Lauringson said kids are interested in modern technology from an early age, and the ProgeTiiger programme creates prerequisites for students to develop from consumers of software to developers of software.

At the moment the programme is being tested in pilot schools with plans to roll it out to state schools later.

However, the first ones to start the lessons will be primary school students – after their teachers go through corresponding training in September.

Then there will be programming hobby groups for middle school and selective courses for high school.

Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation said that it started this project because it saw how many companies struggle to find decent programmers. The group believes it will push Estonia to the forefront of the rest of the Eastern Europe in terms of IT development and growth. 

Bill Gates takes on the Pope

Software king of the world Sir William Gates and his wife Melinda are taking on their biggest enemy since the mosquito – the Roman Catholic Church.

Melinda Gates, who is a Catholic, has said that the Gates Foundation will dedicate the rest of their lives improving access to contraception across the globe.

Gates told the Sydney Morning Herald that unless the Church pulled its finger out on contraception, women in African and Asia would be “voting with their feet”, as women in the West had done, and would ignore the church ban on artificial birth control.

She said that she had been inundated with messages of support from Catholic women, including nuns who wanted the Church to be more sensible about contraception. There were women out there who had been coming on to websites and saying ‘I’m a Catholic, but I believe in contraception’.

She said that in the West, while Bishops banged on about contraception, ordinary Catholics just did the opposite. In Africa however it was a big trickier.

In the US, 82 per cent of Catholics say contraception is morally acceptable. So let the women in Africa decide.

Melinda said that she did have some problems speaking out in defiance of the church hierarchy.

As a Catholic she believed in the religion and its “amazing moral teachings”. But she also had to think about keeping women alive.

When it comes to not letting women or babies die, that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception is right, she thinks.

Mr and Mrs Gates are pouring $560 million into improving access to birth control over the next eight years.

She said it was time to push contraception back to the top of the development agenda.

She said that when the Gates Foundation started, it had focused on family planning. However it changed direction to vaccines after realising that women would not choose to have fewer children until they were sure their offspring would survive beyond childhood.