Tag: school

US to train kids to handle fake news

A pilot education
programme in the US is training kids to spot the difference between fake and real news.

12-year-old students at Clemente Middle School in Germantown, Maryland is one of several schools worldwide which wants to train kids for the reality of living in an online world of fake news.  It is not the only one. In the Czech Republic, high schools teach teens to identify propaganda from Russia and in Sweden, students as young as 10, are trained to spot the difference between news and Fox, er fake news.

In Pennsylvania, a state lawmaker wants mandatory media literacy classes in all public schools.

“The sophistication in how this false information is disguised and spread can make it very difficult for someone, particularly young people, to determine fact from fiction,” says Rep. Tim Briggs.

A survey by Common Sense Media said that while kids are good at consuming news they are rubbish when it comes to spotting what is real and what isn’t.

More than 44 percent of tweens and teens said they can tell the difference between fake news stories and real ones. But more than 30 percent admitted they shared a news story online — only to find out later that it was wrong or inaccurate.

The problem is that anyone can publish anything on the web and drilling the kids with a list of questions about a story could be the key.

One course created by the nonprofit, the News Literacy Project that teachers from California to Virginia are adding to their classrooms. It includes a 10-question checklist for identifying fake news.

  • Who made this?
  • Who is making money off it?
  • Who might help or be harmed by this message?
  • What is left out of this message that might be important?
  • Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

Other red flags include the lack of a by-line. A headline which is ALL CAPS or has shedloads of exclamation marks.

A story which promising you something “the media” does not want you to know is almost certainly fake.

Teachers say it’s working. Part of the reason: Kids, particularly middle schoolers, are inherently cynical and once they know the rules they are not sucked in.

Gates and Allen hacked to meet girls

young-bill-gatesSoftware King of the World and sworn enemy of the mosquito Sir William Gates III has been telling a story about his school daze with his chum Paul Allen.

The pair apparently hacked the computer at Lakeside School so that they could meet girls. The cunning plan was that they would enrol Gates into classes, where he would be the only bloke which would give him a change.  The only drawback to this plan was that Gates was too “inept” to pluck up more than “a little bit” of courage – ending the venture in failure.

“Unfortunately for him he was two years ahead of me and he was off to college by then. So I was the one who benefited by being able to have the nice girls at least sit near me. It wasn’t that I could talk to them or anything — but they were there. I think I was particularly inept at talking to girls, or thinking, ‘OK — do you ask them out, do you not?’ When I went off to Harvard I was a little bit more sociable. But I was below average on talking to girls,” he told the Beeb.

Apparently the teachers were having a tough time working out how to use the computer, which subsequently gave Gates and Allen access, to see whether they could work out how to use the machine.

Gates and Allen had a good grasp of the computer, they gave programming lessons to some of the other students. Their knack for programming resulted in the two fixing software problems for various companies.

AI programme passes University Entrance exam

The Japanese National Institute of Informatics claims that its AI program, developed with university and corporate researchers, achieved an above-average score on a college entrance exam for the first time.

The test covered five subjects including maths, physics and English.  The institute wanted to develop an AI by 2021 that was high enough on Japan’s standardised college entrance exam to be accepted into the University of Tokyo, the nation’s top-ranked university.

The AI received a score of 511 points out of 950, above the national average of 416, and did exceptionally well on math and history-related problems, the institute said.

Getting that score means that the AI has at least an 80 percent chance of being accepted by 441 private universities and 33 national universities.

The software program had been “studying” for the exam since 2011 but had below average scores on similar exams in 2013 and 2014.

It has a long way to go before it can apply to the University of Tokyo, whose list of alumni includes Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The AI was smart enough to answer some of the questions on the physics test, it failed to do so and scored below average because of its insufficient language processing capability.

Apple has to pay for botched iPad programme

poison-appleThe fruity cargo cult Apple has had to pay the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) $4.2 million for a botched programme which was supposed to give 640,000 kids an iPad.

Cupertino was expecting to trouser $30 million from the $1.3 billion project, but it was a disaster from the start. There were accusations of mismanagement, miscalculation and corruption.

