Though she’ll continue to work on the foundation, she’s building up a personal office to dedicate resources and attention to an issue of central personal importance: getting more women into tech — and helping them stay there.
It’s personal. Gates got her start in tech. After graduating from Duke with a computer science degree (and an MBA), she spent a decade working at Microsoft. That was back in 1987, when just over a third of undergraduate computer science degrees went to women. Nearly 30 years later, fewer than one in five CS degrees are earned by women. That, according to Gates, constitutes a crisis. “This has got to change,” she told me when we met to discuss her efforts last week.
Peloton is a startup focused delivering virtual spin classes via distributed video and a $1,995 bike that is also an integrated hardware and software system.
The company, which has been opening up showrooms in major cities and shopping outlets, offers unlimited streaming rides live and on-demand as well as an app with content. Peloton's goal is to use gamification to spur competition and engagement among riders.
Kids at the school, which launched a year and a half ago, aren't called students but "innovators." They receive a hardcore focus on STEM skills (that's science, technology, engineering and math). And they take six years to graduate instead of the traditional four; the extra two years means they walk away with an associate's degree on top of their high school diploma.
There's one more thing they take with them: a job. Every student at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy graduates with a promise of a $40,000-plus opportunity at IBM, the school's corporate partner and a key developer of the curriculum.
“One state bypassed all this tumult, however. It barreled headlong into the future three years ago and embraced the new targets before any other state, holding its children and teachers to a higher bar. That state, long renowned for its bourbon and racehorses, will not immediately come to mind as an educational powerhouse. But Kentucky is the undisputed leader in this historic American journey, and the parents, children and teachers who live there have much to tell the rest of us about what to expect next.”
“This school year, their third with the new targets, some Kentucky teachers seem to be thriving with the infusion of clarity, focus and autonomy they attribute to the Common Core standards. Many post specific targets on the classroom wall for all the students to see, rotating each one out every few weeks. De'Vonta Moffitt, a student at Doss High School in Louisville, explains the difference between his freshman and senior year this way: "Before, we read and then worked, read and then worked. It was easy. Basically they gave us tests from the book," he says. "Now, every three weeks we have to know a different standard. I have to actually take notes. I have to think sometimes, take my time."
Even standardized tests can be less grueling when tied to more intelligent goals. Each spring, Sydnea Johnson, a student at Fern Creek Traditional High School in Louisville, used to get migraines from all the cramming teachers asked her to do before the test--trying to cover more standards less deeply. "Now it's a lot less stressful," Johnson says, "because I can take in the information all year long, and it's just a review before the test."”
The plan is for Georgia Tech to provide the content and professors and
to get 60 percent of the revenue, and for Udacity to offer the computer
platform, provide course assistants and receive the other 40 percent.
The projected budget for the test run starting in January is $3.1
million — including $2 million donated by AT&T, which will use the
program to train employees and find potential hires — with $240,000 in
profits. By the third year, the projection is for $14.3 million in costs
and $4.7 million in profits.
The courses will be online and free for those not seeking a degree;
those in the degree program will take proctored exams and have access to
tutoring, online office hours and other support services. Students who
cannot meet the program’s stringent admission standards may be admitted
provisionally and allowed to transfer in if they do well in their first
two courses. And students who complete only a few courses would get a
"Tools like Scratch aim to address what their developers see as a lack of computer programming instruction in schools today. The general thinking is that children are growing up surrounded by powerful machines they do not understand and teaching needs to be overhauled to prepare today's youth for a future living and working closely with computers.
Unlike typical programming languages,
which require users to type in complicated text commands, Scratch uses
coloured blocks that are strung together to create lines of code.
ScratchJr is similar, only the commands are even simpler. After
assembling a rudimentary program, the child clicks a green flag at the
beginning of the list of commands to run it.
It may sound very simple, says Marina Bers at Tufts, who co-created ScratchJr, "but it teaches sequencing – the idea that order matters".
Concepts become more complex as the
child progresses. On just their third day with ScratchJr, the youngsters
are being introduced to the idea of programming tasks in parallel – in
this case, making a snake wriggle across a grassy meadow while a bird
glides down from the air. This involves two separate strings of
commands, one governing the bird and the other the snake, and they must
be made to work simultaneously."
The core of Bedtime Math is pretty simple: a free daily math problem, geared to one of three levels of difficulty: "wee ones" (prekindergarten), "little kids" (kindergarten to second grade or so) and "big kids" (second grade and up). The subjects tend to be ones that especially appeal to children--candy, for example. A recent wee-ones calculation: "M&M's last 13 months, but Life Savers last only 9 months, despite their name. How many months will those M&M's outlast the Life Savers?" States, weather and arcane holidays like International Pancake Day also play starring roles, as do animals; a recent problem asked kids to calculate how far a skunk can spray its scent.
Overdeck is hoping that candy and other child-friendly puzzles can be a remedy for math anxiety. Research shows that early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than reading ability. But the U.S. is in a numbers slump: America's students rank 25th out of 34 industrialized countries in math. Everyone from the Girl Scouts to Sesame Street has launched efforts to reverse the trend. "U.S. children are not performing up to the level one would expect," says Sian Beilock, author of Choke, about performance anxiety. Part of the problem might be cultural. "You never hear people walking around bragging that they can't read," she says, "but you hear people all the time saying 'I don't do numbers.'" Beilock, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, will soon lead a study of the program's impact on two groups of preschool- and kindergarten-age children.