by Eric Patnoudes
Considering the value of corporate educator certifications such as Microsoft Innovative Educator, Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator reminds me of an age-old question: "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" Allow me to explain.
When I moved from being a classroom teacher to an instructional technologist, training and professional development was my bread and butter. Soon after, I became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer and Expert Educator. Corporate certifications are a natural progression for many educators looking to beef up their résumés and improve their credibility.
The fact that I mentioned training and professional development separately was very intentional. I believe it’s crucial to differentiate between the two. I view training as the how — a user manual on devices, software, apps or websites. Click here to do “x,” share a doc by doing “y,” etc. Training is necessary because teachers must know what the tools are, what they’re capable of doing and how to operate them.
On the other hand, professional development is all about the why. It’s focused on building the teacher’s capacity to shift away from traditional didactic teaching strategies to methods that fully engage students in the learning process. It concentrates on the importance of sound pedagogical practices and how to leverage technology to provide learning opportunities that don’t otherwise exist.
I look at it like this. Teachers want training because it makes them feel more comfortable with how to use the technology. But they desperately needprofessional development in order to understand why to use it. Understandably, it’s difficult to think about altering your teaching if you’re not comfortable operating the tech. Hence the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.
For the most part, corporate certifications are examples of training. Are they meaningful? They certainly don’t hurt, but the greater issue is whether these certifications make people better teachers.
What I fear most is that training without professional development could just lead to poor teaching being delivered faster and more efficiently. While training should certainly be part of the equation, it should take a back seat to professional development. When it comes to education technology, pedagogy should be the driver and technology the accelerator — otherwise, technology will simply end up being the brake.
This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.
Yesterday, speaking to nearly 2,000 local leaders at the National League of Cities annual meeting, President Obama announced his TechHire initiative, a new campaign to work with communities to get more Americans rapidly trained for well-paying technology jobs.
The United States has about 5 million open jobs today, more than at any point since 2001. Over half a million of those job openings are in information technology (IT) fields like software development, network administration, user-interface design and cybersecurity – many of which did not even exist just a decade ago. The average salary in a job that requires IT skills – whether in manufacturing, advertising, retail, or banking – is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job.
In his remarks, the President emphasized that these open jobs are an economic development issue. When those jobs go unfilled, it’s a loss for American workers, for employers eager to hire, for our regional economies and for American competitiveness. Helping U.S. companies fill these critical jobs and empowering more Americans to train for and get these jobs is a key element of the President’s middle-class economics agenda.
TechHire is a multi-sector effort and call to action for local communities to collaborate in helping employers fill critical local IT job gaps by empowering a diverse array of Americans to rapidly gain the necessary technology skills, including using nontraditional training options like “coding bootcamps” and high-quality online courses.
The TechHire initiative is kicking off with a broad range of partners already on board:
And the President's visit to Georgia Tech today builds on the key themes he outlined yesterday with the launch of his Tech Hire initiative. We need to keep adapting our training options as new innovative models emerge which can reduce training time, costs, accessibility. The online Computer Science degree at Georgia Tech is a great example: it’s reducing cost and has the potential to do so without reducing quality.
Yesterday was just the beginning for TechHire. As the President highlighted at the National League of Cities, TechHire’s success will require many more to step up: Mayors and local leaders, employers and tech innovators, philanthropists and non-profits, workforce leaders and training providers, and everyone committed to unlocking the hidden talent in our communities.
The President ended his remarks with the remarkable story of LaShana Lewis. LaShana grew up in East St. Louis with a passion for computers. But without a college degree, she couldn’t even get an interview for a tech job. So she spent 12 years as a bus driver and in entry-level jobs. But with help of entrepreneurial new training organizations like LaunchCode which helped give her skills and vouched for her, she’s now an Associate System Engineer at MasterCard, and MasterCard wants more people like her to join their team.
LaShana’s story can be the story of so many others, and working together, we can ensure that it will be. We encourage everyone to reach out and discover your local tech community, whether through coding bootcamps, tech meetups, hack-a-thon gatherings, campus tech or entrepreneurship clubs and more. We hope you will take the time to learn more about TechHire at WhiteHouse.gov/TechHire and bring it to your community.
Megan Smith is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Jeff Zients is the Director of the National Economic Council.
The dawn of the planet of the smartphones came in January 2007, when Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in front of a rapt audience of Apple acolytes, brandished a slab of plastic, metal and silicon not much bigger than a Kit Kat. “This will change everything,” he promised. For once there was no hyperbole. Just eight years later Apple’s iPhone exemplifies the early 21st century’s defining technology.
