Usborne releases free PDFs of its classic 1980s computer programming books

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Jindo Fox writes, "A few years ago, Cory linked to some wonderful pictures in Usborne's 1983 classic Introduction to Machine Code for Beginners. Usborne has made PDF copies available of their whole line, with the only restriction that you link to their page, not to copy and redistribute the files themselves. Very cool. I have fond memories of wasting my childhood typing these listings into the mainframe terminal at my local university, and later on my Timex Sinclair 1000, which I somehow knew was the American version of the ZX-81 that was featured in these pages." Read the rest

To do in Toronto: Create a Rey doll hackathon

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Many people have noticed that the female lead character Rey is notably underrepresented in the tsunami of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys. Read the rest

An adorable magic trick

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(Thanks, Dimitrios!) 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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First Second Books: a look back at ten years of world-changing graphic publishing

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First Second Books celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2016. From its inception, First Second was known for high quality graphic novels – books that told great stories for every age of reader, from kids to adults. Throughout the years, First Second has published graphic novels as diverse as Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamai’s This One Summer, Lucy Knisley’s Relish, and Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys. And First Second has broken ground with its publishing, bringing unprecedented acceptance and awards to the graphic novel form for kids and parents, teachers and librarians. The graphic novel market looks much different today than it did ten years ago!

Michael Moore: Flint needs a revolution, not bottled water

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Michael Moore, perhaps Flint, MI's most famous son, has written an open letter to people who are heartsick at the thought of a whole generation of mostly poor, mostly black children being given permanent brain damage through lead poisoning, thanks to the deliberate indifference of the state's Republican administration and the greedy people who elected them. Read the rest

Barack Obama ends solitary confinement for juveniles in federal custody

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Obama wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post (bio: "Barack Obama is president of the United States") explaining his suite of penal reform policies, which begin with ending the barbaric practice of putting children into solitary confinement, deemed a form of torture, "an affront to our common humanity." Read the rest

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.

Howto: make your own fantastically detailed Star Trek: TOS bridge playset

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David Weiberg handed down his childhood set of Star Trek: original series action figures to his eight-year-old son, and then the two of them built a fantastically detailed, correctly scaled replica of the original Enterprise's bridge to go with them. Read the rest

Griefer hacks baby monitor, terrifies toddler with spooky voices

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Remember how, back in September 2015, researchers revealed that virtually every "smart" baby-monitor they tested was riddled with security vulnerabilities that let strangers seize control over it, spying on you and your family? Read the rest

Help your kids learn to code with "The Official ScratchJr Book"

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ScratchJr is a simple, free, tablet based programming language kids can use to make simple games and animations. The Official ScratchJr Book has been a great guide for my daughter and I.

I first heard about Scratch, when one of our attendees gave a brief show-and-tell on it at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder. It sounded pretty accessible. It came to mind again when recently, in an attempt to get my daughter to use the iPad for more than watching Bratayley, I decided to try and interest her in creating something. She loves art, but Minecraft was far too confusing for her and I was looking for another kid-friendly programming option. ScratchJr is a tablet based, even simpler version of Scratch, installing was as easy as any other app.

The Official ScratchJr Book does a great job, with friendly illustrations, of walking us through the basics. My daughter prefers the painting and drawing of characters, and backgrounds, to the organization of blocks, but the book did a great job of walking us through it all. Having gone through the book together, once, she can now refer to it one her own, if she runs into a problem. Generally, her problem is me grabbing the tablet and adding things.

I am not going to tell you we've made high art, but I think I could throw together a decent 1980's King's Quest parody.

The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code via Amazon 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

New US law says kids can walk to school by themselves

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After years of documenting instances in which parents and kids are terrorized by law enforcement and child welfare authorities because the kids were allowed to be on their own in public places, the Free Range Kids movement has gotten some justice: a new Federal law gives its official okey-doke to parents who let their kids get to school on their own. Read the rest

The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon was better than it had any right to be

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The Retroblasting Youtube show -- which covers the 1980s cartoons that were made as 22-minute ads for toys after Reagan removed regulations aimed at protecting children from televised exploitation -- takes an in-depth look at the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, a rare example of a show from the era that didn't have a toy tie-in. Read the rest

NSA says it will take four years to answer questions about its kids' coloring book

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The NSA's Crypto Cat and her friends are a set of trademark-registered kids' characters who have appeared for more than a decade in promotional materials like coloring books that the NSA uses it to encourage kids to grow up to be spies. Read the rest

Gene Luen Yang's inaugural speech as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

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Gene Luen Yang burst on the graphic novel scene in 2006 with the Eisner-award winning American Born Chinese, a brilliant memoir about growing up as an Asian American; and followed up with a diverse oeuvre that spanned video games, Asian representation in superhero comics, and digital literacy.

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