Oct 152015

STEM education is a seeming priority in America, where proponents advocate this for technological competitiveness. And thus it is that schools give increasing emphasis to curricula in technology, engineering, mathematics and science … unless that science is computer science. This has languished for a variety of business reasons to which we can speak, but it comes down to top officials not having yet figured out what’s in it for them. That is especially true at University of Maryland, where CS Education programs languish for want of attention by administrators.

Follow the money? Maybe. Officials have a story line for how they can charge differential tuition for those on a technical track. Can they charge the same for those on an educator track? Maybe not, so if it isn’t profitable for folks in Main Admin, then it is neglected, and never mind the policy implications.

So the latest development is that President Obama signed into law the STEM Education Act of 2015, which officially recognizes computer science as a critical piece of the STEM education puzzle. Cool! Except … this doesn’t address the fundamental blockage to promotion of CS Ed, since money is not involved. And until Main Admin can profit by it, it ain’t gonna happen.

 Posted by at 8:13 am on October 15, 2015
Sep 082015

This morning our campus rolled out a new mail service to notify community members of events to be held this week:

“Welcome to UMD This Week, the University of Maryland’s new email digest listing upcoming events from across the university. The university’s new Campus Calendar, featuring all campus events, is viewable at calendar.umd.edu. Check it out! This new calendar replaces FYI and Free Stuff@UMD, and UMD This Week replaces the daily FYI email.”

Cool – seems like a good idea. But … if you click through on any of the events listed in the inaugural weekly issue (like “Terps After Dark”) then the link redirects to a page that ultimately gets you a message:

University of Maryland - Calendar of Events
503 - Service Unavailable
The service you have requested is temporarily unavailable.
Hosted by Bedework Commercial Services


Here is what’s going on. Campus apparently outsourced the mail and web site management services to a tiny company that offers just this package to clients, but who got the details wrong in setting up the links in the template for the UM mail message. It is a simple cut and paste operation, but obviously they missed some strings, so what the campus mail is trying to do is load events from “Bennington College Pulic Library Events Calendar” [sic] rather than UM. That server doesn’t want to talk with Maryland users, so you get the error message. The little company doing this still gets to harvest your information though (yes – you were just placed in a stream of commerce by clicking through the UM mail link) since the redirect error happened after you hit the server.

This is what happens when campus IT specialists not only don’t know how to set up the world’s simplest ‘cloud’ service but they don’t know how to select companies that can do it either.

 Posted by at 9:29 am on September 8, 2015
Aug 242015

The technology was developed and deployed under the justification that it was needed to protect national security and hunt terrorists. These intrusions on privacy are now being allowed for far more pedestrian needs. The linked article reports on how very routine and daily uses of surveillance technologies, with many of the examples arising just up the road from us in Baltimore.

 Posted by at 9:12 am on August 24, 2015
Jul 082015

Busy day.

Wall Street went into a dither after NYSE rolled out software upgrades over night, which tanked operations early in the morning. This was hard on the heels of United Airlines grounding its entire fleet after some routers decided to go flop bottom, messing up enterprise software which had been built to presume a better state of connectivity.

A day or so ago, NASA’s Pluto mission was in jeopardy as a software update they sent in anticipation of ramping up science data collection confused the probe, putting it in a safe mode (though now recovered.) At about the same time, Apple’s latest iOS 8.4 release bricked Home Sharing features on customer devices, to the consternation of a big part of their client base.

People ask what’s going on that our field can’t get software right anymore; it sure seems like it would have been a timely moment for our department to be seen as a re-emerging power in software quality…

 Posted by at 5:05 pm on July 8, 2015
Jun 052015

We often hear about the importance of computers in education, but this message often falls flat to many of us who have tried to divine the recipe for whatever is the secret sauce which makes computer-involved instruction work. It often doesn’t. Thanks now to this author for giving voice to the matter who calls out in detail how technology in challenged schools can only amplify the problems. The loudest calls for increasing tech in education unsurprisingly come from the very companies which stand to benefit most from the policies; the linked article calls out why this is not necessarily the best way forward.

 Posted by at 10:40 am on June 5, 2015