Smartphones matter partly because of their ubiquity. They have become the fastest-selling gadgets in history, outstripping the growth of the simple mobile phones that preceded them. They outsell personal computers four to one. Today about half the adult population owns a smartphone; by 2020, 80% will. Smartphones have also penetrated every aspect of daily life. The average American is buried in one for over two hours every day. Asked which media they would miss most, British teenagers pick mobile devices over TV sets, PCs and games consoles. Nearly 80% of smartphone-owners check messages, news or other services within 15 minutes of getting up. About 10% admit to having used the gadget during sex.
The bedroom is just the beginning. Smartphones are more than a convenient route online, rather as cars are more than engines on wheels and clocks are not merely a means to count the hours. Much as the car and the clock did in their time, so today the smartphone is poised to enrich lives, reshape entire industries and transform societies—and in ways that Snapchatting teenagers cannot begin to imagine.
The transformative power of smartphones comes from their size and connectivity. Size makes them the first truly personal computers. The phone takes the processing power of yesterday’s supercomputers—even the most basic model has access to more number-crunching capacity than NASA had when it put men on the Moon in 1969—and applies it to ordinary human interactions. Because transmitting data is cheap this power is available on the move. Since 2005 the cost of delivering one megabyte wirelessly has dropped from $8 to a few cents. It is still falling. The boring old PC sitting on your desk does not know much about you. But phones travel around with you—they know where you are, what websites you visit, whom you talk to, even how healthy you are.
The combination of size and connectivity means that this knowledge can be shared and aggregated, bridging the realms of bits and atoms in ways that are both professional and personal. Uber connects available drivers to nearby fares at cheaper prices; Tinder puts people in touch with potential dates. In future, your phone might recommend a career change or book a doctor’s appointment to treat your heart murmur before you know anything is amiss.
As with all technologies, this future conjures up a host of worries. Some, such as “text neck” (hunching over a smartphone stresses the spine) are surely transient. Others, such as dependency—smartphone users exhibit “nomophobia” when they happen to find themselves empty-handed—are a measure of utility as much as addiction. After all, people also hate to be without their wheels or their watch.
The greater fear is over privacy. The smartphone turns the person next to you into a potential publisher of your most private or embarrassing moments. Many app vendors, who know a great deal about you, sell data without proper disclosure; mobile-privacy policies routinely rival “Hamlet” for length. And if leaked documents are correct, GCHQ, Britain’s signals-intelligence agency, has managed to hack a big vendor of SIM cards in order to be able to listen in to people’s calls. If spooks in democracies are doing this sort of thing, you can be sure that those in authoritarian regimes will, too. Smartphones will give dictators unprecedented scope to spy on and corral their unwilling subjects.
Yet three benefits weigh against these threats to privacy. For a start, the autocrats will not have it all their own way. Smartphones are the vehicle for bringing billions more people online. The cheapest of them now sell for less than $40, and prices are likely to fall even further. The same phones that allow governments to spy on their citizens also record the brutality of officials and spread information and dissenting opinions. They feed the demand for autonomy and help protest movements to coalesce. A device that hands so much power to the individual has the potential to challenge authoritarianism.
The second benefit is all those personal data which companies are so keen on. Conventional social sciences have been hampered by the limited data sets they could collect. Smartphones are digital census-takers, creating a more detailed view of society than has ever existed before and doing so in real time. Governed by suitable regulations, anonymised personal data can be used, among many other things, to optimise traffic flows, prevent crime and fight epidemics.
The third windfall is economic. Some studies find that in developing countries every ten extra mobile phones per 100 people increase the rate of growth of GDP-per-person by more than one percentage point—by, say, drawing people into the banking system. Smartphones will remake entire industries, at unheard-of speed. Uber is a household name, operating in 55 countries, but has yet to celebrate its fifth birthday. WhatsApp was founded in 2009, and already handles 10 billion more messages a day than the SMS global text-messaging system. The phone is a platform, so startups can cheaply create an app to test an idea—and then rapidly go global if people like it. That is why it will unleash creativity on a planetary scale.
By their nature, seminal technologies ask hard questions of society, especially as people adapt to them. Smartphones are no different. If citizens aren’t protected from prying eyes, some will suffer and others turn their backs. Societies will have to develop new norms and companies learn how to balance privacy and profit. Governments will have to define what is acceptable. But in eight short years smartphones have changed the world—and they have hardly begun.
PowerToFly President Katharine Zaleski admits: “I didn’t realize how horrible I’d been – until I had a child of my own.”
