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Chicago Mayor Praises Google For Buying Kids Microsoft Surfaces 137

Posted by timothy
from the non-denominational dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Google earned kudos from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week for teaming up with Staples to fund the projects of 367 of the city's 22,519 public school teachers on "begfunding" site DonorsChoose.org. "Everything that you asked for...every project that the teachers put on to help their students learn, exceed and excel here in the city of Chicago, you now have fully funded," Mayor Emanuel said. "Chicago's hardworking public school teachers are doing all that they can-and more-to support their students, but they need more help," said Rob Biederman, head of Chicago Public Affairs at Google. "We jumped at the chance to join with DonorsChoose.org and Staples to make Chicago's local classroom wishes come true." So what kind of dreams did Google make possible? Ironically, a look at Google Chicago's Giving Page shows that the biggest project funded by Google was to outfit a classroom with 32 Microsoft Surface RT tablets for $12,531, or about 6.5% of the $190,091 Google award. Other big ticket projects funded by Google included $5,931 for a personal home biodiesel kit and $5,552 for a marimba (in the middle of the spectrum was $748 for "Mindfulness Education"). In addition to similar "flash-funding" projects in Atlanta (paper towels!) and the Bay Area, Google and DonorsChoose have also teamed up this year to reward teachers with $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code (part of Google's $50 million Made With Code initiative) and an unknown amount for AP STEM teachers who passed Google muster (part of Google's $5 million AP STEM Access grant)."
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Chicago Mayor Praises Google For Buying Kids Microsoft Surfaces

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:23AM (#47641439)

    Surface sales must have just doubled!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907)

      Seriously, what good is that "surface" crap, except maybe as 3rd or 4th computer? This thing basically is an overprices Internet terminal and bad at that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ericloewe (2129490)

        So, exactly the same as iPads or Android tablets.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gweihir (88907)

          At least you can get Android Tablets cheap and iPads and Android tablets are good Internet terminals. This surface thing is just a rip-off.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            No, the Surface is a very thin and light laptop with a touchscreen and active digitiser. It's meant for people who need to do work, unlike iPads and Androids which are wholly consumer-only devices.

            Nice troll though.

          • You're either misinformed or just plain stupid. I'll assume the former.

            Non-Pro Surfaces are indeed closer to Android tablets and iPads. They are also priced accordingly (though not race-to-the-bottom prices, like what Android is going through).

            Surface Pros are Ultrabooks crammed into tablets. They run circles around anything that runs Android or iOS. They are thus priced like Ultrabooks.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Obviously you have never used one. I have been in it for 20 years and I have completely switch to a Surface Pro at work and a Surface Pro 3 at home.

        At work I have a dock and an external monitor and do everything from running Visual studio to hosting virtual machines in Hyper-V.

        Your ignorant opinion aside, the Surface Pro 3 is just a modern computer with a removable keyboard, no more, no less. But when that modern computer is a current generation Core i5 with 8 GB of RAM, I hardly think it should be compared

        • Sorry, did not notice I was not logged in. the 'it' that I have been in for 20 years is actually IT. Obviously I still have not learned to proof read.

          Anyway, I love my Surface Pro 3 and the will be happy to be rid of the rest of the cluttered mess that is my computer desk when my new dock comes in.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Your opinion is just as ignorant, and I also wonder if you've ever used one. I have 20+ years doing that same stuff too.

            Sure, I can buy a $2000 Surface Pro "tablet" that fails at being a tablet (empty app store, metro sucks HARD, battery life isn't so good, it's susceptible to common Windows problems, the OS is bloated for a tablet, it's seriously overpriced, etc) and that also fails at being a good computer unless it's plugged to a keyboard, mouse and large LCD panel which is totally the inverse of what bu

            • I've used one for a while, and I found it very good. I don't understand why you think metro sucks that bad. It's an OS, and you SHOULD only be seeing metro for a few minutes per day. The rest of the time you should be in your applications actually doing things, and neither android nor ipads run any of the applications I need.

      • You can use any of the non RT Surface machines as primary laptops as well
      • Seriously, what good is that "surface" crap, except maybe as 3rd or 4th computer? This thing basically is an overprices Internet terminal and bad at that.

        What e-learning pedagogical objectives in K12 can't be met with a Surface RT? Be specific.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The summary could use some more hyperlinks.
  • by kenh (9056) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:33AM (#47641475) Homepage Journal

    This $190K expense will buy google an awful lot of free press.