Former LA schools Super John Deasy  role in the iPad project drew attention after disclosures of close ties he had with executives at Apple and Pearson. Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, has denied any wrongdoing, and board members also have said they don’t believe he was guilty of any illegal actions.

The FBI has sent its crack team of untouchables to look at the way Apple won the contract in the first place.

Lenovo, the other tech company involved in the project aside from Apple, agreed to let the district have the $2.2 million worth of laptops it recently ordered for free.

LAUSD will also get $6.4 million – it’s still a tentative amount, though – from education software maker Pearson, which was contracted to conjure up maths and English curricula to use with the project.

The district says Pearson only ever provided a partial curriculum. LAUSD plans to use most of the money from the settlement to buy computers for a completely different initiative. It is not clear if Apple will get the chance to bid for that one.


Parents sue school over wi-fi

wi-fi symbol A US school which installed wi-fi for the benefit of students has suddenly found itself sued by one set of parents who thinks the nasty wireless hurt their precious snowflake.

Fay School in Southborough has been sued by the parents claiming their child suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome. The radio waves emitted by the school’s Wi-Fi routers cause the kid serious discomfort and physical harm.

The school has had wi-fi for a while, but it was at 2.5GHz. When the school moved to 5GHz routers the child apparently suffered from nausea and rashes to headaches and even chest pain. We got that on our last PC upgrade too.

The parents want an injunction that would force the school to accommodate their child, either by replacing the network with Ethernet or “turning down” the Wi-Fi whenever the kid walks into a room.

This will make sure that everyone in the school knows how important their precious snowflake is and that his parents actually had sex once to create him or her. It will also mean that a whole school will have to accept their view that their child’s illnesses are not a psychosomatic reaction to parents who keep embarrassing him at school.

The head of the Fay School, Rob Gustavson, said that Fay has completed exhaustive studies of its local airwaves, and that the campus is entirely compliant with safety regulations.

EHS is pretty much a made up illness. Studies have consistently showed that sufferers don’t directly react to the presence of electromagnetic fields but get sick anyway. The kid was diagnosed with EHS by Dr. Jeanne Hubbuch but the syndrome isn’t recognized among the broader medical community.

On her website Hubbuch describes herself as practising “integrative medicine” which in the UK we call a Holistic approach. She thinks wi-fi is the only thing that can be responsible for the kid’s illness.

District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman has scheduled a hearing for September 4, ahead of Fay’s classes resuming on September 9. The family’s lawyer, John Markham II, told the paper that the goal is to get a preliminary injunction that would allow the child to attend school without discomfort.

Schools function on 30 years of Amiga Power

 A25001While many government institutions are panicking about the fact that they still have machines running Windows XP, there is one Luddite US school that has saved a bomb by being powered by a 1980s Amiga.

The 30-year-old computer has run day and night for decades and controls the heat and air conditioning at 19 Grand Rapids Public Schools.

It is proof that the Commodore Amiga really was a pretty cool computer.  It was bought in the early 1980s using cash from an energy bond.  At the time, the computer which is better known as a games machine was pretty bleeding edge technology and had replaced a computer which was the size of a fridge.

GRPS Maintenance Supervisor Tim Hopkins said the Amiga controls the life support for 19 school buildings.

“The system controls the start/stop of boilers, the start/stop of fans, pumps, [it] monitors space temperatures, and so on,” Hopkins told Wood TV .

A Kentwood High School student programmed it when it was installed in the 1980s. It has gone wrong a couple of times, but whenever they have a problem the original programmer still lives in the area.

Parts for the computer are difficult to find, Hopkins said. It is on its second mouse and third monitor.

It operates on a 1200-bit modem and has a radio frequency that sends a signal to school buildings, which reply within a matter of seconds with the status of each building. The computer operates on the same frequency as some of the walkie-talkies used by the maintenance department which can sometimes cause a few problems.

If the commuter stopped working tomorrow, a staff person would have to turn each building’s climate control systems on and off by hand and a new system would cost between $1.5 and 2 million. If voters pass a $175 million bond proposal in November, the computer is on the list of things to be replaced.

They just don’t make them like that anymore.