I still am embarrassed by this memory. Five years ago I walked into an office on the twenty-fifth floor of the Manhattan headquarters of Time Inc. (which owns Fortune.) I was there to meet with Time.com’s then managing editor and pitch a partnership idea, but once I took a seat and surveyed the endless photos of her small children spread across the airy space, I decided this editor was too much of a mother to follow up on the idea.
I still went through with my proposal, but I walked out sure I would never talk to her again. She wasn’t the first and only mother whose work ethic I silently slandered. As a manager at The Huffington Post and then The Washington Post in my mid-twenties, I committed a long list of infractions against mothers or said nothing while I saw others do the same.
Within her first week, I became consumed by the idea that my career was over. It was almost as if my former self was telling me I was worthless because I wouldn’t be able to continue sitting in an office for ten hours a day. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to get drinks at the last minute.
I was now a woman with two choices: go back to work like before and never see my baby; or pull back on my hours and give up the career I’d built over the last ten years. When I looked at my little girl, I knew I didn’t want her to feel trapped like me.
I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, thinking it would motivate me. It only depressed me more. To me, the message was clear: put up with the choices made by a male-dominated work culture if you want to succeed. I re-read Anne Marie Slaughter’s piece on “Why Women Can’t Have It All.” It just painted another reality that I had contributed to until it became my own problem.
While I was on maternity leave from NowThis News (a startup funded by members of The Huffington Post team), still wrestling with these thoughts, I was approached by my now co-founder, Milena Berry. She told me she had an idea to launch a company that would match women in technical positions they could do from home. I decided to quit my job and leave journalism, realizing this startup had enormous potential for the one billion women entering the workforce over the next ten years.
If the developer placements worked, then other fields might follow. By enabling women to work from home, women could be valued for their productivity and not time spent sitting in an office or at a bar bonding afterwards. Mothers could have a third option that would allow them to either remain in the workforce or be a part of it even from areas with few job options.
All the tools exist for remote work – Slack, Jira, Skype, Trello, Google Docs. Research shows remote workers can be more productive. Furthermore, millennials – with or without kids – want that flexibility, a Harvard study found.
With the help of an awesome team that’s 50% moms from around the world, Milena and I are building PowerToFly around our lives as mothers. We’ve processed over a million dollars in paychecks for women who work from home across five continents and that number is growing fast. The stories we hear are thrilling.
Before we found Nedda, our CTO, she was commuting to London from her home in Bulgaria every week. Nedda’s daughter would hide in her suitcase on Sunday nights in an attempt to be with her mother during the week. Now she gets picked up from kindergarten by her mom everyday. Nedda traded a very expensive ten-hour weekly commute (not including time on the London tube) for a thirty-minute walk with her child each afternoon.
I wish I had known five years ago, as a young, childless manager, that mothers are the people you need on your team. There’s a saying that “if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it.” That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now.
Moms tell me when a project can be done and they give me very advanced notice when they have to take time off work. If they work from home, it doesn’t matter if a kid gets sick. Yes, they might not be able to Skype with me as often through that day, but they can still be productive because they can work from home while keeping an eye on their child. (And, like me, many have childcare. There’s no way you can work from home without support, usually from another woman.) Moms work hard to meet deadlines because they have a powerful motivation – they want to be sure they can make dinner, pick a child up from school, and yes, get to the gym for themselves.
But, I know there are still a lot of people like my 28-year-old self – they undervalue mothers’ contributions because they count hours logged in the office and not actual work. Most mothers lose if that’s the barometer for productivity.
It’s time to break that cycle, and it starts with the people doing the hiring. The way I acted in my twenties had a lot to do with denial. If I didn’t embrace or recognize the mothers on my team, then I didn’t have to think about what my future would be like. I see the same behavior in young women I talk to who are in charge of hiring, especially in the tech space. They are hard liners – and passionate lecturers – about women being in the office so they can be part of the company’s “culture”.
They don’t realize how that “culture” pushes women out because it’s too often set up around how men bond. Many of these young women are just toe-ing the company line. I don’t begrudge them. I feel sorry for them.
They’re hurting their future selves. Just like I did.
These women can help pave the path for their future selves if they start acting like allies rather than deniers. Instead of just smiling and saying you’re sorry that a mom can’t join for office drinks, ask her if she’d rather do lunch. If there’s a comment you over hear that disparages a mother because she wasn’t at her desk at 7pm, then speak up and point out that she was there at 8:30am, or completely available on Skype of Slack at 7pm.
There are so many ways we can support each other as women, but it starts with the just recognizing that we’re all in different positions at different times in our lives.