    It's nice that Google did this, but let's be clear - the Chicago Public School system has a staggering number of problems, and a marimba and a classroom full of MS Surface laptop/tablets won't really make a difference outside of the handful of children that will be able to actually touch/use these items.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I see zero "nice" on Googles side here. Unless they are terminally stupid, they will very well know that these trinkets make no difference at all in regard to the real problems. This is a coldly calculated and cheap move. It may in the end even harm Chicago, because people may thing that if Google helped, no other help is needed.

    • 1) It's not Google's job to fix said issues, nor are they going to get into/win that mess. 2) What's your better alternative? Don't fund it?
  • How can a Marimba (which from a look at Google is similar to a Xylophone) cost so much money?

    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:49AM (#47641533)

      How can a Marimba (which from a look at Google is similar to a Xylophone) cost so much money?

      They are very large, professionally made musical instruments.

      Check out the prices for other major musical instruments ... if you want to get any quality, they are not cheap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Good instruments cost money. My wife is a professional flutist and her flute cost $65k. I have a low-end trombone that cost $12k.

      • by jonwil (467024)

        I guess I am used to the world of electronic music where even a top-of-the-line keyboard would probably only cost $2-3k tops and a fairly good one from a name like Yamaha or Roland could probably be picked up for around $1k or so.

        • by vux984 (928602)

          I guess I am used to the world of electronic music where even a top-of-the-line keyboard would probably only cost $2-3k tops and a fairly good one from a name like Yamaha or Roland could probably be picked up for around $1k or so.

          The person your replying to was just being a snob; a cheap but perfectly adequate beginners/student/school band grade trombone is readily available for a few hundred bucks, and a respectable quality instrument can be had for a couple thousand bucks at retail. There's definitely a d

          • You'd never get that double blind, because a bad flutist wouldn't have the depth of skill to create the detailed intonations possible with the good flute, and the professional flutist would be able to produce almost as good of sound from the cheap flute (but have to work much, much harder to do so).

            My wife replaced her ~$2000 high school and college flute with a ~$25k one a few years after college, when we were both well enough off from our day jobs and she became active in the civic orchestra. She receive

            • by vux984 (928602)

              She received a degree in flute performance with that $2k flute, but as she put it, a lot of her time was spent "fighting the instrument" to make things sound right; with the professional flute she could spend more time on other things like listening to the rest of the orchestra or reading ahead to be a better sightreader.

              So what would a 60k flute do for her?

              I don't dispute there are tiers; and I agree that 2k is fairly entry level for a *decent* instrument. But what's the difference between a 10k, 25k, and

              • Okay, do your next project using only ed for an editor, and do it in PL/I. Make sure you confirm that the numeric calculations work properly (PL/I has weird arithmetic rules). That's the $2K flute.

                Do the project after that with your normal language and your normal development environment plus any add-ons your employer is too cheap to buy. That's the $60K flute.

                At least that's how I interpret GP.

                • by vux984 (928602)

                  At least that's how I interpret GP.

                  Perhaps for 2k vs 60k... but what about 30k vs 60k.

                  You get into a very good flute long before you reach the top of what you can spend. And flutes are fundamentally pretty simple. What do you think they are really holding back on a 30,000 dollar flute?

                  • I'm sure it would take years of practice for me to notice the difference between a $30K and a $60K flute. On the other hand, $30K extra really isn't that much for a professional expense on something you're going to use for a few decades.

                    My SWAG is that companies really don't produce separate $30K and $60K flutes, but some come out subtly better than others in a way enough musicians can perceive that the flute company can make the extra money on.

                    • by vux984 (928602)

                      I'm sure it would take years of practice for me to notice the difference between a $30K and a $60K flute

                      Would it? Or is the only difference that used nickle plated silver vs sterling silver vs fusing it with 9k gold, and you are just paying a premium for rarer more difficult to work with materials.

                      But the idea that "it would take years of practice" to notice the difference might be fallacious. It might only take 2 seconds: The difference is this one is made of more exotic materials that cost more and that's

                    • SydShamino said that the difference between his wife's $2K flute and her $25K flute was not so much how it sounded as how easy it was to use. Given that, I'd expect to need a whole lot of training and practice to notice the ease-of-use difference. Right now, as a flautist, I know that I'm supposed to blow over a certain hole somewhere, and push certain things that have complicated connections to littler holes in the tube, so I'd have enough problem making some sort of music with a megabuck flute (if such

              • In my non-professional understanding, the only way to get a flute up to $50k is to go for solid gold, compared to the solid silver of a $25k flute.

