Videos of this year's Shmoocon talks, starting with Gershenfeld's talk on nonbinary computing

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Shmoocon is a security conference that ranks with other top-tier events like Defcon, CCC, HOPE, Black Hat, etc: this year's talks are all on the Internet Archive for streaming or download. Read the rest

A would-be clinic-bomber & friends are terrorizing a charter school for being too close to a future Planned Parenthood office

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A group of anti-Choice extremists have come to Washington, DC to protest at the site of a future Planned Parenthood office, but because they are barred from the Planned Parenthood site, they've set up camp at a nearby charter school, with gory banners and scary chants, and they've devoted themselves to terrorizing the school's pre-K to fifth graders in a bid to get the school to join them in campaigning against Planned Parenthood. Read the rest

President Obama pledges $4 billion for computer science education in schools

President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016. REUTERS

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama this week pledged $4 billion in federal funding for computer science education in schools throughout the nation.

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Hacker puppets and Jean Claude Van Damme demonstrate how the internet crosses the ocean

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Gus writes, "How does the Internet cross the ocean? Ask a random person and they will probably guess 'satellites' — it just seems easier than wires, right?" Read the rest

Teller explains how performance and discomfort make education come alive

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The trend of making schools "safe places" to protect students from feeling uncomfortable is a bad idea, says Teller, the silent member of the magic comedy duo Penn and Teller, and a former schoolteacher. Here's a snip from an essay in The Atlantic:

And if Shakespeare (or Catullus or Vergil) makes students uncomfortable? That’s a good thing, Teller said. Learning, like magic, should make people uncomfortable, because neither are passive acts. Elaborating on the analogy, he continued, “Magic doesn’t wash over you like a gentle, reassuring lullaby. In magic, what you see comes into conflict with what you know, and that discomfort creates a kind of energy and a spark that is extremely exciting. That level of participation that magic brings from you by making you uncomfortable is a very good thing.”

As we were on the subject of discomfort I asked Teller what he thinks of schools’ efforts to protect students from discomfort as they learn through censoring teachers’ content and requirements for trigger warnings. For the first time in our conversation, Teller illustrated the power of his trademark silence, and the line went quiet.

Just as I’d begun to think we’d been disconnected, he replied,

“When I go outside at night and look up at the stars, the feeling that I get is not comfort. The feeling that I get is a kind of delicious discomfort at knowing that there is so much out there that I do not understand and the joy in recognizing that there is enormous mystery, which is not a comfortable thing.

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Meet the composer of "Schoolhouse Rock!"

Conjunction Junction, what's your function? That iconic tune (below) and others from the "Schoolhouse Rock!" cartoon were the work of composer Bob Dorough, now 92-years-old and still playing music. (Great Big Story)

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Teaching students at a Co-Op City public school to make pollution-fighting robots

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NYU associate professor Natalie Jeremijenko brought her Feral Robot Dogs project to twenty-nine of our gifted and special-needs students at New York City's PS 153.

Oklahoma's repeat-offender Republican Creationist lawmakers take another run at science education

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Every year, like clockwork, longstanding Oklahoma legislators in the state's house and senate introduce bills that try to find a way around the prohibition on teaching Biblical Creationism in American public schools. Read the rest

Aaron Swartz's "Against School" - business leaders have been decrying education since 1845

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"Against School" is a previously unpublished Aaron Swartz essay about the centuries of word-perfect complaints about the US public school system, which have led to mass-scale, sneak privatization of the public system. Read the rest

Sneak-privatization of public schools: attacking teachers, unions and standards

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A scorching editorial by public education advocate Marion Brady describes the 30 year program of sneak-attacks on public education in America. It starts by whipping up fear that foreign workforces are "eating our lunch" because of education standards in the US (rather than, say, multinationals taking jobs to places with lower wages and fewer labor protections), then blaming "unaccountable" teachers and insisting on charters, de-unionization, standardized testing (which can be used to prove that teachers aren't "accountable") and standardized curriculum (so there's something to test on the standardized test). Read the rest

Charter schools are turning into the next subprime mortgages

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Subprime mortgages began as a project to extend credit to poor people to give them a bridge to home-ownership, but it did so by allowing unscrupulous lenders to offer credit on unfair terms, with government guarantees to back the loans, even the bad ones. Read the rest

Free Stanford course on surveillance law UPDATED

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Aw, crap, this was last year

Stanford is offering a free online course by computer scientist/law professor Jonathan Mayer that surveys the baroque, interleaved world of US surveillance law through the Coursera MOOC platform. Read the rest

Young Earth Creationist will run Arizona Senate education panel

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Sylvia Allen, the GOP state Senator from Snowflake, AZ, believes the Earth is 6,000 years old. She will run the state Senate's committee to oversee educational legislation. Read the rest

In Texas, a 12 year old Sikh boy was arrested for "terrorism" over a solar charger

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Dallas cops put Armaan Singh Sarai in jail for three days because someone mistook the solar panel on his phone-charging backpack for a bomb. Read the rest

A great, low-tech hack for teaching high-tech skills

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After years of technology training seminars in which Miriam Posner ran through a lecture or tutorial and watched as some students got it and others didn't, but were too embarrassed about breaking up the class's flow to raise their hands, she switched tactics, and hit on a great, successful strategy. Read the rest

Fossil fuel divestment sit-in at MIT President's office hits 10,000,000,000-hour mark

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Climatebrad writes, "The MIT grad students occupying the hallway outside President Reif's office until MIT divests from fossil fuels have hit the 10000000000-hour mark (base 2 - in base 10, that's a still-impressive 1024 hours). The sit-in began October 22." Read the rest

What happened when a parent fought for his kid's privacy at an all-Chromebook school

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Katherine W was seven when her third-grade teacher issued Chromebooks to her class. Her dad, Jeff, is a serious techie, but the school's tech choices didn't sit well with him. He was able to get Katherine an exception that let her use a more private, non-cloud computer for the year, but the next year, Katherine's school said she would have to switch to a laptop that would exfiltrate everything she did to Google's data-centers. Read the rest

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