One thing is clear. Motherhood is the future for most women. Over 80% of us will become mothers by the age of 44, according to the US Census Bureau. So embrace your future and support it at work!
Now I know who I am. I’m mother who can manage a large team from my home office or on a business trip, raise money, and build a culture for women to succeed. I’ve never been more productive, satisfied and excited about my future and my daughter’s. I wish I had recognized this years ago.
For that, I’m sorry to all the mothers I used to work with. Which brings me back to that managing editor I dissed at Time. Her name is Cathy and she has three kids. The deal never went through for a variety of reasons that included editorial fit, but we started talking six months ago. Cathy recently joined PowerToFly as our Executive Editor. She has taught me a lot about how to be more productive than I was before motherhood. I’m now looking for more Cathys to join PowerToFly because I know they can manage households, multiple schedules and very high business goals.
Katharine Zaleski is the Cofounder and President of PowerToFly, the first global platform matching women in highly skilled positions across tech and digital that they can do from home, or in an office, if they choose.
Net neutrality won. The internet is ours! We’ve taken it! Stolen it back from the people who, well, provide it to us at a pretty reasonable rate, truth be told. The entire library of human everything delivered right to your doorstep for a mere $20 to $50 or so a month, depending on how fast it is that you want that everything. Now that the FCC has voted to enshrine net neutrality, there is nothing left standing between you and the great unlimited gush of audio and video bits and packets slip-sliding right into your Sonos at democratically arrived-at speeds, unencumbered by fast or slow lanes. It means that your startup porn comes right to you with the same speed as your well-established, big business, legacy pornography. Let the binge-watching bonanza begin, this is America!
And yet, it still could serve as a political bludgeon. An example of the way President Obama overreaches. Something that divides Democrats and Republicans. In other words: politics as usual.
No matter your feelings on net neutrality, it’s hard to feel like the FCC’s decision Thursday represents anything other than the mainstreaming of the internet as a political issue. Because while net neutrality’s victory means that things on the technology side will largely stay the same, it also means that something pretty big changed politically.
Remember, it was just over a year ago that net neutrality looked crispy. The movement over the 13 months that took net neutrality from dead to all but enshrined is demonstrable evidence that technology and the internet have become mainstream issues that will play a big, permanent role in politics.
As the net becomes ever more something that is a part of mainstream, middle-class American life, it’s going to also become increasingly subject to regulation and legislation. And along with that, people are increasingly going to care about how it’s regulated. The internet is now meat-and-potato politics, like gas prices and health care costs — the quotidian stuff of City Hall press conferences, empty congressional speeches, vision and demagoguery alike, and of high-pressure, high-stakes regulatory action.
There will be all kinds of internet issues at play in the upcoming election cycle. And that’s just going to keep going, and going, and going. It’s why beltway heavyweights like David Plouffe and Jay Carney are going to work for tech firms, and why even traditionally politically shy tech firms like Apple are lobbying hard now.
Net neutrality’s win proves that internet issues are popular issues, and ones that politicians are going to have to pay attention to. It is because the internet has become a popular, mainstream political issue that Barack Obama made a major push on net neutrality last fall. It is because the internet has become a popular, mainstream political issue that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler reversed course from his previous stance. “The internet must be fast, fair and open,” he wrote in a Wiredopinion piece. “That is the message I’ve heard from consumers and innovators across this nation.”
Those consumers are also known as voters. And by this summer, net neutrality —not exactly a traditional meat and potatoes issue — had gotten politically hot. Obama himself was following voters, not leading them. Americans had already flocked to the issue — especially after John Oliver weighed in on Last Week Tonight. That segment was so popular that his call to action effectively crashed the FCC’s website. Whether you credit John Oliver or Barack Obama with winning them over (and, come on, it was John Oliver) what’s really fascinating is that on this internet issue, America showed up. That’s new.
John Oliver's epic net neutrality segment.
Of course, this wasn’t the first big political issue for the internet. SOPA and CISPA both caused a ruckus — and even led to radicalized anons performing large-scale civil disobedience in the form of protest-hacking. But these were sideshows by comparison. Or at least warm-ups. While they rallied effective opposition from a tech-savvy pool, they didn’t spill out as broadly into American homes.
Net neutrality did slosh out of containing screens and onto American dinner tables because it had a very clear pitch: Do you want your internet services to slow down? Do you want Orange Is the New Black to start buffering because Netflix couldn’t get a deal done with Time Warner? Do you want your games to choke out and stall? And America had a very clear response: Don’t fuck with my HBO Go, yo.