                Solid gold is a much softer timbre. But no, I doubt anyone who was not listening to a head-to-head comparison would know the difference. Then again, I doubt 99% of the audience at any classical music concert would notice if one instrument was slightly out of tune, or if a few notes were played wrong here and there. That doesn't make being sloppy acceptable to

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            I'd love to see a double blind.

            Double blind is simple. It is quite easy for a good ear to be able to reliably tell different quality instruments apart. This is quite unlike most audiophile wank out there.

            Now whether that instrument is worth the money, or whether that expensive instrument is actually the "better" sounding one, that is still well and truly up for the debate.

            • The 'double blind' test would involve the musician. And the musician would instantly be able to tell. Why would a casual listener's opinion be the one that matters?

            • by vux984 (928602)

              Double blind is simple. It is quite easy for a good ear to be able to reliably tell different quality instruments apart.

              Yeah, that's EXACTLY what audiophiles say too. Hence the desire to see it properly validated by a double blind. I'm not saying muscians couldn't tell quality instruments apart, but just where the threshold is... that's an open question.

              Can they tell a 1k flute from a 5k flute? 5k from a 15k one? What about a 15k flute vs a 30k flute? 30k flute from a 60k flute? How much can you pay for a f

              • by thegarbz (1787294)

                There's a difference. Audiophiles claim they hear something that doesn't exist and fail double blind tests repeatedly. More over they claim to hear something that no scientific instruments can measure (audiophile cables anyone)

                Instruments on the other hand all sound different. The price is really not point. More expensive does not automatically sound better to everyone like it does in the Audiophool world. Expensive instruments are hand crafted and their "character" is part of what makes them unique. We're

                • by vux984 (928602)

                  nstruments on the other hand all sound different. The price is really not point. [...] More expensive does not automatically sound better.

                  So they what IS the point? They sound "different" but the difference would not be recognized as better. Why pay $40,000 for something that is not better?

                  If a professional musician took a 30k flute and played it, and then played a 60k flute and 2 different 20k flutes, all for other professional musicians -- you are asserting they could tell they were different instrume

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        TBF, a low-end trombone is $120 on Craigslist, and a brand new Conn student trombone is $500 retail, and cheap student trombones are $200 (etude/alora).

        Low end for a concert-playing professional musician might be 12k, but not a student instrument.

    • A professional marimba is typically made of Rosewood, which is a very expensive wood (due to restrictions on its export). It also requires a high degree of craftsmanship to build. The sound of a marimba is very different from a xylophone, with long, rich sustained notes.

      Check it out for yourself [youtube.com].

  • huh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:48AM (#47641519)

    The marimba is good .... and maybe the home bio-diesel kit.

    And then there's

    $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code

    Because doubling the workforce without doubling the jobs has worked out so great for every other sector of the economy since 1970 or so when it took off.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:55AM (#47641557) Homepage Journal
      What schools should be teaching is basic entrepreneur skills so that people can create their own jobs after they graduate.
      • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @10:16AM (#47641617) Homepage

        What schools should be teaching is basic entrepreneur skills so that people can create their own jobs after they graduate.

        Skill #1 - be born to parents who can give you enough money to survive until your business makes a profit.

        I think about half of kids in public schools are going to fail to master this one.

      • Yes, with increased automation we seem to be turning into a post-industrial culture, as in the majority of blue collar jobs in factories will cease to exist (and not a few white collar jobs as well). Perhaps an increased focus on microindustries, cottage industries, a diverse range of marginally profitable talents might help people to cope with these economic changes, rather than focusing on a "career" as such.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        You cannot teach these skills. You can help the few that have them getting started easier, but that is it.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I am all for finding Girls that can learn to code well. That will only be very few though. In general we do not have to few coders, we have far, far too many and almost all of them are bad at what they do. So investing, say, a few billion, to get most coders to stop coding would be hugely beneficial to the industry.

      • Agreed. Very few girls will excel at code, most will be mediocre and even moster will hate it.

        EXPOSE girls to code and cull out the ones who get it and encourage them to move forward.

        If coding's not right, immerse them in something else until their eyes light up and their hearts sing.

      • I 2nd that.

  • by blahbooboo (839709) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:48AM (#47641525)

    This isn't an ipad? Crap this sucks.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      This isn't an ipad? Crap this sucks.

      That would most likely be due to the fact that they can actually learn on them instead of just goofing off.

  • Just wondering ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:53AM (#47641543)

    Just wondering ... but why didn't public schools need to engage in constant fundraising and beg-a-thons in the good old days, for basics? Governments weren't spending more on them then, proportionately.

    We are spending a river now. Where is it going?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just wondering ... but why didn't public schools need to engage in constant fundraising and beg-a-thons in the good old days, for basics? Governments weren't spending more on them then, proportionately.

