TITLE: Computing and Education in My News AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 02, 2010 1:54 PM DESC: ----- BODY: 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 on 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 already responded 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 truth! 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! -----