Net neutrality mattered because it was relatable to things that are already a part of all of our lives in a way that the CDA or the DMCA, or SOPA or CISPA or any other number of acronymic issues have not been. It’s not that the acronyms have been bad, it’s that net neutrality really connected to a way we’re already living.
Take a moment to look around you and see how many internet-connected things there are. And consider all of the various streams, services, and apps there are that serve those devices. And then think of what you would have seen with that same gaze just five or six years ago. That’s the difference.
The internet is in everything now, and that includes politics.
Caroline is a high school student preparing for her future by using Treehouse to get ahead of the game.
by Caroline Clifford
printf(“Hello World! I’m Caroline Clifford and I’m a high school student on Treehouse.\n”);
As a committed dancer and current high school student, I hardly have time to do anything beside study and rehearse. I finish my school day at 3, rush to the studio, rehearse till 7, and start my homework. I never quite understood how other students had time for distractions like TV and social media. Where in their schedules could they fit these extra, self-designated activities? It wasn’t until December of 2013 when I realized that I too could add another extracurricular to my list. This was when I began to code.
As a math-focussed student, I have always found computer science to be intriguing. Defining a variable at the beginning of a program, and using said variable throughout the script just makes sense! Because of my love for math, I instantly found love for programming. The only thing that was missing, was a strong curriculum to keep me on track in becoming an experienced programmer.
I searched and searched for learning tools, from basic online tutorials to libraries filled with all of the functions in the entire HTML programming language, but I never quite felt like I was learning how to code in the real world. I could insert numbers into pre-scripted code and find my build to be successful, but it didn’t allot my retention of the material. I couldn’t quite get to the point at which I could write the code successfully, without the help of the application. I grew frustrated with the programs and decided to take a break from coding, that is, until I found Treehouse.
My little sister came home one day from school with sad eyes and a broken heart. She had just found out that her fifth grade teacher, Joy Kesten, was leaving the elementary school for a job at Treehouse. Knowing she was a fellow coder, I was intrigued and decided to sign up for the 14 day trial.. The first 14 days were free, so I figured if I didn’t find it useful, I could cancel my membership.
I found Treehouse to be everything that I wanted in a program. From the usage of outside applications (Xcode), to the direct tracks with firm destinations, to the helpful videos. Treehouse had me comfortable enough to avoid growing too frustrated to continue, but pushing myself all the same. Treehouse really is the whole package.
I was even given the opportunity to visit Joy, at her remote office in San Francisco and see where the magic really happens. Simply absorbing the energy sparks of productivity. The office itself was buzzing with creativity and excitement about the world of tech.
As I begin to embark on the journey of applying to engineering colleges as a computer science major, I'm learning more about the field every day. Twelve months ago, I would have never dreamed of filling my time with something new, much less something academic, but adding Treehouse to my plate of extracurriculars has been one of the best decisions of my high school life. I would never have fallen on this track without Treehouse, and encourage any student with an interest in computer science to subscribe!
Are you thinking about doing the Hour of Code this year? Do you know someone who you know would make a brilliant coder? Love playing on your computer, iPad, tablet, Kindle, smart phone, Xbox, and/or Play Station but all you know how to do is consume technology? Now is the time to be a creator, an inventor, a game maker, or app designer. This is your opportunity to play, learn, explore, and create for one whole hour! If this sounds easy to you, great you’re going to be just fine. If it doesn’t here are some tips to get you started:
Slightly More Difficult, and Slightly Longer Courses:
Slightly More Difficult and Longer Courses:
Let us know what you’re doing for the Hour of Code this year. Are you volunteering in your local school? Trying to get your neighbors to participate or pitching it to your boss?
By D. Frank Smith
Computer science is booming, with the industry is on track to create 1.4 million jobs by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Those seeking their big break in the growing industry have a myriad of choices. But which programming language should they be studying?
A new infographic from web hosting review site WhoIsHostingThis breaks down the history, function and learning curve of 10 of the most popular programming languages, from PHP to AJAX. According to the graphic, the easiest language to learn is Python, the most powerful is C++ and the one most likely to remain relevant in a decade is Java.
And students are eager to learn. Chicago Public Schools is preparing to make computer science part of the school system’s core curriculum, introducing courses at area high schools over the next three years, and in kindergarten through eighth grade within five years.
Students are also looking beyond traditional means of education to become coding-savvy. Web startups such as One Month and Codecademy offer a series of online courses to orient students on a variety of programming languages.
In May, Codecademy announced that 24 million users had taken its free courses.
With so many options, which programming language is right for you?