      We are spending a river now. Where is it going?

      Bloated management/admin costs. Just like big bidness....

      • When I was growing up we mostly had blackboards and chalk, pens/pencils and notebooks, and textbooks. And a lot of the indian and asian students that the postgrad classes in the US were flooded with when I was in college as an undergrad, that's how they grew up, with black chalkboards (or sometimes green) and white chalk.
        Though when the school got an 286 IBM AT, I'd be playing Simcity on it a lot, or more like somebody would be playing it and the rest watch. But when it comes to quality education, sometimes

        • There have been good educational programs. As something of a mathematician, the LucasLearning game Pit Droids felt like a great way to teach mathematical reasoning. Number Munchers was good at teaching arithmetic relationships. There were others.

          I'd expect a competent teacher and good educational software to work together nicely.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In "the good old days" there weren't hundreds of computers on campus requiring hardware and software upgrades and an IT staff to maintain them. No digital projectors to buy/upgrade/maintain. No computerized grading systems, attendence systems or student databases. Tech takes a good chunk of our district's budget. Then there are the overpaid district staff of course who are paid 6 figure salaries to hire educational consultants and contractors of questionable educational value at outrageous prices.
    • by Guest316 (3014867)

      We are spending a river now. Where is it going?

      From a relatively brief inside view, it's being spent on and by the usual assortment of clueless suits. Got a sudden windfall earmarked for "tech?" Well, uh, who do we know that does computery things? Let's contact the only company we've heard of and not bother asking any of those nerds we pay to do tech stuff. Hey Mr Gates, we've got a ton of money we don't know what to do with, can you help us spend it?

      Yeah, it went pretty much like that. And the greasy salesmen were soon swarming all over sniffin

  • Visual Studio RT? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Sunday August 10, 2014 @09:54AM (#47641547) Homepage Journal

    outfit a classroom with 32 Microsoft Surface RT tablets for $12,531 [...] $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code

    How do these fit together? Since when were programming tools ported to Windows RT?

    • I doubt they are related. After all, the description also notes they funded things like a marimba and a biodiesel kit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2014 @10:12AM (#47641599)

    Last research I heard, a few years back, was that computers in the classroom actually harmed academic performance except in the sole case that the point was to learn about computers, because they were a distraction and also students didn't tend to take longhand notes, which is an important part of learning.

    And if the class is a computer class, tablets seem like the worst possible choice.

    • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @10:32AM (#47641679)

      You have that right. People with some experience in that field have been saying it for a long time, and by now there is a scientific foundation to that idea. However you should not forget that this was not about doing something positive for children, but about getting good press. The average person on the streets thinks that computers help academic performance, because the average person on the street has no clue.

      Incidentally, same as this "Made with Code" nonsense. Most people cannot learn to code to any significant degree and many of those remaining cannot learn to code well. Having these people on a project usually results in negative performance by them, i.e. cleaning up the mess they make costs significantly more money that the worth of anything they created. We desperately need fewer people to learn how to code. Instead we need to make sure only those that actually have the required talent learn how to do it professionally. The others cannot get there, no matter what. Coding well is a very advanced skill.

      • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @12:42PM (#47642319)

        Incidentally, same as this "Made with Code" nonsense. Most people cannot learn to code to any significant degree and many of those remaining cannot learn to code well. Having these people on a project usually results in negative performance by them, i.e. cleaning up the mess they make costs significantly more money that the worth of anything they created. We desperately need fewer people to learn how to code. Instead we need to make sure only those that actually have the required talent learn how to do it professionally. The others cannot get there, no matter what.

        It's fine if they don't, and can't. They still need to try to learn, for several reasons.

        The most important reason the masses should take at least one programming class is to learn what a computer is capable of. Most people wouldn't know a for loop if it bit them. If they took a programming class, they would at least learn that computers are good at doing repetitious things, and this is how it's done. They may not ever be able to write a coherent program, but at least they can see what's possible. Most people view computers as the magic talking box with a screen you can touch to make it do stuff. (As opposed to the past several generations who viewed televisions as the magic talking box with knobs you could touch to make it do stuff.) A programming class, even a bonehead programming class, would give people an inkling of what's happening inside the magic box, and maybe, just maybe, get them to ask a programmer for help with automating tasks.

        The second reason is to make people find out, by experience, that programming is hard. Right now there's a pervasive belief that programming must be easy. After all, my cousin's sister's kid does it. How hard can it be? That boy used to shove peas up his nose. Unless people actually try to write a program, they haven't the faintest inkling how difficult it is. Maybe if they try, they'll finally figure out why programmers cost more than MBAs. Or should.