Computers are a foreign language in Kentucky

The Kentucky Senate has decided that students in the state can use computer programming courses to satisfy foreign language requirements in public schools.

The idea behind Senate Bill 16, is to help prepare students for good-paying jobs in the computer industry. At the moment Kentucky students must earn 22 credits to graduate high school, but 15 of those credits represent requirements for maths, science, social studies and English and college prerequisites call on students to have two credits of foreign language.

Senator David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg who is sponsoring the bill wants colleges to count computer languages a “foreign language”.

He points at national statistics showing that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science despite a high demand in the market and jobs that start with $60,000 salaries.

There is some opposition to the move, which will re-enforce the isolationist nature of US education. After all, if young Kentuckians cannot speak French or German they will probably forget where these countries are. They will probably also try speaking Java to Italians which would not go down well. 

Universities give up on massive open online courses

If 2012 was the year that massive open online courses (MOOCs) took off, 2013 was when they were found to be about as useful as the song “Blurred Lines” was for rape education.

NPR said that many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would fix the problems of access for underserved students and cost.

It meant that students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools and take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.

Part of the problem was that teachers at several institutions rebelled against the rapid expansion of online learning and completion rates and grades were worse than for those who took traditional classes. To make matters worse the students who did best were not the underserved students wanted to teach.

The people who did well were those who were already good students or had already graduated and wanted extra credits.

MOOCs have few active users. About half who registered for a class ever viewed a lecture and completion rates averaged just four percent across all courses.

Apparently, when you looked at the costs involved, they were not much cheaper to run.

Universities are starting to scale back on their commitment to MOOCs. Students complain that you have to be super-motivated for them to work and there was no sense of community or human interaction. 

Texas school gives up on RFID tagging

After winning court cases which confirmed it had the right to tag children with RFID, a Texas school has abandoned the scheme in favour of spying on them with cameras.

Northside, in San Antonio, has come up with an alternate technology to the problem of ensuring an accurate headcount instead.

The scheme attracted much public interest when one kid, Andrea Hernandez, decided the RFID tags were the Mark of the Beast and refused to wear one. When she lost in court she transferred to another school to avoid the IDs.

The court pointed out that the bible clearly stated that the mark of the beast had to be on the forehand or hand and was used for the buying and selling of goods.

According to Chron, Northside Independent School District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the microchip-ID program turned out not to be worth the trouble.

It was supposed to increase attendance by allowing staff to locate students who were on campus but didn’t show up for roll call.

But spying on the movement of kids did not increase attendance and school staff found themselves wasting a lot of time trying to physically track down the missing students based on their RFID locators.

The district never acknowledged that the chips posed legitimate privacy concerns and still claims that if you are a student at school, there is no privacy.

Apparently Plan B is the British Solution which is to install hundreds of HD CCTV cameras and follow kids around the school with them. 

School re-instates bullied YouTube teen

A US teenager who was suspended for creating an anti-bullying video and posted it on YouTube has had the suspension lifted.

Jessica Barba, 15, who goes to Longwood High School in the US, committed the grave crime of filming and starring in an anti-bullying video and sticking it on YouTube.

Barba shot the six minute video for a school project and posted it on YouTube on 15 May and was suspended from school the next day.

In the video, Barba played a girl who was regularly bullied. Statements at the beginning and the end said it was fictitious so no one could think it was real. The video ended with a caption saying the girl committed suicide.

However, for some reason, the video hacked off the school administrators. In the US school administrators appear to have the power of god with the intelligence of pondlife, particularly when it comes to things like the internet.

There have been tales of kids being spied on through their school laptops, and kids having the cops called for minor offences.

But Barba carried on campaigning and set up a Facebook page to get re-instated. The  story went worldwide with experts from as far away as Australia calling the school idiots.

Australian anti-bullying expert, Adjunct Professor Ken Rigby, told smh.com.au  Barba should be commended rather than blamed.

He said that the school was inept and handled the situation badly, adding that the school administrators’ reactions were not unusual.

The school’s superintendent, Allan Gerstenlauer, refused to say anything about the case claiming that it would breach privacy laws.