TITLE: Computing and Education in My News
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: August 02, 2010 1:54 PM
My newreader and inbox are full of recent articles
about computing and education in the news. First,
there is a New York Times Technology section piece
Scott McNealy's open-source textbook project,
Currwiki. When I first read this, I thought for
sure I would blog on the idea of free and
open-source textbooks today. The more I thought
about it, and especially the more I tried to write
about it, the less I found I have to say right now.
Mark Guzdial has
with a few concerns he has about open-source
textbooks. Guzdial conflates "open source" with
"free", as does the Times piece, though McNealy's
project seems to be mostly about offering low-cost
or free alternatives to increasingly expensive
school books. Most of Guzdial's concerns echo the
red flags people have raised about free and
open-source software in the past, and we see the
effect FOSS has had in the world.
Maybe I'll have something cogent to say some other
day, but for now, all I can think is, "Is that a
MacBookPro in the photo of McNealy and his son?"
If so, even well-placed pencil holder can't hide the
Then there is a
blog entry at Education Week
on the Computer Science Education Act, a bill
introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
last week aimed at improve the state of K-12 CS
education. Again, any initial excitement to write
at length on this topic faded as I thought more
about it. This sort of bill is introduced all the
time in Congress with little or no future, so until
I see this one receive serious attention from House
leaders I'll think of it as mostly good PR for computer
science. I do not generally think that legislation
of this kind has a huge effect on practice in the
schools, which are much too complicated to be pushed
off course by a few exploratory grants or a new
commission. That said, it's nice that a few
higher-ups in education might think deeply about the
role CS might and could play in 21st-century K-12
education. This ain't 1910, folks.
Finally, here's one that I can blog about with
excitement and a little pride: One of my students,
Nick Cash, has been named one of five finalists in
Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur of 2010 contest.
Nick is one of those bright guys for who our education
system is a poor fit, because he is thinking bigger
thoughts than "when is the next problem set due?"
He has been keeping me apprised of his start-up every
so often, but things change so fast that it is hard
for me to keep up.
One of the things that makes me proud is the company
he is keeping in that final five. Maryland and
Michigan are big-time universities with big-time
business schools. Though you may not have heard
of Babson College, it has long had one of the
top-ranking undergraduate entrepreneurship programs
in the country. (I'm that in part because I
double-majored in accounting at Ball State University,
which also has a
top-ranked entrepreneurship center
for undergrads.) UNI has been doing more to support
student entrepreneurship over the last few years,
including an incubator for launching start-ups.
Still, Nick has made it to the finals against students
who come from better-funded and better-known programs.
That says even more about his accomplishment.
Nick's company, Book Hatchery, is certainly highly
relevant in today's digital publishing market. I'll
be wishing him well in the coming years and helping
in any way he asks. Check out the link above and,
if you are so inclined, cast a vote for his start-up
in the contest!