        • by gweihir (88907)

          I used to agree with your sentiment, but by now I think it is not doable. And in addition you get a lot of almost completely incompetent people that think they are programmers because they manage (sometimes) to write simple code. This describes the phenomenon: http://blog.codinghorror.com/t... [codinghorror.com]

          I fully agree that people need to learn that programming is hard and that people that can do it well are valuable. But this will have to go the way other hard professions became known to be hard, and that is high stand

        • The programming class idea to see what computers can do would have worked thirty or forty years ago (given the necessary computers), when computers were used primarily for repetitious and individually routine things, such as payroll. Teach somebody elementary Scheme or Python nowadays and they'll still be baffled by most of the stuff on their phone, like voice recognition and self-stabilizing cameras.

    • by matbury (3458347)

      Yep, there's lots of people repeating the PR and marketing mantra that children need mobile devices in schools without showing any evidence that it's beneficial to them or their academic performance. Where are the studies and pilot schemes that show significant and substantial effect sizes (i.e. above d 0.4) that would warrant diverting time and resources away from actually studying? Where's the evidence showing that tablets in classrooms contribute to children's literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking sk

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @10:24AM (#47641649)

    If I read this right, the amount give is peanuts and will not have any significant impact whatsoever. If you play it right, apparently positive press can be have for cheap trinkets these days.

    • by bogaboga (793279)

      I will have to agree with you, 100%. To make matters even worse, when one compares [recent] Asian/African immigrant kids who enroll in the school system, kids who usually experience high-tech for the very first time in school; these kids perform way better than any of our own "technology exposed" pupils!

      They learn to handle this tech pretty fast too. This has left me with one conclusion: The old fashioned blackboard and a degree of discipline plus drive are what our kids need. Not fancy gadgets whose purcha

      • by gweihir (88907)

        Very true.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        The old fashioned blackboard and a degree of discipline plus drive are what our kids need.

        Its possible that a "smart black board" would be an upgrade, but probably the costs are way too high right now to even think about it. I'm not thinking about a huge touch-screen here ... but more along the lines of a projector with a camera attached for interaction with the computer driving the projector.

        • Several years ago, my son's French teacher (in high school) said she loved her "Smart Board", which was basically running MS Windows (XP?) with a really large touch screen. I don't know what the technology was, really, but the school district could afford it.

      • Totally true. Human brains haven't evolved (sadly) and what got us to where we are today is a tiny group of scientists and some inventors who did exceptionally well with what we had and did in the past. Realistically, we need to focus on THOSE people and what made them possible instead of attempting to to a 1 size fits all solution with the silly dream of making everybody into an Einstein. (If you want to try doing that, you are going to have to leave Einsteins alone with 1900s education and place the re

  • by Anonymous Coward

    why not just fund the schools well in the first place instead of making them create beggar projects? Oh that's right, we'd have to tax corporations properly in order to afford to do that - instead we have a system that lets corps off on taxes and makes them look like good guys if they step up to help out anywhere at all. FEH!

  • What I don't get is what's wrong with _desktops_ in a school lab. They can't be broken or lost as easily. They are more powerful. Each desktop can be shared between several pupils. They're also cheaper, even with larger monitors, have better input devices (real keyboards and mice), and since they're not mobile, they can be set up to boot from the network with zero maintenance.

    Why burn perfectly good money on shit kids don't need, especially when research shows it does nothing for their academic achievement?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ironically we have a "good news" item here which highlights the problems with school funding and companies avoiding taxes. If google, M$ and apple paid their fair share, like most other American corporations, then perhaps the schools could have bought those surfaces without having to go to an official begging site to beg for help from those tax avoiders. And only $200k at that. I wish I could pay no taxes like they do!

    • Indeed. It also potentially starts setting a dangerous precedent. Once other corporations see the benefits of "donating" like this they will want to do more of it. It wouldn't surprise me to see the government happily oblige and also reduce the funding it provides, as incentive. This continues and the corporations will soon be making quite meaningful "donations". With that will come some very strong influence over how things are run and I'm sure it will be to their benefit as opposed to ours.

      Soon enoug

  • The myth is that a technology like Surface will help in education. It doesn't. From palm pilots, educational software, computers, they don't work with kids. I know, I threw away tens of thousands of bucks on technology. I should have spent it on a hell of a good night in Vegas for as much good as it did. Good old fasioned learning works. Looking at subjects, actually doing them to the point that you can teach them does work. Problems, problems, problems to get the brain to work on it. This is the ver

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